Political MoJo

Let These Legos Explain How the Iowa Democratic Caucus Works

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 3:21 PM EST

Today, the state of Iowa reasserts its outsize importance in American politics with the official start of the presidential primary season, the Iowa caucus. For the huge amount of attention the Iowa caucus draws, there's also a ton of confusion about what exactly happens during it. Republicans gather and cast secret ballots, but Democrats get together and do...what? Whether you're in need of a quick refresher or new to the game, let this brilliant video produced by the folks at Vermont Public Radio outline what's taking place today when the Democratic Party holds their caucuses.

For more of an in-depth look at Iowa and beyond, check out our up-to-the-minute political coverage here.

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Trump's Iowa Campaign Gets Hit With a Sex Discrimination Complaint

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 1:35 PM EST

A Donald Trump field organizer who was fired in January has filed a sex discrimination complaint against Trump's campaign.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Elizabeth Mae Davidson, a 26-year-old field organizer for the Trump campaign in Davenport, Iowa, filed  the complaint last Thursday with the Davenport Civil Rights Commission alleging that men who were doing the same work earned more money, were given more responsibility, and were treated more leniently in the campaign. 

Davidson recruited organizers for most of her region's 63 precincts and also opened the Trump campaign's second field office in Iowa. She was fired on January 14, the day after she was quoted in a different New York Times article about problems with the campaign in Iowa. The quotes attributed to her were about the process of recruiting volunteers and said nothing disparaging about the campaign. Davidson told the Times in an interview for Sunday's story that she was paid $2,000 a month, while several men with her same title—district representative—were paid between $3,500 and $4,000 per month. 

In her complaint, Davidson alleges that male district representatives have been quoted in the media without getting fired, and that her male peers were given the opportunity to organize and speak at rallies while her requests to do this work were ignored. Her complaint also alleges that when she and another female volunteer met Trump at a rally last summer, the presidential hopeful said, in reference to their appearance, "You guys could do a lot of damage."

In an interview with the Times, Trump denied making this comment and did not address the other allegations. He also explained that his staff had told him that Davidson "did a terrible job," and he criticized the paper for publishing this story the day before the Iowa caucuses. "A story like this," he said, "could damage my chances."

Guess Where Jeb Bush Is Spending Iowa Caucus Night? (Hint: Not in Iowa.)

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 11:50 AM EST

As the campaigns of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and even Rand Paul—and their Democratic counterparts—prepare big parties Monday night to celebrate the Iowa caucuses, Jeb Bush supporters will have nowhere obvious to go. Because instead of spending the caucus night in Iowa, Bush will be in New Hampshire.

The mammoth super-PAC backing Bush has spent more than any other on ads in the state, pouring $15 million into Iowa. When you ask Iowans about the direct mail flooding their mailboxes, they often cite Bush as the candidate they get the most mail about. Bush was never as good a fit in the socially conservative Iowa Republican race as he hopes to be in New Hampshire. But Mitt Romney came in a close second in Iowa in 2012, proving that there is space for an establishment-style candidate to do well in Iowa if the state's more moderate Republicans can rally around one person.

In 2016, that person is not Bush. When the highly anticipated Des Moines Register poll came out Saturday night, Bush was at just 2 percent. Time to move on to more promising territory, even if his superior poll numbers in New Hampshire still put him in a distant fourth place, with less than a third of the support enjoyed by the front-runner, Trump.

 

What Donald Trump’s Short Fingers Mean for His Presidency

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 10:26 AM EST

For Achilles, it was the heel. For Samson, it was the hair. For Beast, twas' beauty. Donald Trump may appear impervious to the sharpest Republican barbs, but he has one proven weakness over the course of his four decades in overly public life: stubby fingers.

Trump has presumably had short fingers for as long as he's had fingers, but it wasn't until 1988 that anyone called attention to it. That year, Spy magazine began the practice of needling Trump at every opportunity by referring to him in virtually every story as a "short-fingered vulgarian." ("Queens-born casino profiteer" would also do.) Trump defended his honor in the New York Post, stating that "my fingers are long and beautiful, as, has been well-documented, are various other parts of my body."

In an essay last fall, former Spy editor Graydon Carter revealed how much this pissed Trump off: To this day, the Republican presidential front-runner continues to mail Carter photos of himself, and "[o]n all of them he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers." The most recent one even included a message: "See, not so short!" On Friday, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska even joined in on the fun, responding to an insult from Trump by joking, "you'd think I asked Mr abt the length of his fingers or something important like that."

So just what do Trump's Bart Simpson hands have to do with making America great again? According to Madame La Roux's 1993 treatise on palm reading, The Practice of Classical Palmistry, quite a lot!

Google Books
Google Books

Disdain for detail? Impulsive? Impetuous? Hot-headed? Pushy? Obsessed with doing "big" things like building enormous buildings?

This sounds like someone we know.

Now, I don't think Trump's baby-carrot fingers have any bearing on his presidential temperament. But then, I'm not the one who routinely cites the results of post-debate online surveys conducted by the Drudge Report as some kind of science and believes that the "concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." It's only a matter of time before this shocking revelation hits voters in New Hampshire.

Ted Cruz Defends Mailer Dubbed "Misleading" By Iowa's Secretary of State

| Sat Jan. 30, 2016 9:13 PM EST

Ted Cruz on Saturday evening defended a mailer sent out by his campaign that has been criticized by Iowa's secretary of state as "misleading" and a violation of "the spirit of the Iowa caucuses.”

"I will apologize to no one for using every tool we can to encourage Iowa voters to come out and vote," Cruz said, speaking to reporters before a rally in Sioux City, Iowa.

Earlier Saturday, the Cruz campaign came under fire for sending out a mailer, with the look of an official state document, that warns of a "voting violation." It informs voters they are receiving the notice "because of low expected voter turnout in your area" and says a "follow-up notice" may arrive after the Iowa caucuses.

The mailer looks like it is building on social science research showing that guilt is a powerful way to mobilize voters to turnout.

Cruz claimed that there was nothing wrong with the mailer—and that in fact mailers like this are routine. "Matt Schultz, who is a former secretary of state, is the chairman of our campaign, put out a public statement saying these mailers are routine," he said. "The Iowa Republican Party has done so in the past—in past elections."

Ted Cruz's New Anti-Choice Group Is Headed by a Guy Who Thinks Abortion Caused the Drought

| Fri Jan. 29, 2016 6:56 PM EST
Sen. Ted Cruz announces his new pro-life coalition at a rally in Des Moines, Iowa.

During a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he's created an anti-abortion group that will "champion every child, born and unborn." The Pro-Lifers for Cruz coalition already has more than 17,000 members, according to a press release, and will be chaired by Tony Perkins, the anti-LGBT president of the Family Research Council who recently said same-sex marriage is responsible for "havoc in our homes and blood in our streets." Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has also created a committee, but Cruz has cornered some of the more extreme members of the anti-abortion movement.

Also heading up the coalition are 11 anti-abortion co-chairs "representing virtually every perspective on the pro-life spectrum." One of those perspectives is that of Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue and a board member of the Center for Medical Progress, the group behind the debunked Planned Parenthood videos, whose founder David Daleiden was recently indicted for alleged crimes in connection to the videos. In his announcement on Wednesday, Cruz called Newman's group "one of the leading pro-life Christian activist organizations in the nation."

Newman has been involved in anti-abortion organizing for decades, and in 1999 he became the president of Operation Rescue, a group with a long history devoted to shuttering abortion clinics. In 2000 he published the book Their Blood Cries Out, in which he calls abortion doctors "blood-guilty." In a passage of the book, which is now out of print, Newman wrote that "the United States government has abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty. This responsibility rightly involves executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge bloodguilt [sic] from the land and people."

In 2002, Newman moved Operation Rescue headquarters from Southern California to Wichita, Kansas, the home of Dr. George Tiller, one of the only later-term abortion providers in the country at the time. Tiller was shot to death while volunteering as an usher for his church. Scott Roeder, 51, who participated in Operation Rescue events and protests in Wichita, was eventually sentenced to 50 years in prison for the murder. Newman immediately distanced himself from Roeder following Tiller's death. Operation Rescue's senior vice president is Cheryl Sullenger, who in the late 1980s served two years in federal prison for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic.

A year after moving to Wichita, Newman commented on the state execution of Paul Hill, a man convicted of murdering a Florida-based abortion provider and his volunteer escort. In a joint press release, Newman's Operation Rescue and another pro-life organization wrote that Hill's execution was unjust because "there are many examples where taking the life in defense of innocent human beings is legally justified and permissible under the law…Execution under these circumstances is nothing less than murder of a political prisoner."

Last October, Newman, who had been scheduled to speak at an anti-abortion event, was deported from Australia because government officials thought he would be "a threat to good order" and that his views on abortion could compromise the safety and well-being of women seeking abortions. Newman has recently claimed that the ongoing drought in California is caused by abortion: "Is it no wonder that California is experiencing the worst drought in history when it is the largest child-killer in all of the United States?"

Ken Cuccinelli, the former state senator and attorney general of Virginia who has said he opposes abortion even when the pregnancy is a health risk to the woman, is another co-chair of the committee. So is Gianna Jessen, who calls herself an "abortion survivor" because she was born after her mother failed an attempted saline abortion. A disability activist, she testified against Planned Parenthood during the House's investigation last year.

"I always say that men are born to defend women and children, not sit idly by, or be passive when they are being harmed," Jessen is quoted as saying on Cruz's website. "Senator Cruz has been absolutely courageous in his defense of the unborn, and willing to stand alone."

This article has been revised.

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How I Got Barred From Donald Trump’s Chaotic Anti-Fox Rally

| Thu Jan. 28, 2016 10:33 PM EST

Tonight I joined a small but growing club of reporters who have been banned from Donald Trump events. Officially, this is not true. Officially, as Trump's spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, told me in an email, Thursday night's event at Drake University in Des Moines was "well over capacity." However, every journalist I encountered got in—including a reporter from Canada who was promptly credentialed.

Every reporter, that is, except those who, like me, seem to be banned. Braving the cold to chat with the long line of people waiting to get into Trump's event, I came across other reporters blacklisted by Trump. There was BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins, whom Trump apparently still hasn't forgiven for this story from two years ago. Coppins had joined up with a German reporter who was also not allowed in. (I'm not sure why.) A student kindly suggested we warm up in the university's library, where we were joined by the Daily Beast's Olivia Nuzzi, also barred from entering.

More Trump events will take place this campaign season, and perhaps Mother Jones reporters' luck will change. But I'm not holding my breath. One of my colleagues was escorted from a Trump event last month by security. It seems that once Trump and his team have decided someone is not on the list, their word is just about final.

Carly Fiorina Just Unleashed an Unhinged Rant Against Hillary Clinton

| Thu Jan. 28, 2016 8:24 PM EST

Carly Fiorina brought down the house at tonight's GOP undercard debate with a long, vicious rant against Hillary Clinton that included everything from a recycled El Chapo joke to a call to indict Clinton over her role in Benghazi. Or because of her emails. Or something.

Here's a quick rundown of the things Fiorina accused Clinton of:

Being a wannabe dictator: "Hillary Clinton would do anything to gain and hold onto power, anything." That's why she didn't leave Bill, apparently.

Wrongly refusing to leave her husband: "If my husband did what Bill Clinton did, I would have left him long ago." Fiorina insisted that line "wasn't a personal attack."

Dodging prison: "She's escaped prosecution more than El Chapo."

Being a bad secretary of state: "She's gotten every single foreign policy challenge wrong."

Just kind of being terrible in general: "She has not accomplished much of anything in her life."

Lying a lot: "The Clinton Way: say whatever you have to say, do whatever you have to say, lie as long as you can get away with it."

Fiorina's campaign then unveiled an ad during the debate titled "Qualified for the Big House, not the White House"—also a line from Fiorina's debate rant—featuring more of her attacks on Clinton.

Georgia Lawmaker Defends KKK: "It Made a Lot of People Straighten Up"

| Thu Jan. 28, 2016 5:27 PM EST

A Georgia state representative has triggered anger on social media after he made several statements that appear to defend the actions of the Ku Klux Klan, a group he insists "was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order."

"It made a lot of people straighten up," Republican State Rep. Tommy Benton said, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. "I’m not saying what they did was right. It's just the way things were."

Benton's remarks come after he introduced a bill on Wednesday to amend the state's constitution in order to protect Confederate monuments from being removed or edited at Stone Mountain, which currently depicts the images of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.

"A great majority of prominent men in the South were members of the Klan," he said in reference to the bill. "Should that affect their reputation to the extent that everything else good that they did was forgotten?"

Since the deadly shooting inside historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina last year, calls to remove southern symbols bearing the Confederate flag and celebrating its racist heritage have been renewed with some success.

Benton also referred to another bill that attempted to prohibit the celebration of holidays that honor Confederate leaders, and compared these efforts to the terrorist activities of ISIS.

"That's no better than what ISIS is doing, destroying museums and monuments," he said. "I feel very strongly about this. I think it has gone far enough. There is some idea out there that certain parts of history out there don't matter anymore and that’s a bunch of bunk."

This Prosecutor Gave the Perfect Answer to People Defending the Anti-Abortion Activists Behind Those Deceptive Videos

| Thu Jan. 28, 2016 4:01 PM EST

On Monday, the district attorney in Harris County, Texas, announced that a grand jury tasked with investigating Planned Parenthood had instead issued indictments against two anti-abortion activists, David Daleiden and Susan Merritt, who released a series of doctored Planned Parenthood videos last summer. Since the indictments, district attorney Devon Anderson has faced an onslaught of criticism from the anti-abortion movement about both the severity of the charges—one is a felony—and a department employee's affiliation with Planned Parenthood.

Today, in a video on KHOU, a Houston TV network, Anderson explained why her office indicted David Daleiden and Susan Merritt. Even though the decision goes against her opinions on abortion, she says, it follows the law.

"An inconvenient truth of a criminal investigation is that it doesn't always lead where you want to go," Anderson says at the start of the video. "Anyone who pays attention knows that I'm pro-life. I believe abortion is wrong. But my personal belief does not relieve me of my obligation to follow the law."

Anderson dispels some of the misconceptions that have sprung up about her office's decision. For example, defense attorneys have argued that charging both Daleiden and Merritt with a felony for using fake driver's licenses is too extreme because young people caught with fake IDs often receive a misdemeanor charge. But Anderson explains that in Texas, using a fake ID from another state is a felony. "That's the law," she says.

Anderson also addresses the allegation—repeatedly emphasized by the anti-abortion news site LifeNews—that a prosecutor in her department who is involved with the Planned Parenthood board actively participated in the presentation of this case to the grand jury. "That is simply not true," she says. She noted that soon after the lieutenant governor asked her department to review this case in August, this particular prosecutor made her relationship to Planned Parenthood known, and the department issued a press release saying she would not be involved in the case. 

Some defense attorneys have asked for another grand jury to review the case. Anderson says she won't do that because it constitutes "grand jury shopping."

"That violates the integrity of the whole system," she says. "Twelve Harris County citizens have spoken, and I respect their decision."