Author Archives: Julie Plunkett

Hillary Clinton Lays Out the Case Against Donald Trump

Mother Jones

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Hillary Clinton gave a “big” foreign policy speech yesterday, but it wasn’t really a foreign policy speech. That is, its purpose wasn’t to spell out a “Hillary Doctrine” or reprise her well-known positions on various global issues. Its purpose was to clearly expose Donald Trump as the ignorant cretin he is. And it did!

He is not just unprepared — he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility. Applause This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes — because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.

….He has said that he would order our military to carry out torture and the murder of civilians who are related to suspected terrorists — even though those are war crimes. He says he doesn’t have to listen to our generals or our admirals, our ambassadors and other high officials, because he has — quote — “a very good brain.” Laughter He also said, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.” You know what? I don’t believe him.

….It’s no small thing when he suggests that America should withdraw our military support for Japan, encourage them to get nuclear weapons, and said this about a war between Japan and North Korea — and I quote — “If they do, they do. Good luck, enjoy yourself, folks.” I wonder if he even realizes he’s talking about nuclear war?

….And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald’s bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America. He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength. He said, “You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit” for taking over North Korea — something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie. And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A.

Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants. Applause I just wonder how anyone could be so wrong about who America’s real friends are. Because it matters. If you don’t know exactly who you’re dealing with, men like Putin will eat your lunch.

….Just look at the few things he’s actually said on the subject of ISIS. He’s actually said — and I quote — “maybe Syria should be a free zone for ISIS.” Oh, okay — let a terrorist group have control of a major country in the Middle East. Then he said we should send tens of thousands of American ground troops to the Middle East to fight ISIS. He also refused to rule out using nuclear weapons against ISIS, which would mean mass civilian casualties. It’s clear he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.

….It also matters when he makes fun of disabled people, calls women pigs, proposes banning an entire religion from our country, or plays coy with white supremacists. America stands up to countries that treat women like animals, or people of different races, religions or ethnicities as less human. Applause What happens to the moral example we set — for the world and for our own children — if our President engages in bigotry?

….Imagine Donald Trump sitting in the Situation Room, making life-or-death decisions on behalf of the United States. Imagine him deciding whether to send your spouses or children into battle. Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account at his disposal when he’s angry, but America’s entire arsenal. Do we want him making those calls — someone thin-skinned and quick to anger, who lashes out at the smallest criticism? Do we want his finger anywhere near the button?

Very nice! Hillary’s remarks seem to have left Trump relatively speechless.1 The best he could do was to claim he is “the opposite of thin-skinned”;2 that Hillary’s temperament is bad; that she read her speech badly; that she is “pathetic”; and that she killed four people in Benghazi. By Trump’s standard, this is very weak tea. All he could do was stutter the equivalent of “I know you are, but what am I?”

Apparently this speech really did get under his skin. But what can he do? His own record over the past few months shows that he’s abysmally ignorant of foreign affairs. He doesn’t know what the nuclear triad is.3 He favors Britain leaving the EU but has never heard of “Brexit.”4 He doesn’t know where Iraq’s oil is.5 He doesn’t know the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas.6 He’s blissfully unaware that Germany cares a great deal about Ukraine.7 He was taken by surprise when he learned that US companies aren’t allowed to sell planes to Iran.8 He thinks Iran is the main trading partner of North Korea.9 These are all howling bloopers. Anyone who had so much as perused a daily newspaper over the past couple of decades would be familiar with all this stuff.

Apparently Trump hasn’t done that. What’s more, over the past year, while he was running for president, he still didn’t bother. This is inexplicable, even for Trump. How is it that he hasn’t picked up more stuff just by osmosis? It’s not only scary, it’s genuinely puzzling. He obviously cares so little about foreign affairs that he actively resists learning anything about it. I guess that might ruin his prized ability to say anything he wants without letting facts get in the way.

1Note that “relatively” is the key word here. Nothing actually shuts the guy up.

2Just spitballing here, but I think the word he’s searching for is “thick-skinned.”

3Missiles, airplanes, and submarines.

4Brexit = Britain Exit.

5Pretty much all over the country.

6Hezbollah operates in Lebanon; Hamas operates in Israel (the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Territories).

7For example: “From the start, Merkel has played an impressive role in responding to the Ukraine crisis. In fact, her actions have allowed Germany to assume geopolitical leadership of Europe for the first time since 1945.” Or this: “In the course of the Ukraine conflict that erupted in 2014, Germany has for the first time taken the lead on a major international crisis. The main center of Western action and coordination hasn’t been Washington, Brussels, Paris, or London, but Berlin.” Or this from last year’s G7 meeting: “Germany, Britain and the US want an agreement to offer support to any EU member state tempted to withdraw backing for the sanctions on Moscow, which are hurting the Russian economy.” Etc.

8From his March New York Times interview: “Did you notice they’re buying from everybody but the United States? They’re buying planes, they’re buying everything, they’re buying from everybody but the United States.” NYT: “Our law prevents us from selling to them, sir. ” Trump: “Uh, excuse me?” NYT: “We still have sanctions in the U.S. that would prevent the U.S. from being able to sell that equipment.”

9From the same interview: “Mr. Trump with all due respect, I think it’s China that’s the No. 1 trading partner with North Korea.” Trump: “I’ve heard that certainly, but I’ve also heard from other sources that it’s Iran.” Actually, it’s China.

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Hillary Clinton Lays Out the Case Against Donald Trump

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Pipeline builder says oil spills can be good for the economy

It’s dirty work, but …

Pipeline builder says oil spills can be good for the economy

Mic Stolz

Kinder Morgan’s idea of job creation.

Kinder Morgan wants to spend $5.4 billion tripling the capacity of an oil pipeline between the tar sands of Alberta and the Vancouver, B.C., area. Yes, the company acknowledges, there’s always the chance of a “large pipeline spill.” But it says the “probability” of such an accident is “low.” And anyway, if a spill does happen, it could be an economic boon.

“Spill response and cleanup” after oil pipeline ruptures, such as the emergency operations near Kalamazoo, Mich., in 2010 and in the Arkansas community of Mayflower last year, create “business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers,” the company argues.

Those aren’t the outrageous comments of a company executive shooting off his mouth while a reporter happened to be neaby. Those are quotes taken from an official document provided to the Canadian government in support of the company’s efforts to expand its pipeline.

It’s a bit like claiming cancer caused by nuclear accidents can be great because it provides work for oncologists. Here’s more from The Vancouver Sun:

“Pipeline spills can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies, both in the short- and long-term,” the company states in its submission to the National Energy Board, the federal government’s Calgary-based regulatory agency. …

The New Democratic Party MP who represents Burnaby, including the Westridge Marine Terminal where large tankers will arrive to carry diluted bitumen overseas, accused the company of insensitivity.

“We know Kinder Morgan is using every trick in the book to push this pipeline through our community, but this takes the cake — proposing that a spill would actually be good for the local economy,” said Kennedy Stewart, MP for Burnaby-Douglas riding. “This assertion shows the utter disregard this company has for British Columbians.”

The company said it was just fulfilling its regulatory requirements.

The company’s submission also says the ecological impacts of an oil spill, such as on beavers and otters, would be “potentially high.” Perhaps cleanup companies just need to find a way to put wildlife to work.

Kinder Morgan pipeline application says oil spills can have both negative and positive effects, The Vancouver Sun

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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Pipeline builder says oil spills can be good for the economy

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In 2 Charts: Why Hillary (and Bill) Clinton Damn Well Better Hope Obamacare Succeeds

Mother Jones

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Bill Clinton did it again. On Tuesday, he interjected himself into the ongoing political tussle over the implementation of Obamacare by declaring that President Barack Obama “should honor” his “commitment” to allow people to hang on to their preexisiting health insurance plans. With this comment, the Secretary of Explaining Stuff gave ammo to the foes of Obamacare, and he, unintentionally or not, undermined a core element of the health care law. And, no surprise, he kicked off a spasm of speculation among the politerati: What are the Clintons up to? Will Hillary, if she runs for president, distance herself from the White House? Will she somehow suggest she’s more competent than Obama? All this commentary was to be expected. There’s something about the Clintons that encourages folks to sniff out clever schemes, intricate plots, and self-serving conniving.

But there’s a basic fact that cannot be escaped: The Clintons need Obamacare to succeed. Just look at the chart in the video below:

After Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992, he placed his wife in charge of health care reform. (It was part of the two-for-one deal.) And she subsequently unveiled a complicated reform plan that was quickly dubbed Hillarycare by Republicans and conservatives. The Clintons did seem to have a decent amount of political momentum on their side, and their GOP foes, fretting about being rolled, initially entertained the crazy idea of working with the White House to hammer out compromises and shape the legislation a bit more to their liking. Then came Sen. Arlen Specter, a cantankerous Pennsylvania Republican (who years later would switch parties). He hit the Senate floor with charts—complicated wire diagrams that appeared nearly impossible to sort out—that purportedly showed that Hillarycare would create a bureaucratic nightmare. It looked incomprehensibly complicated.

Meanwhile, Rep. Dick Armey, a leading House Republican, created his own chart:

Courtesy of Freedomworks

Armey’s office captioned the chart, “Simplicity Defined.” Dole showcased it in his 1994 response to Clinton’s State of the Union address.

After first toying with a get-along strategy for dealing with Hillarycare, the Republicans mounted a fierce opposition against it, and these charts fueled that effort (along with the Harry and Louise ad campaign orchestrated by the health insurance industry). Waving these charts, the GOPers succeeded in killing Hillarycare—and, decrying the Clintons’ health care proposal, they went on to seize control of the House in the 1994 midterm elections.

Hillarycare ended up a political failure and set back the cause of health care reform for nearly two decades. It’s not an episode that Hillary Clinton would want discussed during a 2016 presidential campaign. If Obamacare thrives, there will be no reason to look back to Hillarycare and drag these charts out of the dustbin of history. But should the Affordable Care Act falter or collapse, a question will loom: What would Hillary do about health care? Her past record would be raked over and that would likely not boost her presidential prospects. Having screwed up in the early 1990s, could she argue that she would do a better job in reforming the health care system than Obama?

It would be best for a Clinton 2016 campaign for health care to be off the table—with no need to revisit all this inconvenient ancient history. That means she and Bill should be hoping that the implementation of Obamacare proceeds well—and they should do all they can to encourage that. So Bill Clinton ought to coordinate (closely) with the White House on what stuff he should be explaining. It’s not only the president’s political fortunes that are tied to Obamacare.


In 2 Charts: Why Hillary (and Bill) Clinton Damn Well Better Hope Obamacare Succeeds

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The Case Against Rebuilding the Coastline After Superstorm Sandy

Mother Jones

This story first appeared on the Atlantic Cities website and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

One year after Sandy, many of the affected communities remain vulnerable to another storm because of indecision about how best to respond. There are three basic options to mitigate risks from sea level rise and storm surge: Protect against the rising tides with engineered structures, accommodate the rising waters and make structures as resilient as possible, or retreat from risky low shorelines to higher ground. Our challenge is to tailor these options to particular locations, and to balance this with cost-effectiveness and sustainability over the long run. Retreat needs to be considered not as a defeatist last-resort, but as proactive strategy needed in some places.

Flood, Rebuild, Repeat: Are We Ready for a Superstorm Sandy Every Other Year?

Charts: How Likely Is Another Superstorm Sandy?

“The Sea Was Swallowing It Up”

Watch This House Being Raised Out of the Floodplain

Take New York City, for example, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed 257 initiatives to be pursued over the next 10 years at an estimated $20 billion. He has repeatedly emphasized that the city “will not retreat from the waterfront.” But it will be hard to stand by this categorical commitment as sea levels continue to rise.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a $400 million home-buyout program, of which a meager $170 million has been HUD-approved. Only homes with damage more than 50 percent of their value are eligible. The Oak Beach community in Staten Island has applied as a pilot program for a community-based buyout, but hasn’t yet been approved. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is encouraging rapid rebuilding while also proposing a limited buyout program. But with no funding set aside for it, he has made clear he prefers to rebuild rather than retreat.

For individual homeowners, the options are bleak. The cost to accommodate, to raise a structure—if that’s even technically possible—normally far exceeds insurance claims. But to not raise it or otherwise adapt means increasing insurance premiums by factors of five or more, making flood insurance simply unaffordable for many (though it is mandatory for mortgage holders). Selling is not a viable option either, since many home prices have plummeted below half the original cost. Owners can become trapped with foreclosure as the only option—which is why governments need to take a leading role in developing other, more feasible, options.

These options should include support for buyouts in mid-Atlantic communities, at least for coastal and estuary locations that are either at elevations of ten feet or less above the local mean higher high tide or 5 feet above the latest mapped FEMA 1 percent per year base flood elevations, whichever is higher. Once buyouts at these elevations are secured, they should progress to higher elevations.

Disallow new residential development in those low-lying elevations unless it is flood-adapted (safely moored and floatable or substantially raised with raised or floodable utility connections). With urgency, local building codes need to be re-written to take this into account, since those specifications don’t yet exist.

Know that flood-protective structures—sea gates, levees, or walls—have limits. To start, sea levels will inevitably surpass their finite design heights. But before that ever happens, they introduce their own collateral hazards. A barrier system meant to protect an estuary or river with considerable discharge could flood communities behind the protective systems.

Develop a set of land-use priorities. Infrastructure, including transportation networks, sewage treatment plants, solid waste facilities, energy supply and distribution systems, utilities, and public health facilities demand the highest priorities for adaptation, whether by protection, accommodation (some utility distribution systems could be made submergible; other system elements could be raised or made floatable); or by retreat to higher ground. In any case, for this essential infrastructure, higher flood standards need to be considered (such as the 0.2%/year flood elevations), and margins for sea level rise must be added that are in a time horizon commensurate with the expected lifetime of the facility itself. New rights of way will need to be relocated from low-lying areas to higher elevations.

These measures should be seen as an opportunity. The benefits of rebuilding more resiliently and at safer grounds can catalyze the modernization of what, for many municipalities, has become antiquated infrastructure. Subways, other mass transit systems, and road tunnels should be reconsidered before they become victims to ever more frequent saltwater flooding. Rail systems along the East Coast are a century old in their basic designs, and are located at ever more flood prone elevations and locations. Facing up to the demands imposed by climate change provides us with an opportunity to see a long overdue high-speed train network connecting storm-resilient cities.

Likewise, our energy-wasting land-use patterns should be consolidated and transformed from a suburban to a denser urbanized mode with reduced home-to-work travel time facilitated by mass transit, which not only makes us more resilient, but it just makes better sense. If we needed Sandy to advance us into a better future, we should celebrate Sandy’s first anniversary with optimism, and then get to work.

The “Rethink, Rebuild” series is a co-production of The Atlantic Cities and NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge.

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The Case Against Rebuilding the Coastline After Superstorm Sandy

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Do We Really Need iPads For Every Student?

Mother Jones

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From the LA Times today:

In a major shift in how California’s 6.2 million public school students are taught and tested, state officials plan to drop the standardized exams used since 1999 and replace them with a computerized system next spring.

The move would advance new learning goals, called the Common Core, which are less focused on memorizing facts. They are designed instead to develop critical thinking and writing skills that take formerly separate subjects — such as English and history or writing and chemistry — and link them. Forty-five states have adopted these standards.

Click the link to read more about the clusterfuckish nature of this whole thing. But regardless of how you feel about Common Core, why the switch to computerized tests? Can’t you test Common Core knowledge using pencil and paper? Beats me. But it’s apparently going to cost the LA school district some serious money. Here’s a story from yesterday:

Los Angeles school officials are acknowledging a new looming cost in a $1-billion effort to provide iPads to every student: keyboards. Officials so far have not budgeted that expense, but they said the wireless keyboards are recommended for students when they take new state standardized tests.

When I read that, I wondered why they suddenly needed iPads to take standardized tests. I guess now I know. Sort of.

In any case, I’d like to open up this thread to teachers or anyone else who wants to weigh in on the benefit of giving every kid an iPad. I think this is just about the most colossally dumb use of money I’ve come across in a long time. But naturally I want to keep an open mind. So educate me. Someone tell me why I’m wrong.

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Do We Really Need iPads For Every Student?

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WATCH: Suzie’s Summer Job at the Obama White House Fiore Cartoon

Mother Jones

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Mark Fiore is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and animator whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and dozens of other publications. He is an active member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and has a website featuring his work.

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WATCH: Suzie’s Summer Job at the Obama White House Fiore Cartoon

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Here’s Why Obama’s Syria Muddle Is So Disappointing

Mother Jones

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The history of presidential warmaking has always been complex and fraught, and it’s been even more so in the post-Vietnam era governed by the War Powers Act of 1973. No president has ever acknowledged that the Act is binding on the executive, and despite both the Constitution’s explicit grant of warmaking powers to Congress and the WPA’s equally explicit requirement of congressional approval for extended military action, until recently presidents of both parties have sought congressional approval for military force only grudgingly if at all. Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada without asking for congressional authorization. George Bush Sr. eventually sought approval for the Gulf War, but did so only under intense pressure and with troops already massed and ready. However, he didn’t bother with Congress at all before he sent troops to either Panama or Somalia. Likewise, Bill Clinton sent troops to Haiti despite explicit congressional opposition, and later insisted that he didn’t need congressional authorization for the war in Kosovo—after which Congress famously dithered for months, refusing to either support or oppose the air strikes cleanly. And this doesn’t even count fuzzier operations like Reagan’s covert wars in Afghanistan and Latin America.

In 2001, though, things changed. Despite his famously broad views of executive power, George Bush Jr. did seek congressional authorization for both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. And when Obama was asked in 2007 about the possibility of bombing Iran in order to halt its nuclear weapons program, he was unequivocal about the president’s authority as commander-in-chief:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation….History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

This is why I’ve been so disappointed in President Obama’s use of military force. It’s not that his use of the military has been self-evidently stupid. There was arguably a genuine humanitarian crisis in Libya that could be addressed at fairly low cost, and Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against Syrian rebels is arguably a red line that the international community really should react to sharply.1 Nor is it because I’m really all that worried about escalation. I’m a little worried about it, but the truth is that Obama has generally shown pretty good sense here. He finished up George Bush’s exit from Iraq on schedule; he kept U.S. involvement in Libya modest; and even after committing himself to escalation in Afghanistan he’s shown himself equally committed to disengaging there on his original timetable instead of continually insisting that “one more year” will make all the difference.

Nor, in this case, is it because Obama has handled Syria poorly—although he has. As I said the other day, Greg Djerejian’s rant about the Obama team’s all-too-public mishandling of practically every facet of this operation is mostly fair. At the same time, “There’s always a lot more messiness to these things than we think there should be, and often more messiness than we remember about similar episodes in the past.” Obama may have screwed this up, but previous presidents have done much the same.

So it’s not that either. The real reason I’m disappointed is that Obama had a chance to set a new precedent in foreign policy and didn’t take it. Whatever else we liberals might think about George Bush’s military acumen, he left office having explicitly asked Congress to authorize both of his major military actions before he undertook them. If Obama had acknowledged the War Powers Act as good law, acknowledged Congress’s constitutional role in warmaking, and then voluntarily asked Congress for authorization of his proposed military operations in both Libya and Syria without being pressured into it, there’s a good chance that future presidents would feel bound to do the same. This is the way norms become settled, and this is a norm that would have truly changed Washington DC for the better.

But he didn’t do that, despite his apparent belief in 2007 that it was the right thing to do. It was a missed chance, and a disappointing one. I had hoped for better.

1For a variety of reasons, I’m not personally persuaded of this. But it’s not self-evidently stupid.

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Here’s Why Obama’s Syria Muddle Is So Disappointing

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Dark-Money Group Defended Kelly Ayotte With Money From Her Colleagues’ PACs

Mother Jones

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This story first appeared on the Center for Public Integrity website.

Freshman Sen. Kelly Ayotte found herself under serious political fire. The New Hampshire Republican’s vote in April against enhancing firearm background checks prompted withering ads from a gun control group. Then another. And another.

But shortly thereafter, a conservative nonprofit—funded in part by some of Ayotte’s own Senate colleagues, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of campaign finance filings—sprang into action on Ayotte’s behalf.

On May 8, the leadership PAC of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) contributed $15,000 to the American Future Fund, records show. A day later, the PAC of Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), gave the same amount. In the following weeks, the leadership PACs of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) each contributed $30,000 to the American Future Fund, a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofit that’s not required by law to publicly reveal its donors. Meanwhile, the leadership PACs of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) donated $10,000 to the American Future Fund, while the PAC of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) gave $5,000.

These six GOP leadership PACs combined to give a total of $105,000 to the American Future Fund in May, according to the Center’s analysis of Federal Election Commission filings. It is highly unusual for a group of leadership PACs to make sizeable contributions to politically active nonprofits, let alone during a matter of weeks, at a time when the beneficiary is airing ads in support of one of their own.

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Dark-Money Group Defended Kelly Ayotte With Money From Her Colleagues’ PACs

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Full Transcript and Audio of Mitch McConnell Campaign’s Meeting on Ashley Judd

Mother Jones

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More Mother Jones coverage of Mitch McConnell and the 2014 Kentucky Senate race.

Secret Tape: McConnell and Aides Weighed Using Judd’s Mental Health and Religion as Political Ammo

Full Transcript and Audio of Mitch McConnell Campaign’s Meeting on Ashley Judd

Mitch McConnell Will Fundraise With Billionaires After Saying the GOP Is Not The Party of Billionaires

Mitch McConnell vs. the World

Yes, Potential Senate Candidate Ashley Judd Has Gotten Naked on Screen. So Have These Political Figures.

CPAC: Where Ashley Judd Rape Jokes Happen

Ashley Judd: I’m Not Running

On February 2, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate GOP leader facing reelection next year, held a private meeting at his Louisville, Kentucky, campaign headquarters with several aides to discuss opposition research collected on his potential challengers and how best to defeat possible foes. Much of the conversation focused on actor/activist Ashley Judd, who at the time was the most prominent of McConnell’s potential Democratic opponents, and McConnell and his aides considered assailing Judd for her past struggles with depression and for her religious views. (Judd has since announced she will not run against McConnell.) Mother Jones has obtained a recording of the meeting. Here is the article based on the recording. Below is a complete transcript of the recording.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: If I could interject…I assume most of you have played the, the game Whac-A-Mole? Laughter. This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out, and we’re even planning to do it with the Courier here shortly, so…

Female voice: We’re anxious for that. Laughter.

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Full Transcript and Audio of Mitch McConnell Campaign’s Meeting on Ashley Judd

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Study: The GOP Doesn’t Care What Americans Think About the Budget

Mother Jones

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It doesn’t matter whether you have a faded Obama or Romney bumper sticker still plastered to the family car, there a few things that you probably support spending your tax dollars on: Roads, education, social security, health care, aid for the poor, and the military. You’re not unique: A recent Pew Research Center polling of about 1,500 Americans found that over 70 percent of Americans don’t want to reduce spending on these things, either. But when it comes to funding the services that Americans actually want, Republican budget plans, including the one proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) and rejected by the Senate last month, are far less likely than Democratic budget plans to reflect public opinion, a new study by the Center for Effective Government finds.

“Democrats seem more attuned to the public’s views on specific areas of spending,” says the report’s author, Nick Schwellenbach, a senior fiscal policy analyst for the organization. “I think the difference is due to fundamental philosophical disagreements over the role of government.”

The study examined four major budget plans, from Ryan, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Republican Study Committee, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). Then, in a handy chart, it compared the plans with the results of the Pew poll, looking at Social Security, education, Medicare, roads and infrastructure, scientific research, military defense, health care, and aid to the needy.

According to the report, “Americans reject reductions in the vast majority of specific areas of spending” and the only area where the Ryan and RSC budgets actually aligned with public opinion was defense. Both had no plans to slash defense spending, even though waste in the Pentagon has been extensively documented (useless $380 million ballistic missile, anyone?)

Here’s a look at how the plans break down on education:

60 Percent of Americans Support Increasing Funds for Education

Elissar Khalek, Center for Effective Government

So are politicians not listening—or do Americans simply not understand the deficit, or where they want to spend their money? A McClatchy-Marist poll found last month that Americans are split on whether budget cuts will help or hurt the economy (and they prefer tax increases to cutting their favorite programs.) A poll taken by Business Insider last year (below) found that almost half of Americans also think that sequestration increases the national deficit, despite the fact that it’s an austerity measure. And as The American Prospect notes, “Voters associate high deficits with poor economic performance—the public might say that it wants more action to lower the deficit, but what it means is that it wants Washington to improve the economy.”

Schwellenbach acknowledges that “sometimes perspectives are wrong. For instance, Americans tend to think spending on foreign aid is somewhere around a quarter of the budget, when it’s closer to 1 percent.” However, he argues that when it comes to taxes, Americans’ views are spot on. “The time to pay off the debt is when the economy is back on track, as the US was doing in the late 1990s when we had budget surpluses. We can get back there, but not by doing the best we can to throw the economy back into a recession.”

Robert Reich, who served as Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, argues in The Christian Science Monitor that politicians, Republicans in particular, don’t listen to their constituents when crafting budgets because politicians are more interested in their financial interests than making people happy. “The American democracy has shown itself far less responsive—and our politicians remarkably impervious—to public opinion concerning economic issues that might affect the fates of large fortunes. This is a distressing feature of our democracy, necessitating change.”

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Study: The GOP Doesn’t Care What Americans Think About the Budget

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