Mojo - January 2013

Corn on MSNBC: Does McCain Have a Grudge Against Chuck Hagel?

Thu Jan. 31, 2013 8:33 PM EST

The confirmation hearings for Obama's defense secretary nominee, Chuck Hagel, got off to a rocky start. Senator John McCain got so testy grilling Hagel over the Iraq War that Mother Jones' DC bureau chief David Corn called it "as close as we get to soap opera at a congressional hearing." Watch the whole segment from MSNBC's BashirLive below.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

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No, the University of Chicago Isn't Tearing Down Reagan's Childhood Home to Make Way for an Obama Parking Lot

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 1:59 PM EST

There's a new rumor going around that the University of Chicago wants to pave what's left of Reagan's paradise and put up a socialist parking lot.

On Wednesday, the UK tabloid the Daily Mail published a story claiming that the university had plans to demolish Ronald Reagan's childhood home in Chicago (832 E. 57th St.), to make room for a parking lot for a potential Barack Obama Presidential Library. It goes without saying that this would be flipping one gigantic bird to the American right.

It was at this apartment building that Reagan survived a severe bout of pneumonia. It's also where the future president was living when his older brother was run over by a horse-drawn beer wagon (the incident wasn't fatal, but left a long scar on his leg). In 2004, the University of Chicago bought the land encompassing the apartment building where the 40th President of the United States lived between the age of 3 and 4. Residents were ordered out in 2010. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks denied the structure "landmark status," which gave the university the greenlight to take a bulldoze to the vacant six-flat building to make way for planned campus expansion.

"Some have said that the liberal Chicago establishment does not want a reminder that Reagan, a conservative icon, once lived in the city," the thinly sourced Daily Mail report reads.

South Dakota Bill Implies Women Can't Think on Weekends

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 1:48 PM EST

Two years ago, South Dakota legislators passed a new law designed to deter women from seeking abortions. Under the law, a woman must consult with her doctor, then visit an anti-abortion "crisis pregnancy center," and then wait 72 hours before she can actually have an abortion. Now legislators want to raise the barrier to accessing an abortion even higher by disqualifying weekends and holidays from the waiting period.

House Bill 1237, sponsored by Republican Jon Hansen, would amend the waiting period rule to add the line, "No Saturday, Sunday, federal holiday, or state holiday may be included or counted in the calculation of the seventy-two hour minimum time period between the initial physician consultation and assessment and the time of the scheduled abortion procedure." It has 14 co-sponsors in the house and five in the state senate.

Apparently South Dakota lawmakers believe that a woman will be unable to contemplate her abortion adequately unless she's doing it on a weekday.

If the bill passes, it would mean a woman who goes in for her initial consultation for an abortion on a Wednesday actually has to wait five days before she can have the abortion (Or six, if she happens to come in before a long weekend.) This is no small barrier for many women, especially in South Dakota. The state has just one abortion clinic, in Sioux Falls, and a doctor that flies in from out of state to provide services. Women drive up to six hours each direction to reach that clinic. The state also requires the doctor to read patients a prescribed script claiming that abortion will put them at an increased risk of suicide (a claim not backed by medical evidence).

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the 2011 mandatory counseling law, and a court has prevented it from being enforced. But the groups decided to drop the challenge to the 72-hour waiting period part of the law last month, because Planned Parenthood said it had found a way to make that provision workable and it wanted to focus its attention on the mandatory crisis pregnancy counseling portion. Planned Parenthood will begin implementing the waiting period this year. It's almost as if this latest bill is designed to make it even harder for the clinic, and women, to comply with the waiting period.

A call to Hansen's office seeking elaboration on the intent of his proposed legislation had not been returned at press time.

"South Dakota is already one of the most difficult places in the country for a woman to access abortion," said Sarah Stoesz, the president of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. "The legislature is proving its hostility to women's personal medical decision-making once again. If the theory is that women need 72 hours to think about their decision, then are these politicians saying women can't think on weekends or holidays? This is unbelievable."

Limbaugh: Cubans Work Hard, Unlike Mexicans

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 1:37 PM EST

As if seeking to illustrate the GOP's ongoing problem with alienating large groups of people, on Wednesday Rush Limbaugh purported to explain why this generation of Latino immigrants differs from previous ones: They're lazy. Here's a transcript:

[T]he way the Republicans are looking at it is that they think that Hispanic immigrants are made-to-order conservatives. For some reason, culturally, they think that they're invested in hard work. And using the Cuban exile model, they're exactly right. But the Hispanic demographic, if you will, or population, has shifted. And the Cuban exile model is no longer the dominant model. The Mexican immigrant model is. And that -- they arrive with an entirely different view of America. And I'm sorry if this is offensive, but it's true.

This isn't the first time that Limbaugh has offered the thesis that people from Cuba work hard while people from Mexico are lazy. He put a slight twist on it last November, explaining that "[Cubans are] just not quite dark—as dark, and they're oriented toward work." So according to Limbaugh, Cubans are less brown then Mexicans, and less lazy, and because of this "Cubans are not all that popular" among other Latinos. When the Department of Homeland Security decided not to deport some undocumented immigrants brought to the US as kids, however, Limbaugh complained that Obama was "flooding the job market" with "illegals." In short, something must be done to stop these lazy Mexicans from taking American jobs. (Left unmentioned by Limbaugh was the substantial difference between Cubans and Mexicans that is actually relevant to the discussion about immigration: Cubans can seek American citizenship simply by setting foot on American soil. Unauthorized immigrants from other nations cannot.)

Limbaugh's contradictory view that undocumented immigrants are lazy but will also outcompete American workers for jobs is relatively widespread on the right. "Take away the Spanish surname and Latino voters look a great deal like many other Democratic constituencies," National Review explained in an editorial opposing immigration reform published Wednesday. "Low-income households headed by single mothers and dependent upon some form of welfare are not looking for an excuse to join forces with Paul Ryan and Pat Toomey." The editorial goes on to complain about the lack of effective measures to prevent undocumented immigrants from working.

What we're seeing here is a product of ideological tribalism run amok. Some conservatives have persuaded themselves that being a conservative is a prerequisite for human virtues like diligence. Since only conservatives know what hard work is, if you are not conservative you do not work hard. Because Cuban-Americans typically vote Republican, they must understand hard work and responsibility. Since Mexican-Americans, like most other Latino subgroups, vote Democratic, they are lazy by definition. Given these sorts of blanket generalizations, it's easy to see how the right-wing prophecy that legalizing undocumented immigrants will simply lead to more Democratic voters could become self-fulfilling.

Mississippi Bill Would Ban Manimals, Mermen, and Minotaurs

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 11:38 AM EST

Not in Mississippi.

What do you do after you've made abortion de facto illegal in your state by shutting down (almost) all of the clinics? Well, if you're the Mississippi legislature, you resurrect one of the forgotten moments of the George W. Bush presidency—attempt to push through a law criminalizing the creation of "human-animal hybrids."

Human-aniwha? Here's what the bill says:

 

 

More broadly, the bill basically parrots the failed 2011 Personhood amendment, which sought to redefine human life as beginning at fertilization. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger's Brian Eason helpfully clarifies that "the way the bill is written, it would not outlaw freak accidents in which, say, you were bitten by a radioactive spider and later developed spider-like qualities."

Before the 2012 South Carolina primary, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told pro-lifers that he was unequivocally opposed to the idea of human-jellyfish (hellyfish) hybrids.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 31, 2013

Thu Jan. 31, 2013 11:28 AM EST

Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., battle a fire during a live-fire training exercise, Jan. 17. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron Payne.

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Good News for People Who Like Guns and Vacation Homes

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 11:19 AM EST

Second Amendment alert: New York is preventing Americans with second, third, and fourth homes in the state from obtaining pistol and revolver licenses—and a federal appeals court opinion issued Tuesday suggested this might violate the Constitution.

The case involves a man named Alfred G. Osterweil who owns a vacation home in Summit, NY, and who was denied a handgun permit in the state because his formal residence is in Louisiana. A local judge said this was okay because New York law only allows licenses for full-time residents, and argued that this did not violate the Second Amendment because it's more like a regulation than an outright ban. (An outright ban would be unconstitutional.) He held that it is in the state's interest to "monitor… its hand gun licensees to ensure their continuing fitness for the use of deadly weapons," the opinion said. If Osterweil is out of state for much of the year, the argument goes, New York can't keep tabs on whether he is a law-abiding citizen or a mass murderer.

On Hagel Day, We Recall His Half-Courageous Stand on the Iraq War

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 10:48 AM EST

On Thursday morning, Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's choice to replace Leon Panetta as defense secretary, appears on Capitol Hill for his confirmation hearing before the Senate armed services committee. Though neo-cons and some Rs have moaned about Hagel and tried to mount a campaign against him—he's just not warmongerish enough for them—it remains to be seen whether the Senate Republicans will truly go nuclear against a former colleague who also is a Vietnam veteran. The optics, as they say in Washington, would not be good for the GOP, if it tried to destroy this nomination, given its quasi-bipartisan nature and Hagel's past military service. It's hard to envision the Republicans scoring political points by crucifying Hagel. But with the ever-frustrated and often-crotchety John McCain an influential player on the GOP side, you never know what might happen.

Meanwhile, with Hagel's past and present policy views being probed, it's a good time to repost an item I put up when Hagel was first appointed that examines what he did—and didn't do—when President George W. Bush was trying to march the country to war in Iraq. Here it is:

In October 2002, when Congress was fiercely debating a measure that would allow President George W. Bush to invade Iraq, Hagel noted several reasons why this was a bad idea and presciently predicted all that could go wrong. Yet he still voted for the measure, mostly out of party loyalty (which GOPers now accuse him of no longer possessing). When Hagel was contemplating a presidential run in 2008, I examined his 2002 stance in a TomPaine.com column. I've pasted it below.

Of all the senators eyeing the White House in 2008, this Nebraskan [Hagel] was the only one to express deep reservations about the resolution—while still voting for it. "America—including the Congress—and the world, must speak with one voice about Iraqi disarmament, as it must continue to do so in the war on terrorism," Hagel said in explaining his vote. But he was prescient: "If disarmament in Iraq requires the use of force, we need to consider carefully the implications and consequences of our actions. The future of Iraq after Saddam Hussein is also an open question. Some of my colleagues and some American analysts now speak authoritatively of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in Iraq, and how Iraq can be a test case for democracy in the Arab world. How many of us really know and understand much about Iraq, the country, the history, the people, the role in the Arab world? I approach the issue of post-Saddam Iraq and the future of democracy and stability in the Middle East with more caution, realism and a bit more humility." He added, "Imposing democracy through force in Iraq is a roll of the dice. A democratic effort cannot be maintained without building durable Iraqi political institutions and developing a regional and international commitment to Iraq's reconstruction. No small task."

Hagel was disappointed in the discourse within the Senate: "We should spend more time debating the cost and extent of this commitment, the risks we may face in military engagement with Iraq, the implications of the precedent of United States military action for regime change and the likely character and challenges of a post-Saddam Iraq. We have heard precious little from the President, his team, as well as from this Congress, with a few notable exceptions, about these most difficult and critical questions." And he cautioned humility: "I share the hope of a better world without Saddam Hussein, but we do not really know if our intervention in Iraq will lead to democracy in either Iraq or elsewhere in the Arab world." Bottom line: Hagel feared the resolution would lead to a war that would go badly but didn't have the guts to say no to the leader of his party.

Hagel took a thoughtful approach to the question of the invasion. His worries were dead-on. Yet he had the wiggle room to vote for the measure because there remained a possibility—albeit slight—that Bush would not use this authority and the conflict with Saddam Hussein would be resolved without US military intervention. In considering the invasion and its implications, Hagel had the right take; he just couldn't bring himself to vote accordingly.

Ken Cuccinelli's Messy Relationship With Mental Health

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 7:01 AM EST
Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli.

Pressed at Saturday's National Review Institute Summit on how best to fight back against President Obama's gun control campaign, Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli didn't blink. While he was quick to criticize the President's approach, there was "an awful lot we can do to make Virginia Techs and Sandy Hooks less likely." Then Cuccinelli—who recently declared his candidacy for governorpivoted to mental health. "I'm as frugal a participant in government as you can find," Cuccinelli said. "But I believe government has a role in helping people who through no fault of their own" suffer from mental illness.

So what did Cuccinelli, who described himself in his remarks (and on his gubernatorial campaign website) as a leader on mental health isssues, think of President Obama's own post-Newtown proposals to improve mental health treatment? "I haven't seen them," he told me after the panel. (They're here.)

That's surprising, given his stated commitment to the issue. It's also a bummer, because—as with many of his conservative colleagues, including the NRA's Wayne LaPierre—Cuccinelli's warnings about gun-grabbing mask the fact that he broadly shares Obama's priorities on a key aspect of the gun-control package.

Corn on Hardball: "You've Got to Fight Intensity With Intensity"

Thu Jan. 31, 2013 12:56 AM EST

Mother Jones' Washington, DC bureau chief David Corn joined Mark Glaze of Mayors Against Illegal Guns on MSNBC's Hardball Wednesday to talk about the first big Senate hearing on gun violence, Gabby Giffords' moving testimony, and how to combat the NRA's ruthless lobbying. At the hearing, NRA head Wayne LaPierre reaffirmed that he was not willing to give an inch on gun control, even when it comes to moderate measures with broad public approval, such as universal background checks. What's to be done? "For those who want change," Corn said, "you've got to fight that intensity with intensity of your own." Watch here:

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.