Former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann seems to think so.
On Wednesday, she held a press conference announcing that she would “stand aside” and end her campaign after a disappointing 6th place finish in Iowa, her home state. During the speech, she told her audience that she was inspired to run after seeing a painting in the U.S. Capitol building, Howard Chandler Christy’s “Scene At the Signing of the Constitution,” which depicts the Founding Fathers signing the Constitution.
The portrait, she said, truly spoke to her — and told her to oppose Obama’s health care plan, now enshrined into law as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Never was the painting’s poignant reminder more evident than on the evening of March 21, 2010. That was the evening that Obamacare was passed. And staring out from the painting are the faces of the Founders, and in particular the face of Ben Franklin…that day served as the inspiration for my run for the Presidency of the United States.”
Although her presidential campaign has ended, she promised her supporters that she would continue to oppose the Affordable Care Act — at least while Ben Franklin is still watching her.
“I’ll continue to stand and fight for the country and for the American people and for our freedom because Mr. Franklin and all the Founders…are watching us. They’re expecting us to stand up and protect what they fought to give us.”
Bachmann also promised to never become a politician, despite being involved in politics for over a decade.
“While a Congresswoman by title, a politician I never have been, nor will I ever hope to be.”
What’s next for her? God only knows. At least according to Bachmann, who tried to cheer up her disappointed supporters with a folksy reminder toward the end of her concession speech.
“I look forward to the next chapter in God’s plan. He has one for each of us, you know.”
Check out the highlights from speech here:
After a week of refusing to accept the extension of the payroll tax cut that their own party helped negotiate, Republicans in the House of Representatives have finally agreed to pass the bill, according to the New York Times.
Under a deal reached between House and Senate leaders, the House will now approve as early as Friday the two-month extension of a payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits approved by the Senate last Saturday, and the Senate will appoint members of a House-Senate conference committee to negotiate legislation to extend both benefits through 2012.
The extension means that the percentage taken out of an employee’s paycheck to pay for Social Security will stay at the current rate of 4.2% until March. If the Republicans had not agreed to extend the tax cut, the rate would have increased to 6.2% starting January 1st. By the time the tax cut expires in March, Democrats and Republicans hope to have negotiated a long-term extension of the pay roll tax cut that will stay in effect for all of next year.
The surrender of House Republicans ends a remarkable week-long mutiny led by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) against a bipartisan compromise bill negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Though the bill had the support of both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, a rebellious group of House Republicans objected to the bill.
They wanted to pass an extension of the cut for a full year and pay for it by cutting Medicare and unemployment benefits. Unsurprisingly, Democrats objected to this idea, which is why it didn’t make it into the compromise bill. The House Republicans decided to dig in their heels, refusing to pass the compromise bill. As Speaker Boehner later admitted, this was not the best idea.
After his conversation with lawmakers, the speaker conceded to reporters that it might not have been “politically the smartest thing in the world” for House Republicans to put themselves between a tax cut and the 160 million American workers who would benefit from it, and to allow President Obama and Congressional Democrats to seize the momentum on the issue.
President Obama, meanwhile, celebrated the compromise for the help it will bring middle-class Americans.
“This is good news, just in time for the holidays,” he said in a statement. “This is the right thing to do to strengthen our families, grow our economy, and create new jobs. This is real money that will make a real difference in people’s lives.”
Occupy Wall Street, the encampment in New York City’s Zuccotti Park that sparked a nationwide movement against income inequality and government policies designed to benefit wealthy corporations, was finally cleared by the New York Police Department around 3 a.m. on Monday morning.
Reporters on the scene say the the police beat and used pepper spray on peaceful protesters who did not resist arrest. After the last demonstrators were arrested and removed the park, sanitation workers entered and disposed of their possessions, including food, medical supplies, and the 5,000 books in Occupy Wall Street’s free library.
The unexpected raid was accompanied by an attempted media blackout, as the police prohibited reporters (including those with press passes) from going to the park, closed the subways leading to downtown Manhattan, and even prevented news helicopters from flying in the airspace over the park.
Neither were politicians spared. Ydanis Rodriguez, a city council member representing New York City’s 10th district visiting the park, was reportedly injured and arrested by the police.
Occupy Wall Street began on September 27th, when a small group of protesters arrived in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, a few blocks away from Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange, and refused to leave. It is modeled on the successful protest earlier this year in Egypt, where demonstrators refused to leave Tahrir Square until Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down. It has inspired other Occupy protests in cities throughout the United States.
This was the first time Occupy Wall Street was raided, though Occupy protests in many other cities have already been violently cleared by the police. Last month, an Iraqi war veteran was critically injured during a raid on Occupy Oakland in Oakland, California. Occupy Oakland was forcibly cleared again on Monday morning, less than a day before the Occupy Wall Street raid.
Although Occupy Wall Street started as a apolitical and grassroots phenomenon, it has been supported by many powerful Democratic politicians and unions. Even President Obama has indicated his support, leading
A secret memo, written by Justice Department lawyers David Barron and Martin Lederman, provides a legal rationale for the assassination of Al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, according to the New York Times.
Al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen last month in an attack carried out by an unmanned CIA drone. His death was controversial, since unlike other suspected terrorists killed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, al-Awlaki was an American citizen born in New Mexico. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul seemed particularly upset that the government was, in his words, “assassinating American citizens without charges.”
In fact, there are many laws and regulations that suggest al-Awlaki’s assassination would be illegal if he were not considered an Al-Qaeda operative fighting a war against the United States. These include Executive Order 12333 (which bans assassinations), 18 U.S.C. 1119 (which prohibits Americans from killing other Americans abroad), international rules of war, and the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. According to the Times, the memo considers all of these legal constraints, and finds that the assassination of al-Awlaki does not violate any of them.
That [executive] order, the lawyers found, blocked unlawful killings of political leaders outside of war, but not the killing of a lawful target in an armed conflict.
A federal statute that prohibits Americans from murdering other Americans abroad, the lawyers wrote, did not apply either, because it is not “murder” to kill a wartime enemy in compliance with the laws of war.
But that raised another pressing question: would it comply with the laws of war if the drone operator who fired the missile was a Central Intelligence Agency official, who, unlike a soldier, wore no uniform? The memorandum concluded that such a case would not be a war crime, although the operator might be in theoretical jeopardy of being prosecuted in a Yemeni court for violating Yemen’s domestic laws against murder, a highly unlikely possibility.
Then there was the Bill of Rights: the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee that a “person” cannot be seized by the government unreasonably, and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee that the government may not deprive a person of life “without due process of law.”
The memo concluded that what was reasonable, and the process that was due, was different for Mr. Awlaki than for an ordinary criminal.
At the last Republican presidential debate, a gay soldier serving in Iraq named Stephen Hill asked candidates whether they would “circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military” by repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” When he finished speaking, the crowd began booing him, and Republicans stayed silent. Rick Santorum, the former governor of Pennsylvania known for his extremely conservative stances on “social issues” like gay rights, answered the soldier’s question, and refused to thank the soldier for his service.
Republicans have since realized it is not in their best interests to disrespect a war veteran — no matter his sexual orientation — and are frantically trying to backtrack. The day after the debate, Santorum went on Fox News to thank Hill for his service and condemn the audience for booing him. On Sunday, presidential candidate Herman Cain explained that “in retrospect,” it would have been “appropriate” for him to speak out against the crowd when they booed Hill.
But Republicans still refuse to take full responsibility for the situation. Santorum claims that he “seriously did not hear those boos” because he was “too focused on the question and formulating [his] answer,” while Cain argues “that maybe they were booing the whole ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal more so than booing that soldier.”
These belated half-apologies are meaningless. The boos were disrespectful, but they’e only a symptom of a much larger problem the Republicans face. The problem is that every Republican presidential candidate has gone on record saying they want to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and force gay soldiers out of the military.
There is no way their desire to expel soldiers from the military who have volunteered to defend their nation and are already fighting overseas can be seen as anything but profoundly disrespectful to both gay and straight soldiers. If Republicans actually valued or respected American soldiers, they would not deny them service just to make a foolish political point.
President Obama made a similar point on Saturday. “You want to be commander in chief?” he asked. “You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.”
Hopefully, the attempts to distance themselves from booing a gay soldier indicate that Republicans still have some respect for the military, although we won’t know for sure until one candidate — maybe Romney — finally does the presidential thing and drops his support for the discriminatory and disrespectful policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The world of dark-money politics may soon get a little brighter, if the IRS agrees to investigate a number of nonprofit political groups associated with political action committees and Super PACs.
The groups that are almost certainly violating tax law are nonprofits known as 501(c)(4) groups, after the section of the tax code that governs their behavior. They are very similar to 501(c)(3) groups, which are typical nonprofit charities, with one important difference: while 501(c)(3) groups are legally prohibited from interfering in politics, 501(c)(4) groups are allowed to make political contributions as long as it’s not their “principle purpose.”
501(c)(4) organizations are officially considered “social welfare organizations,” not political organizations, but that hasn’t stopped many 501(c)(4)s from engaging in politics. In fact, many 501(c)(4)s exist only to funnel money to Super PACs that run political advertisements supporting or opposing political candidates and policies. They’re like shell corporations, only they’re nonprofits that can accept tax-deductible donations. And unlike a Super PAC, which can accept unlimited corporate donations but must publicly disclose its donors to the Federal Elections Commission, a 501(c)(4) — since it’s not considered a primarily political organization — never has to register with the Federal Elections Commission or disclose the names of the individuals and corporations that fund it.
Unsurprisingly, many political operatives have seen the value in being able to accept unlimited corporate donations without telling the public, and many 501(c)(4)s have been set up to shield the identities of donors to Super PACs. For instance, Karl Rove’s Super PAC, American Crossroads, is associated with the 501(c)(4) group Crossroads GPS, and Priorities USA Action, a Super PAC focused on Barack Obama’s re-election, is associated with the 501(c)(4) group Priorities USA.
It seems these 501(c)(4) groups are breaking the law, since their primary purpose is to interfere in politics, and they could conceivably be prosecuted by the IRS. Last week, campaign finance watchdogs Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center sent a letter to the IRS urging them to investigate these 501(c)(4) groups and others like them. Last October, Sen. Dick Durbin sent a similar letter to the IRS, and in April, longtime campaign finance advocate and former Sen. Russ Feingold called the creation of Priorities Action USA akin to “playing with fire.”
Recently, satirist Stephen Colbert mocked the close ties between political groups like Super PACS and supposedly non-political 501(c)(4) organizations. In a segment on his show (which can be viewed below), Colbert sets up a 501(c)(4) named SHHH! to funnel money to his SuperPAC, Americans For A Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. His lawyer, Trevor Potter, reminds him that, legally, his 501(c)(4) organization’s “principle purpose for spending its money” cannot be politics. “No, my principle purpose is an educational entity,” Colbert replies, “I want to educate the public that gay people cause earthquakes.”
He later seems shocked that what he has just done is legal. He asks, “I can take secret donations from my (c)(4) and give it to my supposedly transparent Super PAC…what is the difference between that and money laundering?” Potter can only reply that “it’s hard to say.” Unfortunately for many political 501(c)(4)s, the IRS may soon come to the same conclusion.
Nezar Hamze is a conservative Muslim — not religiously conservative, but financially and socially conservative — who wanted to join the Broward Republican Executive Committee in Broward County, Florida. Last Tuesday, the committee voted to deny his membership application, as a crowd of Republican onlookers cheered and called him a “terrorist.”
When asked his political beliefs, Hamze told Salon magazine’s Justin Elliott, “I’m a strict social conservative, a fiscal conservative, a very strict constitutionalist. The protection of civil liberties for all Americans is supreme.” These beliefs fit with the Republican Party’s platform. But Hamze, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida, disagrees with Republican orthodoxy on one key point: he doesn’t think it makes sense to treat all American Muslims like enemies and potential terrorists.
Last year, Hamze challenged Rep. Allen West (R-FL) at a town hall, objecting to his Islamophobic remarks. Later, he sent a letter to Rep. West asking him not to associate with bigots like Pamela Geller, whose anti-Muslim ideology was endorsed by Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Brieivik. That many Republicans believe Hamze’s criticism of Rep. West shows he is insufficiently Republican shows a major problem with the Republican Party. If the Republicans make hating Muslims a condiiton of joining their party, they will never attract Muslims or non-Muslims who nonetheless believe it’s wrong to attack an entire group of people based on their religion.
Where does that leave Muslims who actually hold conservative views but aren’t welcome in the Republican Party because they’re the wrong religion? “A lot of Muslims I know,” Hamze told Elliott, “their values really line up with the conservative values of the Republican party.” In fact, the main reason Hamze tried to join BREC was so he could start a “Muslim Republicans” club for Muslims with conservative political views.
Just before his membership application was denied in a secret vote, Hamze addressed the crowd of Republicans: “I’m aligned with Republican values. And I want to serve the party.” But the Republicans don’t want his service, apparently because they feel it’s more valuable to court the Islamophobic vote. Hamze and his Muslim Republican friends may want to “fight the myth of the Muslim vote being Democratic,” as he explained to Elliott, but it’s not a myth when the Republicans refuse to let the Muslim vote become Republican. In the end, it seems, Democrats will continue to benefit from the simple fact that they do have not made the demonization of an entire group of Americans based on their religion a central part of their party platform.
As the recession has deepened, many newly unemployed Americans have found that it is almost impossible to get a job, especially if they have been out of work for more than a year. This is because employers discriminate against the unemployed, often viewing them as rejects and poor workers that their previous employers got rid of for a reason. Jobless Americans become trapped in a cycle of unemployment and have little recourse, since it’s perfectly legal to discriminate against unemployed job applicants.
Fortunately, the situation may finally change if President Obama’s jobs bill is passed by Congress.
Mr. Obama’s jobs bill would prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants because they are unemployed. Under the proposal, it would be “an unlawful employment practice” if a business with 15 or more employees refused to hire a person “because of the individual’s status as unemployed.” Unsuccessful job applicants could sue and recover damages for violations, just like when an employer discriminates on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
This protection for the unemployed is long overdue, given how many Americans have lost their jobs in the latest economic downturn.
The Labor Department reports that 14 million people are unemployed. About 43 percent of them — 6 million people — are classified as long-term unemployed, having been out of work for 27 weeks or more. Of that group, nearly 4.5 million have been unemployed for a year or more. The average duration of unemployment among jobless workers is 40 weeks, the longest in more than 60 years.
On Monday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor decided to play politics with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, declaring on Fox News that any money the government spends on relief for those areas devastated by the hurricane must be paid for by “savings elsewhere,” which means cutting other government expenditures. And not just any government expenditures; Cantor wants to cut funding for policemen, firemen, and other first responders who provide necessary help to communities — especially during natural disasters.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu realizes the obvious problem with such an idea. “Does it really make sense,” she asks, “to pay for response and reconstruction costs from past disasters by reducing our capacity to prepare for future disasters?”
It’s not just Democrats who object to Cantor’s plan. Even his fellow Republicans realize it’s foolish. On his radio show, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said, “My concern is that we help people in need. For the FEMA money that’s going to flow, it’s up to them on how they get it. I don’t think it’s the time to get into that [deficit] debate.”
Cantor himself once realized the importance of federal emergency aid — at least when it comes to his own district. In 2004, after his district was stuck by Tropical Storm Gaston, he had no qualms begging for federal emergency aid. At the time, he didn’t seem to care where the money came from and certainly didn’t advocate cutting funding for first-responders. “The magnitude of the damage suffered by the Richmond area is beyond what the Commonwealth [of Virgina] can handle,” he explained in a September 2004 press release, “and that is why I asked the president to make federal funds available for the citizens affected by Gaston.”
Short-term memories are the rule in Washington, but on disaster-relief, the House Majority Leader is setting a new bar.
On Tuesday, investigative reporter John Cook reported on the Gawker website that Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly had pushed his local police department to investigate an officer who allegedly dated O’Reilly’s wife while they were separated.
Cook reports that Richard Harasym, an Internal Affairs detective in the Nassau County Police Department in O’Reilly’s hometown, was ordered to help O’Reilly’s private detectives investigate an officer in the department who was romantically involved with O’Reilly’s wife, Maureen O’Reilly (nee McPhilmy). The commissioner of the police department at the time, Lawrence Mulvey, is described as a friend of O’Reilly’s and was allegedly expecting him to make a large donation to the police department’s nonprofit organization. After declining that assignment, Harasym was reportedly transferred out of the Internal Affairs department. Gawker’s sources say that he was transferred because he refused to help O’Reilly.
Internal Affairs is intended to investigate police misconduct, and dating a married woman — though perhaps immoral — is not police misconduct. And the officer in question may not have even been dating a married woman. O’Reilly’s nephew, according to Cook, mentioned to staffers at Fox News that McPhilmy started dating the officer while she and O’Reilly were already in a trial separation. Indeed, McPhilmy bought a house under her maiden name last year, and O’Reilly has not been wearing his wedding ring this year — suggesting that they intend to split up, if they haven’t already.
It’s not hard to see why McPhilmy and O’Reilly may have decided to call it quits. In 2004, O’Reilly was accused of sexually harassing Andrea Mackris, a young producer on his Fox News show The O’Reilly Factor. Among other things, he allegedly called Mackris on the phone and told her steamy sexual fantasies — including one involving falafel — while masturbating with a vibrator. The parties later settled out of court.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. When Mackris considered exposing O’Reilly’s harassment, he allegedly threatened to enlist his Fox News connections to ruin her life:
“If you cross Fox News Channel, it’s not just me, it’s [Fox President] Roger Ailes who will go after you. … I’m the street guy out front making loud noises about the issues, but Ailes operates behind the scenes, strategizes and makes things happen so that one day BAM! The person gets what’s coming to them but never sees it happen. Look at [prominent Fox News critic] Al Franken, one day he’s going to get a knock on his door and life as he’s known it will change forever. That day will happen, trust me.”
O’Reilly and Fox have been known to retaliate against critics in the past. A few years ago, O’Reilly warned a caller on his radio show, “We have your phone number, and we’re going to turn it over to Fox security, and you’ll be getting a little visit. … Fox security then will contact your local authorities, and you will be held accountable.” And after a New York Times journalist reported that Fox News had lower-than-expected ratings, rumors began to surface that he had spent time in rehab before writing the article.
Fox still appears to be in the business of intimidation, judging by their numerous on-air attacks against John Cook and his employer, Gawker. But Cook says he’s not worried about retaliation from Fox News. “I’ve never been to rehab or anything like that,” he says, “and there’s nothing they can say that will embarrass Gawker.” Moreover, he says, “They just want this to go away, and if they know that if they do anything to us, we’ll just write about it.” The one thing that Cook expects from O’Reilly is an interview. “O’Reilly has a history of sending out producers to stop people and get ambush interviews,” Cook says. “I’m prepared for that.”
Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya without launching a full-scale attack perplexed Republicans, who first accused him of being too willing to involve the U.S. in an unnecessary war and then accused him of being too willing to let other countries take the lead in supporting the Libyan rebels. Obama dismissed the criticism, confident that his plan to “lead from behind” by quietly contributing American air support to a NATO coalition could succeed. The Libyan rebels’ recent success shows that his strategy worked, and the Republicans’ baseless criticism missed the point.
The Republicans viewed the United States’ participation in a coalition led by NATO troops as disrespectful to American exceptionalism — the idea that America is the greatest and most powerful nation in the world, and as such has a duty to make the world more like it. Republicans quickly stereotyped him as being at best naive and at worst anti-American, for allowing other countries — especially European countries — to lead the NATO operation supporting Libyan rebels.
“In the past,” Romney explained to a conservative radio host, “America has been feared sometimes, has been respected, but today, that America is seen as being weak.” The sign of America’s weakness? “We’re following the French into Libya.” Romney goes on to say that while he French involvement, “but I think we look to America to be the leader of the world.”
Romney’s fellow Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann expressed a similar view. Like Romney, she seemed almost offended that the United States worked with other countries instead of just telling them what to do. “We are the head,” she argued in a New Hampshire presidential debate, “we are not the tail. The president was wrong. All we have to know is the president deferred leadership to France.”
The fact that France was leading the coalition while the United States was a mere member embarrassed conservatives. They do not want true international cooperation, but a “coalition of the willing” in which the U.S. does whatever it wants and orders countries follow. Romney, for one, could not understand how Obama could both want Gadhafi gone and be willing to defer to international institutions. The president, he said, “calls for the removal of Moammar Gadhafi but then conditions our action on the directions we get from the Arab League and United Nations.” He saw no reason to take direction from international institutions unless they would rubber stamp everything the U.S. did.
The chief concern of Republicans was that the United States, by refusing to directly intervene in Libya or take control of the NATO coalition, would inevitably face defeat. Of course, that’s not what happened. Even though the U.S. stuck to its limited support role, Libyan rebels successfully drove Gadhafi from power. But that has not stopped Republican critics from attacking the president. Presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently released a statement arguing that “ridding the world of the likes of Gadhafi is a good thing, but this indecisive President had little to do with this triumph.”
Now that Republicans’ fears that Obama’s approach to Libya will result have defeat have been disproven, they’ve begun arguing that the war could have been over much faster if Obama had intervened more aggressively in Libya. But this misses a key advantage of Obama’s “lead from behind” strategy: legitimacy, Because the intervention was supported by the Arab League and the U.N., and the U.S. did not insist on leading the rebels, the rebels’ cause seems genuine. Had the U.S. insisted on leading the rebels, Gadhafi and his allies could easily have characterized them as American pawns who did not care about Libya. As Anne Applebaum explains:
The rebels who just marched into Tripoli and waved at Al-Jazeera’s cameras looked like a Libyan force, not a Western one — because they were. The images of them stomping on Gaddafi’s photograph looked a lot more authentic, and will play better in Libya and across the Arab world, than did the images of Marines pulling down a statue of Saddam Hussein in 2003, an American flag draped over his head.
Republicans might believe that the Arab dictators can only be deposed through excessive American military force, but Obama has demonstrated in Libya that there is a better way. The United States can support freedom-minded rebels without turning their struggle into an American war. Republicans who think “leading from behind” is weak don’t appreciate its real power.
Throughout Sunday and Monday, Libyan rebels reported that, while they were still looking for Gadhafi, they had already captured three of Gadhafi’s sons: Seif al-Islam, Mohammed, and Saadi Gadhafi. In subsequent days, however, the world learned that all of the sons had either escaped from the rebels or never been captured by them in the first place.
On Monday night, Seif al-Islam walked into the Rixos Hotel, a Tripoli hotel where foreign reporters were staying that at the time was under the control of government forces, flashed the “V for victory” sign, and took reporters on a tour of his father’s compound. His appearance confused and embarrassed the rebel leadership.
It was not clear whether Gadhafi’s son, who turned up at the Rixos hotel, where about 30 foreign journalists have been staying under the close watch of regime minders, had escaped from rebel custody or never been captured in the first place. His arrest was announced on Monday by both the rebels and the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court, which has indicted him and his father.
ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said the court never received official confirmation from Libya’s rebel authorities about the arrest.
The rebel leadership — which had said Seif al-Islam was captured without giving details on where he was held — seemed stunned. A rebel spokesman, Sadeq al-Kabir, had no explanation and could only say, “This could be all lies.”
Only hours before, they had made a big show of negotiating with the International Criminal Court in the Hague to hand over Seif so he could face charges of crimes against humanity. Instead, the ICC distanced itself from the rebels and Seif spent the night giving interviews to the foreign press, telling reporters that “we are going to break the backbone of the rebels,” and “the ICC can go to hell.”
He was not the only Gadhafi son who got media coverage. His older brother Mohammed had been placed under house arrest by the rebels on Sunday. At one point, he even called Al-Jazeera and began apologizing to the Libyan people for the excesses of the Gadhafi regime, before suddenly exclaiming, “I’m being attacked right now. This is gunfire inside my house. They’re inside my house,” before abruptly hanging up.
On Monday, though, rebel spokesman al-Kabir told the press that Mohammed had somehow escaped from his house and eluded the rebel soldiers guarding him. Perhaps as a consolation prize, he added that the rebels had successfully captured a third Gadhafi son, Saadi. However, the Libyan ambassador to the United States now says that “the rebels never claimed they had arrested Al-Saadi. We never claimed that he was in our custody.”
All of this backtracking casts severe doubt on the reliability of reports from Libyan rebel fighters and the Transitional National Council headquartered in Benghazi. Some of it can be attributed to the fog of war and the difficulty of communicating news in war-torn Tripoli back to the rebels’ headquarters across the country. Still, the rebels’ tendency to make triumphant statements before they know the actual facts on the ground may not bode well for their future governance.
Although the Libyan rebels have insisted that Western nations and NATO leave their country once they have finished defeating Gadhafi’s forces, there is one group of Westerners they’re happy to host: oil company executives.
Already, the New York Times reports, oil companies from Italy, France, Britain, and the United States, among others, have begun preparing for a return to Libya. Most of these companies already had oil exploration agreements with the Gadhafi administration, but it is unclear whether their agreements will be honored by a new rebel government. Still, the rebels appear to look favorably on the Western companies because their countries assisted them in overthrowing Gadhafi.
“We don’t have a problem with Western countries like Italians, French and U.K. companies,” Abdeljalil Mayouf, a spokesman for the Libyan rebel oil company Agoco, was quoted as saying by Reuters. “But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil.”
Russia, China and Brazil did not back strong sanctions on the Qaddafi regime, and they generally supported a negotiated settlement to the fighting. All three countries have large oil companies that are seeking deals in Africa for oil reserves.
Of course, the fact that Western oil companies are getting favorable treatment from the new Libyan government casts aspersions on their reason for intervening in Libya in the first place. The United States, which “led from behind,” imports less than 1 percent of its oil from Libya. But countries like France and Italy depend heavily on Libyan oil.
Italy in recent years has relied on Libya for more than 20 percent of its oil imports, and France, Switzerland, Ireland and Austria all depended on Libya for more than 15 percent of their imports before the fighting began. Libya’s importance to France was underscored on Monday when President Nicolas Sarkozy invited the head of the rebels’ national transitional council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, to Paris for consultations.
Members of the Tea Party position themselves as a populist movement opposed to big government and excessive government spending. They claim that they are average citizens uninterested in politics who are simply fed up with the federal government. Not true, according to political scientists David Campbell and Robert Putnam. Campbell and Putnam have been tracking voters’ political attitudes since 2006 — three years before Tea Party protests began in 2009 — and found that most of those now involved in the Tea Party movement were previously very active in the Republican Party.
“Our analysis casts doubt on the Tea Party’s “origin story.” Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.”
Though the Tea Party likes to pretend they’re a diverse libertarian movement, their demographics overwhelmingly match those of the evangelical wing of the Republican Party: white, socially conservative, and opposed to the separation of church and state.
“So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.
More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics.”
Michele Bachmann, whose campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has been fueled by the Tea Party, also has a false origin story. A recent profile of her in the New Yorker explains that Bachmann was involved in politics even before she ran for the Minnesota State Senate.
“For many years, Bachmann has said that she showed up at the convention on a whim and nominated herself at the urging of some friends. She was, she suggests, an accidental candidate. This version of history has become central to her political biography and is repeated in most profiles of her. A 2009 column by George F. Will, for example, says that “on the spur of the moment” some Bachmann allies suggested nominating her.
But she already had a long history of political activism—the Carter and Reagan campaigns, her anti-abortion and education activism, her school-board race—and she had been targeting Laidig for a year. According to an article in the Stillwater Gazette, on October 6, 1999, Bachmann was talking about running against Laidig months before she went to the convention. “I tried to present information to Senator Laidig on Profile of Learning, he was not interested,” she said. “And I told him that if he’s not willing to be more responsive to the citizens, that I may have to run for his seat.” She told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that she had decided to run against Laidig a year earlier.”
Rick Perry has made much of the “Texas Miracle” of job growth, but it may not be as miraculous as it first appears. According to the New York Times, many of the jobs added during Perry’s time as governor pay only minimum wage.
“Much of Texas’s recent growth is the result of adding low-wage jobs. Of the 211,000 jobs added last year, 37 percent (or more than 76,000) paid at or below minimum wage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Texas now leads the nation in minimum-wage workers (550,000 in all). That hasn’t improved our income inequality. Despite the good economy, Texas remains a state of extreme wealth and desperate poverty.”
And Rick Perry’s latest budget squeezes the fastest-growing sectors of the Texas economy, which will surely lead to more job losses. The Austin American-Statesman reports:
“Almost half of the state’s job growth the past two years was led by education, health care and government, the sectors of the economy that will now take a hit as federal stimulus money runs out and the Legislature’s 8 percent cut in state spending translates into thousands of layoffs among state workers and teachers in the coming weeks.”
Texas may have added more jobs than any other state in the last year, but most of those jobs won’t help American workers escape poverty — and Rick Perry’s single-minded focus on cutting government spending means that many of the jobs added won’t be around next year.
Before the Tea Party hijacked the Republican Party, Republicans cared more about the ability to govern than ideological purity and showmanship. Recall conservatives’ main argument against Obama during the 2008 election, that as a mere junior senator he lacked “executive experience.” Days before the 2008 election, Sarah Palin asked how Obama could be President of the United States, having never previously governed.
“If you think about it, Barack Obama’s record, what is in his record?” [Palin] asked the crowd of over 15,000 who were gathered around the state capitol. “What has he accomplished? He spent about 300 days in the U.S. Senate before becoming a presidential candidate.”
Then Palin went off script to voice the frustrations she had shared with her husband.
“Todd and I were talking about this, has he ever wielded a veto pen?” she asked. “Has he ever had to make the tough decisions on how to govern best for the people whom he should be held accountable to?”
Of course, Obama went on to win the election, and now has far more executive experience than any of his Republican rivals.
This time around, though, it seems like Republicans are looking for a different kind of experience. On Monday, former Governor Mitt Romney recalled his extensive experience in the private sector — including at the helm of the wealthy consulting firm Bain Capital, which he co-founded — and told reporters that “understanding how the economy works by having worked in the real economy is finally essential in the White House.”
Speaking of his opponents, he said, “I respect the other people in this race, but I think the only other person who has that kind of extensive private sector experience besides me in the Republican race is Herman Cain,” the former pizza chain CEO who is a long-shot for the nomination. The remark is almost certainly a swipe at Rick Perry, the Texas governor who recently entered the race for the Republican nomination. Perry has extensive executive experience at the state level but lacks any experience in the private sector.
Romney himself has a strong record from his time leading Massachusetts, but he’s mostly underplayed this in favor of presenting himself as a businessman who can fix the economy. His signature achievement — reforming the health insurance system to provide better coverage for Massachusetts residents — has now become a liability, as Republican opponents compare it not unreasonably to Barack Obama’s approach.
Romney’s tactic may make political sense. Just look what happened to Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, when he criticized Michele Bachmann during the Fox News-sponsored Republican debate last week. Bachmann frequently takes extreme stances that endear her to the Tea Party, he argued, but has no actual legislative achievements. Echoing Palin’s criticism of Obama in 2008, he told the debate hall that “she fought for less government spending, we got a lot more. She led the effort against ObamaCare, we got ObamaCare… If that’s your view of effective leadership with results, please stop, because you’re killing us.” The audience fell silent before erupting in boos, shocked that Pawlenty would dare criticize Bachmann’s lack of experience.
Two days later, she won the Ames straw poll, and Pawlenty’s disappointing third-place finish forced him to drop out of the race.
About The National Memo
The National Memo is a political newsletter and website that combines the spirit of investigative journalism with new technology and ideas. We cover campaigns, elections, the White House, Congress, and the world with a fresh outlook. Our own journalism — as well as our selections of the smartest stories available every day — reflects a clear and strong perspective, without the kind of propaganda, ultra-partisanship and overwrought ideology that burden so much of our political discourse.