Thursday Reads: Demographics, Anti-Science Republicans, and Biblical Views of Rape

Good Morning!!

The meme of the day yesterday was that Latino voters reelected President Obama. As usual, the role of women in the election is getting short shrift. In fact, the gender gap this year was even bigger than in 2008. At HuffPo, Laura Bassett writes:

According to CNN’s exit polls, 55 percent of women voted for Obama, while only 44 percent voted for Mitt Romney. Men preferred Romney by a margin of 52 to 45 percent, and women made up about 54 percent of the electorate. In total, the gender gap on Tuesday added up to 18 percent — a significantly wider margin than the 12-point gender gap in the 2008 election.

Women’s strong support in the swing states gave Obama a significant advantage over Romney, despite his losses among men and independents. While Obama lost by 10 percentage points among independents in Ohio, he won by 12 points among women in the state. In New Hampshire, women voted for Obama over Romney by a margin of 58 to 42 percent, while men preferred Romney by a narrow 4-point gap. Pennsylvania showed a 16-point gender gap that tipped the scale toward Obama.

Yes, Latinos voted for Obama by a wide margin, but guess what? There was a gender gap there too.

Overall Obama won three out of every four votes (75%) cast by Hispanic women and 63% of Hispanic men, a 12-point gender gap. Four years ago the gap was only four points as Obama won 64% of men and 68% of Latino women. Romney won 35% of Latino men and 24% of women.

Here’s another interesting demographic factoid: there isn’t much of a gender gap when it comes to voters wanting to keep abortion legal, and that holds true with Latinos as well as voters overall.

Exit poll results found that about two-thirds of Hispanics (66%) said that abortion should be legal while 28% disagreed. Among all voters, a somewhat smaller majority (59%) would allow legal abortions while 37% were opposed.

There is no gender gap on views on abortion among Hispanics or among all voters, according to national exit polling. About two-thirds of men (64%) and Latino women (67%) would permit legal abortion, as would 58% of all male voters nationally and 60% of women.

As Dakinikat noted yesterday, Republicans are busy trying to figure out how to attract Latino voters, who represent about 10% of the U.S. population. But they refuse to recognize the power of women voters, and they apparently haven’t noticed that overall, the majority of both men and women disapprove of Republicans using the government to control women’s bodies.

If the anti-science-and-math Republicans hadn’t disdained Nate Silver’s predictions, they could have been forewarned. On October 21, Silver wrote about the “historically” huge gender gap in 2012.

If only women voted, President Obama would be on track for a landslide re-election, equaling or exceeding his margin of victory over John McCain in 2008. Mr. Obama would be an overwhelming favorite in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and most every other place that is conventionally considered a swing state. The only question would be whether he could forge ahead into traditionally red states, like Georgia, Montana and Arizona.

If only men voted, Mr. Obama would be biding his time until a crushing defeat at the hands of Mitt Romney, who might win by a similar margin to the one Ronald Reagan realized over Jimmy Carter in 1980. Only California, Illinois, Hawaii and a few states in the Northeast could be considered safely Democratic. Every other state would lean red, or would at least be a toss-up.

IMHO, it would behoove both Democrats and Republicans to keep in mind that women are more than half of the electorate, and we are sick and tired of being pushed around.

In other news,

it came out yesterday that Mitch McConnell offered Marco Rubio the opportunity to run the NRSC for the midterm elections in 2014, but Rubio turned the job down. From Real Clear Politics:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been courted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to take over the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2014 midterm season, but the freshman lawmaker declined the entreaty, sources told RCP.

It might seem early to think about the next campaign cycle, but Senate leadership elections will take place in short order. And given the GOP’s losses in Senate races Tuesday night, the party is looking to make some changes.

McConnell probably hoped that Rubio could help the party with it’s diversity issues.

Rubio, a rapidly rising star in the party after his huge but unlikely victory in the 2010 election, is a favorite of McConnell’s. And as a 41-year-old Cuban-American capable of delivering some of the party’s best speeches, he’s someone the GOP brass likes to put in front of the cameras. Not only is he inspirational, but he helps the diversity-challenged party bridge several divides with voters.

What’s more, Rubio is a star fundraiser who was able to pull in hundreds of thousands of dollars for Mitt Romney’s failed presidential bid, a skill that would be a boon to the Senate campaign committee. Of course, he can still be used by the NRSC to raise money, but he wouldn’t have to deal with the party’s divisive primaries as one of its leading strategists.

Much to McConnell’s chagrin — and for the second time in several months — Rubio’s career will not go in the direction that the Kentucky senator had been hoping for: When Romney was poring over running-mate prospects, McConnell was pining for Rubio, and he made his preference well known.

I just had to share this:

Dick Morris’ attempt to explain why he was so wrong in his prediction that Romney would win the election in a landslide, taking 325 electoral votes.

I’ve got egg on my face. I predicted a Romney landslide and, instead, we ended up with an Obama squeaker.

According to Morris, if Romney had won with 325 electoral votes it would have been a landslide. If Obama wins Florida, he’ll get 335 electoral votes, and it won’t be a landslide–it’ll be a “squeaker.”

The key reason for my bum prediction is that I mistakenly believed that the 2008 surge in black, Latino, and young voter turnout would recede in 2012 to “normal” levels. Didn’t happen. These high levels of minority and young voter participation are here to stay. And, with them, a permanent reshaping of our nation’s politics.

In 2012, 13% of the vote was cast by blacks. In 04, it was 11%. This year, 10% was Latino. In ’04 it was 8%. This time, 19% was cast by voters under 30 years of age. In ’04 it was 17%. Taken together, these results swelled the ranks of Obama’s three-tiered base by five to six points, accounting fully for his victory.

Morris could have done what the Obama campaign did and looked at the latest census numbers, but right wingers don’t believe in empirical evidence. But the real cause of Morris’ failure to make the correct prediction was Sandy and Chris Christie.

But the more proximate cause of my error was that I did not take full account of the impact of hurricane Sandy and of Governor Chris Christie’s bipartisan march through New Jersey arm in arm with President Obama. Not to mention Christe’s fawning promotion of Obama’s presidential leadership.

It made all the difference.

See? Morris’ mistaken prediction had nothing to do with Morris’ stupidity and the fact that he lives in the Fox News right wing bubble.

Harry Reid says he will take action to reform the filibuster rules.

From HuffPo:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pledged on Wednesday to change the rules of the Senate so that the minority party has fewer tools to obstruct legislative business….

“I want to work together, but I also want everyone to also understand, you cannot push us around. We want to work together,” Reid said.

“I do” have plans to change the Senate rules, he added. “I have said so publicly and I continue to feel that way … I think the rules have been abused, and we are going to work to change them. We will not do away with the filibuster, but we will make the senate a more meaningful place. We are going to make it so we can get things done.”

I sure do hope he means that.

Finally, a longer read.

I think we all agree that the Republican Party has been taken over by right wing religious nuts who claim to take the bible literally–even though they tend to pick and choose which parts of the Bible to pay attention to and which parts to ignore.

During the past couple of years, we watched Republicans in statehouses around the the country do their darnedest to take away women’s access to abortion and even contraception.

Mitt Romney chose as his VP a man who tried to change the definition of rape and who believes that rape is just another method of conception.

A string of Republican officeholders and candidates unself-consciously revealed themselves to be utter troglodytes who had bizarre notions about rape and who were quite willing to force victims of rape and incest who were impregnated to bear their perpetrators’ offspring.

If anyone thinks Republican crazies will change their minds just because women successfully voted down Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock and Rick Berg, I think they’d be sadly mistaken. I want to recommend an article I read at Alternet a few days ago: What the Bible Says About Rape. It’s long, but a very important read. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Christians of many stripes are scrambling to distance themselves, their religion, or their God from Republican comments about rape . The latest furor is about Washington State congressional candidate John Koster, who opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest and added for good measure that “incest is so rare, I mean it’s so rare.” Before that, it was Indiana candidate Richard Mourdock, who said, “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen” backed up by Texas senator John Cornyn insisting that “life is a gift from God.” These men share the January sentiment of Rick Santorum: “the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.”

Those Christians who see the Bible as a human, historical document have the right to distance themselves. Those who see the Bible as the unique and perfect revelation of the Divine, essentially dictated by God to the writers, do not. The fact is, the perspective that God intends rape babies and that such pregnancies should be allowed to run their course is perfectly biblical.

I am not going to argue here that the Bible teaches that life begins at conception. It doesn’t. The Bible writers had no concept of conception, and no Bible writer values the life of a fetus on par with the life of an infant or an older child. One does say that God knows us while we are developing in the womb, but another says he knows us even before . Levitical law prescribes a fine for a man who accidentally triggers a miscarriage . It is not the same as the penalty for manslaughter. Therapeutic abortion is never mentioned, nor is the status of the fetus that spontaneously aborts. Under Jewish law, a newborn isn’t circumcised and blessed until he is eight days old, having clearly survived the high mortality peri-natal period. For centuries the Catholic Church believed that “ensoulment” occurred and a fetus became a person at the time of quickening or first movement, sometime during the second trimester.

However, if we take the viewpoint of biblical literalists and treat the Good Book as if it were authored by a single perfect, unchanging Deity, then a man is on solid ground thinking that rape babies are part of God’s intentions.

As long as the Republican Party is controlled by “christians” who take the bible literally, women’s rights to autonomy are threatened. No woman should vote for any Republican as long as this state of affairs continues.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Romney Does Double Back Flip on FEMA

You had to know this was coming. Just yesterday, Mitt Romney repeatedly refused to answer reporters’ questions about his position on FEMA funding. During the Republican primaries, Romney argued that the Federal government should have no role in disaster response and that the functions of FEMA should be returned to individual states.

But today, Romney suddenly switched gears and became a fan of FEMA. The Boston Globe reports:

Mitt Romney on Wednesday stepped up his support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, further rebuffing accusations that he would end funding for disaster relief if elected president.

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” Romney said in a statement. “As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”

Romney’s comments last year during a GOP debate in New Hampshire were interpreted by some as a call to eliminate FEMA altogether.

“Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction,” Romney said. “And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

Politico has more reporting on the sudden switch, directly from the campaign trail:

Mitt Romney’s campaign tried Wednesday to reassure voters that the GOP nominee believes the Federal Emergency Management Agency plays a “really important role.”

“Gov. Romney believes in a very efficient and effective disaster relief response, and he believes one of the ways to do that is put a premium on states and their efforts to respond to these disasters,” senior adviser Kevin Madden told reporters on the flights from Tampa to Miami. “That’s why they call them first responders — they’re first to respond, the states. Traditionally, they’ve been best at responding to these disasters. But he does believe FEMA has a really important role there and that being a partner for these states is the best approach.”

So why couldn’t Romney just say this yesterday in response to the 14 separate questions he ignored in Kettering, Ohio? Did his campaign have to run a focus group overnight to determine his new policy?

Madden also dodged a question on whether Romney agrees with NJ Governor Chris Christie that President Obama has been doing an excellent job in responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy:

Asked if Romney agrees with Christie’s comment that Obama’s response to the natural disaster has been fantastic so far, Madden said: “I refer to Gov. Christie’s remarks. I believe the response is still going on so I’m not in a position to qualify the response by the federal government. I believe it’s still ongoing.”

Frankly, I can’t imagine Romney is going get away with this one, but if in the next couple of days he starts claiming that he always supported FEMA and that he did a great job responding to disasters as Governor of Massachusetts, we’ll know the focus group liked his latest backflip.


Nebraska Woman surprises the Pundits

Nebraska is a very red state. It’s conservative in a weirdly independent way. Nebraskans will frequently back total outsiders and they proved they were willing to dump establishment candidates in the Republican Senate primary. A Sarah-Palin backed woman will face ex-Senator and Democrat Bob Kerry in the fall. The punditry is calling her win a stunner! She beat two well-known pols and attorneys in the race that had plenty of money and establishment backing.  She was not the Tea Party candidate either.

Nebraska state Sen. Deb Fischer wrested the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate from Attorney General Jon Bruning Tuesday night, riding a burst of late momentum to pull off an unexpected victory.

Her stunning come-from-behind performance amounts to a warning flare about the volatility of the primary season and the unintended impact of outside groups.

Fischer, a rancher and little-known state lawmaker, maintained a positive, above-the-fray tone while Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg consistently traded blistering barbs. But she also benefited from a flurry of outside spending against Bruning, the front-running establishment favorite for more than a year who watched his polling lead evaporate during the final week of the campaign.

The victory sends Fischer to the general election as a favorite over former Sen. Bob Kerrey, who easily disposed of four lesser-known opponents for a shot at the open seat being left vacant by retiring Sen. Ben Nelson. Nebraska is a must-win for Republicans if they are to acquire the four pickups necessary to flip control of the Senate this fall.

WP’s Jennifer Rubin is giddy and wishful thinking as far as I’m concerned.  Nebraska is not any kind of a bellweather state.  It’s a weird outlier.  I lived there way too long to expect anything in Nebraska to resemble any place else.

Deb Fischer upset favorite Jon Bruning to win the Nebraska Republican primary for Senate by a 41 to 36 percent margin. There are (at least) 10 aspects of the race worth noting.

1. Neither Fischer nor Bruning was the tea party candidate and neither is a non-politician. Bruning is state attorney general. Fischer is a state legislator. Club for Growth, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Freedom Works backed state treasurer Don Stenberg.

2. Sarah Palin still can pick ‘em. She was the only prominent pol to back Fischer. Palin’s highest value in the GOP may be in finding talented female candidates (e.g. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley).

3. Republican women are out in force in the 2012 election. Fischer joins Hawaii’s Linda Lingle, Missouri’s Sarah Steelman, Connecticut’s Linda McMahon, New York’s Wendy Long and New Mexico’s Heather Wilson as prominent female Republicans contending in primaries. With the departure of Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the GOP would have only three women in the Senate; That number could easily double with this crop of female candidates.

4. Bruning wasn’t a flawless candidate by any means. The Fix noted that Bruning’s baggage has been well-documented by the local press, and Stenberg has lost three Senate campaigns already.”

5. Fischer is well-positioned to beat former Democratic senator Bob Kerrey in deep-red Nebraska. This is not a case of Republicans throwing caution to the wind.

6. Candidates matter. Simply looking at GOP races as contests between more and less conservative contenders is a mistake and leads to “surprises” (i.e. misguided conventional wisdom that eventually blows up). Reuters reports: “ ‘Despite being a relative novice in the race, Fischer has been a state Senator since 2004 and could be a strong candidate in November,’ said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the Cook Political Report in Washington. ‘She’s got a good profile for the state. She does have some experience and I think that she gets some momentum out of the win,’ Duffy said, adding that Fischer is likely to beat Kerrey in November.”

7. With more and more female candidates, the Democrats’ “war on women” meme becomes sillier and sillier.

The weirdest thing is that the two men were backed by the likes of Huckabee, Santorum, and DeMint.  Palin picked the winner.  This is an extremely rural state and it doesn’t surprise me that a rancher that wasn’t an Omaha-associated pol won.  Every one outside of Omaha hates Omaha in that state.  Lincoln is probably on the top of the Omaha hater list.  So, any way, this should be an interesting race to watch.


Open Thread: Mitt Romney, Busybody

In a speech in Des Moines, Iowa today, Mitt Romney sounded like a fussy old gossip, claiming that President Obama probably has a “beef” with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Almost a generation ago, Bill Clinton announced that the Era of Big Government was over.

Even a former McGovern campaign worker like President Clinton was signaling to his own Party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem.

President Obama tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas, along with transparency and bipartisanship. It’s enough to make you wonder if maybe it was a personal beef with the Clintons….but really it runs much deeper.

President Obama is an old school liberal whose first instinct is to see free enterprise as the villain and government as the hero. America counted on President Obama to rescue the economy, tame the deficit and help create jobs. Instead, he bailed out the public-sector, gave billions of dollars to the companies of his friends, and added almost as much debt as all the prior presidents combined.

ROFLMAO!! Obama, “an old school liberal?” This guy is a laff riot!

At the Washington Post, Nia-Malika Henderson interpreted Romney’s odd invoking of the good old days of the Clinton administration as another effort to link Obama with Jimmy Carter. Henderson writes:

The strategy, of course, is obvious, if a little heavy handed—paint Obama as more like Jimmy Carter, rather than as a New Democrat in the mold of Clinton.

Clinton has already emerged as one of Obama’s most visible surrogates, appearing in a video marking the death of Osama bin Laden, and will likely be used to gin up support among so-called Reagan Democrats—white, blue collar workers, particularly—and Romney can perhaps mute some of Clinton’s power by suggesting that Clinton isn’t all in with Obama. (It’s a beef, not a bromance, Romney suggests.)

But by invoking Clinton, Romney risks poking the bear in some ways, and perhaps even casting himself as a version of Clinton. Praising Clinton, even in a backhanded way, isn’t exactly a way to solidify support among the religious right.

I don’t know about the reaction from the religious right, but Bill Clinton worked a few digs about Romney into his speech today at the Pete Peterson conference (why Clinton shows up for these things, I’ll never understand, but that’s for another post). According to the National Journal, Clinton said that Romney

shot himself in the foot with the broad tax-cutting budget he suggested during the primary. He said Romney should accept projections that his plan for deep tax cuts would add billions to the deficit while requiring huge cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and non-defense spending.

“If I were in his position I would, I think, use the Congressional Budget Office numbers saying my plan increased the debt and say that no responsible president can pretend an independent analysis of his numbers don’t matter,” Clinton said. “That’s, I think, his his best avenue back to the real world.”

Clinton also offered a few verbal pats on the head to Romney.

“I feel a lot of sympathy for him,” he said. “The whole primary was about finding somebody who was true conservative, but they’re going to vote for him anyway.”

Good one, Bill!


Mitt Romney’s Positions on Social Issues Dictated by Church Leaders

Mormon Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah

On January 26, I wrote a post about an excerpt from the biography The Real Romney that had just been published by Vanity Fair. The Vanity Fair article detailed Romney’s cruel treatment of women when he was a Bishop and later Stake President in Boston’s Mormon community.

In doing a little further research on one of those women, Judith Dushku, and came across an earler interview with Dushku in which she recounted a conversation with Romney in which he told her he had been given permission by his church leaders to lie about his views on abortion and LGBT rights. A few years before, Romney had cut Dushku out of his life because she supported a women who had to choose between having an abortion and losing her own life. Here’s the relevant excerpt from my post:

A few years after the friendship ended, Romney ran for the Senate in 1994 against Ted Kennedy. Dushku was very surprised to learn that Romney was running as a pro-choice candidate. Dushku:

I was pleased and called, asking to see him. I told him I suspected that we had our differences, but that maybe I could work with him if he’d come to a really good position on women and childbirth.

And he said – Yes, come to my office.

I went to his office and I congratulated him on taking a pro-choice position. And his response was – Well they told me in Salt Lake City I could take this position, and in fact I probably had to in order to win in a liberal state like Massachusetts.

Suzan Mazur: Who’s “THEY”?

Judy Dushku: I asked him the same question. And he said “the Brethren” in Salt Lake City.

In other words, Romney was consulting with his church elders before deciding his positions on the issues, and they told him to lie!

Last night The Daily Beast published a post by famed investigative reporter Wayne Barrett that adds weight to Dushku’s testimony. Barrett begins by discussing portions of another Romney biography, Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and his Politics, by R.B. Scott, a former reporter for Time and a “distant cousin” of Mitt Romney’s, as well as an adviser to Romney early on. In the book, Scott writes about

numerous trips Romney has taken to the mountaintop to square his positions on social issues like abortion and gay rights with church hierarchy….[and] he describes how Romney came away from these Salt Lake treks bolstered by a flexible understanding he reached with the brass: He was able to moderate his views during his runs for Senate and the governorship in liberal Massachusetts, yet he could still find his way back to doctrinal purity once in the governor’s mansion and safely on to his way to the White House….

Scott says that 1993 trip “established a pattern” that Romney “would follow in years to come when deliberating about whether to run for Massachusetts governor in 2002, and, especially, before announcing his candidacy for president in 2007.”

In the spring and early summer of 2005, while Romney was still Massachusetts governor and preparing to set up his first presidential PACs, he visited Salt Lake so often that one senior church official said he “basically camped out” at church headquarters, according to Scott. Gordon Hinckley, the president and prophet with decades of ties to the Romney family (he and Mitt’s father, George, went to high school together), reportedly found the frequency and “dithering,” as Scott put it, “a little tiresome.”

During the Republican primaries this year, there was much discussion about Jack Kennedy’s famous speech to Southern Baptist ministers in Dallas in 1960. Kennedy was forced by constant questioning to pledge his independence from the Roman Catholic Church–even though Kennedy never traveled to Rome to seek guidance on political issues and was never a member of his church’s hierarchy as Romney was for many years.

Why is Romney being given a pass on his lack of independence from Mormon church leaders? Why do you suppose these church leaders gave Romney dispensation to hide his “severely conservative” views from voters until he had taken office as Governor of Massachusetts? Here is Scott’s answer, as reported by Barrett (emphasis added):

In 1993, Romney went to Salt Lake with a Mormon pollster and poll results showing that he couldn’t win in Massachusetts without moderating his positions on those sorts of issues. “They realized it would serve no purpose to quibble—the greater good was to get him elected and give him a shot at realizing the victory his father booted 40 years earlier,” Scott writes. “Did they see him as a future presidential candidate? Did he? Do the statues of Angel Moroni atop every Mormon temple always face east?”

In other words, Scott is contending that the church in effect licensed Romney’s better-than-Kennedy promises on gay rights, as well as his pink flyers at the Gay Pride Parade in 2002 that beckoned: “All citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual preference.”

I won’t belabor the White Horse Prophecy myth again, but it certainly appears that Mormon church leaders very much want a man in the White House who will follow their “advice.”


Creating False Equivalencies and other Nasty Campaign Tricks

Politics has always been an ugly business in America.  All you have to do is follow the lives of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or Andrew Jackson to get some idea of how the personal can be turned into the ugly political.  Rumor becomes fact.  Innuendo becomes headlines. Character assassination becomes de rigueur.  It’s hard to know exactly when modern politics went over the edge.  I would definitely have to point to folks like Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, and Frank Luntz.  Although, Donald Segretti comes to mind too.  The age of social media and blogs has created a sleaze industry.  Andrew Breithbart was the sheistermeister of the internet and his site and sites like Red State continue the tradition of creating tropes, memes and canards to sucker an uninformed electorate.  AM radio and Fox News certainly don’t raise the standard either. Sleazy politics is on steroids these days.

The funny thing is that some things do speak of character and other things appear to be manufactured to create faux outrage.  I frankly believe that strapping your sick dog on the roof of your car for a long trip says something about your decision making and your humanity.  I don’t think a small child in a third world country eating dog meat because that’s what he’s been given to eat by his parents to be an equivalent morality play.

We are clearly in the swift boat age.  Right after the attack on 9-11 the politicizing of the event took off.  It was bound to happen.  I used to keep track of the number of times that Dubya used the term  “lessons of 9/11″ to justify torture, invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the attack on 9/11, and signing into law severe restrictions on our civil liberties and personal privacy.  Every single SOTU address and re-election stump speech always contained the phrase “lessons of 9/11″.  I’m actually pretty outraged that the Romney and some elected officials think they’re innocent of trumping up the “lessons of 9/11″ while accusing the President of Politicizing the Bin Laden killing.  Meanwhile, they’re politicizing the situation with a Chinese dissident while the Secretary of State is in active negotiations with the Chinese Government on the status of the dissident and his family.

All of this just drives me nuts.

The newest of these trumped up faux outrage moments is now called “Elizabeth Warren’s Birther Movement”.

If you are 1/32 Cherokee and your grandfather has high cheekbones, does that make you Native American? It depends. Last Friday, Republicans in Massachusetts questioned the racial ancestry of Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senate candidate. Her opponent, Senator Scott Brown, has accused her of using minority status as an American Indian to advance her career as a law professor at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas. The Brown campaign calls her ties to the Cherokee and Delaware nations a “hypocritical sham.”

In a press conference on Wednesday, Warren defended herself, saying, “Native American has been a part of my story, I guess since the day I was born, I don’t know any other way to describe it.” Despite her personal belief in her origins, her opponents have seized this moment in an unnecessary fire drill that guarantees media attention and forestalls real debate.

This tactic is straight from the Republican cookbook of fake controversy. First, you need a rarefied elected office typically occupied by a certain breed of privileged men. Both the Presidency and the Senate fit this bill. Second, add a bit of interracial intrigue. It could be Kenyan economists eloping with Midwestern anthropologists, or white frontiersmen pairing with indigenous women. Third, throw in some suspicion about their qualifications and ambitions. Last but not least, demand documentation of ancestry and be dissatisfied upon its receipt. Voila! You have a genuine birther movement.

The Republican approach to race is to feign that it is irrelevant — until it becomes politically advantageous to bring it up. Birthers question Obama’s state of origin (and implicitly his multiracial heritage) in efforts to disqualify him from the presidency. They characterize him as “other.” For Warren, Massachusetts Republicans place doubts on her racial claims to portray her as an opportunistic academic seeking special treatment. In both birther camps, opponents look to ancestral origins as the smoking gun, and ride the ambiguity for the duration.

My children are 1/4 Japanese.  My youngest daughter has absolutely no physical traits that would lead you to believe she has a Japanese Grandmother.  My oldest daughter definitely has the mixed race look.  But that’s not the point.  Neither is the actual fraction or what’s historically been called the number of ‘drops of blood’.

Both of my children have a mixed identity because we fully embraced my husband’s mixed ancestry.  We eat Japanese food.  The kids went to Japan school for a period of time and can speak and write a bit of Japanese.  My mother-in-law lived with us and our home was filled with her cooking, her language, and her upbringing.  The girls also know about their family history from Japan and they’ve explored its culture.  We also talk about a lot of different things including  that my uncle was very responsible for the argument on the Japanese Internment policy to the Supreme Court for the Roosevelt Administration and that another uncle by marriage on my father’s side lost a cousin to the Baatan Death March.  His aunt was appalling rude to my husband every time we went to family reunions.  Both  heritages are a party of our family story and our family traditions. We discuss the anti-Japanese hysteria of the World War 2 period, the Japanese War atrocities, and the H Bombs that ended the war as well as my mother-in-law’s experience as a starving teenager in Kyoto who had to smuggle rice in her kimono.  All of this is a part of our heritage as melting pot Americans.  When I first walked to the counter of the Japanese Grocery store here in New Orleans with my items I was told “You shop like Japanese housewife.”  I am genetically as WASPY as they come. That’s what comes from being brought into a culture as a teen and surrounded by it for 20 years. There’s a very real part of me that IS Japanese now.  I am a New Orleanian after 16 years living in the inner city of New Orleans and being surrounded by all if its rich heritage and neighborhoods. These identities will stay with me no matter where I go.

That’s the deal to me.  If Elizabeth Warren feels connections to her Native American Ancestry and if its part of her family story and tradition, do we really need to question if her ‘drops of blood’ justify her connection and her identity?

Discussing real issues and real moral character is difficult in this age of swift boating, contrived outrage, and false equivalencies.  It’s especially difficult because so many groups can get access to money and the media and push through some pretty outrageous tropes.   Unfortunately, most of these tropes are head line grabbers and the customer-hungry media will jump on it and ride it as long as possible.  It is really shameful that the noble pursuit of maintaining a healthy democracy seems to include such manufactured tit-for-tat.  US voters deserve better.


And that’s the way it was …

Some times I just have to wonder how a news anchor can keep a straight face when covering specific news stories.  It seems Shep Smith went rogue while covering Newt Gingrich’s campaign suspension.  C&L’s Karoli captures the absurdity of the moment well.  Minx covered this in her late night news thread but I really thought I’d give the Karoli bit a shout out because of the You Tube below. It comes from the Obama-Biden campaign.  You have to know more of these are coming. You also need to go see Minx’s post because the Luckovich cartoon take off of Porky’s ending to Loony Tunes will give you a big ol’ smile.

After a rambling and nearly-incoherent speech, Newt Gingrich finally dropped his bid for the Republican nomination and Mitt Romney’s campaign issued a predictably benign and “hugs all around” statement about it, saying:

“Newt Gingrich has brought creativity and intellectual vitality to American political life. During the course of this campaign, Newt demonstrated both eloquence and fearlessness in advancing conservative ideas. Although he long ago created an enduring place for himself in American history, I am confident that he will continue to make important contributions to our party and to the life of the nation. Ann and I are proud to call Newt and Callista friends and we look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead as we fight to restore America’s promise.”

This would not be news except that Shepard Smith’s reaction to that statement was just classic and delicious. I think he should not be working for a channel who is almost always “weird and creepy,” but since he is, I’ve got to say that this should go down in the annals of classic news anchor reactions:

Politics is weird. And creepy. And now, I know, lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality.

The facial expressions are as wonderful as the words. While Newt didn’t really sing a full-throated praise of Mittens, he did manage to choke out words to the effect that Mitt was still better than President Obama. Of course, the reason Shep was so taken aback was because of statements during the campaign like these:

If you have a bitterly fought primary–which is an honest appraisal of the 2012 Republican primaries–then you’re going to have lots of Kafkaesque Kumbya moments when all the bitter rivals have to make nice with the winner.  That can never been an easy thing to do.  However, we have these SuperPacs that are bringing negative campaigning to new lows.  We’ve also seen a series of debates with endless harangues.  How on earth is the kiss and make up moment supposed to go under that circumstance?

Here’s another story today on Bachmann’s luke warm “endorsement” of Romney.

Michele Bachmann has finally decided to endorse Mitt Romney – 119 days after she dropped out of the race.

The endorsement will come at a joint Romney-Bachmann appearance on Thursday.  No doubt Bachmann will talk about the importance of beating Barack Obama and how Mitt Romney is the one to do it. She’ll almost certainly say that conservatives must unite behind Romney because of the importance of beating Obama.

But here’s the thing: Shortly before she dropped out, Bachmann told me – point blank – that there was  no way Romney could beat Obama.

“He cannot beat Obama,” Bachmann said. “It’s not going to happen.”

Wow, with endorsements like these, who needs opposition research?  Anyway, Karoli has the video of Smith’s moment of Zen. It’s worth tripping over to C&L just to see the look on his face.  Meanwhile, so long Newt, we knew you FAR TOO WELL.