In the USA...Father of Newtown victim heckled by gun advocates at legislative hearing
By Eric W. Dolan
Monday, January 28, 2013 20:05 EST
Neil Heslin, whose six-year-old son was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month, was heckled by gun advocates during a legislative hearing on Monday.
“Changes have to be made,” he told Connecticut lawmakers in an emotional testimony. “I’ll tell you a little bit about Jesse. He was a boy that loved life, lived it to the fullest. His mother and I are separated. He spent equal time with both of us. He was my son, he my buddy, he was my best friend, and I never thought I would be here speaking like this, asking for changes on my son’s behalf.”
“And I never thought I would be laying him to rest. The happiest day of my life was the day he was born. He is my only son, my only family. The worst day of my life was the day when this happened.”
He said firearms like the popular AR-15/M16 rifle were designed to “put a lot of lead out on the battlefield quickly.” When Heslin asked why anyone should be allowed to own a semi-automatic rifle like the one used to kill 26 people in Newtown last month, angry gun advocates shouted, “the Second Amendment!”
“We’re all entitled to our own opinions and I respect their opinions and their thoughts,” Heslin said. “But I wish they’d respect mine and give it a little bit of thought.”
Helsin said he grew up with guns and doesn’t believe they should be completely prohibited. But he supports the proposed assault weapons ban and restrictions on high-capacity magazines to prevent mass shootings like the one that killed his son.
“That wasn’t just a killing. That was a massacre,” he said. “Those children and those victims were shot apart. And my son was one of them.”
Thousands of people gathered at the Capitol to attend the public hearing of the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety, the second of four the state legislature is holding. While Heslin and other parents affected by the tragic Newtown shooting called for additional gun control measures, other parents said mass shootings couldn’t be prevented by more laws.
“I believe in a few simple gun laws. I think we have more than enough on the books. We should hold people individually accountable for their actions,” said Mark Mattioli, whose six-year-old son was killed at Sandy Hook.
Watch video, uploaded to YouTube by the Associated Press, below:http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ygxDDpoQSKo
*********NRA Tactics Under Fire After Father of Newtown Victim Heckled
By: Sarah Jones
Jan. 28th, 2013
Martin Bashir took down the tactics of the NRA against gun safety today, starting off with a clip of an ‘NRA mole’ who heckled father of a victim the Newtown tragedy, Neil Heslin, as he talked about the loss of his 6-year-old son Jesse.
Transcript (with slight modifications) from MSNBC:
Roll Clip from Newtown:
Heslin (father of Newtown victim): Why anybody in this room needs to have one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons. All right.
Heckler: The Second Amendment shall not be infringed!
Martin Bashir: A father’s grief interrupted by the cries of a heckler. That was the scene in Hartford, Connecticut, where the parents of children killed at Sandy Hook elementary testified before an audience that wasn’t always friendly. Neil Heslin talked about the loss of his 6-year-old son Jesse who was shot and killed while urging his classmates to run. In Washington the president and vice president met at the white house with law enforcement officials from towns that have been scarred by gun violence.
Let’s bring in Steve Kornacki, my colleague here at MSNBC, and Democratic strategist Julian Epstein. I want to put this question to both of you if I can. Steve, these gun lobbyists are fairly aggressive. They dragged the president’s children into the debate with that scurrilous advert but heckling the father of a child who was lost? Can you explain that to me?
Steve Kornacki: If you look at the outpouring of grief for these families, one thing that’s separated the aftermath of Newtown is this story has stayed in the news. It stayed in the news a lot longer than other shootings and it’s kept gun control in the news a lot longer which has created this political opening. When you look at a moment like that, which obviously it’s indefensible for somebody to show up at a hearing and treat a man like that, but I think it adds to the momentum. It adds to the outrage and it adds to the case for action to be taken here.
Click to watch: http://video.msnbc.msn.com/martin-bashir/50619448#50619448
Martin Bashir: Julian, you heard that father. Wayne Lapierre of the NRA will be going to the White House, sorry, to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. What do you think of the reaction of these lobbyists to a father whose child has been murdered?
Julian Epstein: Well, leaving aside the fact that the hecklers have no idea what they’re talking about in the sense that the second amendment in no way restricts the outlawing of assault weapons, this has to be a new low in the debate. The idea that you would desecrate the memory of the victims of Newtown and insult their families. This shows just I think how extreme and outrageous the NRA and I assume the hecklers were NRA moles, how they’ve become.
Heckling the father of a victim of the Newtown massacre is a new low for assault weapon defenders. Perhaps they are finally going to learn that bullying the parents who lost their children due to gun violence is not the best plan if they want to win in the court of public opinion.
The NRA defenders are starting to look like members of the Westboro Baptist Church — fringe lunatics.
Interrupting the father of a victim so you can get in your propaganda about the second amendment as you ignore other Americans’ right to life calls into question whether you are even capable of participating in the larger debate. It’s worth considering whether anyone who is so self-servingly enraged as to heckle a parent that lost a child to horrific gun violence is responsible enough to own a weapon of mass destruction.
Just as the Westboro Baptist Church members’ behavior is not a good argument for their version of Christianity, so too this behavior is not a good argument to the American people for why they should want people like this heckler to have access to assault weapons.
January 28, 2013Reliving Horror and Faint Hope at Massacre Site
By RAY RIVERA
NEWTOWN, Conn. — The gunfire ended; it was so quiet they could hear the broken glass and bullet casings scraping under their boots. The smell of gunpowder filled the air. The officers turned down their radios; they did not want to give away their positions if there was still a gunman present.
They found the two women first, their bodies lying on the lobby floor. Now they knew it was real. But nothing, no amount of training, could prepare them for what they found next, inside those two classrooms.
“One look, and your life was absolutely changed,” said Michael McGowan, one of the first police officers to arrive at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, as a gunman, in the space of minutes, killed 20 first graders and 6 adults.
Officer McGowan was among seven Newtown officers who recently sat down to share their accounts of that day. Some spoke for the first time, providing the fullest account yet of the scene as officers responded to one of the worst school massacres in United States history, one that has inflamed the national debate over gun control.
It is an account filled with ghastly moments and details, and a few faint instances of hope. One child had a slight pulse, but did not survive. Another was found bloody but unhurt, amid her dead classmates. Teachers were so protective of their students that they had to be coaxed by officers before opening doors. And the officers themselves, many of them fathers, instinctively used their most soothing Daddy voices to guide terrified children to safety.
The stories also reveal the deep stress that lingers for officers who, until Dec. 14, had focused their energies on maintaining order in a low-crime corner of suburbia. Some can barely sleep. Little things can set off tears: a television show, a child’s laughter, even the piles of gifts the Police Department received from across the country.
One detective, who was driving with his wife and two sons, passed a roadside memorial on Route 25 two weeks after the shooting, and began sobbing uncontrollably. “I just lost it right there, I couldn’t even drive,” the detective, Jason Frank, said.
Officer William Chapman was in the Newtown police station along with Officer McGowan and others when the first reports of shots and breaking glass came in early on the day of the massacre. The school was more than two miles away. They traveled up Route 25, then right onto Church Hill Road. “We drove as fast as we’ve ever driven,” Officer McGowan said.
They made it in under three minutes, arriving in the parking lot while gunfire could still be heard.
“I got out of the car and grabbed my rifle and it stopped for second,” Officer Chapman said. “But then we heard more popping. You could tell it was rifle fire. And it was up so close, it sounded like it was coming from outside. So we were all looking around for someone to shoot back at.”
As the officers converged on the building, the gunfire stopped again. Officers Chapman and Scott Smith made their way to the front entrance. It was here, only minutes earlier, that a rail-thin 20-year-old named Adam Lanza, armed with a .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic carbine, two semiautomatic pistols and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, had blasted his way through the glass.
Leonard Penna, a school resource officer who had raced to the scene from his office at the Newtown Middle School, entered the school with Sgt. Aaron Bahamonde and Lt. Christopher Vanghele, through a side door that leads to the boiler room, he said. Officer McGowan and two other officers entered through a locked rear door. One of them knocked out the glass with his rifle butt so the rest of the officers could get in.
The halls were familiar to Officer McGowan. He attended the school as a child. But now, they were eerily silent.
“The teachers were doing a phenomenal job keeping their kids quiet,” Officer Chapman said.
The officers turned their radios down. They entered the front lobby and saw the first bodies, those of Dawn Hochsprung, the principal, they would later learn, and Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist.
“You saw them lifeless, laying down,” Officer Penna recalled. “For a split second, your mind says could this be a mock crime scene, could this be fake, but in the next split second, you’re saying, there is no way. This is real.”
The officers went from room to room, urgently hunting for the killer before he could do more harm.
They found a wounded staff member in one room, made sure her co-workers were applying proper first aid and moved on.
As Officers Chapman and Smith approached the second classroom in the hallway on their left, they spotted a rifle on the floor. Inside, they found the gunman, Adam Lanza, dead by his own hand, along with the bodies of several children and other adults.
The officers searched the room for any other gunmen, then began searching for signs of life among the children. One little girl had a pulse and was breathing. Officer Chapman cradled her in his arms and ran with her outside, to an ambulance. Officer Chapman, a parent himself, tried to comfort her. “You’re safe now; your parents love you,” he recalled saying. She did not survive.
Most of the bodies were found in the classroom next door, where, Detective Frank recalled, “the teacher had them huddled up like a mother hen — simple as that, in a corner.”
Officer Penna, who was the first officer to enter the second room, found a girl standing alone amid the bodies. She appeared to be in shock, and was covered in blood, but had not been injured. He, not knowing the gunman had been found, told her to stay put.
He ran into the next classroom and saw the dead gunman, with Officers Chapman and Smith standing nearby. State troopers and other officers were now flooding in. Officer Penna returned to the second classroom, his rifle slung around his chest, grabbed the uninjured girl by the arm and ran with her out to a triage area set up in the parking lot.
With state troopers coming in, the officers began to evacuate the children who were still behind locked doors. But many of the teachers, seeking to protect their students and following their own training, refused to open up.
“We’re kicking the doors, yelling ‘Police! Police!’ ” Officer McGowan said. “We were ripping our badges off and putting them up to the window.”
Detective Frank, who had been off duty and rushed to the scene so quickly that he had to borrow a gun from a colleague once he arrived, remembers ripping the handle off one of the doors, “just trying to get through.”
As the children emerged, the officers tried to reassure them. “Everything is fine now,” they said, even as they stayed alert for a possible second gunman. “Everybody hold hands, close your eyes,” they told the children.
Some officers formed a human curtain around the bodies of Ms. Hochsprung and Ms. Sherlach, to shield the children from the sight as they filed past. Others blocked the doorways of the two classrooms.
As the scene settled that day, officers standing guard outside warned newly arriving colleagues not to go in if they had children. Detective Joe Joudy, one of the senior members of the force, spotted Officer Chapman walking back to the building, covered in blood. “I was a mess, and he looks at me and says, ‘They’ve got to get you guys out of here,’ ” Officer Chapman said.
Newtown’s three-man detective squad, which also included Dan McAnaspie, would spend much of the next week working with the State Police to collect and inventory every bit of evidence from the crime scene.
“Words can’t describe how horrible it was,” said Detective Joudy, who has been with the department for 27 years.
As he left the building that day, Officer Tom Bean, who had also been off duty when he rushed to the scene, realized he had not told his wife where he was. He fumbled for his phone in the parking lot, and called her. “That’s when I broke down in tears, crying,” he said.
More than a month later, the officers continue to feel the pain of that day. Some spoke reluctantly, not wanting to compare their torment with the agony of the families of the children and adult victims. But they also worried about their ability to do their jobs, as they continue to suffer. They said they omitted some details out of sensitivity to the victims, and to protect the investigation as it continued.
At least one person, Officer Bean, said he has already received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He said he had been unable to return to work since the shootings, and had needed medication to sleep.
The officers and their union are reaching out to state lawmakers, hoping to expand workers’ compensation benefits to include those who witness horrific violence.
“Our concern from the beginning has been the effects of PTSD,” said Eric Brown, a lawyer for the union that represents the Newtown police. “We estimate it is probably going to be 12 to 15 Newtown officers who are going to be dealing with that, for the remainder of their careers, we imagine, from what we’ve been told by professionals who deal with PTSD.”
For Detective Frank, who spent days sequestered in the school, meticulously collecting evidence, the images keep recurring — and not just of the children. The monster-truck backpack he found that was identical to his 6-year-old’s. The Christmas ornaments that sat unfinished, drying on the windowsill.
“It’s heartbreaking,” he said. “These kids will never take those ornaments home to their parents.”
**********Obama discusses gun control with police from places hit by shootings
By Matt Williams, The Guardian
Monday, January 28, 2013 21:13 EST
Barack Obama has met police chiefs from communities hit by the worst shooting atrocities to have occurred during his presidency, and promised to take on board their views concerning gun violence.
Anticipating a “robust conversation” on Monday, Obama hosted officers from Oak Creek, Tucson, Aurora and Newtown. Also in attendance at the White House were police commissioners and superintendents from cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia, where gun violence has become a serious problem.
In comments ahead of the closed-door meeting, Obama stressed that he intends to seek to prevent not only incidents of mass killing but also the “day-in, day-out” shootings that occur across the US. Welcoming the police chiefs, he said “no group is more important for us to listen to than our law-enforcement officers – they are where the rubber hits the road”.
Obama said he was keen to hear the officers’ views regarding what would make the biggest difference in preventing another Newtown – where 20 children and six adults were killed at an elementary school in December – or Oak Creek, where six people were shot dead at a Sikh temple in August.
But, Obama said, many police chiefs “also recognise that it is not only the high-profile mass shootings that are of concern here, it is also what happens on a day-in, day-out basis in places like Chicago and Philadelphia, where young people are victims of gun violence every single day.”
The president’s comments came after a typically bloody weekend in Chicago. On Saturday, at least seven people were shot dead and six wounded in numerous incidents. Among those killed was a 34-year-old man whose mother had already lost her three other children to shootings. Last year, there were more than 500 murders in Chicago; there were 331 in Philadelphia.
The White House meeting came two weeks after Obama put forward a broad package of measures aimed at curbing gun violence. It includes a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity clips, alongside improved background checks on would-be owners. However, speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday, New York police commissioner Ray Kelly suggested that military style assault rifles were not the main problem.
“We don’t want them on the street, make no mistake about it. But the problem is the handgun. Sixty percent of the murders in New York City are caused by handguns, and we simply have too many of them.”
Kelly, alongside New York’s vehemently anti-gun mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has spearheaded the city’s drive against guns and violent crime. Last year, New York recorded record lows in both murders and shootings.
But there is no possibility of an outright ban on handguns, which have been ruled on more than one occasion by the Supreme Court to be legal under the Second Amendment.
Indeed, in an interview published on Sunday, Obama chastised some gun-control advocates for not listening to the concerns of rural Americans.
Speaking to the New Republic, the president said: “If you grew up and your dad gave you a hunting rifle when you were 10, and you went out and spent the day with him and uncles, and that became part of your family’s traditions, you can see why you’d be pretty protective of that.”
Those comments may reflect the sensitivity of the issue of gun control in the US. The White House proposals, although timid by the standards of other countries, are likely to come up against strong opposition from gun enthusiasts and powerful lobbying groups such as the National Rifle Association.
In comments ahead of the meeting with police chiefs, Obama said that the issue of gun control gave rise to “a lot of passion across the country”. The Senate judiciary committee is due to take up the White House proposals on Wednesday, with testimony from the NRA executive director Wayne LaPierre.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013
***********The New Republican Class War: State Tax Hikes on the Poor to Fund Tax Cuts for the Rich
Jan. 29th, 2013
The idea of surrender after losing a defining battle is usually the course of wisdom to save the vanquished from annihilation, and one certainly would not expect the losing side to continue hostilities after a defeat and especially when the odds are stacked against them. After Republicans waged a class war against the people on behalf of the wealthy for two years, it seemed likely they would cease attacking the least fortunate Americans after being defeated in the November election, but apparently they decided to continue their class war by engaging the people in a new theatre; in states with Republican governors and legislatures. After the election, Republicans like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said his party had to appear friendlier to all the people to avoid the appearance of being the party of the one percent, but actions speak louder than a pleasant demeanor, and Republicans are still waging class war against poor Americans to benefit the rich.
The new front in the Republicans class war is just getting underway as Louisiana, Virginia, and Kansas governors are proposing new tax schemes that raise taxes on the poor to fund tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. The idea of making the wealthy richer at the expense of the poor is not new, but instead of just cutting services and giving the savings to the rich as tax cuts, Republicans are following an ALEC-inspired tactic of “broadening the tax base” that is code for taxing the poor to pay the wealthy and corporations. Throughout the past year, Congressional Republicans Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor suggested taxing those Americans struggling for basic survival and reducing rates for the wealthy, but they had little chance of success in a Democratic Senate or surviving President Obama’s veto pen. However, states with Republican governors and legislatures do not have constraints on their Draconian measures and are moving forward with ALEC’s plan to give the rich and corporations relief from what they label burdensome tax liabilities.
Jindal’s tax scheme typifies the ALEC model of broadening the tax base by totally eliminating income tax that corporations and the rich oppose, while increasing sales tax that inordinately affects the poor. It is a simple scam that, on first blush, seems innocuous and fair for all, but like anything ALEC proposes, it is for the express purpose of providing entitlements for the wealthiest Americans. It is still class war, but with a slightly different means to a predictable Republican end; more income inequality, more poverty, and more wealth for Republicans’ favorite benefactors, the rich and corporations.
According to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Jindal’s plan increases taxes on the bottom 80 percent of Louisianans, while cutting them for the richest 1 percent by repealing personal and corporate income taxes and replacing them with a higher sales tax. In Jindal’s plan, the poorest 20 percent of taxpayers, those with poverty level income of $12,000 annually, would see an average tax increase of 3.4 percent of their income, and the top 1 percent with an average income of well over $1 million would get an average tax cut of 2.3 percent of their income. Increasing the sales tax disproportionately affects poverty level Americans because the lion’s share of their meager income is spent on basic living expenses as opposed to the rich whose enormous wealth makes the share of taxable expenditures incredibly lower. Jindal is not the only ALEC devotee implementing higher sales taxes that hurt the poor as Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is taking a similar approach to burden the poor.
McDonnell is touring Virginia promoting a plan to eliminate Virginia’s gas tax and replace it with an expanded sales tax that McDonnell says fixes the state’s dysfunctional transportation funding system, but it makes Virginia’s regressive tax system even worse; for the poor. McDonnell’s plan increases state sales tax that will hurt poverty level households whose share of income buying basic necessities of life like clothing, toiletries, and school supplies higher putting them deeper in poverty. Virginia’s current tax system is already tilted in favor of the richest 1 percent who pay a 5.2 percent effective tax rate, while Virginians making less than $19,000 pay 8.8 percent, and McDonnell’s plan would raise those rates, but in a way that broadens the gap between what the richest and poorest Virginians are paying in taxes. His plan also shifts the responsibility for funding Virginia’s highways from people who most use the roads and highways, including tourists, to poorer residents who are hardly affording a poverty existence, but that has been the goal of the Republican war on the least fortunate for years.
Similar ALEC schemes are being promoted by Governor Sam Brownback in Kansas, Governor Dave Heineman of Nebraska, and another ALEC alum, Nikki Haley in North Carolina as a way to burden the poor to enrich the wealthy and their precious corporations. This new line of attack on the poor is an ambitious experiment in tax reform that could spread to the national level in the Republican’s never-ending attempt to aggressively cut personal and corporate income taxes for the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the poorest Americans. The ALEC scheme of “an economically efficient tax system with a sensible, broad tax base and a low tax rate” is a Republicans’ dream because “broad tax base” is code for tax the poor and reduce rates for the rich and corporations. ALEC sells the scam as a way states with Republicans in charge can increase wealth and create jobs, but facts (as usual) belie their claim and only create more wealth for the rich and corporations.
In a 2012 report, “Selling Snake Oil to the States: The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Flawed Prescriptions for Prosperity,” the authors conclude actual data finds Alec’s recommendations not only fail to predict positive results for state economies, the policies they endorse actually forecast worse state outcomes for job creation and paychecks. Why? Because when Americans struggling in a recovering economy and those barely subsisting on poverty level incomes have more of their income taken to support the rich and corporations, they spend less, and less spending means less revenue for business and less hiring. However, the rich and their corporations profit from lower taxes and the Republican cycle of economic despair continues without end as states face reduced revenue that results in defunding public goods such as education, assistance to the needy, and infrastructure improvements which play a major role in economic development for all the people; something so averse to Republicans and their mastermind ALEC, that they have embraced a new class war tactic.
The 2012 election should have been a wakeup call to Republicans that the American people will not abide being assaulted and driven deeper into poverty to enrich the wealthy elite and their corporations, but old habits die hard. At least Republicans have stopped their deeply entrenched abhorrence of tax increases of any sort, but they are still the party that will cut taxes for the rich and corporations to, as McConnell and Cantor said, unburden the job creators by “broadening the tax base” by increasing taxes on working families and those who can least afford it; the poor.
************House Republicans Freak Out When They Realize Obama’s Coming for them in 2014
By: Jason Easley
Jan. 28th, 2013
Terror has gripped House Republicans as they have finally realized that President Obama is already working to defeat them in 2014.
Real Clear Politics reported, “When an irate House Speaker John Boehner declared last week that President Obama was out to “annihilate” the Republican Party, he was exaggerating, or at least engaging in a bit of hyperbole. Obama is not out to destroy the Republican Party, just severely cripple it, and thereafter to cement his legacy in the final two years of his presidency.What upset Boehner and many of his Republican colleagues is that they have finally recognized what Obama’s second inaugural address really was: the first speech of the 2014 congressional campaign. That has them in a panic. It is now obvious to Republicans that Obama has no intention of becoming a lame duck president at the end of his second term. He’s seems willing to bide his time and push for a more-friendly Congress.”
It looks like House Republicans are finally getting it. The reason why Obama hasn’t disassembled his campaign operation is that there is another important election to win in 2014. This might have already been obvious to anyone who doesn’t reside in the Republican bubble, but congressional Republicans had adopted the mantra that the worst was over now. (For example, Mitch McConnell’s crackpot declaration that there will be no more discussions about revenue.) Republicans were kidding themselves if they thought that President Obama was going to sit back and let them run out the clock until 2016.
Right wing Fox News based paranoia runs wild in a large segment of the House Republican caucus, but this time they should be paranoid. Barack Obama really is after them.
The math is simple. Obama can’t carry out his agenda while Republicans control the House. In order to move this country forward, Obama needs a Democratic House majority.
If the president puts his ample campaign resources to work, and motivates Obama voters to show up on Election Day 2014, the Republican House majority could be in trouble. More importantly, House Republicans have demonstrated by their behavior so far this year that they have learned nothing. As Obama’s approval rating reaches new highs, Congress continues to sit near historic lows.
A perfect storm could be brewing against House Republicans in 2014. If a popular president decides to mobilize his machine and campaign against the unpopular Republicans in the House, the GOP could find itself back in the House minority. There has been a lot of talk about gerrymandering, but 2014 could be the year that Democrats take advantage of lower midterm election turn out to take back the House.
The message that Democrats must vote in 2014 in order to give Obama the congress that he needs is already echoing across the Internet. Should President Obama choose to adopt this message as a partywide rallying cry, panic could turn into disaster for John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and their fellow House Republicans.
***********Mitch McConnell Gets Desperate and Promises to Avoid Losing Battles with Obama
By: Sarah Jones
Jan. 28th, 2013
As Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faces mounting tea party challenges (assisted by some Democrats) in his home state of Kentucky, his attempts to spin the daily news cycle in his favor are growing rather desperate. Recently, hoping to steer the base away from the reality of his fiscal cliff cave, McConnell bragged to the Republican base that he had beaten the liberals by avoiding complete Filibuster Reform.
Today, Senator McConnell announced that there will be “no more brinkmanship and no more last-minute deals.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has declared there will be no more brinkmanship and no more last-minute deals. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, last year’s Republican vice presidential nominee, says it’s all about “prudence.”
This translates, as the AP pointed out, to avoiding losing battles with the very popular second-term Democratic President, and instead trying to reframe Republicans’ battles as being against Senate Democrats. So much for four years wasted attacking the Kenyan Socialist and asking for his birth certificate. Republicans can’t win against Obama, so they need to pretend they are no longer interested in fighting him.
As Jason Easley pointed out for Politicus today, Republican fear of Obama is only growing, “Terror has gripped House Republicans as they have finally realized that President Obama is already working to defeat them in 2014.”
In other words, the new “bad guys” are the Democrats in Congress. Forget all that you’ve heard about the evils of Obama. Republicans are running scared of the man they claim is out to destroy them. They can’t beat Obama, so they want their base to look at the new shiny object of their hatred — congressional Democrats.
The President is only coming after certain Republicans because they have made it clear that they are not interested in governing, whereas he is. Their own whinging obstructionism led to this. They painted themselves out to be the Party of No Jobs and austerity for the poor while subsidizing the rich.
Mitch McConnell swore to devote all of the Republicans’ energy to defeating President Obama in his first term, and he failed.
Today, facing the brutal failure resulting from four years of Republican obstructionism, McConnell is like the school yard bully who can’t win against his target, so he’s going after the littler kids.
It’s also known as defeat in some circles.
January 28, 2013Bipartisan Plan Faces Resistance in G.O.P.
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
GREENVILLE, S.C. — At Tommy’s Country Ham House, a popular spot downtown for politics and comfort food, not much has changed since 2007, the last time conservatives here made it crystal clear to politicians how they felt about what they see as amnesty for people who entered the country illegally.
“What we need to do is put them on a bus,” said Ken Sowell, 63, a lawyer from Greenville, as he ate lunch recently at the diner. “We need to enforce the border. If they want to apply legally more power to them. I don’t think just because a bunch of people violate the law, we ought to change the law for them.”
Six years ago, the intensity of that kind of sentiment was enough to scuttle immigration overhaul efforts led by President George W. Bush and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both Republicans.
Now, as a new bipartisan group of eight senators, including Mr. Graham and Mr. McCain, try again — this time with President Obama as their partner in the White House — members of Congress will have to overcome deep-seated resistance like that expressed in the restaurant if they are to push legislation forward.
Republicans are betting that opposition from Tea Party activists and the party’s most conservative supporters will have less impact because of the dire electoral consequences of continuing to take a hard line regarding immigrants. The senators on Monday released a blueprint for a new immigration policy that opens the door to possible citizenship ahead of a Tuesday speech on the subject by Mr. Obama in Las Vegas.
There is some evidence that the politics of immigration may be changing. Sean Hannity, the conservative host at Fox News, said days after the 2012 presidential election that he has “evolved” on immigration and now supports a comprehensive approach that could “get rid of” the issue for Republicans. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising star in the Republican Party, is pushing his own version of broad immigration changes — and getting praise from conservative icons like Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed.
But the Republican-controlled House remains a big hurdle. Speaker John A. Boehner on Monday was noncommittal about the emerging proposal, with a spokesman saying that Mr. Boehner “welcomes the work of leaders like Senator Rubio on this issue, and is looking forward to learning more about the proposal.”
Representative Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said that “when you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration.”
And if the lunch rush conversation at Tommy’s is any indication, many Republican lawmakers will soon return home to find their constituents just as opposed to the idea as they were before. Concern about immigration varies regionally. But in many Congressional districts around the country, the prospect of intense opposition carries with it the threat of a primary challenger if Republican lawmakers stray too far from hawkish orthodoxy on the issue.
“The people who are coming across the border — as far as I’m concerned, they are common criminals,” said Bill Storey, 68, a retired civil engineer from Greenville. “We should not adopt policies to reward them for coming into this country illegally. I have all the regard for them in the world if they come through the legal system, but not the illegal system.”
Charlie Newton, a construction worker in the Greenville area, praised the work ethic of Hispanic co-workers, but said he opposes any laws that would provide benefits to illegal immigrants, including help becoming citizens.
“I think we need to help our own people before we keep helping somebody else,” he said.
The president’s proposals are expected to include more border enforcement, work site verification systems that allow employers to check the status of their employees online, and a road map to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants now living in the country. Democratic senators could begin work on a bill in the next couple of weeks.
In the Fourth Congressional District in South Carolina, which includes Greenville, the formal arrival of such a plan is likely to anger the constituents of Trey Gowdy, a Republican House member who was elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave and is now the chairman of a key subcommittee that will deal with immigration.
Mr. Gowdy has already taken a hard line, signing on last year to the “Prohibiting Backdoor Amnesty Act,” which aimed to reverse Mr. Obama’s plans to delay deportations for some young illegal immigrants. The congressman will be under pressure to change his mind from the White House and its allies, including groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But when he goes home to Greenville, Mr. Gowdy may find that his constituents want him to hold firm in his opposition.
“If you had to go find the heartburn, you’d find it in Greenville,” said Katon Dawson, a former chairman of the Republican Party in South Carolina. Mr. Dawson, who supports comprehensive immigration changes, said the matter was likely to become a hot-button issue again, as it was in 2006 and 2007.
“All I’d ever hear is, ‘Why don’t you enforce the laws that we already have?’ And then I’d hear, ‘Why don’t you just build the fence?’ ” Mr. Dawson said, describing the comments he expects to hear again during the immigration debate.
Mr. Gowdy referred questions about the immigration debate to the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia. But veterans of South Carolina politics say the reaction in his district, and others like it across the country, will help determine the fate of the national legislation.
Bruce Bannister, the Republican majority leader of the South Carolina House of Representatives, said much of that response will depend on how the White House and its allies in Washington frame the debate.
“The amnesty provisions that got everybody fired up — I think you’re not going to see states like South Carolina ever support that, even though we recognize that shipping or sending home all the folks that came here illegally is almost impossible,” Mr. Bannister, who represents Greenville, said.
Josh Kimbrall, a conservative radio talk show host in South Carolina, agrees with Mr. Bannister. Mr. Kimbrall supports immigration law changes, but says Republicans like Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain allowed their effort in 2007 to be portrayed in a bad light by opponents.
“It’s how you message it,” Mr. Kimbrall said. “In Greenville, it’s the rule of law. As soon as the word amnesty is thrown in, very few people are willing to go along.”
January 28, 2013In California, Son Gets Chance to Restore Luster to a Legacy
By JENNIFER MEDINA
LOS ANGELES — During a 1960s renaissance, California’s public university system came to be seen as a model for the rest of the country and an economic engine for the state. Seven new campuses opened, statewide enrollment doubled, and state spending on higher education more than doubled. The man widely credited with the ascendance was Gov. Edmund G. Brown, known as Pat.
Decades of state budget cuts have chipped away at California’s community colleges, California State University and the University of California, once the state’s brightest beacons of pride. But now Pat Brown’s son, Gov. Jerry Brown, seems determined to restore some of the luster to the institution that remains a key part of his father’s legacy.
Last year, he told voters that a tax increase was the only way to avoid more years of drastic cuts. Now, with the tax increase approved and universities anticipating more money from the state for the first time in years, the second Governor Brown is a man eager to take an active role in shaping the University of California and California State University systems.
Governor Brown holds a position on the board of trustees for both Cal State and UC. Since November, he has attended every meeting of both boards, asking about everything from dormitories to private donations and federal student loans. He is twisting arms on issues he has long held dear, like slashing executive pay and increasing teaching requirements for professors — ideas that have long been met with considerable resistance from academia. But Mr. Brown, himself a graduate of University of California, Berkeley, has never been a man to shrink from a debate.
“The language we use when talking about the university must be honest and clear,” he said in a recent interview. “Words like ‘quality’ have no apparent meaning that is obvious. These are internally defined to meet institutional needs rather than societal objectives.”
California’s public colleges — so central to the state’s identity that their independence is enshrined in its Constitution — have long been seen as gateways to the middle class. Mr. Brown said his mother had attended the schools “basically free.” Over the last five years tuition at UC and Cal State schools has shot up, though the colleges remain some of the less costly in the country.
Governors and legislatures are trying to exert more influence on state colleges, often trying to prod the schools to save money, matters that some say are “arguably best left to the academic institution,” said John Aubrey Douglass, a senior research fellow of public policy and higher education at Berkeley. So far, Mr. Brown has not taken such an aggressive approach, but half of the $250 million increase for the university systems is contingent on a tuition freeze.
“He’s creating stability, but basically he’s looking at cost containment with an eye on the public constituency,” Mr. Douglass said. “But the system has been through a very long period of disinvestment, and this may meet an immediate political need, but it is not what is going to help in the long term.”
Over all, the University of California receives 44 percent less from the state than it did in 1990, accounting for inflation. The governor’s proposed increase still leaves the schools with about $625 million less than they received in 2007. At the same time, a record number of students applied for admissions to the system’s 10 campuses for next fall. While the California State University system has capped freshman enrollment, administrators at the UC system, which has about 190,000 undergraduate students, have been reluctant to formally do so, in part to prevent limiting access to in-state students.
Spurred by grumbling from voters, legislators have repeatedly complained that too many out-of-state students are enrolling in the University of California, arguing that they take spots away from talented local students. But others argue that without the out-of-state students, who make up less than 9 percent of undergraduates and pay much more in tuition, the university would have to make even deeper cuts.
Timothy White, the newly appointed chancellor for California State University and the former chancellor at UC Riverside, said the systems were facing a fundamental dilemma over access.
“Our budget is not going to allow us to grow enrollment at all, so I’m concerned that we are going to disappoint a lot of people in a lot of communities,” he said.
So far, the governor has focused his attention on whether the universities should be offering more courses online, requiring faculty to teach more classes and cutting administrators’ pay.
His plea that faculty members, particularly at the University of California, teach more undergraduate classes has been met with resistance, with one trustee fretting that doing so would “turn this place into a junior college in about 15 years.” Faculty members say that requiring more teaching would take away from crucial research areas, which will bring in roughly $5 billion this year.
“You can talk abstractly about faculty teaching more, but that begs the question of what you give up by requiring them to teach more,” said Daniel Dooley, the senior vice president for external relations for the University of California. Mr. Dooley, who worked in Mr. Brown’s first administration in the 1970s, has had several conversations with the governor about the state colleges.
Even before he began attending the board of trustee meetings, Mr. Brown repeatedly criticized high salaries for university administrators, arguing that they should serve as “public servants” and be willing to accept smaller paychecks. During his last term he famously remarked that professors derived “psychic income” from their jobs. When the University of California board of trustees voted to approve the new chancellor at Berkeley, in November, Mr. Brown voted in favor of his appointment, but voted against his $486,000 salary.
Some see the governor’s new focus as a sign that there could be major improvements afoot, but others are less optimistic.
“The old days of the social compact with the state is gone,” Mr. Douglass said. “It seems clear that it will not come back.”