Here via my colleague Ali Gharib is a great interview of a David Brody softball interview asking Herman Cain if he’s ready to answer factual questions about world affairs. Given that Cain is not, in fact, prepared to answer them, he does a different job of dismissing the need to know the name of the head of state “of some of these small insignificant countries around the world” including “Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan.”
So, okay, Herman Cain’s not going to be president. Who cares? But it drives me nuts that the guy can get taken seriously by some conservative activists and voters without him taking the process seriously at all. The president of Uzbekistan is Islam Karimov. Maybe Cain doesn’t know. Fine. It’s a trivia question. But say, I dunno, something about American foreign policy in Central Asia. Try to demonstrate some command of the issues. But Cain is transparently running for talk radio host or something. If it wouldn’t make a good subject for a 10-minute drive time segment, he doesn’t want to talk about it.
The contrast with someone like Al Franken is, to me, telling. A comedian running for Senate naturally faces some voter skepticism even if, like Franken, he’s been politically engaged and active for years. So Franken clearly went out of his way during and after his campaign to show that he’s well-briefed and well-versed in the issues. He had a higher bar to cross than your average candidate, so he did the work to clear it. Cain, trying to leap from ex-CEO of third-rate pizza chain to president of the United States, doesn’t think he needs to do anything.
Al Franken Calls For ‘Explicit Ban’ On Discrimination Against LGBT Students |
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) “called for an ‘explicit ban’ on discrimination against LGBT students in a civil rights hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday,” the Minnesota Independent’s Andy Birkey reports. “My understanding is that LGBT persons are covered under the hate crimes act, and to the same extent that other groups like minorities and women [are],” Franken said. “This Congress has said we need to protect LGBT Americans in the same way we protect other vulnerable groups, doesn’t it follow that we should protect LGBT students from bullying to the same extent that we protect other groups?” Watch it:
HHS Study Author: ‘Sen. Franken Is Right’ |
One of the highlights from yesterday’s hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act was when Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) called out Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery for misrepresenting a study from the Department of Health and Human Services. The study’s author, Debra L. Blackwell, confirmed to POLITICO that Franken got it right and the study did not offer any support for Minnery’s claim that opposite-sex parents are superior to same-sex parents. Watch the video of the exchange:
Welcome to The Morning Pride, ThinkProgress LGBT’s 8:45 AM round-up of the latest in LGBT policy, politics, and some culture too! Here’s what we’re reading this morning, but let us know what you’re checking out too.
- Here’s a quick round-up of our coverage of yesterday’s hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act:
The Advocate’s Andrew Harmon caught up with Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) who told him that he expects Minnesotans to narrowly defeat a ballot measure that would outlaw same-sex marriage in the state’s constitution:
HARMON: Are you confident that Minnesotans will vote against putting discrimination into the state constitution?
FRANKEN: I think we’ll win this one, but I think it will be very close. We’re a very divided state, and on this issue I don’t have the strongest sense on where it’s going to be. I know there are people who just have their views and are against marriage equality.
HARMON: Rep. Michele Bachmann being one of them.
FRANKEN: Yes, I think she’ll vote for the amendment.
Franken — a prominent supporter of LGBT equality in Congress — reiterated that he opposes Bachmann’s views on gay people, but said he liked her personally. “[W]e fly on a plane together, we’ve gone to funerals together, we’ve cried together, we’ve laughed together. Here [in Washington, D.C.,] we had a Minnesota hotdish-off — she was the only Republican who came; she wore a Twins apron. I think she was the only other member in the delegation besides me who actually made the hotdish. She made venison kielbasi, sauerkraut, and noodles, and we had a fun time.”
By Tanya Somanader, Alex Seitz-Wald and Jeff Spross on Jun 20, 2011 at 5:05 pm
While a growing number of Americans support raising the federal debt ceiling, Republican lawmakers remain fastidiously committed to plunging the nation into an economic crisis that could bring about a bigger GDP drop than the 2008 recession. Ignoring the foreseeable danger, Republicans insist on holding the necessary increase in the debt ceiling hostage for destructive demands like a balanced budget amendment or crippling budget cuts. Last week, Tea Party Doyen Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) signaled that if any Republicans should go “the wrong way” and vote to raise the debt ceiling, he would work to oust them in 2012.
DeMint’s dangerous political posturing, however, drew scoffs from Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). Speaking with ThinkProgress at Netroots Nation this past weekend, Franken blasted DeMint and the GOP’s “hostage-taking” on the debt ceiling as an “unconscionable” gamble with the “full faith and credit” of the U.S.:
FRANKEN: I think it’s unconscionable. This is really playing with the full faith and credit of the United States government. We don’t know for sure what the effect would be, but we may be risking a worldwide depression by doing this. Basically, the world economy is based on the dollar and based on the Treasury. And for us to allow the default on treasuries would be, I think, an absolute disaster. This kind of hostage-taking to me is unconscionable.
Sen. Franken sees ‘hypocrisy’ in treatment of Weiner and Vitter |
In an interview with ThinkProgress yesterday at the Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis, MN, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said he saw “hypocrisy” in the way Republicans called for former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) to step down in the wake of his Twitter sex scandal, while they largely ignored Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) frequenting of prostitutes. Watch it:
By Tom Kenworthy, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Even with a huge Exhibit A staring them in the face in the form of the 469,000-acre Wallow fire in Arizona — the largest in the state’s history — Senate Republicans on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee couldn’t be drawn into a discussion of the realities of climate change yesterday.
Committee chairman Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) gave them an opening at the outset of the hearing on federal wildland fire policy. He drew the link between climate change and the four Arizona fires now burning that have in total burned over 663,000 acres – more than 1,000 square miles. With climate change, Bingaman correctly noted, “droughts will be more frequent in the Southwest and they will last longer than they have in the past.”
But committee Republicans Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), James Risch (R-ID) and Dean Heller (R-NV) preferred to talk about the federal government’s aging fleet of air tankers, this year’s heavy snowpack in the northern Rockies, the threat of an endangered species listing of the sage grouse and those (overblown) environmental lawsuits against forest thinning projects. Actually looking into a key driver of the last decade’s huge increase in big western wildfires? A non-starter.
That left it to Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to draw out U.S. Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell, who unequivocally said his agency’s scientists see climate change at work in the desert southwest: more drought, quicker snowmelt, longer wildfire seasons. “I’ve been on a lot of large fires in my career,” said Tidwell, who flew over the Wallow fire last weekend. “It definitely topped anything I’ve seen before.” Franken noted that his colleagues should recognize that these fires are “the cost of climate change”:
A lot of what we are talking about today is the cost of climate change. And sometimes when we talk about energy and we talk about the amount of carbon dioxide that goes into our atmosphere, and we talk about cost, I think that it would be really good for members to take into account this kind of cost. This is a real cost. We’re talking about real dollars here. A lot of the focus of this hearing today has been the cost of this. And I think that it would be well and good for members to understand that this is related to climate change, and how important it is for us to address this and to take national action to reduce our carbon emissions.
The Wallow Fire is now expected to become the largest fire in Arizona history, bigger even than the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski fire that burned about 470,000 acres. Read more
In 2009, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) proclaimed that he would do everything possible to block Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) from taking his seat in the Senate, even though Franken led his Republican opponent Norm Coleman in the vote tally. Declaring that he would fight “World War III” to keep Franken out of the Senate for “years,” Cornyn reasoned that allowing Coleman’s legal challenges to Franken were more important than providing Minnesota with a senator. However, with Republican Joe Miller challenging the ballots in his election with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Cornyn is singing a different tune.
Roll Call reports that Cornyn is demanding that Alaskans simply deserve full representation, and is hoping the legal challenges regarding the 2010 Alaska senate election do not deprive the state of its senator when Congress convenes in January:
An Alaska state court judge is expected to make a ruling on the Senate race by Friday, but with an appeal to the state Supreme Court likely, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn said he hopes the court process concludes soon. As we’ve reported, the ongoing battle has put Republicans on Capitol Hill in a tough spot. The Texan addressed that concern Wednesday in an interview with Roll Call. “We just have to be patient and wait for the judge to decide,” said Cornyn, a former judge. “I understand that could be as early as [Thursday], and I hope it doesn’t go on much longer because I think the people of Alaska deserve to have a Senator when we reconvene again in January, and not still have that up in the air.”
When it comes to a Republican senator, Cornyn urgently believes that Alaska (population 698,473) deserves full representation in Congress. However, he was more than happy to deprive 5,266,214 Minnesotans a vote in the senate because of partisan reasons. Cornyn prevented Franken from taking his seat using the threat of a filibuster. Cornyn’s National Republican Campaign Committee also provided lawyers for Coleman to keep Franken out of the Senate for six months.
Since ThinkProgress issued a report two days ago about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s foreign funding, there has been a considerable reaction. The New York Times published an editorial yesterday, saying that the report “raises fresh questions about whether they [the Chamber] are violating both the letter and spirit of the campaign finance laws.” Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has called on the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether the Chamber is in fact using foreign funds to pay for political attacks in the United States. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) called on his Republican opponent to denounce a Chamber ad that attacks Feingold.
Last night on Rachel Maddow’s show, former FEC chairman Scott Thomas — who was appointed by Ronald Reagan and re-appointed to the commission by George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton — said “if it turns out that any money in fact is being knowingly put into the process from foreign companies or from foreign government sources, that would be a serious problem.” Watch it:
Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, went further. He told ThinkProgress that there was “absolutely no doubt” that there is a potential for the Chamber to violate election law, and called for much tougher enforcement of campaign finance regulations:
To me there is absolutely no doubt that this is a back-door way to get around what are long-standing and legitimate restrictions. This is happening not just because of Citizen’s United, it’s also happening because we have an utterly worthless and feckless Federal Election Commission and an IRS code that needs serious toughening and revamping. We also have a very serious need to have the IRS look at the regulations involving 527s and especially 501(c)(4)s — regulations that are being flouted and abused even as we speak.
Good government groups are weighing in as well. Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a nonpartisan organization that works on democracy and governance issues, said that the ThinkProgress report “raises a series of very important questions that must be addressed”:
The CAP article shows that we need an immediate investigation to determine whether the Chamber of Commerce is using foreign money to fund its $75 million campaign to influence the 2010 federal elections, since that would be illegal. If the Chamber wants to make the case that they are keeping their foreign funds away from being spent on campaign activities, they ought to do so publicly and disclose how they are accomplishing this since money is fungible.
The Chamber opposes transparency in political spending. They support outsourcing jobs overseas. They’re taking foreign money. And now they basically say, “trust us” when there’s mounting evidence they’re outsourcing the funding of their political attacks ads? Yeah, right. They should immediately pull any ads they’re running, and any candidate benefiting from their spending ought to join us in demanding the Chamber come clean.
Not all groups agree, of course. The conservative Center for Competitive Politics asserted in a memo that the Chamber should simply be trusted. “[I]n America, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work. Individuals and groups are not presumed to have violated the law based on a bogus blog post from a political opponent which cites tenuous evidence to show ‘likely’ violations of the law.” When pressed during a phone interview with ThinkProgress, Jeff Patch, the group’s communications director and author of the memo, reiterated that the Chamber should simply be trusted. “It doesn’t seem to be that there’s any evidence they’ve used the funds for political activity,” he said. “I think the answer is generally, yeah, we do trust organizations unless there’s a clear indication they violated the law.” It’s hard to consider evidence, however, when the Chamber refuses to release any evidence whatsoever of their accounting methods. Patch acknowledged this, but said “I don’t know what they would do besides releasing a forensic audit of their funds.” If the outcry continues and the FEC does begin a serious investigation, perhaps that’s exactly what will happen.