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Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee delivers remarks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., March 7, 2014.

Email troubles spread for Clinton critics

03/25/15 09:23AM

In the context of the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton's critics have raised legitimate questions about her use of a private email account during her tenure as Secretary of State. The problem has been that many of those same critics are vulnerable to the exact same questions -- many Republican White House hopefuls used private accounts to conduct official business and/or shielded communications from public scrutiny.
 
Tim Murphy noted yesterday that Mike Huckabee belongs on the same list.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee thinks questions about Hillary Clinton's emails as secretary of state "will linger" throughout the 2016 presidential race. "If the law said you had to maintain every email for public inspection, that's what you got to do," he recently told ABC News. Huckabee also suggested that the missing emails might shed new light on the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.
 
Huckabee, who is considering a second run for president himself, is probably right that the issue of secrecy will dog Clinton's campaign going forward. But he might not be the best man to make that case. As Mother Jones reported in 2011, Huckabee destroyed his administration's state records before leaving office in 2007.
Email was, of course, a common tool used during Huckabee's tenure, but when the Arkansas Republican left office, according to his successor's chief legal counsel, all of the computers used by the GOP governor and his aides were removed. What's more, all of the hard drives were "physically destroyed."
 
The former governor has not yet explained why it was necessary to keep these materials hidden.
 
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), meanwhile, was already facing questions for criticizing Clinton despite his own controversial email policies, and overnight, an Associated Press report made matters just a little more complicated: "As Florida governor, Jeb Bush used another, previously unreported email address, records show -- the newest wrinkle in an evolving debate over public officials' use of private email accounts."
U.S. House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions walks to a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 30, 2013.

Sessions stumbles on 'simple multiplication'

03/25/15 08:40AM

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Rules Committee, has earned an unfortunate reputation. The six-term congressman and former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee just doesn't seem overly interested in substantive details.
 
About a year ago, for example, Sessions seemed to forget what a "witch hunt' is. The year before, Sessions said he believes it's "immoral" to extend jobless aid to "long-term unemployments [sic]." Around the same time, the congressman said the House should stop worrying about governing and focus exclusively on "messaging."
 
Earlier this month, the Texas Republican said he holds President Obama "personally accountable" for murders committed by undocumented immigrants, pointing to imaginary evidence.
 
Yesterday, Sessions added a mathematical error to his list of greatest hits.
In an apparent miscalculation, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) claimed Tuesday that ObamaCare will cost $5 million per person.
 
Precisely how Sessions arrived at that calculation during House floor debate on the budget is unclear.
Yes, on the House floor yesterday, the GOP lawmaker not only failed to do his math homework before speaking, he presented his false argument in a surprisingly condescending way for someone who didn't know what he was talking about.
 
"If you just do simple multiplication," Sessions said, "12 million [consumers] into $108 billion, we are talking literally every single [ACA] recipient would be costing this government more than $5 million per person for their insurance. It's staggering.... $108 billion for 12 million people is immoral. It's unconscionable."
 
Let's take Sessions' advice and "do simple multiplication."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers remarks announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for US president March 23, 2015, inside the Vine Center at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va. (Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty)

Ted Cruz embraces unexpected label: Obamacare customer

03/25/15 08:00AM

Political hypocrisy can be a tricky thing. A few years ago, for example, Republicans condemned President Obama's stimulus package, the "Recovery Act," even while pleading for stimulus funds for their states and districts.
 
This was not, strictly speaking, hypocrisy -- GOP lawmakers opposed the endeavor that rescued the economy, but concluded that if the resources were available, they might as well take advantage. The problem was that Republicans said Recovery Act dollars were incapable of boosting the economy, unless the dollars were spent on their constituents -- an intellectually dishonest posture.
 
All of which leads us to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and his embrace of an unexpected label: Obamacare customer.
Just one day after Ted Cruz launched his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination with another attack on President Obama's signature health care law, the Texas senator made a second, more surprising announcement: He's signing up for Obamacare.
 
"We will presumably go on the exchange and sign up for health care and we're in the process of transitioning over to do that," Cruz told The Des Moines Register on Tuesday.
Apparently, the senator and his family have enjoyed coverage through his wife's private-sector employer, but because she's taking an unpaid leave of absence, the Cruzes will do what millions of other Americans have done: take advantage of benefits available through the Affordable Care Act.
 
And on the surface, there's nothing wrong with that. Like the Republicans who foolishly condemned Obama's stimulus initiative, Cruz does not believe ACA benefits should exist, but so long as they do, the right-wing presidential candidate is comfortable receiving those benefits in order to help himself and his family.
 
Whether or not this constitutes hypocrisy is debatable. But either way, we're left with the awkward realization that Ted Cruz wants the Affordable Care Act to stop helping your family and start helping his own family.

Black box damaged and other headlines

03/25/15 07:58AM

German plane's black box is damaged, but could still yield clues. (NBC News)

Bipartisan deal on health care issues hits a snag among Senate Democrats. (New York Times)

Cheney rallies troops and rakes in cash at GOP dinner. (New York Times)

Afghan president expected to get warm welcome from Congress. (AP)

Ex-prosecutor of exonerated death row inmate pens apology. (AP)

Bill O'Reilly stops by Letterman to gloat about scandal survival. (New York Magazine)

AP tracks supply chain of fish caught by slaves all the way to the U.S.  (AP)

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 3.24.15

03/24/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* The latest from Europe: "A passenger plane carrying 150 people crashed in a remote part of the French Alps on Tuesday, officials said, warning that there are not expected to be any survivors.... The French interior ministry confirmed to NBC News that one of the black boxes from Germanwings Flight 4U9525 had been found as rescue teams converged on the crash site."
 
* Afghanistan: "President Obama announced Tuesday that the United States and Afghanistan had made changes to the drawdown schedule for the nearly 10,000 U.S. troops remaining in the country. Some troops will remain in Afghanistan longer under the new schedule, but will not serve in combat roles, according to the president. The troops, Obama said, would serve as advisers and trainers of afghan security forces."
 
* Yesterday in Iraq: "Multiple bombings in the Iraqi capital killed at least 19 people and wounded 36, as Iraqi forces continued preparing for a large-scale operation to recapture the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State group."
 
* Repeal seems like a bad idea: "There are more insured Americans now than there have been in over 15 years, thanks to President Obama's signature health care law. The number of uninsured U.S. residents fell by 11.4 million since the president signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, according to new figures released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)."
 
* Responding to a threat: "Security was increased at Monday night's Princeton-Maryland NCAA tournament women's basketball game after a phone message was received detailing a threat against President Obama's niece, according to a person with knowledge of the threat who was not authorized to speak publicly because of security issues."
 
* Reform advocates should probably lower expectations: "When it comes to overhauling pot policy in the U.S. Senate, the young pols are running headfirst into the old guard."
Lindsey Graham (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

Graham blames Gore for GOP's science problem

03/24/15 05:09PM

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) conceded yesterday that his party lacks direction and vision, at least for now, when it comes to the environment. "Before we can be bipartisan we gotta figure out where we are as a party," the Republican said at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. "What is the environmental platform of the Republican Party?"
 
Good question. Graham deserved credit for acknowledging the party's, shall we say, confusion on environmental policy. Ideally, the GOP would already have answers to basic questions like these, but in the absence of leadership from within the party, I'm glad the senator is at least raising the issue.
 
It'd be slightly more encouraging, though, if Graham weren't blaming Al Gore for his party's problems.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Monday admitted that Republicans need to do some "soul searching" on climate change and blamed former Vice President Al Gore for making it difficult to make progress on the issue. [...]
 
Graham blamed Gore, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2007 for his efforts to combat climate change, for blocking progress on the issue.
"The problem is Al Gore has turned this thing into a religion," Graham said. "You know, climate change is not a religious problem for me, it is an economic, it is an environmental problem."
 
This is a dreadfully bad argument.
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, in Fitchburg, Wis.

Walker confronts new 'dark money' controversy

03/24/15 04:46PM

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) career in public office has not been without controversy. The "John Doe" investigation has been ongoing for quite a while, and has led to criminal prosecutions of former Walker colleagues, and there's also a series of questions surrounding alleged coordination between the governor's recall campaign and allied groups on the right.
 
These stories were obviously not serious enough in the minds of Wisconsin voters to derail Walker's career -- he won re-election last fall with relative ease -- but as the governor moves forward with his unannounced presidential plans, he and his team surely realize that the scrutiny is poised to become far more serious.
 
And with that in mind, investigative reporter Michael Isikoff published a doozy of a report for Yahoo News today raising questions that Walker likely have to answer fairly soon.
John Menard Jr. is widely known as the richest man in Wisconsin. A tough-minded, staunchly conservative 75-year-old billionaire, he owns a highly profitable chain of hardware stores throughout the Midwest. He's also famously publicity-shy -- rarely speaking in public or giving interviews.
 
So a little more than three years ago, when Menard wanted to back Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker -- and help advance his pro-business agenda -- he found the perfect way to do so without attracting any attention: He wrote more than $1.5 million in checks to a pro-Walker political advocacy group that pledged to keep its donors secret, three sources directly familiar with the transactions told Yahoo News.
That, in itself, seems rather routine. There are plenty of very wealthy, politically active Americans writing generous checks to various groups, and many of these contributions are not subjected to disclosure laws. It's called "dark money" for a reason -- these political transactions, which are legal, are shielded from the glare of public scrutiny.
 
But in this case, the fact that a billionaire directed $1.5 million to the Wisconsin Club for Growth to indirectly help Walker isn't the problem. It's how the billionaire benefited soon after that matters.
US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) smiles at the crowd while delivering remarks announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for US president March 23, 2015 in Lynchburg, Va. (Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty)

Cruz and Beck 'stand together happily'

03/24/15 03:11PM

It was just last week that conservative media figure Glenn Beck announced a shift in his political allegiances. "I've made my decision -- I'm out. I'm out of the Republican Party," Beck told his radio audience. "I am not a Republican; I will not give a dime to the Republican Party. I'm out. I highly recommend -- run from the Republican Party. They are not good."
 
Beck, a former Fox News host, raised a series of complaints about the far-right party not being nearly far-right enough, but he specifically complained about the Republican establishment "taking on people like Mike Lee and Ted Cruz and they are torpedoing them. Knowingly."
 
With this in mind, though Beck may be done with the GOP, he's clearly still on board with some of notable GOP politicians. Politico reported yesterday:
Before Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for president on Monday, he gave a call to an old friend, Glenn Beck, to discuss how he arrived at his decision to run.
 
"I had a great conversation with Ted Cruz on Friday night," Beck told his radio listeners Monday. "He told me that he had spent about two hours with his children and his wife in prayer, making the final decision this week.... I have to tell you, that means the world to me."
Yesterday morning, of course, the Republican senator kicked off his presidential campaign at an evangelical university in Virginia, and moments after he stepped off stage, Cruz got back on the phone -- with Glenn Beck.
 
"Thank you for your clarion voice each and every day," Cruz told Beck, adding, "Glenn, every day you are a voice that is a clarion voice for freedom of the Constitution. I thank you for your leadership."
 
Wait, it gets better. Right Wing Watch reports that Cruz called Beck's radio show again today.
Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., speaks with reporters in the Capitol on, Oct. 10, 2013.

Indiana's Coats exits stage right

03/24/15 01:03PM

Arguably the most interesting thing about Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) is his highly unusual career trajectory, which has no real rival in modern times. The trajectory will apparently end next year, however, when Coats retires from Congress (for the second time).
"Today I am announcing that I will not seek re-election to the United States Senate. This was not an easy decision," Coats said in a statement, "While I believe I am well-positioned to run a successful campaign for another six-year term, I have concluded that the time has come to pass this demanding job to the next generation of leaders."
The Republican Hoosier will remain in office through the end of his term. The announcement was just made this morning, so it's tough to start looking ahead to the open-seat race, though Indiana is arguably the reddest state in the Midwest and Republicans will probably be confident about keeping the seat. Keep an eye on former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) and former Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D), though.
 
But what I've always liked about the Coats story is the way in which his career has played out in a unique way.
 
The Republican lawmaker served in the U.S. House throughout the 1980s, before replacing Dan Quayle in the Senate once Quayle became vice president. Coats won a term of his own in 1992 then retired in 1998. He added a four-year stint as the Bush/Cheney ambassador to Germany before doing exactly what everyone in his position does -- Coats moved back to the D.C. area and became a very well paid corporate lobbyist.
 
And that's where Coats' career took an odd turn.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 3.24.15

03/24/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
 
* Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) appeared on Fox News last night to throw some jabs at Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) presidential kickoff, mocking the fact that Liberty University students were required to attend Cruz's announcement speech. Paul added that his candidacy will go beyond just "throwing out red meat."
 
* In Massachusetts, a new Emerson College Poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the senator's home state, 43% to 16%, in a hypothetical Democratic presidential primary. Among Bay State Republicans, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker were tied for first with 19% support each.
 
* Speaking of the former Secretary of State, Clinton visited the White House yesterday and met privately with President Obama for about an hour.
 
* Clinton also commented yesterday on her "complicated" relationship with the press, but offered an olive branch. "I am all about new beginnings. A new granddaughter, another new hairstyle, a new email account. So why not a new relationship with the press?" Clinton asked. "So here goes: no more secrecy. No more zone of privacy. After all, what good did that do me?"
 
* Ted Cruz may struggle to pick up endorsements from his Senate colleagues, and that includes his fellow Texan. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R) was asked yesterday about whether he'll support Cruz and Cornyn replied, "You know, we've got a lot of Texans who are running for president, so I'm going to watch from the sidelines."
 
* In a bit of a surprise, the current executive director of the Florida Republican Party conceded publicly that he does not want Sen. Marco Rubio (R) to run for president. "I hope that is not going to happen," David Johnson told the New York Times over the weekend, adding, "It's going to cause a lot of problems in the state of Florida."

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