Claire McCaskill’s “Third Way” Chair And What She Should Do With It

“Well, Senator McCaskill, which side are you on? People who rely on Social Security to get by, or Wall Street movers and shakers?”

—Michael Bersin, Show Me Progress

My only useful United States Senator is, of course, Claire McCaskill. As a liberal, I have defended her many, many times, despite the fact that she does not subscribe to all of my liberal views. And I have defended her despite the fact that she would never, not in a thousand light years, refer to herself as a liberal. But I respect the political reality here in mixed-up Missouri. This isn’t New Jersey. Wait a minute. New Jersey isn’t New Jersey anymore.

In any case, Senator McCaskill, who often—too often for my tastes—brags about being a centrist, is an honorary co-chair of a public policy group called “Third Way,” a group that is causing third way logoquite a negative stir among activist Democrats.

I want to direct you to the group’s own definition of what it is about, which begins this way:

Third Way represents Americans in the “vital center” — those who believe in pragmatic solutions and principled compromise, but who too often are ignored in Washington.

That is, in fact, who Claire McCaskill says she is. She has many times talked about her pragmatism and her middle-of-the-road credentials. She even campaigned on them in 2012. And while I agree that compromise is often part of a healthy political process, some folks who fashion themselves as moderates think the compromise should happen at the beginning of the process, not at the end. This is an incredibly important point. Moderation in politics ought to be defined as what is left over after a vigorous fight between visions, not the vision itself. Here’s more from the group’s website:

Our mission is to advance moderate policy and political ideas.

What? No one can “advance” a moderate policy or political ideas. Why? Because if that is where you start, if you start in the middle, the compromise will always be toward the reactionaries because change has a tendency to scare people. These Third Way guys have to know that. As with similar efforts in the past, “moderate” means allowing conservatives to frame the economic issues in terms of debt and deficits, and not in terms of people and empowerment. Thus, the apparent purpose of Third Way (which has been around since 2005) is to shoot the liberal lions in the Democratic Party, or, to put it more kindly, to capture them and put them in zoos so they can do no harm to the interests of those, mostly moneyed Wall Streeters, who fund so-called centrist groups like Third Way.

As you have no doubt heard by now, last week a couple of Third Wayers, the group-think tank’s president and its senior vice president for policy, published a piece (Economic Populism Is a Dead End for Democrats”) in, yep, The Wall Street Journal. The piece might be considered the loudest shot so far heard in what the self-described centrists apparently want to be an all-out war for the soul of the Democratic Party.

The authors, sounding like any right-wing talk radio host you know, attacked Bill de Blasio, an unashamed liberal who will soon become the next mayor of New York, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has become a hero among liberals and progressives and anyone who can see the difference between people and corporations. The reason for the attack on these two liberals was because of what the authors called their “populist political and economic fantasy.” When you get away from the Limbaugh-like description, what the shoot-the-lions, Wall Street-friendly folks at Third Way are attacking is the idea, advanced by Senator Warren and others, that we should increase Social Security benefits, not look for ways to slash them.

She told Mother Jones, in response to the Third Way article attacking her, that,

We should stop having a conversation about cutting Social Security a little bit or a lot.

Yes. Democrats, including President Obama, should stop agreeing with Republicans about cutting the most effective government social program in history. And Senator McCaskill should relinquish her “honorary” chair title at Third Way. Why? Because McCaskill, running against teapartier Todd Akin in 2012, essentially ran as something of an economic populist herself.

Six weeks before the election, the St Louis Beacon reported on McCaskill’s criticism of Mitt Romney’s nutty remarks “disparaging Americans who don’t pay income taxes”:

“Congressman Akin has made similar type statements,” McCaskill said, “talking about the ‘velvet chains’ of government dependency…”

Such comments by Akin and Romney, she continued, “just show they are out of touch with so many Missourians who have worked hard all their lives, who have retired, and who believed that Social Security would be there for them, and believe that Medicare would be there for them.”

McCaskill’s point during the conference call was to paint Akin as an “extremist” on such issues, citing his campaign statements criticizing both programs.

“He wants to privatize, voucherize” Medicare, she said, and also privatize Social Security.

McCaskill said that the financial problem facing Social Security could be fixed simply by increasing the cap. Now, any income over roughly $110,000 is not subject to the Social Security tax.

“Simply changing the cap,” she said, “secures (Social Security) for 75 years.”

As for Medicare, a program that the Third Way moneyed elites ostensibly want to save by making a “grand bargain” with Republicans, McCaskill also played the economic populist card:

Jim Hagan, a retired teacher and coach in his 70s from Springfield, Mo., recounted the numerous health problems that he and his wife recently have encountered. “We’d be totally bankrupt if we had to pay” for all the surgeries and medical bills, he said. Medicare, said Hagan, “saves lives, including mine.”

McCaskill contends that the GOP approach, as proposed by now-Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, is to allocate a certain annual amount to the elderly and then tell them “now it’s your problem” to find insurance coverage.

Hagan said that most elderly, including himself, wouldn’t be able to obtain insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

McCaskill’s campaign has focused heavily on Medicare, Social Security and government-backed student loans.

Now, if that isn’t the same kind of economic populism that Third Way honchos attacked in The Wall Street Journal, please tell me what it is. And tell me why Claire McCaskill would continue to be an “honorary” co-chair—co-chair!—of a group so adamantly opposed to what she ran on just a year ago?

Not only that, as The Nation reported, in order to raise funds, Third Way hired one of the top corporate lobbying firms in Washington—a firm whose “largest client is the US Chamber of Commerce.” The same Chamber of Commerce that hammered Claire McCaskill in 2012! Something is wrong with that picture.

The Nation also noted how “several Third Way trustees gave campaign money to Mitt Romney.” Huh? Remember the gist of that Romney campaign? Most of us are moochers and President Obama was some kind of left-winger who was going to turn the country into a European socialist state quotefull of even more moochers. How can Senator McCaskill co-chair a group that has as trustees people who invested in Mittens?

Now we have HuffPo reporting that one of the writers of the Third Way piece in last week’s WSJ admits that Elizabeth Warren’s liberalism was beginning to gain traction and the money-men had to move fast. Jim Kessler, Third Way’s senior vice president for policy who co-authored the infamous op-ed, said:

The impetus was really — we saw after the most recently, this push that okay, it’s time to really move the national Democratic Party to a much more liberal agenda, in this case, Senator Warren was the standard bearer — she’s on the cover of a lot of magazines. We were a bit alarmed by that…

That Social Security plan was the final moment for us. That Social Security plan had been out there but really languishing — because Senator Warren has such a powerful compelling voice, she started talking about it, and it suddenly it became much more talked about and viable alternative.

As I said, the “Social Security plan” that scared the Democrat out of those wealthy “Democrats” at Third Way is very closely related, if not identical, to what Senator McCaskill told Missourians she supported, when she was seeking our votes in 2012. And if Senator McCaskill meant what she said about Social Security last year, if she truly meant it, then she should not only give Third Way its honorary chair back, she should give it back by publicly pounding its pooh-bahs over the heads with it.

senator mccaskill and third way

Socialism’s Surprising Supporters In Southwest Missouri

Let’s begin with a relatively lengthy selection from the Joplin Globe’s endorsement of Mittens Romney in 2012, and please follow the logic the paper used to toss its 2008 Obama endorsement under the editorial bus:

And on the issue that most threatens our nation’s future well-being — unchecked federal spending — this nation is more than stalled. It is in reverse. [...]

During the first debate, Romney bluntly warned moderator Jim Lehrer that he would cut off funds for public broadcasting if the nation was having to borrow money from China to pay for it. If true, it’s the kind of thing a debtor nation must do.

The Obama campaign attacked Romney on that point.

Sure, funding for public broadcasting is an insignificant part of the budget, but if Obama isn’t even willing to cut one one-hundreth of 1 percent of federal spending for something that is non-vital to America, then the president is not serious about reducing spending at all.

If Obama is not serious about that, he is the wrong person for the job.

Let’s review:

♦ “Unchecked federal spending” “threatens our nation’s future well-being”

♦ A “debtor nation” should not spend money on “non vital” stuff, if it has to “borrow money from China to pay for it”

♦ Because Obama doesn’t  recognize what “non vital” stuff is and won’t therefore cut it out of the budget, “he is the wrong person for the job”

Got it? Okay. Now, we can proceed to this morning’s banner headline in the same paper that endorsed Mittens:

joplin globe headline on federal money

Just where, you might ask, will Joplin “get” all that dough? Oh, that’s easy:

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin will receive $113 million from a $125 million state grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for disaster recovery.

And:

HUD statements said the award came from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act that President Barack Obama signed Jan. 29 that designates $16 billion for U.S. disaster recovery.

“President Barack Obama signed…” Ouch. That’s gotta hurt. The scary socialist president sent our city some socialism-tainted simoleons.

Amazingly, Joplin’s city manager wasn’t expecting the windfall:

City Manager Mark Rohr said the grant was a surprise to city officials, who earlier had applied for $1.72 billion from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program for tornado recovery and received $45.2 million.

Rohr said city officials thought the $45 million award, made in January 2012, was the result of the application and did not know that more money would be on the way.

“We’re very pleased and grateful for the assistance we’ve gotten, and we intend to use the money wisely to help the city recover in the best way possible,” Rohr said.

The city manager didn’t exactly say this money was “vital” to the needs of Joplin, did he? In fact, he sort of sounded like he—we—had won the lottery.

Well, this liberal—and Joplin resident—says good for Joplin.

But conservative readers of the Joplin Globe, especially readers who lauded the paper’s endorsement of socialism-hating Romney, had every right to expect, upon reading this story, that the paper would publish an editorial this morning expressing grave concerns about all that “unchecked federal spending,” right?

I mean, the Globe told us that we should not borrow money from China to pay for “non vital” stuff because we are such a “debtor nation,” so logic would dictate that the paper tell the city manager to wrap up the money and send it right back to President Obama, right?

Wrong.

In today’s paper, there was no such send-the-money-back-to-the-treasury editorial. Nope. Nothing about unchecked federal spending, debtor nation, or China. And I would bet ten-thousand Romney dollars that there will never be such an editorial in the Joplin Globe. Never.

Oh, by the way, speaking of the money the feds—no, the good people of the United States—have sent here to J-Town since the tornado in 2011, the Globe reports:

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said the block grant raises the amount of federal funding Joplin has received to more than $350 million. 

I’m not a math whiz but I think that amounts to about $7,000 for every man, woman, child, and editorial writer in this Romney-for-president town.

Finally, to top off the amazing account of all that federal money rolling into the Republican-red, socialism-hating streets of Joplin, we have this from the Globe’s story:

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s office issued a statement saying that the award was the result of legislation Blunt sponsored that made the $45 million available to Joplin. He also has sought continued aid that is earmarked for the areas in most need, his staff said. Blunt, R-Mo., met at City Hall with Joplin and Duquesne officials within weeks after the May 2011 tornado to ask them what would be needed for recovery.

“When a disaster exceeds the ability of communities and states, the federal government has a responsibility to help people rebuild,” Blunt said in the statement. “I’m pleased these funds will continue to help local leaders, businesses and families in Missouri recover and reinvest for the future.”

If you made it through that without spewing up your breakfast—because you remember that small-government Roy Blunt voted against helping victims of Hurricane Sandy—then maybe you can agree with me that the headline of this story should have been:

Joplin Benefits From More Socialism, Thanks To Selective Socialist Senator Roy Blunt

The New Deviants?

Here’s the latest regarding Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill:

claire mccaskill on gay marriage

As the story makes clear, her position is one of freedom. She said:

While churches should never be required to conduct marriages outside of their religious beliefs, neither should the government tell people who they have a right to marry.

McCaskill also talked about an “uncomfortable inequality” and said,

Supporting marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is simply the right thing to do for our country, a country founded on the principles of liberty and equality.

Meanwhile, many folks on the right, who talk a lot about “a country founded on the principles of liberty and equality,” don’t think those principles extend to folks who have the Gay Disease. The president of the Family Research Council, a powerful force in Republican politics, said in response to Republican Senator Rob Portman’s change of heart on the issue of gay marriage:

I commend Senator Portman for his unconditional love for his son.  Regardless of a child’s choices, the love of a parent can and should be a guiding beacon in the lives of their sons and daughters.  Unconditional love, however, does not mean unconditional support in choices that are both harmful to them and society as a whole.  This is especially true when we approach public policy.  Our unconditional love for our children should not override the historical and social science evidence which makes abundantly clear what is best for all children and for society – being raised by a married mother and father.

The Family Research Council, in case you aren’t sufficiently scared of what the Gay Disease can do to society, published a helpful post titled, “The Negative Health Effects of Homosexuality.” I will summarize it for you: Gay sex will kill us all!

The truth behind most of the opposition to same-sex marriage is that it is based on the fact that the Bible has a problem with homosexuality, namely that people with the Gay Disease should be killed, or, more accurately in these New Testament times, people with the Gay Disease should let Jesus heal them.

Fortunately, the times are changing rather quickly.

It is good that people like Claire McCaskill are rejecting the idea that there is something wrong with homosexuals. And it is even better that people are coming around to the idea that same-sex marriage is about liberty and equality.

And best of all is that the way things are going, some day the deviants among us will be those who want to deny other people liberty and equality based on Iron Age theology.

The President Remembers Joplin

The night of President Obama’s State of the Union speech, Ozark Billy Long, my congressman, greeted the President as he made his way up to the podium. No telling how long Ozark Billy waited to get the seat he had, but I am sure it was worth it, since he is such a great admirer of the President.

He’s not? Oh, well. In any case, here’s a picture of their encounter:

obama greets billy long at sotu

Long tweeted (while Obama was on the podium receiving an ovation before he began his speech) the following:

billy long tweet from sotu

On May 22, 2011, a tornado ravaged Joplin and killed 161 people. A week later, President Obama, Governor Jay Nixon, Senator Claire McCaskill and Billy Long visited our devastated city. The President said then:

This is not just your tragedy. This is a national tragedy and that means there will be a national response.

There was. Still is.

At a memorial service President Obama said:

 I can promise you your country will be there with you every single step of the way. We will be with you every step of the way.  We’re not going anywhere. The cameras may leave.  The spotlight may shift.  But we will be with you every step of the way until Joplin is restored and this community is back on its feet.  We’re not going anywhere.

The President came back to Joplin in May of 2012 to speak to graduates of Joplin High School. Some local conservatives thought he was doing so as a campaign event, even though there was no chance of picking up any votes in this Obama-despising part of the country. Indeed, the locals gave him a whopping 28.3% of the vote.

Obama told the graduates,

Now, just as you’ve learned the goodness of people, you’ve also learned the power of community.  And you’ve heard from some of the other speakers how powerful that is.  And as you take on the roles of co-worker and business owner — neighbor, citizen — you’ll encounter all kinds of divisions between groups, divisions of race and religion and ideology.  You’ll meet people who like to disagree just for the sake of being disagreeable. You’ll meet people who prefer to play up their differences instead of focusing on what they have in common, where they can cooperate. But you’re from Joplin.  So you will always know that it’s always possible for a community to come together when it matters most. 

On Tuesday, before the State of the Union Address, President Obama saw Billy Long and remembered Joplin. Good for him. Good for Joplin. And good for Billy Long for telling us about it.

Here is a short clip I put on YouTube of the President greeting Ozark Billy:

 

Surreality

How surreal it all is:

♦ First, there was teapartier Sen. Jim DeMint’s announcement of his new gig as president of the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank. That’s “think” tank. You know, where real thinking is supposed to happen. DeMint, though, first publicly explained his new thinking job on Rush Limbaugh’s show, where thinking goes to die.

♦ Then there was Sen. Mitch McConnell, who tried to embarrass Democrats by proposing a vote—an up or down vote without a filibuster—on legislation that would allow President Obama to extend the debt limit all by himself, without first getting congressional approval. McConnell obviously thought Harry Reid would nix the idea. But Reid embraced it, which caused the creepy McConnell to have to essentially filibuster his own bill. Yes. He proposed something and then said he would filibuster his own proposal.

♦ All of which caused Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, who at the time was acting as Presiding Officer over the floor exchange between McConnell and Reid, to let slip from her astonished mouth: “Got whiplash!

♦ And speaking of Claire McCaskill, now it turns out that her election opponent, Todd Akin, actually received secret last-minute cash—$760,000—from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which had publicly pledged not to support the evangelical pseudo-gynecologist.

♦ Then there is the prospect that a Democratic administration, one led by a man who conservative Republicans have determined is a wildly radical leftist, is, in the words of The New York Times:

considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.

Yes, President Obama, Choomer-in-Chief, might actually put the kibosh on cannabis lovers.

♦ Then there was the distasteful Ann Coulter explaining to the even more distasteful Sean Hannity that Republicans lost the election and they should let taxes on the rich go up.

♦ Then, just when we thought Republicans were coming around to the idea that the rich would have to cough up more dough, The New York Times tells us that a significant number of rich folks will still be able to avoid them.

♦ Then there is today’s jobs report. While most experts expected the number of jobs created last month to be restrained, mainly due to Superstorm Sandy, the jobs were actually up. Up enough to drop the unemployment rate to 7.7%, its lowest mark in four years. There were 146,000 jobs added.

♦ In the mean time, right in the middle of all the muddle about fiscal cliff-diving, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman says there is no “fiscal crisis,” only a “job crisis.” He says we should spend more not less:

So why aren’t we helping the unemployed? It’s not because we can’t afford it. Given those ultralow borrowing costs, plus the damage unemployment is doing to our economy and hence to the tax base, you can make a pretty good case that spending more to create jobs now would actually improve our long-run fiscal position.

♦ Finally, the guy who killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin is, uh, suing NBC. George Zimmerman alleges,

NBC News saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain.

In the mean time, Trayvon Martin doesn’t get to sue anybody.

Sexy Claire McCaskill

Anyone who says we can’t cut money at the Pentagon doesn’t understand what’s going on with contracting at the Pentagon.”

—Sen. Claire McCaskill

It’s not exactly a sexy subject, like the ongoing and unseemly fiscal cliff fight, but it is the kind of stuff that politicians are supposed to be doing, instead of creating artificial austerity crises:

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a sweeping overhaul on Tuesday of the U.S. government’s wartime contracting procedures, the largest such reform in decades. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-Mo.) amendment, included in the national defense bill, is aimed at improving oversight and cracking down on the rampant waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars in contracting practices.

Before Missourians sent her to Washington, legislatively sexy Claire McCaskill was our state auditor, and her concern for the government’s fiscal accountability and integrity inherent in that job has now borne some national fruit, that is if House Republicans, responding to contractor’s demands, don’t lop it off in the conference committee.

Five years ago she helped (along with Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia) pass legislation that created a commission to study waste and fraud involved in wartime contracting, and after years of investigation the commission found, according to McCaskill’s press release, that,

the U.S. had squandered up to $60 billion through waste and fraud on contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The panel identified major failures in contingency contract planning, execution and oversight within the government. It concluded that such waste will increase if accountability across government is not improved as U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.

Think about that: $60 billion down the drain, or, better put: in somebody’s pocket who didn’t deserve it. That $60 billion could more than pay for the federal government’s emergency sexy claireaid to areas hit by Superstorm Sandy (Obama is planning on requesting $50 billion or so from Congress).

And while we, day after day, witness what is going on in Washington over whether to fiscal-cliff ourselves into another recession, we can for a moment admire McCaskill’s political pugnacity on this issue:

While these wars wind down, we can’t lose the urgency to correct these mistakes and prevent them from being repeated in the future,” said McCaskill in a statement. “Protecting taxpayer dollars isn’t the flashiest issue. But it’s a promise I made to Missourians, and it’s something I pledge to continue fighting for, with dogged determination, until this legislation is signed into law.”

That, my friends, should be why we send people to Washington. Not to hold the economy hostage so rich people can save a few more dollars in taxes.

“Four Cents On The Dollar”

Missouri’s Claire McCaskill said on Meet the Press on Sunday:

I feel almost sorry for John Boehner. There is incredible pressure on him from a base of his party that is unreasonable about this. And he’s got to decide, is his speakership more important or is the country more important? And in some ways, he has got to deal with this base of the Republican Party, who Grover Norquist represents. And, you know, everybody’s elevated Grover—I mean, I met him for the first time this morning—nice to meet him—but, you know, who is he? Why is he this guy that is—has—has captured so much attention in this?

Indeed, wherefore Grover Norquist? Who is he?

In a reasonable world, in a world not dominated by corporate media’s need to keep a controversy blazing, Grover Norquist would be enjoying retirement today, perhaps rubbing bronzing lotion on Mitt Romney’s money, somewhere in a tropical paradise, instead of appearing on NBC’s Meet The Press.

Republicans, you see, particularly Republicans spouting Tea Party nonsense, got the left foot of fellowship from the American people on November 6, and it was partly—though not completely—a 2010 gerrymandering bonanza that kept several right-wing House zealots in their seats, Democrats having received a majority of all House election votes.

And the one issue that clearly separated Democrats from Republicans was the issue of tax increases on the wealthiest two percent of Americans. The voters, as we all know but are starting to forget, chose the Democratic view.

As it is, though, even if Grover Norquist wanted to go to a beach far, far away, he can’t. Journalists keep pretending that he is relevant to the conversation about the fiscal cliff, which is quickly turning into a conversation about how much austerity will be foisted on the American economy in the shortest time possible without hurting rich people.

And nobody speaks for the rich like Grover Norquist:

Tea Party II is going to dwarf Tea Party I,  if Obama pushes us off the cliff. Let’s not pretend who’s pushing us over the cliff.

No, let’s not pretend. Let’s not pretend that, if there is a cliff for us to go over in the short-term, it will be because Norquist and his friends in Congress are willing to push the country that way in service to their wealthy constituents. In fact, Claire McCaskill said so on Sunday:

There has to be a realization that if we do nothing, the Republicans are going to have to live with the fact that they were willing to stop a deal all over a tax rate for the top two percent of this country.

Yes, Republicans—and Republicans only—will have to live with that realization. Nothing—absolutely nothing—could be clearer, despite Norquist’s bluster, which is really a last-ditch effort to save his relevance as a Washington insider.

Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee and one of the smartest Democrats around these days, was also on with Grover Norquist:

Well, what’s happened now is that the president has put forward a plan. It’s transparent. It’s on the internet…Let’s be really clear on what the President has said. He wants to extend tax relief for hundred percent of American families and small businesses on their first 250 thousand dollars of income.

And what Republicans are saying is, nobody gets that tax relief unless folks over 250 thousand get the extra four cents on the dollar that they were getting compared to the Clinton tax rates. And I just don’t believe that the American people are going to accept the Republican position when we need to extend middle class tax cuts and get serious about our long-term deficit reduction.

Four cents on the dollar. That’s what most of this argument is about, my friends. Four cents on the dollar for folks who are doing quite well, thank you.

And thanks to mainstream journalism, thanks to the producers of shows like Meet the Press, we still have a whiny titmouse of a man named Grover Norquist on television doing his best to make sure, even if it fiscally imperils the country, those folks don’t have to pay that extra four cents on the dollar for every dollar they make over $250,000.

If Democrats can’t win this argument, either with Republicans or ultimately with the American people, then the country is going to hell anyway, fiscal cliff or not.

Tuesday The Thirteenth

Todd Akin, like one of those Jasonesque characters in a sequel-begetting fright flick, just won’t go away.

A sometimes Democrat-friendly polling firm, Public Policy Polling, finds that Akin is only down 48-44 to Claire McCaskill (women support Claire 55-38), even after Dr. Todd shared his pre-Neanderthalic understanding of rape and the female reproductive system with Missouri voters.

The survey found that although Akin’s favorability rating is at only 29%—that’s not a typo—his good standing among Republicans in this state has gone up from 74% to 79%. Apparently, a vast majority of Missouri Republicans have decided that Akin’s medieval pseudoscience, which claims that women’s bodies have special recognition devices that can detect sperm planted through “legitimate” violence, is the kind of science that GOP Jesus loves.

Surprisingly, among independents the race is, uh, tied, 46-46. What that means is that some of those who claimed they are independents are lying through their conservative teeth or don’t have the slightest idea what “independent’ means (not out of the question here in Missouri). Those who claimed they were not Republicans or Democrats amounted to 32% in this survey. And no one can convince me that 46% of true independents are voting for the pre-Neanderthal in this race. If that is so, Allah help us.

Also, it appears some extra dough is finding its way into the state in support of Dr. Todd.  The New York Times’ “The Caucus” reports that Akins “is receiving an influx of more than $2 million in the final days of his campaign.” The skinny:

Nearly a million of those dollars on television ad buys are coming from Mr. Akin’s campaign, while the rest is from outside groups, and there is speculation that organizations that previously distanced themselves from the six-term Congressman could be behind some of the new spending.

One of those organizations suspected of sending Akin money is the National Republican Senatorial Committee (chaired by Texas Senator John Cornyn, who is so conservative that he once almost compared homosexual marriage to a man marrying a box turtle—I kid you not), which had pulled the plug on Akin when it appeared he would not survive his lecture on evangelical gynecology. But now that he is, like Jason, alive and well, Cornyn may be funneling money to the state Republican party, which has never stopped its support of Dr. Todd.

But I want to pass on something that may help those of you who, like me, have feared that the pre-Neanderthal can pull off a win and not only embarrass Missouri, but help speed up the ongoing erosion of women’s rights.

On Sunday, I was helping to contact local potential McCaskill voters. Several times we ran across Republican women who were voting for Claire, despite the fact their husbands were not. One woman said to us:

Tell her I am a rock-ribbed Republican but I am supporting her.

I took that as good news that although the race will be mind-mindbogglingly close—considering what kind of candidate Akin is—there is a goodly number of Republican women out there who haven’t yet lost their minds.

McCaskill Sends A Warning To Republicans

As Todd Akin, that brilliant medieval scientist, continues his “Give ‘Em The Finger Tour” around Missouri (he essentially kicked it off here in Joplin), and as he attempts to make Missouri the butt of all political jokes, Claire McCaskill appeared on MSNBC this morning and offered this rather unladylike warning to the honchos in the GOP:

Watch the national Republicans. You know, they’ve all said it was unacceptable what he did, and I think Scott Brown and Linda McMahon and a lot of candidates out there are really going to be in trouble if the national Republicans now go back on their word and come in here and try to fund Todd Akin.

McCaskill’s senate counterpart, Roy Blunt, has already decided to put political power ahead of principle and support Akin. But he has his own personal reasons for doing so. If Blunt, who is Mitt Romney’s congressional liaison, can help Republicans gain control of the senate by helping to engineer an Akin victory, he will be able to move up the leadership ladder—he is now the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

McCaskill is counting on national Republicans, who don’t share Blunt’s narrower interests because they have to look out for other candidates in bluish states, to keep to their word and not flirt with Akin and his goofy gynecological godliness imported from the Middle Ages.

So far, Texas Senator John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, claims he has “no plans” to put money in Akin’s campaign, but we are talking about the Republican Party here. If the race is close in a couple of weeks, I’m betting the money will flow.

As for that other money-man, Karl Rove—who famously said of Akin that, “If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts” —he probably won’t sink any money into Akin’s race, just as he didn’t offer any dough to GOP senate candidates and wingnuts Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, or Christine O’Donnell in 2010.

But again, these are Republicans. If it appears that an Akin victory is possible, and a Republican-controlled Senate is still in play, then even the murder-minded Rove may make a cash dump in Missouri.

In the mean time, the fact that Todd Akin still has his political legs, after all he has said and done, says a lot about how far Missouri politics has been corrupted by a corrosive brand of conservatism.

Leading From Behind Todd al-Akin

How many times have you heard Republicans criticize President Obama for “leading from behind”? A bunch. Here is an example of what right-wingers mean by their criticism:

To sum it up, Barack Obama’s foreign policy is based on the belief that we have surrendered or had taken from us our leadership role in the world. He’s operating intentionally as a failure.

Yeah, that’s our president, alright. He’s not only a failure, he’s means to be one!

Yesterday I heard Dan Senor, a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney and a man ass-deep in Bush’s decision to not lead from behind and start a foolish war in Iraq, criticize President Obama on TV  for failing to get Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to “step down.

My, my, my. I wonder why al-Assad won’t listen to the President of the United States and do what he is told? Maybe it is because Mr. Obama is a defective leader? A failure? Yeah, that’s it. I mean, if a leader asks a bad actor to get off the stage and that actor chooses to remain in the spotlight, it’s the leader’s fault, right? He has failed to lead, right? He’s a wimp, right?

Well, okay. Here’s what Dan Senor’s boss said about Todd Akin, Missouri’s torturously Talibanic Republican candidate for senate—and part-time gynecologist—after Akin’s ignorance and/or stupidity was revealed to the world:

As I said yesterday, Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country. Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race.

That was on August 21. Naturally, being a leader of epic proportions, Romney’s declaration that Akin should “step aside” immediately caused Akin to, well, step aside, right?

Not exactly:

Todd Akin (still) staying in Missouri Senate race

Despite calls from Republican Party leaders to step down, Rep. Todd Akin announced he will remain in the Missouri Senate race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Dammit! What’s wrong with Mittens’ leadership? If President Obama is expected to snap his fingers and have a miscreant like Bashar al-Assad disappear, then making a little twerp like Todd Akin go away ought to be easy pickin’s.

But nope, Akin remains with us, which, of course, means Mittens has failed as a leader. And not only did Akin defy him, but others have kicked sand in Romney’s face.

Among the sand-kickers are Akin’s reactionary friends who are coming to his aid, folks like Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Jim DeMint, Phyllis Schlafly, and, no surprise, the author of the infamous “Blunt amendment“—a blatant and reactionary attack on women’s health choices—Roy Blunt:

Blunt backs Akin’s Senate bid after deadline to exit race passes

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) announced his support for Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-Mo.) Senate bid after the deadline passed for Akin to exit the race.

In a statement released late Tuesday night, Blunt, a venerable figure in Missouri politics and the GOP establishment in Washington, flipped on his earlier call for Akin to exit the race.

“Congressman Akin and I don’t agree on everything, but he and I agree the Senate majority must change. From Governor Romney to the county courthouse, I’ll be working for the Republican ticket in Missouri, and that includes Todd Akin,” he said in the statement.

Not too long ago Blunt said in a joint statement with other Missouri Republican “leaders” the following:

We do not believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race. The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside.”

Dammit! There’s that pesky phrase “step aside” again. Blunt tried and failed to get Akin to quit and that means Blunt is also a wimpy leader. Shoot, when it comes to Akin, there are wimpy Republican leaders all over the place. In terms of revealing leadership qualities, little old Todd Akin is the Bashar al-Assad of the GOP!

But in Blunt’s case, instead of moaning and groaning about Akin’s tin ear, instead of telling Akin to go straight to hell, Blunt, being a resourceful, if wimpy, leader, has chosen to follow Akin and help him get elected.

Now that’s what I call leading from behind!

Godspeed, Todd al-Akin!

Todd Akin’s Hunger Games

The Big Lebowski, Jeff Bridges, was on Morning Joe this morning talking about child hunger in America. Appearing with Bill Shore, of Share our Strength, Bridges shared this sobering stat:

Almost 16 million American kids—one in five—live in poverty.

From the Share our Strength website, we can follow the progression of what happens if kids—students trying to learn—go without food:

1. That child who doesn’t have enough to eat isn’t going to do as well in school.

2. And is likely to get sick more often.

3. She’s less likely to graduate from high school and go on to college, which will have a negative impact on her economic future.

4. If this happens, then twenty years from now, she’s much less likely to be able to earn enough to feed her family.

Seen that way, combating child hunger, apart from the obvious morality of it, is simply an investment in America’s future well-being.

And Mr. Legitimate Rape, Todd Akin, is on the wrong side of this moral and practical issue, too.

According to an article in the Forum section in Sunday’s Joplin Globe, 646,000 Missouri students received free or reduced-price meals at school in fiscal year 2011. A lot of those kids benefiting from that Truman-era federal program live around here, in conservative Republican-dominated Southwest Missouri, and from its beginning the federal school lunch program was opposed by—guess who?—conservative Republicans.

Todd Akin is one of those.  The Joplin Globe reports:

According to a report in The Columbia Daily Tribune, Akin said he wasn’t opposed to feeding children, but that it wasn’t the federal government’s job to pay for it.

The state, he said, is responsible for education, and if providing breakfast and lunch was important then state and local governments could pick up the tab.

If providing breakfast and lunch was important? Huh? The Globe continued:

Akin was one of only 13 members of the House of Representatives to vote against a resolution expressing support for the National School Lunch Program. In March 2010, Akin voted against House Resolution 362, a resolution expressing support for the goals and ideals of the school lunch program.

Those 13 “members” who voted against expressing support for the school lunch program were actually all Republicans, and they represent many of the nuttiest of the nutty Tea Party conservatives. Here’s a partial list, just to give you an idea of the kind of company Akin is in:

♦ Ron Paul (Yep! that one from Texas)

♦ Paul Broun (of GA; he once suggested Mr. Obama was ready to establish a Marxist dictatorship)

♦ Jason Chaffetz (of UT; this federal school lunch hater is a big-time Romney surrogate)

♦ Virginia Foxx (of NC; who once suggested that old folks would be “put to death by their government” if Democrats’ health reform passed; she also said we have more to fear from it than “any terrorist right now in the country”)

♦ Scott Garrett (of NJ; creationist birther)

♦ Doug Lamborn (of CO; Big Bird hater; the most partisan man in Congress and a man who suggested President Obama was a “tar baby”)

♦ James Sensenbrenner (of WI; introduced The Patriot Act in the House; if that ain’t enough, he referenced the First Lady’s “big butt”; to give you a sense of his temperament, Jon Stewart said after a weird episode in the House: “Oh my God, he literally took his gavel and went home; we are officially being governed by children.”; Rolling Stone referred to him as “the dictator”)

♦ John Shadegg (formerly of AZ; a man who called the health care reform effort, “full-on Russian gulag, Soviet-style gulag health care,” and believes Muslim spies are invading Congress

You can see that Akin, given his history of reactionary weirdness, can hold his own with these folks, and you can also see that his opposition to the federal lunch program is based on some strange moral principles that, for now, only a tiny minority of Republicans in Congress hold.

As far as “state and local governments” picking up the tab for school lunches, the Globe cites the Columbia Daily Tribune as saying,

ending federal subsidies for school lunches in Missouri would add $260 million to state spending. Budget and education officials say that money is not available, and Missouri requires a balanced budget.

Missouri has already made cuts for school buses, Career Ladder programs, teacher professional development and Parents as Teachers.

So, it is clear that there is no money in the budget and no chance that Missouri legislators, overwhelmingly Republicans, would raise the revenue necessary to keep kids from going hungry at school.

And Todd Akin, who is as we speak representing Missouri in the House of Representatives and wants to represent our state in the U.S. Senate, knows that. He knows that if his opposition to the federal school lunch program ever became the GOP majority view, if his party successfully killed it, that Missouri students would go hungry.

He knows that. And all Missourians should know that he knows that.

______________________________

For her part, Claire McCaskill, who supports the federal school lunch program—which over this year will cost about the same as two month’s worth of the Afghanistan war does right now—said,

Do I want the federal government to spend less? Yes. But I don’t want to turn out the lights and go home on the most important parts of our economy.

Akin Is “Our Guy” Says Ozark Billy

Southwest Missouri congressman Ozark Billy, who recently and stupidly said, “We’re not the land of the free anymore,” has now thrown his considerable weight—that’s not really a metaphor—behind the embattled Todd Akin, according to Politico:

First-term Rep. Billy Long, who represents the conservative southwestern portion of the state, said Akin was the party’s candidate, whom he planned to support.

“The people of Missouri voted for him, and he’s our guy,” Long told POLITICO. “And either you’re for Todd Akin and I’m not for Claire McCaskill. … He’s been an underdog his whole life, he won a lot of races he wasn’t supposed to win, so I think he can win.”

Yep, against the stream of establishment sentiment, our own Ozark Billy is making a gallant stand for ignorance and bigotry, but he’s not the only local embracing  Todd Akin’s “gaffe,” which, of course was not a gaffe but a rare moment of honesty and clarity.

Jasper County pooh-bah and resident Christian moralist-slash-Glenn Beck fan, John Putnam, said Mittens “needs to rescind” his demand that Akin give up the fight, and he offered this:

I think Reince Priebus and Roy Blunt and all the people need to support the candidate that the folks from Missouri nominated and picked in the primary. I think the GOP party bosses that are trying to drum him out are creating a bigger split in the party than Todd Akin is.

We’ll see whether Romney, true to form, or Priebus or Blunt waffles on Akin and accepts the Jasper County Republican’s godly counsel, but I have to admit that, for once, I agree with John Putnam. Party bosses—and right now there ain’t no bigger boss than Mittens—are creating a “split” in the party between evangelicals, who actually believe the nutty stuff they say, and regular party guys—characters who wouldn’t know Jesus if he jolted them with a bolt of overdue lightning—who use those evangelicals to obtain political power.

But my guess is that the evangelicals who are being used will, despite their Akin-induced dissatisfaction with the party honchos, nevertheless come to GOP Jesus and work hard to get their superiors elected, what with that Black Devil, Barack What’s-His-Unholy Name, lurking in the electoral shadows.

Meanwhile, the Black Devil’s Missouri handmaiden, Claire McCaskill, will likely save her job, despite the fact that the faithful, led by conservative crusader and buffet king Billy Long, will try their best to exorcise her evil self from the United States Senate.

I Told You Todd Akin Was Missouri’s Freakiest Conservative

I told you so. Todd Akin is freaky. He’s bizarre, outlandish, queer. He’s unusually strange. Weird. Dangerously dizzy—and “legitimately stupid.”

Watch the offending 30 seconds below and notice the response of the interviewer, Charles Jaco. He has just been told something—by a man who wants to be Missouri’s U.S. Senator—that is monumentally dumb, offensive, and obviously newsworthy. What does Jaco say? “Let go to the, uh, uh, economy.”

Nope, let’s go to the tape:

Claire McCaskill said in response:

It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape.

Nope. It is perfectly comprehensible, if you have snooped around in Todd Akin’s trove of extremism. It’s just that this time he is on a national stage for all to see and hear.

Sarah Steelman, Akin’s opponent in the primary (and who I thought would win), tweeted:

Todd Akin’s remarks about “legitimate rape” were inexcusable, insulting, and embarrassing to the GOP.

Notice it is the GOP she is worried about in her tweetful response. And there is reason to worry. So much reason that the Romney campaign, which is directing the larger war on women,  issued a statement about Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment and his willingness to force rape victims to bear the rapist’s child:

Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.

Well, first of all, Paul Ryan can’t disagree with Akin’s statement all that much because he too opposes abortion even in rape cases and has sponsored legislation that would grant “personhood” rights to embryos.

Second, that meek statement obviously won’t be enough to stop the tide that is coming. The consensus on Morning Joe this morning, including Republican Joe Scarborough, was that this is a test of leadership for Mittens. Scarborough, who said, “this is a nightmare for Republicans,” and that it “hurts every candidate,” forcefully argued that this should be Romney’s “Sister Souljah moment,” in which Romney should call Akin “every day” and tell him to “get out!

Well, it will be very difficult for Romney to express much outrage over Todd Akin, when by his side as his running mate is a man who sponsored an outrageous anti-abortion bill as one of the first acts of the Tea Party House.

Zerlina Maxwell of the New York Daily News wrote:

Akin and Ryan were the original co-sponsors of the controversial bill H.R. 3, “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which initially included language which changed the definition of “rape” to “forcible rape,” until public pressure forced the bill’s supporters to remove that unacceptable and narrow definition. As I wrote previously, Paul Ryan is not just anti-choice, his anti-choice views are extreme and just plain bad for all women.

So, if Romney comes down too hard on Akin, he will have to answer an important question:

In what way is Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment different from the language that Paul Ryan and Todd Akin used in H.R. 3’s original version?

And as long as he is fumbling around trying to answer that question, he is only reminding women across America why they can’t trust Republicans with their personal life decisions.*

As for Akin, he may survive this train wreck, and given the hatred for Mr. Obama in the hinder parts of Missouri—voting against Claire McCaskill is a vote against Obama, don’t you know—I am sure he would still overwhelmingly win my part of the state.

The bright side, though, is that perhaps folks in other, more sober parts of Missouri, will, as Claire McCaskill said this morning, pay attention to the race because,

This statement is kind of a window into Todd Akin’s mind.

And at least now, if Akin is not forced to withdraw from the race, he will have forced folks here in Missouri, and across the country, to look through that window and consider the craziness and creepiness within, a craziness and creepiness that also describes the minds of many Republican Tea Party candidates.

_____________________________

* My congressman, Billy Long, also sponsored H.R. 3’s original language, which I pointed out in February of 2011 in “Ozark Billy Long Signs On To Redefine Rape.’ 

McCaskill: “I’m Not Willing To Blow Up Medicare”

Saint Rachel Maddow had a dustup on Meet the Press  with right-winger and editor of National Review Rich Lowry. Following the lead of his lying leader, Lowry was pushing a two-year-old lie (which Democrats failed to adequately address in 2010) that Obama’s health care reform law slashed billions out of Medicare:

RICH LOWRY: …Republicans should go on offense on Medicare, because the president, as part of Obamacare, passed $700 billion in cuts in Medicare.  And Romney wants to repeal Obamacare, including those cuts…So at the top of a ticket Romney versus Obama, there’s only one of those guys who wants any cuts affecting current seniors…That’s not Mitt Romney.

Of course that is blatantly false. There were exactly zero cuts in Medicare benefits to “current seniors” or, indeed, to future seniors. The “cuts” were actually reductions in the future payments the program makes to participating hospitals (and other providers but not including doctors) and reductions in Bush-era overpayments to private insurance companies participating in Medicare Advantage.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Gail Wilensky, former administrator—under W. Bush—of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare:

There are no reductions in the Medicare benefits promised in law.

Obviously, that fact hasn’t stopped Romney, Ryan, and other Republicans, including the national Chamber of Commerce, from lying about the issue—going on offense, as Lowry described it—which is made worse by the fact that, as Maddow tried to point out on Sunday, Paul Ryan’s budget contains the same “cuts” to Medicare!

At the end, Maddow asked Lowry a question:

What I want to know is the logic of attacking somebody for something that you yourself are proposing to do?

Logic? Ah, the logic in lying about imaginary Medicare cuts is in the fact that Republicans have so much money this year they can lie, and lie continuously, with impunity. Like here in Missouri, where, as Bloomberg points out, the Rovian smear group, Crossroads GPS, is doing damage to Claire McCaskill:

…an ad sponsored by Crossroads that’s run 858 times says Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill voted for Medicare cuts that could slash benefits for the program’s enrollees.

That ad ran 858 times as of June 28! It has undoubtedly run a gazillion times since, as McCaskill has become, in the words of Andy Kroll at Mother Jones, “Dark Money’s Top Target.”

Well, McCaskill is at least fighting back with charges of her own. This morning on Fox and Friends, the show with the ambitious mission of extirpating IQs everywhere,  she was treated rather rudely by host Steve Doocy, but before he went on an inelegant Romney-Ryan offensive, she managed to get in a shot at Paul Ryan:

I think he’s willing to blow up Medicare to give more tax cuts to folks at the very top…I have worked in a bipartisan way to bring down federal spending, but I’m not willing to blow up Medicare in the process—especially when you consider that Paul Ryan believes that at the same time we blow up Medicare, we need to give another tax cut to people who make more than a million a year.

“Blow up Medicare.” I like that phrase because it perfectly describes what conservatives have wanted to do to the program since it was created. Blow it up, obliterate it, or, as they phrase it these days, “save” it.

Goodbye, Kansas, And Missouri May Be Right Behind Ya

The state of my birth and Missouri’s now radical neighbor to the west has officially become the property of Koch-sponsored fanaticism.*

And Missouri, with Rep. Todd Akin becoming the state’s GOP offering to unseat moderate Democrat Claire McCaskill, may soon join Kansas—which when I lived there actually could elect a Democratic governor!— as a place where teapartiers try to out-tea party each other in their efforts to destroy 21st-century government.

On Tuesday, Kansans settled the war in the Republican Party between moderates (yep, these days that’s what we call GOP conservatives who won’t quite put a full set of teabags on their hats) and the Brownbacks (as in Governor Sam), those hard-core Koch-heads who want to dismantle large parts of the government and ask some folks to live like 19th-century settlers.

Most prominent among the moderates defeated in the GOP primary was Senate President Steve Morris, who waged something of a resistance movement, in alliance with Democrats, to stop some of the draconian legislation—wild-eyed anti-abortion and anti-union and anti-education bills, for instance—that the extremists were otherwise very close to passing.

That’s not to say Morris was a left-winger. He and other “moderates” went along with tax cuts (read about that sordid tale here) that will end up crippling the state and enrich Koch-heads at the expense of working folks and kids, as well as a voter ID law that would have made it difficult for my late mother, a former poll worker, to vote.

But enough about Kansas. It’s too late to save that state. Missouri? There’s still time, and defeating Todd Akin would be a good place to start our comeback. Remember in April when President Obama said, as reported by HuffPo:

“I’m always interested in how folks talk about this issue,” he said. “You’ve got one member of Congress who compared student loans — I’m not kidding here — to a stage three cancer of socialism.”

Obama tried to repeat the phrase but broke up laughing.

“I don’t know where to start? What do you mean? What are you talking about? Come on!” he implored, eliciting loud applause. “Just when you think you’ve heard it all in Washington, somebody comes up with a new way to go off the deep end.”

Yep, that’s right. He was talking about—no laughing at—Todd Akin, a U.S. Congressman who once suggested Obama should be impeached and who said this about the President:

He is a complete menace to our civilization.

Obama is not just a menace, you see, but a complete menace.

In any case, as Claire McCaskill said before Akin was officially anointed  as the state’s freakiest conservative (he’s always held that title in my book):

Missourians are going to have a really clear choice: Somebody who’s moderate and believes in compromise, or somebody who believes we need to turn out the lights on the federal government and go home.

Among the larger lights Akin wants to turn out are Medicare (voucherize it) and Social Security (privatize it). Go to truthaboutakin.com and read the details. Can’t wait to see those first McCaskill ads explaining to voters how Akin wants to flip the switch on those wildly popular government programs.

Finally, Democrats in Missouri should ignore the polls, especially this late faulty one that showed Akin with a slight lead in a match-up with McCaskill, but which also showed John Brunner beating Akin by 16 points!

Which leads me to say that Todd Akin did Democrats a favor by beating Brunner. Missourians were bombarded by Brunner ads—$8 million worth in our mailboxes, on our radios and constantly on our TVs—and he would have been a stronger general election candidate than Akin. But Akin will have plenty of money spent on his behalf, mostly to darken McCaskill’s complexion, if you know what I mean.

So, my progressive friends, let’s all cough up a little dough and send it Claire’s way. While she hasn’t been a force for liberalism in the U.S. Senate, the alternative is unthinkable.

______________________________

* I suppose it is only fair that the Koch’s get first dibs on buying the state, since Koch Industries—the nation’s second largest privately held company— is headquartered in Wichita.

Call It “ClaireCare” If You Want, McCaskill Should Say

I will take Claire McCaskill at her word that she is not skipping the Democratic National Convention because she is afraid to cavort with Mr. Obamacare himself and other Democrats who don’t enjoy overwhelming popularity here in Missouri.

She told Morning Joe:

I’ve never gone when I’ve had a contested race. You’ve got to say to people at home, which is more important: Going to a place with a bunch of party honchos and having cocktail parties, or being at home talking to them? So this has never been a hard call for me. Everybody is trying to make this a big deal and narrative. It’s just stupid.

All of the chatter about McCaskill’s reasons for not going to North Carolina later this summer, along with the  expectation that the Supremes will rule on the Affordable Care Act tomorrow, has me wondering just why it is that here in Missouri, as elsewhere, the concept of “ObamaCare” is relatively unpopular, even while its constituent parts are not. My conclusion is that such dissonance is attributable to a failure to properly—and constantly—educate an inattentive public.

Which, of course, made me wonder, for instance, what Ms. McCaskill has said about the ACA and how she has tried to educate Missourians on the virtues of the law.

Well, she did make an effort to do so in March, sort of. Here is how TPM began a story about it:

Grilled about her support for the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) told a home state radio interviewer that the law’s core structure is “exactly” like the House GOP Medicare privatization plan that conservatives support and liberals detest.

Hmm. That’s not exactly a good way of selling ObamaCare to liberals, now is it? She went on:

“The irony of this situation is that these are private insurance companies people will shop to buy their insurance. It’s not the government,” she told KMOX of St. Louis on Wednesday. “It’s exactly what Paul Ryan wants to do for Medicare.”

“It’s subsidized by the government — premium subsidies — which is exactly, this is the irony,” continued McCaskill, who faces a tough reelection battle this fall. “You think what Paul Ryan wants to do for seniors, you think it’s terrific. But when we want to provide private health insurance for people who don’t have insurance with subsidies from the government, you think it’s terrible.”

Her point here is, of course, unassailable. There is a lot of Republican hypocrisy associated with the debate over health care reform, particularly since almost the entire scheme that is now called ObamaCare is made up of ideas that once were dreamed up in the minds of right-wingers.

But that doesn’t let Claire off the hook, in terms of her responsibility to educate folks about the law. I looked on her campaign website and I found the following under “Healthcare“:

Claire has fought for expanded health insurance for all Missourians, from children to seniors. In her first term, Claire helped protect children with pre-existing conditions from being refused insurance and saved seniors from paying too much for prescription drugs by helping to close the Medicare Part D “donut hole.” Claire strongly believes that affordable health care is necessary in a successful economy and will continue to fight to make sure all Missourians have access to it, while also fighting to ensure those who chose not to be insured don’t pass along their medical costs to other Missourians.

This paragraph constitutes a summary of the details that follow on the page, but what we see here is essentially an explanation of the Affordable Care Act, of ObamaCare, but without the name attached. Now, while it is understandable that she would want to stay away from terms that Republicans and their moneyed funders have tainted via their propaganda campaign against “ObamaCare” and the ACA, what McCaskill is doing is essentially furthering the public’s misunderstanding of what is the health care reform law that goes by those names.

I can’t help but wonder what public opinion about the ACA might be today, if folks like McCaskill would not only consistently tout the parts of the law that people like, but aggressively defend the idea behind the one part they don’t like, the dreaded mandate.

Something like the following would be in order, coming from the moderate Missouri Democrat who voted for the ACA and who gets constantly attacked for doing so:

You’re damned right I voted for ObamaCare. And I’m proud of that vote. Hell, I wish they’d call it ClaireCare, so proud I am to have voted for it.

You know why?

Because it helps protect Missourians with pre-existing conditions from getting screwed by insurance companies;

Because it protects Missourians who get sick from getting booted off the insurance they had before they got sick;

Because it provides insurance for Missourians who can’t afford it and who would otherwise go without it and get sick and die or who would end up in an emergency room with a horrible and horribly expensive disease that we’d all end up paying for;

Because it allows about 40,000 Missouri kids to stay on their parents insurance until they are 26;

Because it has already “saved 111,815 Missouri seniors on Medicare an average of $627 per person on their prescription drugs by closing the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole‘” (quote from her website);

And because it has already “provided 431,945 Missouri women with free mammograms, bone density scans, and cervical cancer screenings with no co-pay” (quote from her website);

As I said, you’re damned right I voted for what you derisively try to call “ObamaCare,” and I couldn’t be prouder. Tell me, my critics, which one of the above “becauses” would you like to repeal? Huh?

And I’m even proud of the fact that I voted for the hated mandate because it was at least an attempt to get folks to stop gaming the system and help pay their own way. Aren’t you tired of some people trying to get something for nothing?

Any bleeping questions?

Akin And Blunt Embarrass Missouri

Ah, to live in Missouri.

First, there’s one of our state’s zaniest Republicans, Rep. Todd Akin, who is trying to become Claire McCaskill’s replacement as U.S. Senator. (By the way, as The Washington Post reported, “Independent conservative groups have already spent more than $3 million on television and radio ads” against McCaskill.)

Akin had the distinct pleasure of being the butt of a joke by the President of the United States involving the issue of increased interest rates for student loans. From HuffPo:

“I’m always interested in how folks talk about this issue,” he said. “You’ve got one member of Congress who compared student loans — I’m not kidding here — to a stage three cancer of socialism.”

Obama tried to repeat the phrase but broke up laughing.

“I don’t know where to start? What do you mean? What are you talking about? Come on!” he implored, eliciting loud applause. “Just when you think you’ve heard it all in Washington, somebody comes up with a new way to go off the deep end.”

Yes, it’s true.  Todd Akin, who has been endorsed by Michele Bachmann and Iowa’s goofy representative, Steve King,  did say this:

America has got the equivalent of the stage three cancer of socialism because the federal government is tampering in all kinds of stuff it has no business tampering in.

Now, Akin isn’t the only Missouri politician making news about student loans. Roy Blunt, who is Mitt Romney’s front man in Congress, told a whopper about the Affordable Care Act and the interest rates charged to students taking out loans. He told Andrea Mitchell:

Why is that rate as high as it is? Because it was one of he pay-fors in the President’s health care plan. If the health care plan goes away, as the court very well might decide, there’s no longer an argument about this loan rate because it was used to take money from students and pay for health care, and largely health care for people who aren’t students.

Of course this is a complete lie. The law that lowered interest rates (from 6.8% to 3.4%) was signed by President Bush in 2007 and it is set to expire on July 1 of this year, which is what the current fuss is all about.

Some people think Blunt got that law confused with the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which was attached to the ACA. That Act cut the bankers out of the student loan loop (which pissed off Republicans bigtime), thereby saving the government tons of money that Democrats then reinvested in low- and middle-income students via grants. (Presumably, that is what Todd Akin meant by “stage three cancer of socialism“!)

In any case, confused or not, what Blunt did was stand in front of a television camera and tell a falsehood—without immediate challenge from Andrea Mitchell. Thankfully, though, The Ed Show exposed Blunt’s tall tale later that night in the following segment:

McCaskill: Her Opponents Want To “Turn Out The Lights On The Federal Government And Go Home”

I saw Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill on Saturday in Springfield. She seemed to be quite enthusiastic about taking the fight to Republicans this fall. She said some nice things about the stimulus plan passed in 2009, which saved many jobs and helped cover state budget shortfalls, including here in Missouri. It was good to hear her not run away from the major achievement of Democrats, in terms of helping turn around the economy.

She also talked about her potential opponents in the upcoming election. Since there has yet to be a Republican primary, there are three of them, extremists one and all.

Today, on Hardball with Chris Matthews, she talked about her politics, her opponents’ politics, and the Senate race: 

McCASKILL: The Senate has done its best work around the table of compromise. And compromise happens because of moderates. And many of your listeners may not want to hear this, but honestly, if we don’t have moderates, we’re not going to get things done on behalf of the American people.

I am, in this campaign, going to talk to a lot of Missourians–I’m going to cover the state like a blanket, I’m not going to get very much sleep–and I’m going to proudly tell them that I’m part of a moderate middle that believes compromise is a value that we need to cherish in this democracy. If we’re just at opposite ends of the room screaming at each other, we’re never going to solve the hard problems.

And that’s why I think moderation is important, and believe me the folks running against me, I mean they are so extreme, they make some of these people that are in the house look like moderates. They are very, very extreme folks.

MATTHEWS: Are the Tea Party folks still running the party out there?

McCASKILL: Yes. By and large. In fact I think that some of the moderate Republicans tried to get somebody else to run against me. They all took a pass. And so we have three people running that are all fighting over whether or not they’re the Tea Party-endorsed candidate. One of them got one Tea Party endorsement and the other two said, “Well, that’s not the real Tea Party, we have the Tea Party endorsement.”  So, this is all about fighting for the far right-wing base of the Republican Party. That’s who’s going to get the nomination in my state, and so Missourians are going to have a really clear choice: Somebody who’s moderate and believes in compromise, or somebody who believes we need to turn out the lights on the federal government and go home.

Now, as a liberal, I’m not exactly glad to hear that Senator McCaskill is proud to be a moderate. And I certainly object to her saying that “compromise happens because of moderates.” It actually doesn’t. Compromise happens because folks on each side of an issue decide to meet in the middle to get things done. By her reckoning, if you are already in the middle, then you most certainly aren’t compromising, right?

In any case, she does have it right about the candidates running against her:

Todd Akin, a congressman representing the western ‘burbs of St. Louis, is a certifiably unhinged Obama-hater.

John Brunner is a bidnessman who thinks that qualifies him to run the world (I think the family bidness makes deodorant and nail polish remover and, oh yeah, Germ-X).  His right-wing kookiness bona fides: he once was the state chairman of Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign.

Sarah Steelman (who I think will win) gives me another opportunity to play the priceless interview she did with Ozark Billy Long, my brilliant congressman. The interview speaks for itself, but as I said when I first posted it, it is a case of the blind leading the blind:

Here is McCaskill’s complete appearance on Monday’s Hardball:

Missourians Mooing Over Sacred Cows

Let’s start with this:

The U.S. Department of Defense has been pressed to cut its budget by President Barack Obama and by a compromise Congress passed last summer to raise the federal debt ceiling.

To make those cuts, the Defense Department recently submitted to Congress a budget that requests authority to do base closures and realignments in 2013 and 2015.

At a Senate hearing in Washington last month, Undersecretary of Defense Dorothy Robyn said base closures are needed as the U.S. draws down operations in Iraq and elsewhere overseas.

“The math is straightforward,” she said. “Force reductions produce excess capacity, excess capacity is a drain-on resources.”

Now, with all the talk out there about cutting the deficit and reducing the debt our children will have to pay one day, all of the above sounds like a common sense way to reduce federal government spending, right?

Wrong.

Vicki Hartzler, Todd Akin, and Blaine Luetkemeyer are three of the most conservative legislators in the House of Representatives, if not the Milky Way.

All have enthusiastically supported the Ryan-Romney budget plan, which Paul Krugman characterized as possessing “inconceivably cruel priorities.” All three are enemies of Big Gov’ment. All three have pledged to save our kids from deficit spending.

Here is Hartzler from her website:

It is time to get runaway spending under control. The current situation is simply not acceptable…It is immoral to keep borrowing today and to pass the bill along to future generations…The U.S. Constitution puts forth a very lean vision of government…

Here’s Akin’s website blowing on about how the Congressman is gonna chop down the big government tree:

Every dollar of new deficit spending represents new compounded interest that this generation’s children – or their children – will have to confront…As a member of the fiscally conservative Republican Study Committee, the Congressman continually works on solutions to actually reduce the size of government while performing core government responsibilities more efficiently.

Luetkemeyer says:

Over the past few years, the federal government has ballooned to an unsustainable level and has spent taxpayer dollars recklessly. ..Because of the federal government’s out-of-control spending, I have supported numerous measures to freeze funding for, and often cut, federal programs.

Now, after all that deficit hawk-talk, one might be surprised to read this:

Jefferson City —Three more members of Missouri’s congressional delegation on Wednesday signaled their opposition to possible military base closures or realignments in the state, moves that are being considered as the federal government looks for ways to save more money.

Guess who those “three more members” were. Yep:

Speaking at the Missouri Capitol, Republican U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler told a crowd of businesspeople, state and local officials and former military personnel that programs at Whiteman Air Force Base and Ft. Leonard Wood are too important for military planners to consider either for cutbacks or closures.

They are “too important” because:

Hartzler’s western Missouri district encompasses both of the state’s biggest military installations. The freshman congresswoman was joined at the state Capitol by fellow Republican U.S. Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Todd Akin, who is running for U.S. Senate this year.

This kind of fiscal duplicity is not uncommon on the right. They do this stuff all the time. They don’t mind cutting government to the bone, as long as the bone is on a part of the body they’re not using.

And to be fair, our own Senator McCaskill, who has fashioned herself as a Democratic deficit hawk,  has come out strongly against the potential base closings here in Missouri. She reportedly said at that Senate hearing in March that there was “absolutely no room for compromise” on the issue of base closings.

An item on her website dated March 21, 2012, began this way:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill told top military officials today that, as Chairman of the Senate panel with jurisdiction over base closures, she will not allow any plan to move forward this year to close U.S. military bases here at home.

Because Missourians are slowly advancing themselves into the 19th century, McCaskill, who is up for reelection this year, has had to loudly demonstrate how serious she is about cutting the budget. Here is a blurb from her site:

Claire believes the growing national debt is a huge danger to our children’s future. If left unchecked, it will weaken the economy and give too much influence to foreign creditors. She thinks the federal government needs to eliminate wasteful spending and return to the sound fiscal practices that produced budget surpluses in the 1990s.

Again, it appears that “wasteful spending” is not wasteful if it happens in Missouri and “sound fiscal practices” are those practices that should be soundly practiced in other states.

But it would be a mistake to completely equate McCaskill’s position on the base closing issue with that of her conservative colleagues, mainly because she at least supports increasing revenues to help pay for keeping military installations open in Missouri.

All of our Missouri Republicans in Congress—and I mean all of them—are opposed to raising taxes to actually pay for our state’s sacred cows. They just want to slash federal spending  by slaughtering other state’s sacred cows.

In the mean time, with no new revenues and no one willing to kill their own cows, all those cows need more and more hay.

And judging by the way the deficit hawks reacted to only potential base closings here in Missouri, our kids’ haybarn still has plenty to plunder.

Missouri Politics Catch Up

I think I have neglected Missouri politics lately, so let’s catch up:

Whoops! Somebody call the cops!

First, the Missouri GOP caucus mess. For a party that likes to think of itself as the most competent to manage the world’s affairs, including lowering gas prices and taming foreign governments, a St. Charles County Missouri caucus proved more than it could handle:

One of Missouri’s largest Republican Party presidential-nomination caucuses got shut down early — and inconclusively — after a chaotic argument led two Ron Paul supporters to be arrested on Saturday.

Minimum Wage? What’s That?

Steve Benen wrote:

It’s no longer unusual for statewide GOP candidates to oppose the minimum wage, child-labor laws, the existing structure of Medicare and guaranteed benefits, restrictions on torture, collective bargaining, and unemployment benefits.

Not too long ago, this would have been largely unthinkable, and such candidates would have been labeled “extremists,” unable to even compete in a statewide primary.

Benen was referencing Greg Sargent at WaPo, who noticed the sad fact that the three GOP candidates hoping to end the senate career of Missouri’s Claire McCaskill not only didn’t know what the federal minimum wage actually is but two of them—Todd Akin and Jon Brunner—”seemed to come out for doing away with the minimum wage entirely.”

Well, here in Missouri these days it would be “unthinkable” for Republicans to not hold such extremist views.

Stimulus Is Gone, Now What?

Speaking of extremism, let’s look at what our Missouri state legislators have planned for the new session. This is the way the St. Louis Beacon reported the return from spring break of Missouri’s plucky lawmakers:

House Floor Leader (and speaker-in-waiting) Tim Jones, R-Eureka, agrees with Senate leaders that economic development will take center stage again.

But so will the state’s financial problems, which have been softened by federal stimulus aid over the past three years.

You mean the stimulus helped Missouri? That can’t be right because everyone knows that Obama’s stimulus was a failure. Must be a misprint.

Missouri Vaginas Versus “Employers’ Wishes”

Most Missouri women will be happy to know that our legislators have not forgotten about their reproductive real estate and how it might be put to improper use:

Jones said the House and Senate also are working on similar bills that would allow employers to exclude contraceptives from their employees’ health insurance. The aim is “strengthening the employers’ wishes’’ about what they want their insurance to cover, he said.

In Missouri, Republicans are worried more about “the employers’ wishes” than about anything else. And to prove that, please read on.

Workers’ Rights Are Wrong In Missouri Legislature

Late last week, Nixon vetoed two…bills, which sought to tighten the state’s workers compensation laws and to curb workers’ ability to sue employers for discrimination. Both measures had been sought by business groups, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Republican leaders in both chambers, including [speaker-in-waiting Tim] Jones, blasted the governor’s action. But Jones acknowledged in an interview that it’s unlikely the House will override the governor’s vetoes. That means new versions must be crafted or the issues deferred to the next session.

“We spent a great deal of legislative time on two measures that are now gone,’’ said Jones.

Regardless of what Nixon’s vetoes may imply, said Jones: “We didn’t pass these bills to score political points.”

Oh, yes you did.

And thank you, Governor Jay Nixon, for helping to protect Missouri workers.

Republicans Not Too Proud To Make Workers Beg

Republican attacks on Missouri workers continue. The state Senate is itching to pass a “right-to-work beg” law, and “a compromise” between the Republican-dominated House and the Republican-dominated Senate (see? that is what we mean these days by a Missouri compromise!) on the “prevailing wage” issue is predicted by Jones.

Keep your veto pen inked up, Gov’nor.

For Sale: Missouri Legislators

The Missouri Supreme Court recently kiboshed, on technical grounds, ethics legislation designed to make ethics-resistant politicians ethical, or something like that. But Democrats are pushing the issue again this session. On Monday they introduced a bill that would restore at least some limits on purchasing our politicians:

The Democrats’ proposal would set the top donation limit at $5,000 per election, more than twice the old limits.

Perhaps many of you have forgotten that Republicans erased any limits in 2008, when they effectively and arrogantly overturned the will of Missouri voters, who approved Proposition A (The Missouri Campaign Contribution Limits Proposition) in 1994.

When one looks at the results of that state-wide vote (the statute provided for dramatically lower limits than politicians are willing to live with today), it is hard to see why Republicans felt free to give the finger to Missouri voters:

The truth is that Missouri Republicans are so confident that conservative rural voters will keep sending them to Jefferson City, they can flip the electorate the bird with each hand and get back a friendly wave.

The Blind Bleeding The Blind

As for budget issues, let me see, House Republicans are planning to kill “the state’s longstanding assistance for the blind.” Floor leader Jones called this “an extra benefit” (it helps 2,800 blind folks who don’t quite qualify for Medicaid), saying:

in tough economic times, extra programs that are specifically targeted to specific classes of individuals have to be looked at first.

Yes. Here in Missouri the first individuals to get a look in terms of budget cuts are the blind. I suppose somebody has to sacrifice to keep taxes low enough to attract all those bidnesses that never seem to get the message that they should pack up and move to Missouri.

Proper Role?

Speaking of bidnesses who aren’t moving to Missouri, I want to point out something important that House floor leader Jones said:

There’s a proper role for state government to create the environment by which businesses want to move here and create jobs here.

In Missouri, that means keeping taxes low, keeping wages low, keeping unions at bay, weakening already-weak workers’ compensation laws and other workers’ rights.

Oh yeah, I forgot about booting the blind from the budget. That’ll get bidnesses’ attention.

Roy Blunt: Never Let A Pothole Go To Waste

Claire McCaskill, nobody’s liberal Democrat, will undoubtedly find her reelection effort tough going this year, even as the GOP is set to nominate one of three right-wing extremists to oppose her.

But she is getting some help from a couple of big-shot Missouri Republicans. From The Kansas City Star:

Two prominent Republicans were among three dozen civic and political supporters of Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill who met in Kansas City last Monday to hear her plans for re-election.

Both are top officials at Kansas City Southern, where the meeting took place. One was company Chairman Michael Haverty. The other was the meeting’s host, KCS Executive Vice President Warren Erdman, who used to be chief of staff to former Republican Sen.Kit Bond.

Erdman likes the fact that McCaskill is a “pragmatist,” which coming from a Republican means she sometimes blesses Republican philosophy with her assent. “I like things that produce results,” Erdman said.

It’s not clear what Erdman would think of the unproductive efforts of Roy Blunt—our very red senator—to , well, I’ll just let Blunt’s press release tell you:

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) attempted to introduce a bipartisan amendment today to the federal highway reauthorization bill in order to repeal the Obama Administration’s unlawful health care mandate that violates Americans’ religious freedom.

Because highways have so much to do with contraceptives and conscience, Blunt didn’t see a problem with hijacking the federal highway bill to do a bit of
moralizing on behalf of those who hold extremist theological positions on birth control. Never let a pothole go to waste, is Blunt’s motto, I suppose.

In any case, Think Progress offered this short analysis of the potential broader implications of Blunt’s “conscience amendment,” should its implementation end up in the God-blessed hands of a Republican president:

Under the measure, an insurer or an employer would be able to claim a moral or religious objection to covering HIV/AIDS screenings, Type 2 Diabetes treatments, cancer tests or anything else they deem inappropriate or the result of an “unhealthy” or “immoral” lifestyle. Similarly, a health plan could refuse to cover mental health care on the grounds that the plan believes that psychiatric problems should be treated with prayer.

Don’t think such things aren’t possible, if Missourians send Sarah Steelman or Todd Akin or John Brunner to replace Claire McCaskill in the U.S. Senate, and if Missourians—including anti-Obama “pragmatists” like Republican Warren Erdman—send Mitt Romney (or maybe even worse, Rick Santorum) to the White’s House.

In that case, Roy Blunt’s amendment, and likely much worse, will become reality instead of mere moral theatrics.

Hold Your Nose

So much for the Democratic Party being in bed with Big Labor.

Most Senate Democrats, who have a Gingrich-like commitment to their political bedfellows, voted with most Republicans for the much-delayed Federal Aviation Administration bill.

For four years the long-term reauthorization of FAA programs has been in limbo (the FAA has continued operating under 23 temporary spending bills since 2007). For the last several months, the problem was primarily due to hostage-taking Republicans insisting that a provision be included in the law that would have counted abstentions in unionization votes as “no” votes (remember the partial shutdown last July?).

Democrats fought and won that battle, but apparently had no stomach to finish the job. Senate Democratic leadership (read: Harry Reid) yielded to House Republicans (our own Billy Long, a co-sponsor, among them) in a “compromise” that burdens transportation workers with a requirement that they must achieve the 50 percent threshold in order to have a vote on organizing a union (what kind of referendum is it that you have to have half on your side before you can even vote?).

The bill passed the Senate on Monday by a 75 to 20 vote, with only 14 Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders voting against it (Claire McCaskill, thankfully, was on the right side of this one).

As for Mr. Obama, who is expected to sign the legislation, Shane Larson, the legislative director of the Communications Workers of America, said,

We’re frustrated that the White House was not more engaged in this.

Frustrated, yes. But surprised? Nope. Mr. Obama’s White House has not exactly been excited to join the specific causes of unions, even as unions have been decimated by Republican attacks across the country.

The goal of the GOP is to make it very difficult for workers to organize themselves into middle-class-creating unions, and some Senate Democrats, who haven’t learned how to negotiate effectively with Republican hostage-takers, are making it too easy for the GOP to achieve that goal. (House Democrats stood strong and most of them voted against the bill.)

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are many important and crucial differences between the two parties; let’s never forget that fact.  Organized labor, which has taken a blow in this legislation, should resist the temptation to get angry and somehow punish Democrats for their failure to adequately defend workers’ interests.

Because, ultimately, to punish Democrats—traditional friends of organized labor—is to give a blessing to the other party—a party which routinely demonizes unions and what they stand for.

We simply have to hold our noses and go on.  For now.

Earmarks And Architecture

Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey are sponsoring legislation in the U.S. Senate that would ban forever the practice of earmarking, which, despite occasional corruption, is how a lot of good stuff gets done in this country. Earmarking brought us, for instance, the mapping of the human genome.

Some people, like Scott Grisch and Sean Kelly of California State University, even argue that the earmark process “is typically more open to public scrutiny than alternative methods of spending taxpayer dollars.”

But Sen. McCaskill, something of a budget hawk, has always had a problem with earmarking, notwithstanding the fact that it is a relatively trivial part of the budget.  So, in the spirit of compromise, I won’t begrudge her a little passion on the issue.

I do, though, want to point out something that happened this morning on MSNBC, when she and Sen. Toomey appeared together to promote their effort.

McCaskill, in response to a suggestion that Missouri voters want legislators to “use common sense and get along,” said the following:

The amplification in our system occurs at the two ends. And states like Missouri and Pennsylvania produce moderates to the United States Senate because they are moderate states. They’re not bright blue and they’re not bright red…if we hollow out the middle we’re not gonna get those compromises and all we’re gonna have is dysfunction and gridlock.

Now, of course we need compromise in Washington; that’s how things have worked historically. But one of those who has done most to stymie compromise was sitting right there with Ms. McCaskill. And let’s think about what she said for a minute:  Missouri and Pennsylvania produce moderates?  Well, under that analysis it is hard to explain Missouri’s other senator, Roy Blunt, and past senators John Ashcroft and Kit Bond and Jim Talent, who McCaskill defeated in 2006. Those weren’t moderates by any elastic definition of the word.

And as for Pennsylvania, let’s just look at Pat Toomey, McCaskill’s anti-earmark partner.  He ran the extremist group Club for Growth—its membership overloaded with Wall Streeters—before entering the Senate. Club for Growth has a reputation for trying to take out “moderate” Republicans like John McCain for not demonstrating proper respect for starving government to death.

Toomey has extremist positions on nearly every issue you can name, from abortion to guns to homosexual rights to deregulation. Earlier this year he produced a federal budget that was even more extremist than Paul Ryan’s. Here’s how the liberal monthly, The American Prospect, described the Toomey budget plan:

Ryan’s plan has been in the spotlight for at least two months, but Toomey’s proposal is a little more obscure and considerably more radical….Of the $3.8 trillion in cuts, $1.4 trillion would come from repealing the Affordable Care Act; $1.1 trillion would come from Toomey’s plan to turn Medicaid into a block grant and slash federal funding by half; $900 billion would come from cuts to programs for poor and lower-income Americans, like food stamps and unemployment insurance; and $400 billion would come from other areas of mandatory spending, including cuts in education and social services. The Bush tax cuts are kept in place, and any revenue gained from closing tax loopholes is redirected into lowering tax rates. There are cuts to defense spending, but they are the modest ones proposed by outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities] appreciates the lack of a Medicare voucher program, but balances that with an important observation: “His even more severe cuts in Medicaid and other programs aimed at helping the most vulnerable Americans mean that his plan overall would be even more damaging than the Ryan plan.”

The Toomey plan got 42 Republican votes in the Senate, two more than the Ryan plan.  The American Prospect argues that Republicans today have “a near-theological belief in the healing power of tax cuts,” and I submit to you that Pat Toomey, sitting there smiling with Claire McCaskill on national television, is a high priest of the Church of the Tax Cut.

Keep that in mind as you read what Toomey said this morning, sitting beside our moderate Missouri senator:

I think we’ve got to acknowledge that the fundamental design of the big entitlement programs is unsustainable. The architecture doesn’t work, and it is not gonna work. That is what every bi-partisan commission has acknowledged; this is what anybody who has looked honestly at Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security has concluded. So we need to have the courage to change that architecture in a way that makes sense, a way that still serves the people who need those programs…

Not a peep from McCaskill after that. Not a word that she will fight Toomey to protect the “fundamental design” of our social safety net. Mustn’t interrupt a made-for-TV bi-partisan moment.

Given Toomey’s extremist brand of conservatism and his anti-tax zealotry, when he says “we need to have the courage to change” the “architecture” of our safety net, we know for certain that the change will come down on the backs of those who need the programs, not on Toomey’s wealthy constituents all around the country.

And there was Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, sitting there, smiling, because she was able to get an extremist Republican to take a stand with her against earmarks, which often do a lot of good and represent less than two percent of the budget.

It’s one thing to compromise with folks who don’t share your views, as long as it is a real compromise and not a throw-in-the-towel deal just to get something done.  And I am fairly confident that Sen. McCaskill does not share Toomey’s undoubtedly dark vision for the future of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

But, Ms.McCaskill, could you at least have interrupted the guy long enough to let Missourians know that his vision of America’s entitlement future is much different from your own?

Claire McCaskill: Lighter In More Ways Than One

Claire McCaskill’s appearance on Morning Joe this morning was, I hate to say it, very discouraging for this Democrat.

But, on the bright side for her, what she said might encourage Republicans around the state, as they decide whether to vote for her or one of the right-wing extremists who will be running against her next year.

She talked about the Cardinals’ victory and her amazing weight loss (50 pounds), which was fine and dandy.  But it is what she didn’t say, I suppose, that has me worried. 

First, she was asked about the $60 billion infrastructure-jobs bill that is before the Senate, a bill which Republicans will soon kill:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Does it have a shot of passing?

MCCASKILL: No.

BRZEZINSKI: What are we doing here?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think what we’re trying to do is—frankly—what we’re trying to do is make sure the American people understand the contrast that’s going on right now and how hard we’re trying to work this. I do think it softens the field a little bit, plows the field for us to get back to a two-year extension of the surface transportation bill, which is very, very important in terms of jobs and economic development.

There. That’s it. That’s all she had to say about jobs in the entire nine-minute segment. Not a word about how Republicans have been sabotaging President Obama’s jobs effort, as a whole and in parts.  Not a word about how important it is for her Missouri constituents without jobs to hear that she is in Washington taking on Republicans who refuse to bend on the jobs front.

But, dammit, she did have something to say that should give warm fuzzies to Republicans fixated only on the debt and deficit:

MCCASKILL: We had a big breakthrough yesterday, huge.  We had a bunch of Republicans sign a letter saying that we needed to go “big” in terms of the super committee, that we can’t nibble around the edges, that we really need to look at our long-term debt and do something more than the bare minimum. And they said that we should consider revenue…

Wow! That “big breakthrough” involved 40 House Republicans (including Ozark Billy Long, miraculously, but responsibly) and 60 House Democrats sending a letter to the super committee saying, “all options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table.”

Now, that is certainly good news, and it sort of qualifies as big news, but it would have been gooder and bigger news way back when the debt ceiling nonsense was going on. Today it is a blip on the economic radar, as far as I’m concerned. The big news now, and should have been for a long while, is jobs, jobs, jobs.

But McCaskill just wanted to talk about how great it was that we might be able to start compromising and working together to cut the budget, which has absolutely nothing to do with creating jobs, only eliminating them.  At one point, she said,

I know how much Missourians want us to cut spending.

Oh, my Allah.

Just today, the Associated Press reported:

The ranks of America’s poorest poor have climbed to a record high — 1 in 15 people — spread widely across metropolitan areas as the housing bust pushed many inner-city poor into suburbs and other outlying places and shriveled jobs and income.

New census data paint a stark portrait of the nation’s haves and have-nots at a time when unemployment remains persistently high. It comes a week before the government releases first-ever economic data that will show more Hispanics, elderly and working-age poor have fallen into poverty.

In all, the numbers underscore the breadth and scope by which the downturn has reached further into mainstream America.

So, you see, while it may be fine for Senator McCaskill—whom I personally like very much—to get all giddy over a handful of Republicans coming to their senses on revenues, and it may be fine for her to get all excited about slashing the federal budget, but if Republicans don’t soon come to their senses over jobs, jobs, jobs, then it won’t matter much to a lot of Americans what the super-duper committee does.

And that’s the message Ms. McCaskill should have sent loud and clear this morning, especially to struggling Missourians.

Here is the relevant part of her disappointing appearance:

Blunt And McCaskill Team Up

Kudos to Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, who voted on Thursday for federal disaster relief for Missouri and elsewhere without strings attached.  

They rejected the view, first put forward by House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor just after the EF-5+ tornado hit Joplin, that such relief can only be provided if other cuts are made to the budget. That idea has no precedent in FEMA history.  Money for such disasters has never been the center of a political fight.

On Monday, a Senate Republican filibuster—I repeat: a Republican filibuster—temporarily defeated the disaster aid bill, but Majority Leader and Democrat Harry Reid brought it up again on Tuesday—I repeat: a Democrat brought it back up—and the filibuster was broken, thanks to a handful of Republicans, including Blunt.

The final vote on Thursday for the $7 billion aid bill was 62-37.  And noteworthy is the fact that not one single Republican senatorial neighbor of Missouri voted for disaster relief.  Not one. 

Also noteworthy is the stunning fact that neither Republican senator from Mississippi voted for the bill—despite the fact that Mississippi received around $10 billion in FEMA money after Hurricane Katrina, all of it provided without a fight over the budget. 

Now, we find that on Wednesday, House Republicans introduced a continuing resolution that would temporarily fund the entire government through the middle of November—the fiscal year ends on September 30—and in that resolution they not only propose insufficient disaster relief funds ($3.65 billion), they also propose paying for part of it by cutting a successful loan program that has helped the U.S. auto industry hold on to jobs here at home.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, whose state is trying to come back from its own economic disaster, said:

It’s outrageous that House Republicans are pushing a plan that would drive advanced technology jobs overseas, and that they are trying to ram it through by attaching it to disaster relief. These loans have helped businesses in Michigan and around the country build the products of the future here at home.

Michigan congressman Gary Peters said:

…House Republicans have shown that they don’t care about manufacturing jobs in places like the Greater Detroit Area.

Whether one agrees with Stabenow or Peters or others who object to cutting the loan program for the auto industry, the point is that we shouldn’t be fighting over the budget when it comes to federal aid for recovery from events like the Joplin tornado, horrific flooding around the country, earthquakes, or hurricanes.

If there is one thing we should be able to agree on, it is helping each other through emergencies.  And picking a fight over how to fund FEMA just further divides us.

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