The New York Times talked the other day with a Louisiana voter named Patsy Edmondson, who lives in Rep. Vance McAllister's (R) West Monroe district. Asked about her congressman's extra-marital dalliance, after pledging to "defend our Christian way of life" during his campaign last year, Edmondson rolled her eyes at her state's "history of tawdry politics."
But she also added an interesting point.
A number of voters here identified a double standard in the Republican state leadership for denouncing Mr. McAllister but issuing no such rebuke to Senator David Vitter during a 2007 prostitution scandal. Mr. Vitter apologized for "a very serious sin in my past" and said he had asked for and received forgiveness from his wife and from God. He was re-elected to the Senate in 2010 and is considered as a favorite to succeed [current Gov. Bobby Jindal] in the 2015 governor's race.
Ms. Edmondson said the place to judge Mr. McAllister would be at the ballot box. "If Jindal is going to ask him to resign, why is it not right for David Vitter to resign?" she said.
I've been wondering that myself. In fact, it's tough to reconcile the competing standards: two Louisiana Republicans run as family-values conservatives, one gets caught with prostitutes, one gets caught kissing a staffer. The former remains in his party's good graces, wins re-election, and is poised for a promotion; the latter is persona non grata among his ostensible allies.
I think there's a rational explanation for the disjointed reactions, but we haven't heard any leading Republican officials address the question head on.
To that end, it was good to see reporters ask Louisiana's Republican governor yesterday why he's coming down hard on McAllister, while giving Vitter a pass.
A reunion at the finish line one year after the Boston Marathon bombings. (Boston Globe) Ukraine says it has begun military operation in the East. (NY Times) Republicans try to address 'war on women' with an army of young volunteers. (Washington Post) Social Security will stop seizing tax refunds to collect old debt. (Time)
Kasie Hunt, NBC News political reporter, talks with Steve Kornacki about how the radically different elements of the Republican Party contrast with each other in state politics across the country. (Koch statement: http://on.msnbc.com/1p4PUNh) watch
Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia, talks with Steve Kornacki about increased aggression and limited options as Ukraine pushes back against Russia's fomentation of unrest in eastern Ukraine despite important differences from Crimea. watch
Steve Kornacki reports on details revealed in newly released memos that give new insight into the testimony that produced the internal report exonerating Chris Christie from any involvement in the New Jersey bridge traffic scandal. watch
Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice, talks with Steve Kornacki about newly released memos regarding the New Jersey traffic closure scandal and what insights they offer on Chris Christie's "internal investigation." watch
Steve Kornacki reviews the recent wave of good news stories and positive indicators surrounding the implementation of Obamacare and wonders when Republicans will be forced by sheer weight of fact to change their position on the program. watch
It's not uncommon for conservative media to put a very different spin on current events than major news organizations. For example, news consumers who surround themselves with nothing but conservative media might believe right now that the Affordable Care Act is in a death spiral, the IRS "scandal" is heating up; the nation is facing a debt crisis; the Benghazi conspiracy will soon rock the White House; etc.
But once in a while, conservative media doesn't just put a unique spin on the news, it also identifies stories that exist largely below the radar. Over the last week, for example, far-right news consumers have been captivated with coverage of Cliven Bundy, while for much of the American mainstream, that name probably doesn't even sound familiar.
If you don't know the story, it's time to get up to speed.
U.S. officials ended a stand-off with hundreds of armed protesters in the Nevada desert on Saturday, calling off the government's roundup of cattle it said were illegally grazing on federal land and giving about 300 animals back to the rancher who owned them.
The dispute less than 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas between rancher Cliven Bundy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management had simmered for days. Bundy had stopped paying fees for grazing his cattle on the government land and officials said he had ignored court orders.
Anti-government groups, right-wing politicians and gun-rights activists camped around Bundy's ranch to support him.
By any fair definition, this was an intense standoff with a very real possibility of significant casualties.
But to understand how and why the crisis unfolded as it did over the weekend, we have to start with how it started in the first place.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) clearly seems to understand that the gender gap isn't working in his favor right now, and so it's understandable that he'd look for opportunities to make inroads with women voters. But McConnell keeps turning to an incident from 20 years ago, which is probably a bad idea.
In Kentucky right now, there's a Democratic state senator, John Arnold, who was accused of sexual harassment. The state lawmaker was cleared by an ethics panel -- though most of its members voted to find him guilty -- so McConnell sees an opportunity.
McConnell contrasted the Arnold case to his own actions as head of the Senate Ethics Committee in the case of former Sen. Bob Packwood, who was accused to making unwanted advances toward Senate employees.
"I moved to expel him from the Senate," McConnell said."
The McConnell campaign has tried this before. The senator and his allies generally like to shy away from his legislative record -- McConnell voted against the Violence Against Women Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay, the Paycheck Fairness Act, etc. -- but believe his handling of Bob Packwood's scandal in the early 1990s shows that McConnell is capable of handling women's issues appropriately. He may be on the wrong side of recent legislative fights, the argument goes, but at least in one case two decades ago, McConnell took a stand for women's interests against the interests of one of his own GOP allies.
The trouble is, I remember the 1990s a lot differently.
It's not too late to address the climate crisis. But the point of no return isn't that far away, either.
It's still possible to keep the global temperature at a manageable level, a new U.N. report on climate change concludes. But only if the world embarks quickly on an intense effort over the next 15 years.
The report, released Sunday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading world organization monitoring the issue, also found that climate change can be addressed without affecting living standards, and with only a tiny reduction in economic growth.
In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday, "We've already had wake-up call after wake-up call about climate science. This report is a wake-up call about global economic opportunity we can seize today as we lead on climate change."
As terrifying as the climate crisis may be, the report actually highlights some reason for encouragement.
Critics of the Affordable Care Act no longer want to talk about enrollment totals, which is understandable to the extent that the latest ACA enrollment figures look quite good. Instead, many Republicans have gone back to some old favorites: "Obamacare" is causing premiums to spike; the nation can't afford the system; it will bankrupt us all; we're all doomed, etc.
I can only imagine how frustrating it must be lately to be an opponent of this law.
The most expensive provisions of Obamacare will cost taxpayers about $100 billion less than expected, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday.
CBO also said it doesn't expect big premium increases next year for insurance plans sold through the health care law's exchanges.
In its latest analysis, CBO said the law's coverage provisions -- a narrow part of the law that includes only certain policies -- will cost the government $36 billion this year, which is $5 billion less than CBO's previous estimate. Over the next decade, the provisions will cost about $1.4 trillion -- roughly $104 billion less than CBO last estimated.
The CBO report is available in its entirety here (pdf). The CBO also released a helpful summary with some lovely charts.
The report found that coverage is likely to cost less thanks to premiums being lower than expected through the exchange marketplaces. In other words, take pretty much everything you've heard from congressional Republicans lately and believe the opposite.
And as part of the same review, of course, the CBO added that the Affordable Care Act will also continue to reduce the federal budget deficit, which is also the opposite of critics' claims.