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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

McDonnell Practically Walks on Corruption Conviction

If you are a normal working Joe and you find yourself before a Judge after a Jury has convicted you of 11 counts of corruption don't even dream of getting off as easy as U.S. District Court Judge James Spencer let Bob McDonnell off with.    Two years minus 54 days per year off for good behavior will not settle your score.

Judge James Spencer made a joke of the work done by the jury in convicting former Governor Bob McDonnell on 11 counts of corruption by ignoring completely the guideline sentencing range recommended by the federal probation office of 10 years and one month to 12 years and seven months.   Somehow Judge Spencer reduced those amounts to two years.   McDonnell left court crowing about his trust in God and his good friends who stood by his side during this unfair and unjust ordeal.   He then announced that a immediate appeal would be entered in his behalf to do away with the unjust two year sentence.   This sentence was a joke.   It is not immediately clear if McDonnell will remain free while the appeal is being decided even though McDonnell was given a Feb.9th report date to prison.

James Spencer is a federal judge on senior status for the United States District Court for the  Eastern District of Virginia.   He joined the court in 1986 after being nominated by President Ronald  Reagan.

The money spent on this circus trial and the time of the jury members was a complete waste.   Judge Spencer and Bob McDonald have made a mark on the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  
Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted in September of lending the prestige of the governor’s office to Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in exchange for $177,000 in loans, vacations and luxury items. Maureen McDonnell’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 20.

Defense: 'We will never give up this case'

Defense attorneys Henry Asbill and John Brownlee told reporters outside court that Robert F. McDonnell’s legal team will continue to fight for the former governor.

“Sometimes in a case like this, justice is a marathon,” Asbill said. “We will never give up this case.”

Brownlee said he appreciated that Judge Spencer saw McDonnell as a “human being” in giving him a far lighter sentence than federal guidelines suggested. But, he said, “We will continue to fight for his innocence. … I believe Bob McDonnell is an innocent man.”

'Any prison time' is punishment, investigator says

U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente and FBI Special Agent Adam Lee would not comment outside court on Judge Spencer’s sentence, which fell far below what prosecutors had requested.

Boente said that judges “sometimes see things differently,” but that Spencer “gave a good explanation” for his thinking.

“Any prison time for an elected official is punishment,” Lee said.    Investigators and prosecutors did “an outstanding job administrating this incredibly complex case.”

There’s “no celebration,” he said, “just an abiding sense that we did the right thing.”

McDonnell: I 'never, ever betrayed my sacred oath'

Standing outside the courthouse after his sentencing, former governor Robert F. McDonnell said that while he was “deeply, deeply sorry” for some of his actions, he has “never, ever betrayed my sacred oath of office.”

McDonnell walked out of the building clasping the hands of his daughters Cailin and Jeanine, both of whom cried after the two-year sentence was read. McDonnell, who did not cry, then hugged all of his children and kissed his wife on the cheek.   Maureen McDonnell remained in the courtroom, sobbing, while her husband and his legal team left to fill out paperwork related to the judge’s decision.

While he thanked the judge “for the mercy he displayed to me today,” McDonnell told reporters that he “disagree[s] with the verdict and is filing an appeal today or tomorrow."

“I have immense faith in the justice system,” he said, but his “ultimate vindication” will come from Jesus Christ.

McDonnell thanked his children, his wife and other family members for being “unbelievably resolute,” and his friends for their “undying kindnesses” throughout his ordeal.

The price of corruption

Robert McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison as the first Virginia governor ever to be convicted of a crime.    But he is hardly the first politician to face prison time in a public corruption case, even in the state that he once presided over.    Here is a look at a few of the sentences others have faced in similar cases in recent years.

Rod Blagojevich (D), former Illinois governor

Blagojevich tried to offer up the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama in exchange for campaign cash or personal favors.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence between 15 and 20 years;  Blagojevich's defense attorney asked for the "lowest sentence possible."   The guideline range was somewhat murky:  a judge agreed that it was properly calculated as 30 years to life but reduced it after determining that Blagojevich had accepted responsibility and such a penalty would be too harsh.

William Jefferson (D-La.), former U.S. congressman

Jefferson received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes related to business ventures he helped arrange in Africa.

Prosecutors had wanted Jefferson to spend 27 to 33 years in prison, which is what the probation office said federal sentencing guidelines called for until a judge reduced them.   Defense attorneys wanted a term of less than 10 years.   Jefferson was sentenced by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who sits in the same federal jurisdiction as the judge who will sentence McDonnell, though not the same courthouse.

Ray Nagin (D), former New Orleans mayor

Nagin took bribes in exchange for awarding city contracts.

The probation office's federal sentencing guideline calculation called for at least 20 years in prison. Prosecutors endorsed that recommendation; defense attorneys asked for a sentence less than that.

Phil Hamilton (R), former Virginia state delegate

Hamilton steered half-million-dollar earmark to Old Dominion University and secured a $40,000-a-year position at the school in return.

Prosecutors had wanted Hamilton to spend between 12 years and seven months and 15 years and eight months in prison, which is what the probation office had calculated as the federal sentencing guideline range.   Defense attorneys had argued a range of 6 1/2 to eight years was more appropriate and advocated for a penalty less than that. 

Hamilton, notably, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, who sits in the same federal courthouse as the judge who will sentence McDonnell.

Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), former U.S. congressman

Cunningham took millions in bribes from contractors to steer defense work their way

According to the New York Times, prosecutors had asked for ten years; defense attorneys had asked for six.   Cunningham pleaded guilty in the case.

Jack B. Johnson (D), former county executive of Prince George's, Maryland

Johnson pleaded guilty to extortion and witness and evidence tampering after a sting operation in which he accepted a bribe from a developer and then was heard on a wire telling his wife to flush a check down the toilet.

Federal sentencing guidelines called for a maximum term of 14 years in prison.

Don Siegelman (D), former Alabama governor

Siegelman named a health executive to a state hospital board in exchange for $500,000 in contributions to a favored political cause

The proceeding was his second sentencing because an appeals court threw out some of his convictions.

Richard "Rick" Renzi (R-Az.), former U.S. congressman

Renzi used his office to profit from a federal land exchange.

According to the Arizona Republic, prosecutors sought a sentence of nine to twelve years, defense attorneys sought a penalty of less than two years and nine months and federal sentencing guidelines called for a term between eight years and a month and 10 years and a month.

Bob Ney (R-Ohio), former U.S. congressman

Ney was convicted for corrupt dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The sentence was slightly more than the two years and three months that prosecutors had requested.  Ney's case was different in that he pleaded guilty, and in exchange, prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of only two years and three months.

Robert McDonnell (R), former Virginia governor

McDonnell was found guilty of 11 counts of conspiracy, honest services fraud and obtaining property under color of official right, related to trading favors with a wealthy businessman, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., in exchange for more than $175,000 in loans and gifts.   His wife Maureen was convicted of 8 counts.

Judge: lengthy sentence 'would be ridiculous'

In a winding, roughly 15-minute speech before he imposed McDonnell’s two-year sentence, U.S. District Judge James Spencer mused on the fairness of the trial, the history of federal sentencing guidelines, the sadness of the case and even what personal knowledge he had of the former governor.

Spencer tipped that he would probably impose a lenient term when he talked of how the sentencing guidelines — once mandatory — would now allow him to show some discretion. 

Referring to a sentence of seven or eight years, he said: “That would be unfair, it would be ridiculous, under these facts.”

But Spencer was somewhat critical of McDonnell’s conduct and those of his supporters.   He twice noted efforts to blame Maureen McDonnell, the former first lady of Virginia, who was also charged in the case.   At one point, he called those who asserted that she had roped the governor into the case “dangerously delusional.”    Later, he said: “While Mrs. McDonnell may have allowed the serpent into the mansion, the governor knowingly let him into his personal and business affairs.”

Spencer said he was saddened by the entire affair. ​

“No one wants to see a former governor of this great commonwealth in this kind of trouble,” he said, but added:    “The jury by its verdict found an intent to defraud.   That is a serious offense that all the grace and mercy that I can muster, it can’t cover it all.”

Don't worry too much Judge, by your sentence you nullified the jury verdict and gave McDonnell a walk.


Jeb Cleans Up Act to Run for President

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, moving closer to a possible presidential run, has resigned all of his corporate and nonprofit board memberships, including with his own education foundation, his office said late Wednesday night.

He also resigned as a paid adviser to a for-profit education company that sells online courses to public university students in exchange for a share of their tuition payments.

Bush’s New Year’s Eve disclosure, coming in an e-mail from an aide to The Washington Post, culminated a string of moves he has made in recent days to shed business interests that have enriched him since leaving office in 2007.   The aide said the resignations had been made “effective today.”

The aide said Bush was reviewing other businesses in which he is principal partner or owner, such as Jeb Bush & Associates, a consulting firm, and Britton Hill Partnership, a business advisory group that in 2013 set up private-equity funds investing in energy and aviation.

Aides said Bush wants to devote his time to exploring a return to politics rather than pursuing his business commitments.   But separating himself from those interests now could also be a strategic attempt to prepare for the added scrutiny of a hotly contested campaign for the Republican nomination.

Bush’s financial stake in Academic Partnerships, the online education firm, has been relatively small for a millionaire — a $60,000-a-year fee and ownership of a small amount of stock, said Randy Best, the company’s founder and chief executive.    Even so, Bush’s affiliation with the firm — which has contracts with schools in a half-dozen states and several foreign countries and has annual sales of $100 million — could complicate his effort to promote his record as an education reformer.

The company receives up to 70 percent of the tuition some students pay to public universities, and some faculty members say it siphons money from the schools while asserting too much control over academic decisions.

Best, a Texas entrepreneur and major political donor, said his firm has increased professors’ access to online students and helped schools attract additional revenue, while Bush aides say the former governor does not have business interests related to K-12 education, which has been his policy focus.

Bush’s decision to extricate himself from his private-sector work is “part and parcel of a process he is going through as he transitions to focus on a potential run for president,” said his spokeswoman, Kristy Campbell.   “This is a natural next step that will allow him to focus his time on gauging interest for a potential run.”

The effort underscores the lengths to which Bush — who has become the favorite prospective candidate of many major GOP donors and has been at or near the top of polls testing the possible Republican presidential field — appears willing to go to avoid pitfalls that hurt the party in 2012.    That year, GOP nominee Mitt Romney, founder of a private-equity fund, struggled to explain his business background while under attack by GOP rivals and President Obama.

Bush, 61, lamented Romney’s handling of the criticism in an interview last month with Miami’s WPLG-TV.   Bush said the 2012 nominee allowed himself to be pulled “off message” and should have told voters:   “I’m a problem-solver. My life has been about building things up.”

Of his own business record, Bush said:  “I’m not ashamed.   Taking risk and creating jobs is something we ought to have more of.”

Bush’s business portfolio is far smaller than that of Romney, whose Bain Capital became one of the country’s most successful private-equity firms.   Yet it is complicated and could present political problems because he has been affiliated with a broad range of industries and businesses.

Bush announced last month that he was ending his consulting relationship with Barclays, the British investment-banking conglomerate.   The New York Times reported in May that the company paid Bush more than $1 million a year.

The bank, like other major Wall Street players, had been under scrutiny in recent years for alleged interest rate manipulations and for allegedly providing special benefits to big traders.

Recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings revealed that Bush was leaving the boards of two publicly traded firms:  Rayonier, which invests in forest lands, and Tenet Healthcare, which backed Obama’s health-insurance initiative and profited from its passage.

From Tenet, Bush has received nearly $2.1 million in director’s fees and restricted company stock since joining the board in 2007.   The filings show that he sold some of his Tenet stock through the years.   A March 14, SEC report showed that Bush held 59,403 shares of Tenet stock valued at the time at just over $3  million.

Academic Partnerships stood out in Bush’s business portfolio because it allowed him to combine a public policy issue he cared about with a business investment.

Bush’s reputation as an school reformer stems from his work on K-12 education as governor and as the head of his Foundation for Excellence in Education.   He has been an advocate for online learning as a tool to expand opportunities for students.

While Bush’s association with the company began several years after he left office, Best contacted him about a possible business partnership before his departure from Tallahassee. The Texas businessman had connections to the Bush family, having raised money for the successful presidential campaigns of Bush’s older brother, George W. Bush.

After the two men met, Best sent Bush an e-mail in April 2005 touting a “huge global business opportunity” that could come from a “post-secondary initiative” he said they had previously discussed.    He said he hoped Bush found the idea “intriguing.”

“If you are interested, let’s continue our discussions as you begin to think about returning to the private sector after you leave office,”   Best wrote in the e-mail, which was obtained by The Post as part of a public-records request.

Bush responded that he had “pledged to myself to focus on my job until it is complete. I think I have a duty to do so.”

“Having said that,” Bush continued, “I think your vision is outstanding.

Best said in an interview that he approached Bush at the time because he had heard that the governor might be looking for opportunities in the private sector.   “I tried to get him in the water early,” Best said.

Years later, Best said, Bush was drawn to the firm because he has long been “intrigued by innovation in education,” particularly the goal of “bringing down the cost of higher education while maintaining quality.”

In his capacity as an adviser, Bush was “available to run ideas by and discuss concepts” as the firm expanded, Best said.

He said Bush helped preside over two conferences on the future of education hosted by the firm.   Bush and former North Carolina governor Jim Hunt (D) helped draw a high-powered lineup of speakers, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential front-runner, who addressed a March meeting on global education.

A 2012 report by the Texas Tribune said the company received $105 million in revenue from 24 public colleges and universities, including eight in Texas.   Forbes magazine reported in 2013 that the company had contracts with 40 U.S. schools.

Bush and Best wrote a 2013 article for Inside Higher Ed predicting that online classes would make higher education more accessible. “Companies like ours — Academic Partnerships — are helping universities respond to this transformative movement,” they wrote.

On some campuses, however, faculty members have viewed the arrival of Academic Partnerships with suspicion.

When the company arrived at Arkansas State University in 2011, for instance, faculty members were concerned “about a loss of quality and control,” said Jack Zibluk, a professor of media studies who headed the faculty senate at the time. Additional controversy erupted, he said, when some school officials involved in negotiations with the company later landed jobs with an affiliated firm.

Experts said that whether to do business with a contractor such as Academic Parternships remains a subject of great debate for university administrators.

“I don’t question whether firms like Academic Partnerships do quality work,” said Barbara Bichelmeyer, who directs online education for the seven campuses of Indiana 

University, which has chosen not to outsource its online learning programs. “The question we are engaging is about the ownership of the online educational experience — and whether a public institution is comfortable outsourcing this work in whole or in part.”

Best said that academicians’ concerns about his company — and online education generally — have largely diminished.

“It just increased their access to online students,” he said.   The additional tuition received by schools “is revenue they would never have otherwise.”

Best said Bush called his cellphone Dec. 16, after announcing plans to explore a presidential bid, to let him know that he planned to resign from the company.   Best said he plans to support Bush’s candidacy.

“He is the closest thing we have to a bipartisan candidate” who takes principled stands on tough issues such as immigration and education, Best said.   “He is not going to be a person who responds to the polls or every change in the political winds.”

Amherst County Virginia Democratic News

Amherst Democratic News

Saturday, January 3, 2015

David Duke Warns the GOP to Shut Up and Get In Line

“If Scalise is going to be crucified — if Republicans want to throw Steve Scalise to the woods, then a lot of them better be looking over their shoulders,” David Duke said.

David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan at the center of a brewing congressional scandal, told Fusion on Monday that two of his top associates invited Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) to a conference hosted by a controversial Duke-founded group in 2002.

Scalise, the House Majority whip, has come under fire after reports emerged he had spoken before the conference in 2002. Duke’s group, the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO, has been described as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a characterization Duke rejects.

Scalise’s office didn’t deny he had spoken at the conference — stopping short of confirming it — but pleaded ignorance and said he was “never affiliated with the abhorrent group in question.”

Duke told Fusion he has met with Scalise several times, along with other members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation.   He believes two close associates — Howie Farrell and Kenny Knight — invited Scalise to speak at the conference.

A representative for Scalise didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday evening.

Duke called Scalise a “decent guy”  and said he “likes him personally”  from meeting him multiple times, but said he wouldn’t vote for him in the future because of disagreements on many issues, including foreign policy.    He said he had no real professional, business, or political relationship with Scalise, despite the fact they briefly served together in the state House of Representatives.   Neither he nor Scalise, Duke said, have contributed to the other’s campaigns.

“Why is Scalise being singled out? I don’t know,” Duke said. “He was just going there, obviously, to tell voters about some of his initiatives on some tax matters. That’s what it’s all about. And I think it’s insane, this whole process.”

Scalise’s attendance at the conference was first reported by by Lamar White Jr., who blogs about Louisiana politics.    Mainstream outlets began picking up the story on Monday afternoon.

The development has the potential to roil a Republican Party that is days away from taking control of both chambers of Congress.    Scalise ascended to the House GOP’s No. 3 position earlier this year, after the stunning loss of then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) in his primary pushed then-Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy up to the No. 2 spot.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night, and it was unclear if Scalise had spoken to either Boehner or McCarthy.

News about Scalise’s past emerged at the same time the House Republican conference was dealing with the reported resignation of Rep. Michael Grimm (R-New York), who this month pleaded guilty to tax-evasion charges.

Scalise told The Times-Picayune on Monday night that he “detests any kind of hate group” — and that he doesn’t remember speaking at the 2002 event in question. Duke said he wasn’t “disappointed”  by the quick work Scalise did to distance himself from Duke and the group, EURO.   He said he was only disappointed in some of the positions Scalise has taken with respect to his support for Israel and foreign policy in general.

But what he described as political sanctimony stirring against him was “all bullshit.”   He rejected claims that he was a “racist” or “white supremacist,” saying he wouldn’t have won an election in a Louisiana district that was 80 percent Catholic.   Duke served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1989 to 1992.

“I’ve grown up. And I understand who the real racists are,”  Duke said in a phone interview on Monday, saying a “zionist”  and  “tribalist” mentality throughout the press and media was mostly to blame for the negative portrayal of him.

The SPLC has described EURO as a “paper tiger” that serves as the “vehicle” for him to sell books and publicize his writing.    They have detailed controversial past statements from multiple members of the group — including Ronald Doggett, the leader of its Virginia chapter who has said that African-Americans should be “flushed.”

Overall, Duke was rather flabbergasted by the new focus on Scalise.    He said he has hosted both Democratic and Republican legislators at everything from conferences to his children’s birthday parties.    He said he has met with Democratic legislators at least 50 times in his political life.

And he delivered a warning to both Republicans and Democrats:   Treat Scalise fairly, and don’t try to make political hay out of the situation.    Or he said he would be inclined to release a list of names of all the politicians — both Republicans and Democrats — with whom he has ties.

“If Scalise is going to be crucified — if Republicans want to throw Steve Scalise to the woods, then a lot of them better be looking over their shoulders,” Duke said.     The GOP has received the message and is  circleing to protect Scalise.

Duke is Big in Politics in La, A Republican Top Vote Getter

New Orleans attorney Ben Bagert was the Louisiana Republican Party’s choice to take on Democratic Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, with 451 out of 792 delegates’ votes at the state party convention.   But just days before the open primary election, he dropped out.

Why?    Because polls showed one of the convention’s losers heading to a runoff with the Democratic incumbent instead:   former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

After withdrawing from the Senate race, Bagert was quoted as saying,   “I do not want my footnote in history to read:   ‘His persistence led to the election of a man who tarnished American conservatism for many years.’”

That was in 1990.   Nearly twenty-five years later, Duke still threatens to tarnish American conservatism.   For the long white robe of David Duke has now reached from beyond the political grave to touch House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

A liberal blog dug through the archives of racist websites and discovered that Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, had spoken to a Duke-created group in 2002.

Scalise has defended himself by telling local media, “I detest any kind of hate group.”   He described any insinuation that he sympathized with Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization “insulting and ludicrous.”

Louisiana Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, a black lawmaker from New Orleans, insisted, “I don’t think Steve Scalise has a racist bone in his body.”

But the Louisiana GOP long had a David Duke problem.   Over the party leadership’s objections, Duke wound up the leading Republican candidate for Senate in 1990 and governor in 1991.

While Duke lost both races, he won the white vote each time.   In the Senate race Bagert abandoned, Duke received 44 percent of the vote overall.

As late as 1999, Republicans feared Duke could win the congressional seat being vacated by Bob Livingston.   He won 60 percent of the vote there in his failed run for governor and 54 percent during his 1990 Senate campaign.

Many leading Republicans only had so many degrees of separation from Duke.   David Vitter, soon to be the state’s senior senator and a likely 2015 gubernatorial candidate, succeeded Duke in the state legislature.   Former Gov. Mike Foster paid $150,000 for a Duke mailing list in 1995.

How did the loathsome Duke become a player in Louisiana politics?    The most obvious reason is the state’s troubled racial history.    Louisiana was one of the five states to vote for George Wallace’s segregationist presidential ticket in 1968.   The state had a segregationist Democratic congressman, John Rarick, as late as the 1970s.

Since Louisiana was a Catholic enclave in the Deep South, the archbishop of New Orleans (who called for an end to segregation in the city’s Catholic churches a year before Brown vs. Board of Education) had to excommunicate recalcitrant segregationists.

But it’s also true that Duke pretended to be a reformed racist, hiding his white sheets under a business suit.   “Of course I apologize for things that I have said that have been intolerant and improper,”  he said in a televised debate.   “And I do repudiate the Klan or any other racist organization or intolerant organization that exists in this state or in this country.”

Duke instead campaigned against tax increases, including a tax plan backed by Republican Gov. Buddy Roemer, welfare abuse, affirmative action and race-based minority set-asides in government contracts.   These were issues many mainstream Republicans were afraid to touch.

It was soon obvious Duke hadn’t changed his racist and anti-Semitic views.    John Danforth, Ted Stevens and Nancy Landon Kassebaum were among the Republican senators who endorsed their Democratic colleague over Duke in 1990.    When Duke ran for governor in 1991, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush supported the Democrat.

“When someone has so recently endorsed Nazism, it is inconceivable that someone can reasonably aspire to a leadership role in a free society,” said Bush, then president of the United States.

Duke supporters nevertheless emulated their man’s strategy of infiltrating legitimate conservative causes, like termites eating away at the foundation of a house.

Of course, many liberals conclude that conservatism is clandestinely racist and motivated by white backlash rather than genuine concern about taxes, welfare, crime or immigration.    And there is some justice to the charge that conservatives have not always done enough to distance themselves from racism.

It is equally true, however, that if responsible conservatives don’t take up issues like taxes, welfare, crime or immigration, racist kooks like David Duke will instead.

Meanwhile, Duke salivates over his return to the front page.    He promised in an interview to publicize the names of other politicians with whom he has ties, warning other Republicans  “better be looking over their shoulders.”

David Duke is like a ghost.   He’s dressed in a white costume.   He’s tried to possess the Republican Party.   Having failed, he can help liberals haunt it.

The bottom line.    It is hard to tell a right wing conservative republican from a white power racist.
That's something the republican party will have to correct.

Eugene Harold Robinson (born March 12, 1954) is an American newspaper columnist and the former assistant managing editor of The Washington Post.

His columns are syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group, and he is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.   He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009.   Robinson appears frequently as a political analyst on MSNBC cable-TV network's programs such as Morning Joe, PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton,  The Rachel Maddow Show,   The Ed Show,   Hardball with Chris Matthews,  and Countdown with Keith Olbermann.   In addition, he is often a panelist on NBC's public affairs program Meet the Press.   He lives with wife Avis and two sons in Arlington, Virginia.

ACVDN thanks Mr. Robinson for the following article.   You may contact him at

Here’s some advice for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise that also applies to the Republican Party in general:   If you don’t want to be associated in any way with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, then stay away from them.

Do not give a speech to a racist organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, as Scalise did when he was a Louisiana state legislator before running for Congress.   Do not pretend to be the only Louisiana politician who could possibly have failed to grasp the true nature of the event, as Scalise did this week when the 2002 speech became public.

Come on, a group called the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), established by one of the nation’s proudest and most vocal bigots?   Who happens to be, Rep. Scalise, from your state?

House Speaker John Boehner defended Scalise with the usual tut-tut about how speaking to the white supremacists was “an error in judgment” and Scalise was “right to acknowledge it was wrong and inappropriate.”   Despite this lapse, Boehner said, Scalise is “a man of high integrity and good character.”

As if on cue, friends and supporters chimed in to offer evidence of how demonstrably non-racist Scalise truly is.   He was an early supporter of Gov. Bobby Jindal, an Indian-American, over his white primary opponent!   He coached in a predominately black New Orleans basketball league!    In the Louisiana Legislature, he voted against a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday – oh, wait.

See, it’s a ridiculous and ultimately meaningless exercise, putting check marks in one column or the other to decide whether a politician “is” or “is not” a racist.   We hold officials accountable for what they say and do.   Whatever feelings he might have in the deepest recesses of his heart, Scalise was simply following the well-thumbed Republican playbook by signaling to avowed racists that he welcomed their support.

This is nothing new.   In fact, it’s like a bad habit that the party can’t seem to quit.

The addiction goes back to 1968, when Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” leveraged white racial resentment over federally mandated integration into an electoral majority. 

The GOP became the party of the South, even as the region – and its racial realities – underwent sweeping change.   Mississippi now has more black elected officials than any other state.    But do pockets of old-style, unapologetic racism persist, both in the South and elsewhere?    You bet they do.

In 2002, Scalise was seeking support for his tax-cutting agenda in the Legislature – and, of course, contacts that could further his political career.    He was invited to speak to the EURO group by Duke’s longtime political strategist, Kenny Knight, who happened to be Scalise’s neighbor.

As prominent conservative blogger Erick Erickson wrote this week on Twitter:   "How Do You Show Up at a David Duke Event and Not Know What It Is?”    Erickson was not alone in finding it hard to believe that anyone involved in Louisiana politics could fail to grasp what the meeting was and who was behind it.

Poor Boehner has more of a knack for getting caught in vises than anyone else in politics.   Usually he gets squeezed between the GOP’s establishment and tea party wings. 

This time, he’s mashed between his party’s present and its future.

Today, the Republican Party depends on a broad coalition of voters, weighted toward the South, that ranges in views from traditional Main Street conservatives to anti-government radicals who believe that menacing helicopters are about to descend any minute.    One thing these GOP voters have in common is that the vast majority of them are white.

The nation, however, becomes more racially diverse every day – and the Republican Party will have to become more diverse if it is to survive.   In picking and electing state-level candidates, the GOP has been doing better with governors such as Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, and Jindal.    In attracting voters, not so much.

One way not to attract African-American and Latino voters – in fact, one way to drive them away, along with the votes of some whites as well – is to show that the party is still happy to welcome the support of unrepentant racists and anti-Semites.

Maybe someday the Republican Party will say clearly that anyone associated with Duke, his little group or any racist association should find somebody else to vote for.    But this message must be sent with actions that have consequences – and it wasn’t sent this week.

Eugene Robinson’s email address is   

He has written the following books.   Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race. New York: Free Press. 1999. ISBN 0-684-85722-7.   Last Dance in Havana: The Final Days of Fidel and the Start of the New Cuban Revolution. New York: Free Press. 2004. ISBN 0-7432-4622-5.   Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America. New York: Doubleday. 2010. ISBN 0-385-52654-7.

for an arcive of Mr Robinson's work.

Republicans are Intent on Destroying America

It would be safe to say that any foreign entity actively subverting the United States government would be considered an enemy of the state by most Americans, and if it was a domestic entity, labeling them as traitors, or domestic terrorists, would certainly be apropos.     During the 2012 campaign, Republicans actively campaigned on an anti-government agenda, and despite voter rejection of domestic miscreant’s intent on eradicating government, Republicans are now pursuing various strategies to subvert the will of the people and eliminate the government’s ability to function.   As usual, in lieu of a constitutional provision to bring functioning government to a premeditated and premature end, Republicans are resorting to their typical tactic to convince the American people the government must cease to operate by lying to achieve their goal.

Less than two months ago the American electorate sent a clear message to Republicans that their anti-government, John Birch agenda was unacceptable and it was a defining moment for this nation.   After four years of obstruction, a first ever credit default, and perpetual attempts to sabotage the nation’s economy for the second time in 8 years, the people demanded government that worked for the entire population and preserved programs like Social Security and Medicare.   What Americans are witnessing right now is the Republican’s 75 year campaign to destroy the New Deal, and since Republicans did not achieve victory at the ballot box, they will take down the government to achieve their goal.

The calls for a government shutdown and credit default by an increasing number of Republicans unless Social Security and Medicare are incrementally abolished is the latest ploy of John Birch ideologues disguised as fiscally conservative Republicans who cannot accept the results of the recent election.    The proposition of closing the government is not exclusive to the extremist wing of the Republican Party as evidenced by mainstream conservatives such as Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) who penned an op/ed claiming “The biggest fiscal problem in Washington is spending and the national debt, and if we don’t reduce excessive spending on Medicare and Social Security - then, we will strangle economic growth, destroy jobs and reduce our standard of living.   It may be necessary to shut down the government to secure the long-term fiscal well-being of our country.”   The lack of veracity in Cornyn’s assertion typifies GOP rhetoric as well as their inability to accept they lost the election, but disregarding election results is gaining favor among Republicans desperate to impose their vision and end two very popular employee-funded programs.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) shared Cornyn’s belief that elections to decide the direction the nation takes going forward is the purview of Republicans and not the voters.   Graham said, ‘We’re going to have one hell of a contest about the direction and the vision of this country,” and one can rest assured it will be driven by the anti-government and anti-compromise John Birch faction in Republican ranks who would rather see government neutered than follow the voters’ wishes.   In fact, Republican Senator Ted Cruz remarked that  “I don’t think what Washington needs is more compromise, I think what Washington needs is more principle,”  and besides being contrary to the will of the voters, it portends more gridlock and obstruction that has prevented a robust economic recovery.   President Obama has offered to compromise with Republicans in a balanced approach to deficit reduction, but he stated categorically he “will not compromise” with Congress to lift the federal debt ceiling that led to a credit downgrade the last time lawmakers threatened inaction.   Still, Republicans appear unwilling to compromise and ready to shut down the government over principle despite the damage to the economy and the people.

The concept of shutting down the government unless Republicans control the direction and vision of the nation is nothing less than criminal, and the reprobates threatening senior’s retirement and healthcare, Veteran’s benefits, and every function of the government is the GOP punishing voters for rejecting their John Birch ideology that
no government and no compromise is the quickest way end the New Deal.    Cornyn’s allegation that excessive spending by the Obama Administration destroys jobs and reduces the standard of living belies the fact that under President Obama spending is at its lowest level in 60 years, or that jobs are returning with no thanks to Republicans.   The GOP has promoted the vile lie that Social Security is responsible for the national debt ad nauseum to eliminate the program, and only Americans with a chicken’s IQ still believe the GOP lie the government retirement program adds one penny to the national debt.

Republicans are playing a dangerous game with the nation’s economy, and their threats to shut down the government if their assault on Social Security and Medicare are not implemented is reprehensible and villainous.   It is also a death wish for the GOP that suffered a certifiable disaster in 1996 as the public sided overwhelmingly with President Clinton and rejected the GOP extremism of hostage taking and shutting down the government. Republicans have become a depraved group of ideologues who are hell-bent on imposing their extremist vision for America that voters just rejected, and threatening to shut down the government is a despicable act of desperation.   One might think Republicans would reflect on the last time their “shutdown” tactic failed when they controlled both houses of Congress and realize that with a only a narrow majority in the House, they have little leverage to force the President’s hand, but they will perish standing on principle before they concede to the will of the people and the results of the last election.

Makers and Takers. The Sick Republican Mind

Mitt Romney's secretly recorded comment that 47 percent of Americans are "dependent on the government" and "believe they are victims" isn't the only reason he lost the presidential campaign.    But the candidate himself acknowledged after the election that the comments were "very harmful."

He added, "What I said is not what I believe."

But many Republicans still believe it, and the "makers vs. takers" theme has a deep hold on the party.   In private conversations, many in the GOP are whispering that Romney was right and that his only mistake was saying it out loud.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say something like, "Well, the half who favor government programs is the half who don't pay any taxes."

This is ridiculous — on many levels.

First, the overwhelming majority of those who don't pay federal income taxes pay a whole variety of other taxes, including state and local taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, sin taxes and more.   They don't feel excluded from sharing the tax burden just because they don't pay one particular tax.

It's also worth noting that these aren't the people pushing for higher taxes.    At Rasmussen Reports, our most recent polling shows that people who make $100,000 or more each year are more supportive of higher taxes than those who make less.

Second, the 47 percent who don't pay federal income taxes include large chunks of the Republican base.   Many senior citizens fall into this category because their primary income is from Social Security.

They don't consider themselves "takers."    They paid money into a Social Security system throughout their working lives and now simply expect the government to honor the promises it made.

Third, low-income Americans aren't looking for a handout.    Among those who are living in poverty, 81 percent agree that work is the best solution to poverty.    Most would rather replace welfare programs with a guaranteed minimum-wage job.    Sharing the mainstream view, 69 percent of the poor believe that too many Americans are dependent upon the government.

Sixty-five percent of low-income Americans consider it "very important" for an economy to provide everybody with an opportunity to succeed.  Interestingly enough, low-income Americans consider that more important than those who earn more.

But if I had to pick just one number to highlight how bad the 47 percent remark was, it would be this.    Just 11 percent of Americans today consider themselves dependent upon government.    Sure, some receive a Social Security check or an unemployment check, but that's not dependence upon government.    That's cash received in exchange for premiums paid.

If they want to seriously compete for middle-class votes, Republicans need to get over the makers vs. takers mentality.   We live in a time when just 35 percent believe the economy is fair to the middle class.    Only 41 percent believe it is fair to those who are willing to work hard.    Those problems are not created by the poor.

GOP candidates would be well advised to shift their focus from attacking the poor to going after those who are really dependent upon government — the Political Class, the crony capitalists, the megabanks and other recipients of corporate welfare.

Today's Politicians

America used to be a country that thought big about the future.    Major public projects, from the Erie Canal to the interstate highway system, used to be a well-understood component of our national greatness.    Nowadays, however, the only big projects politicians are willing to undertake — with expense no object — seem to be wars.    Funny how that works.

One general rule of modern politics is that the people who talk most about future generations — who go around solemnly declaring that we’re burdening our children with debt — are, in practice, the people most eager to sacrifice our future for short-term political gain.    You can see that principle at work in the House Republican budget, which starts with dire warnings about the evils of deficits, then calls for tax cuts that would make the deficit even bigger, offset only by the claim to have a secret plan to make up for the revenue losses somehow or other.

Republicans are either being fooled or they are fools, You Choose.

What Does It All Mean?

Few things are as dangerous to a long term strategy as a short-term victory. Republicans this week scored the kind of win that sets one up for spectacular, catastrophic failure and no one is talking about it.

What emerges from the numbers is the continuation of a trend that has been in place for almost two decades.    Once again, Republicans are disappearing from the competitive landscape at the national level across the most heavily populated sections of the country while intensifying their hold on a declining electoral bloc of aging, white, rural voters.    The 2014 election not only continued that doomed pattern, it doubled down on it.    As a result, it became apparent from the numbers last week that no Republican candidate has a credible shot at the White House in 2016, and the chance of the GOP holding the Senate for longer than two years is precisely zero.

For Republicans looking for ways that the party can once again take the lead in building a nationally relevant governing agenda, the 2014 election is a prelude to a disaster.    Understanding this trend begins with a stark graphic.

Behold the Blue Wall:

The Blue Wall is block of states that no Republican Presidential candidate can realistically hope to win.   Tuesday that block finally extended to New Hampshire, meaning that at the outset of any Presidential campaign, a minimally effective Democratic candidate can expect to win 257 electoral votes without even trying.   That’s 257 out of the 270 needed to win.

Arguably Virginia now sits behind that wall as well.   Democrats won the Senate seat there without campaigning in a year when hardly anyone but Republicans showed up to vote and the GOP enjoyed its largest wave in modern history.    Virginia would take that tally to 270.    Again, that’s 270 out of 270.

This means that the next Presidential election, and all subsequent ones until a future party realignment, will be decided in the Democratic primary.   Only by sweeping all nine of the states that remain in contention AND also flipping one impossibly Democratic state can a Republican candidate win the White House.    What are the odds that a Republican candidate capable of passing muster with 2016 GOP primary voters can accomplish that feat?    You do the math.

By contrast, Republicans control a far more modest Red Fortress, which currently amounts to 149  electoral votes.    What happened to that fortress amid the glory of the 2014 “victory?”    It shrunk yet again.    Not only are New Hampshire and probably Virginia now off the competitive map, Georgia is now clearly in play at the Federal level.   This trend did not start in 2014 and it will not end here.    This is a long-term realignment that been in motion for more than a decade and continues to accelerate.

The biggest Republican victory in decades did not move the map.   The Republican party’s geographic and demographic isolation from the rest of American actually got worse.

A few other items of interest from the 2014 election results:

- Republican’s failed to pick up a single Senate seat Blue Wall.   Not one.   The only GOP candidate to win a Senate seat behind the Blue Wall was the party’s last moderate, Susan Collins of Maine.

- Behind the Blue Wall there were some new Republican Governors, but their success was very specific and did not translate down the ballot.    None of these candidates ran on social issues, Obama, or opposition the ACA.    Rauner stands out as a particular bright spot in Illinois, but Democrats in Illinois retained their supermajority in the State Assembly, similar to other northern states, without losing a single seat.

- Republicans in 2014 were the most popular girl at a party no one attended.   Voter turnout was awful.

- Democrats have consolidated their power behind the sections of the country that generate the overwhelming bulk of America’s wealth outside the energy industry.   That’s only ironic if you buy into far-right propaganda, but it’s interesting none the less.

- Vote suppression is working remarkably well, but that won’t last.    Eventually Democrats will help people get the documentation they need to meet the ridiculous and confusing new requirements.    The whole “voter integrity” sham may have given Republicans a one or maybe two-election boost in low-turnout races.    Meanwhile they kissed off minority votes for the foreseeable future.

- Across the country, every major Democratic ballot initiative was successful, including every minimum wage increase, even in the red states.

- Every personhood amendment failed.

- For only the second time in fifty years Nebraska is sending a Democrat to Congress.    Former Republican, Brad Ashford, defeated one of the GOP’s most stubborn climate deniers to take the seat.

- Almost half of the Republican Congressional delegation now comes from the former Confederacy.    Total coincidence, just pointing that out.

- In Congress, there are no more white Democrats from the South.    The long flight of the Dixiecrats has concluded.

- Democrats in 2014 were up against a particularly tough climate because they had to defend 13 Senate seats in red or purple states.   In 2016 Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats and at least 18 of them are likely to be competitive based on geography and demographics.   Democrats will be defending precisely one seat that could possibly be competitive.   One.

- And that “Republican wave?”   In Congressional elections this year it amounted to a total of 52% of the vote.   That’s it.

- Republican support grew deeper in 2014, not broader.    For example, new Texas Governor Greg Abbott won a whopping victory in the Republic of Baptistan.    That’s great, but that’s a race no one ever thought would be competitive and hardly anyone showed up to vote in.   Texas not only had the lowest voter turnout in the country (less than 30%), a position it has consistently held across decades,  but that electorate is more militantly out of step with every national trend then any other major Republican bloc.   Texas now holds a tenth of the GOP majority in the House.

- Keep an eye on oil prices.   Texas, which is at the core of GOP dysfunction, is a petro-state with an economy roughly as diverse and modern as Nigeria, Iran or Venezuela.    It was been relatively untouched by the economic collapse because it is relatively dislocated from the US economy in general.    Watch what happens if the decline in oil prices lasts more than a year.

- For all the talk about economic problems, for the past year the US economy has been running at ’90’s levels.   Watch Republicans start touting a booming economy as the result of their 2014 “mandate.”

- McConnell’s conciliatory statements are encouraging, but he’s about to discover that he cannot persuade Republican Senators and Congressmen to cooperate on anything constructive. 

We’re about to get two years of intense, horrifying stupidity.    If you thought Benghazi was a legitimate scandal that reveals Obama’s real plans for America then you’re an idiot, but these next two years will be a (briefly) happy period for you.

This is an age built for Republican solutions.   The global economy is undergoing a massive, accelerating transformation that promises massive new wealth and staggering challenges.   We need heads-up, intelligent adaptations to capitalize on those challenges.   Republicans, with their traditional leadership on commercial issues should be at the leading edge of planning to capitalize on this emerging environment.

What are we getting from Republicans?   Climate denial, theocracy, thinly veiled racism, paranoia, and Benghazi hearings.   Lots and lots of hearings on Benghazi.

It is almost too late for Republicans to participate in shaping the next wave of our economic and political transformation.   The opportunities we inherited coming out of the Reagan Era are blinking out of existence one by one while we chase so-called “issues” so stupid, so blindingly disconnected from our emerging needs that our grandchildren will look back on our performance in much the same way that we see the failures of the generation that fought desegregation.

Something, some force, some gathering of sane, rational, authentically concerned human beings generally at peace with reality must emerge in the next four to six years from the right, or our opportunity will be lost for a long generation. Needless to say, Greg Abbott and Jodi Ernst are not that force.

“Winning” this election did not help that force emerge.    This was a dark week for Republicans, and for everyone who wants to see America remain the world’s most vibrant, most powerful nation.

The republican party is killing itself.

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