Republican suicide in Virginia?

Having lived in Virginia for many years, I take more than a passing interest in the political scene there and this fall’s election will be a doozy!  Not quite sure what Virginia Republicans think they are doing, but unless everyone in Virginia has totally lost it, Terry McAuliffe should be the next governor.

This morning, the Washington Post has a story with 3 earlier related ones.  Here are the headlines with links:

E.W. Jackson a wild card in Va. GOP campaign  This is the main profile and biography.

Va. GOP’s E.W. Jackson: So far right he has said Democrats have ‘Antichrist’ agenda

E.W. Jackson complicates Cuccinelli bid

Va. GOP picks conservatives for fall ticket; black minister is lieutenant governor choice

So what exactly is going on in Virginia?   On May 18, the Post described the ticket this way

Thousands of Virginia Republicans on Saturday picked a slate of statewide candidates who vowed to stay true to conservative principles, resisting calls to remake the GOP message after losses in 2012.

At the top of the ticket is gubernatorial hopeful Ken Cuccinelli II, the attorney general. Known for high-profile battles against “Obamacare,” abortion and a university climate scientist, Cuccinelli stood by what detractors have called an out-of-the-mainstream agenda.

E.W. Jackson, a minister from Chesapeake, won the nomination for lieutenant governor with a full-throated appeal for limited government, traditional families and gun rights. “We will not only win an election in November, we will open the hearts and minds of our people and save this commonwealth and save this country,” said Jackson, the first African American nominated by the Virginia GOP for statewide office since 1988. [That was Doug Wilder, who won.]

For attorney general, the party nominated state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), who this year successfully pushed tougher voter ID rules. “Are you ready to stop Obamacare in its tracks?” he asked the crowd in his acceptance speech, eliciting cheers.

Republican nominee for governor Ken Cuccinelli, right, is joined onstage with the other members of the ticket, including E. W. Jacksonon, second from left.

Republican nominee for governor Ken Cuccinelli, right, is joined onstage with the other members of the ticket, including E. W. Jackson, second from left.

It is as if the election last year never happened.  Mitt Romney didn’t lose.  Barack Obama never won.

But the candidate in the spotlight is Jackson.

Jackson’s improbable rise, one that has astonished Republicans far and wide, is the latest of a number of incarnations, including foster child, Marine, Harvard law school graduate and even Democrat. But the minister who is now GOP gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli II’s running mate has long used his booming voice to endear himself to conservatives.

Still, Jackson’s words — sometimes eloquent, sometimes raw, often impassioned — are causing anxiety for many Republicans as the resurfacing of his past statements about homosexuality and abortion have threatened to disrupt the campaign.

Instead of promoting their new ticket, Republicans have answered for Jackson’s once calling gays “perverted” and “sick” and saying Planned Parenthood has been “far more lethal” to blacks “than the KKK.”

Jackson has ties to Massachusetts which I didn’t know.

After a tour with the Marines, Jackson graduated with honors in 1975 from the University of Massachusetts, where he majored in philosophy. Then he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1978. He spent more than 20 years in Boston, practicing law, pastoring at New Cornerstone Exodus Church, serving as a chaplain to the Boston Fire Department, and hosting radio shows, including one called “Earl Jackson Across America.”

At one point, he was a Democrat, and he was elected to the party’s Massachusetts State Committee, where he distinguished himself with his conservative views. “I thought, ‘Wow, here’s a great potential leader,’ ” said James Roosevelt, who is a grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt and who was then and is now legal counsel to the state Democratic organization. “Then I learned of his views, and I thought: ‘What’s he doing? This is not a leader of the Democratic Party.’ ”

Jackson became a Republican in the early 1980s, explaining that Democrats’ embrace of the gay rights movement violated his religious beliefs. In 1989, he joined the opposition to a proposal to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians in Massachusetts. “We intend to blow this bill to smithereens,” he told reporters then. “We intend to defeat this legislation and bury it so deep no one will ever find it again.”

Sorry Rev. Jackson.  We not only passed that bill, but we also have marriage equality.  I have to admit I never listen much to talk radio or to Jackson’s program.  He moved to Virginia in 1998, perhaps thinking the political climate there would be more in tuned to his views and clearly he was right about that: he is now the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor.  Jackson has also been affiliated with the Christian Coalition and the Tea Party.

“The Republicans I’m talking to are saying, ‘What the hell are they doing in Virginia?’ ” said Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “Is this, ‘101 ways to lose an election’? You’re coming out of the gate with comments everyone has to explain. You’re wasting a lot of time and energy batting that back when you should be doing other things to get the guy known.”

Although unknown to many Republicans, Jackson in recent years has built a following among the most activist of Virginia’s conservatives, many of whom were delegates at the convention. But Republicans are now concerned, Steele said, that Jackson will turn off the party’s own voters. “You can’t have a situation where Republicans say, ‘You know what? I can’t have this’ and they stay home or vote for the other guy,” he said.

Added to the mix is the investigation of the current Republican governor, Bob McDonnell awkwardly headed by the current Republican Attorney General and nominee for Governor, Ken Cuccinelli who took money from the same supporter.  The New York Times has that story.

Virginia’s attorney general has appointed an outside prosecutor to investigate Gov. Bob McDonnell’s financial disclosures, in a widening scandal over a political donor who wrote a $15,000 check for the wedding of the governor’s daughter, and who was also a benefactor of the attorney general.

Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the attorney general, who is also the Republican candidate for governor this year, said on Wednesday that he named the outside prosecutor last November to look into Mr. McDonnell’s disclosures.

Mr. Cuccinelli said “information came to my attention” triggering the appointment of the prosecutor. His referral of the case to the Richmond commonwealth’s attorney, Mike Herring, whose role is similar to that of a district attorney, “was not a conclusion that any violation occurred,’’ Mr. Cuccinelli said in a statement.

The investigation came to light through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Richmond Times-Dispatch, which first reported it.

Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Cuccinelli, who are yoked in an awkward political alliance – the former a popular governor of a purple state and his would-be successor, a Tea Party favorite — have been swept up in controversy over their friendship with a Virginia businessman, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., who gave generously to both officials.

What a tangle!  Can Terry McAuliffe pull out a win for the Democrats?

“We’re in a deep [expletive],” said one Virginia Republican strategist. “The only good news is that the Democrats have Terry McAuliffe. It’s the only thing keeping us glued to a chance of victory.”

McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, has faced questions about his leadership of an electric car company and some unflattering quotes from his own memoir.

All I can say is “stay ‘tooned”.

Photograph: Steve Helber/AP

Freedom of Religion and Freedom from Religion

The first Amendment to the Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….”  I don’t think that Rick Santorum has read the Constitution recently if ever.  Last night on Hardball  Chris Matthews tried to  referee a shouting match between Michael Steele, the former chair of the Republican Party who tried to defend Santorum’s introduction of his religious beliefs into governing policy and David Corn who tried without success to explain why the introduction of religion was wrong.  All three of them missed the point.  The point is that we can have no established religion in this country and while those who govern as President can have personal religious beliefs, they cannot impose them on the country.

Karen Santorum says husband’s presidential run is ‘God’s will’

Kathleen Parker ended her recent column titled “The Trials of Saint Santorum” this way

Everything stems from his allegiance to the Catholic Church’s teachings that every human life has equal value and dignity. The church’s objection to birth control is based on concerns that sex without consequences would lead to men reducing women “to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of (their) own desires,” as well as abuse of power by public authorities and a false sense of autonomy.

Within that framework, everything Santorum says and does makes sense, even if one doesn’t agree. When he says that he doesn’t think the government should fund prenatal testing because it leads to abortion, this is emotional Santorum, father of a disabled child and another who died hours after a premature birth. In both instances, many doctors would have recommended abortion, but Santorum believes that those lives, no matter how challenging, have intrinsic value.

Though Santorum’s views are certainly controversial, his biggest problem isn’t that he is out of step with mainstream America. His biggest problem is that he lacks prudence in picking his battles and his words. The American people are loath to elect a preacher or a prophet to lead them out of the desert of unemployment. And they are justified in worrying how such imprudence might translate in areas of far graver concern than whether Santorum doesn’t personally practice birth control.

Parker’s statement that “the American people are loath to elect a preacher of a prophet” is exactly right.  And he is definitely out of step with mainstream America.  Maureen Dowd was even blunter opening her column with

Rick Santorum has been called a latter-day Savonarola.

That’s far too grand. He’s more like a small-town mullah.

Santorum is not merely engaged in a culture war, but “a spiritual war,” as he called it four years ago. “The Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country — the United States of America,” he told students at Ave Maria University in Florida. He added that mainline Protestantism in this country “is in shambles. It is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.”

Satan strikes, a Catholic exorcist told me, when there are “soul wounds.” Santorum, who is considered “too Catholic” even by my über-Catholic brothers, clearly believes that America’s soul wounds include men and women having sex for reasons other than procreation, people involved in same-sex relationships, women using contraception or having prenatal testing, environmentalists who elevate “the Earth above man,” women working outside the home, “anachronistic” public schools, Mormonism (which he said is considered “a dangerous cult” by some Christians), and President Obama (whom he obliquely and oddly compared to Hitler and accused of having “some phony theology”).

Rick Santorum wants us to be a Christian country and beyond that a fundamentalist Catholic one.  How different this is from President John F. Kennedy declaring that the Pope would not run the government.  Mullah Rick needs to read the Constitution. 

Rick Santorum talks to the media after Wednesday's debate. | AP Photo

It is too easy to make fun of him.  This is a dangerous man.  We need to take him seriously.

After Health Care Reform Passage – Threats of Violence

Before the House even completed its work on passage of the Senate Bill and then the Reconciliation Bill, the ugliness had begun to escalate.

OK, so VP Biden kinda embarrassed the President with an F-bomb, but that was small potatoes compared with the racial remarks aimed at black Congressmen, the anti-gay shouts at Barney Frank, and a Congressman shouting “baby killer” at Bart Stupak (one of the most anti-abortion members of Congress) over the weekend. And it is certainly insignificant compared to what has happened since.

Bob Herbert titled his New York Times column “An Absence of Class.”  I think he was being too kind.  But what he says rings very true.

A group of lowlifes at a Tea Party rally in Columbus, Ohio, last week taunted and humiliated a man who was sitting on the ground with a sign that said he had Parkinson’s disease. The disgusting behavior was captured on a widely circulated videotape. One of the Tea Party protesters leaned over the man and sneered: “If you’re looking for a handout, you’re in the wrong end of town.”

Another threw money at the man, first one bill and then another, and said contemptuously, “I’ll pay for this guy. Here you go. Start a pot.”

In Washington on Saturday, opponents of the health care legislation spit on a black congressman and shouted racial slurs at two others, including John Lewis, one of the great heroes of the civil rights movement. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was taunted because he is gay.

At some point, we have to decide as a country that we just can’t have this: We can’t allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress — epithets that The Times will not allow me to repeat here.

It is 2010, which means it is way past time for decent Americans to rise up against this kind of garbage, to fight it aggressively wherever it appears. And it is time for every American of good will to hold the Republican Party accountable for its role in tolerating, shielding and encouraging foul, mean-spirited and bigoted behavior in its ranks and among its strongest supporters.

The G.O.P. poisons the political atmosphere and then has the gall to complain about an absence of bipartisanship.

The toxic clouds that are the inevitable result of the fear and the bitter conflicts so relentlessly stoked by the Republican Party — think blacks against whites, gays versus straights, and a whole range of folks against immigrants — tend to obscure the tremendous damage that the party’s policies have inflicted on the country. If people are arguing over immigrants or abortion or whether gays should be allowed to marry, they’re not calling the G.O.P. to account for (to take just one example) the horribly destructive policy of cutting taxes while the nation was fighting two wars.

If you’re all fired up about Republican-inspired tales of Democrats planning to send grandma to some death chamber, you’ll never get to the G.O.P.’s war against the right of ordinary workers to organize and negotiate in their own best interests — a war that has diminished living standards for working people for decades.

Herbert wrote that on Tuesday.  Tonight I went to  The first headline was:  “Hoyer: Members are at Risk”.  Then there are these:  “Slaughter, Stupak receive death threats” and “Cut gas lines at Perriello’s brother’s home probed.” 

Will the Republican leadership speak out or will they be content with John Boehner’s statement as reported in the Washington Post.

House Republican Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said the violence is unacceptable.

“I know many Americans are angry over this health-care bill, and that Washington Democrats just aren’t listening,” Boehner said Wednesday on FoxNews Channel. “But, as I’ve said, violence and threats are unacceptable. That’s not the American way. We need to take that anger and channel it into positive change. Call your congressman, go out and register people to vote, go volunteer on a political campaign, make your voice heard — but let’s do it the right way.”

I hope that law enforcement can successfully do their jobs.  Republican leaders need to go further by condemning other Republican leaders like Michael Steele and Sarah Palin.  Again from the Post

“When people start talking in the rhetoric of putting people on ‘firing lines,’ . . . or they put a target on their faces, with cross hairs,” Hoyer said at a news conference, “that activity ought to be unacceptable in our democracy. . . . That’s wrong. ”

Hoyer appeared to be referring to Republican Party Chairman Michael S. Steele‘s comment in a recent interview that Pelosi is on a “firing line” and to a map posted Tuesday on Sarah Palin‘s Facebook page, which marked with a gunsight districts of House Democrats she plans to campaign against.

I’m not overly concerned about the law suits against the bill, but I am very worried that someone will succeed at doing real violence to a member of Congress or to the President himself.  I am also afraid the the violent speech and the actual violence will escalate as the polls show increasing approval of the bill and the Senate finally passes the reconciliation bill and it is signed by the President.

Harry Reid, Race, and the GOP

The new book “Game Change” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann about the 2008 Presidential is already upsetting a lot of people.  I’m certain that Sarah Palin will not be happy with Steve Schmidt’s comments about her for one.  But right now that is being overshadowed by a remark that Harry Reid made to them during an interview.

Harry Reid stands in the Capitol.

Reid told them that Barack Obama could be elected president because he is “light skinned” and lacks “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”   According to Politico

Embarrassed by the remarks and already facing a tough climb to reelection in the fall, Reid has reached out to the African American community, apologizing for his comments and highlighting his legislative record of backing civil rights issues important to the black community. He immediately won a showing of support from prominent Democratic black leaders, including the president, who accepted his apology and said he’s seen the “passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice and I know what’s in his heart. As far as I’m concerned, the book is closed.”

Harry Reid might be ignorant and inarticulate but the Republicans are hypocrites. 

I think Ruth Marcus writing in the Washington Post today has it about right.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid acted like an idiot.

Also, he was right.

It’s a measure of the suffocating culture of political correctness that it feels risky to say that. It’s a measure of the insulting how-dumb-do-they-think-we-are culture of incessant partisanship that Republicans leapt on Reid’s remarks as racist.

For anyone in public life to use the word “Negro” in 2008 is beyond stupid. What was once polite has become demeaning. (Although, interestingly enough, the U.S. Census chose to retain the word on the 2010 census form because so many respondents wrote it in 10 years ago.)

The lame explanation offered by an aide — that the remarks were not intended for use in the book — is about as convincing as Jesse Jackson’s assertion that he did not consider his “Hymietown” comments to the Washington Post’s Milton Coleman on the record. (“Let’s talk black talk,” Jackson had said to Coleman.)

But there’s a big difference between Reid 2008 and Jackson 1984 — or, more to the point, Lott 2002. When the then-soon-to-be-former Majority Leader Trent Lott said that the United States could have avoided “all these problems” if Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist campaign for president had succeeded, there was an unmistakable — if unintended — whiff of racism. As much as Republican critics would like to use the incident for partisan purposes, Reid’s blundering comments were made in the context of supporting an African American candidate, not praising a segregationist one.

Walter Russell Mead posted this on Politico’s Arena

Majority Leader Reid’s cretinous private remarks are creepy and disturbing. The GOP outrage is as phony as a three dollar bill and the ‘double standard’ charges don’t hold up. The difference is that Lott was praising the political wisdom and importance of Thurmond’s Dixiecrat campaign and that Lott gave a strong appearance of wishing that the segregationists had somehow won. Reid’s remarks reveal a man who is embarassingly and pathetically awkward and out of touch, but there’s nothing there that would give aid and comfort to organized racism in American life. The remarks give credence to the view that the time has come when Senator Reid should think about spending more time with his family; the voters of Nevada look like they are planning to help him achieve this next fall. Until then, the rest of us might do well by thinking about Senator Reid as little as humanly possible.

And Michael Steele of the Republican National Committee who called on Reid to resign said this is if he didn’t it showed a double standard from what happened to Trent Lott.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele called Sunday for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to resign because of racial remarks, but Steele took the opposite view when a Republican Senate leader was facing similar calls.

 The Washington Post reported on Dec. 14, 2002: “Lt. Gov.-elect Michael S. Steele said last night that he was personally upset by U.S. Sen. Trent Lott’s praise for Sen. Strom Thurmond and his segregationist past, but said Lott should not be forced to relinquish his leadership position in the Senate. ‘Trent Lott apologized, but he needs to keep apologizing because this is a very sensitive issue to the black community,’ Steele (R) said at an event celebrating his election as Maryland’s first black lieutenant governor. ‘I know Trent Lott personally, and I know that this is not his intent. But it’s still unfortunate. And I think he needs to apologize a little bit more.’”

Steele was joined in his call for Reid to resign and in saying there was a “double standard” because Lott lost his leadership post by Senators Kyl and McConnell.  But isn’t an apology enough, Mr. Steele?

On the Democratic side, Doug Wilder (former Governor of Virginia) thinks Reid ought to apologize to the country while Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jim Clyburn and Al Sharpton are defending Reid.  I have no idea if Nevada has another Democrat who could run for Reid’s Senate seat this fall and win, but I think maybe they should look for someone quickly.

So, Is Michael Steele Certifiable?

A week or so ago there was his comment about Republicans and how they wear their caps all different ways trying to show how diverse the party is, I think.   This happened on MSBC’s Morning Joe.

Then he said this about President Obama’s description of what he would look for in a Supreme Court nominee,

Crazy nonsense, empathetic,” said Steele. “I’ll give you empathy. Empathize right on your behind. Craziness.”

Here is the link from Talking Points Memo so you can hear Mr. Steele for yourself.

And finally here is what he said about the Minnesota Senate race, also from TPM.

I know what you’re all thinking. You’re thinking that if the Minnesota Supreme Court next month determines that Al Franken should be seated, the national Republican Party will graciously accept their decision, and Norm Colemen will offer up a kind and thoughtful concession speech.

“[N]o, hell no. Whatever the outcome, it’s going to get bumped to the next level,” said RNC chairman Michael Steele.

Somewhat implicit in that last sentence is the assumption that Coleman will ultimately lose. And implicit in that implication is the idea that the Republicans are doing this to keep another Democrat out of the Senate for as long as possible, and depriving Minnesotans of dual representation in the process.

Assuming the Minnesota Supreme Court sides with Franken, the question of whether to seat him, even if provisionally, will fall to Gov. Tim Pawlenty–a presidential hopeful who, as we’ve noted before, will face tons of pressure from his party not to certify the victory at all. If this is any indication, the GOP is already turning up the heat.

Can you imagine what Steele would be saying if the sides were reversed and Al Franken was refusing to concede?  Probably something not printable.