Republicans try to clean up McCarthy’s Benghazi mess – By Julian Hattem, Mike Lillis and Jordain Carney – 10/01/15 01:30 PM EDT

Republicans are scrambling to contain the damage from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (D-Calif.) remarks about the Benghazi Committee amid a firestorm of criticism.

Outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was forced to defend the Benghazi panel on Thursday after McCarthy — his presumed successor for the gavel — linked the success of the investigation to Hillary Clinton’s falling poll numbers.

“This investigation has never been about former Secretary of State Clinton and never will be,” Boehner said in a statement.

“The American people deserve the truth about what happened in Benghazi. That’s always been our focus, and that’s going to remain our focus.”

McCarthy gave an opening to critics of the Benghazi investigation during an interview late Tuesday on Fox News in which he said the panel had played a role in Clinton’s declining poll numbers.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping,” McCarthy said on Fox News.

“Why? Because she’s untrustable.”

The remark has undermined the GOP’s message that they are only seeking to learn what really happened when four Americans where killed during the 2012 assault in Libya. The attack occurred while Clinton was secretary of State.

Several Republicans have repudiated McCarthy’s remarks, saying they disagree with the implication that the investigation is politically motivated.


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Many Republican Women Have Second Thoughts About Donald Trump – By Emma Court and  Colleen McCain Nelson Sept. 22, 2015 7:10 p.m. ET

GOP front-runner loses ground in polls after his comments about Carly Fiorina and Megyn Kelly

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump works a crowd in Dallas on Sept. 14. His standing with women has slipped since then.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump works a crowd in Dallas on Sept. 14. His standing with women has slipped since then. Photo: Mike Stone/Reuters

GREENVILLE, S.C.—When Ruth Silver was watching last week’s Republican debate in her Wantagh, N.Y., living room, she was so impressed with Carly Fiorina’s “class and poise, I wanted to stand up and applaud.”

Ms. Silver, 71 years old, said the former Hewlett-Packard executive’s performance was so strong she began rethinking her support for celebrity businessman Donald Trump.

For now, Ms. Silver is sticking with Mr. Trump but she is part of a shrinking pool: Female voters’ support for the first-time candidate dropped 12 percentage points among likely GOP voters after last week’s CNN debate, according to a CNN/ORC poll conducted Sept. 17-19. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.

That decline in support helped drive down Mr. Trump’s standing in the primary field. Although still the front-runner, his backing tumbled by eight percentage points, to 24% from 32% in a CNN/ORC poll conducted Sept. 4-8. Of those who tuned in to watch the debate, 31% of the likely GOP voters said he did the worst job—the highest percentage of any candidate.


Republican front-runner Donald Trump on Thursday declined to refute a questioner who declared that Muslims are a “problem” in America and reiterated the long-debunked rumor that President Barack Obama is a Muslim.

The Trump campaign didn’t respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

The second debate, which covered both foreign and domestic issues, marked the first flagging of Mr. Trump’s support among GOP voters, an opening that Ms. Fiorina gained from as she shot up to second in the poll at 15%. She also emerged as the clear debate winner, as 52% of likely GOP voters said she did the best job, the poll found.

Mr. Trump took the debate stage after Rolling Stone published disparaging remarks he made in an interview about Fiorina: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!,” Mr. Trump told the magazine.

In interviews, the celebrity businessman said his comments were misunderstood and he was referring to her persona, not her facial features. Asked about that explanation during the debate, Ms. Fiorina’s rebuttal brought down the house. “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what [Donald] Trump said,” she said.

Mr. Trump’s exchanges with Ms. Fiorina came just weeks after he said Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her whatever” when she asked him tough questions in the first GOP debate, a comment that some interpreted as a reference to her menstrual cycle. Mr. Trump said his remarks were being misinterpreted, and that he wasn’t referring to her cycle.

“I cherish women,” Mr. Trump said on CNN in August. “I want to help women. I’m going to be able to do things for women that no other candidate would be able to do, and it’s very important to me.”

Yet, the personal nature of his remarks are driving away some potential backers and giving even some of his loyalists pause. Mr. Trump’s recent remarks about high-profile women also could hamper a general-election candidacy. In the 2012 election, exit polls showed that 53% of the voters were women, outnumbering their male counterparts.

“I do think he’s a sexist. Absolutely,” said Katie Packer Gage, a Republican strategist who isn’t working for a presidential candidate. “When you talk about the way a woman behaves in the context of their menstrual cycles, it reduces them to something, and suggests they don’t have control of themselves or their emotions.”

Mr. Trump’s financial acumen could be an asset in the White House, said Wanda Owens of Walhalla, S.C., but she has concerns about his ability to handle foreign affairs and his comments about women.

“He’s kind of brutal toward women,” said Ms. Owens, who supports Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and another political newcomer. She added that she questions whether women would be appointed to top positions in a Trump administration.

Mr. Trump’s female backers say they aren’t offended because his blunt rhetoric is just part of his tell-it-like-it-is style.

Joan Belfield in Sayville, N.Y., said the Fiorina comment was “thoughtless,” a “stupid thing to say,” yet she still leans towards Mr. Trump. Is Mr. Trump sexist? Ms. Belfield said no. “He says that about men, too.”

Joyce Kaufman, the host of a popular radio show based in South Florida, also sees the candidate as an equal-opportunity name-caller. “If we want to play with the boys, then we have to play with the boys,” Ms. Kaufman said.

But “wavering” Trump supporter Leeann Frazier of Brownwood, Texas, said she is more concerned about Mr. Trump’s ability to “tone it back” than any specific remarks he has made.

“I don’t take his statements personally as a woman. I don’t think he means that. He just speaks off the cuff, and he’s always been one to go for shock factor and say what he thinks,” Ms. Frazier said.

Write to Colleen McCain Nelson at

White Fright – By Reihan Salam Sept 4 2015

Does Donald Trump represent the ascendancy of white nationalism on the American right?

Is this the face of white nationalism? Donald Trump in New York, Sept. 3, 2015. Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Fear of “white nationalism” is very much in vogue. To Thomas Edsall, writing in the New York Times, the rise of Donald Trump is a predictable consequence of the fact that the Republican Party is “the home of an often angry and resentful white constituency,” which fears that discrimination against whites is a growing problem. Evan Osnos of the New Yorker, in a similar vein, seeks to explain the Trump phenomenon by viewing it through the lens of radical white nationalists, who warn that white Americans face cultural genocide as their numerical majority shrinks. Ben Domenech, publisher of the Federalistargues that Republicans face a choice: They can build their coalition around a more inclusive libertarian vision, the path that he prefers, or they can follow Trump and redefine themselves as the defenders of white interests in a bitterly divided multiracial society.

Does Donald Trump represent the ascendancy of white nationalism on the American right? I’m skeptical, for a number of reasons. While anti-immigration rhetoric is certainly a big part of Trump’s appeal, it is also true that he fares particularly well among the minority of Republican voters who identify themselves as moderate or liberal. As a general rule, moderate and liberal Republicans are more favorably inclined toward amnesty and affirmative action than their conservative counterparts. Moreover, as Jason Willick of the American Interest has observed, the leading second-choice candidates are Ben Carson, the black neurosurgeon, and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both of whom are senators of Cuban descent, the latter of whom played a leading role in crafting immigration reform legislation. Granted, it could still be true that Trump is benefiting from white racial resentment. It’s just not clear to me that Trump is anything more than Herman Cain with an extra billion or so dollars in the bank and over a decade’s worth of experience as host of one of network television’s most popular reality shows.

Nevertheless, I believe that white identity politics is indeed going to become a more potent force in the years to come, for the simple reason that non-Hispanic whites are increasingly aware of the fact that they are destined to become a minority of all Americans. According to current projections, that day will come in 2044. Non-Hispanic whites will become a minority of eligible voters a few years later, in 2052. According to States of Change, a report by Ruy Teixeira, William H. Frey, and Robert Griffin, California and Texas are set to join Hawaii and New Mexico in having majority-minority electorates in the next few years, and several other states will follow in the 2030s.

Why does it matter that in the near future, non-Hispanic whites will become a minority in one state after another? The most obvious reason is that non-Hispanic whites might lose their sense of security. They will be outnumbered and outvoted. If they remain wealthier than average, as seems likely, they might fear that majority-minority constituencies will vote to redistribute their wealth. Over time, they might resent seeing their cultural symbols give way to those of minority communities—which is to say the cultural symbols of other minority communities.

In a 1916 essay in the Atlantic, Randolph Bourne, at the time one of America’s leading left-wing intellectuals, attacked the melting-pot ideal, in which immigrants to the United States and their descendants were expected to assimilate into a common culture. He saw instead America evolving into “a cosmopolitan federation of national colonies, of foreign cultures, from whom the sting of devastating competition has been removed.” Instead of forging a common American identity, the country he envisioned would be one where members of minority ethnic groups preserved their cultural separateness.

To fully realize this ideal, however, it was vitally important that Anglo-Saxon Americans not assert themselves in the same way as the members of other ethnic groups. Why? Because if Anglo-Saxon Americans were to celebrate their identity as a people with longstanding ties to their American homeland, it would implicitly discount the American-ness of those from minority ethnic backgrounds. For Bourne, and for those who’ve advocated for his brand of cultural pluralism since, it is the obligation of Anglo-Saxon Americans, and other white Americans with no strong ties to a non-American homeland, to be post-ethnic cosmopolitans. But what if being a post-ethnic cosmopolitan is not actually that satisfying?

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Donald Trump is the harbinger of GOP doom: The devastating history lesson that Republicans are completely ignoring – HEATHER DIGBY PARTON THURSDAY, AUG 20, 2015 10:49 AM PDT

More and more are candidates getting sucked into Trump’s immigration vortex — bad news if you’re a Republican

Donald Trump is the harbinger of GOP doom: The devastating history lesson that Republicans are completely ignoring

There was a time back in the day when I used to joke with Republican friends that I would happily support a constitutional amendment that would ban all presidential candidates from California if they would agree to ban all presidential candidates from Texas. The joke, of course, was that my home state, “the land of fruits and nuts” had recently produced two conservative Republican presidents, Nixon and Reagan, while Texas’s most recent contribution had been the man responsible for “Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today.” In those days of post-Vietnam liberalism, that trade seemed like an excellent deal for the left.

It’s hard to imagine now, but from Harry Truman until Bill Clinton, California voted for a Democratic president just one time, for John F. Kennedy in 1960. With a few exceptions here and there, California also voted for GOP governors and senators more often than not. Even though the state had a longstanding reputation for social tolerance and cutting-edge cultural change, politically speaking it was a conservative state, as red as Texas is now.

There were obviously many factors that contributed to California’s evolution into the deep-blue state it is today, from demographics to the culture war. But none of those things come close to the damage that then-Governor Pete Wilson did to the longterm interest of the California Republican Party in 1994, when he scapegoated Latino immigrants as the cause of all the state’s woes.

Wilson was running for re-election, and as part of his campaign to distract from the economic failure of his first term and increase turnout among his base, he ran on a platform promising to crack down on undocumented workers, and enthusiastically supported the infamous Prop 187, which set up a statewide system designed to deny any kind of benefits to undocumented workers, including K-12 education and all forms of health care.

(He also supported a constitutional amendment to repeal birthright citizenship, currently guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.)

Here’s the famous “they keep coming” ad the Wilson campaign ran that year:

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True Grit – By Megan H. MacKenzie August 12, 2015

The Myths and Realities of Women in Combat

By January 1, 2016, all positions in the U.S. military, including frontline combat roles, will become open to women—that is, unless the services seek exceptions before October 1. Whether they do will drastically shape the future of the U.S. military.

The exclusion of women from combat in the United States and elsewhere has persisted primarily because of myths and stereotypes associated with female and male capabilities and the military’s “band of brothers” culture. The most persistent of these myths—that women are physically unfit for the demands of war, that the public cannot tolerate female casualties, and that female soldiers limit the cohesion of troops in combat—have been rigorously dismantled by scholars and female soldiers alike in recent years. Today, most Americans support the inclusion of women in combat.

David Hernandez / DOD photo / Handout / REUTERS U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sienna De Santis and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Heidi Dean on a patrol in Sangin Valley, Afghanistan, October 2010.

But as the services prepare for female integration, a new myth has come to dominate the debate around the subject: that women who have already served in combat situations—including those who were part of frontline, female-only teams in Afghanistan and Iraq—were in fact deployed primarily to build relationships with local communities and to add a “soft touch” to counterinsurgency operations. Women in the U.S. military, this line of thinking holds, serve as “lady soldiers,” not as true combatants.

In discussions of this myth, the cultural support teams (CSTs), the small female-only units attached to Special Forces and Ranger teams in Afghanistan and tasked with both combat and civilian engagement, have attracted particular attention. Although CSTs were assigned to units on some of the most dangerous combat missions in Afghanistan, claims from public figures that these women took part in the war to “soften” the presence of U.S. troops have contributed to false perceptions that female soldiers remained far from hostile action and that their primary contributions to war relate to their gender, not their capabilities.

Media and military characterizations of CSTs tend to focus on their supposed deescalating effect in hostile areas, their roles in winning “hearts and minds,” and their capacity, to use one common trope, to employ “tea as a weapon” to improve ties with Afghan civilians. Even Eric Olson, a former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and one of the architects of the CST program, claimed that the CSTs’ role “was to be women, not to be combat soldiers.” “The first thing they did when they fast roped out of the first helicopter,” Olson said at the 2015 Aspen Security Forum, “was to take their helmet off, let their hair down, and corral the women and children.”

Women in the U.S. military, this line of thinking holds, serve as “lady soldiers,” not as true combatants. Such “lady soldier” arguments serve an important purpose for policymakers resisting the further integration of female soldiers. Yet as Olson’s statement demonstrates, this position is empirically weak. To claim that women fast roped out of helicopters only to let their hair down is akin to arguing that women took part in night raids so that they could help tuck Afghan children into their beds.


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‘The Daily Show’ Jon Stewart Kicks Off Final Week by Ripping Into Fox: ‘Adios, Motherf*ckers!’ – Published on Aug 3, 2015`

On the first day of his final week at The Daily Show, Jon Stewart really went off on his most frequent foe: Fox News.

Stewart was really bothered by how Fox’s Howard Kurtz and guest David Zurawik calling him an Obama “propagandist,” showing clips of Fox Newsers over the years using the same “even Jon Stewart’s mocking the president” line.

He even turned a few of their arguments back on Fox themselves and said he’s been harsher on President Obama than they ever were on George W. Bush, and said, “Your hypocrisy isn’t a bug in the Fox model, it’s the feature. Your job is to discredit any source of criticism that might hurt the conservative brand.”

Our nation’s most toxic obsession: The violent history of “Real Americans” – HEATHER DIGBY PARTON SATURDAY, JUL 4, 2015 06:30 AM PDT

From its earliest beginnings to its 1st black president, America has seen too much bloodshed over who truly belongs

Our nation's most toxic obsession: The violent history of "Real Americans"

From the early days of our nation, we have been debating what constitutes a “Real American.” If one were to define a real American as a person indigenous to the continent we know as North America, one would certainly have to say that the only Real Americans are native Americans. But since the United States as we know it was formed by the offspring of British colonialists and religious migrants who wanted the colony for themselves, we can fairly say that from the beginning that has never been an accurate definition, even though it probably should have been. (Some people have even described the original “nativists” as the Indians, which I think is wrong. They were defending their own lands against invasion, which isn’t the same thing at all.)

Needless to say the most repressed immigrants in America have always been the descendants of African slaves. They didn’t ask to come here and they certainly didn’t ask to be slaves. But their ancestors were here long before most of the rest of us and their claim to being Real Americans could not stronger. Of course nativists usually don’t see it that way, simply because most nativists are also racists. All you have to do is look at the nonsensical conspiracy theory about the first African American president being a “foreigner”to see how mixed up race and ethnicity are with those folks.

Be that as it may, going all the way back to the beginning, this country has been a nation of immigrants from all over the world. And while we have, at various times and in many different ways, celebrated that fact, we have also been a xenophobic society from the get-go. In the 19th century, the original Americans were upset about Irish catholic immigration. There was fighting in the street over that one for many decades. And soon there was hatred towards German immigrants (the single largest ethnic sub-group in America, by the way) with complaints about their alleged unwillingness to assimilate properly and their habits of speaking their mother tongue, sending their kids to their own schools, and attending their German church (Lutheran, of course). In the 1890s, a Wisconsin Governor said:

“We must fight alienism and selfish ecclesiasticism…. The parents, the pastors and the church have entered into a conspiracy to darken the understanding of the children, who are denied by cupidity and bigotry the privilege of even the free schools of the state.”

Those Germans just refused to assimilate. And look what’s happened. They’re everywhere.

You don’t even want to think about the hatred toward the Chinese. It was one thing to import them by the thousands to do the heavy scut work of building railroads and the like, quite an other to consider them Real Americans. The Irish Americans who had been the object of xenophobic rage in earlier decades were particularly upset by the Chinese, and they led the way to the Chinese exclusion act in 1882, the first of America’s official federal immigration containment programs.

In the 20th century, all those previously considered unworthy (except the Chinese, of course) were suddenly okay, as a huge influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe decided to come to the land of opportunity. The government went to work to ensure that this didn’t get out of hand. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge proposed literacy tests, making the intention very clear:

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Supreme Court rules gay couples nationwide have a right to marry – By Robert Barnes June 26 at 2:59 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at Jun 26, 2015 1.20

The Supreme Court on Friday delivered a historic victory for gay rights, ruling 5 to 4 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live and that states may no longer reserve the right only for heterosexual couples.

The court’s action marks the culmination of an unprecedented upheaval in public opinion and the nation’s jurisprudence. Advocates called it the most pressing civil rights issue of modern times, while critics said the courts had sent the country into uncharted territory by changing the traditional definition of marriage.

[Live updates: Reaction outside the court, analysis and more]

“Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. He was joined in the ruling by the court’s liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

All four of the court’s most conservative members — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — dissented and each wrote a separate opinion, saying the court had usurped a power that belongs to the people.

Reading a dissent from the bench for the first time in his tenure, Roberts said, “Just who do we think we are? I have no choice but to dissent.”

In his opinion, Roberts wrote: “Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration. But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening.”

[It’s the first time Roberts has had such a bold statement from the bench]

Scalia called the decision a “threat to American democracy,” saying it was “constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine.”

In a statement in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama hailed the decision: “This ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts. When all Americans are truly treated as equal, we are more free.”

Obama said change on social issues can seem slow sometimes, but “sometimes there are days like this when that slow and steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt. This morning the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so they’ve reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law. . . . Today we can say in no uncertain terms that we have made our union a little more perfect.”

[Read the full court opinion Read Roberts’s dissent]

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Poll: 1 in 5 supports Confederate flag – By Tim Devaney – 06/22/15 11:48 AM EDT

Getty Images

Following the racially charged shooting at a South Carolina church, nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the Confederate flag should be removed from all government buildings.

However, 1 out of ever 5 Americans still support the public display of the Confederate flag, according to a new poll from the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The controversy over the Confederate flag was reignited by last week’s mass shooting at a predominantly black church in Charleston, S.C.

Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old white man who had ties to a hate group that supports white nationalism, allegedly killed nine church members at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The shooting is believed to have been racially motivated, authorities say.

It has revived the debate over whether South Carolina’s government should hang the Confederate flag, as it does at a memorial honoring Confederate soldiers near the State House.

According to the Center for American Progress poll of 645 registered voters released Monday, 64 percent of Americans say no government building should display the Confederate flag, which many see as a symbol of hatred and racism.

Meanwhile, more than 500,000 people have signed a petition to remove the Confederate flag from all government buildings.

Others see the Confederate flag as a symbol not of racism, but of Southern pride. In fact, 21 percent of Americans support government buildings hanging the flag, according to the poll.

Fifteen percent of Americans say they are undecided.

“The Confederate flag represents an America that should no longer exist, divides our country and fuels violent acts like those in Charleston last week,” said Chelsea Parsons, vice president of guns and crime policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The center interviewed 636 registered voters between June 19 and June 20 for the poll, which has a 3.9-percentage-point margin of error.

‘It’s Shameful’: Scientists Slam Ted Cruz For Dodging Climate Question After Texas Floods by Emily Atkin Posted on May 31, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in Washington, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in Washington, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

After literally 35 trillion gallons of water fell on Texas this month, washing away homes and killing at least 28 people, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz still would not talk about climate change. “At a time of tragedy, I think it’s wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster,” the 2016 Republican presidential candidate said last week when asked about the role of climate change in the floods.

In a way, the “let’s not politicize this” response is similar to the familiar “I’m not a scientist” dodge — a way to avoid talking about the science that says human-made carbon emissions are warming the earth and screwing with natural weather patterns. Cruz, for his part, says he does not accept that science.

In the meantime, climate scientists across the country have been speaking outabout the climate implications of the Texas floods. And on Friday, ThinkProgress asked several of those scientists to weigh in on Cruz’s comments.

The overwhelming response: Talking about climate change after a weather tragedy is not political. In fact, it’s necessary.

“As a scientist, I think it is essential to connect the dots between climate change and the increasing risk it poses to our families and communities,” said Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University. “Keeping our mouths shut on what the data is telling us, even if it’s in fear of vicious reprisals, is like a physician not telling a patient they have a dangerous condition just because they’re afraid of the patient’s reaction.”

What the data is telling us, Hayhoe said, is that climate change is altering the risk of many weather extremes, flooding chief among them. These extremes “have always occurred naturally,” she said, but today’s warming caused by carbon emissions is making those extremes more likely and more severe than they were in the past. (Hayhoe just recently did a TEDx Talk about how this works. It’s worth watching).

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