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Governor Scott Walker, potential Republican presidential candidate, speaks at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma May 21, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking - RTX1E0LB
Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI)
Last fall, as he campaigned for re-election as governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker ran an ad claiming that one of his anti-abortion bills "leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor." As dishonest as that was at the time, check out where Republican-presidential-primary Scott Walker lands: He's happy to sign a 20-week abortion ban without exemptions for rape or incest.
Walker, who had previously expressed support for the bill that's on a fast track in the Wisconsin Legislature, said it didn't matter whether there was an exemption. As introduced, there is none in the bill.

"I think for most people who are concerned about that, it's in the initial months when they are most concerned about it," Walker said when asked about the exemption. "In this case, it's an unborn life, it's an unborn child, that's why we feel strongly about it. I'm prepared to sign it either way they send it to us."

So the decision is less between a woman and her doctor than between a rapist and Scott Walker, huh? Let's be clear: Walker is not simply saying he doesn't care, he's inviting Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature to pass this bill without rape or incest exemptions.

Funny, isn't it, how in a competitive general election against a woman, he was all about the final decision being between a woman and her doctor (if they could get around all the hurdles he'd thrown up, but he wasn't exactly mentioning that), and now that he's trying to win over Republican primary voters in states like Iowa and South Carolina, he's a full-on culture warrior? If he gets to the general election, he may find that it's a little harder to dodge his real record this time around—but women in Wisconsin will already have paid the price.

Fox covers Caitlyn Jenner
"Call me Caitlyn," the upcoming cover of Vanity Fair says, over a picture of the woman who became famous as Olympic champion Bruce Jenner and had more recently been prominent on reality television as Keeping up with the Kardashians' husband and stepfather. Jenner's decision to come out as transgender has been heavily covered by the media, but the Vanity Fair cover represents the first time she has made the name Caitlyn public and asked to be referred to with female pronouns.

Leave it to Fox News to turn this into an occasion for mockery and ignorance.

Practically squealing in his effort to convey how totally ca-razy this is, Neil Cavuto opens by asking "What the hell is going on?" But what's going on isn't information you'd learn in the segment that follows, with reporter Dagen McDowell explaining that:

Well, that's how you transition Bruce Jenner—let's give him credit. HE is the only person on planet Earth who knows how to one-up his most famous stepdaughter, Kim Kardashian. [...] That's he unveiled his new identity, um, kind of, um, leaving his male identity behind with Caitlyn, I mean, he figured out an interesting way to spell it right now C-A-I-T-L-Y-N and Bruce, now Caitlyn, says, this is part of the transitioning, leaving that male identity behind, will use female pronouns from now on, but it isn't a [makes squeaking noise] ... what about the outfit? It's a white, satin, corset. Very Playboy bunny-esque, isn't it, Neil?
At which Neil Cavuto both pretended not to know what a Playboy bunny outfit looks like and ensured that viewers know how uncomfortable he is looking at Caitlyn Jenner, while McDowell teased him with a "He looks hot—or, she looks hot, rather." Hey! Look at that. Dagen McDowell gets the right pronoun after using the wrong one more than half a dozen times.

The whole tone of the segment is of pop-eyed disbelief, as if transgender people were some brand-new phenomenon no one ever heard of, rather than part of the world we live in and have lived in for some time. Somehow even the perfectly ordinary name Caitlyn comes in for disbelief, as if merely by association with its bearer's transition it's become exotic.

It's not just obnoxious and hateful. It's gleefully obnoxious and hateful, for its own sake.

(Video below the fold.)

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U.S. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listens during remarks about leadership elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 16, 2010.   REUTERS/Jim Young
We'll see how this works out for him. After completely bungling a strategy to avoid reforms to the Patriot Act, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to finally allow the USA Freedom Act, a House bill that contains some reforms of the program, to go forward. McConnell's nemesis on this is the guy he endorsed for president: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Paul successfully blocked McConnell on any kind of extension of the Patriot Act, insisting that he would be happy to have the USA Freedom Act come to the floor as long as he had the opportunity to offer amendments. McConnell, however, has set up an amendment process that will prevent Paul—or anyone—from offering amendments.
By "filling the tree" with what he called "modest" to the measure, McConnell effectively blocked off debate on other potential amendments—including two Paul had said he would stand down for if he was promised simple-majority votes on them.

A Paul aide confirmed that the GOP presidential hopeful would not be getting votes on his desired amendments. […]

McConnell's amendments are considered "germane," meaning they will need only a simple majority to pass—not 60 votes. If any of them pass, they would need to go back to the House, which could prompt a game of legislative Ping-Pong delaying the bill's final passage—and keep the Patriot Act lapse from ending.

The changes McConnell is demanding weaken the reform bill, which right there jeopardizes the bipartisan House coalition that passed it last month. One of McConnell's amendments would strike language in the bill that requires the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to declassify significant opinions, a requirement that prevents the court from de facto passing "secret laws" like bulk collection of phone data—something that was not authorized by Congress in the law. Another amendment would require that the director of national intelligence monitor and certify that the new NSA phone-records program works as intended. McConnell also wants to weaken a requirement that the FISC consult with a group of experts to discuss privacy problems in any of the court's orders. McConnell also wants to lengthen the transition of the bulk collection program—taking it away from the NSA and putting it in the hands of the telecoms—from six months in the existing bill to one year, and would require that phone companies give a six-month notice to the government if they plan to change the way they retain their call records. That comes too close to an actual mandate on phone companies to collect the data than some tech companies and privacy experts are comfortable with.

McConnell can probably get the 51 votes he needs on these amendments, but that doesn't clear all the legislative hurdles that can still arise and stalling that Paul can achieve, if he really is intent on fighting this to the bitter end. But those changes will require a whole new set of wrangling in the House, which has been downright hostile to McConnell and his efforts to screw this up. This is going to take a while.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at a town hall meeting on topics ranging from education to U.S.-Israeli relations to business support in Tempe, Arizona May 14, 2015.  REUTERS/Deanna Dent - RTX1D077
Jeb Bush
Man, Jeb Bush is taking all the popular positions. In an appearance on CBS News' Face the Nation in which he hilariously insisted he hasn't yet decided if he's running for president and that, "if" he does, his campaign won't coordinate with the super PAC for which he is so enthusiastically fundraising now, Bush added to his pile of quotes about what he's learned from his brother George W. on Iraq and discussed his plan for attacking Social Security.

Bush insisted that "my brother is not going to be a problem at all. I seek out his advice. I love him dearly. I have learned from his successes and his mistakes." Wait a second—a Bush admitting that another Bush made mistakes? Go on ...

Well, the successes clearly are protecting the homeland. We were under attack, and he brought -- he unified the country and he showed dogged determination. And he kept us safe.
Ah, yes, the old "George W.'s job 'keeping us safe' started immediately after the 9/11 attacks, which don't count," to say nothing of the view that the Iraq War did anything to keep the United States safe. But about those mistakes:
And I think I learned also from not having -- keeping the reins on spending. Because of the war and because of the focus on protecting the homeland, I think he let the Republican Congress get a little out of control in terms of the spending.
Riiight. "He let the Republican Congress get a little out of control." They just ran roughshod over the poor guy, who would never have spent all those billions on his own war of choice. So we can infer that Jeb Bush will go to war, he'll just somehow be more thrifty about it.

George W.'s wars weren't the only unpopular policy for which Jeb reiterated his support. He also advocated raising the retirement age for the "supplemental retirement system" (that would be Social Security—words he carefully avoided using, and more than a supplement for too many Americans) to 68 or 70, which prompts me to advocate for him to go out and lay bricks or clean hotel rooms for a few months and see how it feels for him now, at 62, and look forward to how it would feel at 68 or 70.


Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R) leaves the stage after introducing U.S. President Bush to speak at a campaign fundraiser in Chicago October 12, 2006. Bush appeared publicly for the first time with Hastert on Friday since former Rep. Mark Foley's r
Dennis Hastert
Things that make you go "hmm": a federal judge presiding over a criminal case against a former politician to whom he donated a bunch of money.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Durkin gave Hastert for Congress $500 in 2002 and $1000 in 2004, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Oh, and there's also this:
The donations could fuel questions about the judge’s impartiality in the case. News outlets have already noted that the judge’s brother is a prominent figure in the state’s GOP leadership. Jim Durkin serves as minority leader in the Illinois House, a post he was elected to in 2013.
Judge Durkin made those contributions before he became a judge, and it's certainly possible that he could be scrupulously fair. Indeed, if his contributions to the former speaker of the House had anything to do with Hastert's stated views on punishment of "repeat child molesters," then Hastert has reason to worry.

But I'm sure the judge will understand that he's under a little extra scrutiny, right?

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum addresses his Michigan primary night rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, February 28, 2012.  REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Most of America is ready for the Supreme Court to grant nationwide same-sex marriage rights. Most, but not all.
American voters say 56 - 38 percent they would support a U.S. Supreme Court decision granting same-sex couples the constitutional right to marry, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today. Voters support 56 - 36 percent same-sex marriage in general.

Backing a possible Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage are Democrats 70 - 24 percent, independent voters 61 - 34 percent, men 55 - 41 percent and women 57 - 35 percent. Republicans are opposed 62 - 34 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe- ack) University Poll finds.

Once again, note the huge difference between what the Republican base thinks and everyone else. There's a twenty point difference between Republican and independent voters; for the party, it's not a long-term sustainable position.

But in the short term, their candidates will find that it is a required position, whether it alienates non-Republican voters or not. Repeat candidate Rick Santorum has vowed he'd be distancing himself from social issues and running as the hero of the middle class, but by gum if the Supreme Court comes to the wrong decision on this one then a President Santorum could never put up with that.

"Of course I'd fight it," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "Roe versus Wade was decided 30 some years ago, and I continue to fight that, because I think the court got it wrong. And I think if the court decides this case in error, I will continue to fight, as we have on the issue of life ... We're not bound by what nine people say in perpetuity."
Isn't that a cheery thought. No matter how long it takes to do the right thing, the Rick Santorum wing of the party (which, if the polls are any indication, is the only wing that still matters) will still be railing against it for thirty years after that.
Rep. John Delaney explaining something very important.
Rep. John Delaney (D-Doofus)
Holy crap this guy is a doofus.
Rep. John Delaney (Md.), a centrist House Democrat, on Friday warned that voices on the left have "hijacked" his party’s message.
Oh my gosh, the party of the left has been hijacked by the left? About time! Let's go directly to the source and see what has this guy all riled up.
With Washington already broken, the last thing we need is a left-wing version of the tea party. But I am worried about where some of the loudest voices in the room could take the Democratic Party.
Yeah, the last thing Democrats need is the sort of activism energy that has given Republicans their biggest House majority in nearly a century and control of the Senate. That would be horrible, you know, getting to run shit.
Rejecting a trade agreement with Asia, expanding entitlement programs that crowd out other priorities and a desire to relitigate the financial crisis are becoming dominant positions among Democrats.
That stuff sounds awesome! I thought this guy was criticizing his own party.
Although these subjects may make for good partisan talking points, they do not provide the building blocks for a positive and bold agenda to create jobs and improve the lives of Americans.
Oops, nevermind. Apparently, shipping jobs overseas, starving seniors, and letting the bank barons get off scot-free for destroying the world economy is a "positive and bold agenda" that improves people's lives. Who knew? More below the fold.
Continue Reading
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) leaves the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct on Capitol Hill in Washington October 24, 2006. Hastert appeared before the bipartisan congressional ethics panel for questioning about what
Dennis Hastert
The scandal surrounding former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's indictment for attempting to conceal bank withdrawals to pay off an extortionist has reached the stage where, in the absence of major news, we're watching the effects of what we do know play out. The biggest news, if it holds up, is that there is reportedly a second alleged victim of abuse by Hastert during his days as a high school teacher and coach. That makes a lot of sense, since abusers don't typically stop at one, but we just don't know a lot about it yet. Beyond that, Hastert faces a barrage of (deserved, if the allegations are true) humiliations.

The search is on for every piece of hypocrisy Hastert committed during his time as a House Republican, and this is a major one:

“It is important to have a national notification system to help safely recover children kidnapped by child predators,” it said. “But it is equally important to stop those predators before they strike, to put repeat child molesters into jail for the rest of their lives, and to help law enforcement with the tools they need to get the job done.”
So will he be volunteering to take the punishment he proposed?

Meanwhile, Hastert's alma mater stripped him of an honor:

“In light of the charges and allegations that have emerged, the college has redesignated the center as the Wheaton College Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy at this time,” the school said in a news release that was updated on Sunday. The center had been called the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy.
Hastert also resigned from the center's board of advisers, as he had resigned from his job as a lobbyist. Presumably this is not the end of organizations and allies distancing themselves from Hastert, who is due to be arraigned this week.

11:32 AM PT: In what passes for good news for Hastert these days, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said it would be "premature" to talk about removing Hastert's portrait from the Capitol.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks to the press following his private meeting with United States U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice about the attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 27, 2012.   REUTERS/Jason Ree
Can you feel the Lindseymentum? It's official, Sen. Lindsey Graham is now officially a Republican presidential candidate, running on the tried-and-true and utterly ridiculous theme of being an "outsider." Never mind that he's served in the Congress for 20 years. He grew up poor.
It’s the tale of a son of pool hall owners, who grew up near-impoverished in the back room of his parents’ bar. As a college student he raised, and eventually adopted, his little sister after their parents died, before going on to have a career as an Air Force lawyer and then rising to become South Carolina’s senior senator.

“Those of you who’ve known me a long time know I had some ups and downs as a young man,” he said. “I lost my parents, and had to struggle financially and emotionally…There are a lot of so-called ‘self-made’ people in this world. I’m not one of them. My family, friends, neighbors and my faith picked me up when I was down, believed in me when I had doubts. You made me the man I am today.”

But mostly Graham's announcement was about wanting to bomb Iran, making this more Sen. John McCain's third run for president than Graham's. His announcement speech was heavy on the national security theme.
"I am running for president of the United States because I am ready to be commander-in-chief on day one…to defend our nation with a sound strategy, a strong military, stable alliances and a steady determination," Graham told a crowd of supporters at a campaign launch event. "I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race. That includes you, Hillary."
Never mind that his overarching concern for national security didn't extend to postponing Monday's announcement so that he could be in Washington Sunday night to talk about and vote on renewing the Patriot Act. He's going to defeat ISIS and Iran and Putin. Oh, and raise the Social Security retirement age and cut people's benefits. That's because he's the serious one.
Democratic Vice Presidential nominee U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) with his son Beau Biden (L) acknowledge the audience at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, August 27, 2008. Democrats nominated Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) on Wed
Beau Biden and Joe Biden
Fox News kept it classy in its coverage of former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden's death, bringing in Dr. Keith Ablow to offer his usual brand of sensitive advice. To be fair, Ablow did seem to understand that this might not be the time for unhinged attacks, and kept his commentary to platitudes about grieving and such:
"I would say to the vice president or anybody in his position, this is something you will struggle with for a very long time," Ablow told the hosts of Fox & Friends on Sunday. "The way to try to heal, of course, is to try to say let's look at this person's accomplishments, look at their children and try to emulate the best of them going forward."
But is the person the Biden family wants to get platitudes about grieving from the person who, after Joe Biden owned Paul Ryan in hilarious fashion in the 2012 vice presidential debate, had this to say?
"I did not evaluate Joe Biden but if someone said to me, 'Listen, we want you to do what’s really required to know what happened there,' you have to put 'dementia' on the differential diagnosis," Ablow explained to the hosts of Fox & Friends at the time. "If this were your Dad or your grandfather, wouldn’t you say, if you brought him to me, 'Keith, you gotta tell me, is he suffering with dementia? Because he can’t seem to listen, he’s laughing inappropriately.'"
Actually, Keith, he was laughing entirely appropriately, and if your subsequent suggestion that maybe he was drunk had been true, well, damn. If a drunk man can so thoroughly whip the ass of the GOP's budget boy wonder, that's impressive.

And unfortunately, for what it's worth, I don't think Joe Biden needs Keith Ablow's advice on surviving loss. He's kind of an expert on the subject.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul delivers a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, in this still image taken from video, on Capitol Hill in Washington May 31, 2015. The legal authority for U.S. spy agencies' collection of Americans' phone records and other data expired at midnight on Sunday after the U.S. Senate failed to pass legislation extending the powers. Picture taken May 31, 2015. REUTERS/Senate TV/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR4YC42
Three provisions of the Patriot Act expired at midnight, thanks largely to the obstinance of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Kentucky colleague, Sen. Rand Paul. McConnell's refusal to consider the USA Freedom Act which reformed NSA programs right after it passed the House created an impasse that Paul exploited, forcing the clock to run out on the programs. It also created a fundraising opportunity for Paul's presidential campaign, leaving plenty to wonder if Paul cares more about his campaign or the constitution.

That animus toward Paul—in his own party, particularly—led to an embarrassing verbal scuffle on the floor Sunday evening, with Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Dan Coats (R-IN) attempting to shut down Paul and keep him from speaking by using up all of the Republican debate time. It also led to Paul's remembering he's a Republican, after all, and doing a little revising of history.

Paul has been caught in a battle with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over how to proceed on the Patriot Act.

But Paul on Sunday blamed President Obama, not McConnell, saying "let's be very clear why we're here. President Obama set this program up."

Just to be very clear, that's bullshit. President Obama's predecessor set this program up. For all Paul's presidential grandstanding and prevarications, he and more thoughtful, committed colleagues like Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) achieved the goal of shutting down the bulk collection of phone metadata on all Americans. However this plays out, that program will now be over. (Not that the NSA is lacking plenty of other programs to cover the gaps.)

The Senate did vote last night, overwhelmingly at 77-17, to move forward with debate on the USA Freedom Act, but there will be amendments. What those amendments are isn't clear right now. It's certain that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) will offer up his "compromise" proposal that's anything but a compromise, instead rolling back the few reforms that have been passed on the Patriot Act in the past six years. McConnell is likely going to have set 60-vote thresholds on amendments to prevent ones he doesn't want—like two that Paul has ready—from passing, but that's going to make getting the Burr amendments he does want harder to achieve as well. Any major changes, particularly any trying to roll back the few reforms in the USA Freedom Act, will also be challenging to get through the House.

McConnell sure bungled this one, and made his own life much, much more difficult. He's probably wishing about now that he could roll back time and undo that whole Rand Paul presidential endorsement thing.

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