The IRS Oddities Add Up

By 7.11.14

Curiouser and curiouser. It's hard to see how the details of the ongoing IRS investigation could anything but mystify a fair-minded and careful observer.

Yesterday came news that employees at the tax-collecting agency use an internal instant messaging system called OCS, and that conversations held on it are not archived automatically. Further, Lois Lerner, the woman in charge of the department that targeted conservative non-profit groups, had specifically inquired about that very point. “I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails — so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails,” she wrote to IT support in 2013. “Someone asked if OCS conversations were also searchable — I don’t know.…Do you know?”


Donor Controversies Hit ‘Mississippi Conservatives’

By 7.8.14

The headline in the New York Times over the weekend was straightforward: “Unease in G.O.P. Over Mississippi Tea Party Anger”:

The stormy aftermath of Mississippi’s Republican Senate runoff has sent Tea Party conservatives around the country to the ramparts, raising the prospect of a prolonged battle that holds the potential to depress conservative turnout in November in Mississippi — and possibly beyond.


GOP Soul-Searching Over Thad Cochran

By 6.27.14

By now you've probably seen the reaction to Tuesday night’s Mississippi Republican Senate primary election, in which shaky incumbent Thad Cochran eked out a victory over Tea Party insurgent Chris McDaniel by making use of some rather unconventional electoral tactics.

Cochran dedicated most of his efforts to pursuing Democrats, and specifically the black community. He went so far as to threaten his new voting base by saying McDaniel would cut food stamps, and made conspicuous charges of racism against both McDaniel and the Tea Party. There were further allegations, substantiated in news reports, of “street money” paid to Democratic fixers to turn out the votes of, shall we say, “new” Republican voters crossing over to vote for Cochran on a one-time basis.


Who Paid for Race-Baiting Flier in Mississippi?

By 6.26.14

Who paid for it? Who will investigate it? Who will apologize for it? “It” being the flier distributed in the Mississippi Senate GOP primary, as seen here, whose headline reads: "The Tea Party intends to prevent blacks from voting on Tuesday." 

The flier says that the Tea Party uses the word “Democrats” as “code” for blacks. In short? Somebody out there in Mississippi put out a race-baiting flier to smear both Thad Cochran’s Tea Party opponent Chris McDaniel and the Tea Party itself. Using the worst lie about Republicans — against a Republican.


Who Is Steve Scalise?

By 6.25.14

After an intense week in D.C., I spent the weekend catching up on Jenn's honey-do list, including trimming the oak tree.” So said Congressman Steve Scalise’s Facebook page on Sunday, three days after the Louisiana Republican staged an impressive victory in the House majority whip election. To his constituents, the status update was little surprise. They know him as a refreshingly down-to-earth, middle-class professional in a Congress populated by politicians who are anything but.

Scalise’s first-ballot win over Congressmen Peter Roskam and Marlin Stutzman is important for more than just reasons of state. He is the first red-state Republican to hold a position in the House GOP’s core leadership since Tom DeLay left office in 2003. Moreover, Scalise managed to ascend to the number three position in his party’s hierarchy just seven years after joining the House of Representatives in 2007.


Revenge of the Good Ol’ Boys

By 6.25.14

I was at a boozy Washington function a few years ago when in walked Bob McDonnell, then-governor of Virginia, and Haley Barbour, then-governor of Mississippi. McDonnell hung back with a beer in his hand and rarely in his mouth, making small talk at the edge of the crowd. Barbour stormed into the middle of the party brandishing both a whiskey and a long-neck, slapping backs and shouting in a marble-mouthed southern accent, good to f—king see this one and it’s been too f—king long with that one.

At the time I thought I was witnessing the difference between a man who was running for president and a man who wasn't. But there was also a cultural difference on display: a governor from a Southeast purple state where politics can be unpredictable, versus a governor from the Deep South where GOP power is nearly absolute and concentrated in a good ol’ boy power structure.

Thad Cochran is one of those good ol’ boys. First elected to the House of Representatives in 1972, Cochran served three terms there, then ran for the Senate where he’s been for the past thirty-six years. In 2005 he was appointed chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee.


Jimmy Carter’s Legacy of War

By 6.19.14

Iraq is a disaster. And yes, President Obama has made ghastly mistakes for which he is directly responsible. Yet the current situation in Iraq isn’t Obama’s fault. Or George W. Bush’s. Not to mention Bill Clinton's, George H.W. Bush's or Ronald Reagan’s.

But Jimmy Carter? Yes. There’s the man who should be called to account. In fact, it was during Carter’s single term in office that Iran became an Islamic fundamentalist terror state and that Saddam orchestrated a coup to take power in Iraq, launching the Iraq-Iran War and a megalomaniacal career as a mass murderer. Not that you’ll ever hear that from the newspapers. Let’s hop in the time machine, shall we? 

It’s 1979. The President of the United States — Jimmy Carter — is well on the way to earning a reputation around the globe as a weak leader. Two years earlier, barely five months into his term, Carter had traveled to Notre Dame to deliver a commencement speech. In which he said, startlingly in the middle of the Cold War:


What GOP ‘Establishment’?

By From the July/August 2014 issue

Republicans are poised to capture the Senate this year, and the mainstream press has already telegraphed that it will report this as a terrible defeat for conservatives. According to the false narrative peddled by reporters, we live in the midst of a titanic struggle between the Tea Party movement and establishment Republicans—either a repeat or a continuation of the battle between the Republican wings of Robert Taft and Eisenhower in the 1940s and ’50s, or Goldwater and Rockefeller in the 1960s and ’70s.

The truth is that there is no such battle. Never has the Republican Party been more unified around a conservative agenda than it is today. The Tea Party movement, which rose up in February of 2009 and exploded that summer, demanding that “spend less” be added to “cut taxes” in the Republican catechism, has been an absolute success.


Knocking Cantor Off His Tightrope

By 6.12.14

Let’s play a parlor game. Quick: What words come to mind when you think of the House political leadership?

For John Boehner, you’d probably say “country club” or “insider.” Paul Ryan would conjure up “wonk” or “budget.” “Motherhood” or “pro-life” would suffice for Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

What about Eric Cantor? He’s the second-most powerful Republican congressman and, before Tuesday, was likely the next speaker of the House of Representatives. Yet adjectives and nouns don’t exactly plummet from the clouds when his name is mentioned. And while you might dislike Boehner’s or Ryan’s personas, they at least have public identities that they’ve owned and embraced.

With Cantor you can rack your brain for hours, and chances are you'll come up with only one felicitous descriptor: ambitious. Whatever mysteries swirled around Cantor, we know that he had boundless ambition, to the point of possibly challenging Boehner for the speaker’s gavel. And that was his biggest problem. Eric Cantor desperately wanted to lead the people's house, but he never gave the people any reason to support him.


Who’s Chris McDaniel? Who Cares?

By 6.3.14

Much has been made of the battle between the Republican “establishment” and the Tea Party in the 2014 primary election cycle, particularly the GOP primary campaigns for the Senate races in North Carolina and Nebraska.

That battle may be coming to a climax this week in Mississippi, where attorney and two-term state senator Chris McDaniel is riding endorsements from Tea Party groups like the Club For Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund, Citizens United, and Tea Party Express into a primary showdown with Thad Cochran, that state’s senior — he’s been in office forty-one years — U.S. senator.