Voting Rights Act: I was wrong about racial gerrymandering

WASHINGTON — I won’t procrastinate. I’ll get the most difficult part of this column over right now: I was wrong. I was shortsighted, naïve and narrow-minded to endorse the concept of drawing Congressional districts to take racial demographics into account.

In 1982, the Voting Rights Act,  with its emphasis on Southern states, was amended to encourage the creation of awkwardly named “majority-minority” districts in order to give black voters the strength of a bloc. I believed that drawing such districts was a progressive political tactic, a benign form of affirmative action that would usher more black members into a Congress that had admitted only a handful.

The tactic worked. In 1980, there were only 18 blacks in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now, there are 44, many of them elected from districts drawn to meet the mandates of the Voting Rights Act.

Unfortunately — like so many measures designed to provide redress for historic wrongs — those racially gerrymandered …

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Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?

WASHINGTON — Poor Mitt Romney. I’m beginning to feel a bit sorry for the guy.

President Barack Obama steals his ideas and implements them, forcing Romney to denounce the very proposals he once supported. After all, you can’t seek the GOP nomination for the presidency unless you are prepared to bash the president with heaping doses of vitriol, right? You can’t be caught agreeing with a single idea that Obama — that radical socialist Kenyan Marxist — has ever had.

So Romney has once again had to distance himself from —well, from himself. On automobile industry bailouts, though, Romney’s contortions have been more convoluted and difficult than on health care reform because they required a triple-flip, a move that had to be hard on the joints of a middle-aged man. (Those moves should have been hard on his integrity, too, but he seems to have surrendered that for the duration of the campaign.)

Anyway, if you’re having trouble keeping up, here’s the story:  Once upon a time, Romney …

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What Saxby Chambliss and Ronald Reagan have in common

WASHINGTON — For the crime of attempted compromise, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) is being hounded by a furious Republican right-wing that considers civil conversation with Democrats a suggestion of weakness, if not a sign of outright  capitulation. Though Chambliss has spent years in service to conservative causes, his membership in the now-fracturing Gang of Six — a bi-partisan group of senators who have attempted to hammer out a deal on the federal deficit — has subjected him to harsh criticism among ultra-conservative purists.

For his work on deficit reduction and for other alleged heresies, Chambliss has earned the ire of Erick Erickson, a hyper-conservative Georgia blogger and talk radio host, who wants to defeat the senator in 2014. “Tea party activists in Georgia who want to make a big impact have two years to organize, mobilize, and lay the groundwork to get rid of Saxby Chambliss . . .Now, why Saxby?. . .Saxby has consistently stabbed conservatives in the back and it …

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Bush, Clinton endorsed pre-1967 borders for Palestinian state

The new Republican doctrine demands erasing the old Republican doctrine, even if the old doctrine was acceptable a few years ago. GOP hacks are as busy as apparatchiks in the old Soviet Union who erased out-of-favor Communist VIPs from official photographs.
Anything that President Obama proposes is automatically subjected to bristling condemnation, even if the GOP supported it three years ago. Given that, it’s no great surprise that Mitt Romney is claiming Obama “threw Israel under the bus” in his Mid-East speech yesterday, in which the president called for a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders.
But just for the sake of adherence to facts, it’s worthwhile to check out recent history. As Atlantic Monthly’s Jeffrey Goldberg points out:

I’m amazed at the amount of insta-commentary out there suggesting that the President has proposed something radical and new by declaring that Israel’s 1967 borders should define — with land-swaps — the borders of a Palestinian state. I’m …

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IMF sexual assault case a win for American values

The French are apparently in high dudgeon over the treatment of one of their favorite sons, former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was arrested on charges of sexual assault and subjected to a perp walk, just like any other alleged criminal. In service of their outrage, they’ve concocted conspiracy theories and allegations of prosecutorial overreach.
It’s the French commentariat that’s doing the overreaching. This is a case where the Americans involved — from the hotel security staff to police and prosecutors — behaved exactly as they should have, treating a suspect without regard to his social status. If you want to cheer the notion of American exceptionalism, this is a reason to do so.

From the WaPo:

The photos of potential French president Strauss-Kahn — handcuffed, stooped, unshaven, tieless and whisked away to court before photographers — knocked the breath out of the French public.

The initial response was a collective “that would not happen …

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Newt Gingrich plays the race card

WASHINGTON — I didn’t think it was possible, but Newt Gingrich has disappointed me. He has managed to be more cynical and more incendiary, more irresponsible and even less honorable than I had imagined him to be.

And my imagination gave him plenty of credit for pettiness, indiscipline, deceit and an overweening arrogance. I knew him to be capable of stunning chutzpah and cheap sensationalism. I’ve seen his over-the-top attacks on rivals, his situational ethics and his disregard for commonplace proprieties.

Still, I believed Gingrich had a healthy respect for the nation’s growing commitment to racial equality and a historian’s understanding of the fragility of that commitment. I thought he regarded the advances brought about by the civil rights movement as a significant contribution to national greatness, a way of advancing our claim to American exceptionalism.

But last week, at the annual convention of the Georgia Republican Party, he played an ugly race card, stooping to …

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Debt-limit: GOP threatens to blow up economy

Republicans have decided to pour gasoline all over the economy and dance around it with lighted matches. They say they don’t believe it will blow up.
An exaggeration? Not really. A growing group of rightwing skeptics claims that a failure to increase the debt ceiling would not harm the economy. In fact, it could have catastrophic consequences.

From Politico:

They are the newest breed of government skeptics, the swelling ranks of Republicans who don’t believe the Obama administration when it says a failure to raise the debt limit will prove catastrophic.

And they stand ready to make negotiations over raising the cap on debt as grueling as possible, leaving Treasury officials and Wall Street more nervous than ever that the country could suffer an unprecedented default, with consequences no one can predict.

The suspicion, which once flourished only on the conservative outskirts of economic circles, has seeped into the mainstream in recent weeks, gaining broader acceptance among …

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Romney was for the individual mandate before he was against it

Poor Mitt Romney.
He’s running for the presidency in the age of the World Wide Web, YouTube and the smartphone — where evidence of past statements and deeds pops up constantly to haunt a man trying desperately to reinvent himself.
Besides, he lacks the pure chutzpah of a conscience-free Newt Gingrich, who can brush off yesterday’s principles like dandruff off his shoulder pads. Romney always seems inauthentic, whereas Newt just seems, well, like himself.
So, as Romney prepares a major speech to reverse update his stance on health care reform, here’s video of the old Mitt, who loved the individual mandate  way back in 2007 (h/t DailyKos TV):


ROMNEY: I happen to like what we did. I think it’s a good model for other states. Maybe not every state, but most. And so what I’d do at the federal level is give to every state the same kind of flexibility we got from the federal government, as well as some carrots and sticks to actually get all their citizens insured. And I …

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Boehner’s big lie of omission: Clinton tax hike

In his speech to Wall Street yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner waved the same old crazy quilt of demagoguery, distortions and outright lies in which Republicans have shrouded economic issues for several years now. Most of it was standard fare, though there were a few lines that were especially galling.

(Bloomberg has a good rundown of Boehner’s Pinocchio moments in yesterday’s speech.)

For example, Boehner repeated the outrageous falsehood that Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan — which essentially ends Medicare — would give senior citizens the same benefits that members of Congress enjoy. Actually, seniors would get the reverse of what members of Congress currently enjoy. As Bloomberg points out, taxpayers subsidize as much as 75 percent of the health care costs of federal employees. But, according to the Congressional Budget Office, taxpayers would only pay 32 percent of the average Medicare recipient’s health care costs by the year 2030.

But that’s not my favorite example of …

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Border is secure, but Congress won’t pass immigration reform

WASHINGTON —As commencement season gets underway in earnest, as young adults take their places in formal ceremonies marking their achievements, a small number of them hide a delicate secret that shadows their accomplishments and limits their options: They are illegal immigrants. They live in fear of deportation. They cannot travel freely, seek the best jobs or sign up for military service.

Even if they have just completed college, even if they have excellent grades, even if they have mastered chemistry or mathematics or computer science, they will encounter immediate and daunting barriers. It doesn’t matter that some offer skills for which companies are desperate; they still aren’t likely to find themselves in demand.

And that’s just crazy. The nation’s immigration policy is irrational — warped by nativism, finger-pointing and political cowardice. As President Barack Obama noted in a speech yesterday, the economy would be helped — not hurt — by  immigration reform.

But Obama …

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