Political MoJo

Corn on Hardball: The GOP's Dangerous Decision to Support and Encourage Cliven Bundy

Thu Apr. 17, 2014 11:11 AM PDT

Washington bureau chief David Corn spoke on MSNBC's "Hardball" about the Right's support of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who has refused to pay standard grazing fees on federal land for the past 20 years. He pointed out the irony of the GOP supporting Bundy's fight for a free ride, as well as the danger of encouraging and validating potentially violent extremists.
 

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Rand Paul Really Doesn't Want to Talk About His McConnell Endorsement

| Thu Apr. 17, 2014 8:31 AM PDT
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

A tea party revolutionary four years ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has bucked many of his old supporters by backing Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, in McConnell's primary against Matt Bevin, a hedge fund executive backed by the Senate Conservatives Fund. Why would Paul do such a thing? He has been cagey, to say the least. "He asked me when there was nobody else in the race, and I said yes," the junior senator told Glenn Beck in February. Evidently even that was too verbose. Per the Glasgow (Ky.) Daily Times, Paul has now taken his answer off the record:

After addressing about 30 people who turned out to hear him, the senator opened the floor for questions.

One constituent asked him why he came out in support of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville.

Paul declined to answer the question publicly, saying he would speak with her in private and explain his reason for supporting the senior senator.

Paul family political guru Jesse Benton, who is now managing McConnell's re-election campaign, told a tea party activist in a secretly-recorded conversation last year that, "between you and me, I'm sort of holdin' my nose for two years because what we're doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand in '16, so that's my long vision."

One reason Paul might decide to keep his explanation private: His answer sounds a lot like Benton's.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 17, 2014

Thu Apr. 17, 2014 3:00 AM PDT

Marines put out a controlled fire on a mobile aircraft fire training device at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma April 7 during a visit from Girl Scouts. The firefighting display showed how the Marines respond to an emergency situation. The mission of Girl Scouts of America is to build the courage, confidence and character of girls, who can then make the world a better place, according to their website. The Marines are aircraft rescue and firefighting specialists with ARFF, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, MCAS Futenma, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David N. Hersey/Released)

Federal Court Rules North Dakota's Extreme Abortion Ban Unconstitutional

| Wed Apr. 16, 2014 1:34 PM PDT

On Wednesday, a federal judge blocked a North Dakota law that would have banned all abortions after a heartbeat is detectable in the fetus, which can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The judge, Daniel Hovland, called the ban—which passed last year and was immediately challenged by the Red River Women's Clinic, the only abortion provider in the state—"invalid and unconstitutional," and said it would impose an "undue burden on women seeking to obtain an abortion."

The North Dakota law is one of the most far-reaching abortion bans in the country. Many women aren't aware that they are pregnant until well after six weeks into a pregnancy. Under the North Dakota law, those women wouldn't be able to seek abortions at all.

North Dakota is one of several states that have pushed laws banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. In March, a federal judge struck down a similar ban Arkansas had passed last year. But losses in the courts haven't stopped these efforts from spreading—the Alabama House passed a fetal heartbeat bill last month, and state legislatures in Wyoming, Mississippi, and Ohio have considered similar legislation in the past year.

Martinez Aide Who Said Latino Icon "Sounds Like a Retard" Now Works at Agency Serving Mentally Disabled

| Wed Apr. 16, 2014 1:10 PM PDT

On Wednesday, Mother Jones published a story about New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, a rising GOP star, that draws on previously unreleased audio recordings from her 2010 campaign.

In one of the many unflattering moments revealed by the tapes, Matt Kennicott, then Martinez's deputy campaign manager and policy director, comments on the accent of former House speaker Ben Luján, saying, "Somebody told me he's absolutely eloquent in Spanish, but his English? He sounds like a retard."

As it turns out, Matt Kennicott now works for a state agency charged with providing key services to people with mental disabilities. As the Communications Director for New Mexico's Human Services Department (HSD), Kennicott is, according to his LinkedIn account, responsible for developing "messaging and talking points for various program areas." He also serves as the "chief negotiator on legislative priorities around health care and public assistance policy."

The department's $4.97 billion budget is the largest of any state agency. It oversees mental health services for 85,000 New Mexicans, including programs for low-income individuals with disabilities and behavioral health care for people with mental illness.

Lawrence Rael, a Democrat hoping to unseat Martinez in 2014, issued a statement shortly after the story was published calling Martinez's decision to hire Kennicott at HSD "unconscionable." Kennicott did not respond to multiple requests from Mother Jones to comment on the clip.

GOP Congressional Candidate Shoots Down Drone in New Ad

| Wed Apr. 16, 2014 10:52 AM PDT

In Montana congressional candidate Matt Rosendale's newest ad, which you can you can watch above, Rosendale aims a sighted rifle at a "government drone" and blows it away, before sending a message to the Obama administration: "Spying on our citizens—that's just wrong."

This isn't the first attempt by Rosendale, a state representative who is seeking the GOP nomination to replace Rep. Steve Daines in Congress next fall, to make nice with his state's far-right elements. In December Rosendale attended an event held by a group called Defend Rural America, whose founder, Kirk MacKenzie, called environmentalists "domestic terrorists." And although this is the first time a candidate has pretended to shoot down a drone, politicians have a long history of blowing things up in campaign ads. In 2008, Montana Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer used a double-barreled shotgun to blast the federal Real ID law into tiny bits.

As always, Mother Jones reminds you that if you must ritually annihilate a federal policy in a campaign ad, you should at least wear safety goggles and ear plugs.

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Gov. Susana Martinez Reacts to Mother Jones Story: "One of the Most Desperate and Despicable Attacks"

| Wed Apr. 16, 2014 10:16 AM PDT
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

On Wednesday morning, Mother Jones published a cover story about New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a rising star in the Republican Party, that draws on previously unreleased audio recordings, emails, and text messages. In these audio tapes, she and her aides use crude and often offensive language when referring to political opponents. Martinez's reelection campaign immediately responded.

In an email blast to supporters, Martinez attacked the messenger, calling Mother Jones a "tabloid" and "one of the most radically liberal publications in the country." Martinez accused Mother Jones of "peddling false, personal attacks against me, using stolen audiotapes from our debate prep sessions four years ago." She claimed that "this shows just how far the Left is willing to go to stop reforms in New Mexico." In the email, Martinez does admit to calling 2010 Democratic opponent Diane Denish "the B-word," adding, "I admit it—I've had to fund the cuss jar a few times in my life." Her email ends with a plea for a campaign contribution.

Her email neglects to address several parts of the story, such as the reports that Martinez's top adviser, Jay McCleskey, wrote "I HATE THAT FUCKING BITCH!" about a fellow GOP pol, and that a former Martinez adviser mocked New Mexico political icon Ben Luján for his English-speaking abilities, saying he "sounds like a retard."

Martinez's campaign has also created a petition describing Mother Jones as "the far-left's premier magazine" and calls the story "one of the most desperate and despicable attacks to date." The Martinez campaign's message goes on to ask supporters to sign a petition ostensibly to "show the D.C. liberal media that their desperate attacks have no place in our state."

Here's the petition:

Martinez's campaign has made full use of social media in its pushback, buying a promoted tweet on Twitter urging people to "stand with me":

Similarly, she asked her Facebook friends to "stand with me against the D.C. liberal media and show them that their Washington-style attacks have no place in our state."

Martinez did retweet a link to Mother Jones' story that was tweeted by Buzzfeed writer McKay Coppins—only to delete her tweet 14 seconds later.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 16, 2014

Wed Apr. 16, 2014 3:00 AM PDT

Marines with the Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare to enter the well deck aboard the USS San Diego during Amphibious Squadron Marine Expedtionary Unit Integration Training (PMINT) off the coast of San Diego, Calif. April 8, 2014. PMINT is the first at-sea event in the MEU’s predeployment training program at which they have the opportunity to conduct amphibious based operations while embarked on a ship. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan/Released)

Everyone on the Far Right Loves Militia-Backed Rancher Cliven Bundy—Except Glenn Beck

| Tue Apr. 15, 2014 2:36 PM PDT
An armed Cliven Bundy supporter

Conservative activists and media outlets have generally embraced the cause of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada cattle rancher who inspired a gang of protesters—many of them armed—to face off with federal law enforcement this weekend. But one figure on the right has taken a surprising stand against Bundy's supporters: former Fox News host Glenn Beck.

On Saturday, a large group of anti-government protesters converged on a Bureau of Land Management base camp in rural Nevada to protest the federal government's seizure of Bundy's cows. Bundy had for years grazed hundreds of cattle on protected lands controlled by the federal government and refused to pay the resulting court-ordered fines. This month, after nearly 20 years of consistently beating Bundy in court, the BLM moved to confiscate his cattle. A judge ordered Bundy not to physically interfere. In response, Bundy assembled protesters to confront the BLM officers who were holding his livestock.

After a dramatic, two-day standoff, federal officers backed down and handed the cows over to Bundy to avoid violence. Astonishing photos from the scene show protesters perched on a highway overpass and hunkered down in the brush with long-range weapons; one photo appears to show a man on the bridge aiming down at the BLM base camp.

The involvement of armed militiamen—and Bundy's promise to "do whatever it takes" to reclaim his cattle—doesn't appear to phase conservative activists who have turned Bundy into a cause célèbre. Before this weekend's confrontation, National Review Online, Fox & Friends, and American Thinker all blamed the government for mounting tensions. Two groups affiliated with Americans for Prosperity, a political organization funded primarily by the Koch brothers, spent the weekend tweeting their support for Bundy, Media Matters reported. Sean Hannity, who on Friday hailed Bundy as a capitalist hero—"When your cattle graze there, that keeps the price of meat down for every American consumer"—invited Bundy back on the air Monday for a second, easygoing interview in which he made only glancing reference to the armed confrontation.

Beck, though, in an episode of his show broadcast Monday, said he fully supports Bundy's principles but couldn't look past his supporters:

The problem here is that Bundy hasn't been all that clear on this…He's a rancher. And so he's not used to making his sound bite case in this sound bite world. But the problem with that lack of clarity is some of the supporters that he's attracting. He is drawing in the decent, small government proponents from groups such as the tea party…I know there's some people that listen [to] and watch me. And they are sick of the government regulations hampering themselves, small businesses, farming, I'm with you on that.

But when you're not really super clear, it also draws another element, drawing in the violent, anti-government groups. The, I think, right's version of Occupy Wall Street. We did some research online on PsyID [a social-media analysis tool] today, and found that there's about 10 to 15 percent of the people who are talking about this online that are truly frightening. They don't care what the facts are—they just want a fight. And you see it in some of these pictures.

At this point, video played behind Beck of protesters scuffling with federal officers.

I don't know who these people are. They all might be great. But here they are, they're acting, they're enraged, they're enraged. And they're confronting the federal government officials. I get that. But this is not the way to win…I want to be clear, 100 percent clean on one thing all of us should agree on, and unfortunately, I don't believe we do, both left and right. And that is, we need to agree on, we condemn those who use violence. Inciting violence doesn't solve anything. I vehemently denounce anyone who even hints at such tactics…People can spot anger and vengeance from a mile away. And when I saw that video where they were lunging and jumping at the agents, calling them scumbags, I thought, this is our side's Occupy Wall Street. It's happening all over again, and it will end the same way.

Beck didn't specifically call out the armed protesters, and the Blaze, a website that is part of his media empire, played up the federal government's role in bringing the crisis to a head. Beck claims the facts of the federal government's actions against Bundy are "convoluted" (when they're pretty well established) and equates heavily armed protesters with Occupy Wall Street. But there's no doubt that he took a stand against the extreme elements among Bundy's supporters. And when Glenn Beck approximates a reasonable position on the same night that a blood moon rises, you've got to second-guess the folks who say the world isn't coming to an end.

This is the Best/Worst Campaign Video of 2014

| Tue Apr. 15, 2014 1:54 PM PDT

Depending on where you stand, this is either the best piece of political performance art of the 2014 election or the worst. Or maybe it's both. Supporters of embattled Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is challenging longtime incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) in the June primary, have composed this charming jingle, asking Cochran to "please come home." These kinds of supporter-generated videos can often be tacky and amateurish, or woefully off-message. But this—this is art. Watch:

Lyrics below:

Won't you come home Thad Cochran,
Won't you come home,
You've been there way too long,
We sent you up there, to do what's right,
But now you done us wrong

Remember that crazy health care, that gun control,
You voted for was oh so wrong,
Well, it's really a shame,
And you're partly to blame,
Thad Cochran won't you please come home.

2nd Chorus

Won't you come home Thad Cochran,
Won't you come home,
Our party's gone off track,
With Chris McDaniel, we've got a chance,
To bring our party back,

So pack your suitcase, and grab your hat,
Then catch a ride and get here fast,
We know you did your best,
But it's time for a rest,
We hope this term be your last!

3rd Chorus
Won't you come home Thad Cochran,
Won't you come home,
You're spending way too much,
You've raised the ceiling of debt so high,
This country can't catch up...

And your pork barrel, is filled so full,
I think that it just may bust!
Please hear our call, as we plead one and all,
Thad Cochran, won't you please come home.

Note: Thad Cochran doesn't wear a hat:

Pete Marovich/ ZumaPress