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On this Wednesday morning's call in show on C-SPAN, Washington Journal, after first listening to a caller who talked about how badly George W. Bush screwed up the economy and that if we have another stolen election like the one that put him in office we might see another revolution, the discussion turned to George W. Bush's appearance at the New York Historical Society this week.
The guests were Sean Spicer, Republican National Committee, Communications Director and Brad Woodhouse, Democratic National Committee, Communications Director, and here's what Spicer had to say in defense of George W. Bush.
SPICER: I think he leaves a great legacy. I mean, in terms of what he did for job creation, getting this country... and obviously our attempts to deal with the war on terror. But I think, ironically, last night I was sitting there trying to do my taxes and thinking ?Oh my gosh, the so-called Bush tax cuts are expiring? and how that will actually, you know, for what I owe this year, how much more I'm going to have to pay next year because of that.
So I think a lot of people are having buyers... are looking back saying George W. Bush actually did have some... a strong vision for this country and you know, there's been bumper stickers all over town saying ?Miss me yet?? And I think a lot of people are going, wow, he actually, compared to what we have now... you do look and talk about the economy and say, hey, that was probably much better than where we are now.
Remember, the Democrats had a problem when unemployment was at 4.9 percent that Bush wasn't tackling jobs and the economy. Now it's at 8.2 and there's talk about how great the President's doing tackling it so...
WOODHOUSE: I am so glad the RNC just embraced the fall of 2008. That's where we got the Bush economy. That's where we got from the tax cuts. That's what we got from the deregulation of Wall Street. That's what we got from the deregulation of polluters and big oil, is we got the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression and the RNC just embraced that as an example to go forward.
It's too bad Woodhouse didn't have a copy of Steve Benen's bikini graph handy to show Spicer since he decided it was a good idea to brag about job creation under George W. Bush. The numbers today aren't great, but we aren't falling off a cliff like we were when Bush left office.
Go see the film Bully. All of the controversy about its MPAA rating was warranted, because it presents a powerful glimpse into the painful realities young people face in schools across the country. It’s a documentary that everybody needs to see, because we are long overdue for a serious conversation about bullying.
“‘Kids will be kids,’ ‘boys will be boys,’ ‘bullying is a rite of passage’ ? these are myths.” Both AFT President Randi Weingarten and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel emphasized this point repeatedly in the panel discussion after Tuesday night’s screening. And it’s true: young people are demeaning, harassing, sexually harassing, and assaulting their peers on a daily basis and there is no excuse for it. Bully‘s most important take-away is surely the brutal wake-up call for just how bad things have gotten: it’s impossible to watch 12-year-old Alex get cursed, beaten, and strangled ? and take it ? without your heart absolutely breaking for him. Add to that the complete lack of accountability for school administrators to intervene (and the negligence they demonstrate as a result) and you leave the film with a sense of anger and alarm that bullying was ever treated like it wasn’t a big deal.
One concern that has been raised is the film’s portrayal of suicide through the lens of two families who recently lost their sons. Emily Bazelon suggests that the lack of context about Tyler Long’s mental health is conspicuous and misleadingly implies that bullying was the only factor that led to his suicide. This apparent misrepresentation is disconcerting, and Bazelon is right that mental health concerns should always be included in conversations about suicide. Still, she neglected to mention that when Tyler’s parents hosted a town hall about bullying after his death, no school administrators could be bothered to show up. This isn’t a film about suicide ? it’s a film about how little we are doing to protect kids from peer abuse. Clearly this was a school that did not see bullying as a problem but that had a lot of parents and students who did. The Long family felt that bullying had significantly impacted Tyler’s life and sought to rectify that lack of accountability to protect other children, and none of the additional context of his story takes away from that reality.
So ultimately, I don’t feel like this discrepancy takes away from the film in the same way Bazelon does. Yes, suicide contagion is a real concern, particularly if suicide is portrayed as a direct or inevitable result of bullying, a point I’m not going to debate. But conservatives who wish to maintain anti-gay climates in schools also emphasize this point to downplay the impact of bullying, so it shouldn’t be treated as an either/or question. Two years ago, a 14-year-old boy named Brandon Bitner committed suicide two towns away from where I grew up in rural central Pennsylvania. He had been bullied for his perceived sexual orientation, but at his funeral, the eulogizing religious leader absolved the community of any accountability for how Brandon was treated, choosing to blame only his depression. The way I felt on that day is the same way I felt leaving Bully ? not that bullying causes suicide, but that given bullying can be a trigger for a young person to take his own life, it shouldn’t take such a death for a community to address the problem.
In this way, Bully is a call to action, busting down a closet door of apathy about an issue that intersects all of our lives. There is much we still need to learn about the impact and extent of bullying, but we now have an incredible launching point for the revolution our schools deserve.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) told Christian Broadcast Network earlier this week that the House GOP’s budget, which he wrote, was driven by his Catholic faith. “A person?s faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private,? Ryan said, and Catholic principles are what led him to cut programs for the poor so as to keep people from becoming “dependent on government.”
As ThinkProgress noted Tuesday, Ryan’s budget seems to ignore Catholic social teaching that calls for protecting the poor and improving access to food, jobs, health care, housing, and the social safety net. And now religious leaders are making the same case. The founder of the PICO National Network, the largest national coalition of religious congregations, slammed Ryan’s claim of adherence to Catholic teaching as “the height of hypocrisy” in a release circulated Wednesday:
“It?s the height of hypocrisy for Rep. Ryan to claim that his approach to the budget is shaped by Catholic teaching and values,? said Fr. John Baumann, S.J., founder of PICO National Network. [...] “A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects ?the least of these? (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.”
“By these measures,” the release says, “the Ryan budget is a severe failure,” noting that it cuts Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, and “other programs that help vulnerable working families make it through tough times and live better lives,” while giving massive tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and corporations. Overall, 62 percent of Ryan’s budget cuts come from programs that benefit the poor. “The mission of the Church is to ‘bring good news to the poor’ and to protect the vulnerable, not to justify the impoverishment of the very young, the very old and the sick in order to enrich the wealthy,” the release says.
This isn’t the first time religious leaders have criticized the House GOP budget. When Ryan released the budget in March, Bishop Gene Robinson called it an “immoral disaster” that “robs the poor,” and Father Thomas Kelly, a constituent of Ryan’s, said he was “outraged” that Ryan defended the budget “on moral grounds.” Last year’s Ryan budget faced similar criticism, as religious leaders blasted it for adhering more closely to the policies of anti-religion, anti-government author Ayn Rand than to the teachings of the Bible.
One hundred and four health organizations sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius yesterday calling for increased coverage of treatment for chronic illnesses. The letter urged Sebelius to revise the Essential Health Benefits (EHB) prescription standard to cover more drugs for patients who may not respond to one form of treatment. Currently, EHB plans allow for coverage of one drug in each “theraputic category,” a level the signatories called “wholly inadequate.” Instead, the groups asked for treatments to be covered if they are recommended by medical professionals and in an “otherwise covered category,” one that is not completely excluded from coverage. The letter also called for federal intervention to ensure states participate in the exchange programs, noting that some Governors, like Florida’s Rick Scott (R), have refused to participate at all in the process of forming exchanges.
Yesterday, Hilary Rosen — a partner in a PR firm who has no role in the Obama campaign — said on CNN that Ann Romney has “never worked a day in her life.” Almost immediately, the Romney campaign falsely labeled Rosen an “Obama adviser” and demanded the Obama campaign distance itself from this non-advisor. The Obama Campaign swiftly responded that Rosen’s comments were “inappropriate and offensive.”
Now that President Obama has distanced himself from this fake advisor’s statement, it’s time for Mitt Romney to show his commitment to women’s rights by also distancing himself from actual members of his campaign who’ve disrespected women or women’s rights. Unlike Rosen, these anti-woman Romney supporters are official advisors to Romney’s campaign or top campaign surrogates that Romney has proudly shared a stage with:
Mitt Romney either believes that women who claim gender discrimination are “silly” or he does not. He either believes that women who express their sexuality are “alleycats,” or he does not. And he either believes that it is acceptable for one of his campaign’s top surrogates to offer to expose his genitals, or he does not. If the Obama campaign needs to disassociate himself from its non-advisor, than the least Romney can do is prove that he does not think women like Lilly Ledbetter are silly by abandoning his campaign’s most sexist advisors and surrogates.
Newt Gingrich would “probably not” serve in a Mitt Romney administration. Asked during a radio interview today whether he would accept a role in the Romney cabinet, Gingrich seemed unenthusiastic, saying he doesn’t think so, but “not because I’m opposed to Mitt.”
Earlier this week, Syrian government forces fired their weapons across the Lebanese and Turkish borders, killing a television journalist and at least two people in a refugee camp in Turkey. In response, the Turkish government summoned the Syrian ambassador to protest what was the first attack from Syria since Turkey began hosting refugees.
“We have many options. A country has rights born out of international law against border violations,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by Hurriyet daily and other newspapers.
“Also, NATO has responsibilities to do with Turkey’s borders, according to Article 5,” added Erdogan, whose country is a NATO member.
According to Article 5, NATO members “agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence.” NATO first invoked Article 5 after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States.
CNN reports that State Department officials have said that the Obama administration is discussing creating a buffer zone on the border between Turkey and Syria. “It would be correct to say this idea is getting another look in the last week or so,” one official said about the buffer zone.
Earlier this month, two Catholic bishops of the Archdiocese of Seattle wrote a letter asking parishioners to take part in a campaign to repeal Washington state’s recently enacted marriage equality law. Calling the effort “critically important,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo argued that denying same-sex couples the rights of marriage does not constitute discrimination since gays and lesbians are inherently “different” from straight relationships.
But at least one Catholic leader — Father Michael Ryan of St. James Cathedral — is resisting the effort and refusing to “circulate petitions inside his parish for the campaign to repeal the state’s same-sex marriage law”:
Archbishop Sartain has written a letter in which he has expressed his support for Referendum 74 and for the collecting of signatures in parishes. Media reports regarding this are somewhat misleading. While the Archbishop has given his support to the effort, he has wisely left it up to each pastor to decide whether to allow the collection of signatures in his own parish.
After discussing the matter with the members of the Cathedral’s pastoral ministry team, I have decided that we will not participate in the collecting of signatures in our parish. Doing so would, I believe, prove hurtful and seriously divisive in our community.
Opponents of Washington state?s new marriage equality law have only gathered 5,681 of the 120,577 signatures necessary (and 150,000 goal) to repeal the law at the ballot through Referendum 74. They have only two months left to collect the rest, as the law is set to take effect on June 6. The Seattle Times notes that Preserve Marriage Washington, a campaign funded by the race-baiting National Organization for Marriage, has not yet utilized paid signature collectors and the totals do not seem to reflect the outreach to 1,500 churches with 50,000 completed petitions the group has boasted.
(HT: The Stranger’s Slog)
Ann Romney went on television this morning to champion a woman’s right to choose. Responding to Democratic Strategist Hilary Rosen’s criticism that she “never worked a day in her life,” Mrs. Romney rebutted the attack and talked about her experience being a stay-at-home mom. She argued that “we need to respect choices that women make.” Watch it:
Indeed, Ann Romney hit the nail on the head: We should respect the choices that women make when it comes to family planning. And those choices run the gamut — there’s the “choice” to stay home or work (though, that’s economically tough, and Ann Romney has probably never had to calculate the cost of daycare versus that of driving to work), take contraception to delay having a family until a woman is ready, and terminate a pregnancy that a woman cannot afford or handle.
Mrs. Romney and her husband have previously supported organizations that offer such choices: In 1994, during her husband’s bid for U.S. Senate, Mrs. Romney gave $150 to Planned Parenthood and her husband attended a pro-choice fundraiser.
But Romney’s positions have “evolved” to favor a conservative social agenda meant to endear him to the right wing. He now supports policies that limit women’s choices. Romney’s recent assaults on women’s health include “getting rid of” Planned Parenthood, supporting a personhood amendment, limiting contraception and restricting access to abortions.
Ann Romney’s message to women is clear: respect my choices, even if my husband may not respect yours.