Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Randy and Dicky Show

Thank you Rand Paul and Dick Blumenthal. As if 2010 wasn't an exciting enough election year for political junkies like me, you two sideshows leaped onto the national stage for our entertainment pleasure.

By now, you'd have to be living under a rock not to know that Paul, the Libertarian's Libertarian, longs for the good ole days when "private" corporations like F.W. Woolworth could do whatever it wanted without government intervention--even if that meant banning blacks from its lunch counters--while Blumenthal, the walking G.I. Joe fantasy and candidate for a GPS system if ever there was one, apparently doesn't know the difference between Vietnam and South Carolina, where he did his Marine Corps Reserves boot camp.

So imagine my excitement when I obtained access to some hand-written notes of both politicians as they hashed out their controversial positions.

Here's the first excerpt, from Blumenthal's records, as he mulled over how to best articulate his military service through confusing, ambiguous, albeit catchy soundbytes:

-"I love the smell of napalm in the morning" (Nah, that's already taken. I'm a liar not a plagiarist)

-"The Vietnam War was hell (true). I saw the horrors up close (on TV). The enemy I faced was fierce and brutal" (YOU try dealing with a bunch of greedy little brats when they're ripping into your Toys for Tots bags!)

-"I'm a veteran. Back then...Vietnam-ish times...wore the uniform....boot camp was tough" (Jeez, even I'm confused by this one). "Just the mere mention of the name 'Charlie' sets me off" (Dramatic...good)

-"My bad skin? Agent Orange." (Powerful, but might offend my adult acne base)

-"My nights are racked by horrible 'Nam flashbacks." (True, except these nightmares involve my deferments being denied)

-"I served during the Vietnam era as a proud Marine Corps Reservist" (I like this one a lot. It's all true. Can always throw this one out there every now and then just to confuse 'em and balance out the lies. My staff will say, 'Look, he told the truth on many occasions!')

-"When we came home, we were disrespected." (Will use this now and then. Just the right amount of ambiguity. For example when "who" came home? And from "where?" See? Gotta go with my instincts here)

"When I served in Vietnam...." (Bingo! A direct lie! I'm sure I can use my crafty legal skills to explain it if I get nailed. Won't apologize...I'll just say "I misspoke" and have the staff show 'em the times I told the truth)

And here's a few early soundbyte options from Paul's notes:

-"I believe blacks should be able to go anywhere they want...just as long as it's not a privately-owned business."

-"Why would blacks want to eat at Woolworth anyway? The food sucked there!"

-"My Bowling Green country club is not racist. Almost all our caddies and kitchen staff are colored."

-"I was for the Civil Rights Act before I was against it."

Stay tuned. I suspect The Randy and Dicky Show has lots more in store for us between now and November.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is the Tea Party the New Republican "Brand?"

Ever since Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, and right through their 2008 widening House and Senate majorities and Barack Obama's presidential victory, much has been said about the fate of the Republican Party and its "brand."

"The Republican brand is badly damaged," said Mike Huckabee in 2008.

"The Republicans realize that their brand is badly damaged and that there's no heartthrob out there," said George Will in 2007.

"The Republican brand has been so badly damaged that if Republicans try to run an anti-Obama, anti- Reverend Wright, or (if Senator Clinton wins), anti-Clinton campaign, they are simply going to fail," said Newt Gingrich in 2008.

"It takes time to damage a brand," said South Carolina's Republican governor, Mark Sanford in 2007. "It takes even longer to rebuild it." And as we now know, Sanford's a firsthand expert at damaging a brand. The missing philander with the bizarre camping trip story, proved once again that history has one helluva sense of humor.

So what does the GOP with its "damaged brand" do? It rebrands. Which is exactly what the Tea Party movement represents. The Tea Party is the GOP's unofficial beard. As recent polls have demonstrated, Tea Baggers are little more than Republicans in wolves' clothing. And what's most interesting is how these rapacious wolves are eating their own; anyone not a card-carrying member of the far right wing has been purged (see Bob Bennett, Charlie Crist, Trey Grayson).

Under this rebranding, the party's hardline conservative leadership--Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. John Boehner, Rep. Eric Cantor and Rep. Mike Pence--have been deemed not conservative enough and have been replaced with rabble-rousing, narrow-minded extremists like Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, who represent the smallest yet most influential faction of the party.

Perhaps the Republican Party ought to rethink this new strategy. Rebranding doesn't always work. Remember "New Coke?" If Rand Paul's self-destructive behavior last week is any indication, "New Republicans" will be just as big a marketing disaster.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rand Paul the Tea Party-Pooper

For anyone who doubts that the Tea Party is nothing more than a radical right-wing fringe of the GOP and will self-implode, take a gander at Rand Paul. Just 48 hours into his self-described "huge" Tea Party victory Tuesday, the Kentucky Senate primary winner and loose-lipped Libertarian has already demonstrated the sort of reckless, election-sabotaging behavior that mainstream Republicans like Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY) and Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ) have feared.

The latest Tea Party brewhaha involving Paul is his convoluted views of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in which he believes private businesses should have the right to bar from their premises whoever they choose. On MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show Wednesday night, Maddow asked if those establishments had the right to refuse service to blacks. "Yes," Paul astonishingly replied. Since then, he's taken a lot of heat from party officials shaking in their boots over his self-destructive views. Radical positions that include raising the Social Security retirement age to 70 and questioning the legality of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Rand's bizarre civil rights stand this week illustrates just how loony this movement is and how politically dangerous its candidates will be. McConnell, Kyl and others have good reason to be afraid. They've allowed the smallest faction of their party--led by rabble-rousing blabbermouths like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin--to become the loudest, most influential voice in the room. This renegade band of populist impostors have hijacked the party and redefined it, purging its roster of anyone not of the extreme right wing fringe. You know the GOP's in some serious trouble when the likes of McConnell, Kyl and John McCain appear like the party's moderates.

As I wrote earlier this week, all Paul's victory showed is that the squeaky Tea Bag wheel got the Republican oil. He was victorious only in a Republican-on-Republican feeding frenzy. And in just two days he's demonstrated what an absolute joke his candidacy can and will be come November when facing a Democrat. A Democrat, mind you, who sees nothing at all wrong with blacks eating at a luncheonette counter with whites. Hard to believe we're still actually debating this racist shit in 2010. For that we can thank Mr. "Huge Victory" Paul and his narrow-minded Tea Bag bigots...

One thing's clear: the hypocrisy that permeates the Republican Party also can be found in the "grass roots" Tea Party movement. Case in point, Paul's decision to hold his victory celebration at an exclusive, tony country club in Bowling Green. White men--even the populist Tea Bagger kind--sure do love their golf, don't they.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

PA's 12th Loss Shows Tea Party What's Really in Store for November

Let's get something straight: Rand Paul's "Tea Party" victory in Kentucky's GOP Senate primary Tuesday only proves one thing: that Republican voters are sick of establishment GOP candidates. It's right vs right. The Tea baggers can beat their chests and crow all they want about the "hugeness" of their movement's big victory, as Paul boasted last night, but all it portends for the party in November's midterm elections is Republican-on-Republican bloodletting. We're seeing it among the likes of Kentucky's Trey Grayson, Utah's Bob Bennett, Florida's Charlie Crist and others like Arizona's John McCain, who's facing a fierce battle for his political career from Tea Party favorite J.D. Hayworth. I say, let 'em eat their own and we'll step over the carcases in six months.

What should make Tea Baggers and the GOP shake in their over-caffeinated boots is their disappointing loss in Tuesday's only Democrat vs Republican contest, where Tea Party supporter Tim Burns lost by a wide margin to former John Murtha aide Mark Critz in Pennsylvania's 12th District to fill the deceased Murtha's Congressional seat. What makes this loss significant is that the 12th is the only district McCain carried in 2008 that John Kerry had carried in 2004, and which had tilted right leading up to the election. Will this be a foreshadowing of things to come in November for Republicans, especially those banking their campaigns, like Burns, on the Tea Party's anti-Obama/Pelosi/Reid, anti-big government, health care repeal platform? Does Burns' loss signify that the Tea Party's pot is running out of steam?

PA's 12th is not the only right vs left special election where Democrats were victorious. For example, New York's 23rd saw Tea Party favorite Doug Hoffman whipped last November by Bill Owens in this heavily Republican district. In Florida's 19th to fill Robert Wexler's seat, Ted Deutch beat Edward Lynch by almost 30 points. Certainly not the sort of head-to-head results that merit much chest-thumping.

Tea Party and GOP officials are already downplaying Critz's victory, but that's not the song they sang leading up to Tuesday. This was a contest that the Party was clearly banking on:

On the Washington Post's conservative Right Now blog, David Weigel had written: "PA-12 is the only district in the country that Senator Kerry won and President Obama lost. According to non-partisan political independent analysts, PA-12 is exactly the type of district that House Republicans need to win this cycle."

Tory Mazzola, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), predicted: "This is a seat where Democrats hold a two-to-one registration advantage, yet the race is competitive and coming down to the wire. The fact that we have a strong GOP candidate, Tim Burns--committed to job creation and repealing ObamaCare-- combined with a favorable Republican environment has turned this historically Democratic seat into a swing district."

Brian Walsh, NRCC political director: " thing is clear – Republicans are close in this traditionally Democrat-dominated district, and Nancy Pelosi and her liberal allies are running scared."

And Charlie Cook, Cook Political Report: "Republicans have no excuse to lose this race. The fundamentals of this district, including voters' attitudes towards Obama and Pelosi, are awful for Democrats."

"For all of their bluster about building a national wave this year...Republican policies were once again rejected when it came time to face the voters," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

At a time when the economy and jobs show continued signs of a major recovery, and with six months to grow even more robust, the Tea Party and GOP's anti-Obama/Pelosi/Reid health-care repeal message just might find their candidates playing golf with Burns come November.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Check Blumenthal's Citizenship!

For an extremely bright and accomplished politician, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal can't seem to remember something so monumental as to whether or not he actually served in the Vietnam War. Sometimes he gets it right, and many times he hasn't, as demonstrated in this video from a 2008 speech to military families, where he labeled as "unforgivable" the shameful treatment of returning veterans "...since the days when I served in Vietnam."

But what's truly unforgivable here is that Blumenthal never served in Vietnam. He received three educational deferments and two rare occupational deferments. And only when then-President Richard Nixon sought to abolish the occupational deferments did the highly privileged and connected Blumenthal pull strings to land a coveted spot in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. There's also the claim that he was the captain of Harvard's swim team, but records show he was never even on the team. There's certainly been a lot of truth stretching going on in Camp Blumenthal. Should we demand to see his birth records too?

What makes this memory lapse significant is that Blumenthal's vying for the open Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Chris Dodd. So far facing minor primary opposition, his main rivals are both Republicans: former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon and former Rep. Rob Simmons. Polls consistently show Blumenthal solidly leading both, and Connecticut remains a heavily Democratic state. But everything could change with this new scandal. The state's filing deadline is next week, and party officials could urge a more viable, controversy-free candidate to enter the race. Perhaps Blumenthal may decide to quit. But one thing's certain, these next seven days are going to be toughest of his career.

To be sure, Blumenthal is not a man who makes casual mistakes, especially when language and media are involved. He's a Harvard, Oxford and Yale-educated lawyer who's worked for Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham; former Sen. Patrick Daniel Moynihan in the Nixon White House; as law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun; served in the Connecticut House of Representatives; and as the state's attorney general. It's unfathomable that Blumenthal could simply forget whether or not he's "served" in Vietnam. For that matter, is this something anyone could possibly forget?

Yes, this is a hotly contested election year, and yes, Democrats across the country are extremely vulnerable. And yes, retaining Connecticut's Senate seat is utterly critical for Democrats. But the Blumenthal offense is not about politics. It's about human decency. A violation of morality and ethics. It's about what's right and wrong, not right and left. Nothing is more despicable than dishonoring the brave men and women who proudly serve our military and who've died in battle by pretending to be one of them while having used every lever of privilege possible to have avoided serving. This sort of reprehensible, self-serving conduct is why most Americans are absolutely sick of politicians. Blumenthal ought to be ashamed of himself.