Archive | April, 2013

When Soldiers Go Social on Politics

29 Apr

File this one under “shameless self-promotion.”

My National Law Journal piece out today takes a look at the legal restrictions on soldiers’ political speech online — particularly making disparaging remarks about the commander-in-chief — in light of the popular use of sharing political views through social networking such as like Facebook and Twitter.

The National Law Journal (4/29/13)


Although the Uniform Code of Military Justice criminalizes a servicemember’s use of ‘contemptuous words’ against the president, some use social media to insult Obama.

Profiles in Courage, “1st Ed.”

28 Apr

jfk_profilesincourageInspired by the works and writings of two of my political heroes, John and Robert Kennedy, today I offer up the first installment in a new series of posts we’ll aptly refer to as “Profiles in Courage.”

I hope readers will come to enjoy this new effort to specifically highlight powerful quotes and recent rhetoric in the news attributed to great leaders from across the political spectrum that are strengthening the notions of accessible democracy and responsible citizenship — the pillars of The Project Manifesto.

To get started, it only seems fitting to begin with one of my favorite quotes from then-Senator Kennedy’s “Profile in Courage” memoir which really sums up our goals more artfully than I can:

“In a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, ‘holds office'; every one of us is in a position of responsibility, and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.” – John F. Kennedy

Bubba Tweets!

25 Apr

Most of you know that the genesis of Bubba on Twitter come from his recent appearance on The Colbert Report to tout Clinton Global Initiative efforts.

From the Yahoo! News blurb:

During last night’s Colbert Report, filmed at the Clinton Global Initiative University meeting in St. Louis, Colbert segued a discussion of whether young people should get into politics into Clinton’s social media presence. After Clinton discussed how new email was during his presidency, Colbert decided to get Clinton into the 21st Century. “Well, sir, I took the liberty of opening you a Twitter account,” he said, explaining that “PresidentClinton” and “WilliamJeffersonClinton” were taken, but “PrezBillyJeff” was available.

You’ll note the switch to the “more dignified” social networking moniker he’s using now from the original @PrezBillyJeff  handle he was originally assigned by Comedy Central’s king of sarcasm. Watch Colbert’s update to all of these developments here:

Cotton’s Fuzzy Math

25 Apr

GOP golden boy, AR-04 Rep. Tom Cotton, added his voice to the recent media flurry of George W. Bush revisionism that has preceded today’s Bush Center opening ceremonies. Though Cotton’s remarks on the House floor yesterday were a clear attempt to score a few cheap political points out of the Boston Marathon bombing events by blaming them on President Obama, his brief diatribe revolved around the rather peculiar argument that President Bush actually had a pitched a perfect game when it come to keeping the country from being victimized from terrorism on our own soil . . . you know, except for that 9/11 thing.

From The Last Word (linked above):

A week after the Boston Marathon bombings, the first successful terrorist bombing on U.S. soil since 2001, a Republican freshman Congressman made an invalid argument that President George W. Bush did a better job keeping America safe from terrorism but failed to mention the 9/11 attacks.

What gall, huh? Now let’s take a quick trek down memory lane, shall we?

This since 9/11 rhetoric seems to be a pretty convenient starting point for rewriting recent history, especially considering the line of attack Cotton directed towards the current commander-in-chief. You know, the only POTUS out of the two being compared here that actually made it a priority to find Bin Laden and destroy Al Qaeda’s leadership. Facts and irony being what they are, here is the most recent contribution to the annals of the Congressional Record and C-SPAN video archives from Arkansas’s freshman congressman:

“I rise today to express grave doubts about the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policies and programs. Counterterrorism is often shrouded in secrecy, as it should be, so let us judge by the results. In barely four years in office, five jihadists have reached their targets in the United States under Barack Obama: the Boston Marathon bomber, the underwear bomber, the Times Square bomber, the Fort Hood shooter, and in my own state — the Little Rock recruiting office shooter.In the over seven years after 9/11 under George W. Bush, how many terrorists reached their target in the United States? Zero! We need to ask ‘why is the Obama Administration failing in its mission to stop terrorism before it reaches its targets in the United States?”

Despite his best effort to deliver a soldier’s impassioned plea, Cotton’s selective memory and overly-prepared remarks sure have the feel of being just another dose of typical GOP template-politicscomplete with the standard list of talking points that have no doubt been distributed to Fox News & Co. to be subsequently repeated by every Rethug making the media rounds right now. And I’d venture to guess there’s a real good chance it’s Lil’ Billy Kristol behind this push as another way to raise the profile and national ambitions of his shining star from Yell, AR. Because otherwise it’s awfully hard to believe that one could claim Mr. Obama has been “failing” when it comes to protecting the American homeland, then attempt to “yada, yada, yada” the fact that on 9/11 that same homeland lost nearly 3,000 innocent people because of Al Qaeda reaching its targets. Presidential leadership amounted to some spoiled twit who had opted for “My Pet Goat” instead of briefings like “Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside U.S.” that day, did it not?

Miss ME yet?On top of the blatant hypocrisy of ignoring that failing, this disengenious “since 9/11″ count also leaves out the anthrax attacks that soon followed, the Richard Reid shoe bombing, dirty bomb schemer Jose Padilla, the shooting at LAX in 2002, as well as the horrific shooting spree of murderers Mohammed and Malvo, the two Beltway-area snipers.

You can watch the fuzzy math play out in Cotton’s screams of “FIVE!” and “ZERO!” from the House of Representatives below:

Mike Ross 2.0: Ladies’ Man?

22 Apr

Ross-kick-off_womenLook out, it’s Mike Ross 2.0! The reinvented version, who was brought out of a very short political retirement by the party establishment, is forging ahead with a campaign strategery where he’ll tout himself as a “champion” for the rights of women in this state. Someone who will be able to defend them against those wacky GOP social ideologues who wasted no time in coming to power and enacting an agenda that seemed to offend the otherwise practical and sensible nature of Arkansans from all political stripes. By sharing his outrage about these  legislative controversies to voters, he seeks to prove his bonafides as Arkansas’s new Ladies’ Man, one might conclude.

Yes, really. He’s going there.

What’s that, you say? Everything he’s done as an elected official prior to his announcement of campaigning for governor tells us something entirely different?

Oh, I agree. Because your claims of the rhetoric not at all matching the reality is the one thing here that actually is true.

Now wipe that completely confused (and slightly constipated) look off your mug and walk through this with me.

Over at Arkansas Blog today, Max Brantley discussed the move from Planned Parenthood to highlight some of the former AR-04 congressman’s controversial and disconnected votes concerning the rights of women to control their own bodies and the funding for programs that support their overall health needs, and to press him on how he squares those actions with his recent rhetoric that tries to make his votes appear different than those cast by Republicans (and some Democrats) in the General Assembly:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross made encouraging sounds about looking out for women’s medical services and the ability to choose abortion when he announced last week. But his past record has included votes to restrict abortion and funding for Planned Parenthood, which recently survived a legislative attack on funding for its sex education work in Little Rock.

Republicans, who LIKED Ross’ past record, have been hooting about Ross’ pitch to women. Bill Halter, his Democratic opponent, has been beating up Ross as the next Jason Rapert. Ross himself has explicitly said 1) he’d have vetoed the abortion restriction bills Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed and 2) he would NOT support defunding of Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services in Arkansas.

An issue for the long-term? Republicans arguing that Mike Ross isn’t as liberal as he wants to you believe? Maybe not. But the Democratic primary is something else.

The facts: Mike Ross co-sponsored a controversial bill, long with Missouri’s infamous Todd “Legitimate Rape?” Akin, that sought to redefine the definition of rape and would have prevented women from obtaining important medical care, and has also twice voted to stop federal funds from going to groups like Planned Parenthood, who provide women with myriad health services beyond those related to pregnancy and abortion.

For his part, candidate Ross claims the legislation he helped put forth was somehow not the same as what was recently enacted in Arkansas, and that his position on abortion is actually “unchanged” from his time in the House of Representatives:

“Let me be clear about my position and what it has always been. I am personally opposed to abortion. I do not believe, I do not support government-funded abortions with state or federal dollars. But like Gov. Beebe, I believe, from a public policy perspective, it should be safe, legal and rare,” [Ross] said.

Despite his politically-expedient “evolution” on these issues, and his accompanying public display of “outrage” towards the likes of Sen. Jason Rapert and the rest of the ARGOP’s in leading the Arkansas Legislature to enact these sorts of restrictions, Boss Ross has an accessible voting record we concerned citizens can review which paints a very different picture of where the man actually stands. Indeed, his was a very shameful showing of bi-partisanship at its worst when it comes to siding up with Republicans in their “War on Women” crusades.

As you would expect, Bill Halter’s campaign wasted no time weighing in on the almost Mitt Romney-esque level of flip-flopping hypocrisy shown by the recently self-proclaimed “frontrunner”:

After announcing that he would not run for reelection to Congress and less than two months after saying he was not going to run governor, Mike Ross showed his true colors and voted for this ban. Only now that he is running for governor, has he chosen to flip-flop to suit his own political ambition. Mike Ross’s statements are not consistent with his own previous actions.

Mike Ross talks about believing in Arkansas values, but yesterday he demonstrated a determined willingness to ignore those values when it served his own political ambition.

With Bill Halter, Arkansans know where he stands. He would have vetoed the abortion bills and he never would have supported the attacks on women that Mike Ross promoted by cosponsoring and voting for legislation that would have restricted women from receiving important medical care.

Mike Ross’s record of denying women access to medical care is only one of many aspects of an overall record that Arkansans will find troubling. I am confident that the Arkansas press corps will do their homework and hold Mr. Ross accountable for his own record, rather than allow him to run on someone else’s record.

Democratic_Party_of_Arkansas_LogoThis state — and the floundering state party who, by any reasonable account, have been unable to regroup and come to grips with how to still have some relevance while in the minority, needs a leader with authentic convictions that understands how to build support for real reform so we can move ahead. In my mind, Democrats here should be lining up to support someone who is, at the very least, a consistent “D” in the way they generally approach policy. Hell, one day we may even learn to raise those expectations enough to get beyond some of the same unresponsive establishment do-nothing-ness that has allowed the party to  drift aimlessly into the political wilderness.

bill-halter-glowMore inspiring would be to see the calls for real reform led by someone that is not only bold enough to offer innovative ideas, but also has the conviction and know-how to effectively rally the masses against GOP priorities that thwart Arkansas’s economic and social progress. For my money, Bill Halter is the only person that provides a chance for this to happen.

We’ll never be able to truly move this state forward if we accept anything less than the best we have to offer. The days where we are able to collectively say “Thank God for Mississippi” may be dwindling, you know.

(You can watch Roby Brock’s full interview with Mike Ross from last night’s Talk Business show below.)

AR Medicaid Expansion: Dems’ Playbook?

20 Apr

Make no mistake, Arkansas Republicans campaigned on, almost exclusively, an anti-Obama platform, mostly premised on the promise to prevent implementation of his most notable legislative initiative — the Affordable Care Act — here in Arkansas.

Then, they had to actually govern and come up with justifications in rejecting federal Medicaid funds under the Affordable Care Act while still helping to subsidize its implementation to other states via tax dollars.

Next, here came the powerful hospital and insurance lobby, long eager to find a way to be able to capitalize financially on Medicaid patients. What’s an Arkansas Republican to do???

Obamacare, as the law is popularly known, once seemed doomed in Arkansas, where Republican candidates ran hard in the 2012 election campaign on the promise of stopping reform, and won majorities in both state legislative chambers for the first time since the Civil War era.

Then [Representatives] Dismang, Sanders, House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman and House member John Burris started sounding out whether the Obama administration would allow Medicaid expansion funds to be used to purchase private coverage through an online healthcare exchange that Arkansas will run in partnership with Washington beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

Under Obamacare, people earning from 100 percent to 133 percent of the federal poverty level would qualify for Medicaid. But they could also receive federal premium tax credits to help purchase private coverage through an exchange. States such as Wisconsin have already opted for that route.

The Arkansas plan would utilize Medicaid funds instead of tax credits and cover everyone who qualifies for the expansion, including those living below the federal poverty level – currently $23,550 for a family of four.

But yesterday, as Medicaid expansion (via a private health insurance exchange) in Arkansas became a foregone conclusion one step closer to being reality, for the betterment of our state, however ironic this notion may be considering the rhetoric of the past couple of years. From ThinkProgress.org:

Arkansas came one step closer to expanding Medicaid under Obamacare on Thursday after the state senate advanced a modified expansion bill by a 27-8 vote. The bill now heads to Gov. Mike Beebe (D), who is expected to sign it promptly.

In March, Beebe and the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) struck a first-of-its-kind deal that would allow Arkansas to expand Medicaid while also privatizing the state-federal partnership program. Under the tentative deal, the federal government will subsidize the entire cost of Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion, but allow the state to use that federal money to buy poor people private insurance, rather than expand the existing public program. The compromise — which has been dubbed “the private option” — was appealing to both Beebe and the Obama Administration, since conservative Arkansas legislators are skeptical of public entitlements, but the state has a high number of poor and uninsured residents who will benefit from expanded access to health coverage.

The development is particularly significant since the private option could serve as a template for Republican-controlled states. Conservatives who are adamantly opposed to public health entitlements like Medicaid are being fiercely lobbied by hospital associations and advocates for the poor, who are warning them that safety net hospitals and state budgets could buckle under the weight of uncompensated medical care costs barring expanded insurance access for the poor. The private option could allow Republicans to heed those warnings without endorsing a program they have historically slammed.

Rep. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, left, and Rep. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, helped lead the GOP’s change of heart.

Funny how things once undebatable can quickly change when faced with reality, isn’t it? But at least this time it was for an improved way of doing things, even if it might’ve not necessarily been the ideal way of doing them.

But now I have to ask, what of the politics of this moment? How can Arkansas Democrats both take credit for the enactment of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion AND still remind voters of the political posturing and subsequent flip-flopping on the issue by their anti-all-things-fed counterparts on the other side of the aisle?

My take is that Ark Dems generally have a small window to do something creative and positive with this. While I’ll admit to you readers that the more idealist “Third Way” notions in me find it a bit disingenuous that Democrats would now be snarking about a GOP flip-flop on the ACA’s Medicaid implementation here, when we should really just be making the most of this seemingly grand compromise and revel in the fact that SOMETHING got done in this otherwise nutty legislative session to improve the lives of thousands of needy Arkansans. I say this primarily because these same Democrats played no real part in the substantive debate in the legislature — the entire discussion and associated compromises — at least once the general blessing for a “private option” was granted by Kathleen Sebelius to Governor Beebe — was controlled by Arkansas Republicans. The whole thing hinged on whether or enough of their members would toe the line on often ridiculous campaign rhetoric, or would give in to a common sense and get the legislation passed.

That being said, I figure Dems going on the offensive with this outweighs the risk of some people having a reaction like mine and backfiring.  I mean, Dems haven’t had much part in any debate because these Republicans have been passing whatever they want and blocking whatever they want.  So turn that on it’s head.  “You clearly could pass anything you wanted, so thank you for passing Obamacare.”

As I was talking with a friend last night about the passage of healthcare expansion, it dawned on me that this moment actually presents a great opportunity for the ArkDems to seize control of the discussion, attempt to take the moral highground, and define the debate going forward.  Rather than letting the Republicans tout how they “avoided Obamacare” by passing the “private option,” I think you guys could turn the whole thing on its head by embracing the term “Obamacare” and literally thanking, by name in a press a release, all of the Republican legislators who voted for the expansion “and made healthcare available to 250,000 Arkansans that did not have it before the passage of Obamacare.”

If they want to scream and holler about how it’s not Obamacare, then they are going to have to be able to explain how the private option is appreciably different than what would have happened under the ACA anyway.  That’s like trying to explain why French vanilla ice cream is completely and totally different from regular vanilla, or why scallions are not the same as green onions.  It’s a distinction without a difference, and most Arkansans will see through it.  This is great on two levels for our side.

First, by embracing the term “Obamacare,” if the Republicans can’t satisfy various constituents that there is a difference in the private option, then they run the risk of being primaried, almost certainly by someone even more crazy and right wing, which should help moderate Dems have a shot in those areas.

Second, if you control the message, the attempts in 2014 by House and Senate members to campaign on having “avoided implementation of Obamacare in Arkansas” will ring hollow and will have about 18 months of rebuttal messaging to contend with.

I think this is a golden opportunity for the party.  Heck, it even allows you to praise the “bipartisan effort that brought the benefits of Obamacare to Arkansas.”  But selling that idea probably requires getting out front with this message almost immediately.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28 other followers