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The 5 Worst Climate Change Truthers In Congress

Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has taken tremendous strides toward combating climate change and the dangers that it poses. But he hasn’t gotten much help from Congress — and now that Republicans hold majority control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, he probably never will.

Although scientists overwhelmingly agree that human activity has caused the climate to rapidly warm over the past century, the majority of congressional Republicans flatly deny the facts.

Here are five of the most notable climate truthers in the 114th Congress:

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)
Rep. Smith, a 14-term Republican from Texas, currently serves as chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. He is also an outspoken climate change truther who seems to believe that scientists and the liberal media are teaming up to mislead Americans about the threat. In November, Smith shrugged off a frightening United Nations report on climate change as “clearly biased,” before acknowledging that he didn’t actually read it.

Despite not having faced a competitive election in nearly two decades, Smith has raised more than $600,000 from the oil and gas industry throughout his career — including $112,050 in the last election cycle alone.

Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX)
Rep. Weber, chairman of the House Subcommitee on Energy, is a relative newcomer to Congress; he was elected to succeed Rep. Ron Paul in 2012. But he’s quickly become known for his strident refusal to accept the facts on climate change. Most notably, Weber attempted to ridicule White House science advisor John Holdren during a hearing last March, and ended up making a fool of himself.

Weber — who, ironically, owns an air conditioning company — is a favorite of the oil and gas industry; it donated $87,250 to him in the last election cycle, nearly double the total he raised from any other industry.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO)
Senator Cory Gardner moved up from the House in 2014, when he defeated environmentalist Democrat Mark Udall in a significant upset. Along the way, he refused to answer questions about climate change — a strategy that actually represented a minor step forward from his previous insistence that “I don’t believe humans are causing that change.”

Gardner currently sits on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources — which helps to explain why the oil and gas industry contributed $658,049 to his campaign, second to only Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) among House members.

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman Jim Inhofe is one of the world’s most outspoken climate change deniers. During his tenure in Congress, Inhofe has described global warming as the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” compared Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, insisted that climate change is impossible because “God’s still up there,” and attempted to disprove the scientific consensus with a snowball, among other incidents.

Unsurprisingly, Inhofe is also beloved by the oil and gas industry; it contributed $576,250 to him in 2014, and nearly $2 million throughout his career — easily the highest total of any industry.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Senator Cruz chairs the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, which oversees NASA and the National Science Foundation, among other responsibilities.

This is very bad news for NASA and the National Science Foundation, given Cruz’s proud hostility to science. The newly minted presidential candidate is under the mistaken impression that global warming ceased in 1997, and that cold weather disproves climate change altogether. He also appears to believe that his ignorance on the topic makes him a modern-day Galileo.

Over Cruz’s brief four-year career as a federal candidate, he has raised a whopping $1,086,368 from the oil and gas industry.

Photo: CSIS: Center for Strategic & International Studies via Flickr

Tom Cotton Slams Obama For Undermining Foreign Negotiations, Kills Irony

Move over Dick Cheney; Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has grabbed the mantle of “least self-aware politician in America.”

Over the past 10 days, Senator Cotton has been the subject of bipartisan criticism for organizing a letter — signed by 46 of his Senate colleagues — that attempted to dissuade Iran from agreeing to a deal on its nuclear program with the Obama administration. A week earlier, Cotton strongly supported House Speaker John Boehner’s controversial decision to invite Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver a speech to Congress warning Americans against signing an agreement with Iran.

But, as Steve Benen flagged at MSNBC, Cotton appears to have had a change of heart on the topic of undermining diplomacy. On Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that the Obama administration is “evaluating our approach” towards the partnership with Israel in the wake of Netanyahu’s inflammatory comments during his re-election campaign. And that’s a big problem for the freshman senator from Arkansas.

“Some observers will dismiss these comments as the petulant response of a president and political operatives who didn’t get their way in the elections this week. But there is something much more worrisome underway,” Cotton said on the Senate floor on Thursday. “While Prime Minister Netanyahu won a decisive victory, he still has just started assembling a governing majority coalition.”

“These kinds of quotes from Israel’s most important ally could very well startle some of the smaller parties and their leaders with whom Prime Minister Netanyahu is currently in negotiations,” he continued. “This raises the question, of course, if the administration intends to undermine Prime Minister Netanyahu’s efforts to assemble a coalition by suggesting a change to our longstanding policy of supporting Israel’s position with the United Nations.”

Yes, less than a week after sending a letter to Tehran in an open attempt to submarine the negotiations between that country and the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.K., Tom Cotton is suddenly worried that the Obama administration could be meddling in other countries’ affairs.

For good measure, Cotton added, “I fear mutual respect is of little concern to this administration.”

This brand of projection is nothing new for Cotton — see his attempt to dodge blame for voting against the farm bill during his 2014 Senate campaign — but it’s still rather unbecoming of a politician who claims honesty as one of his key attributes.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Donald Trump Wants You To Think He’s Running For President (Again)

Wednesday will reportedly bring great news for political satirists, and terrible news for Republicans who hoped to avoid seeing their 2016 nominating contest turn into a three-ring circus: Donald Trump is launching a presidential exploratory committee.

Trump, a real estate developer who is now better known for his reality TV work and his stubborn commitment to birther conspiracy theories, reportedly plans to decline a renewal of his NBC contract to join the rapidly expanding Republican pre-campaign.

As the New Hampshire Union Leader reports, Trump’s presence in the race will be as self-aggrandizing as you might expect:

Trump’s statement on forming the exploratory committee hints at the razzle-dazzle to come for a turbo-charged personality known for skewering the political establishment.

He refers to politicians who are “all talk and no action,” his tremendous business success, and how he is “the only one who can make America truly great again!”

Although the exploratory committee is the most concrete step that Trump has ever taken toward a presidential run, there is still plenty of reason to believe that he won’t go through with it. After all, Trump has publicly flirted with running in every presidential election since 2000 (in addition to several gubernatorial races), and so far he’s never been willing to expose his business interets (or his shady personal life) to the scrutiny that would come with a national campaign.

Additionally, his White House hopes would face extremely long odds; a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 74 percent of GOP primary voters said they couldn’t see themselves supporting a hypothetical Trump campaign.

But at least one group is excited about the possibility of a Trump run: Democrats. In response to the news that Trump may join the race, Democratic National Committee press secretary Holly Shulman issued the following statement:

“Everything is awesome.”

Photo: Donald Trump addresses CPAC 2015. (Michael Vadon via Flickr)

This Week In Crazy: Generalissimo Graham Prepares To Seize Congress

Welcome to “This Week In Crazy,” The National Memo’s weekly update on the wildest attacks, conspiracy theories, and other loony behavior from the increasingly unhinged right wing. Starting with number five:

5. Lindsey Graham
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has long complained about President Obama trampling the Constitution, and over the weekend, we may have learned the reason why: Envy.

Speaking at a “Politics and Pies” forum in Concord, New Hampshire, Graham — who is preparing a longshot presidential bid — said that his first order of business in the White House would be deploying the military against Congress.

Seriously.

“And here’s the first thing I would do if I were president of the United States. I wouldn’t let Congress leave town until we fix this,” Graham said, according audio posted by libertarian pundit Ben Swann. “I would literally use the military to keep them in if I had to. We’re not leaving town until we restore these defense cuts. We are not leaving town until we restore the intel cuts.”

So is Senator Graham actually plotting a coup against Congress? Apparently not. In a statement to Bloomberg’s David Weigel, Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop clarified that the line was “not to be taken literally” (despite the senator’s literal use of the word “literally”).

In other words: Graham/Kyl 2016!

4. Menendez Truthers
When news broke that the Justice Department is preparing to file federal corruption charges against Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), it wasn’t hard to predict the Republican reaction. And the right wing did not disappoint.

As it turns out, Menendez’s legal troubles, like most things in life, are President Obama and Eric Holder’s fault.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) explains:

“The timing is curious,” Cruz said. Menendez is reportedly set to be charged with corruption for accepting gifts and vacations from a longtime donor after a years-long investigation.

“It raises a suggestion to other Democrats that if you dare part from the Obama White House, that criminal prosecutions will be used potentially as a political weapon as well,” Cruz said. “That’s a serious concern.”

The always paranoid Cruz is not alone; his always hysterical colleague Lindsey Graham also smells a rat:

“All I can say is, they were leaked,” Graham said. “He wasn’t actually charged officially. They leaked the fact that he may be charged, is gonna be charged. I hate it when that happens for anybody. I like Bob. Like everybody else, he’s innocent until proven guilty. He’s been a champion on the Iranian nuclear issue. It just doesn’t smell right.”

Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) also got in on the action:

“Bob Menendez has been an excellent partner for me on the Iran stuff, and I’m worried now by leaking stuff (from) Justice it’s politically motivated to silence Bob for his work on Iran, which he should be praised for,” said Kirk.

Of course, back in reality, the Justice Department investigation into Menendez began well before the Iran debate heated up — and while Menendez opposes President Obama’s attempts to reach a nuclear deal, he’s actually been rather accommodating of the White House. Plus, it’s hard to imagine the president flagrantly abusing his power to replace a senator who votes with the Democrats 96.9 percent of the time with Republican governor Chris Christie’s hand-picked appointment.

But if nothing else, the Republican Menendez truthers have guaranteed the senator a lifetime full of appearances on right-wing radio if things turn south.

3. Glenn Beck
American Prophet Glenn Beck took a quick break from predicting the Apocalypse on Wednesday, to issue an even scarier warning: The Muslim Brotherhood is making him quit the National Rifle Association!

Well, sort of. By “Muslim Brotherhood,” Beck actually means conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist. You see, his guest on the show — Islamophobic extremist Frank Gaffney — believes that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the American conservative movement, Norquist included.

So as long as Norquist serves on the NRA board, Beck has a problem.

“I am not an expert on Grover Norquist by any stretch of the imagination,” Beck began his presentation reasonably, “but I’ve heard enough that makes me concerned enough that — and I hope that the leadership of the NRA hears this and every member of the NRA hears this — that if this man is elected, or re-elected, and confirmed on the board of the NRA, I may drop my membership in the NRA. I am that concerned that he is a very bad influence and a very bad man that if this is who the NRA decides to put on their board of directors, I don’t think I can be associated with them.”

It takes a special brand of craziness to get banned from CPAC — and naturally, it has a home behind Glenn Beck’s microphone.

2. Bryan Fischer
Bad news, gay people: You’re going to go blind!

That’s the diagnosis from Dr. Bryan Fischer, who has gone from warning that “I don’t think you will ever find a more directly demonic energy than when you deal with the homosexual agenda” to trying to save gay people’s demonic vision.

As Fischer explained on Wednesday, just as undocumented immigrants brought measles and polio back from the brink of eradication (just go with it), so are gay people bringing back ocular syphilis.

Fischer is especially concerned about black men, who are at greater risk for contracting the disease.

“All we’ve heard over the last number of months is ‘black lives matter,’ ‘black lives matter,’ ‘black lives matter.’ I agree, black lives matter,” he explained. “If you’ve got a behavior, you’ve got a conduct, you’ve got a lifestyle that is resulting in potentially blinding health risks for black males and their​ risk is five times higher than white males, I would say if black lives matter, it is time we started doing something about that.”

Never doubt Bryan Fischer’s love for black males.

1. Dave Agema
There was no shortage of stupid responses to President Obama’s speech marking the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, but no one even approached this week’s “winner,” Republican National Committee member Dave Agema.

Agema, an unrepentant bigot and constant source of embarrassment for the RNC, took to Facebook on Monday to share his thoughts on the president’s big speech.

It did not go well.

When one commenter on the post asked Agema how he knows that the president is just 6.25 percent black, the RNC member replied, “snopes and yahoo- google ‘what percentage of white, black and Arab is Obama.'”

Meanwhile, it’s still not safe for RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to Google “Republican outreach.”
republican outreach search

Check out previous editions of This Week In Crazy here. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments!

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Photo: Department of Defense via Flickr

Poll: Not Many Americans Care About Clinton Emails

On Tuesday afternoon, Hillary Clinton will publicly answer questions about her use of personal email accounts while she served as Secretary of State. But according to one new poll, most Americans won’t be listening.

A Pew Research Center survey released Monday finds that just 17 percent of Americans are closely following the controversy over Clinton’s emails. That leaves it behind the U.S. economy, the Justice Department report on Ferguson police, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, and the King v. Burwell case before the Supreme Court in the public’s consciousness.

The Week's Top Stories

Unsurprisingly, there is a partisan split in the numbers; many more Republicans are monitoring the story than Democrats. Still, barely one-third of Republicans are following the story closely.

Partisan Differences in Interest in Clinton Emails, Netanyahu

Other polls support the notion that the Clinton controversy has not made much of an impact outside of the political media bubble. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted as the email story captured headlines found that Clinton’s numbers remain strong; voters view her favorably by a 44 to 36 percent margin, nearly unchanged from earlier this year.

Still, the story is unlikely to go away any time soon. After all, serious questions remain about Clinton’s decision to use a private email address for official business. And Republicans have proven time and time again that they won’t let public indifference force them to back off a “scandal” — especially when there’s a Clinton involved.

Photo: Mark Nozell via Flickr

Politics Leap Over Water’s Edge With Senate GOP Letter To Iran

For the second time in a week, congressional Republicans have gone out of their way to try to undermine the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

As Bloomberg View’s Josh Rogin first reported on Monday, Senate Republicans released an open letter to Iran’s leaders rebuking the president’s efforts to negotiate a deal over the country’s nuclear program.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system,” the letter reads. It goes on to explain Congress’ role in the diplomatic process, and explain that the American president — unlike Congress — is limited to two four-year terms.

“What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei,” the letter warns. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

In other words: Senate Republicans want Iran to think that President Obama is not a reliable negotiating partner, because he will not stay in office for the duration of a nuclear deal.

Fourty-seven senators signed the letter, which was organized by freshman senator Tom Cotton (R-AR). Only seven members of the Republican caucus declined to sign: Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Bob Corker (R-TN), Dan Coats (R-IN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK).

Ironically, as Harvard Law professor Jack Goldsmith points out, the Senate Republicans’ Schoolhouse Rock-style effort to educate Iran on the Constitution actually misstates the Senate’s role in the treaty process. Contrary to the letter’s claim, the Senate does not ratify treaties; instead, it gives its advice and consent to the president, who may then proceed with ratification.

Still, the letter’s broader point stands: Without Congress, any deal the White House strikes with Iran could be undone by a future Republican-led government. That said, the politics of scrapping a nuclear deal could be very complicated for the GOP — which helps to explain why the senators wrote a letter instead of holding a vote.

UPDATE: The Obama administration fired back at Senate Republicans on Monday afternoon.

“It’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran,” President Obama said, as quoted by USA Today.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also denounced the senators’ letter, describing it as “the continuation of a partisan strategy to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy.”

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif dismissed it as “mostly a propaganda ploy” — suggesting that he may understand American politics better than Cotton and his colleagues thought.

CORRECTION: Thad Cochran (R-MS) was one of the seven senators not to sign the letter, not Rob Portman (R-OH) as this article originally stated.

Photo: U.S. senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, MD. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Don’t Believe The Hype: Republicans Still Don’t Have A Health Care Plan

With the Supreme Court considering a case that could unravel the Affordable Care Act, leaving some 8.2 million Americans suddenly uninsured and sending premiums skyrocketing, the Republican Party has a comforting message for voters: We have a solution.

“As Supreme Court Weighs Health Law, GOP Plans to Replace It,” blares the headline in Friday’s New York Times. In the article, reporter Jonathan Weisman asserts that “the search for a replacement by Republican lawmakers is finally gaining momentum.”

A legislative scramble is underway. On Monday, Representatives Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, Fred Upton of Michigan and John Kline of Minnesota, the chairmen of the powerful committees that control health policy, proposed what they called an “off ramp” from the Obama health act that would let states opt out of the law’s central requirements.

On the other side of the Capitol, Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, all Republicans, offered their own plan this week to provide temporary assistance to those who would lose their subsidies and new freedom to all states to redesign their health care marketplaces without the strictures and mandates of the health care law.

So are Republicans really ready to finally advance a health care reform bill of their own?

Probably not.

While the House and Senate groups both laid out broad visions for new health care laws, neither offered any sort of details on how their plans would actually work. Saying that “we would provide financial assistance to help Americans keep the coverage they picked for a transitional period,” as the Senate Republicans promise, sounds great. But until they explain how much financial assistance they would provide, or how long the transitional period would last, it is a hollow bromide. Similarly, the House Republicans’ plan to form “a working group to propose a way out for the affected states if the court rules against the administration” sounds great — but Americans still have no idea what, exactly, the way out would be.

Of course, it’s possible that Congress will fill in the details in the coming weeks. But it’s incredibly unlikely. After all, Republicans have literally been promising a detailed alternative to the Affordable Care Act for six years, and so far it’s not much closer to reality than it was in 2009. Why should this time be any different?

Even if Republicans did coalesce around a health care plan of their own, it’s almost impossible to imagine a significant reform passing both the House and Senate. The GOP already has deep divisions on health care policy, and they are likely to intensify as the 2016 elections draw nearer. Republicans who face tough re-election fights will be loath to vote on a controversial measure with such high political stakes (a side effect of the GOP’s all-out war against President Obama’s health care policy).

Put simply: If the Republican Congress could barely come together to avoid a self-inflicted shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, there is no reason to believe that they could pass a massive reform bill on the most radioactive issue in politics.

Republicans have plenty of good reasons to pretend that they have a solution to the disaster that would ensue if the Supreme Court guts the Affordable Care Act. But until they prove otherwise, the latest batch of Republican Obamacare replacements should be viewed as no more likely to become law than their countless predecessors. And if the Supreme Court does rule against the Obama administration in King v. Burwell, no help will be on the way for the Americans who would lose their insurance.

Photo: Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in the Capitol Rotunda on the way to the State of the Union Address, Jan. 20, 2015. (Talk Radio News Service via Flickr)

This Week In Crazy: Obama Bans Jail For Black People

Welcome to “This Week In Crazy,” The National Memo’s weekly update on the wildest attacks, conspiracy theories, and other loony behavior from the increasingly unhinged right wing. Starting with number five:

5. Ben Carson

On Tuesday, Presidential Medal of Freedom winner and noted crazy person Ben Carson took another concrete step toward a 2016 presidential campaign.

It took him less than 24 hours to say something insane.

During an interview with CNN, Dr. Carson took it upon himself to explain to America how he knows that being gay is really a choice: Prison rape!

“A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight, and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there?” Carson mused. “Ask yourself that question.”

Predictably, this did not go over well. The backlash was so swift and severe that Carson broke his usual pattern and apologized. He then announced that he is done talking about the issue — which is probably the sanest thing he’s done since he was still a practicing surgeon.

4. Gordon Klingenschmitt
Demon-hunting Colorado state representative Gordon Klingenschmitt returns to the list at number four, for proving that he is still the undisputed king of religious-right paranoia.

On the Tuesday edition of his “Pray in Jesus Name” program, Klingenschmitt offered his thoughts on last month’s murders in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The case, in which three people were fatally shot by their upstairs neighbor, attacted widespread media attention due to fears that the killing was an anti-Muslim hate crime.

Perhaps surprisingly, Klingenschmitt agrees: The murders were a hate crime.

Against Christians.

“An American atheist has killed three Muslims in North Carolina, because they were like Christians!” he declared. Naturally, he went on to explain that this was the Southern Poverty Law Center’s fault.

Some people may be offended by Klingenschmitt’s ridiculous adherence to the Christian right’s persecution complex. But those who are familiar with his work might be tempted to applaud him instead; “they were acting Christian” is probably the nicest thing he’ll ever say about Muslims.

3. Louie Gohmert
Michele Bachmann may be gone, but the House of Representatives is not lacking for congresspeople who believe that we are in the End Times.

The latest example is Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who called in to the “Point of View” radio show on Tuesday to explain how President Obama is inviting God’s wrath on the United States.

“I don’t know if you saw this story,” Gohmert lamented, “but it was reported from Nigeria that this administration said unless you change your law to allow same-sex marriage, then we’re not going to help you against the radical Islamists Boko Haram, which is killing Christians, having young girls raped and sold into sex slavery.”

Of course, if Steve Stockman and WorldNetDaily said it, it has to be true.

According to Gohmert, this totally-not-made-up “fact” is yet another sign of the looming Apocalypse.

“I am very afraid since I know…that the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether,” the congressman said. “It doesn’t matter how many people in America are faithful followers, we have put into place leaders who may bring down judgment on the United States if we don’t start helping the good guys.”

I suppose that’s what we get for electing the leader of the Ayatollah Caucus as president.

2. David McKinley
It’s no secret that congressional Republicans are not big on climate science — but even by their standards, the latest legislative assault on science is absurd.

This week, the House considered a bill intended to undercut the scientific consensus on climate change: The Science Advisory Board Reform Act, which would alter the rules governing who can serve on the Science Advisory Board — a group that advises the EPA. Many Democrats and outside observers warn that the bill would open the floodgates for more corporate influence on the board, and curtail its ability to defend public health.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) added an amendment that really kicks things up a notch. It would ban the EPA from ever considering the following reports when making decisions related to the SAB:

  • The United States Global Climate Research Program National Climate Assessment
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report
  • The United Nations’ Agenda 21 Sustainable Development Plan
  • The May 2013 Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order No. 12866
  • The July 2014 Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations’ Pathways to Deep Decarbonization Report

In other words, as Grist’s David Roberts explains:

When considering what to do about carbon pollution, EPA may not consider what America’s best scientists have concluded about it, what an international panel of scientists has concluded about it, how the federal government has officially recommended calculating its value, or the most comprehensive solutions for it. Oh, and it can’t consider Agenda 21 either. Otherwise the EPA can go nuts.

Once the bill passes the House, it will advance to the Senate — where it will presumably be shepherded to passage by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who last week brought a snowball into the chamber to prove that climate change is a hoax.

1. Kris Kobach
This week’s “winner,” Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is best known for being the GOP’s “go-to guy” for anti-immigrant extremism. But as he proved this week on his radio show, Kobach is plenty capable of offending people of all races.

While discussing the University of Minnesota’s move to limit the use of racial descriptions in campus crime alerts, Kobach took a call from someone who warned that “given the recent story that Obama was instructing immigration enforcement to not enforce the immigration laws against illegal aliens, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch, Kris, to envision an announcement that any black person accused of a crime, charged with a crime, is not going to be prosecuted, regardless of the crime.”

Despite the glaring evidence to the contrary, Kobach agreed.

“Well, it’s already happened more or less in the case of civil rights laws,” he replied. “So I guess it’s not a huge jump, I think it’s unlikely, but you know I’ve learned to say with this president, never say never.”

Right Wing Watch has the audio:

Of course, the notion that President Obama will ban the criminal prosecution of black Americans is ridiculous. After all, thanks to his executive actions on immigration, Hispanic-Americans will kill everyone else before he even gets the chance.

Check out previous editions of This Week In Crazy here. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments!

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Screenshot: KansasWatchdogTV’s channel/YouTube

Surrender: Government-By-Crisis Fails The GOP Again

Ever since Republicans first devised their ill-conceived plan to use funding for the Department of Homeland Security as a hostage in hopes of forcing President Obama to abandon his immigration policy, the gambit was doomed to eventual failure.

On Tuesday, the debacle reached its logical conclusion. Hours after Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) acknowledged defeat, the House of Representatives ended the game and passed a bill funding DHS through September, without preconditions. The bill passed the house 257 to 167, with just 75 Republicans joining the Democratic minority to keep the department open.

There was never any real doubt that this would be the outcome. Since the equally poorly-thought-out government shutdown of 2013, President Obama has made it clear that he will not give in to Republican attempts to use must-pass spending bills to blackmail him into dismantling his agenda. The Department of Homeland Security was always a poor target for a hostage, given its importance to national security — and the fact that shutting it down would do nothing to stop President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. And voters were always going to blame Republicans, not Democrats, for a crisis that the GOP created.

Still, House Republicans insisted on dragging the crisis out until the last second, and managed to undermine Speaker Boehner’s tenuous authority in the process. Yet again.

So will this latest humiliation convince Boehner and his caucus to rethink their strategy of government-by-crisis? It’s unlikely; if the “fiscal cliff,” the government shutdown, and repeated debt ceiling standoffs (among other House-made emergencies) didn’t change their course, there’s no reason to believe that the DHS near-shutdown will be different.

In related news, on Tuesday the Congressional Budget Office announced that the debt ceiling will have to be increased in October or November.

Photo: Speaker Boehner via Flickr

5 Lowlights From CPAC 2015 (So Far)

Screenshot: YouTube

Screenshot: YouTube

The 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference still has more than a day to go — but it’s off to a tremendously weird start.

While the conference has featured plenty of valuable speeches and events for right-wing activists, it has also been filled with the type of odd moments and outbursts that have come to characterize right-wing gatherings.

Here are five of the lowlights:

Sean Hannity’s Creepy Joke
Fox News host Sean Hannity pumped up the crowd with his Friday morning speech about how liberals are stupid — his words, not mine — but one of the jokes that he told to the “young, good-looking crowd” fell completely flat.

“I can look out in the crowd, I kinda have Fox X-ray vision, and I can see that some of you women, you don’t even know it yet, but you’re pregnant,” Hannity said. “It’s not your fault. It’s not his fault.”

It was weird — and foreshadowed some even weirder sex talk later in the day.

Scott Walker’s ISIS Plan
During his speech on Thursday, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker explained how he would defeat ISIS: By crushing them like they’re kindergarten teachers.

“I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threats from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil,” Walker explained. “We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

Surprisingly, this was not the first time that Walker compared peaceful protesters to ultraviolent terrorists.

Meanwhile, in the convention hall, Walker’s tough talk had the crowd chanting, “Run, Scott, run!”

Donald Trump’s Birther Obsession
Reality TV star Donald Trump is still pretending that he may run for president — but his CPAC speech provided a handy reminder of how well that would go for him.

Trump’s address was well designed for an audience that has always mistrusted President Obama’s soaring rhetoric (“Common Core is bad. Bad! Second Amendment is good!” Trump declared at one point), but as usual, the Donald couldn’t resist a good birther crack.

That’s right: According to Trump, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Donald Trump are all birthers. Trump is just better at it.

Rick Santorum’s Awful Joke
Trump wasn’t the only CPAC speaker to try out a birther line. Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum tried to bring up the conspiracy with a touch of humor.

“In fact the president’s popularity is so bad around the world today that I heard this report from a source that the Kenyan government is actually developing proof that Barack Obama was actually born in America,” Santorum said.

About three people laughed.



Phil Robertson’s Strange Speech
No CPAC speech so far has been stranger than the stem-winder uncorked by Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, who was awarded the conference’s “Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award.”

Robertson’s half-hour speech began as a sermon in defense of religious liberty — and then skipped the rails when he began ranting about sexually transmitted diseases.

“110 million Americans now have a sexually transmitted illness,” Robertson warned. “I don’t want you, America, to get sick. I don’t want you to become ill. I don’t want you to come down with a debilitating disease! I don’t want you to die early! You’re disease-free and she’s disease-free, you marry, you keep your sex right there. You won’t get sick from a sexually transmitted disease.”

Predictably, Robertson thinks that America’s STD problem is liberals’ fault.

“It’s the revenge of the hippies!” he raged. “Sex, drugs, and rock and roll have come back to haunt us.”

Robertson’s speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention should be a blast.

This Week In Crazy: Ron Paul Is Ready For Secession

Welcome to “This Week In Crazy,” The National Memo’s weekly update on the wildest attacks, conspiracy theories, and other loony behavior from the increasingly unhinged right wing. Starting with number five:

5. Ralph Peters

Only 9 percent of Republicans believe that Barack Obama is a Christian, but that doesn’t stop the far right from describing the president in Biblical terms.

The latest Republican to dip into the New Testament for an anti-Obama attack is Fox News strategic analyst and Vladimir Putin fanboy Ralph Peters. Appearing on America’s Newsroom Wednesday, Peters broke down President Obama’s efforts to fight ISIS. You could say that he disapproves.

“Christian women are kidnapped and raped and raped again, our president does nothing! Christians are driven from their homes in the Middle East by the hundreds of thousands, slaughtered by the tens of thousands, and our president does nothing!” Peters raged. “He is the reincarnation of Pontius Pilate washing his hands, but this blood’s not coming off.”

Shockingly, Peters is not even the first conservative to compare President Obama to the guy who killed Jesus.

But on the plus side, the next season of The History Channel’s The Bible promises to be just as controversial as the first.

4. Barry Loudermilk
Weeks after an unfortunate case of vaccine trutherism struck the Republican Party, certain politicians are still having trouble getting the junk science out of their systems.

The latest official to stick his foot in his mouth on the subject is freshman U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA). Asked about the entirely fictional link between vaccines and autism at a town hall meeting, Loudermilk cited his own personal experience.

“I believe it’s the parents’ decision whether to immunize or not. And so I’m looking at [my] wife – most of our children, we didn’t immunize. They’re healthy,” he explained. “Of course, home schooling, we didn’t have to get the mandatory immunization.”

Right Wing Watch has the video:

The fun didn’t stop there. At the same meeting, Loudermilk told a different constituent that we should not line the southern border with improvised explosive devices, “because there’s a lot of Americans who work [there] and kids around the border as well.” (The morality of blowing non-citizens to smithereens was not discussed.)

The race to be Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) running mate is already underway, and Rep. Loudermilk is lapping the field.

3. Michele Fiore

Pictured: Not a tumor (Phil Parsons/Flickr)

Pictured: Not a tumor (Phil Parsons/Flickr)

Nevada assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R), who was last seen trying to arm the “hot little girls on campus” with guns, checks in at number three for a bit of medical misinformation that makes Rep. Loudermilk look like Jonas Salk.

On her radio show last weekend, Fiore explained how her new “terminally ill bill” could revolutionize the health care system.

“If you have cancer, which I believe is a fungus, and we can put a pic line into your body, and we’re flushing — let’s say salt-water, sodium cardonate [sic] — through that line, and flushing out the fungus,” she said, as reported by Jon Ralston. “These are some procedures that are not FDA approved in America that are very inexpensive, cost-effective.”

In case this was not already clear, cancer is not a fungus, and it cannot be cured with sodium bicarbonate (the compound that Fiore was presumably trying to name, and better known as baking soda).

And in case this was also not clear: Do not get your treatment from Fiore’s home health care company.

2. Vito Barbieri

Vito Barbieri

Add Idaho Rep. Vito Barbieri (R) to the list of politicians who struggled with basic biology this week.

The Idaho legislature is currently considering a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication via a video chat. During a Monday hearing, Barbieri resolved to leave no stone unturned.

The Associated Press reports:

Dr. Julie Madsen, a physician who said she has provided various telemedicine services in Idaho, was testifying in opposition to the bill. She said some colonoscopy patients may swallow a small device to give doctors a closer look at parts of their colon.

“Can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is?” Barbieri asked.

Madsen replied that would be impossible because swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina.

“Fascinating. That makes sense,” Barbieri said, amid the crowd’s laughter.

The bill passed the House State Affairs Committee 13-4 — Barbieri voted in favor of it — meaning that a new barrier will soon be erected to women’s health in Idaho. But at least Barbieri — who sits on the board of a right-wing “crisis pregnancy center” — got a valuable lesson in basic anatomy.
1. Ron Paul

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

None of this week’s fake physicians could top this week’s “winner,” Dr. Ron Paul.

In audio uncovered by BuzzFeed News this week, the former congressman and presidential candidate discussed the anti-war contingent in Congress with longtime associate Lew Rockwell.

“I was always annoyed with it in Congress because we had an anti-war unofficial group, a few libertarian Republicans and generally the Black Caucus and others did not — they are really against war because they want all of that money to go to food stamps for people here,” Paul explained.

Rockwell, of course, is amenable to Paul’s “peace for food stamps” theory; he was intimately involved with Paul’s infamous newsletters, which suggested renaming New York City “Welfaria,” among other racist attacks.

There is good news for Paul, though. If he’s really that offended by the Congressional Black Caucus’ attempt to fund food security for the nation’s poor, he could always join the apparently thriving secession movement (a phenomenon that Paul believes is already taking place, and is “good news”).

Meanwhile, George W. Bush can breathe a sigh of relief; there’s no chance that he’ll be the most embarrassing family member of a presidential candidate in 2016.

Check out previous editions of This Week In Crazy here. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments!

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Get Ready For A Dumb Foreign Policy Debate In 2016

As the 2016 presidential campaign gets started, victory-minded Republicans have a problem: The thriving economy is leaving their favorite attack against President Obama increasingly out of touch. Any Republicans who still hoped that the Mitt Romney playbook — unceasing criticism of the Obama economy — could be recycled against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton must begin searching for a new angle of attack.

As Jonathan Martin and Jeremy Peters report in The New York Times on Tuesday, many within the GOP have responded by shifting their focus to more treacherous territory for the president and his former secretary of state: foreign policy, and specifically the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

In theory, this should be a great thing. Dealing with ISIS is an urgent foreign policy and humanitarian challenge, and it deserves a rigorous debate. No matter what form it takes, the battle will continue during the next president’s administration, and it should be a major factor in who America elects as its next commander-in-chief.

But in practice, the dialogue seems unlikely to be very productive. Republicans may want to shift the campaign’s focus to foreign policy, but as of yet they have very few concrete ideas to contribute.

Although every major GOP presidential contender has complained about President Obama’s “disastrous” foreign policy, most of them seem to more or less agree with his approach to fighting ISIS. And so far, none has proposed a detailed alternative to the White House plan.

That has gotten the Great Foreign Policy Debate of 2016 off to a vague start, to put it lightly.

“We have to develop a strategy, that’s global, that takes them out,” former Florida governor Jeb Bush declared during his first big foreign policy speech. “First, the strategy, you know, needs to be restrain them, tighten the noose, and then taking them out is the strategy.”

“I think we need to have an aggressive strategy anywhere around the world,” Wisconsin governor Scott Walker said during an appearance on ABC. “I think anywhere and everywhere, we have to be — go beyond just aggressive air strikes. We have to look at other surgical methods. And ultimately, we have to be prepared to put boots on the ground if that’s what it takes.”

The governor quickly clarified that he doesn’t actually want to send American troops into battle in Syria, just that he “wouldn’t rule anything out.” Good to know.

These vague non-answers actually represent the best of the right’s present rhetoric on ISIS. At the other end of the spectrum lie congressmen like Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), both of whom have suggested that the United States is doing nothing to fight the terrorist group, and seem genuinely unaware of the massive bombing campaign that has severely hampered ISIS’ advance through the region.

Americans of all political stripes should welcome a serious debate about how to fight ISIS. But if this type of empty, uninformed rhetoric characterizes the Republican argument — and, given Walker’s recent suggestion that his union-busting record in Wisconsin would prove his toughness to jihadists, it very well might — then that’s not the kind of debate we’re going to get.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

This Week In Crazy: Obama’s Secret Muslim Gang Sign

Welcome to “This Week In Crazy,” The National Memo’s weekly update on the wildest attacks, conspiracy theories, and other loony behavior from the increasingly unhinged right wing. Starting with number five:

5. Pat Robertson
Increasingly confused televangelist Pat Robertson is predictably upset over a recent Washington state ruling against a florist who refused to sell decorations for a gay couple’s wedding. On Thursday, he vented his rage in a manner that would make Rick Santorum proud.

“This is outrageous!” Robertson declared on his 700 Club show. “To tell a florist that she’s got to provide flowers for a particular kind of wedding? What if somebody wanted to marry his dog? She’s got to have flowers for that? What if there’s a polygamous situation where a guy has five wives and he wants to have five ceremonies, and she’s going to be forced by the law to provide them flowers? This is crazy!”

But there may be a silver lining to the man-dog union that Robertson fears: It couldn’t result in a pregnancy, meaning that all of the witches on Facebook would never get an opportunity to curse photos of the fetal ultrasound.

Yes, this is also a grave concern of Robertson’s this week:

So there you have it: If you want to defeat covens, support gay marriage.
4. Glenn Beck
American prophet Glenn Beck checks in at number four, with some bad news for Americans: “We are in World War III.”

You may not have noticed the titanic, armed struggle between superpowers, but that’s OK. As usual, Beck is the only one who has put all of the pieces together.

“We are in World War III, it just hasn’t caught up yet. We’re here,” Beck warned. “This is one for all the marbles. This one will be to the last man. This will be until there is an unconditional surrender of one of the sides.”

Of course, Beck has claimed that a new World War is about to break out more than once before. But this time he’s super serious!

“I have a growing sense of…uh…surety that what I believe is here,” Beck lamented. “This is the beginning of sorrows.”

Is anyone up for a quick episode of The Walking Dead?

3. Isaac Latterell

Isaac Latterell

Official Portrait

 

Many Americans are concerned by the looming overseas threat posed by ISIS. But South Dakota state Rep. Isaac Latterell (R) has identified an even greater threat on our own shores. You guessed it: Planned Parenthood.

Latterell shared the horrible truth about the women’s health care provider in a blog post on his website, subtly titled “Planned Parenthood worse than ISIS and lying about it.”

“Most states including South Dakota allow for the death penalty for murderers. There are certain revolting methods of execution, such as beheading, that no state would ever permit, even against murderers who use this method on their victims,” Latterell writes. “It is this revulsion that leads us to rightly condemn the beheadings committed by unconscionably violent soldiers in the Middle East.”

“Planned Parenthood abortionists in Sioux Falls are similarly beheading unborn children during dismemberment abortions,” he then claims. “No state, no religion, and no organization should ever be allowed to use this unspeakably horrifying method. While we rightly take the speck out of our neighbor’s eye by holding ISIS accountable, let us be sure to take the plank out of our own eye by holding Planned Parenthood accountable.”

So when do the airstrikes start?

Probably never. As Planned Parenthood spokesperson Jennifer Aulwes pointed out to Talking Points Memo, the group does not actually perform the type of abortion procedure that has Latterell outraged. And in any case, comparing an organization that provides health care to millions of Americans each year to a brutal terrorist organization seems like a bit of a stretch.

But shockingly, Latterell didn’t even manage the stupidest ISIS quip of the week.

2. Jason Rapert

rapert

Official Portrait

 

That honor belongs to Arkansas state senator Jason Rapert (R), who knows just how to handle these ISIS characters.

“With ISIS spreading all over the Middle East and Africa and Islamic extremists carrying out violence in Europe, The United Kingdom and even in the United States, I wonder why the civilized world just sits by when we have weapons that could wipe out these barbarians where they are concentrated?” Rapert wrote, as reported by the Arkansas Times. “I believe it is time to annihilate the strongholds and pursue the rest till we have them all captured or killed. A strategically placed nuclear weapon would save the lives of our soldiers and quickly turn things around. It is time for the insanity to be stopped.”

Why won’t our feckless president stop listening to his elitist military “experts,” and finally man up and annihilate Iraq and Syria with a “strategically placed” nuclear weapon!?

If Rapert’s solution to insanity is a nuclear bomb, then now would probably be a good time for Arkansans to head for their shelters. But on the plus side, I’m sure that Rapert’s fellow nuclear diplomat Sheldon Adelson will one day cut a hefty check to his inevitable Senate campaign.

1. F.W. Burleigh

During last year’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, most of the far right was busy freaking out that President Obama was trying to spread Ebola to Americans. But six months later, this week’s “winner,” F.W. Burleigh, has realized that they were chasing the wrong conspiracy theory.

Writing on Wednesday in American Thinker, Burleigh examines a photo of President Obama holding a finger in the air at the conference, and realizes that it could only signify one thing: A secret Muslim gang sign!

Screenshot: American Thinker

Screenshot: American Thinker

“The one-finger display is the distinctive Muslim gang sign,” Burleigh writes, before going on to explain that “when believers stick their index finger in the air, they demonstrate they are partisans of Muhammad’s God concept,” and members of “the exclusive transtribal supertribe of believers that Muhammad started 1,400 years ago.”

In case you needed more evidence, Burleigh points out several of the African leaders “are Muslims through and through, and they are all smiles. They knew what Obama’s upright forefinger meant.”

Unfortunately, back in reality, Obama’s secret Muslim gang sign — not to be confused with his secret Muslim foot signals, or his secret Muslim State of the Union — was less exciting than American Thinker hoped. As Matt Gertz patiently explains at Media Matters, video of the event shows that President Obama was actually wagging his finger — making him no different from George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, or any of the many other politicians to be photographed with a finger in the air.

It’s hard to believe that Rush Limbaugh’s favorite blog would follow a ridiculous anti-Obama conspiracy theory without doing any fact checking.

Check out previous editions of This Week In Crazy here. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments!

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Boehner Offered Free Pass Out Of Shutdown Mess, But He Doesn’t Want To Take It

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s Monday night ruling temporarily blocking President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program provided a political lifeline for congressional Republicans. But whether or not they’re smart enough to take it remains unclear.

For weeks, Republicans have been hurtling towards another catastrophic shutdown debacle. Furious over President Obama’s immigration action, congressional Republicans devised an illogical scheme to fight back: They would separate the Department of Homeland Security from December’s government funding bill, and then use it as a hostage. Unless President Obama abandons his policy by February 27, DHS would enter a partial shutdown.

The strategy never had a prayer of working, for several reasons. President Obama has long since proven that he is done giving in to Republican ransom demands. Shutting down DHS would not actually do anything to stop President Obama’s deferral plan. And the American public was always going to blame the GOP for any shutdown crisis. (This was confirmed by a CNN poll released Tuesday, which found that 53 percent of Americans would hold Republicans responsible, while just 30 percent would blame the president, and 13 percent would blame both.) Unless they planned to never pay DHS workers again, the only possible outcome for the GOP was embarrassing defeat.

But still, Republicans went all in. One month ago, the House passed a bill linking DHS funding with blocking DAPA. Although it repeatedly failed to pass the Senate, House Speaker John Boehner insisted that “the House has done its job,” and has flatly refused to consider a clean funding bill. Meanwhile, even if the Senate somehow does pass a bill limiting Obama’s authority, the president would veto it. A politically catastrophic shutdown seemed increasingly inevitable.

So one might think that House Republicans would welcome Judge Hanen’s ruling as a get-out-of-jail-free card. With DAPA blocked, pending appeal, they could pass a clean DHS funding bill with a clean conscience, tell their constituents that the matter is in the courts’ hands now, and save the fight for another day.

But it’s never that easy with the Republican caucus.

Speaker Boehner’s reaction to the ruling suggests that he’s still committed to taking this all the way.

“The president said 22 times he did not have the authority to take the very action on immigration he eventually did, so it is no surprise that at least one court has agreed,” Boehner said in a statement. “We will continue to follow the case as it moves through the legal process. Hopefully, Senate Democrats who claim to oppose this executive overreach will now let the Senate begin debate on a bill to fund the Homeland Security Department.”

In case there was any doubt, Democrats are still not ready to begin debate on forcing a maximum-deportation policy on the White House.

“It’s perfectly appropriate to take this issue to court, but it is completely unacceptable for Republicans to hold up funding for the Department of Homeland Security while the case wends its way through the legal system,” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement. “This procedural ruling, in our opinion, is very unlikely to be upheld, but regardless of the outcome Democrats remain united in our belief that funding for the Department of Homeland Security should not be used as a ransom by Republicans, period.”

Republicans clearly learned the wrong lessons from their last government shutdown, which they overcame at the ballot box in November. They are extremely unlikely to be so lucky again in 2016, when the elections will be fought on a much friendlier terrain for Democrats. On Monday night, Judge Hanen threw the GOP a lifeline; they’d be wise to grab it.

AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan

5 Policies That Republicans Loved (Until Obama Did, Too)

Texas Senator Ted Cruz (Peter Stevens/Flickr)

Photo: Peter Stevens via Flickr

On Friday, Texas senator and likely 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) took some heat when Mother Jones reported that the right-wing Republican once offered a resolute defense of the 2009 stimulus law that he now derides as an archetypal government overreach. As a private-practice lawyer representing the Texas Retired Teachers Association, Cruz declared that stimulus money “will directly impact the [Texas] economy…and will directly further the greater purpose of economic recovery for America.” But today, he considers the law to be a failure.

Cruz is far from the first Republican to change his mind on an issue championed by the White House. Here are five policies that high-profile Republicans loved — until President Obama came along.

Obamacare

Photo: SEIU International via Flickr

Photo: SEIU International via Flickr

Since before it even became law, Republicans have decried the Affordable Care Act as a job-killing, freedom-crushing abomination. But the right wasn’t always so vehemently opposed to the law’s underlying ideas, like the health care exchanges, the individual mandate, and Medicaid expansion. In fact, they were developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, and favored by many Republican politicians.

As recently as 2008, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney considered his health care law — which was largely the inspiration for Obama’s — to be “the ultimate conservative plan,” and a “model” for the rest of the nation. But with Obama in the White House, that didn’t last.

Common Core

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Today, Republicans widely agree that the Common Core education standards are a hostile, oppressive government takeover of the education system. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has compared Common Core to “centralized planning” in the Soviet Union. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) derides it as “the Obamacare of education.” Senator Cruz has vowed to repeal it (even though it’s not a law passed by Congress). State Representative Charles Van Zant (R-FL) warns that it will “attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can.”

But before Republicans began associating the new educational guidelines with the Obama administration (and, by extension, gay communism), they were quite fond of them. After all, Common Core takes after George W. Bush’s education policy, was introduced by the bipartisan National Governors Association, and at one point was adopted by 46 states. Even the aforementioned Jindal, now a leader of the anti-Common Core push, once defended it by promising that his state would not “move one inch off more rigorous and higher standards for our kids.”

Cap And Trade

Photo: Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Photo: Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Before Barack Obama became president, public officials broadly agreed that climate change was a real problem that required a serious policy response. Newt Gingrich even sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi to talk about it.

Many Republicans agreed that cap and trade, which was developed by a “strange alliance of free-market Republicans and renegade environmentalists,” was the solution that combined the most economic and environmental benefits. In fact, almost every Republican candidate in 2012 backed the plan — until they decided to run against Obama, at which point they reflexively turned against it.

Today, carbon limits remain unpopular on the right, where they are falsely considered to be a job-killing abomination.

Deficit Spending

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

When President Obama released his 2016 budget plan, congressional Republicans reacted as they often do to his proposals: by attacking it for failing to close the budget deficit.

“While Washington is still racking up debt, this budget doesn’t even try to balance the books,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy complained. “In fact, despite the best efforts of Republicans over the past four years to rein in spending and cut the deficit, this budget would erase all those gains over the 10-year budget horizon by increasing the deficit and adding even more to the debt. Our children and grandchildren can’t afford such recklessness.”

But back during the Bush administration, McCarthy and his fellow Republicans didn’t seem to mind budgets that never balanced; that’s why they voted for deficit-busting plans like the Bush tax cuts or the Iraq War, among many others.

Indeed, the Republican Party’s pre-Obama attitude towards balancing the budget can be best summed up by former vice president Dick Cheney: “Deficits don’t matter.” There’s a pretty good case that he was right — but don’t expect any Republican to make the argument while Obama is in the White House.

Immigration Reform

Florida Senator Marco Rubio addresses CPAC 2014 (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

For years, many Republicans have agreed that the United States desperately needs to reform its immigration laws. In 2013, the Senate even passed a rare bipartisan bill which would strengthen border security and establish a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants who are already in the country. In other words, it closely mirrored President Obama’s goals. And that became a major problem for many Republicans. For example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted against the 2013 bill despite having supported similar measures in 1986 and 2006.

But no Republican illustrates President Obama’s effect on the GOP better than Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Rubio helped craft the 2013 bill in the first place, arguing that the issue is a question of human rights. But a year later, he had abandoned his plans — because “the Obama administration has ‘undermined’ negotiations by not defunding his signature health care law.”

Republicans Have (Another) Government Shutdown Problem

When Republicans took full control of Congress, the political media fell all over itself declaring that now the GOP must finally prove that it can govern. But it hasn’t worked out that way. Instead, Republicans have fallen into the familiar pattern of fighting bruising internal battles over bills that have no chance of becoming law — a strategy that may be about to blow up in their faces.

From its first days, it became clear that the 114th Congress would look an awful lot like the 113th edition.

“Week 1, we had the vote for the Speaker. Week 2, we debated deporting children. Week 3, we’re debating rape and incest,” moderate Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) lamented in late January. “I just can’t wait for Week 4.”

Week 4 and beyond have been just about as disastrous as Dent feared. As a result of December’s “CRomnibus” bill to fund the federal government, Congress has just over two weeks left before funding for the Department of Homeland Security runs out on February 27 — a timeframe that gets even tighter, given Congress’ plan to recess during the week of Presidents’ Day. As of yet, there’s no indication that congressional leadership has any plan to prevent the DHS from shutting down.

On January 14, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide $40 billion to keep the department running. But it would also block inplementation of President Obama’s November executive action shielding over 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, along with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects young immigrants who arrived in the country as children.

In other words, it has absolutely no chance of passing the Senate — something that the upper chamber has proven on three separate occasions.

So as Republicans point fingers about who’s to blame for their current predicament — even Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) acknowledges that they’re playing a losing hand — they’re left with very few attractive options.

They could pass a clean bill to fund the DHS without fighting President Obama’s executive orders — but that would require a minority of Republicans to partner with Democrats, and would likely spark a revolt within the party’s right-wing base, which has been promised an all-out war against the president’s unilateral immigration actions.

They could let the DHS shut down (the favored option of a surprising number of congressmen who don’t believe Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s dire warnings that such a move could jeopardize national security). But in addition to being bad policy, this would be terrible politics; as Republicans should have learned during their 2013 shutdown debacle, President Obama will not give in to such an attempt to extort policy changes they are unable to legislate. Furthermore, the American public is extremely unlikely to buy the GOP’s “Democrats are the ones who really want a shutdown” reasoning. And perhaps most importantly, shutting down the DHS would do absolutely nothing to stop President Obama’s immigration actions. In other words, Republicans have no leverage in this fight.

Or Republicans could join with Democrats to pass a clean, short-term funding bill, and fight this battle all over again in a few weeks or months.

That may ultimately be the most likely outcome to the standoff, but it would do nothing to solve the GOP’s root problem on immigration: They have no real reform policy. Since the Senate’s bipartisan reform bill derailed in 2013, Republicans have generally stuck to vague talking points about securing the border, while obliquely promising to deport as many undocumented immigrants as possible (despite having no plan on how they’d actually do so, or how they’d pay the nearly $25 billion tab for a mass deportation without violating their various pledges to balance the budget and shrink the deficit).

Until Republicans come up with a serious policy that goes past opposing President Obama, they will continue to be unable to act on immigration without returning to deadline-induced drama and intra-party warfare.

Immigration remains a genuine political crisis for the GOP — and it’s not going away.

Photo: Speaker Boehner via Flickr

This Week In Crazy: Beyoncé Is ‘Mental Poison’

5. Iowa Republicans

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Former Arkansas governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has a strange obsession with Beyoncé Knowles, whom he has repeatedly criticized, and even compared to a prostitute. Thanks to the trolls running the latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll in Iowa, we now know that he’s not alone.

Tucked in between serious questions about the 2016 Iowa caucus, the pollsters asked a leading question on Queen Bey. And the results were glorious.

Beyonce poll

In other words: By a 40 to 38 percent margin, likely Republican caucus-goers agree that Beyoncé is “mental poison.”

Suddenly, those electoral victories by Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Joni Ernst make a bit more sense.

With Huckabee nearly certain to jump into the 2016 race, he may end up having to moderate his crazier views to appeal to a broader electorate. But fear not, Iowans: There are still plenty of other right-wing luminaries who spend a surprising amount of time worrying about whether Beyoncé is a demon.

4. Ben Carson

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

When New Jersey governor Chris Christie suggested that parents “need to have some measure of choice” over whether to vaccinate their children, pretty much every prospective presidential candidate rushed to get their own views on the record.

Somewhat surprisingly, Dr. Ben Carson — usually a fountain of crazy soundbites — took a measured, responsible stance: “Certain communicable diseases have been largely eradicated by immunization policies in this country and we should not allow those diseases to return by foregoing safe immunization programs, for philosophical, religious or other reasons when we have the means to eradicate them.”

It didn’t last long.

During a Tuesday appearance on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, Carson reiterated that we risk public health crises like the current measles outbreak in California when parents don’t vaccinate their kids. But he also explained who’s really to blame: Immigrants!

“These are things that we had under control. We have to account for the fact that we now have people coming into the country sometimes undocumented people who perhaps have diseases that we had under control,” Carson said. “So now we need to be doubly vigilant about making sure that we immunize them to keep them from getting diseases that once were under control.”

As Caitlin MacNeal points out at Talking Points Memo, “According to the World Health Organization, about 93 percent of children in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, from which a majority of undocumented children have emigrated from, have gotten a measles vaccination.” In other words, the immigrants that Carson fears are more likely to be vaccinated than many American children.

But still, Carson’s point is well taken: It’s not going to be that easy for Rand Paul to steal his role as 2016’s Michele Bachmann. And the countdown to Carson appearing on Michael Savage’s radio show begins now.

3. Del Marsh

Del Marsh

From hypermasculine homosexual stormtroopers to the gay massage-related decline of the military, we’ve heard a lot of terrible arguments against marriage equality. But few have been as desperate as the one unleashed last week by Alabama state senator Del Marsh (R).

With gay marriage nearly a reality in the Heart of Dixie, Marsh felt compelled to bust out the Tea Party’s biggest gun in a last-ditch argument for segregation: We can’t afford it!

“You gotta look at the financial aspect of this as well,” Marsh told a local radio host. “Let’s face it. If gay marriage is approved, I assume that those types of unions, those people would be entitled to Social Security benefits, insurance. Where does it end?”

Think Progress has the audio:

Sure, LGBT couples have been paying taxes towards those benefits for their entire adult lives…but we can’t pass on gay debt to our grandchildren!

Thankfully for Senator Marsh, he needn’t worry. While Alabama can’t afford many things, gay marriage isn’t one of them. According to a 2014 study from the Williams Institute, legalizing gay marriage would bring the state about $13.9 million in its first year.

2. James David Manning
Few people in America can spin a crazy conspiracy theory better than Harlem-based pastor James David Manning. In between appearances on and protests of Fox News, Manning has attracted attention for claiming that President Obama “released the homo demons on the black man” and made a secret deal to support terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, among other wild assertions.

Manning may have outdone himself with his latest speech, eloquently titled “Don’t let your son cut off his penis.” According to the pastor, Justin Bieber is actually a woman who cut her breasts off — thanks to President Obama’s “evil spirit.”

The insane video speaks for itself:

Please, for the love of God, somebody ask Iowa Republicans what they think about Manning’s theory.

1. Benjamin Cole

It’s been a tough couple of days for this week’s “winner,” Republican aide Benjamin Cole.

Cole, who served as Rep. Aaron Schock’s (R-IL) senior advisor for policy and communications, started the week with an embarrassing story about his failed attempts to kill an article about Schock’s extravagantly decorated, Downton Abbey-themed office. But soon, crystal chandeliers and pheasant-feather displays would be the least of his problems.

On Thursday, ThinkProgress uncovered a series of Facebook posts in which Cole compares black people outside his Washington DC apartment to escaped zoo animals engaging in “mating rituals” (the posts were punctuated with the hashtag “#gentrifytoday” for good measure). And it gets worse.

Shortly thereafter, BuzzFeed News uncovered more racist posts, including complaints that “white people who live in my building are routinely harassed by Black miscreants,” musing about “the deportables,” and a suggestion that a White House mosque be built for President Obama.

Image via BuzzFeed

Image via BuzzFeed

Once it became apparent that his communications director couldn’t even handle a personal Facebook page, Schock gave Cole the boot on Thursday afternoon.

But he should keep his chin up. Maybe Stephen Fincher is hiring.