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David Berri, right, and his assistant Adolfo Mendez install new valves and electronic controls to a pair of gas pumps at the Shell station Berri owns in Santa Ana, Calif., Saturday, March 28, 2009.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Fox asks: will cheap gas hurt the economy?

10/28/14 02:44PM

Once in a while, what Fox viewers learn from on-screen text is even more entertaining than on-screen anchors and guests.
 
Last month, for example, Fox News viewers were told that the United States "has conducted at least 160 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq," and at literally the exact same moment, viewers were also told there's been "no military action yet against ISIS."
 
Today, Media Matters noted Fox Business' Stuart Varney, who appeared above on-screen text that asked whether cheap gas is hurting the economy. Wonkette's reaction seemed to strike the appropriate tone.
Here is Stuart Varney on Fox Business today, yapping his elegant lippy about something, do not care, did not watch. But what is that chyron beneath him (which is, unaccountably, all spelled correctly and without discernible factual errors)? It is "just asking" if cheap gas is bad for the Murican Economy, which Obama broke, with his Time Machine and probably jazz cigarettes.
 
If gas prices get any lower -- while Barack Obama is still president, anyway -- Fox News will probably wonder why Obama broke the climate.
For the record, it's probably worth answering Fox Business' question: no, there is no evidence to suggest lower gas prices will hurt the economy. Lower gas prices may hurt the environment -- cheaper fuel may lead to more consumption and higher emissions -- but not the economy.
Minority Leader U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) rehearse before their debate on October 13, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. (Photo by Pablo Alcala/Pool/Getty)

McConnell finally comes clean on health care plans

10/28/14 12:58PM

When recent polling showed Kentucky's U.S. Senate race tied, and the race became competitive enough for national Democrats to re-invest after walking away, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and his team said they were wholly unconcerned. In fact, last week, McConnell aides started passing around an internal poll showing the longtime incumbent ahead by eight points over Alison Lundergan Grimes (D).
 
But against the backdrop of public confidence, McConnell is so concerned, he wrote a $1.8 million check "out of his own bank account." The Republican can afford it -- McConnell's minimum net worth is nearly $12 million -- but it was the kind of move a candidate makes at the end of a race when he's worried about the outcome.
 
It's not yet clear exactly what McConnell intends to do with the $1.8 million, but it probably won't be devoted to health care.
 
Two weeks ago, the Kentucky senator said he hopes to destroy the current federal health care system, including the state-based system called Kynect, which is working quite well. McConnell said it's "fine to have a website" for a Kentucky-based marketplace, but everything else would be scrapped.
 
As a substantive matter, this was gibberish, and it prompted Sam Stein to press Team McConnell for an explanation.
[I]f McConnell was fine keeping the website, would he also be willing to let people keep the federal assistance that helps them purchase coverage offered on that website?
 
The Huffington Post asked the McConnell campaign that very question the day after the debate. We asked the campaign the same question twice more that day. Then, we posed the question to them seven more times over the subsequent nine days. We also called the campaign twice. The campaign never responded.
That is, until yesterday, when a McConnell aide finally shared the senator's full position.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.28.14

10/28/14 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:
 
* In Georgia's U.S. Senate race, PPP now shows Michelle Nunn (D) and David Perdue (R) tied at 47% each. This is actually a slight improvement for Nunn, who trailed by two points in the most recent PPP survey in Georgia.
 
* In Maine's gubernatorial race, PPP finds another tied race, with Gov. Paul LePage (R) and Mike Michaud (D) each getting 40%. Independent Eliot Cutler remains far back at 17%.
 
* In North Carolina's U.S. Senate race, the latest Monmouth poll shows Sen. Kay Hagan (D) hanging on against Thom Tillis (R), 48% to 46%.
 
* Alaska is often overlooked as a key Senate battleground, in part because it's so difficult to poll. That said, the New York Times reports this morning, "The state fell off the radar over the last few weeks because just about every unsponsored survey was showing Dan Sullivan, the Republican, in the lead. But over the last few days, two Alaska-based pollsters have shown [incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich] with a substantial lead."
 
* Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) continues to face an uphill climb in her re-election bid in Louisiana. The latest Suffolk poll shows the senator with a narrow lead in the wide-open Election Day contest, but in a head-to-head runoff against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R), the Republican congressman has a seven point advantage over Landrieu.
 
* Things no longer look good for Democrats in South Dakota, where the party's Senate hopeful, Rick Weiland, is accusing Democratic leaders of trying to sabotage his campaign. A week from Election Day, that's probably a bad sign.
Davis Perdue

Perdue says 'less than 2,000' women at his company faced discrimination

10/28/14 11:37AM

Georgia's Republican Senate hopeful, David Perdue, clearly hopes his private-sector background will catapult him to Capitol Hill. That'd be easier, however, if Perdue's business career weren't quite so controversial.
 
For months, the Republican has been hampered by his extensive outsourcing efforts, making it easy for Michelle Nunn (D) and her allies to paint Perdue as an inexperienced version of Mitt Romney. But we were reminded this week of yet another problem with Perdue's private-sector past.
David Perdue, Georgia's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, defended himself Sunday night against charges that he paid female managers less than male ones when he was CEO of Dollar General, saying "it was less than 2,000 people" who brought the lawsuit against the company.
 
"There was no wrongdoing there," Perdue said in a debate Sunday night against Democrat Michelle Nunn. "That lawsuit or that claim or that complaint was settled five years after I was there. She knows that. And it was less than 2,000 people. We had upwards of 70,000 employees at that company."
Nunn responded that 2,000 women "actually seems like quite a lot to me who say that they were discriminated against," which seemed like a fair reaction.
 
Indeed, Molly Redden noted yesterday, "An annual report Dollar General submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission puts the actual number of female managers in that class action at 2,100. As Mother Jones reported in May, the women had been paid less than their male peers between the dates of November 30, 2004 and November 30, 2007—almost exactly the dates that Perdue was CEO (from April 2003 to summer 2007.) The class action began in late 2007, and Dollar General settled the lawsuit for $18.75 million without admitting to discrimination."
 
It's true that the matter was resolved after the complaints first surfaced, but I'm not sure why Perdue would see that as much of a defense -- the allegations still relate to pay discrimination during his time as head of the company.
U.S. President George W. Bush shares a laugh with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Crawford, Texas, in this November 15, 2001 file photo.

Boehner: Bush would have punched Putin 'in the nose'

10/28/14 11:14AM

I'm not sure which is worse: the notion that House Speaker John Boehner says ridiculous things to get votes or that the Ohio Republican actually believes his own rhetoric.
 
Take yesterday, for example. As Jay Bookman noted, Boehner was in Iowa and made these comments to a group of voters.
"Five years ago, the president of the United States went to Europe and he went to the Middle East on what I'll call his 'apology tour' -- apologizing for America being strong, apologizing for America leading.
 
"And the manifestation of that apology tour is what we see in the chaos going on around the world today. I talk to world leaders every week. They want America to lead. They're begging America to lead. Because when America leads and America's strong, the world is a safer place.
 
"When you look at this chaos that's going on, does anybody think that Vladimir Putin would have gone into Crimea had George W. Bush been president of the United States? No! Even Putin is smart enough to know that Bush would have punched him in the nose in about 10 seconds."
Obviously, the "apology tour" line is tiresome garbage. What Boehner said isn't true, and the Speaker must realize at a certain level that he knows he's lying, whether he's prepared to admit it or not.
 
But more alarming is Boehner's painfully silly vision of international affairs. In the Speaker's mind, Obama's responsible for Putin going into Crimea. Bush would have dealt with such a crisis with a swift punch to Putin's nose.
 
And while the Speaker is welcome to cherish the failed former Republican president, Boehner might benefit from a remedial reminder about recent history.
 In this photo reviewed by the U.S. military, the sun rises above Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.

RNC fearmongering devolves into self-parody

10/28/14 10:14AM

A couple of weeks ago, there were reports about Obama administration officials looking for new ways to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay -- a goal endorsed by U.S. military leaders and which used to enjoy at least some bipartisan support. 
 
Soon after, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), exhibiting a child-like understanding of public affairs, argued that it would be "dangerous" to close the Guantanamo Bay prison because "Islamic jihadists are beheading Americans." By any fair measure, it was a deeply foolish response and a reminder that Boehner just doesn't approach his responsibilities with enough seriousness.
 
What we did not know until yesterday, however, is that this shameless demagoguery would become the basis for the Republican National Committee's closing 2014 argument. Reince Priebus' RNC unveiled this new ad yesterday, which I can assure you is not intended to be a parody.
"ISIS gaining ground. Terrorists committing mass murder. Ebola inside the U.S. Americans alarmed about national security. What's President Obama doing? Making plans to bring terrorists from Guantanamo to our country.... November 4th, Obama's policies are on the ballot. Vote to keep terrorists off U.S. soil. Vote Republican."
According to a press statement, this message will air this week in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Louisiana, and Virginia.
 
Remember, with just seven days to go until Election Day, the RNC could choose any issue it wishes as a closing argument. Priebus & Co. have gone with ... Guantanamo.
 
Ads like these, which show genuine contempt for voters' intelligence, might very well work. It's quite possible the focus groups loved it and if Republican candidates fare well next week, as appears likely, the RNC may see its ridiculous ad as the message that helped seal the deal.
 
But for those still capable of reason, it's hard not to see ads like these as a national embarrassment.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Republican party of Wisconsin State Convention Saturday, May 3, 2014, in Milwaukee.

Intra-party 'feud' complicates Walker's race in Wisconsin

10/28/14 09:18AM

No gubernatorial race in the country is as competitive as Gov. Scott Walker's (R) re-election bid in Wisconsin. The last four publicly released polls have shown the race either tied or within one percentage point.
 
And with just a week until Election Day, the incumbent governor isn't convinced the Republican Machine is rallying to his defense to the degree he'd prefer.
At a morning campaign stop in Mayville, Wisconsin, Walker openly groused that the outside spending supporting his campaign "pales" in comparison to the Democratic effort to defeat him. He spoke dismissively of an upcoming campaign visit from [New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie], telling reporters that the Garden Stater was visiting because "he asked if he could come and we weren't going to say no."
Ouch.
 
In fairness, Walker later clarified that he's grateful for Christie's support, but he's frustrated because he believes Democrats are rallying behind Mary Burke's campaign with even stronger support.
 
The result is an awkward "feud" of sorts -- Walker desperately needs backing from the Republican Governors Association, which is chaired by Christie, but at the same time, Walker believes the RGA is holding back, in part because of 2016. And he may have a point -- both Christie and Walker are preparing to run for president, and if the Wisconsin governor comes up short, Christie will have one less credible rival for the GOP nomination.
 
It's created a dynamic in which Christie's RGA wants Walker to win, but it also sees the broader benefits of Walker losing.
 
And that in turn has generated chatter about whether the New Jersey Republican is undermining his Wisconsin ally on purpose to advance Christie's ambitions.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy

GOP leader hopes to prove Republicans 'could' govern

10/28/14 08:41AM

It's been four years since congressional Republicans took control of the U.S. House, during which time Congress has approved no meaningful legislation, and GOP lawmakers have shown no real interest in governing. But as Jake Sherman reported, the House Majority Leader thinks his party can finally get on track in 2015.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy landed here from Los Angeles with a bang: He bluntly warned that Republicans will blow the presidency in 2016 if they don't make some radical changes -- and quick.
 
McCarthy, speaking without a working microphone, told a group of Long Island donors that Republicans' gains in the House will amount to little if they can't govern over the next two years."I do know this," McCarthy said. "If we don't capture the House stronger, and the Senate, and prove we could govern, there won't be a Republican president in 2016."
McCarthy's hope that Republicans can prove they "could govern" struck me as an interesting choice of words. Perhaps it was just a verbal slip, or perhaps it was the Majority Leader's way of lowering expectations -- GOP lawmakers don't actually expect to succeed in making policy, but they hope to prove they could govern under different circumstances.
 
To be sure, Republicans have reason to be optimistic about seizing control of Congress. The party may be unpopular, may have unpopular ideas, and may have failed miserably to govern over the last several years, but voters appear likely to reward the GOP with more power anyway.
 
As such, it's only natural to wonder what the public might expect from Republican control of Capitol Hill. McCarthy wants to paint a sunny picture: the GOP, he says, will focus on real policy solutions.
 
The problem, of course, is that there's literally no reason whatsoever to believe him.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to the media following a meeting on Sept. 8, 2014 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty)

Gov who reversed his decision says, 'I didn't reverse any decision'

10/28/14 08:00AM

Nurse Kaci Hickox was, as promised, released from a mandatory quarantine in New Jersey yesterday, and was allowed to return home to Maine. Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) defense for his curious actions still needs some work.
"I didn't reverse any decision," Mr. Christie said from the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Fla., where he was campaigning for that state's governor, Rick Scott, a fellow Republican. "She hadn't had any symptoms for 24 hours. And she tested negative for Ebola. So there was no reason to keep her. The reason she was put into the hospital in the first place was because she was running a high fever and was symptomatic."
I can appreciate why the governor may feel defensive about his clumsy handling of the situation, but that's no reason to deny what is plainly true.
 
On Friday, Christie endorsed a new policy, one whole day in the making, imposing a mandatory, 21-day quarantine on those who may have been in contact with Ebola patients in West Africa. Hours later, the Christie administration detained Hickox, despite evidence she wasn't actually symptomatic.
 
On Sunday morning, the governor boasted that he had "absolutely ... no second thoughts" about his policy, only to announce later in the day that his policy would now allow home quarantines. By Monday morning, Christie's 21-day quarantine on Hickox was reduced to three.
 
Unless the New Jersey Republican has come up with a new definition of "reverse," it's not unreasonable to note he changed his policy.
 
And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Christie could very well tell the public that he chose one policy, learned new information, then changed his policy to adapt to the circumstances. Responding to the Ebola threat in the United States is still fairly new, and it stands to reason that officials' responses will need fine-tuning over time.
 
But not Christie, who told NBC's "Today" show this morning, "Our policy hasn't changed and our policy will not change" -- despite the fact that it's already changed.

'Appropriate action' and other headlines

10/28/14 07:59AM

Maine government will take 'appropriate action' if nurse Kaci Hickox doesn't maintain quarantine. (Portland Press Herald)

The world relies on this one company to transport Ebola patients. (Washington Post)

Both parties are happy with early vote data; they're worried, too. (Washington Post)

Arkansas' highest court rules that minimum wage hike can stay on the ballot. (AP)

The Democratic candidate for Senate in South Dakota accuses his own party of sabotage. (Argus Leader)

Rick Perry gives a speech at the Reagan Library calling for a 'clean break' from Obama. (Politico)

Toronto's ex-Mayor Rob Ford got elected to the City Council. (USA Today)

Funeral for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, killed by a gunman in Ottawa last week, is held today. (CBC)

Washington State school shooter invited his victims to lunch. (AP)

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Fear-driven governors make Ebola policy mess

Fear-driven governors make Ebola policy mess

10/27/14 11:06PM

Rachel Maddow describes the confusion over Ebola quarantine policy for people returning to the US from countries crisis with Ebola as state governors abandon science-based recommendations and scramble to appease irrational public fears. watch

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