Planned Parenthood

Ominous, or, Your Congressional Forecast

A portion of the U.S. Capitol dome. (Detail of photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images, 2013)

This is what we might call not hopeful; other days we might just call it normal. Either way, Andrew Taylor offers the grim look ahead:

Lawmakers return to Washington this week for an abbreviated election-season session in which they will likely do what they do best: the bare minimum.

All Congress must do this month is keep the government from shutting down on Oct. 1 and, with any luck, finally provide money for the fight against the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Republicans controlling Congress promise they won’t stumble now, but the weeks ahead could prove tricky.

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The Conservative Lesson

David Daleiden, of Center for Medical Progress.  Detail of photo by Charles Ommanney, ca. 2015.

A question arises: Is self-harm ever funny?

Certes, there are complications to the question; obviously, it is harder to justify self-harm if one also hurts others along the way, but here we’re not talking about going on a slashing spree amid a cutting habit. This one falls more under inspiring terrorists while wrecking your life for the sake of your own stupid masculinity.

Never mind.

Yesterday morning, via USA Today:

The videos show Planned Parenthood’s senior leadership partaking in a widespread and organized violation of state and federal laws forbidding partial-birth abortions and profiteering from the sale of fetal organs and tissues, which is why multiple state and federal investigations, including a select committee in Congress, continue to investigate Planned Parenthood’s abortion practice and financial interests in harvesting body parts. Contrary to the liberal shibboleth that the videos were “edited” (by which they mean to insinuate, “doctored”), the Center for Medical Progress has been far more transparent than any major news network in making the unedited conversations available to the public, and forensic analysis verifies their utility as evidence.

David Daleiden penned an op-ed in defense of his Center for Medical Progress, which is perhaps more familiar as the right-wing operation that doctored up some videos that succeeded in causing a ruckus. Congress held hearings, then slated some more because the first round was such a disaster. A terrorist murdered three people, wounded several more. Eleven states have investigated the infamous claims against Planned Parenthood, and all eleven have cleared the organization. In Texas, officials even convened a grand jury.

So Daleiden decided to … what? Pitch his case one last time? Rub it in? Set up for his victory lap?

That was Monday morning. A few hours later, Daleiden and co-conspirator Sandra Merritt got the news:

A Houston jury investigating alleged misconduct by Planned Parenthood declined to charge the women’s health provider, announcing instead felony charges for the leaders of the anti-abortion organization that targeted Planned Parenthood with it’s widely debunked series of “sting” videos in 2015.

The grand jury said they did not find evidence of illegal activity on the part of Planned Parenthood after reviewing the covert videos meant to misleadingly implicate the women’s health provider in the illegal trafficking of fetal tissue ....

.... David Daleiden, the 26-year old president of The Center for Medical Progress, and Sandra Merritt, founder and CEO of the fake tissue procurement company created to misleadingly gain entry into abortion clinics, were indicted for “tampering with a governmental record,” while Daleiden received an additional indictment for “the purchase and sale of human organs.” The first charge is a second degree felony and the second is a Class A misdemeanor. As the Houston Chronicle notes, a second-degree felony carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.

(Tesfaye)

They did this to themselves.

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Either Significant or Not

Evangelist Franklin Graham speaks before the Festival of Hope at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Frank Couch)

This is interesting …

Evangelist Franklin Graham announced Monday that he left the Republican Party and is now an independent over the GOP’s failure to defund Planned Parenthood in last week’s omnibus spending bill.

(Koplowitz)

… I think. Maybe. Possibly.

Still, though: And?

You know. Like―What now?

Oh, right. Go on tour.

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Image note: Evangelist Franklin Graham speaks before the Festival of Hope at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Frank Couch)

Graham, Franklin. “Shame on the Republicans and the Democrats for passing such a wasteful spending bill last week”. Facebook. 21 December 2015.

Koplowitz, Howard. “Franklin Graham quits GOP over not defunding Planned Parenthood; ‘I have no hope in the Republican Party'”. AL.com. 22 December 2015.

The Carly Fiorina Show (See Dick)

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina talks to a restaurant patron during a campaign stop at the Starboard Market, Friday, 14 August 2015, in Clear Lake, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

“There was no major scandal or faux pas to bring Fiorina down. While the impact of her debate performance may have worn off over time, why did she suffer this fate while Trump, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio have continued to gain from their debating styles?”

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann

Call it a personal weakness: I love me some Dick.

Dick Morris, that is.

It is an eternal question: How does Dick Morris still get work? After all, who the hell still listens to Dick frickin’ Morris? True enough, people like me, but that’s the thing. Check this out:

Fiorina showed an eclectic knowledge of national affairs and fluently recited key facts about our weakened defense posture. She seemed like a nonascorbic, scandal-free alternative to Clinton.

Then, what happened?

There was no major scandal or faux pas to bring Fiorina down. While the impact of her debate performance may have worn off over time, why did she suffer this fate while Trump, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio have continued to gain from their debating styles?

While The New York Times contributed to her fall with a front page article chronicling―and bashing―her record at Hewlett Packard, it was the bloggers who brought Fiorina down. The Times story regaled the saga of how Fiorina had induced HP to buy Compaq despite evidence of its declining clout, and emphasized the 30,000 layoffs under her tenure as CEO.

The bloggers really did a number on Fiorina, explaining her lack of conservative credentials. They quoted her 2010 comment, during her contest with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer that Roe v. Wade was “settled law” and noted her endorsement of Marco Rubio’s plan for amnesty for immigrants here illegally, her support for Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court and her willingness to weaken Proposition 13, which holds down property taxes in California.

The blogs left Fiorina bleeding.

For Morris and McGann, “the larger story here is the extreme sensitivity of the Republican primary electorate’s evidence of impurity in the presidential candidates”, which itself leads off the sort of petulant paragraph that reminds why we all love us some Dick. The entire article is historical-romantic comedy―hiroco? Gesundheit!―gold. And the thing is that there is plenty of evidence of conservative electoral puritanism, but what of the rest of the Republican Party? It is not just that Morris and McGann omit entirely Ms. Fiorina’s astounding dishonesty about Planned Parenthood, and her stubborn, clumsy retort to the resulting controversy really would not seem encouraging to establishment Republicans who still bear questions of electability in their analyses.

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The Subcommittee (Lipstick and Laughs)

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Something about famous last words might go here, but that still doesn’t sound right. Infamous openings? Let us check in with Emma Dumain of Roll Call:

House Republicans insist their new committee to investigate Planned Parenthood won’t be political.

And if it sounds like a setup, well―

But lawmakers and aides on both sides of the aisle are raising eyebrows at the optics of GOP leaders soliciting buy-in from outside groups as they make decisions about which members will sit on the special committee.

The original plan was to convene a subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee to investigate the women’s health organization and abortion provider, which is under fire after secret film footage seemed to implicate Planned Parenthood officials with illegally selling fetal tissues, a charge the group denied.

Under that initial framework, the select committee would have drawn from in-house resources, including mostly staff. And while membership on both sides of the aisle would still be subject to appointment by their respective party leaders, the pool would be restricted to those members already sitting on Energy and Commerce.

Outside advocates and leaders in the anti-abortion community urged Republican leaders to expand the committee to lawmakers outside Energy and Commerce to include more stalwarts of their movement. GOP leadership agreed and has also listened to outside advice on exactly whom to appoint.

―yeah, this is the House of Representatives, and, yes, Speaker Boehner is, technically, still as in charge as he ever was.

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The Ruckus on the Hill

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23), speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Monday, 25 February 2013. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty.)

“This is serious. McCarthy’s words matter in his current leadership position in the House and will matter even more if he is elected as speaker. He needs to raise his game, collect his thoughts, be very sure-footed and display some measured, informed and thoughtful leadership. In the weeks ahead, he will be called on to explain his worldview and you can bet our allies and our enemies will be watching. Republicans need to be sure we are introducing a new serious actor onto a very troubled world stage. Now is not a good time for verbal bumbling or embarrassing ignorance.”

Ed Rogers

To the one, Ed Rogers is not exactly a proverbial Rino; his right-wing bona fides are well established.

To the other, that’s the point; there are already conservative challenges afoot, including House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT03), fresh off his magical mystery tour aboard the S.S. Colonoscopy, an extraneous metaphor, since he managed a self-exam earlier in the week, but, hey, why not follow up a monumental clusterdiddle with a run for the Speaker’s gavel?

Ed Rogers of BGR Group, in undated photo; credit unknown.And to a third, regardless of where the challenge is coming from, they do have a point. The effect of the would-be Speaker in Waiting’s poor oral discipline has been devastating. Republicans already gamble on a do-nothing Congress; they do not, as Mr. Rogers notes, have any real need for that institution’s equivalent of an old-tyme geek show.

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Image notes: Top ― House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23), speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Monday, 25 February 2013. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty.) Right ― Ed Rogers of BGR Group, in undated photo. (Credit unknown.)

Bendery, Jennifer. “Watch Jason Chaffetz React As He’s Accused Of ‘Beating Up On A Woman’ Over Her Pay”. The Huffington Post. 29 September 2015.

Hess, Hannah. “Inspector General Reopens Secret Service Probe of Chaffetz Leak”. Roll Call. 5 October 2015.

Rogers, Ed. “Republicans fret over McCarthy’s skills”. The Washington Post. 2 Octoer 2015.

A Congressional Fire Drill

Huang reflects on a mission barely accomplished. (Darker Than Black, ep. 14)

Bring your own analysis.

Roll Call has been busy trying to make heads and tails of House Republicans:

John T. Bennett: “Deputy Whip Tom Cole, R-Okla., and House Freedom Caucus founding member Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., did agree on two things. They both see Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as the leading candidate to take over as speaker. And they believe a government shutdown will be averted by a stopgap spending bill passed within the next few days.”

Emma Dumain: “Sources confirmed to CQ Roll Call Saturday afternoon that in the event Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., makes a play for majority leader, Conference Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., would look to move up one slot.”

David Eldridge and Matt Fuller“House Speaker John A. Boehner has a word of warning, straight out of the Bible, for fellow Republicans: ‘Beware false prophets’.”

David Hawkings: “The trend of past three decades will surely make California’s Kevin McCarthy, or whoever ascends to the presiding officer’s chair, extremely wary about his career’s trajectory over the long term — even after this fall’s latest internal Republican revolution gets put to rest.”

Catching up with some of the details that might have slipped by unnoticed, we can turn to The Hill:

Jordain Carney: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Friday that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was ‘unable to control’ his party and that his resignation could leave Republicans increasingly ‘out of touch.'”

Cristina Marcos: “Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) announced late Friday he will run for House majority whip, just hours after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced his resignation.”

Mark Meckler: “Ding, dong … John Boehner is gone. Long live the tea party movement.”

Bradford Richardson: “‘Taking care of this leadership issue was a pretty selfless act that Speaker Boehner decided to make a little bit easier for everyone,’ Priebus said told host John Catsimatidis on AM 970 New York on Sunday. ‘I might imagine he would have been able to hang on, but the truth is he’s just not the type of guy to put up with it, so he just said, ‘Forget it, I’ll move on’.'”

And a check of the chatter:

Zoë Carpenter (The Nation): “ Let’s get one thing clear about John Boehner: His problem was not that his position on abortion was too liberal.”

Heather Cox Richardson (Salon): “Movement Conservatives just claimed the head of House Speaker John Boehner. His political death was the price of preventing a catastrophic government shutdown after Movement Conservatives in Congress tied the very survival of the United States government to their determination to defund Planned Parenthood. Movement Conservatives are gunning for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell next. We should be very afraid. Boehner and McConnell are not wild-eyed lefties. They are on the very far right of the American political spectrum: fervently pro-business, antiabortion, opposed to social welfare legislation. But they are old-school politicians who still have faith in the idea of American democracy.”

David Lawder (Reuters): “Thus far, a serious challenger to McCarthy has not emerged, though some Republican aides said that House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling is weighing a run. A Hensarling spokesman could not be reached for comment.”

Michael McAuliff, Laura Barron-Lopez, and Sam Stein (Huffington Post): “House Speaker John Boehner may be able to leave office on a high note after meeting the pope and potentially averting another government shutdown. But his abrupt departure has many on Capitol Hill fearing it will leave Congress an even worse, more gridlocked institution.

So … right. Good luck with all that. What makes the challenge seem so daunting, of course, is that everything will be obsolete by the time you get through it all. And there is a pervading notion of futility much akin to John Boehner’s speakership; that we might know what has happened, as well as what is expected to happen, does not mean it will happen. This is your House GOP. Enjoy the show. You know. As much as you can.

Your House of Republican Chaos

Speaker Boehner announced his resignation 25 September 2015.

Follow the bouncing something, as the spectacle inside the House GOP seems a performance for the ages. As the factions line up, Speaker Boehner’s allies are scorching the insurgency:

GOP lawmakers who’ve stood by Boehner’s side throughout his rocky five-year tenure as Speaker bitterly blamed the right flank for forcing a contested leadership race less than a year after the party won control of Congress in the 2014 midterm elections.

A fired-up House Ethics Committee Chairman Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), speaking not long after Boehner dropped the bombshell at a Friday conference meeting that he’ll leave Congress at the end of next month, ripped into hard-line conservatives.

He accused them of opposing Boehner at every turn, and noted they have “never had a horse of their own.”

“Any jackass can kick down a barn door. It takes a carpenter to hang one. We need a few more carpenters around here. Everybody knows it,” Dent said off the House floor.

Leadership allies are frustrated by what they see as a repeated exercise in futility.

(Marcos)

And the hardliners posture:

A co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus has a warning for any Republican hoping to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio): No one will get the promotion without our blessing.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a sharp critic of Boehner, said Friday that there are roughly 40 members of the group — and another 20 conservatives outside of it — who won’t back any new Speaker who fails their litmus test for conservative purity. And the group’s leadership endorsements, he warned, will be “a collective, corporate decision.”

“We have enough votes in the House Freedom Caucus to prevent anybody from being Speaker. We will be a voting bloc,” Huelskamp said.

“We’re looking for someone who, number one, has conservative principles and actually can articulate them, but also … follows through on John Boehner’s [2011] promise … [to] open up this House and let conservatives have a shot at things,” he added. “And at the end of the day, the Democrats had more shot at amendments than conservatives. So we’ve gotta talk about process as well.”

(Lillis)

And Rep. Daniel Webster (FL-10) pretends his gavel ambitions have a chance of success, while other House players scramble to fall up the ladder.

This is the point at which we are supposed to make some sort of joke about things either starting or ceasing to make sense, and it is our shame to disappoint you; there is no baseline by which the idea of making sense makes any sense.

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The Lindsey Graham Show (Establishment Avenger)

No, seriously, people need to start paying attention to Lindsey Graham.

Lindsey Graham has told colleagues he launched his implausible presidential campaign, in part, for two reasons: Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

(Everett)

The senior U.S. Senator from South Carolina has not even a tattered map fragment with a shadow of a line that might have once been there that could possibly be something resembling a pathway to the presidency. Yet to consider a personal context, he is also the kind of Republican who it is much, much easier to respect, even if we don’t like the guy. And if it is true that he is in this for the long haul regardless of the outcome, Lindsey Graham suddenly becomes one to watch:

Graham said in an interview he’s prepared to confront Cruz directly as the chamber braces for a rhetorical assault from the Texas senator, with Graham arguing that a shutdown would be futile and politically damaging. It’s an opportunity, Graham says, “to tell my side of the story here.” And, the senator with the syrupy Southern drawl admits, it won’t be because he thinks it’s going to give him a bounce in the polls.

“I’m running to be the president of the United States. And a certain amount of honesty comes with that,” Graham said in an interview. “Shutting down the government, I think it hurts our overall cause and I don’t mind telling people that. If I’m going to be a good nominee and a good president, I’ve got to tell you what I believe” ....

.... Still, Graham has little to lose at this point in his campaign. He can’t sink any lower in the polls, and fighting a pitched battle against the conservative wing of the party could help boost him in the eyes of moderate Republicans.

In fact, Graham was thinking about squaring off with Cruz and Paul from the very beginning of his campaign.

No, really, this could be interesting. Like Jeb Bush and John Kasich, Mr. Graham will have some difficulty navigating the turbulent waters of the preseason feeding frenzy as voters chomp down on platform and principle; later, when serious questions of how to actually win the White House rise (we hope) to their proper prominence, America’s most eligible bachelor hawk might find himself well positioned to not only shore up the establishment Republican guard, but compete for the nomination. Steve Benen noted, in reflection on Scott Walker’s early withdrawal:

Many observers – inside the Republican Party and out – simply assume as a matter of course that the Inexperienced Three will eventually fizzle, leaving a race featuring only a handful of credible contenders. The list will likely include two establishment governors (Jeb Bush and John Kasich) and two very conservative senators (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio).

In this scenario, is this a contest that could elevate Rubio to the GOP nomination? Of course it is.

The weird thing about the Rubio pathway is that it is not so far-fetched. But how does the political calculus change if another establishment Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham, is also in there peeling votes from the insurgents?

This could be entertaining, indeed. It should certainly be interesting. As to the question of whether or not it is real, we need only keep our eyes and ears open. Perhaps something is about to happen.

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Image note: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). (Detail of photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

Everett, Burgess. “Graham itching to confront Cruz, Paul”. Politico. 24 September 2015.

Benen, Steve. “As GOP field shrinks, Marco Rubio gets the spotlight”. msnbc. 22 September 2015.

A Joke That Isn’t Funny

Inside New Orleans Planned Parenthood clinic. (Detail of photo by Bryan Tarnowski for The New York Times)

“It strikes me as extremely odd that you have a dermatologist, an audiologist, a dentist who are billing for family planning services.”

Judge John DeGravelles

And, yet, the hidden jewel is one you might overlook if you’re not careful. Molly Redden of Mother Jones tops His Honor, wondering the obvious: “They know vagina dentata is a myth, right?”

It’s a fair question, given the Louisiana proposal to do away with Planned Parenthood in the Pelican State and expect other providers to pick up the load.

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