Political MoJo

Rand Paul Blames the Baltimore Riots on Absentee Fathers

| Tue Apr. 28, 2015 2:15 PM EDT

As one of a growing number of GOP 2016 wannabes, Sen. Rand Paul has tried to sell himself as the best Republican candidate to reach out to African-American voters. He's talked about the need for criminal justice reform. During the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, he called for demilitarizing police forces. Yet his response to the riots in Baltimore show that he has a long way to go. During an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on Tuesday, the Kentucky senator blamed the turmoil not on the police brutality that resulted in the death of Freddie Gray, but on absentee fathers and a breakdown in families.

"It's depressing, it's sad, it's scary. I came through the train on Baltimore last night, I'm glad the train didn't stop," Paul said, laughing at his own unfunny joke. He then pontificated of the unrest: "The thing is that really there's so many things we can talk about, it's something we talk about not in the immediate aftermath but over time: the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of sort of a moral code in our society. And this isn't just a racial thing, it goes across racial boundaries, but we do have problems in our country."

By the way, a week ago, Paul's 22-year-old son William was cited for driving while intoxicated after he was in a car crash.

Listen to the audio of the interview, recorded by Media Matters (hat tip to TPM):

Paul wasn't the only presidential aspirant to comment on the riots. Hillary Clinton sent out a tweet on Monday calling for peace but supporting the protestors who were upset by Gray's death.

Former Baltimore resident and likely presidential candidate Ben Carson pleaded with parents in the city to keep their children away from the disorder. "I urge parents, grandparents and guardians to please take control of your children and do not allow them to be exposed to the dangers of uncontrolled agitators on the streets," Carson said in a statement.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz lamented the school closures across the city. "No man, woman, or child should fear for his or her safety in America—not in their schools, not in their neighborhoods, not in their cities—but today families are scared," the GOP contender said.

But long-shot Democratic candidate Martin O'Malley went further than just a simple statement. O'Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore, canceled a string of paid speeches in Europe to return home.

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Some Hopeful Images From Baltimore: Residents Uniting to Clean Up the City

| Tue Apr. 28, 2015 12:20 PM EDT

After an evening of violent unrest, Baltimore residents emerged Tuesday morning to clean up after the destruction and prepare for what could be more chaos. On Monday, at least 15 police officers were injured and dozens of businesses were destroyed, as rioters clashed with law enforcement officials throughout most of the evening.

Residents, including children, were seen gathering around a CVS that had been looted and torched the night before. An affordable housing unit for senior citizens was also among the buildings destroyed by fires. Many businesses remain closed until further notice.

A large part of the clean-up effort was initiated by a Facebook group seeking volunteers to help amid Monday's violence. By Tuesday morning, nearly 2,500 people gathered at various meeting points throughout the city.

Monday's rioting followed the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, whose death after suffering a spinal cord injury while in police custody sparked protests. Initially, those protests were mostly peaceful; Gray's family was quick to denounce the ugliness that erupted Monday. "To see that it turned into all this violence and destruction, I am really appalled," Richard Shipley, Gray's stepfather, told NBC.

Many community members have also condemned the destruction. On Monday, one unidentified mother was seen reprimanding her son for participating in the violence.

Another protest is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Tuesday.

Bloods and Crips Members Say They Want "Nobody to Get Hurt" in Baltimore Protests

| Tue Apr. 28, 2015 9:03 AM EDT

Amid mounting unrest in Baltimore, an unexpected alliance—members of the Bloods and Crips—emerged yesterday to call for protection of local residents. At an event in a local church shown in a Baltimore Sun video, a man named Charles, who said he was a member of the Crips, wrapped his arm around a self-described Bloods member named Jamal to call for an end to riots over the death of Freddie Gray.

Hours earlier, Baltimore police had warned that members of "various gangs," including the Bloods, Crips, and Black Guerrilla Family, would "team up" to attack police officers and posed a "credible threat." In January, a member of the Black Guerrilla Family walked into a Baltimore police station with a loaded .22-calibur handgun, marijuana, and cocaine to "test security."

"We not here for nobody to get hurt," Charles told the Sun reporter. "We don't want nobody to get hurt. All that about the police getting hurt by certain gangs, that's false. We not here for that. We here to protect our community, and that's it. We don't want no trouble. We're doing this because we don't want trouble."

"The police department hate to see us right now," Jamal said.

Though unusual, a Bloods-Crips alliance would not be without precedent. On Saturday, members of both groups joined protests throughout Baltimore, marching side by side against police brutality. The Daily Beast reported that in August, several former Bloods and Crips carried signs while protesting in Ferguson, Missouri, that read: "NO MORE CRIPS. NO MORE BLOODS. ONE PEOPLE. NO GANG ZONE."

And more than two decades ago, when four white Los Angeles police officers were acquitted in the 1992 beating of Rodney King, the two factions struck a truce that drew skepticism from officers and community workers, but is thought to have helped limit street violence in LA for years.

 

Here's What the Nepalese Earthquake Devastation Looks Like From a Drone

| Mon Apr. 27, 2015 4:43 PM EDT

Over the weekend, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake and multiple aftershocks wiped out buildings, infrastructure, and historic sites in Nepal, killing more than 4,000 people, injuring thousands more, and leaving tens of thousands homeless. As fatalities continue to rise after the worst earthquake to hit the country in more than 80 years, the Wall Street Journal reports that the disaster could cost the country $5 billion to rebuild over the next five years.

So far, rescue teams have struggled to reach remote villages, and news orgs are having a hard time getting reporters into the country. This amateur aerial drone footage, zooming in and out above the devastation in Kathmandu, shows why:

Here's How Elizabeth Warren Is Holding Clinton's "Feet to the Fire" on Liberal Policies

| Mon Apr. 27, 2015 1:59 PM EDT

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) may have officially ruled out a bid for the White House, but she might as well be a shadow candidate. That's according to a report by Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker today, which describes the Massachusetts senator and her advisers working in the background to ensure Warren's populist agenda is embedded into Hillary Clinton's campaign. Judging by Clinton's recent embrace of a number of key Warren issues, the strategy seems to be working pretty well—and Warren's team appears to know it. In the New Yorker today:

One of Warren’s advisers believes that if she entered the race against Clinton she would be shredded by the Clinton political machine. Instead, the best way to pursue her agenda is to use the next year to pressure Clinton.

"I think she’s in a beautiful position right now," the Warren adviser said, "because she can get Hillary to do whatever the hell she wants. Now the question is, will Hillary stick to it if she gets in? But at the moment Elizabeth can get her on record and hold her feet to the fire."

Even as recently as last week, members of Warren's team reportedly passed around a photo of the two sitting next to each other with a thought quote hovering over Clinton that read, "What she said." Additionally from Lizza:

When I asked Warren last week if she believed that Clinton was co-opting her message, she hesitated and replied, "Eh."

Burn. Of course, team Clinton is quick squash any notion she's hijacking Warren's signature policies to score some liberal points. We'll see where she officially stands on the issues soon.

Ted Cruz's Princeton Years Included Jokes About a Woman's Hymen

| Wed Apr. 22, 2015 11:39 AM EDT

During his days as a member of Princeton University's debate team, Ted Cruz earned a reputation as a spirited orator. But when an opponent would try to poke fun at him, Cruz's rhetorical skills couldn't compensate for his complete lack of a sense of humor. According to a story in the Times today, the situation would get even worse when he actually tried to be funny himself:

Mr. Cruz’s own attempts at humor sometimes missed the mark. In one debate, he proposed a method to detect infidelity, in which God should "give women a hymen that grows back every time she has intercourse with a different guy, because that will be a 'visible sign' of the breach of trust," according to a recollection by David Kennedy published in a Harvard debate team reunion booklet in 2001.

Mr. Kennedy’s debate partner mocked Mr. Cruz’s knowledge of the subject matter by contorting herself to see how the anatomy in question could be "visible," according to the booklet.

Other than demonstrating Cruz had an odd understanding of how a woman's body operates, the "joke" clearly did not resonate with anyone. But that didn't mean Cruz lacked a lighter side. His fellow debate team members remember his love for musicals, which he'd frequently blast in car rides to competitions. "He was an extreme fan of the 'Les Misérables' soundtrack," one member recalled to the Times.

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Former Walker Aide Blasts Walker for Immigration Flip-Flop

| Tue Apr. 21, 2015 10:54 AM EDT

Liz Mair, the GOP operative who resigned from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's campaign-in-waiting after a day on the job, is in campaign mode again—and this time, she's targeting her former boss. On Tuesday morning, Mair sent an email detailing Walker's "Olympic-quality flip-flop" on the issue of immigration.

On Monday, Breitbart reported that Walker is the only declared or likely GOP candidate so far to support rolling back legal immigration to the United States, including for highly skilled workers. In her email, Mair pointed out that, historically, Walker has hardly been an immigration hardliner: In 2013, he vocally supported expanding legal immigration, and as recently as March, he said he was in favor of giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. She suggested that Walker's back-tracking could make him an easy target for strong GOP rivals.

Mair, who served on Walker's recall campaign in 2012, resigned from the governor's PAC in March in the wake of a kerfuffle over several tweets in which she criticized Iowa and its outsized political importance. Mair told Mother Jones she did not call out Walker in service of a client. She said she is "in the camp of people who see immigration as a benefit, who believe we should be welcoming to immigrants and make legal immigration easier, and who favor comprehensive immigration reform in some form…I've also long been highly critical of flip-floppery."

Here's an excerpt from her email:

In fulfilling my professional duties as constructed today, as opposed to on March 16, I wanted to flag the below Olympic-quality flip-flop on immigration policy to you. Apologies if this seems crass to some of you, but I would not be meeting certain responsibilities if I did not shoot this email out.

Yesterday, it was reported that Scott Walker has now adopted the immigration position of Sen. Jeff Sessions and has been taking instruction from Sessions on the issue of immigration. Notably, Sessions wants to further restrict legal immigration including high-skilled immigration, a position that is at odds with the traditional GOP anti-amnesty stance taken by virtually all presidential candidates, and which also puts him at odds with conservative policy experts and economists…this new positioning seems to represent a full 180 degree turn from where Walker has been on immigration historically, which is to say in the very pro-immigration and even pro-comprehensive reform camp…

Setting aside the substance of the policy, as the 2008 election demonstrated, it is really difficult in the age of Google to execute full policy reversals without earning a reputation as an untrustworthy, "say anything to win," substance-and-guts-free politician. Even in 2012, when Republicans nominated Mitt Romney, his reputation for policy, er, flexibility was a significant negative for him and one that diminished enthusiasm for the candidate, probably adversely impacting his performance in that race.

Here's What You Need to Know About the Trade Deal Dividing the Left

| Tue Apr. 21, 2015 6:30 AM EDT

Senior lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation last week that would let the Obama Administration keep negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a pact that could be the most far-reaching free trade agreement in American history.

Now in its fifth year of negotiations, the TPP is intended to bolster free trade among 12 participating countries and set the tone for future trade deals. Getting it done before campaign politics interfere hinges on the passage of the new legislation, a Trade Promotion Authority bill (a.k.a. "fast track") that limits congressional participation to a up/down vote on the final deal, rather than opening it up for amendments. The TPA is needed to ensure negotiating partners that their hard-fought agreements won't be altered at the whims of one politician or another. But some members of Congress, along with various interest groups, insist that the pact needs additional congressional oversight and public approval.

Like most trade deals, the TPP is being negotiated by the administration behind closed doors, and details are scant. But here's what we do know so far:

Politician Tasked With Oil Industry Oversight Gets a Paycheck From Big Oil

| Mon Apr. 20, 2015 2:57 PM EDT

The BP oil spill turned five years old on Monday, and as my colleague Tim McDonnell reported, we're still paying the price: There's as much as 26 million gallons of crude oil still on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. But the story of the Deepwater Horizon wasn't just about environmental devastation—it was also a story about regulation.

In Louisiana, where many politicians rely on oil and gas companies to fill their campaign coffers (and keep their constituents employed), environmental consequences often take a back seat to business concerns. But sometimes, things go even further. Take the case of Republican state Sen. Robert Adley—the vice-chair of the committee on environmental quality and the chair of the transportation committee (which oversees levees)—who played a leading role in trying to stop a local levee board from suing oil companies for damages related to coastal erosion. As Tyler Bridges reported for the Louisiana investigative news site The Lens, Adley doesn't just go to bat for oil companies—he works for them as a paid consultant. He even launched his own oil company while serving as a state representative, and he didn't cut ties to the company until nine years into his stint in the senate:

"He has carried a lot of legislation for the oil and gas industry over the years," said Don Briggs, the industry association's president. "I've never seen him carry one that he didn't truly believe was the right thing to do."

Adley's numerous ties to the oil and gas industry have led critics to say he is the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse.

...

Adley said calls that he should recuse himself from the issue because of his industry ties are "un-American" and "outrageous."

"It's what I know," Adley said. "Is it wrong to have someone dealing with legislation they know?"

For the time being, at least, voters in northwest Louisiana have decided that the answer is no.

Nebraska Conservatives Take On GOP Governor Over Death Penalty

| Thu Apr. 16, 2015 12:06 PM EDT

A group of conservative legislators in Nebraska are gearing up for what could be a multi-day battle to end the state's death penalty. The fight pits the right-wing anti-death penalty crusaders against their fellow conservatives and the state's Republican governor. Here's the Omaha World-Herald:

Nine conservative lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors of a repeal measure the Nebraska Legislature will begin debating Thursday. One of their key platforms: Repealing the death penalty makes good fiscal sense.

"If capital punishment were any other program that was so inefficient and so costly to the taxpayer, we would have gotten rid of it a long time ago," said Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln.

The bill is unlikely to become law. There are currently enough votes for passage, but advocates warn that anything could happen when the bill comes up for a final vote. Death penalty advocates could mount a filibuster to block the legislature from even voting on the measure. If they don't, Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, has vowed to block the legislation, and it's unclear that there are enough votes to override his veto.

Still, the upcoming debate and vote on the bill marks a victory for a small conservative group working on a state-by-state basis to end the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. This group, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, argues that capital punishment violates core conservative beliefs about the sanctity of life, small government, and fiscal responsibility.

The Nebraska chapter of the group held a press conference Wednesday in advance of today's floor debate on the bill. "I may be old-fashioned, but I believe God should be the only one who decides when it is time to call a person home," said state Sen. Tommy Garrett, a conservative who supports repeal. "The state has no business playing God."

Nebraska has not carried out an execution since 1997, when the state was still using the electric chair, but that might change, according to the World-Herald:

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said this week that his staff is working to restore the viability of a lethal injection protocol. He did not, however, predict when executions could resume.