Political MoJo

Jeb Bush: "What's the Paycheck Fairness Act?"

| Wed Oct. 15, 2014 2:01 PM EDT

Jeb Bush, one of the GOP's top 2016 presidential prospects, campaigned Monday for Terri Lynn Land, the Republican running for Senate in Michigan. At an event in the Detroit suburbs, a staffer for Progress Michigan, a liberal advocacy group, asked Bush whether he thought Land should support the Paycheck Fairness Act.* Bush appeared not to know what the proposal is.

The high-profile legislation, much touted by Democrats, aims to close the wage gap between men and women. It would beef up legal protections for workers who ask about the wages of co-workers or share information about their own earnings while directing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to gather information on wages from employers. In September, the bill died in the Senate after Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), filibustered it.

The bill has been part of a national debate about the GOP and women, and it has played a prominent role in this Senate campaign, in which Land is running against Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.). Land, who served as Michigan's secretary of state from 2003 to 2010, has been criticized by Democrats—including President Barack Obama—for saying she did not support the Paycheck Fairness Act. Yet Bush didn't seem to know anything about this bill when the Democratic tracker asked about it:

Progress Michigan: Do you think Secretary Land should support the Paycheck Fairness Act?

Jeb Bush: Excuse me?

Progress Michigan: Do you think Secretary Land should support the Paycheck Fairness Act?

Bush: What's the Paycheck Fairness Act?

Progress Michigan: The Paycheck Fairness Act is a piece of legislation that would ensure women receive the same pay as men...equal pay for equal work.

Bush: Equal pay for the same work, not for equal work—I think that's the problem with it. I think there's a definition issue.

Progress Michigan: So you don't think Secretary Land should support it?

Bush: I don't know. You'd have to ask her.

Correction: The original version of this article stated that the tracker who questioned Bush worked for American Bridge 21st Century, the Democratic oppo research outfit.

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Liberia Says It's Going to Need a Lot More Body Bags

| Wed Oct. 15, 2014 5:15 AM EDT

If you need any more evidence that the Liberian government is overwhelmed by the worsening Ebola outbreak (or you're still wondering why President Barack Obama committed American troops to help coordinate the relief effort), just look at the table below. The numbers, which come from Liberia's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, show the huge gap between the supplies the Liberian government has and the supplies it needs.

As we reported last month, Liberia's entire national budget for 2013-14 was $553 million, with just $11 million allotted for health care—about what Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are believed to have spent on their house in Bel Air. The country allocated another $20 million in August specifically to fight the virus, but that still represents just a fraction of the resources needed.

The rest of the world has so far been unable to close the gap. In September, the United Nations asked member states for almost $1 billion to fight Ebola. On Friday, UN officials reported that they've only raised a quarter of that.

Watch Live: David Corn on the 2014 Elections

Tue Oct. 14, 2014 4:44 PM EDT

Event live stream starting on Tuesday, October, 14, at 6:30 p.m. Eastern 

As the midterm elections approach, issues like money in politics, voter suppression, and income inequality will shape the political landscape just as much as who wins control of the Senate. What difference will November 4 make? And what are the critical issues that will shape the concluding years of the Obama administration and beyond? Please join the Brennan Center and Mother Jones Tuesday, October 14, for a pre-election primer on the state of our democracy, featuring Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn, New York Post editorial writer Robert A. George, and Brennan Center president Michael Waldman in conversation with Alex Wagner, host of MSNBC's Now With Alex Wagner. For more MoJo coverage of the 2014 midterm elections, click here.

Watch This California Republican Candidate Pretend to Save a Drowning Kid

| Tue Oct. 14, 2014 3:21 PM EDT

Neel Kashkari, the Republican candidate for California governor, is out with a new ad attacking incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown's record on education. He has chosen to represent Brown's alleged "betrayal" of the Golden State's kids with a tasteful visual metaphor: a child drowning in a swimming pool.

With three weeks to go until election day, Kashkari is running far behind Brown. Most polls have found him trailing by at least 20 points for months against the generally popular Democratic governor. It's hardly Kashkari's first desperate-ish PR move: in the spring, he ran an ad in which he smashed a toy train in half with an ax to represent his opposition to California's bullet train project.

In July, a camera crew trailed him for a week as he attempted to live on $40 as a homeless person. And in August, Kashkari made a campaign issue out of a ruling that the nosebleed-causing emissions from the Southern California Sriracha hot-sauce factory were a "public nuisance."

But Kashkari's latest spot makes Texas gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis' controversial "wheelchair" ad look downright subtle. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the ad was produced by Something Else Strategies, which has made spots this election cycle for Republican Senate candidates like Iowa's Jodi "I grew up castrating hogs" Ernst.

Gov. Scott Walker on the Minimum Wage: "I Don't Think It Serves a Purpose"

| Tue Oct. 14, 2014 2:06 PM EDT

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is no fan of the minimum wage, and on Tuesday, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker made that plenty clear. Asked about Wisconsin's $7.25-an-hour minimum wage and whether he supported it, Walker said, "I'm not going to repeal it, but I don't think it serves a purpose." Here's the exchange with Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice:

Bice: You were asked [in Monday's debate] if you thought someone could live on the minimum wage in the state, and you said we should be trying to come up with jobs that pay more than that. And then you said, "The way you do that is not by setting an arbitrary amount by the state." That sounds like you're not a particular fan of the minimum wage. What is your position on the minimum wage? Should we have it?

Walker: Well, I'm not going to repeal it, but I don't think it serves a purpose because we're debating then about what the lowest levels are at. I want people to make, like I said the other night, two or three times that.

The jobs I focus on, the programs we put in place, the training we put in place, is not for people to get minimum wage jobs. It's the training—whether it's in apprenticeships, whether it's our tech colleges, whether's it our [University of Wisconsin] system—it's to try and provide the training, the skills, the talents, the expertise that people need to create careers that pay many, many times over. [emphasis mine]

Walker has repeatedly arguing against raising the minimum wage, saying that doing so would kill jobs. (The Congressional Budget Office has found that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would eliminate 500,000 jobs but also lift 900,000 people out of poverty and boost earnings for 16 million people. Cities with higher minimum wages have also seen strong job growth in recent years.) Walker opposes increasing the federal minimum wage and said in January that "the best thing we can do to help people who are unemployed or under employed is to fix Obamacare."

The most recent Marquette University Law School poll found that 59 percent of Wisconsinites support increasing the minimum wage while 36 percent do not.

Prison Guards Can't Pepper Spray Just Any Schizophrenic Inmates in Arizona Anymore

| Tue Oct. 14, 2014 1:52 PM EDT

Arizona prisons just got a little better. A class action lawsuit by the ACLU, the Prison Law Office, and others reached a settlement with the Arizona Department of Corrections today to improve health care and solitary confinement conditions in the state.

"This is one of the largest--if not the largest--prisoner settlements in recent years," said David Fathi, Director of the ACLU's National Prison Project.

The lawsuit, which has been going on for two years, won concessions that would seem to be common sense. Prison guards, for example, now can’t pepper spray severely mentally ill prisoners unless they are preventing serious injury or escape. And while these types of inmates were previously let out of their solitary cells for just six hours a week, the settlement requires Arizona to let them out for at least 19 hours a week. With some exceptions for the most dangerous, this time will now be shared with other prisoners, and will include mental health treatment and other programming.

People like this—the schizophrenic, the psychotic, the suicidal—are not a small portion of the 80,000 people we have in solitary confinement in the US today. According the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 45 percent of people in solitary have severe mental illnesses. The country's three largest mental health care providers are jails.

The Parsons v. Ryan settlement also requires the Arizona prison system to make more than 100 health care improvements. Prison staff now has to monitor people with hypertension or diabetes. Pregnant women have to get more care. Prisoners whose psych meds make them sensitive to heat now have to be kept in cells that are no hotter than 85 degrees. Those not on anti-psychotic meds though, can keep baking.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 14, 2014

Tue Oct. 14, 2014 9:53 AM EDT

Marine Infantry Officer Course students stand by before a helicopter drill in Arizona. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James Marchetti)

Vatican to Cohabitators and Gays: You're Kind of Okay. (Update: Actually, Never Mind.)

| Mon Oct. 13, 2014 6:04 PM EDT
Bishops at the synod on family issues at the Vatican.

Update, Saturday, October 18, 2014: Never mind: "A final statement agreed to on Saturday by a summit of Catholic Church leaders to discuss teachings on family retreated from groundbreaking language on “welcoming homosexual persons” included in an interim draft released on Monday."

A preliminary document released by the Vatican today suggests a possible easing of the Catholic Church's strict stances on premarital cohabitation, homosexuality, and divorce and remarriage. Summarizing the first week of discussion at a worldwide meeting of bishops, the document stresses the need for church leadership to listen "with respect and love" and "appreciate the positive values" of members "rather than their limitations and shortcomings."

The document is not an indication of change in doctrine, but more of a recap of what has been discussed so far at the two-week long synod on family issues, and what's on the agenda in the second week of meetings. The synod was both convened and attended by Pope Francis. Among the topics mentioned in the document are the "positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation," and the importance of including Catholics who are divorced or remarried while "avoiding any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against."

The document also encourages churches to welcome and accept gay people, who "have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community." This "welcoming" has its limitations: The document maintains that "unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman."

Overall, however, the document's tone contrasts with statements from Pope Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who called gay marriage a "threat to world peace" and damaging to "the essence of the human creature." And not once does it refer those who are divorced or living together before marriage as sinners.

The document quotes previous writings by Pope Francis, stating: "The Church is called on to be 'the house of the Father, with doors always wide open…where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.'"

The Vatican's baby steps toward discussion and inclusion appear to reflect the frustration among many Catholics toward the church's traditional stances on family issues and gay rights. Last week, a poll of American Catholics found 40 percent believe the church should drop its opposition to premarital sex and cohabitation (33 percent say it should not), and 42 percent believe the Church should recognize same-sex marriage (40 percent disagree). The poll also found Pope Francis has an 85 percent favorability rating among American Catholics.

South Dakota Senate Candidate Boasted of "African American Friends," Mulled Run for DC Mayor

| Mon Oct. 13, 2014 5:45 PM EDT
South Dakota Senate candidate Larry Pressler

Larry Pressler, who's running as an independent in South Dakota's three-way race to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, has averaged around 23 percent of the vote in polls of the contest, which could determine control of the Senate in 2015. With Election Day less than a month away, former Republican Gov. Mike Rounds and Democrat Rick Weiland are both hoping to siphon off support from the third-party entry. And Pressler, who represented South Dakota in the Senate as a Republican from 1979 to 1997, is beginning to take his lumps. On Friday, Politico reported that he lists his primary residence in Washington, DC. But Pressler isn't just a casual DC resident—he's a self-described townie who briefly floated a run for mayor. Here's the Associated Press in 1998, on Pressler's bid to replace Democrat Marion Barry:

Pressler, now a lobbyist, was not immediately available for comment.

But he told Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, that he has written a three-point agenda, including a private-school voucher program and a "real tax cut" to stimulate economic development in Washington.

"I have lived in DC since 1971, longer than anyone else who's running," Pressler said.

Despite hailing from a state that has relatively few blacks, Pressler told the newspaper said he could connect with Washington's blacks. The district is 65 percent black.

"I have a lot of African American friends," he said.

That's sort of the Trinity of archival dirt—a lobbyist epithet, an affirmation of DC residency, and an awkward boast about black friends. You don't see it very often.

Pressler quickly gave up on the idea of running for mayor, but not before the Washington City Paper's Michael Schaffer dug up this exquisite anecdote about the former senator:

Marching out of a committee hearing a couple years ago, Pressler mistook a closet door for the exit. After initially trying to wait out his colleagues, he finally realized that the hearing wasn't going to end any time soon. He walked back out of the closet, waved as if he'd been talking to someone inside, and left the chamber.

h/t Daily Kos Elections

"Duck Dynasty" Congressional Candidate Says Godlessness Will Cause "Mass Carnage and Mass Death"

| Mon Oct. 13, 2014 3:49 PM EDT
Zach Dasher (left) and his cousin, Duck Dyansty's Willie Robertson

Godlessness is leading the United States down a path toward "tyranny and death," according to Louisiana Republican congressional candidate Zach Dasher. A nephew of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson, Dasher is challenging incumbent GOP Rep. Vance McAllister in the November election. He made the comments in a 2012 episode of his personal podcast, Willing to Think.

Teasing a discussion of political correctness, Dasher asked, "Am I going to talk about the entitlement mindset of nearly half of our country that is really going to end in utter despair if we don't do something about it? Am I going to talk about how this swift drift away from God will usher in tyranny and death? Well, I probably will talk about that today."

He returned to the subject at the end of the episode:

We will only regress if we shut our mouths. Tyranny will get its foothold—if it already doesn't have it—and in the end, there will be mass carnage and mass death. It's inevitable. 'Oh, Zach, you are such an overreactor; you're like Alex Jones.' Look: I'm here with a philosophy. This is no conspiracy theory; this is a philosophy rooted in historical fact. Every society that has shut down people from discussing things about politics God, faith, when you silence people, every time that happens in a society, you know what happens? Tyranny and death. Every single time.

In another episode of the podcast, Dasher blamed rejection of God for a rise in anxiety disorders. "I know it's not politically correct, but there is a huge element of depression and anxiety disorders that is wrapped up in what I'm saying today," he said. In September, BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski reported on comments Dasher made in other episodes of Willing to Think, in which the candidate blamed the Sandy Hook massacre on atheism. (He also argued that the popular millennial acronym "YOLO" is corrosive because it promotes an atheistic disregard for the afterlife.)

Dasher has put his faith front and center during the race. The campaign headquarters in West Monroe features an envelope taped to the outside of the glass door, instructing supporters to "leave your your prayers or scriptures." In an appearance on Fox News in June, he told Sean Hannity, "My platform begins with God."

Robertson, who supported McAllister during the special election for the seat in 2013, jumped ship after McAllister was caught on tape kissing a female staffer and now backs his kin. At a Lake Charles fundraiser, he referred to the first-time candidate as "my little nephew who came from the loins of my sister."