Rep. John Dingell: Member of Congress for more than a quarter of its history.

September 9, 2014

Rep. John Dingell with President Kennedy, and seated next to President Obama for the signing of the ACA.

Rep. John Dingell with President Kennedy, and seated next to President Obama for the signing of the ACA.

It is Congressional primary day for five states in the US, and the final dash for votes in the mid-terms is hotting up against a backdrop of government shutdowns, threats to sue the President, refusals to work together, and a battle for the heart of the Republican Party. It is indeed an intriguing period of US Congressional history. There is however one story that threatens to go unnoticed this election season; the retirement of 58 year veteran of the House, Rep.John Dingell (D-Dearborn, MI).

Dingell is the longest uninterrupted serving member of the US Congress in its 225 year history, with a tenure spanning more than a quarter of its entire history. It is an incredible achievement and one in which the Congressman from Michigan has witnessed the shaping of the United States in ways in which no other Congressman can claim.

As a teenager in 1941, and a member of the United States House of Representatives Page programme, Dingell was on the floor of the House as President Roosevelt delivered his day of infamy speech following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was later elected to Congress in 1956 – the year the World first heard the name ‘Elvis Presley’, and the Federal Highway Act had not yet been signed into being – and has consistently attained over 60% of the vote – with the exception of just two occasions. He was a member of Congress on that day in November when two bullets struck down the promise of President Kennedy. He was sworn into Congress 12 days after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, challenging the poisonous white supremacist attitudes of the 20th Century United States, and announced his retirement from Congress during the second term of the nation’s first African American President. He supported, witnessed and presided over the House that saw LBJ signing Medicare into law. His tenure saw the rise and fall of the Cold War era, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Watergate, the Reagan years, and both Iraq wars. In recent years, Dingell sat next to President Obama as the ‘Affordable Healthcare Act’ was signed into law in 2010, an achievement Dingell was proud to have been a part of, despite not meeting his desire to see universal healthcare in the United States; a cause he had championed by introducing a universal healthcare bill in each of his terms in Congress.

Son of a ‘New Deal’ Democratic Congressman, Dingell is known to be forceful and intimidating in the corridors of Congress. But he gets the job done. Perhaps Dingell’s greatest legislative achievements have been in promoting environmental protections and regulations, cleaning the air and the water and protecting species in the United States, whilst paradoxically commanding the scorn of environmentalists for his staunch support of the Detroit auto industry (including steerage of the 2009 bailouts). In 1972, Dingell authored the ‘Clean Water Act’ expanding greatly the regulatory framework of the 1948 ‘Federal Water Pollution Control Act’, keeping the waters of the United States clean for decades to come. He played important roles in the ‘National Energy Conservation Policy Act’ in 1978, the ‘Marine Mammal Protection Act’ and the ‘Pollution Prevention Act’ of 1990. He penned the ‘Endangered Species Act’, and he advocated and lobbied for the creation of the ‘Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge’; North America’s only international wildlife refuge. He also spent 14 years as Chair of the immensely powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, between 1981-1994, and again in 2007-2008. Without Dingell, the foundation of environmental protections in the United States might not exist. Indeed, for his work on environmental issues in the 109th Congress, The League of Conservation Voters gave Dingell a rating of 100%.

However, there remains a paradox. Dingell’s place as top-ranking Democrat on the Energy Committee took an odd turn in recent years, when Henry Waxman (D-Calif) challenged and beat Dingell for the chairmanship of the committee, through concerns that Dingell’s financial support from big auto industry – along with previous attempts to defend big auto industry in Detroit from certain sections of environmental legislation – may prove detrimental to Waxman’s desire to cap CO2 emissions. In 2007, Dingell managed to win several – albeit small – concessions for the auto-industry as Democrats worked to raise the fuel economy standard.

Alongside his defence and protection of the auto-industry, Dingell receives criticism from fellow progressive Democrats for his A+ rating from the NRA. It was Dingell who managed to gain an exemption for firearms from the 1972 ‘Consumer Product Safety Act’. A hugely damaging legacy for gun safety in the United States. Following the Columbine massacre the Senate voted to close a loophole that exempted unlicensed gun dealers from conducting any background checks at gun shows before selling a firearm. Dingell disapproved and offered an alternative that included changing the language for what is to be considered a ‘gun show’ to a very limited scope, and reducing the time taken to perform a background check from 72 hours, to 24 hours.

To some, he was a protector of big auto-industry whose ideas ran out long ago, a roadblock to meaningful emissions standards, a staunch advocate of gun ownership, and an advertisement for term limits, but to others he was the Congressional architect of landmark environmental protections that would last decades, a legacy that no other member of Congress comes close to matching. Whatever one may think of Rep. John Dingell, it is hard not to admire a man who has worked at the heart of, and contributed to the shaping of the United States, swimming the murky waters of Congress, and witnessing the transformation of America on so many levels, for close to seven decades. His is a story to be remembered during this election season.

Advertisements

For the love of the Kennedys.

September 4, 2014


If you have a job and you want to get it done, and you don’t care how it’s done, send Paul Corbin out to do it.
– Helen Keyes, A Kennedy campaigner.

It was Presidential debate night, on October 28th, 1980. Only six years had passed since a United States President had stood down from office in disgrace, for the first and only time in its history. Many of Nixon’s top staffers would end up behind bars. The waters of US politics were now murkier than ever. The smell of scandal was the last thing either candidate going into the 1980 debate could afford to become associated with.

As debate night approached, Reagan was leading in most polls by an average of three percentage points. A healthy lead, but not substantial enough to ensure a victory, as Carter regained popularity following a disastrous year. After the debate, Reagan extended his lead to take a 9 percentage point victory at the election, carrying 44 states. But all was not squeaky clean in the Reagan camp. Somehow, the Reagan team of David Stockman, Frank Hodsoll and James Baker had gotten their hands on President Carter’s briefing papers and notes of preparation for the debate, stolen from the White House. Scandal ensued.

The Reagan administration did not divulge the fact that they had access to Carter’s papers, until the story leaked in 1983. The scandal remained in the public eye, leading to an investigation by U.S. House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service’s Subcommittee on Human Resources. The investigation interviewed David Stockman, who insisted that the briefing papers only mentioned issues to discuss, rather than question and answer tactics and so weren’t of any value. Frank Hodsoll however insisted the papers did contain question and answer tactics. The investigation uncovered much evidence of vast wrongdoing, yet concluded that contradictions in the statements of key Reagan staff were the result of:

“…the professed lack of memory or knowledge on the part of those in possession of the documents”

– The case was never brought to a resolution, and no one knows who handed those documents to the Reagan team – though Baker told the investigation that William Casey (Reagan’s campaign manager) had first handed him the documents – But one name sticks out as the original source: Paul Corbin.

In his book, ‘Rendezvous with Destiny‘, Craig Shirley asserts that Corbin – a Democratic Aide to Ted Kennedy’s primary challenge against Carter – handed the documents to the Reagan camp as revenge for perceived ill-treatment of Kennedy by Carter during the Primaries. If true, it wouldn’t be the first time Corbin had a decisive hand in shaping an election from behind the curtain, in defence of a Kennedy.

Twenty years before the Carter-Reagan debates, Robert Kennedy asked all to live according to the Ancient Greek wish to ‘tame the savageness of man, and make gentle the life of this world‘, but throughout the late ’50s and into ’60’s RFK had no time to make gentle the life of US politics. In 1960, ex-Communist Party member and ex-con man Paul Corbin had been brought in by Robert Kennedy to aide the Kennedy campaign primarily in West Virginia, a state split between Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey for the necessary delegates.

The Kennedy camp – especially Bobby and Kenny O’Donnell – were growing tired of Humphrey refusing to condemn anti-Catholic sentiment in the state (a tactic Humphrey thought may win over undecided voters), using it to his advantage over the Catholic Kennedys. The goal now was to paint Humphrey as a bigot, to push liberal democrats into voting Kennedy. Suddenly, within days of Corbin being brought in, viciously anti-Catholic literature was being handed out in West Virginia, urging Catholic households never to elect an ‘agent of the Pope in Rome‘ and attributed – falsely – to the Humphrey campaign. A tactic that made Humphrey look out-dated, bigoted, and unprepared for the future of a changing Democrat Party. In his biography of Robert Kennedy, Evan Thomas calls Corbin ‘the immediate suspect‘ in the affair. The tactic – along with many others – worked. Jack Kennedy took West Virginia in the primary. Corbin had a big hand in shaping the narrative in West Virginia, through some incredibly dirty tactics, in his new found personal mission of protecting and advancing the Kennedys.

Evan Thomas notes that when Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara a few years later told RFK that he wanted Corbin to take a lie detector test over another matter, Kennedy laughed, telling the Secretary:

“Lie detector? He’d break the machine.”

– The Kennedy campaign was filled with dirty tricks leading up to the convention, not just from Corbin. At the Convention, Lyndon Johnson’s team were enraged to find their phone lines had been cut, a crime they blamed on the Kennedys. Later, when Johnson was President, Corbin was working in New Hampshire producing Kennedy-for-VP literature for the ’64 election, without running it by the President, or anyone else. Johnson was furious and demanded Corbin be fired from the DNC (a position Robert Kennedy gave him upon becoming Attorney General). RFK refused, insisting that Corbin was harmless, though Johnson had him fired anyway.

It seemed the RFK and Corbin relationship was strong, despite protests across the Democrat Party. Indeed, Joe Dolan – a Kennedy aide – referred to Corbin as ‘Robert Kennedy’s dark side‘. Back in early ’60s, the FBI released a report into Corbin’s suspected Communist ties (and conversely, his business dealings with staunch anti-Communist Joseph McCarthy) noting:

“The Attorney General seems to have completely overboard in trying to defend Corbin. He has suppressed any and all references to our report detailing Corbin’s Communist activity.”

– This is a big claim. One suspects RFK – by the time he was Attorney General – believed he owed a great deal to Corbin, which implies Corbin had a greater hand in securing the Presidency for JFK than we might ever know.

RFK’s fierce loyalty to Corbin was matched only by Corbin’s loyalty to the Kennedys, going so far as to convert to Catholicism in order that Robert and Ethel Kennedy could become his Godparents. Though even this may have had a political calculation, because at the time of Corbin’s conversion to Catholicism, he was being investigated by the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities, chaired by Congressman Francis Walter – a devout Catholic.

By 1980, both Jack Kennedy and Robert Kennedy had been cruelly slain by the bullets of single assassins, the dream of a Robert Kennedy Presidency – a dream Corbin had desired and fought for, for so many years – never had the chance to be realised, and Corbin had been out of politics for some years. Now was Ted Kennedy’s opportunity. Corbin was no Carter fan, but even if he had have been, his loyalty remained to the Kennedys, and so he worked behind the scenes to replace Carter with Kennedy. When that attempt failed, and angry at the Carter campaign’s negative treatment of Kennedy (ironically), Corbin began passing intelligence – according to a 1990 article in The Milwaukee Sentinel – on the Democrats to Reagan’s campaign manager William Casey; the man that Jim Baker had claimed passed him the Carter debate preparation papers.

He’d been a conman in the 1940s running an advertising scam, he’d helped to win West Virginia for JFK in the 1960 Primary, he’d been handed a high office at the DNC, the FBI had investigated him for ‘unAmerican activities’ for his days in the Community Party which Robert Kennedy worked to suppress, he’d done business with McCarthy, LBJ had personally ensured he was fired from the DNC, and he’d perhaps been responsible for the political scandal of 1980, aiding the election of a Republican. When he died in 1990, he was on the payroll of Merchandise Mart in Chicago; a business purchased by Joseph Kennedy in the 1940s.

The underhanded and devious brilliance of Paul Corbin’s political activities were driven by one obsession: The Kennedys. And they certainly benefited from his tactics. It’s unclear when this became such an obsession for him, when the Kennedys became Corbin’s first love, a love that he would dedicate his life to progressing, but it’s clear that by 1980 Corbin was woven so deeply into the Kennedy fabric, he was willing to create the scandal of the 1980s, to embarrass Carter, to propel Reagan to a landslide, and to leave his own unmistakable imprint on US history.


A brief history of Independence Day.

July 4, 2014

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
– The Declaration of Independence.

Alongside being the day that I make my American friends take to Skype to recite the Pledge, July 4th is one of the most recognisable dates in history, with what appears to be a straight forward narrative. The day the colonies declared independence from Great Britain, with a finely crafted and beautifully worded document owing to the genius of Thomas Jefferson, and enshrining the liberty of all in one meaningful sentence. Those months between January and July 4th 1776 are both intriguing and surprising. Intriguing, for the political wrangling that took place, and surprising, in that July 4th wasn’t the date that independence was declared at all.

It was late in December 1775 that Parliament pushed the colonies one step further on the path to independence, by prohibiting trade with the new world. Until then, most colonial leaders had hoped that reconciliation would be achievable by the end of 1776. The prohibition on trade, turned the tide entirely, and by July 1776 there existed 90 localised independence movements throughout the colonies, with instructions given to their delegation in the Continental Congress to declare independence. The first to take note of this growing voice for independence (largely taking root since the January publication of Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’) was the ever revolutionary Virginia convention, who on May 15th in Williamsburg declared:

“…the Delegates appointed to represent this colony in General Congress be instructed to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent states, absolved from all allegiance to, or dependence upon, the Crown or Parliament of Great Britain; and that they give the assent of this colony to such a declaration, and to whatever measures may be thought proper and necessary by the Congress for forming foreign alliances, and a Confederation of the Colonies.”

– Having received this instruction, Richard Lee of Virginia proposed independence to the Congress on June 7th. It was a revolutionary act, and one that wasn’t going to be easy to proceed with. It was the first official call to the colonies to gather and declare independence. Indeed, Congress agreed to halt a vote on independence whilst delegations from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey traveled back to their colonial assemblies to gather support for independence. It was going to be a tough sell, given that Pennsylvania had elected a new assembly that was not in support of independence.

John Dickinson; a delegate from Delaware refused to support independence when the vote came up on July 1st. He believed that the states should complete a Constitutional framework first, secure foreign aid second, and only then should independence be declared. His refusal to vote left Delaware in deadlock between Thomas McKean – favouring independence – and George Read – favouring reconciliation for Britain. Hearing there was deadlock, Caesar Rodney – also from Delaware – incredibly raced 70 miles through the night and through a thunderstorm to arrive at the State House in Philadelphia to add his vote to McKean’s and thus add Delaware to the list of those voting Yes on independence. Anti-independence sentiment in Delaware was strong enough to disapprove of Rodney’s actions, to the point in which he lost his seat for Kent County for the new Delaware General Assembly. But on July 2nd 1776, it set off a chain of events that would go down in history.

Now that Delaware had joined with the voices of independence, South Carolina soon followed on the same day. John Dicksinson of Delaware was also a delegate for Pennsylvania, and his abstention along with fellow Pennsylvania delegate Robert Morris, meant that Pennsylvania now voted 3-2 in favour of independence. New York abstained (though finally announced their support for independence on July 15th). Independence had now been declared by 12 of the 13 colonies, on July 2nd 1776. The Pennsylvania Gazette the next morning, on July 3rd 1776 wrote:

“Yesterday, the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS declared the UNITED COLONIES FREE and INDEPENDENT STATES.”

– Indeed, John Adams was so excited by the declaration, that he wrote to his wife Abigail, that July 2nd would forever live in the memory of America as the day independence was declared:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

– Two days later, on July 4th, the wording of the Declaration – originally penned by Thomas Jefferson in June, and subject to several revisions and amendments – was approved and sent to publication. Contrary to our imagined scene in which all the delegates sign the Declaration together in Philadelphia on July 4th, the document wasn’t signed by the delegates until August 2nd. The date of July 4th was preserved in history, because it appears on the final draft of the declaration, rather than the date that independence was actually declared, which was July 2nd. Further, the first independence day celebration, was July 8th 1776, when Philadelphia threw a parade and street party for the new independent colonies.

The scenes of mass jubilation and celebration were not present in the early years after independence. It was only with the new Democratic Party and the Whig Party, following the decline of the Federalist Party (not too keen on the wording of the Declaration), that July 4th started to become a big national day of celebration, largely due to renewed interest in Thomas Jefferson. Both the Whigs and The Democrats – having split from the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans – based themselves to some degree on Jefferson’s ideas. Both of the new main parties promoted July 4th as a day to celebrate, as homage to a man they considered their own. It’s also perhaps worth noting that July 4th took on an even greater degree of importance, when both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams – the second and third Presidents – died on the same day, in the same year, fifty years after the approval of the Declaration that they both helped to draw up… on July 4th 1826.

Happy July 4th, to all of my American readers!


Serving God and Money: Hobby Lobby prove Jesus wrong.

July 1, 2014

Hobby Lobby, Ohio. Author: DangApricot Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hobby Lobby, Ohio.
Picture credit: DangApricot
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to allow ‘closely held’ companies the right to opt out of secular law, to interfere with the private health decisions of female employees, based on extremely faulty premises and still receive tax benefits, shines a light on Hobby Lobby and their business dealings that might surprise many. Molly Redden at Mother Jones brilliantly reported back in April, that Hobby Lobby has been investing in the very companies that manufacture the pills they have a ‘moral’ objection with providing to their employees.

Hobby Lobby’s employee 401(k) plan held around $73,000,000 in mutual funds for investments in companies that include Pfizer, who make pills that induce abortions, TEVA who make IUDs and Humana; a health insurance company that offer surgical abortions and emergency contraceptives on their plans. Most notably, Hobby Lobby specifically mentioned IUDs, and Plan B as violating their religious principles. They submitted this objection, whilst investing in TEVA and Actevis; two companies that produce Plan B (which simply prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg – Hobby Lobby believe this amounts to murdering a baby) and IUDs.

In short, whilst Hobby Lobby have been seeking to chain women’s health and reproductive rights to the beliefs of the CEO, the company has been profiting from the very drugs they have a ‘moral’ objection to. It’s perhaps also worth noting that Hobby Lobby still covers Viagra for men. Whilst female employees will no longer be able to request morning after pills (manufactured by companies Hobby Lobby invest in, and perfectly acceptable to Hobby Lobby prior to the ACA) on their health plan, men will still be able to request help for erectile problems. The argument seems to be that Viagra aids procreation whilst Plan B and IUDs prevent it. One wonders then how they defend the fact that Hobby Lobby still covers vasectomies for men.

The Hobby Lobby management have appointed themselves the decisions makers for the health and wellbeing of female employees by mandating the boss’s religious views upon employees, whilst simultaneously violating their own apparent ‘moral’ standard when profiting is involved. Hobby Lobby is an extension of the Christian-Right’s war on women, masked as ‘religious freedom’, and completely irrelevant when there’s an opportunity to make more money. I guess the Jesus was wrong, when he said:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
– Matthew 6:24

– Naturally, the Republican Party appear to fully endorse the Supreme Court decision. The Speaker took to his Twitter account to announce that the 5-4 court decision (the five being all men, the four being all women plus one man) was a victory for religious freedom. This shouldn’t surprise anyone given the party’s ceaseless attacks on women’s health and rights over the past few years. From Mitt’s “binders full of women” to Akin’s “legitimate rape” to Chambliss almost whimsically shaking off the seriousness of sexual assault in the military by claiming it’s simply down to young men’s “hormone level created by nature“, to refusals to renew the Violence Against Women Act, to under funding important health services and attempts to completely gut Title X of all funding; the GOP has been the political mouthpiece for obscene gender inequality for the past several years.

It seems apparent to me that if you wish for a healthcare system that ensures employees are dependent on the coverage provided by the company – that they work and contribute to the success of – for basic health and wellbeing, those employees should not be chained to the boss’s fondness for 1st century tribal Palestinian stories. The boss’s religious beliefs have absolutely no connection to the health and wellbeing and individual choices of employees. The sex lives of female employees have nothing to do with the boss of the company. There should be a set standard across the board, secular in nature. The company has no religious beliefs. It is not a person. Indeed, the Founder’s were not fond of corporate entities, believing them to be in need of careful regulation and certainly not to be treated as individual human beings. The boss’s religious beliefs should not be granted an opt out of secular law, nor should a boss be permitted the right to force thousands of employees to abide by his personal religious beliefs, where their choices do not affect his life in any way. A Jehovah’s Witness has no more right to deny an employee access to a blood transfusion, than a Christian has a right to prevent a woman making her own choices on her own sexual health. Health is vital. A company providing access to birth control does nothing to violate the religious freedom of the individual boss, but restricting access to birth control absolutely violates the right of the employee to personal choice and freedom. The CEO is not the company. The CEO is not paying for the health and wellbeing of anyone else, the employees are working for that coverage. They pay for it. The company is everyone who works for it, including the women that Hobby Lobby’s boss David Green doesn’t particularly care about, as he profits from the drugs he seeks to restrict access to, whilst ensuring men can still get it up.


The Imperial President? Not so much…

June 30, 2014

President Obama and Speaker Boehner shake hands at the State of the Union. Photo Credit: By Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States)

President Obama and Speaker Boehner shake hands at the State of the Union.
Photo Credit: By Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States)

If you were to add together the average executive orders of President Obama, President Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe, Quincy Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison and Tyler (and the first few months of Polk’s Presidency); they’d still add up to less than President Reagan’s average. And so for a Republican Party with a Presidential hero sporting an executive order average of over 11 Presidents (including the current) combined, alongside its recent history of losing the Senate, losing the Presidency twice, losing the popular vote for the House, wildly abusing the filibuster, and generally considered responsible for the shutdown of the government, you might think the Speaker would be a little humble. You’d be wrong. Instead, he’s choosing to sue the President for use of executive powers.

In lieu of addressing wage disparity, or a jobs bill, or working to solve climate change issues, the Republican obsession with the President has become a pantomime. In his memorandum, Boehner’s case lacks substance, whilst also betraying the true purpose of the lawsuit. One of his points reads:

“There is no legislative remedy”

– What this means is, there is no legislative remedy – from a positive PR perspective – to force the President to give in to the demands of the minority Party, and so they’ll pass the buck to the judiciary, whilst throwing around terms like “Executive Monarchy” in the hope that the public will jump on board. There is of course already a legislative remedy to the overreaching of executive power, and that includes de-funding the executive branch and beginning impeachment proceedings against executive branch officials if they feel they have a strong case. They’re also aware that the judiciary has the power the strike down executive orders if they deem it to be unsupported by the Constitution. The Speaker therefore does not have a strong case, and so neither of the previously mentioned legislative remedies serves the GOP well from a PR standpoint, especially after the constant failure of House Republicans to defund the ACA, the obscene abuses of the filibuster, and the disaster of shutting down the government. They’re therefore ignoring the legislative remedies, as if they don’t exist. It is one big publicity stunt, and as with the shutdown, it will be scrutinised thoroughly and reflect terribly on the GOP.

Further, the ill-fated lawsuit that Boehner seeks to bring against the President, will be filed by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group – a standing body of the House of Representatives – funded by every taxpayer in the US. If the lawsuit fails – which it will, because the President has not issued an unconstitutional executive order, nor overreached executive power – it will be the second time Boehner has used ‘BLAG’ and failed, costing the taxpayer in the process. It must strike most as incredible that a Speaker has been able to get away with wasting taxpayer’s money on constant symbolic attempts to defund the ACA (knowing they’d fail every time), defending anti-liberty discrimination based on sexuality (for which Boehner used BLAG), on shutting down the government, on a publicity stunt to sue the President, all whilst successfully achieving the title of the least productive Congress in history with disastrously low approval ratings.

The Speaker summarised the President’s use of executive orders as the work of “aggressive unilateralism”, and that the President is in fact an “Executive Monarchy”. Echoing Boehner’s summary, the beacon of wisdom Karl Rove – conveniently forgetting the time President Bush aggressively used signing statements to bypass laws and extend Presidential power – said:

““This is imperial power, this is George III.”

– I’m almost certain King George III did not face such a hostile Parliament, to the point where getting basic aides confirmed by the Senate becomes a long drawn out battle. The implication from Rove and the Speaker, is that the President is abusing the use of executive orders beyond anything that came before. The biggest threat to liberty since George III. So, how does that check out. How does the President’s yearly average of executive orders compare with past Republican Presidents? According to research by The American Presidency Project:

President Obama – Democrat – yearly average: 33.58
President Bush – Republican – yearly average: 36.38
President Bush Sr – Republican – yearly average: 41.50
President Reagan – Republican hero – yearly average: 47.63
President Ford – Republican – 68.92
President Nixon – Republican – 62.30
President Eisenhower – Republican – 60.50

– President Obama has a lower yearly average of issuing executive orders, than any previous Republican President since the 1950s. Compared to those Republican Presidents, he’s a beacon of restraint. Indeed, Obama is issuing executive orders at a rate of 0.09 a day, far below the Republican Presidential average of 0.22 a day (which is higher than the Democrat Presidential daily rate).

To find a lower yearly average on issuing executive orders than President Obama, we have to go back to Grover Cleveland’s first term as President, between 1885 and 1889. The highest in my life time, has been small government, Republican hero, President Reagan. In his first term, President Obama issued 147 executive orders. By contrast, President Reagan in his first term, issued 213 executive orders, and Reagan wasn’t faced with the one of the most hostile and obstructionist Congresses in decades.

If 33.58 magically turns President Obama into King George III, I can imagine 47.63 turns President Reagan into King Henry VIII.

Remember those figures as the Speaker wastes taxpayers money on a frivolous party political publicity stunt over the coming weeks.


Ted Cruz’s ‘Obamacare’ Poll: The results are in!

March 31, 2014

I’ve spent a lot of time recently writing on religion, and not much on politics. And so today I thought I’d check in with how the Republican war on affordable care is going over in the States. Leading the Koch-funded attack on affordable healthcare, Senator Cruz took to his Facebook page last week to conduct a quick poll:

cruz1
– The results – after 5 years of a clearly designed Tea Party policy of misinformation – were seemingly not quite what he was hoping for:

Untitled-1

And then there’s more:

Untitled-2

And then there’s a few more:

Untitled-3

And not forgetting these:

Untitled-4

Followed swiftly by these:

Untitled-5

Oh and these:

Untitled-6

And a few more:

Untitled-7

Last one I’ll post, because there’s about 40,000 more YES comments, and that’s particularly difficult to fit on a single blog:

Untitled-8

– The ‘YES’ votes are endless. See for yourself. The result of Senator Cruz’s poll were not what he was hoping to read. Two things are clear: Firstly, Senator Cruz really needs to rethink his social media strategy. Secondly, and most importantly, the Affordable Care Act has withstood five years of Republican misinformation and the most absurd end of World predictions (including the reintroduction of Feudalism, systematic genocide, and the US becoming an Islamic Caliphate outpost), and is beginning to change lives for the better. It is a legacy that the light of history will undoubtedly judge the President positively for.

Today is deadline day for sign ups. If you still haven’t signed up, you can do so easily on healthcare.gov, or call a toll free number: 1-800-318-2596 for advice and support. Don’t believe the misinformation, sign up, enjoy affordable healthcare for you and your family.


Madam President: Hillary leading for 2016.

March 5, 2014

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: White House (Pete Souza) (White House) [Public domain].

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: White House (Pete Souza) (White House) [Public domain].

Prior to 2008, Virginia’s electoral college votes were solidly red. Republicans could count on votes from the state of Jefferson and Washington, as much as they could count on the votes of the deep south. Democrats had not taken the state in a Presidential election since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. That changed in 2008. A year in which both parties campaigned heavily, saw the once solidly red Virginia hand its votes to the Democrats by a margin of 6.3%, for the first time in 44 years.

By 2012, President Obama became the first Democratic President since Franklin Roosevelt, to carry Virginia in two consecutive elections. In fact, the margin of victory for the Democrats in 2012, was greater than the margin of victory for the President in the country overall. A year later, Virginia voted to elect Democrat McAuliffe to the Governorship ahead of Tea Party favourite, Ken Cuccinelli. Thanks to the far more progressive areas of Fairfax and Loudoun, and the toxic brand of the Tea Party movement; Virginia is becoming blue.

This is bad news for the GOP for 2016. The potential field for Republican candidates in 2016 is not particularly inspiring, and no single candidate stands out. A poll out of New England College found that despite having no intention to run, Mitt Romney is favourite among GOP voters for the nomination in 2006. Ted Cruz only manages 10% support, the scandal prone Chris Christie only managing 13%, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio sharing 7% apiece.

Even more concerning for Republican strategists, is a latest poll of voters in Virginia, conducted by Roanoke College this week, showing that any of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination, would face a massive defeat, if the Democrat nomination was Hillary Clinton. If the 2016 Presidential race were between Clinton, and Christie, Clinton would come out victorious at 43% to Christie’s 41%. A race between Clinton and Paul Ryan, would give us Clinton on 53% to Ryan’s 37%. Others include; Clinton 51% to Jeb Bush 38%. Clinton 47% to Rand Paul’s 40%. Clinton on 47% with Ted Cruz on 37%.

In Ohio – an incredibly important battleground state – Clinton commands a firm lead in polls over all Republican candidates. A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut found that biggest challenge in Ohio to Clinton would be from Paul Ryan, who trails by a huge 9 points. Clinton leads by double figures over Bush, Rubio, Cruz, Ryan, and Kasich.

The bad news for Republicans doesn’t end there. Even in the solidly red state of Texas, the Republicans are struggling. In 2012, Romney won 57% of the vote to the President’s 41%. Even with Texas’ changing population, it is still cloaked in red. Yet, according to a poll by Public Policy Polling, of all potential Republican candidates, none manage to win over 50% of the vote if paired off against Hillary. Jeb Bush comes closest with 49% to Clinton’s 42%. Though it’s unlikely that Bush will run. Senator Cruz – the favoured Republican candidate in Texas by a clear margin – only manages 48% to Clinton’s 45%. So, if on the off chance Jeb Bush were to run and win the Republican nomination, he may take Texas, but he’d lose Ohio, and according to another poll, he’d lose Florida too.

The close polling between Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton in Texas, are echoed in Red States like Louisiana. Louisiana last went blue in 1996, voting to help secure a second term for President Clinton. Twenty years later, and another Clinton has the potential to turn Louisiana blue once more. Another poll by Public Policy Polling found that whilst the Republican contenders hold leads over Hillary, the margin is small enough to push Louisiana into the Democrat camp, with the right campaigning from the Clinton team in 2016. Jeb Bush again leads Hillary by the largest margin of 7 points, whilst Christie’s lead is down to just 1 point.

This is particularly problematic for Republicans for a number of reasons. Firstly, as noted above, there aren’t any stand out GOP candidates that one might consider as posing any sort of a threat to a Hillary campaign in 2016. Secondly, the majority of Republican voters are not on the Tea Party fringes, and moderate Republicans might well be tempted to vote Democrat or simply not vote at all; the former is certainly a possibility if the Clinton campaign presents a more moderately conservative message going into 2016. This is of particular worry for Republicans in swing states and states polling low margins between Hillary and Republican candidates. Of Florida, Virginia, and Ohio, the Republicans will need to take two of the three to stand any chance at the White House. As it stands, they may not take any. Thirdly, the majority of US citizens placed blame for the government shutdown on Congressional Republicans, leading to this Congress sporting an all time low approval rating. Congress began 2014 on just 13% approval rating. Republicans in Congress are not popular, this is damaging to any future President campaign, particularly if the prevailing candidate comes direct from an appalling incompetent Congress. And lastly, the Republicans are going to have to spend a large amount of money defending their lead in states that would normally be solidly Republican. They need to do this, whilst also spending vast sums of money to win swing states like Ohio and states recently lost to Democrats, like Virginia. This is one huge uphill battle for Republicans.

Indeed, the uphill battle is of their own making. The loss of Virginia represents the failing message of a Republican Party being dragged to the fringes of the right wing and failing to modernise. Inevitably, a shift to the fringes presents massive election issues for the GOP. In less than three years, they need to craft an entirely new, modern and inclusive message, an electable platform away from the fringes, improving their image especially with minority groups, and women voters. They also need one candidate to rally behind, and present that new message of inclusivity and modernity. A political party that only appears to represent white, middle aged, heterosexual, Christian, business men driven solely by imagined Benghazi conspiracies, is not an electable party.