Saturday, November 05, 2022
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) is quickly learning the downsides of testing the national political waters. Stumbles and gaffes can wreck a nascent campaign before it even gets to the exploratory phase.
Consider Youngkin’s words at a Friday campaign rally for 7th Congressional District GOP nominee Yesli Vega [a true nutcase]. News broke that day that David DePape attacked and brutally beat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, in their California home. As The Post’s Greg Schneider and Meagan Flynn reported, Youngkin said “There’s no room for violence anywhere, but we’re going to send [Pelosi] back to be with him in California.”
That sounds bad. But the videotape of Youngkin’s remarks was even worse. The rookie governor doesn’t change his tone or timing when he says it’s time to send Pelosi back to take care of her injured husband.
It’s a sorry display of a pol who sounds callous, even flippant, in the face of another person’s horror.
Youngkin’s gaffe drew swift and entirely warranted condemnation from Democrats.
But in this current era, neither politicians nor corporate honchos (like Youngkin used to be at the Carlyle Group) admit gaffes. And in those vanishingly rare occasions when they are, it’s in the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (channeling Richard M. Nixon) “some mistakes were made” vein.
Newsmax host Greta Van Susteren gave Youngkin a chance to take what she called a “do over.” It started out okay. Youngkin said, “there is no room for violence in America,” that the assault was “beyond belief” and that he would pray for Paul Pelosi’s full recovery.
Hearing no apology, Van Susteren again offered the “do over” option to Youngkin, who stuck to his script: “At the core of this is that a terrible thing happened to the speaker’s husband. It should never happen, and we just wish him a speedy recovery. And as I said, the first lady and I keep him in our prayers.”
No “sorry.” Not even a “I should have been more sensitive.” Not even a lame “some mistakes were made.”
It almost qualifies as performance art. Virginia’s political press has long complained that Youngkin rarely strays from his talking points. It served him very well against his 2021 opponent Terry McAuliffe, after all, so why shouldn’t it work elsewhere, like maybe New Hampshire?
But if Youngkin really, truly wants to play on the national stage — not just making the rounds for assorted GOP gubernatorial hopefuls or in-state congressional candidates, but the big show in 2024 — he’s got to take his rhetorical and mental game to an entirely new level.
That means being able to think on his feet while the cameras are rolling, showing he’s capable of deviating from his canned remarks when circumstances demand it.
It also means showing empathy for those with whom you disagree, politically — otherwise known as common decency. That’s an increasingly rare quality among politicians. If Youngkin can show it on the stump, it would immediately set him apart from and above his otherwise increasingly coarse party colleagues.
[W]hatever Youngkin might think he can do in 2024, it won’t be on the national stage.
Which means he’s grounded here in Virginia. And that means we need to pay closer attention — press and voters alike — to what Youngkin does in the year ahead.
MOSCOW — In an industrial block in northeastern Moscow on a recent Friday night, organizers of an L.G.B.T.Q.-friendly art festival were assiduously checking IDs. No one under 18 allowed. They were trying to comply with a 2013 Russian law that bans exposing minors to anything that could be considered “gay propaganda.”
The organizers had good reason to be wary: Life has been challenging for gay Russians since the law passed, as the government has treated gay life as a Western import that is harmful to traditional Russian values and society.
Now Russia’s Parliament is set to pass a legislative package that would ban all “gay propaganda,” signaling an even more difficult period ahead for a stigmatized segment of society.
The laws would prohibit representation of L.G.B.T.Q. relationships in any media — streaming services, social platforms, books, music, posters, billboards and films — and, activists fear, in any public space as well.
The proposed laws are part of an intensifying effort by President Vladimir V. Putin to cast Russia as fighting a civilizational struggle against the West, which he accuses of trying to export corrosive values.
The Kremlin is coupling the crackdown on L.G.B.T.Q. expression with its rationale for the war in Ukraine, insisting that Russia is fighting not just Ukraine but all of NATO, a Western alliance that represents a threat to the motherland.
Mr. Putin drove home that argument in a speech last week, saying that the West can have “dozens of genders and gay pride parades,” but that it should not try to spread these “trends” elsewhere.
Aleksandr Khinstein, a deputy from the ruling United Russia party and the lead author of the new anti-gay bills, was even more blunt. “A special military operation is taking place not only on the battlefields,” he said, using the approved Kremlin euphemism for the war, “but also in the consciousness of the people, in their minds and in their souls. Today, we are fighting so that in Russia instead of mom and dad there isn’t ‘parent No. 1,’ ‘parent No. 2,’ ‘parent No. 3.’”
Kremlin critics see the proposals as an attempt to create an internal enemy to divert attention from battlefield setbacks and an unpopular draft of hundreds of thousands of soldiers.
“It’s the equivalent of saying, ‘Look, we have this special operation. If we lose, your kids will have their gender changed, they’ll take your kids away, it’ll be the stuff of nightmares,’” said Dr. Nikolai Lunchenkov, a physician who focuses on L.G.B.T.Q. health.
The proposed laws have prompted some L.G.B.T.Q. Russians to doubt that they can continue living in an environment that is increasingly hostile to anyone who challenge the Kremlin’s line, whether on the war or on queer lives.
The 2013 law was promoted as protecting children, while the new ones “seek to prohibit gay propaganda as a danger to the state system,” defining it as extremism, he said.
The second times piece looks at what has happened in Florida which will likely lead to more LGBT suicides and an even more difficult lifefor the transgender who DeSantis is seeking stigmatize all under the false flag of "protecting children." Here are highlights:
Florida has effectively banned medications and surgery for new adolescent patients seeking gender transitions after an unprecedented vote by the state’s medical board.
The move makes Florida one of several states to restrict what’s known as gender-affirming care for adolescents, but the first to do so through the actions of its Board of Medicine, whose 14 members were appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The strategy circumvented the Republican-controlled State Legislature, which had twice declined to take up a bill aiming to restrict such treatment.
The board voted 6-3 (with five others not present) on Friday to adopt a new standard of care that forbids doctors to prescribe puberty blockers and hormones, or perform surgeries, until transgender patients are 18.
The Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine also voted to restrict care for new patients on Friday, but allowed an exception for children enrolled in clinical studies. Doctors who flout the rules risk losing their medical licenses.
And it comes four days before the conclusion of the governor’s race in the state and as conservatives have adopted gender-related medical care for adolescents as a key issue on the national political stage.
Before the medical board decided to craft the new standard, members received personal calls from the state’s surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo [a certifiable nutcase appointed by DeSantis], urging them to do so.
Such treatments for adolescents typically include puberty blockers, which stall development, often followed by testosterone or estrogen to bring about secondary sex characteristics that better align transgender adolescents’ bodies with their experience of gender. . . . . All treatments require parental consent and approval from physicians.
Major medical groups in the United States, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have condemned state bans and insurance restrictions of such care as dangerous political intrusions into standard medical practice.
I am very fearful for the future - especially if Republians gain control of Congress. It may soon be time to emigrate.
Friday, November 04, 2022
Joe Biden asked Americans to remember that democracy is on the ballot next week. He seemed dispirited. I understand why.
Near the end of the 1972 movie version of the Broadway musical 1776, John Adams is by himself in the congressional chamber after all of the delegates, friend and foe, have walked out on him. He has refused to budge on abolishing slavery in the new Constitution, and now all is lost, or so it seems. Alone in the dark, Adams asks, “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”
I thought of this scene while watching Joe Biden at Union Station last night pleading with his fellow citizens to not abandon our democratic institutions and norms.
He was making a closing argument for American democracy, and he seemed to be wondering if anybody is out there to hear the message—and whether anybody cares. I wonder too.
Biden’s aides claim that he had been thinking for some time after his “Soul of the Nation” speech last summer in Philadelphia about making another statement on threats to democracy, but the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband seems to have persuaded the president to speak out now. . . . . the callous and disgusting reaction to it among some Republicans—marked a watershed moment.
[T]he president of the United States talked about how his friend had been put in the hospital by a man with a hammer, and then asked the rest of us to think about whether we can stop our system of government from descending into authoritarianism and violence. No matter who wins or loses next week, that is an astounding question, and it is the right one to ask.
The usual suspects in conservative media are, of course, dismissing Biden’s speech as just another partisan exercise. Their criticisms are partly a reflection of how denatured and corroded the American right has become . . .
Biden’s speech, however, sounded more like despair than partisanship. It’s not exactly shocking that a Democratic president would like to keep his congressional majority, but if that’s all Biden wanted, he could have made a better pitch for it. Instead, he ignored the economy, despite the polls showing that economic issues are at the top of voter concerns, and he took a direct swing at Donald Trump and “MAGA Republicans,” which could alienate the last remaining moderate GOP voters.
More important, he nationalized the issue of democracy by warning about the election deniers in state and local contests using their victories to unravel our electoral processes, and he anticipated the trouble that is likely to come if those same extremists lose and refuse to accept the outcome: . . . . This is a path to chaos in America. It’s unprecedented. It’s unlawful, and it’s un-American.
Biden called on Americans to summon two of our most endangered virtues—patience and faith—on election night. He knows that there is likely to be dangerous mischief on November 8, not least because so many Republicans have essentially promised it and, in some cases, done their best to ensure it.
The president’s appeal to defend our democratic values will exasperate supposed pragmatists who believe that all people want to hear about is the price of cereal and bananas. Maybe the pragmatists are right, and voters don’t care about anything else. But a president betrays his oath to defend the Constitution if he allows his concerns about our democracy to be held hostage to the price of a gallon of gasoline.
At the moment, however, a slew of candidates across the nation are promising to ditch the Constitution and the rule of law; armed goons are positioning themselves near ballot boxes in Arizona; Republicans and their supporters are making sick jokes about an alleged attempt to kidnap and torture the speaker of the House. Only the most self-absorbed and selfish leader would refuse to speak out. We had enough of that with the last president.
This speech will soon be buried and forgotten in a blizzard of media cynicism and the buzz of impending election news. But the president of the United States told us something important last night. The only question is whether anyone cares.
Thursday, November 03, 2022
Wednesday, November 02, 2022
A deluge of radio spots and mailers targeting transgender children is hitting swing-state voters as part of a broad ad campaign directed by prominent Trump administration alums.
Polling rarely registers transgender-related issues as a top priority for voters, with other topics like the economy and public safety taking the lead in this midterm cycle. But America First Legal, launched by longtime Donald Trump aide Stephen Miller, has plastered airwaves and mailboxes with the issue ahead of the election — all without mentioning candidates currently running for office, as both groups are [ridiculously] registered nonprofits.
Ads targeting transgender children have spread in at least 25 states across the political spectrum — from Texas to Illinois to Michigan — in the last month, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
America First Legal has made more than $4 million in radio buys across Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit — cities in competitive states with significant Black populations. The radio ad features a man speaking over ominous music, claiming that children have been pushed to take puberty blockers and get gender-affirming surgery.
“The Biden administration is pushing radical gender experiments on children,” the narrator says in the original radio spot. “Tell Joe Biden and left-wing leaders across America, ‘Hands off our kids.’”
NAACP president Derrick Johnson said the organization sent letters to radio stations asking them not to run the ad, which he called “the worst I’ve seen” on the issue this cycle.
“This is playing to the lowest common denominator of hate and otherizing, targeting the LGBT community,” Johnson said. “When you create this type of negative reaction to individuals who [don’t] present any societal grief, you only create space for people to feel justified for attacking them physically and through public policy.”
“It’s meant to fly under the radar as much as possible. Voter suppression efforts are typically done at the last minute and behind the scenes.”
America First Legal has also sent mailers to Black and Hispanic households in states including Georgia, Texas and Nevada, according to advertisements collected as part of POLITICO’s Political Mailers Project. Citizens for Sanity, another group formed by Trump administration alumni which has spent tens of millions on late advertising, also made TV buys on the issue a week ahead of Election Day in battleground states including Georgia, Arizona and Nevada.
In Spanish and English-language mailers, America First Legal similarly warned against “radical and irreversible gender experiments,” including anecdotes from unnamed people who regretted “destroying their lives” with gender-affirming care and surgery. Another ad more specifically goes after Biden, surrounding a picture of the president with anti-transgender headlines related to schools from Fox News and the Daily Wire.
Medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, support gender-affirming care for adolescents. But medical experts said gender-affirming care for children rarely, if ever, includes surgery.
LGBTQ people of color, especially Black people, face heightened levels of discrimination leading to high unemployment rates and homelessness, according to a recent report from the National LGBTQ Task Force.
Wetrosky noted that organizations made similar efforts to create divisions between LGBTQ individuals and Black and Latino voters when campaigning against marriage equality a decade ago.
Miller launched America First Legal to be a “conservative version of the American Civil Liberties Union.” It has taken part in lawsuits and other legal action concerning instruction about racism in public schools, voting, LGBTQ and immigration policies, as well as claiming Biden’s administration is “anti-white.”
Advertising focused on transgender children has popped up in several states this year, though America First Legal and Citizens for Sanity have been by far the biggest actors on the issue. In Kansas, the Republican Governors Association has gone after Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on youth sports policy.
Transgender-focused ads have cropped up in other races on TV, although the volume pales in comparison to spots about economy and crime. Since Labor Day, there have been just around 90 TV ads that contain references to LGBTQ issues, according to ad tracker AdImpact, over half which came from Republicans.
Hate and lies are the hallmarks of today's GOP.
As we approach the midterm elections, most political coverage I see frames the contest as a struggle between Republicans taking advantage of a bad economy and Democrats trying to scare voters about the G.O.P.’s regressive social agenda. Voters do, indeed, perceive a bad economy. But perceptions don’t necessarily match reality.
In particular, while political reporting generally takes it for granted that the economy is in bad shape, the data tell a different story. Yes, we have troublingly high inflation. But other indicators paint a much more favorable picture. If inflation can be brought down without a severe recession — which seems like a real possibility — future historians will consider economic policy in the face of the pandemic a remarkable success story.
When assessing the state of the economy, what period should we use for comparison? I’ve noted before that Republicans like to compare the current economy with an imaginary version of January 2021, one in which gas was $2 a gallon but less pleasant realities, like sky-high deaths from Covid and deeply depressed employment, are airbrushed from the picture. A much better comparison is with February 2020, just before the pandemic hit with full force.
So how does the current economy compare with the eve of the pandemic?
First, we’ve had a more or less complete recovery in jobs and production. The unemployment rate, at 3.5 percent, is right back where it was before the virus struck. So is the percentage of prime-age adults employed. Gross domestic product is close to what the Congressional Budget Office was projecting prepandemic.
This good news shouldn’t be taken for granted. In the early months of the pandemic, there were many predictions that it would lead to “scarring,” persistent damage to jobs and growth.
Still, while workers may have jobs again, hasn’t their purchasing power taken a big hit from inflation? The answer may surprise you.
In September, consumer prices were 15 percent higher than they were on the eve of the pandemic. However, average wages were up by 14 percent, almost matching inflation. Wages of nonsupervisory workers, who make up more than 80 percent of the work force, were up 16 percent. So there wasn’t a large hit to real wages overall, although gas and food — which aren’t much affected by policy, but matter a lot to people’s lives — did become less affordable.
More important, some Americans are especially exposed to prices that have gone up a lot. On average, however, there hasn’t been a huge hit to living standards.
But won’t bringing inflation down require an ugly recession? Maybe, and widespread predictions of recession may be taking a toll on public perceptions. But they are predictions, not an established fact — and many economists don’t agree with those predictions.
Despite what I’ve said, however, the public has very negative economic perceptions. Doesn’t that tell us that the economy really is in bad shape?
No, it doesn’t. People know how well they, themselves, are doing. Their views about the national economy, however, can diverge sharply from their personal experience.
A Federal Reserve survey found that in 2021 there was a huge gap between the rising number of people with a positive view of their own finances and the falling number with a positive view of the economy
The point, however, isn’t that the public is wrong to be concerned; it is that negative public views of the economy don’t refute the proposition that the economy is doing well in many though not all dimensions.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Democrats spend their final campaigning days telling voters that the economy is actually just fine. It isn’t.
But Democrats shouldn’t concede that the overall economy is in bad shape, either. Some very good things have happened on their watch, above all a jobs recovery that has exceeded almost everyone’s expectations. And they have every right to point out that while Republicans may denounce inflation, Republicans have no plan whatsoever to reduce it.
Those unhapy with the economy will be far less happy a year from now if the put Republians in control of Congress. They will also see their rights and freedoms eroded, especially give the extremist Supreme Court majority that wants to return to 1950.
Tuesday, November 01, 2022
Monday, October 31, 2022
It should not be controversial to say that America has a major problem with right-wing political violence. The evidence continues to accumulate — yet the GOP continues to deny responsibility for this horrifying trend.
On Friday, a man enflamed by right-wing conspiracy theories (including QAnon) entered the San Francisco home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and attacked her 82-year-old husband with a hammer, fracturing Paul Pelosi’s skull. “Where is Nancy?” he reportedly shouted, echoing the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, at President Donald Trump’s instigation. This comes after years of Republican demonization of the House speaker, a figure of hatred for the right rivaled only by Hillary Clinton.
The same day as the Pelosi attack, a man pleaded guilty to making death threats against Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). Two days earlier, three men who were motivated by right-wing, anti-lockdown hysteria after covid-19 hit were convicted of aiding a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). In August, another man died after attacking an FBI office because he was so upset about the bureau’s search of Mar-a-Lago. “We must respond with force,” he wrote on Trump’s Truth Social website.
Then there are all the terrible hate crimes, in cities including Pittsburgh, El Paso and Buffalo, where gunmen were motivated by the kind of racist rhetoric — especially the “great replacement theory” — now openly espoused on Fox “News.”
This is where any fair-minded journalist has to offer an obligatory “to be sure” paragraph: To be sure, political violence is not confined to the right. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) was shot in 2017 by a gunman with leftist beliefs, and in June, a man was arrested for allegedly plotting to assassinate Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh . . .
Republican leaders cite those attacks to exonerate themselves of any responsibility for political violence. “Violence is up across the board,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said on Sunday, arguing that it’s “unfair” to blame anti-Pelosi rhetoric for the assault on Pelosi’s husband.
[W]e can’t allow GOP leaders to get away with this false moral equivalency. They are evading their responsibility for their extremist rhetoric that all too often motivates extremist actions.
The New America think tank found last year that, since Sept. 11, 2001, far-right terrorists had killed 122 people in the United States, compared with only one killed by far-leftists. A study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies last year found that, since 2015, right-wing extremists had been involved in 267 plots or attacks, compared with 66 for left-wing extremists. . . . . 40 percent of Republicans said violence against the government can be justified, compared with only 23 percent of Democrats.
There is little doubt about what is driving political violence: the ascendance of Trump. The former president and his followers use violent rhetoric of extremes: Trump calls President Biden an “enemy of the state,” attacks the FBI as “monsters,” refers to the “now Communist USA” and even wrote that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has a “DEATH WISH” for disagreeing with him.
That type of extremist rhetoric used to be confined to fringe organizations such as the John Birch Society. Now it’s the GOP mainstream, with predictable consequences. The U.S. Capitol Police report that threats against members of Congress have risen more than tenfold since Trump’s election in 2016, up to 9,625 last year.
The sickness on the right was on display after news broke about the attack on Paul Pelosi. While leading Republicans condemned the horrific assault, the MAGA base seethed with sick jokes making light of the violence and insane conspiracy theories.
There was, alas, no sign of the GOP taking responsibility for fomenting hatred. . . . . Republicans accuse Democrats of being “divisive” for citing Republican rhetoric as a contributing factor to political violence.
[I]t’s not Democrats who are pushing our country to the brink: A New York Times study found that MAGA members of Congress who refused to accept the results of the 2020 election used polarizing language at nearly triple the rate of Democrats.
So please don’t accept the GOP framing of the assault on Paul Pelosi as evidence of a problem plaguing “both sides of the aisle.” Political violence in America is being driven primarily by the far right, not the far left, and the far right is much closer to the mainstream of the Republican Party than the far left is to the Democratic Party.
Sunday, October 30, 2022
I’d like to take this opportunity to retract the nice things I said about Glenn Youngkin a few months ago.
In July, I wrote a column when reports began to surface that Virginia’s Republican governor, a fresh and sunny political newcomer with proven bipartisan appeal, was already thinking about running for president.
At the time, I expressed hope that Youngkin — or someone like him — would seek the GOP nomination in 2024. His stunning 2021 victory in blue-ish Virginia showed that there might still be room in the Republican Party for a different model of politician, one who could run as a unifying alternative to Donald Trump’s venomous brand.
Optimist that I am, I still hope that a tribune of sanity will emerge in the Republican Party. But the everydad in the fleece vest probably isn’t that guy. When a situation this week called for expressing a modicum of human decency, Youngkin — who frequently talks about his religious values — showed he could rival the former president at diving for the gutter.
As news was breaking Friday about the horrific attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, by an intruder in their San Francisco home, Youngkin happened to be campaigning in Stafford, Va., for Yesli Vega, the Republican running in a very tight race against Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger.
“Speaker Pelosi’s husband, they had a break-in last night in their house, and he was assaulted. There’s no room for violence anywhere,” Youngkin said.
Alas, he didn’t stop there.
“But we’re going to send her back to be with him in California,” the governor said. As the crowd cheered, Youngkin doubled down: “That’s what we’re going to go do. That’s what we’re going to go do.”
Set aside the fact that his joke, if that’s what you can call it, showed a lack of understanding of basic civics and geography. Pelosi is in Washington because she has been elected for the past 35 years by the voters of California. This has nothing to do with anybody in Virginia.
What made Youngkin’s riff not only tasteless but also dangerous is that he was not referring to some random act of “violence anywhere.” The attack on Paul Pelosi was a direct product of the toxic political culture — a culture that the governor was helping to cultivate for what he apparently sees as a political opportunity.
Evidence now indicates that the assailant who beat Pelosi with a hammer, sending the 82-year-old to the hospital with a skull fracture and serious injuries to his arm and hands, had broken into the Pelosi home because he was looking for the speaker herself. Nancy Pelosi has been demonized for years by Republicans, including in countless GOP campaign ads.
Being a jerk about Pelosi is not the only Youngkin action of late that betrays who he really is and what he is willing to do in service of his ambition. During his campaign for governor, he managed a tricky balancing act on the election denialism that has gripped his party. He promised to put “election integrity” at the top of his priorities in office — indulging the lie that fraud is rampant — but also acknowledged Joe Biden’s 2020 victory . . .
But more recently, Youngkin is being seen with the worst people in his party. A little over a week ago, he stumped in Arizona for GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, one of the loudest of those 2020 deniers and someone who has refused to say whether she will accept the results of this year’s election. He called her “awesome,” and she declared him a “total rock star.” . . . . Youngkin thinks it’s fine to undermine democracy in the cause of lower taxes and school choice.
[T]he commonwealth limits its governors to one consecutive term, which means, come 2024, he will be looking for a new job. Youngkin may still have some room for redemption, though it is shrinking. He could start by apologizing for his crude joke. So far, all we’ve heard is a statement from his office condemning the violence against the speaker’s husband and saying the governor “wishes him a full recovery and is keeping the Pelosi family in his prayers.” Meanwhile, his turn toward full-bore Trumpism is likely to be for naught. There are plenty of others, including the original, who do it better — and at less cost to their own integrity.