Following up on yesterday's report, Republican Ira Hansen, the Speaker-designate in Nevada's state Assembly, garnered national attention this week after the public learned he wrote a right-wing column for many years, featuring controversial remarks about African Americans, women, Latinos, and gay people. The controversy is clearly growing.
Late yesterday, newly re-elected Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) issued a statement criticizing his own party's legislative leader.
"I wholeheartedly disagree with Assemblyman Hansen's past public statements on race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. This abhorrent kind of speech is unacceptable. He will have to answer questions regarding his previous statements himself."
The governor did not call for state lawmakers to choose a new Assembly Speaker, though the calls for such a change appear likely.
Indeed, Jeffrey Blanck, branch president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP, responded, "We understand that the caucus has many newly elected members who may not be as familiar with Mr. Hansen's past as we are. They need to know he has beaten the drum of intolerance for decades." Blanck urged lawmakers to choose a "less divisive" Speaker.
For his part, Hansen said in a statement, "I am deeply sorry that comments I have made in the past have offended many Nevadans. It is unfortunate that these comments, made almost 20 years ago as a newspaper columnist and talk radio host, have been taken out of context and are being portrayed as intentionally hurtful and disrespectful. These comments were meant to be purposely provocative in various political, cultural and religious views. I have the utmost respect for all people without regard to race, gender, religious or political beliefs."
Given his published record, Hansen's claims about universal respect will probably be difficult for many Nevadans to believe.
Making matters slightly worse, another Nevada Republican lawmaker said last year he'd allow slavery if that's what his constituents wanted -- and Speaker-designate Hansen recently put him in charge of a powerful legislative committee.
"We've gone to the president and said, 'Give us time to do immigration reform, to work on the issue this year. We want to get this done.' And this is the reaction he has to that?" said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the 2012 vice presidential candidate. "He had two years with a super-majority of his own party, and he didn't lift a finger. And now he won't give us a few weeks?"
It takes a truly talented individual to pack in this many falsehoods into a single paragraph.
"Give us time to do immigration reform"? Well, Republicans have controlled the House for four years, during which time they haven't even held so much as a hearing on a piece of legislation. More to the point, the Senate passed a popular, bipartisan immigration bill 512 days ago, and soon after, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised the lower chamber would act on the issue. The Republican leader then broke his word and killed the reform effort.
In other words, Obama gave Republican lawmakers "time to do immigration reform," and the GOP did nothing. Does Ryan not remember this?
"He had two years with a super-majority of his own party"? Actually, no, Democrats had a super majority in the Senate for four months, not two years. It's a big difference.
"He didn't lift a finger"? Actually, Democrats tried to pass the DREAM Act, which used to be a bipartisan policy, when they controlled Congress. Republicans killed it with a filibuster.
"And now he won't give us a few weeks?" Well, President Obama not only gave Republicans all kinds of time, he also received no guarantee -- from Ryan or any other GOP leader -- that another delay would lead to real legislation. So what in the world is Ryan talking about?
It gets worse. Ryan also complained this week that Obama's decision to govern on immigration policy means Republicans won't govern on their own priorities.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was in South Florida this week for a party gathering, and like most of his Republican brethren, he was eager to condemn President Obama's immigration policy. But the Palm Beach Post asked the governor an interesting question.
A reporter asked Christie if it was fair to criticize the president without offering a proposal of his own.
"This is a ridiculous question," Christie responded. "Because I won't lay out my plan if I were president, that precludes me from criticizing the guy who asked for the job twice and was elected twice and who promised in 2008 that he would fix this problem when he had huge majorities in the Congress to be able to do it?
Well, for those who care about the details, when Democrats had "huge majorities," Republicans still killed bipartisan measures like the DREAM Act with a filibuster. But putting that aside for now, Christie's defense for his own evasions is arguably half-right.
The governor wants to be able to take verbal shots at the White House's policy without presenting a proposal of his own, and to a certain degree, that's kosher. At least for now, Christie is a struggling, scandal-plagued governor, not a presidential candidate, so it stands to reason that he won't have a detailed immigration policy proposal on hand.
The trouble, though, is that Christie wants to take pot shots at Obama while also refusing to even give his opinions about the basics of immigration policy -- and that cowardice is harder to dismiss.
During this year's midterm elections, some Republicans came up with a creative trick to get around election laws. As Chris Moody uncovered, GOP operatives posted polling data to dummy Twitter accounts as a way of using social media as a sort of dead drop -- allies could receive the lucrative data without literally coordinating with Republican campaigns.
Paul Blumenthal reported yesterday, however, that these kinds of tactics weren't limited to Republicans.
In 2012, the Democratic Party shared information about advertising buys through a seemingly unconnected Twitter account called AdBuyDetails. This account, which posted tweets from Aug. 31 until Oct. 23, 2012, sent out data on ad buys made by Democratic House candidates in tight races across the country.
The purpose of the account, according to a source with knowledge of its creation, was to make that information public and thereby get around restrictions on information access built into an internal app used by top Democratic Party officials to share crucial campaign data.
In fairness to Dems, the 2012 tactic isn't exactly the same thing as what Republicans did this year, but the intended purpose of the tweets was obviously quite similar.
If anger were a legitimate substitute for public policy, Republicans would be in excellent shape in the middle of a debate on immigration. The GOP has stockpiled enough rage, fury, insults, and red-hot disgust to last a lifetime. There isn't a shred of doubt in anyone's mind that the entirety of the Republican Party is experiencing genuine, 100%, Grade A outrage.
What Republicans don't have is a policy.
Or anything resembling a serious, substantive approach to the issue at hand.
A few days ago, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a strident, right-wing voice in his party on immigration, sat down with Mark Halperin, who asked what the congressman would do about the nation's immigration challenges. Huelskamp dodged, so Halperin, to his credit, followed up, pressing the Kansas Republican to explain what he'd do about the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Huelskamp dodged again. So Halperin asked a third time, and the Republican would only say, "I want to know how many folks are here. I want to secure the border."
It was uncomfortable to watch -- the far-right congressman was clearly lost -- but it was a cringe-worthy reminder that Republicans still don't have a coherent immigration policy they're willing to share out loud. Ezra Klein had a good piece on this overnight.
Republicans aren't just the opposition party anymore. They are, arguably, the governing party -- they will soon control the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, most state legislatures, and more governorships. And the governing party needs to solve -- or at least propose solutions -- to the nation's problems. And that means the Republican policy on immigration needs to be something more than opposing Obama's immigration policies. It needs to be something more than vague noises about border security. [...]
There are 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the country right now. Congress allocates enough money to deport roughly 400,000 of them annually. Our policy towards the 10.6 million unauthorized immigrants we're not deporting is that we don't have a policy. Democrats support a path to citizenship. Republicans don't support anything.
Quite right. There's a striking asymmetry, not just between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to presenting policy solutions, but between Republican responsibilities and Republican intentions -- they're a post-policy party with an aversion to governing, which is a problem for a party that has been given broad authority by voters to shape policy and govern.
It's not every day that a leader can make an important, material difference in the lives of roughly 5 million people. It's what made President Obama's announcement last night such a breakthrough moment -- with congressional Republicans unwilling or unable to act, the president found a way to improve the immigration system on his own, changing the national landscape for millions of families.
"We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we're going to offer the following deal: If you've been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you're willing to pay your fair share of taxes -- you'll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law."
I saw some suggestions last night that Obama extended "legal status" to undocumented immigrants. That's incorrect -- the White House policy extends temporary status to a limited group of immigrants and shields them from deportation threats. They'll be eligible to work legally in the United States, but as Obama noted in his remarks, further action would require statutory changes that only Congress can approve.
Indeed, one of the striking things about the president's speech was the degree to which he anticipated critics' arguments, explaining in advance why they're incorrect.
Republicans will say Obama's been lax on border security, so he reminded the nation that he increased border security and pushed illegal border crossings to a four-decade low. Republicans will say Obama hasn't worked in a bipartisan way with Congress, so he reminded viewers that he worked with both parties on the popular and bipartisan Senate bill. Republicans will say Obama's actions are unprecedented, so he reminded everyone that his new actions are "the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me."
Republicans will say Obama's policy is "amnesty," so the president explained, "Amnesty is the immigration system we have today -- millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. That's the real amnesty -- leaving this broken system the way it is."
All of which is wrapped up with an emotional appeal that dovetails with the substantive merits: "Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger -- we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too."
Will the policy help? Clearly, yes. Is the policy fair? Indeed, that's the point. Is the policy pro-family? Obviously. But is the policy legal?
Rachel Maddow reviews President Obama's stated support for immigration reform and well-documented intention to enact changes in immigration policy on his own should Congress fail to produce a bill to do so. watch
Rachel Maddow shares images and video from watch parties around the United States where people whose lives will be profoundly affected by President Obama's announcement gathered to share their joy, worry, and relief. watch
Nicolle Wallace, former Bush administration communications director, talks with Rachel Maddow about why President George W. Bush, who was also open about his support for immigration reform, was unable to see to the passage of legislation to that end. watch
Rachel Maddow points out that while the show and the network do not support drinking games, if one were to play such a game, bitter Republican rhetoric about legislative retaliation against President Obama over immigration policy is a good place to start. watch
Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the Obama administration will address Republican accusations of overreach and overcome deepening partisan acrimony over immigration. watch
José Díaz-Balart, host of MSNBC's "The Rundown" and Telemundo anchor, talks with Rachel Maddow about the human side of the immigration issue that is sometimes overlooked amid the politics and partisanship. watch