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Why We Stand With Charlie Hebdo – And You Should Too – The Daily Beast

The massacre of cartoonists at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo is a crystallizing moment.

The shock brings clarity—a reminder that evil exists and free speech, no matter who might it offend, is a bedrock value of liberal democracy. An attack on journalists anywhere is an attack on civil society everywhere.

The closest parallels to this attack are last decade’s deadly riots over the cartoons of Muhammad published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. But there are more recent echoes of this intimidation game in the brief panic over The Interview after the Sony hackers threatened 9/11-style retaliation if the film was ever released. For a time, theater chains and the studio caved. Then popular demand did an end-run around their cowardice and the film was released without consequence other than profit and laughter. Read More…

Exclusive: Congressional Ethics Probe Adds to Michele Bachmann’s Political Woes – The Daily Beast

The Hindenburg. The Titanic. Michele Bachmann.

Eighteen months ago, the Minnesota House member was considered an unlikely but undeniable Republican rising star, winning the Iowa straw poll that unofficially begins the primary season. Today, she is embroiled in a litany of legal proceedings related to her rolling disaster of a presidential campaign—including an Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into campaign improprieties that has not previously been reported.

The Daily Beast has learned that federal investigators are now interviewing former Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations. The investigators are working on behalf of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which probes reported improprieties by House members and their staffs and then can refer cases to the House Ethics Committee. Read More…

Jim Harrison Can Make You a Better Animal – The Daily Beast

Arguably America’s greatest living author—and certainly our earthiest—lives half the year in Livingston, Montana. It’s a town grounded in the early 20th-century West, with neon signs on brick buildings and mountains in the background, all crowned by a former train depot that was once the preferred entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

The town is a reminder of a time when authors were respected ambassadors of a mythic America, the dream readers who could shrink large distances with their dispatches, articulate outlaws who could drink and fight and fuck and still file on deadline, drawing a straight line from Jack London to Ernest Hemingway with a thousand wasted wannabees in between.

Jim Harrison steps out of that tradition, but with contempt for its pretensions. He is all appetite and no apologies. And so the author of Legends of the Fall and 30 other books, including The Farmer’s Daughter (newly released in paperback), is one of the most accessible of modern American writers whose work is filed under “literature.” He is not locked inside his head but connected to the land and heart and, especially, stomach. For all his freely admitted highs and lows, buoyed by lust and flashes of violence, he keeps the virtues of kindness and forgiveness close. His writing reminds us to try our best to be happy animals in an unsentimental world. Read More…

Market Leninism vs. the West – The Daily Beast

So much for the end of history. Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall gave rise to the idea that liberal capitalist democracy would carry the human race inexorably toward broad sunlit uplands, we are confronted with the ugly fact that culture outlasts politics.

The ideology of communism may have ended up on the ash heap of history like Nazism before it, but now “Market Leninism” is taking its place as a challenge to liberty in the 21st Century.

The fault lines reflect Cold War regions.

Russia and China and some of their old satellite states have traded Marx and Lenin for Market Leninism.

The militaristic one-party state endures – but the nomenklatura now attracts global capital, swilling champagne in jet set nightclubs instead of behind dacha walls.
Read More…

Ed Brooke: The Senate’s Civil Rights Pioneer and Prophet of a Post-Racial America – The Daily Beast

Ed Brooke was a man ahead of his time—a pioneer of the civil rights movement and a prophet of a post-racial America that is still beyond us. And like all prophets, he was under-appreciated by his country, his community, and his party for far too long.

In 1966, Ed Brooke single-handedly desegregated the Senate by becoming the first African-American elected by popular vote in American history as a Republican from Massachusetts—where less than 3 percent of the population was black and less than 1 in 10 voters were registered Republicans.

His Senate election occurred just three years after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” and one year after LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act into law over the objections of GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, a frequent Brooke foe. In 1962, when Brooke became the first African-American Attorney General in the nation, President Kennedy called it “the biggest news in the country.” Read More…

The Westboro Defectors Speak: Phelps Granddaughters Embrace Tolerance – The Daily Beast

On Thursday afternoon Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper visited the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. They’d been inside only a few minutes when they saw a photo of their family.

There, as part of the permanent exhibit, was an image of their grandmother and sister at the murder trial of Matthew Shepard’s killers, holding the signs for which the Westboro Baptist Church has become infamous: “God Hates Fags,” “AIDS Cures Gays,” and “Matt in Hell.”

This was once their way of life. Now 27, Megan had been taken to protests since age 5; her younger sister Grace had been attending since birth—all as part of the Kansas ministry founded by their grandfather. Read More…

Paranoia on Patriots’ Day – The Daily Beast

The paranoid style in American politics is alive and well.

It was thriving on both sides of the Potomac Monday at separate Second Amendment rallies offering a cast of characters including militia members, a fundamentalist Mormon family, a sheriff, a Patrick Henry re-enactor and a pistol-packing transsexual.

What connected them all is a belief that our constitutional republic is being undermined by the Obama administration. As one typical rallying cry vented: “It’s not about guns—it’s about freedom!” And they let their freak flag fly.

At the Virginia rally, the armed participants were almost outnumbered by the press, creating a militia petting-zoo atmosphere. Foreign and domestic reporters fell all over themselves to interview what they saw as self-appointed members of the lunatic fringe.

This crowd didn’t need signs; they had assault rifles to get their primary point across. Earnest members of the crowd discussed conspiracies ranging from JFK to 9/11 to Timothy McVeigh, all ending up with guns protecting us from global government. But there was a specific irony undercutting their intensity—namely that President Obama, who attendees say is threatening their Second Amendment rights, signed the law which made this first armed rally in a national park possible. Read More…

Hate—and Hitler—in the Heartland – The Daily Beast

The man accused of shooting three at Jewish centers in Kansas has a long résumé as a neo-Nazi and KKK grand wizard who once created a points system for murder.

The sole suspect in a shooting that left three dead at two Jewish community centers outside Kansas City on Sunday is a former Ku Klux Klan “grand dragon,” neo-Nazi, and ex-con named Frazier Glenn Miller.

The 73-year-old was caught by TV cameras yelling “Heil Hitler” from the back seat of a police car after he was apprehended in the parking lot of a local elementary school. Rabbi Herbert Mandl, chaplain for the Overland Park Police Department, said the gunman asked people whether they were Jewish before he opened fire. Two of the victims, named by grieving family members as Dr. William Lewis Corporon and his grandson Reat Griffin Underwood, 14, were not Jewish, however–they were members of the nearby United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. Read More…

Hating Kennedy – The Daily Beast

This week, America was fixated on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Grief nourishes myth and a new CNN poll registers JFK as our most admired ex-president from the past half century.

His brief 1,000 days in the Oval Office loom large in American memory because of his abrupt loss; a psychic wound that shaped a generation, symbolizing a collective loss of innocence.

Perhaps inevitably, we buy into the idea that President Kennedy was as beloved in life as he has been in death. Of course, this was not the case. Read More…

Vaclav Havel’s Heroic Politics of Truth and Responsibility – The Daily Beast

It is a small irony of history that playwright, prisoner, and Czech president Vaclav Havel died on the same day as North Korean dictator Kim Jung-il. But the world that Havel helped shape had reduced Kim Jung-il to a strange museum piece the last of the totalitarian rajas, bodyguarded by lies, surrounded by suffering. Read More…

Christie’s Reelection Triumph Is a Revenge of the RINOs – The Daily Beast

Chris Christie’s landslide reelection in a state President Obama won by 17 points offers the GOP a memo on how to win in 2016, if it wants one.

Don’t just fixate on the top-line numbers. They obscure the real story. Look instead at Christie’s initial exit poll margins among women, independent voters, moderates, the middle class, Hispanics, and African-Americans. In those cross-tab stats, you see the outlines of a candidate who can dig the GOP out of the demographic trap it’s facing. Read More…

Shutdown Crisis: We Need a Hostage Negotiator – The Daily Beast

With the government shutdown entering its second week and debt ceiling default less than two weeks away, polarization has turned poisonous and confusion reigns on Capitol Hill.

“It actually reminds me of a prison siege,” says Christopher Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, as he surveys the dysfunctional congressional deadlock. “The opposition isn’t particularly organized. The smart move is to pick among the leadership on the other side who is the most reasonable. Then you empower them by talking with them and granting some sort of small concession. And they suddenly gain a lot of influence on their side.”

Yes, it’s come to this: Washington’s shutdown stalemate looks like a hostage crisis to high-stakes negotiators. And in their eyes, the inmates are running the asylum. Read More…

Don’t Call Obama Racist – The Daily Beast

Race remains a fundamental fault line in American life. That’s why the Trayvon Martin murder trial drew wall­ to ­wall coverage on cable news and why the jury’s decision to acquit George Zimmerman drew outraged cries.

And on Friday afternoon, a day before planned nationwide protests, President Obama weighed into the fray with a remarkable, unscripted 17­-minute address from the White House briefing room.

But by trying to use the bully pulpit to turn this national paroxysm into what he might call a “teachable moment,” President Obama reignited conservative criticisms that he is an advocate for identity politics rather than for national unity. Read More…

George H.W. Bush, Our Preppiest Ex-President, Honored at White House – The Daily Beast

It’s been a quarter-century since George H.W. Bush was elected president, but the wheels of history are finally turning his way. In a triumph of civility and character over hyperbolic hyper-partisanship, Bush 41 was honored Monday by President Obama at the White House for the success of his Point of Light award for civic volunteerism.

We begin to see clearly in the rearview mirror of history, and George H.W. Bush has lived long enough to be appreciated as the Lone Star Yankee, perhaps the last unapologetically centrist Republican to enter the White House, winning California on the way to an electoral landslide. Read More…

Lindsey Graham Wasn’t Afraid to Fight for Immigration Reform – The Daily Beast

Profiles in courage are rare in our politics these days, but the Senate’s passage of comprehensive immigration reform is bright example of how Washington does not need to be a place where good ideas go to die.

Credit goes to the “Courageous 14” Republican senators who joined with the Democratic majority to make this legislation pass by a towering bipartisan margin of 68 to 32. Building squarely on the tireless efforts of the Gang of Eight—led by Marco Rubio, Chuck Schumer, Robert Menendez, and John McCain—the bill’s passage was a timely reminder that common ground is the only practical problem-solving space on Capitol Hill. That matters if you believe Congress should be more than an ideological debating society.

But the first among equals in the profile in courage sweepstakes is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Of all the Gang of Eight senators, he was the most unvarnished in his advocacy and he has the most to lose. Read More…

Lisa Murkowski’s Declaration of Independence – The Daily Beast

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski became the third Republican U.S. Senator to support same-sex marriage on Wednesday, just days before the Supreme Court is set to decide on its constitutionality. But what’s really significant about Murkowski’s decision is the argument she made in an op-ed, rooted squarely in family values.

In explaining her evolution on the issue, Murkowski told the story of an Alaskan military couple who visited her on Capitol Hill for lunch with their four foster children. The kicker was that the couple was two women.

As Murkowsi explained: “After their years of sleepless nights, after-school pickups, and birthday cakes, if one of them gets sick or injured and needs critical care, the other would not be allowed to visit them in the emergency room—and the children could possibly be taken away from the healthy partner. They do not get considered for household health-care benefit coverage like spouses nationwide. This first-class Alaskan family still lives a second-class existence.” Read More…

The Obama Haters Book Club: The Canon Swells – The Daily Beast

Welcome to the Obama Haters Book Club—a parallel universe of fear mongering for fun and profit.

Over the past four years, no less than 89 obsessively anti-Obama books have been published, as now catalogued by The Daily Beast. I’m not talking about cool statements of policy difference, but overheated and often unhinged screeds painting a picture of the president as a dangerous radical hell-bent on undermining the Republic by any means necessary. It is hate and hyper-partisan paranoia masquerading as high-minded patriotism.

Here’s the worst part—this steady drumbeat of incitement is having an impact on this presidential election because it has poisoned the well of civic discourse for many voters and those in their radius of damage. It has helped divide the nation beyond reason, distorting the president’s real record beyond all recognition. Read More…

The Military-Industrial Complex Is Real, and It’s Bigger Than Ever – The Daily Beast

In January 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned about the growth of the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address.

Ed Snowden, late of Booz Allen Hamilton, is just one small expression of its rise. The rest is evident throughout the Gilded Age of the metro Washington area, a boom time of corporate cronyism in the wake of 9/11 that has led to fat contracts amid the outsourcing of national security, complete with the proliferation of top security clearances to private contractors like Snowden. Read More…

NSA Spying Shows Obama’s Machine Out of Control – The Daily Beast

With news that Verizon was required to hand over supposedly private domestic phone records to the government as part of a national security dragnet, the second-term curse just got much more real for the Obama administration.

To date, however, the Obama second-term scandals do not seem carelessly self-inflicted from the top like those of the past, from Watergate to Iran-Contra to Monica or even the botched response to Hurricane Katrina.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t deeply destructive to President Obama’s legacy. Read More…

Michele Bachmann Is Done: Her Hostage Tape to Reality – The Daily Beast

Our long national nightmare is over.

Well, that’s overstating it. But the congresswoman who represented the worst of modern American politics more than she ever tried to represent her Minnesota constituents has announced that she will not run for reelection.

Michele Bachmann is done. Read More…

Stuck Far From Home, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett Asks for Prayers – The Daily Beast

When the mile-wide twister came down just outside his town, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was watching the devastation on television, just like the rest of America.

The three-term mayor was stuck at an economic-development conference in Las Vegas—the last place that any chief executive wants to be caught when disaster visits his city.

“We’re in a search-and-rescue mode right now,” Mayor Cornett told The Daily Beast while waiting to board the first flight back home. “Right now, you’re just trying to go through and account for people, trying to find out who’s missing and then try to figure out where they might be.” Read More…

Hispanic Outreach Director Explains Why He Said ‘Adios’ to the GOP – The Daily Beast

Conservatives should consider this a warning sign. The Republican National Committee’s former Hispanic outreach director for Florida has left the GOP and registered as a Democrat, citing a “culture of intolerance.”

Pablo Pantoja is a decorated Iraq war vet who began his brief career with the GOP by volunteering for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and serving as field director for Marco Rubio’s triumphant 2010 senate campaign. He says he was originally drawn to the GOP “because of my business-minded mentality. Fiscal issues are important for all families—Hispanics and non-Hispanics.”

But a recent anti-immigration report from the right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation sent the Puerto Rican–born Pantoja heading for bluer pastures this week. Not only did the paper tally the cost of immigration form at an absurdly high $6.3 trillion, but its author, Jason Richwine, was found to have written an overtly racist dissertation in 2009 that labeled American immigrants as having lower IQs than those of white natives.

Read More…

With Benghazi Video, Karl Rove Kicks Off 2016 With Hillary Clinton Hit – The Daily Beast

Less than five months after Barack Obama began his second term, the 2016 presidential campaign kicked off this weekend with a Benghazi-themed attack ad that takes direct aim at Hillary Clinton.

The 90-second web ad, called “Benghazi”, was issued by the Karl Rove–founded American Crossroads, which spent more than $21 million in the last election cycle. It is the freshest evidence that hyperpartisan super-PAC slush funds are now a core part of the permanent campaign.

This American Crossroads ad matters because of its unsubtle purpose: a preemptive strike against a potential Clinton presidential campaign in 2016. Remember that through 2008, Clinton was widely considered the most polarizing figure in American politics. The days of Hillary as Republicans’ favorite member of the Obama cabinet are over. This dynamic was unlikely to the point of absurdity—a case of political amnesia brought on by a combination of her voting record in the Senate and the ’08 campaign-era conviction that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Read More…

IRS Wrong To Target ‘Patriots’–But Also To Let Non-Profits Play Politics – The Daily Beast

Forget slow-news Friday. The IRS admission today that it singled out for scrutiny political action committees with the words “Tea Party” and “Patriot” in their names rocketed around the Internet, fueling conservatives’ feeling of persecution.

The actions were apparently taken in isolation by workers at a local Cincinnati, Ohio, branch and announced with a public apology by Lois Lerner, head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups.

This imposition of political impulses into IRS inquiries is completely out of line —and given the Nixon administration’s record of using audits for political purposes, the feeling of persecution has some roots in reality. But the inevitable rhetorical rush to the ramparts—that this was part of a concerted effort by the Obama administration to investigate its political enemies—is not rooted in fact, to date. Beyond the fact that the White House and the IRS now keep each other at arm’s length because of past abuses, the larger slumber scandal at the IRS is actually a reluctance to aggressively investigate the systemic abuse of tax-exempt status by nonprofit groups in the wake of the Citizens United decision. Read More…

Mark Sanford Is the Comeback Kid, Winning SC Congressional Seat – The Daily Beast

The redemption tour is over and Congress has a new Comeback Kid.

Scandal-laden former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford won back his old congressional seat on Tuesday night, defeating Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch by a 54 percent to 45 percent margin in a high-turnout special election.

The victory shocked the national press corps, who had been predicting a Colbert-Busch victory—with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, for example, declaring “this is not serious” after a PPP poll found Sanford 9 points behind the Democratic nominee two weeks from Election Day. Read More…

Elizabeth Colbert Busch and Mark Sanford Clash at South Carolina Debate – The Daily Beast

There was rolling thunder and rain outside the Citadel on Monday night, but the lightning was inside the packed auditorium where Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch clashed in the one debate of the one congressional race in the country right now.

Argentinean affairs? A confident Colbert Busch went there, slamming the former governor for leaving “the country for a personal purpose” on the taxpayer dime in 2009.

Sanford returned fire with repeated references to Nancy Pelosi and the labor union donations that have flowed into Colbert Busch’s campaign coffers. The practiced groans of the Colbert Busch staffers and supporters showed that this line of attack is at least as effective as it is hackneyed. Read More…

False Flags, Sharia Law, and Gun Grabs: GOP Lawmakers Embrace The Crazy – The Daily Beast

A few days after the Boston bombings, Stella Tremblay went to Glenn Beck’s Facebook page to express her conviction that the terror attack was, in fact, orchestrated by the U.S. government.

“The Boston Marathon was a Black Ops ‘terrorist’ attack,” she wrote. “One suspect killed, the other one will be too before they even have a chance to speak. Drones and now ‘terrorist’ attacks by our own Government. Sad day, but a ‘wake up’ to all of us.”

She then linked to a video at Infowars.com called Proof! Boston Marathon Bombing is Staged Terror Attack.

Tremblay’s post, though, stood out from the wave of post-attack crazy because of her day job: she is a New Hampshire state legislator. Read More…

Pope Francis’s Lessons for the GOP – The Daily Beast

On the heels of Pope Francis’s triumphant visit to Brazil for World Youth Day, the humble pontiff is reinvigorating the Catholic Church after a time of scandal by reaching out, advancing reforms that threaten powerful special interests and leading by example.

Gone are the palatial apartments, ideological rigidity and red Prada slippers. In its place is a re-emphasis on heart and humility, a principled populist simplicity befitting the first Jesuit in the office. Perhaps not surprisingly, the neophyte pope—not even six months on the job—seems popular with everyone except perhaps the right wing of his own church. And it occurs to this political columnist that in the example of Pope Francis there might be some useful lessons for the modern GOP as they seek to reinvigorate and rededicate their own institution. Read More…

Mark Sanford Ditched by NRCC, but Counting Him Out Would Be Unwise – The Daily Beast

Leave it to the National Republican Congressional Committee to take a bad situation and make it worse.

After the unwelcome revelation that former South Carolina governor and GOP congressional nominee Mark Sanford has been accused of trespassing by his ex-wife, Jenny, national Republicans decided to pull the plug on funding for his campaign in advance of the May 7 general election.

The move might seem like a concession to common decency—until one considers the facts on the ground. Court documents state that the incident occurred Feb. 3, the night of the Super Bowl. According to a statement belatedly released by his campaign, Mark Sanford had, very unwisely, decided to watch the game with his 14-year-old son at their former family beach house while his ex-wife was out of town visiting another son. The decision was perhaps a sign of “rules don’t apply to me” syndrome and definitely in violation of their divorce agreement. But it is not exactly the stalking scenario that immediately came to mind when the court documents initially were made public Tuesday night. Read More…

A Time for Resilience – The Daily Beast

There, with the end in sight, two bombs exploded on Boylston Street.

The shrapnel tore through the cheering crowd, knocking marathon runners down with the force of the blast, turning their moment of triumph into tragedy.

Even hours later, still surrounded by the fog of war, we are not sure of who set off the bombs or why. But whether this terror attack is the work of a lone wolf or al Qaeda or something else entirely, what’s clear is the cruelty of this twisted excuse for a human being. Read More…

Obama Budget Catching Hell From Both Sides: Why That’s a Good Sign – The Daily Beast

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall catch hell from both sides.”

So said a sign on the Justice Department wall of Burke Marshall at the height of the civil rights era. But it could also apply to President Obama’s new budget, finally offered up two months late and on the heels of competing Democratic Senate and House Republican proposals.

But this budget is not like all the others. It is not a positional bargaining document, designed simply to rally the base at the outset of negotiations. One way you can tell is that liberal activists and congressmen are already screaming “sellout” at the White House for offering Social Security reform as part of a balanced plan to reduce the deficit and debt.

The Republican response so far has been crickets, and that throat clearing you hear in the distance might just be a recalibration before another reflexive “tax and spend liberal” attack on the president. Read More…

Georgia Is Celebrating Confederate Heritage and History Month? Really? – The Daily Beast

I thought it was an April Fools’ joke.

There in my inbox on the morning of April 1 was an email from something called Ray McBerry Enterprises announcing the official start of “Confederate Heritage and History Month” in Georgia.

Apparently, former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue signed the annual celebration into law in 2009, joining six other Southern states in official monthlong “celebrations.” My folks live next door in South Carolina, and I’m a bit of a Civil War nerd, so there’s no inherent shock in the impulse to recognize local history, however painful the legacy.

But what did shock me was this quote from the press release: “So much is portrayed by Hollywood today that Georgia and the South were evil; when, in reality, the South was the most peaceful, rural, and Christian part of America before war and Reconstruction destroyed the pastoral way of life here.” Read More…

Palin’s SarahPAC Embarrassment: Consultants Are Cashing In – The Daily Beast

The ex-governor and VP pick railed against political consultants at CPAC. But her latest FEC filings show they took millions of dollars from her in the last election cycle.

She’s baaaack.

Sarah Palin attempted to relaunch her political career and her political action committee, SarahPAC, on Thursday with a Web video called “Loaded for Bear,” which presented the former Alaska governor as the new kingmaker for conservative populists in the GOP.

The video riffed off her speech at CPAC, in which Palin railed against “the big consultants, the big money men, and the big bad media.” But there’s an irony alert ahead: the current stated purpose of SarahPAC is to raise money ahead of the 2014 election—most of which will be spent on conservative consultants. Read More…

Exclusive: Congressional Ethics Probe Adds to Michele Bachmann’s Political Woes – The Daily Beast

The Hindenburg. The Titanic. Michele Bachmann.

Eighteen months ago, the Minnesota House member was considered an unlikely but undeniable Republican rising star, winning the Iowa straw poll that unofficially begins the primary season. Today, she is embroiled in a litany of legal proceedings related to her rolling disaster of a presidential campaign—including an Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into campaign improprieties that has not previously been reported.

The Daily Beast has learned that federal investigators are now interviewing former Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations. The investigators are working on behalf of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which probes reported improprieties by House members and their staffs and then can refer cases to the House Ethics Committee. Read More…

More Sarah Palin Than Ronald Reagan: CPAC’s Paranoid Style – The Daily Beast

There’s no place where the paranoid style in American politics mixes with presidential aspirants quite like CPAC.

At this year’s conservative conclave, held at the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland, there is a mood of grim resignation after their rejection in the 2012 election, a determination to look for restoration along even stricter ideological lines.

What was once a decidedly fringe festival that Main Street Republicans have derided as a “Star Wars bar scene” has become a mandatory stop on the GOP presidential circuit, with Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, and Paul Ryan all making speeches this year. For conservative activists, it serves as an annual tribal gathering, selling special knowledge to those who feel at war with much of modern America and all of the Obama administration. And the media happily feed the beast because CPAC offers a one-stop shop for portraying the uneasy coexistence between constitutionalists and conspiracy theorists inside the conservative movement. Read More…

The Elephant in the Room: Chris Christie’s CPAC Dig – The Daiy Beast

With the “Star Wars bar” of the Conservative Political Action Conference (in other words, a bunch of aliens) kicking off Thursday morning, it was no coincidence that among the first speakers were Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, both known for their impulse to unleash hyper-partisan howlers that alienate anyone who isn’t a strident social conservative.

CPAC is useful because it clarifies the dividing lines of the GOP civil war. In the CPAC camp are co-sponsoring organizations like the Family Research Council, whose senior scholar recently stated that individuals who indulge in premarital sex should be “punished” by society.

On the other side of the GOP divide are figures with a demonstrated ability and determination to reach beyond the base and govern in a way that’s both effective and inclusive. Read More…

Is Jeb Bush Right About Campaign ‘Crack Addicts’? – CNN.com

“You guys are crack addicts.”

That was Jeb Bush on “Meet the Press,” addressing journalists about their obsession with the 2016 presidential campaign, more than three years away.

The former Florida governor was joking and it’s a fool’s errand for anyone in the media to pretend to be offended. But as always, humor contains a kernel of truth.

Although the press corps isn’t collectively hitting the glass pipe, we are more than a little obsessive-compulsive when it comes to talking about the next election.

After all, the last presidential election just ended four months ago. The midterm elections are still 18 months away. This is the time for governing — that rare sweet spot in a two-term administration where Congress is not paralyzed by the immediate prospect of re-election and the president has maximum political capital to spend on the priorities that define a legacy. Read More…

Rand Paul Kicks It Old School in Filibuster Marathon Over Drones – The Daily Beast

Give Rand Paul credit—he decided to kick it old school on the Senate floor and filibuster in person rather than simply filing a procedural motion.

The result was the kind of spectacle we only see in Frank Capra films and Strom Thurmond lowlight reels: a U.S. senator on a one-man speaking marathon designed to bring national attention to an issue he believes is of critical importance to the country and the Constitution. In this case, it’s the Obama administration’s reluctance to say it would not rule out drone strikes against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. That’s why Paul decided to filibuster the president’s nominee to be CIA director, explaining: “I don’t rise to oppose John Brennan’s nomination simply for the person. I rise today for the principle.”

Things got off to a surreal start around 11:50 Wednesday morning when, a few minutes into his filibuster, Paul asked: “Has America the Beautiful become Alice’s Wonderland?” and then imagined the queen screaming “Release the drones!” This is a scenario Lewis Carroll never contemplated. Read More…

Hostage to His Caucus, John Boehner Can’t Keep His Message Straight – The Daily Beast

It’s official. Washington has no idea how to get out of the mess it created with the sequester. That’s the message Speaker John Boehner sent with his Meet the Press interview that aired Sunday.

“I don’t think anyone quite understands how it gets resolved,” he said with trace of hangdog sadness.

Host David Gregory pressed, asking, “In the end, you don’t really see a pathway here that’s open as you sit here?”

“If I did, the meeting at the White House this morning might have gone better,” Boehner replied, ruminating on Friday’s hourlong White House powwow while the rest of Congress had skipped town. Read More…

The Pro Freedom Republicans Are Coming: 131 Sign Gay-Marriage Brief – The Daily Beast

One hundred thirty-one Republicans signed an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court on Thursday arguing that marriage is a fundamental right that should not be denied to gay and lesbian Americans.

That is nearly double the number of Republicans who had publicly signed on to the amicus brief earlier this week, indicating a growing groundswell of support among conservatives who recognize the philosophic consistency of supporting the freedom to marry. Call them pro-freedom Republicans.

The coalition includes 12 current and former members of Congress, including New York’s Richard Hanna, California’s Mary Bono Mack, and Florida’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; 7 former governors, including Utah’s Jon Huntsman, New Mexico’s Gary Johnson, and Massachusetts’s William Weld; and 7 current state legislators. They join the 206 Republican state legislators who have supported the freedom to marry on a state basis to date. Read More…

Joe Biden’s Shotgun Approach to Politics Good for Obama Administration – The Daily Beast

In the pop-culture presidency of the Obama administration, Joe Biden plays an outsize role. He’s the goofy white uncle, loose-lipped and earnest to a fault, who recently became the subject of an Onion biography that imagines the teetotaler as a beer-guzzling Trans-Am worshipper eternally fixated on the summer of ’87.

But while Biden has a tendency to shoot from the lip and stray from the script, it is not without strategic political benefit. On the campaign trial, his warmth balanced Obama’s cool—there’s nothing aloof about Biden. He was dispatched to Rust Belt union halls and rallied the base, embodying Bob Shrum’s eternal “fighting for you” formulation without seeming forced. Hell, the man singlehandedly brought the word “malarkey” out of exile. If Obama is among the most self-monitoring of men, Biden is among the least. Read More…

The PowerPoint That Proves It’s Not Obama’s Sequester After All – The Daily Beast

With deep sequestration cuts just days away, Congress is on vacation. But they’ve still got plenty of time to play the blame game.

The latest semantic spin is to call the looming $1.2 trillion in cuts, which could throw the whole economy back into recession, “Obama’s Sequester.” House Speaker John Boehner indulged this approach half a dozen times in a floor speech before he went on break, establishing its place in the talking-points firmament.

There are a couple problems with this tactic, as my colleague Michael Tomasky pointed out Tuesday. Congress passed sequestration before the president signed it, and the whole self-defeating exercise was carried out in response to Tea Party Republicans’ insistence that we play chicken with the debt ceiling, which ultimately cost America its AAA credit rating. Read More…

This is How China Hacks America: Inside the Mandiant Report – The Daily Beast

The Chinese government just got caught with a smoking cyber gun.

Cybersecurity consultant Mandiant released a much-anticipated report Tuesday morning, offering the most detailed look to date inside the Chinese People Liberation Army’s direct involvement in hacking into American government and corporate websites.

The PLA Unit 61398 is identified by the report as the most prolific hacking group inside the Chinese government. Dedicated to infiltrating English-language sites, the unit recruits English-language proficient speakers and experts in computer security, but otherwise scrubs any mention of its organization from Chinese-language websites. Operating out of a 12-story, 130,663 square foot facility in the Pudong New Area sector of Shanghai, its building is able to contain as many as 2,000 personnel. Special high capacity fiber-optics were installed by China Telecom when the building was constructed in 2007 and the outfit utilizes over 1,000 servers. Read More…

The Republicans’ Ugly and Shameful Chuck Hagel Filibuster – The Daily Beast

Since the election, Republican talking points have reflected the fact that they need to reach out beyond their base: to be positive rather than negative; appear more reasonable, less obstructionist.

But how you act speaks more loudly than what you say, and Senate Republicans have doubled down on obstructionism with their shameful filibuster of secretary-of-defense nominee Chuck Hagel. Add to this fresh insult the hold Sen. Rand Paul put on Obama’s nominee to be CIA director, John Brennan, and it looks like Republicans are backing a cynical political strategy that could compromise national security while proliferating hyperpartisanship even further in the future. Read More…

The Scandal of Former State GOP Chairman Jim Greer Is Classic Florida – The Daily Beast

Ah, Florida—the land of sun, sand, and scandal.

On Monday, former state Republican Party chairman Jim Greer added his name to the long list of Sunshine State lowlights when, after years of proclaiming his innocence, he pleaded guilty to five felonies including grand theft and money laundering.

Legal terminology doesn’t do justice to the crass creativity of the crimes. This is a man who catapulted from publisher of the Palm Bay Party Guide to Oviedo City Council member to chief of the swing state GOP. In three short years, he managed to oversee charges of more than $7 million on the party AmEx card, including nearly $500,000 for personal indulgences like spa treatments, flowers, flights, and fine dining. Greer gave new meaning to the term “party chairman”—and I’m not even counting allegations about golf carts full of hookers on a fundraising trip to the Bahamas. Read More…

With Plea Deal, Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Fall From Grace Seems Complete – The Daily Beast

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. agreed Friday to plead guilty to charges of misusing campaign funds, in an apparent bid to an end a federal investigation that threatens to also implicate his wife, former Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson. Both had resigned their offices in recent months, reportedly as part of the congressman’s negotiations with prosecutors.

For the scion of what was once the country’s most influential African-American family, the plea deal represents a precipitous fall from grace that overlaps with the ascent of another African-American Chicago family to the White House. The Jackson dynasty appears to be done. Read More…

Super Bowl Blackout Should Help Build Momentum for a Smart Grid – The Daily Beast

The 34-minute Super Bowl blackout is just the most recent high-profile example of a growing national problem. Blackouts are on the rise across the United States, with major power outages doubling over the past decade.

The problem is an aging electricity infrastructure strained by skyrocketing electricity use and, as in the case of the blackouts following Hurricane Sandy, the increased frequency of super storms that have knocked out power in some populated areas for weeks.

After Sunday night’s Super Bowl blackout, Newsweek Global editor Tunku Varadarajan tweeted, “Is this New Orleans or New Delhi?”—a reference to the summer subcontinent blackout that affected 600 million. A few beats later, Tunku articulated this widespread anxiety: “Did Chinese hackers trigger the outage?” Read More…

Republican Conspiracy Nuts on Obama’s Skeet-Shooting Picture – The Daily Beast

The Obama years have been a boom time for conspiracy theories and associated catchphrases.

During the first term, the “birthers” dominated this sad and sordid landscape, but in recent weeks we’ve seen the rapid rise and fall of the “Benghazi flu” and now—oh so briefly—“Skeet-Gate.”

Blink and you could have missed it. “Skeet-Gate” was the far-right-wing reaction to an interview in last week’s relaunched New Republic in which the president was asked whether he’d ever shot a gun. He replied, “Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.” Read More…

‘Hizzoner’ Ed Koch, Three-Term Mayor of New York, Dies at 88 – The Daily Beast

For a generation of Americans, and especially New Yorkers, Ed Koch was simply “Mayor.”

It was the title of his bestselling memoir, followed by a sequel, Politics, and even an off-Broadway tribute to Hizzonor. With typical talent for good timing, Koch departed this world at age 88, just days after the debut of a new documentary on his three terms at city hall. The news was announced by his longtime spokesman, George Arzt.

Here’s the elevator pitch: At a time when New York City seemed on its knees, inevitably on the decline, decadent, and in debt, Ed Koch’s exuberant common sense revived the City that was his one true love. He willed it back into health by helping New Yorkers believe again in themselves. Read More…

Hagel’s Confirmation Hearings Contentious and Partisan – The Daily Beast

The contentious Senate hearing for secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel divided starkly along partisan lines, with Republicans attacking their former colleague with the pitchfork zeal of heretic hunters.

Hagel’s calm recitation of consensus catechism on issues ranging from Iran to Israel to nuclear weapons didn’t seem to make any impression on his conservative critics.

This was personal. John McCain repeatedly interrupted his “old friend” and fellow Vietnam vet with palpable anger, his fury directed at Hagel’s opposition to the Iraq War and the 2007 troop surge. The core offense appeared to be Hagel’s contention that the invasion of Iraq was the worst foreign policy “disaster” since Vietnam—a parallel that infuriates McCain. Read More…