According to a guest speaker at this weekend's Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC, the NFL's concussion crisis is a myth cooked up by overzealous researchers and a willing media, the nation's most popular sport is under attack from an increasingly soft population, and President Obama might have turned out differently—and smoked a lot less pot—if he'd found the structure and discipline of the gridiron growing up. Welcome to the newest front in the culture war: the War on Football.
Football is, as they say here in DC, having a bit of a moment right now. Last week, male college football analysts griped about the appointment of a woman, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to the sport's first playoff committee. President Obama became the latest major figure to suggest that the Washington NFL franchise to change its name to something less racist. And on Tuesday, PBS aired a new report on the sport's concussion crisis, touting research that connects football-related head trauma to long-term brain damage and early death. It was only a matter of time before football joined abortion, porn, and radical Islam as topics of discussion at the annual social conservative soiree.
South Carolina state Sen. Tom Davis (left) and Gen. James Longstreet.
South Carolina state Sen. Tom Davis is a leading light of his state's Republican party, and a favorite among tea party conservatives who hope he reconsiders his decision not to mount a primary challenge to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). He also has some interesting thoughts about the Civil War.
A tipster passes along this photo, from Davis' Facebook page this week (it has since been taken down), featuring a man standing next to a barrier he had moved to the side of the road at Gettysburg National Battlefield Park, allowing vehicles to access the site of the 1863 battle. Davis' comment was brief: "If only Longstreet had employed this flanking maneuver."
Sen. Tom Davis/Facebook
Davis' comment refers to confederate General James Longstreet, one of Robert E. Lee's top generals at Gettysburg, who on the second day of the battle was slow to act on a directive to attack the Union's vulnerable left flank. The theory is that if Longstreet had employed the flanking maneuver, he could have rolled through the Union lines and scored a crushing victory that would have turned the tide of the war in favor of the dysfunctional breakaway republic united by a doctrine of white supremacy. If only!
Republicans in the House of Representatives have had a consistent strategy during the government shutdown: Go small. In a rare display of unity from a fractured caucus, GOPers have passed a series of small bills that would fund agencies like the National Park Service and National Institutes of Health, while continuing to oppose any larger continuing resolution to fund the federal government. The idea was simple: Give Democrats the choice of either splitting ranks, or casting votes against popular (and emotionally resonant) programs.
"I say to Harry Reid in the Senate, bring this up for a vote!" said Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) at a press conference touting the House's bill to fund NIH cancer clinics. "Don't take hope away from those families! Don't take hope away from those moms!"
But House Republicans have had company. Some two dozen Democrats have voted for all or most of the nine Republican continuing resolutions, joining their colleagues to support sequestration-level funding for the NIH, National Park Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, District of Columbia, National Guard, veterans benefits, nutrition assistance, Food and Drug Administration, and Head Start.
In some cases, the reasons for doing so seem straightforward. Fifteen of those Democrats crossover votes are included in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Frontline" list of the seats it will focus on defending in 2014, and eight serve in districts carried by Mitt Romney in 2012. (Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is the only Democrat from a red district to toe the party line completely on the continuing resolution votes.) That's the best explanation for the votes of Reps. Cheri Bustos (Ill.), Brad Schneider (Ill.), Joe Garcia (Fla.), Scott Peters (Calif.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Ami Bera (Calif.), Raul Ruiz (Calif.), Ron Barber (Ariz.), Patrick Murphy (Fla.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Sean Maloney (N.Y.), Pete Gallego (Texas), and John Barrow (Ga.).
And two Democratic congressmen—Reps. Bruce Braley of Iowa and Gary Peters of Michigan—represent otherwise blue districts but have entered competitive Senate races.
That leaves six Democrats—Reps. Jared Polis (Colo.), Stephen Lynch (Mass.), Bill Foster (Ill.), Dan Lipinski (Ill.), Dave Loebsack (Iowa), and John Garamendi (Calif.)—from relatively safe districts, all of which Obama carried by double digits in both 2008 and 2012, who crossed party lines to support Republicans' gimmick funding plan. So what gives?
Polis supports Democratic efforts for a clean continuing resolution, spokesman Brian Branton says, "[b]ut until that happens, he will work to make sure that our government is funded and our agencies reopen. Jared is proud to have supported a bipartisan bill that would reopen our National Parks so that the many jobs that revolve around tourism and Rocky Mountain National Park, in areas like Estes Park in Colorado, are safe." Megan Jacobs, Foster's spokeswoman, struck a similar note, emphasizing that while Foster opposed a piecemeal approach, "he believes if we have the opportunity to get some people back to work and services back on track, we should." Garamendi, who voted for six mini-funding bills, released a statement on Thursday calling on Boehner to knock it off: "This is embarrassing for our country and makes our international partners nervous."
If public opinion is any indication, though, things are looking up for the Democratic defectors. Public opinion polls have swung wildly against Republicans since the shutdown began. And on Thursday, there were signs of growing momentum for a bipartisan plan to restart the federal government, led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Maybe House Democrats really can have it all.
At least someone on the right is taking the debt ceiling seriously: preppers. With the federal government seven days away from reaching its borrowing limit, survivalists—and the $500-million-a-year industry that caters to them—are on high alert, taking to message boards, podcasts, and YouTube to urge their countrymen to stock up on freeze-dried food and ammunition, absent fast congressional action.
Mac Slavo, writing at SHTF Plan, short for the prepper mantra "Shit Hits the Fan," put it bluntly in a post on October 4: "The end result is going to widespread financial and economy destruction, a meltdown of the U.S. dollar, and a collapse of our very way of life as tens of millions of Americans will be instantly impoverished."
When it comes to holding the economy hostage, not all Republican members of Congress are created equal. While economists and financial-services experts are nearly unanimous in their view that failure to raise the debt ceiling on October 17 would be disastrous for the nation's economic health, Republicans on Capitol Hill are divided on the subject. They can't even agree that it's even possible for the government to default—let alone whether running out of money to pay America's bills would really be such a bad thing. Here's a guide to where Republicans fall on the debt ceiling denial spectrum:
Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) Rainier Ehrhardt/Augusta Chronicle
The Debt-Limit-Is-Too-Damn-High Caucus: What's wilder than opposing raising the debt ceiling? Proposing to lower it. But in 2011, Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) wrote a column in the National Review Online proposing a bill that would do just that: "Admittedly, this is not your run-of-the-mill kind of law," he conceded. "My one-of-a-kind bill offers a real and true solution for our fiscal dilemma, and I wholeheartedly hope that my colleagues will either ante up—or try their luck at another profession." Broun has since moderated his view. Sort of. He told NRO he'd support a debt limit deal on one condition: "America is going to be destroyed by Obamacare, so whatever deal is put together must at least reschedule the implementation of Obamacare."