Jobs, jobs, jobs. That is what Republican House Speaker John Boehner said would be priority No. 1 for Republicans after sweeping the House of Representatives and many state legislatures in 2010. This, Republicans said, was why they were elected: People wanted to see changes in the economy fast.
But, apparently, there was one other priority.
Almost immediately after coming into office in 2011, Virginia Republicans set the national stage for vital women’s health issues. House Bill 1 — the first bill Virginia Republicans chose to take on — was a personhood bill, a bill that define life beginning at conception. Not only would the bill have banned abortion, it would also have banned the birth control pill, which sometimes prevents birth by stopping the implantation of a fertilized egg.
An impartial observer might wonder why a personhood bill would be a top Republican priority. After all, the same election that put all these Republicans in power also had a personhood bill overwhelmingly rejected in Mississippi — a state so socially conservative that 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans want to make interracial marriage illegal, according to a recent poll from Public Policy Polling.
Nonetheless, this was the issue Virginia Republicans decided to give serious attention. In an economy with a 9 percent unemployment rate at the time, this was the most important issue to Virginia Republicans.
Ohio wasn’t much luckier with its crop of Republicans. Five months after inauguration, the Ohio House passed its “heartbeat” bill, or H.B. 125. To this day, it’s the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. Not only would it ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, but the bill makes no exceptions for rape, incest or life-threatening circumstances.
Ohio and Virginia were not alone. Republicans were pushing anti-abortion, anti-contraception bills all around the nation. Pennsylvania, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas all made national headlines with their own bills. In more than 20 states, bills have been introduced to restrict insurance coverage of abortions, according to ABC News. At the federal level, Republicans have made funding for Planned Parenthood a top issue time and time again, and insurance companies covering contraception recently became such a big issue that the White House had to step in.
So much for keeping the government out of health care. The same political party that clamored for small government now couldn’t wait to regulate women’s health care. Apparently, the economy is too much for the government to handle, but every woman’s uterus is fair game.
There has been some backlash. After Virginia tried to pass a bill that would force doctors to give patients seeking abortion a transvaginal ultrasound, women’s health advocates in states across the nation organized protests, leading to governors and state legislatures beginning to back down in their rhetoric. Even Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican who originally supported the transvaginal ultrasound bill, has been downplaying his involvement in Virginia’s anti-abortion, anti-contraception bills.
Now, Mitt Romney, the likely GOP nominee for president, is facing some of the backlash. In a recent Gallup poll, women came out severely against Romney. In the category of women under 50, Obama held 60 percent of voters, while Romney held only 30 percent. That’s right, Obama now leads with women under 50 by a two-to-one margin.
But while that may stop some rhetoric, the bills and laws are still coming forward. The Ohio heartbeat bill is still being pushed by some Republicans in the Ohio Senate, and a personhood initiative could show up in Ohio’s 2012 ballot after a stamp of approval from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Mississippi also plans to reintroduce its personhood initiative in the 2012 ballot, and other states are beginning to pass around petitions for their own initiatives as well.
In the end, one is left to wonder what could stop social conservatives. Public backlash and poor polling don’t seem to be enough to stop the Republican war on women, and in some cases it might have actually emboldened them.
National media are reporting about how West Chester’s favorite son is avoiding taking a stand on whether women should be admitted into the Augusta National Golf Club.
As poll after poll shows the Republican Party lagging in support among female voters, various GOP politicians have spoken in favor of admitting women into the club, seeing it as an easy way to restore some goodwill with women. The all-male institution has been roundly criticized because it typically extends membership to the CEOs of IBM Corp., but hasn’t done so to its current leader, Ginni Rometty.
Among those who’ve recently said Augusta should admit female members are Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and John McCain. But not timid House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester).
Politico tried to ascertain Boehner’s stance on the issue last week, to no avail. The website reported:
Asked if Boehner thinks women should be permitted into Augusta, his spokesman Michael Steel said he has "never heard him discuss it." Pressed again, he demurred.The Masters Golf Tournament is held annually at Augusta, Ga. This year’s event ended Sunday, with Bubba Watson emerging as the winner.
Another website, Talking Points Memo, gave a possible reason for Boehner’s reticence. It stated:
"That could be because Boehner — an avid golfer — is himself a member of an all-male golf club. The AP reported last year that Boehner has ‘been chided for his membership at Burning Tree, an all-male golf club in Maryland.”Located in Bethesda, Md., Burning Tree has even more restrictive policies than Augusta. “Beyond the no-women membership policy, women are not even allowed on the grounds as guests,” ESPN reports.
An analysis of U.S. crime data by a British newspaper has found there’s been a 25 percent increase in civilian justifiable homicides since the controversial “stand your ground” (SYG) laws started being introduced in 2005.
London’s Guardian newspaper analyzed data from FBI and state sources. It concludes that the spike in civilian justifiable homicides is related not only to SYG laws, but also weak gun control laws in certain states.
Florida was the first state to introduce an SYG law in 2005 and similar measures have now been adopted in some form by more than 20 states. Most were passed in 2006. Ohio doesn’t yet have such a law, but it’s believed that gun advocates might be planning a campaign for one here soon.
Florida’s SYG law is expected to be part of the defense made for George Zimmerman, if he is charged with a crime. Zimmerman was the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed an unarmed African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin, Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. The incident has triggered widespread public outrage.
The Guardian’s analysis shows that SYG laws alone cannot be statistically linked with the rise in justifiable homicides. But in states with both SYG laws and the weakest gun control laws — as defined by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence — it found a statistical correlation with an increase in justifiable homicides.
Across the United States, such killings have risen sharply over the past five years, according to the data provided by the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. From 2001-05, there were 1,225 homicides classified as justifiable, compared to 1,528 in the period 2006-10. By contrast, violent crime overall has been falling.
"The police are shooting more people and citizens are shooting more people. We're evolving into an increasingly coarse society with no obligation to diffuse a situation and rapidly turn to force,” said Professor Dennis Kenney, of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and an ex-police sergeant in Florida. "People are literally getting away with murder."
SYG laws allow a potential crime victim who is in fear of “grave harm” to use deadly force in public places, not just inside their own homes. They eliminate the legal requirement to retreat before a person may claim he or she acted in self-defense.
SYG laws have been pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model legislation for state lawmakers to use.
State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) is among ALEC's leaders, as CityBeat has previously reported here and here. The group, which held its annual meeting in Cincinnati last spring, has a membership of nearly 2,000 state legislators and around 300 private-sector members.
Funded by the Koch brothers, the National Rifle Association, oil companies and others, ALEC’s model bills have served as the template for "voter ID" laws that swept the nation in 2011, for the voucher programs that privatize public education, for anti-immigrant legislation, and for the wave of anti-labor union legislation pushed during the past two years in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Arizona, New Hampshire and elsewhere.
This week Coca-Cola and PepsiCo dropped their memberships in ALEC, amid the threat of boycotts.
In 2010 National Public Radio reported that Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), a private-sector ALEC board member, participated in the drafting of Arizona Senate Bill No. 1070. The report documented the behind-the-scenes effort to draft and pass the law and how the CCA stood to benefit from people incarcerated under it.
Marvin Meadors, a Huffington Post contributor, has described ALEC as “a bill-churning mill which uses corporate money to draft model legislation that advances the agenda of the Far Right and encourages crony capitalism.”
Some critics of Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said video footage of a speech at a campaign event shows him starting to utter a racial slur while referring to President Obama, then cutting himself off mid-word.
While speaking to a group of supporters in Wisconsin on Tuesday, Santorum said, “We know what the candidate, Barack Obama, was like. The anti-war, government nig--, uh…” before stopping abruptly, then adding, “America was, uh, a source for division around the world. And that what we were doing was wrong. We needed to pull out and we needed to pull back.”
Although the uncompleted word sure sounds like it began with “nig” and what Santorum said next in the sentence didn’t flow naturally with the other words, a campaign spokesman today denied that the uncompleted word was “nigger.”
In January Santorum told a crowd of supporters in Iowa that he didn’t “want to make black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money.”
Here is the clip of Tuesday’s speech. The remark causing controversy is spoken around the 34:30 mark. You can decide for yourself.
Conservative presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is busy today trying to clarify a comment he made Thursday that indicated reelecting President Barack Obama would be better than electing Santorum’s Republican rival, Mitt Romney.
Santorum’s comment, made in San Antonio, Texas, at the USAA insurance company, drew criticism from Romney, Newt Gingrich and other Republicans.
"You win by giving people a choice. You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who's just going to be a little different than the person in there," Santorum said in San Antonio. "If you're going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk with what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate of the future."
Romney quickly fired back about Santorum’s comment.
“I am in this race to defeat Barack Obama and restore America's promise,” Romney said. “I was disappointed to hear that Rick Santorum would rather have Barack Obama as president than a Republican. This election is more important than any one person. It is about the future of America. Any of the Republicans running would be better than President Obama and his record of failure.”
Not to be left out, Gingrich took to Twitter to join in the symbolic thrashing.
"Rick Santorum is dead wrong. Any GOP nominee will be better than Obama.” Gingrich tweeted.
This morning Santorum’s campaign released a statement that sought to clarify what the candidate meant. (How many times has that phrase had to be used in relation to Santorum in the past few months?)
"I would never vote for Barack Obama over any Republican and to suggest otherwise is preposterous,” Santorum said in the prepared statement. “This is just another attempt by the Romney campaign to distort and distract the media and voters from the unshakeable fact that many of Romney's policies mirror Barack Obama's.”
Santorum added, “I was simply making the point that there is a huge enthusiasm gap around Mitt Romney and it's easy to see why — Romney has sided with Obama on health-care mandates, cap-and-trade, and the Wall Street bailouts. Voters have to be excited enough to actually go vote, and my campaign's movement to restore freedom is exciting this nation. If this election is about Obama versus the Obama-Lite candidate, we have a tough time rallying this nation."
Santorum might be correct about the enthusiasm gap over Romney.
A new poll found that more people offer negative than positive assessments of Romney. But, tellingly, this also is the case for Romney’s rivals — Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul.
When Americans were asked what one word comes to mind when thinking about Romney, the top responses were “no” or “no way,” and “rich.” After those, the most frequently used words were “flip-flopper,” “idiot” and “arrogant.”
Roughly twice as many respondents gave negative one-word descriptions of Romney rather than positive terms, 30 percent versus 14 percent; just 29 percent used neutral terms.
The most frequently used terms for Santorum, with the exception of “no,” were “crazy,” “too conservative,” “extreme” and “idiot.”
A mere 13 percent of respondents used positive words for Santorum, while 30 percent used negative words and 22 percent used neutral terms.
Words most frequently offered about Gingrich were “old,” “no,” “no way,” “idiot” and “untrustworthy.”
Thirty-nine percent of respondents used negative terms about Gingrich, compared to 10 percent that used positive terms, and 23 percent that used neutral terms.
The most frequent descriptions used for Paul were slightly better, but not by much: “no,” “old,” “Libertarian,” “honest” and “crazy.”
Twenty-seven percent of respondents used negative terms to describe Paul, compared to 15 percent that used positive terms, and 23 percent that used neutral terms.
The national survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post. It surveyed 1,009 adults March 15-18.
Of the respondents, 605 were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 404 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 176 who had no landline telephone.
The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points.
A local conservative activist has found another job in politics.
Brad Beckett recently was appointed as Heritage Action for America’s first regional coordinator for the Cincinnati area. Beckett served for years as chief of staff for City Councilman Chris Monzel, until Monzel left that group in January 2011 to become a Hamilton County commissioner.
In his new role, Beckett will be responsible for growing Heritage Action’s grassroots infrastructure in Cincinnati and nearby areas in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
“Brad brings a wealth of experience in and knowledge of Cincinnati politics,” said Michael Needham, Heritage Action’s CEO, in a prepared statement.
“His knowledge of Cincinnati and the surrounding region will be essential to ensuring that the American people’s voices cut through the big-government noise in Washington as we fight to save the America dream,” Needham added.
Prior to his latest gig, Beckett almost had the top job in Butler County government. When Monzel was elected to the Hamilton County commission, Beckett discreetly lined up another job as Butler County administrator. Two commissioners there hatched the plan privately but one abruptly changed his mind a day before Beckett’s employment was to have begun, leaving him without a job.
More recently Beckett has been working at the Apple Store in Kenwood Towne Center and launched The Political Daily Download, a right-leaning blog. Also, he assisted in Tom Brinkman’s unsuccessful campaign to win the Republican nomination to run for the Ohio House 27th District seat.
Founded in 2010, Heritage Action for America is the sister organization to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The newer group’s motto is “we hold Congress accountable to conservative principles,” and it was formed mostly because the foundation isn’t allowed to back pieces of legislation due to its tax-exempt status.
One of Heritage Action’s first projects was to organize opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform law pushed by President Obama.
Among Heritage Foundation’s primary donors is Charles Koch, one half of the infamous Koch Brothers duo. They’re the industrialists who helped form the Tea Party movement, which advocates for corporate interests that benefit the brothers and harm the working class.
Also, the Kochs led the push to abolish collective bargaining rights for public-sector labor unions in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere.