erik lundegaard

Politics posts

Tuesday August 05, 2014

Did Jeffrey Toobin Let Ted Cruz Lie About Prop 8?

There was an excellent profile of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) by Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker last month: “The Absolutist.” You should check it out. You get a real sense of Cruz's history (his father fled Cuba before Castro), and why he is the way he is (conservative father and indoctrination into constitutional issues at the Free Enterprise Institute at the age of 12), and why he is formidable (national debate champion, “...on his way to becoming one of the most notable appellate advocates in the country”), and just how young he is (too young to have voted for Reagan).

All of that is good and worthwhile. But then Toobin ends the piece with a Cruz quote:

“Since I became a senator, a year and a half ago, I’ve kept two promises to the people of Texas. I have endeavored to do what I said I was going to do and I have always told the truth. It says something about Washington that those are perceived as radical acts.”

I have always told the truth. Yet earlier in the piece we get this quote from a speech Cruz gave at the 2014 Texas Republican Convention in Ft. Worth:

“Marriage is under assault,” Cruz told the crowd. “It is under assault in a way that is pervasive. We’re seeing marriage under assault in the courts, including, sadly, the Supreme Court of the United States. It struck down the California marriage laws. California had a referendum. They asked the voters of California, ‘Do you want marriage to be a traditional marriage between one man and one woman?’ And the voters of California—those crazy right-wing kooks—said, ‘Yes, now that you mention it, we like marriage to be between one man and one woman!’ Went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court said, ‘You can’t say that,’ and struck it down. You want to know what judicial activism is? Judicial activism is judges imposing their policy preferences on the words of the Constitution.”

I'm no national debate champion, let alone one of the most notable appellate lawyers in the country, but I know Cruz isn't telling the truth here. Because he knows the U.S. Supreme Court did not “strike down” California marriage laws. Here's what happened.

The voters of California passed Prop 8 by a 52-48% margin. Two years later, the federal district court in San Francisco overturned it, declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional under the due process clause. The state chose not to appeal, but others did: the initiative's proponents, along with Imperial County. After various judicial perambulations, the case wound up before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, which ruled, 5-4, that those who brought the appeal (Prop 8's proponents and Imperial County) did not have legal standing to bring the appeal. Case dismissed.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down California marriage laws? It didn't rule on California marriage laws. 

This might seem like semantics to most people but I can guarantee you one of those people would not be “one of the most notable appellate advocates in the country.” Cruz said what he said, fudged the truth of what he said, because he wanted red meat for the Texas crowd to sink its teeth into. He was being a politician. He was being a D.C. insider. He was not telling the truth. 

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz gave at the 2014 Texas Republican Convention:offering red meat at the expense of truth.

Posted at 05:50 AM on Aug 05, 2014 in category Politics
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Monday August 04, 2014

Gun Control Symbol Dies

Is this a resonant headline or what? Sadly so.

James Brady, Gun Control Symbol, Dies

“Gun Control Symbol Dies.” Apparently in Alexandria, Va., too, and not in committee.

Brady, of course, was press secretary to Pres. Reagan, when, in March 1981, John W. Hinkley fired on the president and his entourage outside a Washington, D.C. hotel. One of the stray bullets entered Mr. Brady's brain. For the rest of his life, his left arm was paralyzed, his left leg weak, and he suffered short-term memory loss.

"What I was, I am not now,” he said in 1994. “What I was, I will never be again.”

As a result, he became a gun control advocate, and lent his name to the Brady Act, an amendment to The Gun Control Act of 1968, which Congress passed in 1993—the year before the Gingrich midterms turned everything bad. Five years later, the brunt of the Brady Act was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Printz v. United States, the 5-4 majority ruled that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to demand the assistance of local government officials in creating a national handgun database. However, the database was created anyway, as local officials didn't mind complying with federal requests.

The New York Times obit is here.

Posted at 01:44 PM on Aug 04, 2014 in category Politics
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Wednesday June 11, 2014

Cantor, Now Castrato

Eric Cantor, defeated

Yesterday Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House Majority Leader, lost his primary to a Tea Party challenger, David Brat, a university professor. Apparently it's the first time a House Majority leader has ever lost a primary battle.

In one respect, it's been a long time coming. Here's Cantor's vote totals in general elections since he was elected in 2000:

Year % Vote
2000 76%
2002 69%
2004 76%
2006 64%
2008 63%
2010 59%
2012 57%

Those are general election totals, not primaries, but you can see the trend downward. The longer he stayed in office, the less popular he became. 

What does this primary defeat mean? I can see him losing because he's a douche, but he seems to have lost because he isn't douche-y enough for Republicans in Virginia's 7th congressional district. The media has focused on his mild support for immigration reform as the reason for his downfall. Nate Cohn of the Times isn't quite sure but adds this sad, inevitable thought:

Regardless of the exact reason for Mr. Cantor’s defeat, the news media’s focus on immigration is likely to deter Republicans from supporting comprehensive immigration reform.

And what to make of David Brat? A university professor where? According to the Boston Globe ...

He teaches economics at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. Brat, who has a Ph.D. and a Masters of Divinity, teaches mostly introductory economics classes at the college, a small liberal arts school outside of Richmond. ... Brat’s previous research includes a study titled, ‘‘An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand.’’ (Brat says he is not a Randian.) He frequently trumpeted the six elements of the ‘‘Republican Creed’’ on the campaign trail, which you can read at his website.

His Republican creed can be found here. I asume he's not a Randian because of the divinity thing. 

Here's more reaction via Andrew Sullivan's site.

The bigger question relates to Cantor's falling general election totals. What's going on in Virgina's 7th? (The fightin' 7th!) Were folks voting against Cantor because he was a douche, an insider, or because he was leaning too far right at a time when the 7th was becoming more centrist? We'll see in November. I'd love to be able to post this headline then: “Brat, Spanked.” But that's up to Virginia. 

Posted at 07:32 AM on Jun 11, 2014 in category Politics
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Monday June 02, 2014

'Doctor, Always Do the Right Thing': Confidence Abroad in Obama

Lately, Peter Beinart of The Atlantic has been hearing Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and other Bush alums spout off about America's standing in the world: how we have “strained relations with allies” (Rove) and how “the perception around the world is increasingly negative” (Cheney).

Don't even get me started on The Economist.

So Beinart did the Nate Silver thing and crunched the numbers. In his piece, “Is the World Really Losing Faith in Obama?” he realizes ... they're not:

“Again, the numbers come from Pew, which has been asking people in key countries every year whether they have 'confidence' in America’s president to 'do the right thing in world affairs.' Obama’s popularity is down since 2009. Still, in Mexico and Argentina, the president’s 2013 numbers (the most recent we have) are 33 percentage points higher than Bush’s in 2008. In South Korea, the margin is 47 points. In Japan, it’s 45 points. In Brazil, it’s 52 points. In Britain, it’s 56 points. In France, it’s 70 points. In Germany, it’s 74 points.

”In case you’re reading quickly, 74 points isn’t Obama’s approval rating in Germany. It’s the gap between his approval rating and Bush’s. In George W.’s final year in office, 14 percent of Germans had faith that the president of the United States would do the right thing internationally. Last year, 88 percent did.“

I love that 74-point gap. In Rotten Tomatoes' terms, that's basically the difference between Adam Sandler's ”Blended“ (14%/Bush) and the new ”Captain America" (89%/Obama).

Obama abroad in 2008

Obama in Europe in 2008. He still has an 88% approval rating in Germany vs. just 14% for Bush.

Posted at 01:13 PM on Jun 02, 2014 in category Politics
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Friday May 09, 2014

The Worst Op-Ed?

I know. So many options.

But this one comes from The Economist, which is usually smarter, and it's the lead-in to their cover story: WHAT WOULD AMERICA FIGHT FOR? THE QUESTION HAUNTING ITS ALLIES.

My immediate thought upon seeing the cover line was: What wouldn't America fight for? Well, I guess genocide in Rwanda. But aluminum tubes? Send in the Marines.

The Op-Ed is worse. Bottom of the second graf:

But when America’s president speaks of due caution, the world hears reluctance—especially when it comes to the most basic issue for any superpower, its willingness to fight.

Immediate thought: How the fuck do you know what the world hears?

We get more of these vague lines: “Doubt has spread quickly ...” “Doubt feeds on itself ...” “For every leader deploring Mr. Putin's tactics, another is studying how to copy them.”

Evidence? Anything? Bueller? McFly?

Then we get this line more than halfway through:

The critics who pin all the blame on Mr Obama are wrong. ... the president has often made the right call: nobody thinks he should have sent troops to Crimea, despite the breaking of the 1994 agreement.

(TE: Doesn't this graf contradict the entire premise of the piece? Curious. — EL)

The art for the article, by the way, shows a grinning fox eyeing a lolling Uncle Sam, his shephard's staff on the ground beside him, while keeping a paw on a very, very scared sheep. The sheep's fur is dotted with the continents of the world.

The article also has a sidebar, titled “Unrivalled, for now,” in which the authors expound on the insane advantage the U.S. has in terms of military budget compared to everyone else. Key line: “China and Russia combined spend less than half what America does ...” And The Economist is worried why? Oh right, because it knows what the world hears.

Posted at 02:34 PM on May 09, 2014 in category Politics
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