Apparently, Rick Santorum is displeased that he's being forced to talk about stuff like contraception, and Satan's war on America, when other candidates aren't getting the same kind of questions. One of his aides made the complaint to conservative journalist Byron York:
But specifically religious questioning of Romney is as rare as specific Romney statements about Mormon beliefs. Given the current grilling of Santorum, that is a source of growing frustration to Santorum's advisers. "Why is Mormonism off limits?" asks one. "I'm not saying it's a seminal issue in the campaign, but we're having to spend days answering questions about Rick's faith, which he has been open about. Romney will turn on a dime when you talk about religion. We're getting asked about specific tenets of Rick's faith, and when Romney says, 'I want to focus on the economy,' they say, OK, we'll focus on the economy."
In one way, Santorum's people have a point. Reporters haven't asked Romney lots of questions about Mormonism, for a few reasons. First, Romney does almost no interviews or press conferences, so reporters seldom get the chance to ask him about anything. Second, as the Santorum aide says, Romney will quickly deflect any question about Mormonism to a more general point about the importance of faith, Obama's "war on religion," blah blah blah. And finally, I suspect reporters are a little nervous about seeming intolerant. If you start asking Romney questions about the more colorful aspects of Mormon theology, you might sound like your being intolerant of a minority religion and implying that Romney's faith could be disqualifying. On the other hand, Santorum is quite happy to talk about what he thinks God wants and what he thinks God hates, speaking in much more concrete terms about religion than Romney ever does.
And Santorum's got company in one way: most Americans do, in fact, believe in the Devil?70 percent, according to this 2007 Gallup poll. But members of the press corps?whether they're liberal, conservative, or otherwise?are probably less likely to be in that group, if for no other reason than the fact that they tend to be well-educated. So when they hear that Santorum gave a speech in 2008 talking about how Satan was going after America, and in fact had already successfully taken over some parts of American life, particularly academia (no wonder that vice-provost tried to get me to change my major to Beelzebubian Studies!), they react with a certain degree of surprise. And most politicians, particularly national politicians (as opposed to some back-bench congressman no one's ever heard of) simply don't talk in those terms, so it's notable for being novel.
But this is what happens when you become a serious contender: people start looking over your whole history, including your legislative record, your personal finances, and yes, your religious beliefs. And when you've spent your career scolding people about how they're misusing their naughty bits, and proclaiming the need to get religion?your religion, anyway?more involved in our political life, it's going to be open for discussion.
And my broader position on this is that all these candidates ought to get asked about their religious beliefs, for the simple reason that they're the ones who bring it up. You can't say, as they do often, that your religion is the bedrock of everything you believe and everything you do, and then turn around and say we as citizens shouldn't ask you questions about it. To use an analogy I've offered before, if a candidate said, "I'm an existentialist, and I'll be guided by that philosophy every day in the Oval Office," but then said, "Hey, why are you asking me questions about existantialism? Let's talk about something else," we'd find it awfully strange. If Santorum wants to argue that we shouldn't talk about his religious beliefs because they aren't really important to him and they won't have any impact on the way he'd act as president, then fine. But he's the one who says his religion is important.
The Wild Chase [...]
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Conor Friedersdorf responds to a post I wrote, in which I noted that Ron Paul's attack on Rick Santorum basically amounts to assaulting Santorum for having been a Republican senator when George W. Bush was president, and today that means you're not a conservative:
Just to be clear, having supported "Dubya" does in fact mean that you weren't a real conservative! His hubristic attempt to remake the political culture of foreign nations via military occupation was not conservative. His profligate spending habits were not conservative. His empowerment of the federal education bureaucracy at the expense of state and local control was not conservative. His approach to immigration reform?a guest-worker program?wasn't conservative either. Perhaps it would be easier to respect his departures from conservative orthodoxy if he'd been a good president. As it stands, he was unprincipled and a pragmatist's nightmare.
If the conservative movement was more grounded in substance, and less concerned with tribal and partisan loyalty, then fewer Republicans would've gone along with Bush, and the ones that did would be pariahs now, rather than contending for the GOP's presidential nomination. Instead, the candidates are just sure to never mention Bush's name, and the base is going along.
Conor is a sort-of-conservative (I'm not sure what label he actually puts on himself) and a principled guy who has never been afraid to criticize Republicans. But he's right that tribal and partisan loyalty has always trumped principle, and I guess that means that as a species conservatives pretty much disappeared between the years of 2000 and about 2006 or so. Let's take No Child Left Behind, which imposed all kinds of new federal requirements on public schools, undermining that "local control" of which conservatives are so fond. Republicans voted for it by margins of 186-34 in the House and 43-6 in the Senate. It was a triumph of the new president's "compassionate conservatism," and most Republicans thought it was dandy. How about government finances? Bush managed to turn the surplus he was given into a deficit by 2002, and you didn't hear too many Republicans criticizing him for it.
But today, some of the specifics of Conor's brief are shared by many Republicans. In fact, they started moving away from Bush late in his second term, when he began getting more and more unpopular. Some liberals said at the time, "Just wait?before long they'll start saying that this guy they worshipped for years was never a real conservative" (if memory serves, Digby was, as usual, prescient on this). The motivation wasn't hard to discern: if your guy is leaving office with a string of policy failures and an approval rating in the 30s, the only way to resolve the cognitive (and political) dissonance is to say he was never really your guy in the first place.
But that doesn't really tell us anything about whether Bush was, in fact, a real conservative. Here's my answer to that question: it's complicated. Presidents do lots and lots of things, and unlike candidates, the things they do actually play out in the real world and have a multitude of consequences. But overall, I'd say that Bush was an excellent embodiment of conservatism as it existed circa 2000-2008. Huge tax cuts for the rich? Check. Supreme Court justices ready to overturn Roe v. Wade? Check. Bellicose foreign policy? Check. Lax enforcement of environmental and worker safety regulations? Check.
Now, you can argue that Bush's departures from conservative orthodoxy on issues like the overall size of government, immigration, or education are significant enough that they outweigh all the things he did that made conservatives deliriously happy for most of his tenure. But most conservatives only began to find those things terribly important once Bush stopped being the hero of 9/11 and became just one more failed president.
Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity claimed this morning that it does not endorse candidates:
Asked about his efforts to sway public opinion, [David] Koch acknowledges his group is hard at work in places such as Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker is facing off with public unions and grappling with a likely recall vote.Incidentally, today is the one year anniversary of Scott Walker spending 20 minutes on the phone with a prank caller that Walker thought was David Koch.
"We're helping him, as we should. We've gotten pretty good at this over the years," he says. "We've spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We're going to spend more."
A while back, the Chief Judge in the State of New York issued an order that was a commonsense approach to robo-signing. He ordered each lawyer representing a foreclosing bank to submit an affidavit about their own investigation of their own case and the[...]
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Stock market is up exactly 100% since its March, 2009 bottom, and up 24% just since its intermediate-term low in October
Kudos to central banks.
The Euro zone debt crisis produced two years of fears that it would result in financial collapse and a severe recession in Europe that would spread to the rest of the world.
But in November the central banks of Canada, England, Japan, Europe, the U.S., and Switzerland, took coordinated actions to provide liquidity support to the global financial system.
In December, the European Central Bank finally succumbed to pressure and launched a program providing substantial additional liquidity to European banks by making unlimited, low interest-rate, three-year loans available to banks.
As . . . → Read More: Two Years of Economic Fears Have Disappeared
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The U.S. economy is seven times larger than Brazil's economy. Yet the U.S. stock market is 12 times larger. That's simply the result of the fact that most global investors want exposure to the United States, relatively under-weighting Brazil and other markets in the process.
Now consider this: the Brazilian economy, due to its relatively undeveloped nature compared with the United States, is poised to grow by a faster pace than the U.S. economy in the next 20 years. By some estimates, the U.S. economy will only be three times as large as the Brazilian economy by 2040. In that light, does it still make sense that the U.S. stock market should be 12 times as large?. . . → Read More: The Emerging Markets You Can’t Afford to Ignore
The fire-and-brimstone Christian Right bible-thumper who gets busted buying crack cocaine from a male prostitute, or the "family values" conservative who turns out to be a serial philanderer. These are now stock characters out of GOP central casting.
But other than the rather tedious accumulation of examples of self-righteous Republicans who want us to do as they say and not as they do, is there something about Republicanism itself that produces these double standards? Is hypocrisy, in short, endemic to conservatism?
That is what Washington Post liberal E.J. Dionne wants to know. In his column this week, Dionne says that hypocrisy - "the gap between ideology and practice" -- has now reached a "crisis point" in American conservatism.
"This Republican presidential campaign is demonstrating conclusively that there is an unbridgeable divide between the philosophical commitments conservative candidates make before they are elected and what they will have to do when faced with the day-to-day demands of practical governance," writes Dionne. "Conservatives in power have never been -- and can never be -- as anti-government as they are in a campaign."
In an oft-quoted 2006 essay in Washington Monthly, "Why Conservatives Can't Govern," Boston College professor Alan Wolfe called contemporary conservatism "a walking contradiction" since conservatives were unable to shrink government but also unwilling to improve government and so ended up splitting the difference in ways that resulted in "not just bigger government, but more incompetent government."
The problem begins, says Wolfe, when conservatives promise to shrink the size and reach of the federal government but find once in office they are "under constant pressure from constituents to use government to improve their lives." And this, says Wolfe, "puts conservatives in the awkward position of managing government agencies whose missions -- indeed, whose very existence -- they believe to be illegitimate."
To Dionne, this pulling in opposite directions is what inevitably makes conservatives hypocrites.
Why, for example, are so many conservatives anti-government while spending long careers drawing paychecks from the taxpayers? asks Dionne. Why also do conservatives "bash government largesse while seeking as much of it as they can get for their constituents and friendly interest groups?"
Why do conservatives criticize entitlements and big government yet promise their older, conservative base they will "never, ever to cut their Medicare or Social Security?"
And what about defense? Why do Republicans support the free market yet refuse to consider any cuts at all in the bloated Military Industrial Complex that takes taxpayer dollars and transforms them into private profits.
The list goes on. The reason our political system is so "broken," says Dionne, is that conservatives are hypocrites who keep making "anti-government promises that they know perfectly well they are destined to break."
Dionne's criticisms are well taken. But he needs to dig deeper. It's not just small-government conservatives who are hypocrites about the size and cost of government they are willing to support. It's that conservatism itself, as a collection of ideas about organizing society, inevitably breeds hypocrisy.
Conservatives are sure to cry foul and will no doubt respond by producing a mountain of examples where liberals have behaved hypocritically. I am sure they can. But that's beside the point. The real point is that liberals care about hypocrisy and conservatives don't.
Here's why: liberals want to build a larger community by weaving together the different threads in our society into a fuller and more varied tapestry. This multi-culturalism and promotion of diversity, in fact, is what conservatives hate most about liberals since conservatives want to defend the community they already have by keeping others out, and by using politics to do it.
Hypocrisy matters to liberals because the only way to build a larger community is by first building trust. And the only way to build trust is by treating everyone equally -- by consistently and impartially applying the same universal principles to like individuals in like situations.
Hypocrisy is the unequal application of principle, producing an arbitrariness that eats like a cancer at the connective tissue of the ethnically, religiously, and demographically diverse communities liberal societies hope to create.
Hypocrisy matters to liberals like Rachel Maddow -- a lot -- as her long-time listeners well know. Nothing makes Maddow madder than when people say one thing and do another. The best parts of her show, in fact, are when she takes apart right wing hypocrites with prosecutorial precision, exposing Republicans who attack Obama's "job-killing" stimulus program on Fox News while taking credit for the jobs actually created in their local newspapers back home.
When Republicans accused Democrats of destroying the American Republic by using budget "reconciliation" to pass the Affordable Health Care Act, you could see the glee (and contempt) in Maddow's eye as Republican duplicity was exposed as she quietly sat there while example after example of Republicans using reconciliation when they were in charge scrolled endlessly across the screen.
I watch Maddow's surgical dissection of Republicans and think they've got to be devastated. But then I listen afterward, dumbfounded, as their only takeaway from this embarrassing unmasking is that Maddow is a partisan hack.
But after all, why should a right wing conservative care if he's ridiculed for applying one standard to one group and a different standard to his? Why should he care if he is called a hypocrite considering that his ultimate objective is to guarantee the supremacy of white, Christian, affluent males?
Or take a charlatan preacher like Franklin Graham, whose sole objective isn't saving souls but electing other Republicans. Why should Graham care if his duplicity is called out on national TV when he insists it's impossible for him to vouch for the authenticity of President Obama's Christian devotion while Graham eagerly does just that for Rick Santorum or even the three-timing Newt Gingrich?
Man is moral but society is not, the liberal theologian Reinhold Niebuhr reminds us. Telling the truth and being true to our stated principles may be sovereign in our personal lives but can easily give way to the demands of our political commitments, as right wing conservatives know all too well.
Hypocrisy matters to liberals because the principles of equality and fair-dealing upon which our liberal way of life depends matter to liberals -- and when those principles are impartially applied bridge the differences that creates a society greater than the sum of its parts.
Right wing conservatives do not share this vision of the Great Society and so are untroubled by hypocrisy because their first and only commitment is to their group.
We are a nation not of blood and soil but of ideas, President George W. Bush told us in his second inaugural. Liberals accept that belief implicitly. Right wing conservatives do not. To this new generation of radical conservatives, societies are still based on soil and blood. With the emphasis on blood.
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Earlier this week I wrote about how quickly gay people are winning, just at the same time that women are losing. Speak of the devil! Yesterday, ho-hum, yet another federal district court judge ruled that a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management. Karen Golinski is a lawyer who works for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco (nice touch, yes?). She got married during the six months that California had a gender-neutral marriage law, between the California Supreme Court ruling that made it possible and before Prop 8 passed and added a constitutional ban to the law. (California is really just too exciting. Its crazy politics and the earthquake fault line are the only two good reasons I've found not to move there.) Golinski applied to add her wife to her health insurance benefits. Her boss at the Ninth Circuit said yes. But here's the hitch: Golinski worked for the federal government, which, because of DOMA, cannot legally recognize same-sex marriages. So, backed by Lambda Legal, Golinski sued.
And won. The California trial court judge?appointed by George W. Bush?agreed that DOMA was unconstitutional, by any measure, saying that the government had absolutely no justificiation whatsoever to deny Golinski equal recognition (with thanks to Chris Geidner for picking out the good bits):
The Court finds that neither Congress' claimed legislative justifications nor any of the proposed reasons proffered by BLAG constitute bases rationally related to any of the alleged governmental interests. Further, after concluding that neither the law nor the record can sustain any of the interests suggested, the Court, having tried on its own, cannot conceive of any additional interests that DOMA might further.... In this matter, the Court finds that DOMA, as applied to Ms. Golinski, violates her right to equal protection of the law under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution by, without substantial justification or rational basis, refusing to recognize her lawful marriage to prevent provision of health insurance coverage to her spouse.
The Prop 8 case gets all the attention because of its splashy lawyers, but (God willing) that result is going to be confined to California. These DOMA cases are more important and more likely to go up.
Ten years ago, a decision like this would have been an excuse for a wave of antigay referenda. This week, it did not even rate a mention on the New York Times' front page. I just can't shake my head often enough. DOMA is coming down. Here's the only question left: Three years? Five years?
Gov. Bob McDonnell reads pollsAfter Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell withdrew his support from the state-sponsored rape abortion bill the House of Delegates was about to vote on, the House altered the bill. They removed the newly-discovered-as-invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound portion of the bill, leaving just a plain old unnecessary and not-medically advised ultrasound mandate.
That has likely doomed the bill.
The amended bill now returns to the Senate where its sponsor, Sen. Jill Vogel, said she will strike the legislation. A House version, by Del. Kathy Byron, is pending before a Senate committee.Sen. Jill Vogel seems unnaturally determined to punish the state's women, which is probably going to make her increasingly unpopular with a state Republican party slowly waking up to the fact that their constituents just aren't clamoring for extremism.