This Is Where I Stand

I’m a political junkie. I was raised on politics. Some of my earliest memories are of attending and participating in campaign events. Politics were a regular topic of discussion around the dinner table as I was growing up. My undergraduate degree is in political science. I have always followed the political scene and the advent of social media has amplified that exponentially. It has also given me a platform for sharing my views and debating the issues, via my writing and podcasting. I have a voice, small though it may be. And I feel compelled to clear my throat and speak up.

Part of that compulsion stems from this phenomenal piece from Caleb Howe, which is how I started off my day. I wholeheartedly agree with Caleb on this and couldn’t improve upon it if I tried. Instead, what I aim to do here is declare where I stand. Which, to lay out clearly, may require a smidge of background: I’m new(ish) to the conservative movement, having traversed the (ever-increasing) divide between/from left to right in the early 2000’s. The shorthand and over-simplified illustration of that is that my presidential votes in 2000 and earlier were for the Democratic nominee; from 2004 forward, they were for the Republican nominee.  Until 2016. In October of last year, I summed up my take on our most recent election cycle in seven simple pictures.

In response to the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape and subsequent fallout, I wrote at length about the message we send by the leaders we choose. (It’s eerie re-reading that now and realizing how true it holds 10 months later.) I was as shocked as anyone on Election Night when the results started rolling in. I won’t lie — I was gratified to learn Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be our next president. But I sure as heck wasn’t happy that Donald Trump would be.  Dumbfounded was more like it. And the next day, I was caught off guard when my then-fourteen-year-old asked the troubling question: “Mom? How am I supposed to respect the President when the President is Donald Trump?” After hesitating, I responded, “Well, babe, that’s a really good question. I think…the answer to that is you respect the office and pray to God the man finds a way to live up to it.”

And I did. I truly did. I even (only somewhat jokingly) started addressing him on Twitter and including the hashtag #PleaseTryToLiveUpToTheOffice. I confessed to a liberal friend that my hope was that because Trump was seemingly so enthralled and motivated by “popularity,” he’d find a way to surround himself with competent professionals and let his job approval ratings serve as a political seeing-eye-dog, guiding him along a non-perilous path (for the country primarily, for him secondarily.)

And there have been moments — few and far between — but they have occurred, where I’ve been pleased with a pick he’s made or a stance he’s taken. But they don’t justify the entirety of his presidency. And they don’t justify his seeming inability to declare a red line so obvious a six-year-old should be able to draw it with a crayon.  I’m going to borrow from Caleb here to spell this out:

He failed us. In that defining moment, he failed you. He was inarguably late to condemn, he was wishy-washy, he made allowances and, to me, chief among the revelations of the past five days was his willingness to deliver praise. Listen to his words to hear what he says. That may sound redundant, but people are not doing it. Trump, in his outlandish plane crash of a presser on Tuesday, said that some among the Nazis and white supremacists who marched for racism and destruction in Charlottesville were “fine people.”

Fine people.

That is what he said. If you don’t believe me, you can watch it here. This is the full quote:

You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides.

No. You didn’t. You didn’t have “some very fine people on both sides.” You don’t get to say something like that and have me accept it. You just don’t.  You can say that there are decent people on both sides of the monument removal issue.  You can say there were bad actors on both sides because there inarguably were.  As Caleb rightly notes in this piece, Jake Tapper exposes the ugly side of “Antifa” quite clearly.  And this nonsense about how masked jackwagons, armed with clubs and mace, assaulting journalists — and even detestable Nazi Tiki-torch-bearing douchenozzles — are akin to our armed forces storming the beach at Normandy needs to knock it right the hell off.  That’s a huge part of our problem right now: people have entirely lost their grasp on perspective and rationality.  Every. Stinkin. Thing. is an ELEVENTY!!1!1!  on the Outrage Scale.  And anyone who has an opposing viewpoint is immediately demonized. If everyone on the other “side” is Hitler, then that epithet ceases to be meaningful. Please, save it for the actual Nazis — you know, the aforementioned Tiki-torch bearing douchenozzles. Don’t be this guy:

This guy’s part of the problem, not the solution. Recognize that reasonable people can hold differing viewpoints and the world isn’t going to end if every one of your Facebook friends doesn’t agree with every belief you hold dear. In other words:

Writing whole swaths of people — including former friends and family members — off because you simply can’t tolerate their differences of opinion is lazy. It says you aren’t willing to do the hard work of listening, thinking, challenging, and refining. It’s cowardly. It says you aren’t confident enough in your own views to rationally defend them.  And it’s wrong. It says you aren’t willing to love your neighbor as yourself. It turns you into the very thing you claim to loathe.  So, yes, denounce those who are letting hate be their guide. But don’t become them in the process.

There are millions (just shy of 63) of people in this country who voted for Donald Trump. They did so for a variety of reasons: Some are true believers; some genuinely thought him the lesser of two evils; some saw an opportunity to find some good; some just accepted him as the Republican nominee and voted for him because they always vote “R.” They are your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends and your family. Some — many — of them are just as disenchanted with him now as I am (and have been.) Some are ambivalent. Some are so damn sick and tired of being labeled “deplorable” by Hillary — and others — that they’re digging in and doubling-down on their support. That’s the wrong reason to support him. But I most certainly understand the sentiment. (Hey, “Stubborn as a Missouri mule,” is a saying for a reason.)

Labeling everyone on the “other side” the enemy and refusing to engage them in constructive fashion is not the answer. It further fuels the violence and hate. Meanwhile, the agents of discord are gleefully fanning the flames of our division, and happily profiting from it. Hoping that good people won’t come to their senses and remember the sentiments echoed in this Facebook post a friend shared last evening:

I copied this post from a friend…could not agree more!
What is America? Is it the Republican party? Is it the Democratic party? Alt-right? Antifa? BLM? Neo-nazis? Whoever the current president is at any particular time? CNN? FoxNews? NO! None of those things are America. America is your next door neighbor offering you a beer. It’s your co-workers buying your kid’s raffle tickets. It’s the people you go to church with, or ride bikes with, or deer hunt with. It’s Friday night football and dance recitals and cub scout meetings. It’s helping your neighbors when their house floods or taking in a child when they need new parents. It’s sending your sons and daughters to fight for freedom in a world that seems determined to kill it at all costs. Notice how none of that requires you to check or even care what race the other is? THAT is America. The rest of that garbage you see on TV is fringe groups. Those are people who are angry and will never be made happy till everyone is angry and full of the same hate. And it’s politicians and media making a career out of fanning those flames of anger. My guess is none of you, or a vast majority of you, know a single person active on either side of this ridiculousness. That’s because you are Americans.
Does this mean Americans have always acted perfectly? Of course not. Show me any group of people larger than 1 that has ever always acted perfectly. But if we continue to allow us to be defined by two groups who aren’t worthy of our attention, we will stop being America, and start being something we will never recognize. Nazism? Communism? Socialism? Kick it all to the curb where it belongs. Judge individuals on their merit, fight for liberty, and have a beer with your neighbor.
By: Charlie Kibbe– my amazingly eloquent big brother <3

As I observed last night:

Glenn Beck is another man with whom I don’t always agree, but who sometimes finds a way to cut through to the very heart of things. He did so the other night on Twitter and I appreciated his comments so much, I compiled them via Storify:

[<a href=”//storify.com/SmoosieQ/glenn-beck-s-latest-twitter-rant-is-spot-on” target=”_blank”>View the story “Glenn Beck’s Latest Twitter Rant Is Spot On” on Storify</a>]

No, I wasn’t inspired to dust off my Storify account by the Jake Tapper piece. I made mine first – I just wasn’t sure how to work it into a post. And then I was inspired by Caleb’s invitation this morning:

I ask and demand nothing, actually, here at the end of this. Instead I offer you something. The chance to land. The plane is in your hands, and with it the company. Stop whatabouting. Stop covering up. Stop carrying water. Stop pretending. And stop being silent. Say “Donald Trump was wrong. What he said does not represent me. I won’t belong to a party his words represent.” Say it without qualification or addendum. Because it is necessary. And because, I deeply hope and pray, it is true.

Donald Trump was wrong. What he said does not represent me. I won’t belong to a party his words represent.

THAT is where I stand.

I don’t belong to any party, frankly. I haven’t in a long time. But I won’t belong to one which embraces a “leader” who can’t figure out how to say definitively that people who march bearing swastikas and chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” are not “fine people.” They are people, as much protected by our Constitution as you or I. And they have the absolute legal right to hold their repugnant views and to express them (up to a point.) But they are not fine. They are not well at all. They are lost and they are letting hate be their guide.

Nazism, anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry are wrong. I neither support nor condone them in any way.

THAT is where I stand.

Demonizing and marginalizing all whose views represent “the other side” is wrong. Labeling them all as Nazis and racists and bigots is wrong.

THAT is where I stand.

We are called to love one another. We need to find a way to be better to one another. We need to find a way to disagree without resorting to violence. In this, we need to be united.

THAT is where I stand.

 

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Are These Dem Senators Sold on Single-Payer?

Recently, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has floated the idea of single-payer health care as a litmus test for would-be Democrat lawmakers. There’s surely support for this within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but it seems not all Democrats are eager to embrace the left’s holy grail of healthcare — particularly those hoping to hold onto seats in red (or reddish) states, such as Colorado and Missouri.

As Ed Morrissey writes over at Hot Air, Democrat Senator Michael Bennet voiced some doubt over the prospect at a town hall event earlier this week.  Speaking to an audience in Greeley, Colorado, on Monday, Bennet said he hoped that single-payer wouldn’t turn into a litmus test for Democrats, preferring instead to focus on programs already in place:

“I think we should have a discussion about how to expand Medicare, so that more people can be part of it or maybe be able to buy it and how to do the same with Medicaid.”

Some might question whether there’s a meaningful distinction between “expansion” and single-payer, or if the former won’t inevitably lead to the latter. Senator Bennet may be trying to have his cake and eat it, too.  (Shocking, right?!) As Ed rightly notes:

Greeley’s in the middle of Trump country in Colorado; he beat Hillary by over 30,000 votes out of roughly 123,000 cast. Progressives in Denver and Boulder counties will undoubtedly not cotton to that kind of talk about single-payer, but they’re pretty clearly the fringe in Colorado on this issue.

While Bennet isn’t up for re-election until 2022, he’s clearly cognizant of his constituency’s lack of enthusiasm for universal health care and hedging his bets accordingly.  Their recent resounding rejection of ColoradoCare makes clear that Colorado voters might not be so keen on Sanders’ vision.

Meanwhile, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill is up for re-election next year.  And in a state that went for Donald Trump by 19 points, she’s tiptoeing a verbal tightrope on the issue. Like Bennet, she’s suggested “simply” expanding Medicaid, but she’s also declined to affirmatively rule out single-payer.  Her waffling has opened the door for a primary challenger who is all-in on single-payer, Angelica Earl.

So Dems like Bennet and McCaskill may not be willing to dance wholeheartedly to Sanders’ single-payer tune, but it’s rather interesting — if not entertaining — watching them attempt to court his wing of the party without alienating the rest of their constituents.

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Trump Isn’t the Only Executive Battling Leaks

One of the unfortunate hallmarks of the Trump administration thus far has been an overabundance of leaks.  While Attorney General Jeff Sessions has now officially declared a #WarOnLeaks, it appears the President isn’t the only executive who’s battling them.

Kansas City Mayor, Sly James, has threatened to file ethics complaints against city council members for revealing information from closed sessions of council meetings, a number of which concern plans for a new terminal at KCI.  Two competing policies are in tension here:

The Missouri Sunshine Law requires elected bodies to hold discussions and votes in public settings, with some exceptions including receiving legal advice, negotiating a real estate deal or discussing personnel issues. Such negotiations can be held in private.

Kansas City’s ethics code says it’s a violation to divulge information from closed sessions without authorization.

Council members have voiced concerns over the “culture of secrecy” at City Hall.  James reportedly hasn’t yet initiated an investigation into the leaks, just issued the threat.

Interestingly enough, as noted by the KC Star:

The threat itself came during a closed session.

Sounds like someone (or several someones) in on the closed-door meetings is determined to bring more of their meetings out into the open. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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The NAACP Is Giving People Travel Warning Whiplash

Last week, the NAACP made the unprecedented move of issuing a travel warning for the State of Missouri.  While not the only reason cited, the primary justification offered for this move was the recent passage in Missouri of Senate Bill 43, which, the NAACP has labeled a “Jim Crow law,” in light of the higher burden of proof it imposes in discrimination lawsuits.

As I wrote previously, the St. Louis County chapter of the NAACP pushed back on the warning/advisory, citing concerns that the warning would, in fact, harm those it purportedly aimed to protect.

Now, however, the local chapter has reversed its stance on this issue and “wholeheartedly supports” the advisory.

On Saturday, officials from the county chapter said in a statement that they had a change of heart “after additional study and consultation with our state conference.”

“Those who sponsored this bill have used deceptive tactics to conceal what they’ve actually done,” said St. Louis County NAACP President Esther Haywood in a statement. “They’ve taken away our protections from unlawful and immoral discrimination. Just how far back in time are they planning to take us?”

So, it looks like the local branch and national organization are back to being on the same page. And Missouri holds the dubious distinction of being the only (or perhaps just the first) state which the NAACP has officially deemed dangerous to travel. Lovely.

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Not So Fast, NAACP!

As RedState’s Kira Davis reported, earlier this week, the NAACP issued an unprecedented “travel warning” for the State of Missouri in response to the recent passage of a tort reform measure which raised the burden of proof in discrimination lawsuits. This followed the state chapter’s issuance of the warning back in June.

But a local chapter of the NAACP is now pushing back on the advisory.  The St. Louis County chapter is taking issue with the warning, noting its potential negative impact on some of the very people it purports to protect:

Officials with the St. Louis County NAACP issued a statement Thursday pushing back against the travel advisory, saying the measure could hurt the region’s economy and harm African-Americans working in the hospitality industry.

….

The St. Louis County NAACP says it opposes the law and similar ones that it says are in place in 38 other states. But it says the travel advisory hurts African-American workers “who have played no role in this legislation.”

“We suggest that if the NAACP does not rescind their advisory immediately, then they should add to it the other 38 states, which all already have this standard for monitoring discrimination in place,” St. Louis County NAACP President Esther Haywood said in the statement.

The St. Louis County chapter aren’t the only ones expressing concern over the warning. The University of Missouri, which is also singled out in both the national and the state chapter’s advisory, has come up with some potential talking points to counter the accusations. An e-mail from Chancellor Alexander Cartwright to “Anyone who interacts with MU students” included the following suggestions:

POTENTIAL TALKING POINTS:
·         We hold true to our values of respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence. We have a deep respect for everyone on campus and the diversity that they bring to our campus.
·         Our diversity is our strength, and this includes every form of diversity – geographic, diversity of thought, sexual orientation, race, gender, ethnicity, religious preference, academic discipline, etc.
·         We want our students, faculty and staff here—together, we can change the world. Change never happens on its own.
·         We are here because we want to make a difference. We encourage prospective students, faculty and staff to join us in our efforts as we work to change the world.
·         We want to build Mizzou as a model for inclusion.
·         MU is working with community organizations outside the university that are interested in adopting our inclusion and excellence framework. We are becoming a national model of excellence for issues related to diversity and inclusion.
·         We recognize this is a national issue, and we been out front on this for the past year and a half.  Mizzou continues to expand its reach.
·         Safety is our No. 1 priority. Recently, the campus was ranked in the top 10 for safety and safety resources available to faculty, staff and students. (We have the only law enforcement agency in the state that is accredited by two outside organizations.)

As the statement from the St. Louis County NAACP chapter rightly notes, Missouri’s Senate Bill 43 is hardly unique. So why single out Missouri? And will it have any appreciable impact on the influx of travelers expected to the state for the solar eclipse later this month?

 

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How Charlie Gard “Will Make a Difference to People’s Lives for Years to Come”

Earlier this week, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, the parents of Charlie Gard, announced their heartbreaking decision to stop seeking treatment on his behalf. As Chris Gard said at the time, “We’ve decided it’s no longer in Charlie’s best interest to pursue treatment and we’ll let our son go to be with the angels.” Sadly, the news came yesterday that Charlie has indeed joined the angels.

Listening to Chris Gard read the family’s statement about their decision earlier this week, I was particularly struck by this part:

Despite the way that our beautiful son has been spoken about sometimes, as if he is not worthy of a chance at life, our son is an absolute warrior and we could not be prouder of him and we will miss him terribly.

His body, heart and soul may soon be gone, but his spirit will live on for eternity and he will make a difference to people’s lives for years to come. We will make sure of that.

Chris Gard is right. And I am absolutely certain that Charlie will make a difference.

How can I be so certain? Because of the profound effect another well-known, tragic figure once had on my own beliefs. I wasn’t always conservative and I wasn’t always pro-life. I was raised a Liberal — by loving, compassionate, well-intentioned, Classical Liberals, with occasional bouts of progressivism balanced out by fleeting moments of conservatism — but I was decidedly liberal. Though my family was liberal and held most of the traditional liberal views, we never really discussed abortion. I, without being willing to examine the issue overly closely, simply characterized myself as someone who was pro-choice, even though I would never personally choose to abort my child.  I maintained that it wasn’t my place to make that decision for someone else, and carefully side-stepped any deeper exploration of the issue.  In fact, I’m somewhat ashamed to acknowledge, I felt smugly superior holding this nuanced and “enlightened” view of the matter.

I was 6 weeks pregnant when the September 11th attacks occurred.  I’ve detailed my recollections of that horrible day elsewhere, but one of the salient memories of it is coming home to a message on the answering machine from my doctor’s office — my hormone levels were low, and I was at risk for miscarrying. They had called in a prescription for me.  When I picked it up from the pharmacy, still numb from the day’s events, I read the warnings, which included possible birth defects, and called the doctor’s office back in a panic. I was assured the benefits outweighed the risks, and it was okay to take the medication.

Fortunately, from that point on, my pregnancy progressed quite smoothly.  When it came time for the 20-week ultrasound, my (then) husband and I were excited.  Even though I never really could make out most ultrasound pictures, it was still fun to see our baby as she developed — and yes, we learned at that point we were having a little girl. We also learned there might be a problem:  The tech advised us that the ultrasound revealed choroid plexus cysts in our baby’s brain, and left to get the genetic specialist to come talk to us. Though not definitive, there is thought to be a correlation between the presence of these cysts and a condition called “Trisomy 18”, which is a genetic abnormality in which a third copy of chromosome 18 is present.  We were told that the vast majority of babies with this condition die either before or shortly after birth.  Those who live have severe health problems and a very low life expectancy.  We were told an amniocentesis could verify if, in fact, our baby had this condition.  We were given some time to consider our options.

I was aware that amniocentesis carried with it its own risks — I recalled reading that there was a 1 in 200 chance it could cause a miscarriage.  As my husband and I discussed it, I kept thinking to myself, “So what am I going to do if the test confirms she has this?”  And I knew — in a heartbeat, I knew — there was no way I would ever opt to terminate the pregnancy, regardless of what the tests showed.  So there was really no point in taking the added risk of the amnio.

Thankfully, though my daughter had some other complications due to arriving 6 weeks early, she did not, it turned out, have any genetic defects, and is, today a healthy, happy, 15 year old.  But the experience of being faced with that choice — even theoretically — was a crucial step in my journey towards becoming pro-life.  Yes, it was my baby I was considering, and yes, I’d always thought I’d never choose to terminate a pregnancy. But being forced to think about it in more concrete terms also forced me to think about what it meant for others.  It wasn’t so easy to keep it in the realm of the abstract anymore.

And yet, I remained “pro-choice” (for others.) I wasn’t fully ready to wrestle with the issue; to look it — or, perhaps myself — square in the face and dig down to the heart of the matter. Then the Terri Schiavo case took over the national news. Reflexively, I took the position that, while I sympathized with her parents’ desire to keep their daughter alive, legally the call belonged to her husband (absent concrete evidence of wrongdoing on his part). And if he (and the courts) believed she wouldn’t have wished to continue life-prolonging measures, then they oughtn’t be continued. The topic became one of intense debate on a political message board to which I belonged, and I found myself embroiled in daily debates about it.

Repeatedly, I laid out the defenses of my position, anxious to prove myself right. But…why was I so anxious? The situation didn’t involve me or anyone I knew directly. And nothing I said or did about it would make any difference. I was just an anonymous person on the internet; one of many voices shouting into the void. But I kept at it. As did those with whom I was arguing. I challenged them, and they challenged me — some harshly, some with a gentle and abiding faith. And all the while, I felt an internal tug of war. Something was pushing back, against and past my lawyerly adamance. I lived in a constant state of disquiet during the weeks and months the debate over Terri Schiavo’s fate raged on.

Shortly before the final court decision was rendered, I experienced a sea change — in my heart and in my soul. My “defenses” dissolved and I embraced the notion that all life has value, that “All who are among the living have hope.” I recall that feeling — that knowledge — washing over me and taking hold like few things have done in my life. Part of me wondered why I’d been so resistant to it previously, aside from simply wanting to be “right.” I finally determined it had far more to do with not being “wrong.” Because if I was wrong on that, then I was wrong in my views on abortion, something I’d been adamantly defending for years.  And acknowledging that, coming to terms with that, inevitably meant embracing a deeper form of heartache than I’d been prepared to do. Because if one values all life, then one necessarily mourns its loss — and assumes a certain amount of responsibility for defending and supporting it. There’s an attendant investment in our fellow human beings that comes along with it. It requires more of us than nuanced, legal/academic and safely disinterested arguments. It is hard.

It was hard when they removed Terri Schiavo’s life support, and hard when she passed away. But I was thankful for her and for the lesson her life and the tragic circumstances surrounding her death taught me. She mattered and she made a difference to me — to many — from thousands of miles away and even in her diminished capacity.

Just as the plight of young Justina Pelletier would do some eight years later. Her case drew attention to the dangers of bureaucratic and state overreach and made millions aware of the concept of “medical kidnapping.” Fortunately, Justina survived her ordeal and was released from Boston Children’s Hospital — after 16 months. Her parents weren’t forced to sit by helplessly and watch her die.

Charlie Gard’s parents were. Chris Gard’s statement drives home just how tragic and needless this was:

We are now in July and our poor boy has been left to just lie in hospital for months without any treatment whilst lengthy court battles have been fought.

Tragically having had Charlie’s medical notes reviewed by independent experts, we now know had Charlie been given the treatment sooner, he would have had the potential to be a normal healthy little boy.

Where there is life, there is hope. No guarantee, but hope. And it isn’t for the State — not in the UK, not in the US — to remove that hope. As Caleb Howe put it so beautifully earlier this week:

We are constantly reminded of the loss and pain that come to those who have no access to health care. If we are honest people, we are also constantly reminded of the sorrow and tragedy that follow authoritarian control of our lives. Is there a solution out there that will keep the most Americans the most free, the healthiest, and the least burdened by those blessings? Maybe there is. Maybe the stumbling GOP hasn’t found it. Maybe the overwrought Democrats don’t know of it. But we should know what not to do.

We should not let what happened to Charlie Gard happen here.

No. We shouldn’t. That is the lesson — the gift — given to us by little Charlie in his far too short life.  Somewhere out there, there are people who’ve been touched by Charlie’s story. Who’ve stopped and reconsidered their views on life, on health care, on the powers that we should and shouldn’t afford our governments. Who will be advocates for life and liberty going forward, fueled in some part by the memory of Charlie. That is how he can — and will — make a difference to people’s lives for years to come.

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Spicer Busts a Move?

What’s a newly unemployed Comms Director/Press Secretary to do? Put on his red shoes and dance the blues, perhaps? Rumor has it Sean Spicer may be in negotiations with “Dancing with the Stars” to join the cast.

A source that Page Six calls a TV insider said Spicer’s move to “Dancing with the Stars” “has legs,” adding that DWTS reached out to him to inquire about it.

He certainly wouldn’t be the first high-profile Republican to grace the DWTS stage. (Who can forget Rick Perry’s lively turn?)

Though Spicer has thus far declined to comment, the news was well-received on Twitter:

Some may wonder if “Spicey” will employ his infamous podium as a prop. (And Melissa McCarthy and SNL are likely salivating at the prospect.)  Personally, I’m wondering if he’ll…do the Fandango?

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Claire McCaskill’s Prospective Challengers Are Lining Up

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill (D) is up for re-election in 2018.  It’s expected to be a lively contest, as it was in 2012 when then-Congressman Todd Akin emerged from a tough GOP primary battle only to shoot himself in the foot so hard his great-grandchildren will feel it.  McCaskill is thought to be more vulnerable this time around: Missouri went for Trump by 19 points, has a Republican Governor and a Republican in every state office save Auditor, and a Republican supermajority in its legislature. It’s trending quite red these days, despite its more liberal/urban enclaves.

McCaskill’s would-be challengers are beginning to line up. While Congresswoman Ann Wagner, who represents Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District, has announced she won’t be seeking the Senate seat, several others have declared or signaled their interest.  Austin Petersen, who was the Libertarian Party’s runner-up to Gary Johnson in 2016’s presidential election, announced on July 4th that he will run as a Republican. Tony Monetti, currently the assistant dean of Central Missouri University in Warrensburg, Missouri, is also running.  Just yesterday, State Representative Paul Curtman announced that he is forming an exploratory committee for a run for the seat, as well.

Rumors abound that state Attorney General Josh Hawley also may throw his hat into the race.  In fact, he’s been encouraged to by several prominent office holders and former office holders, including Vice President Mike Pence.  Hawley hasn’t ruled it out, though per his interview on 97.1FM Talk this morning, he maintains he is focused right now on his current job.  Other names bandied about include Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (currently representing Missouri’s 3rd District), Peter Kinder (former Missouri Lt. Governor), Eric Schmitt (Missouri State Treasurer), and Congressman Jason Smith (8th District).

The deadline to file for the seat is March 27, 2018, so there’s still a long way to go before the field is set. Hopefully, whoever wins the nomination will make a point to avoid fatal verbal gaffes.

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The Guardian Steps in It While Giving the Cold Shoulder to Paul Ryan

Ladies beware: Those nasty Republicans are coming to take away all your rights and this time, they really mean business! According to The Guardian, not only are they plotting to steal your healthcare, they’re robbing you of your God-given right to bare your shoulders in the Speaker’s lobby, a small room outside the House chamber where reporters snag interviews with lawmakers.

As I’ve written previously, I’m the last person who’ll submit docilely to a sexist dress code.  So if the code in question were new and/or aimed solely at women, I’d perhaps cut the author of The Guardian piece an ounce of slacks…er..slack.  But it’s neither.  Not only that – the author acknowledges as much in her piece, yet nevertheless uses it to blast Republicans in general and Paul Ryan in particular for their horrific misogyny. Or toxic masculinity. Or something.

Naturally, the holes in her logic were called out on Twitter:

The author takes a half-hearted stab at pre-empting these protestations with this:

So first, let’s get a couple of things straight: yes, there has always been a House dress code, which states, rather vaguely, that people should dress “appropriately”. What this means is left up to the House speaker. Step forward, one Paul Ryan! And yes, these rules have existed for over a decade, predating former speaker Nancy Pelosi.

What’s that you say? There’s always been such a code requiring appropriate dress?  And it’s up to the Speaker to determine what’s appropriate?  And the rules even pre-date Nancy Pelosi?  But somehow it’s Paul Ryan who’s the bad guy here. Oh. Okay. Here’s some more of her stellar logic:

However, Byrd said officers on patrol have been “cracking down on the dress code” recently. “I suspect the rules are being emphasised now that it’s summertime and excruciatingly hot outside and everyone is dressing for the weather,” she added. So this is about how much Republicans hate women and how much they hate journalists. Gosh, killing two birds with one stone is fun.

Let’s review that again: The reporter who was the subject of the original story notes that there’s been a recent crackdown due to rising summer temperatures and concomitant shoulder and toe-baring. (You mean…sleeveless dresses and open-toed shoes aren’t the norm in January?!?!) According to the author, this equals: Republicans hating women and journalists. Am I the only one noticing her slip showing here?

Then, just to really drive her point home, she adds:

Indeed, Ryan recently took time out from his busy schedule of being a spineless Trump apologist to remind Congress of the importance of “appropriate business attire”, not bothering to explain (a) what this means, (b) why he’s so scared of shoulders and (c) why it’s totally appropriate for, say, Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka Trump to wear sleeveless dresses – their favourite style, incidentally – and still be, respectively, counselor to the president and apparent president-in-waiting.

In other words, Paul Ryan and those chauvinistic Republicans oppose women baring their shoulders. Except for when they’re (apparently) fine with…women baring their shoulders.  Why, it’s almost as if proper context totally undercuts the author’s tirade!

And as for the point that the dress code applies to everyone and not just the wimmins:

Of course, some people (men) have tried to defend this banning of lady shoulders by saying that male lobby journalists have to wear suits and ties. That is such an excellent point – except that sleeveless dresses and open-toe shoes for women are generally considered acceptable office wear by offices that are not in Saudi Arabia.

Newsflash, sister: Polo shirts and khakis are generally considered acceptable summer office wear for men. Funnily enough, they don’t pass muster for the Speaker’s lobby either.

I know, I know…applying proper context and logic would rob her of the chance to say this:

Republicans see women as uncontrollable, brain-dead sexual temptresses who, for the good of the helpless menfolk around them, need to be kept far away from things such as birth control and abortion. Otherwise they’ll become nymphomaniacs, popping five morning-after pills before breakfast and getting an abortion after lunch. And it all starts with the shoulders, you see. They’re just saving us ladies from ourselves! And them!

And you just know she’s been dying to!

So, to sum up: There’s a dress code which applies in certain areas of the Capitol which is more formal than the business casual and summer months attire many of us enjoy in less official venues. It applies to everyone, not just the ladyfolk, and it’s been around for quite awhile, during the tenure of both Democrat and Republican and female and male Speakers. But it’s all Paul Ryan’s fault because he hates women because he’s a Republican and that’s what they do.

 

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Source: Red State


Does the SCOTUS’ Ruling in Trinity Lutheran “Profoundly Change” the Relationship Between Church and State?

As we reported earlier, the Supreme Court issued a much-anticipated ruling today dealing with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. In the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, the Court held that the policy of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which prohibited participation in the State’s Scrap Tire Program by churches, sects, or religious entities, violated the rights of the Church under the Free Exercise Clause. Denying the Church an otherwise available public benefit due to its religious status amounted to putting Trinity Lutheran to the following choice: “It may participate in an otherwise available benefit program or remain a religious institution.”

The program in question offers qualifying nonprofit organizations grants for installing playground surfaces made from recycled tires.  Pursuant to Article I, Section 7 of Missouri’s Constitution (commonly referred to as the state’s “Blaine Amendment”), the DNR “had a strict and express policy of denying grants to any applicant owned or controlled by a church, sect, or other religious entity.” Thus, although the Church qualified for the program — and was, in fact, ranked fifth out of the 44 applicants for the year in question — its application was denied by the DNR. The Church filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, which ruled in favor of the State, as did the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Shortly before the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case, Missouri’s Governor, Eric Greitens, announced that he was directing the DNR to cease its previous policy and to begin allowing religious organizations to compete for the DNR grants.  Nevertheless, the Court proceeded to hear and rule on the case, finding that this policy change did not render the matter moot, as it could just as easily be reversed.  The Court addressed this in Footnote 1, but it is Footnote 3 which appears to be a sticking point for several of the justices. While the decision was 7 to 2, Justices Thomas and Gorsuch took issue with the Court’s caveat that:

‘This case involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing. We do not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.”

Both Thomas and Gorsuch found this a bit too narrow.  Thomas, in his concurrence, took issue with the Court’s reliance on a 2004 Free Exercise case, Locke v. Davey, as he joined Scalia in dissent on that one.  In his concurrence, Gorsuch first explained his concern regarding relying on a distinction between religious status and religious use to distinguish the holding in Locke, as a line which might too readily be blurred. He then points out that, while Footnote 3:

“Is entirely correct…I worry that some might mistakenly read it to suggest that  only ‘playground resurfacing’ cases, or only those with some association with children’s safety or health, or perhaps some other social good we find sufficiently worthy, are governed by the legal rules recounted in and faithfully applied by the Court’s opinion. Such a reading would be unreasonable for our cases are ‘governed by general principles, rather than ad hoc improvisations….’ And the general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise — whether on the playground or anywhere else.” (Citation ommitted.)

Justice Breyer also filed a concurring opinion, in which he noted “no significant difference” between this program aimed at improving the health and safety of children and other general government services, such as police and fire protection. He points out that cutting off religious schools or other entities like Trinity Lutheran from such services clearly is not the purpose of the First Amendment.

In setting forth the Court’s rationale for the decision, Chief Justice Roberts has some encouraging observations for those who prize the First Amendment and, in particular, religious liberty:

“The express discrimination against religious exercise here is not the denial of a grant, but rather the refusal to allow the Church—solely because it is a church—to compete with secular organizations for a grant….Trinity Lutheran is a member of the community too, and the State’s decision to exclude it for purposes of this public program must withstand the strictest scrutiny. (Citation ommitted.) 

….

“The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has not subjected anyone to chains or torture on account of religion. And the result of the State’s policy is nothing so dramatic as the denial of political office. The consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees. But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.”

Then we get to the dissent, penned by Justice Sotomayor (and joined by Justice Ginsburg.)  In her dissent, Sotomayor opined that:

“The Court today profoundly changes [the relationship between church and state] by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church.”

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read the entire dissent, but I question Sotomayor’s characterization of the decision. Disallowing the exclusion of a religious organization from a public benefit solely because it is a church profoundly changes the church-state dynamic?!

Shortly after it was handed down, I had the opportunity to speak with Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, and inquired as to her take on Sotomayor’s contention.  She called it “nonsense,” and pointed out that Sotomayor’s own opinion makes it clear that historically, there have been far greater instances of involvement between church and state which have been upheld.

Ms. Severino expressed little surprise at the ruling, as it was consistent with the justices’ questioning during oral argument. A big takeaway from this ruling, she believes, is that it, combined with the ruling last week in Matal v. Tam, are encouraging signs that this Court is still very committed to the First Amendment and holding firm on the notion that the government should not be in the business of picking and choosing between religious groups or viewpoints.  To that, I say, “Amen!”

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