Will George Zimmerman now face federal civil rights charges? That’s what some activists are urging in the wake of Mr. Zimmerman’s acquittal of murder and manslaughter charges in the death of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin.
Al Sharpton, for instance, quickly called upon the US Justice Department to file a suit alleging that Zimmerman’s racial profiling of Trayvon led to the latter’s death. The NAACP’s website crashed over the weekend due to the number of people trying to sign its online petition for the government to open a civil rights case.
“The most fundamental of civil rights – the right to life – was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin,” reads the petition.
Justice officials said Sunday they are reviewing the evidence in the Zimmerman trial as well as their own open investigation into the killing of Trayvon, which had been on hold while the state of Florida pursued its own case against neighborhood watch volunteer Zimmerman. It’s possible that Attorney General Eric Holder will shed some light on the government’s intentions on Tuesday, when he addresses the NAACP annual convention in Orlando, Fla.
There is precedent for the US to follow a high-profile acquittal in a racially charged case with a prosecution of its own. In 1993, the Justice Department filed civil rights charges against the four Los Angeles policemen who had been found not guilty of excessively beating African-American construction worker Rodney King after a high-speed car chase.
Unlike the L.A. policemen's state trial, the federal trial featured a racially mixed jury. Federal prosecutors excluded witnesses whose testimony had backfired in the first effort. Two of the four defendants were found guilty of violating Mr. King’s rights and sentenced to jail terms.
“This verdict provides justice,” said Justice Department Attorney Barry Kowalski at the time.
However, Justice Department officials would have to clear fairly high legal hurdles to win a similar conviction of Zimmerman.
First of all, Zimmerman is a private citizen. Unlike the L.A. policemen, he was not acting as a representative of any government entity. And as Attorney General Holder himself has said, prosecutors would have to show that Zimmerman had the “specific intent to do the crime with the requisite state of mind." In other words, the feds would need to prove that Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon primarily due to Trayvon's race.
But Zimmerman’s defense team would surely claim that the Florida trial produced evidence otherwise. State prosecutors themselves said they did not believe the case was about race.
That leads some legal analysts to predict that the Justice Department will decline to press further charges.
“In the end, I expect the Justice Department to demur. While Holder may make additional comments stressing the importance of this case and the seriousness with which federal officials are looking into possible federal crimes (as he has before), I think the Justice Department will decide it isn’t worth making this a federal case,” writes Jonathan Adler, a Case Western Reserve University law professor, on the popular “Volokh Conspiracy” legal blog.
But Mr. Adler adds that Zimmerman remains vulnerable to civil charges filed by Trayvon's family. Civil cases have lower thresholds of proof than federal civil rights cases or criminal murder charges.
And other analysts aren’t so sure the Justice Department will walk away here. As in the Rodney King case, the feds could learn from the state’s mistakes to mount a successful civil rights prosecution.
“If Trayvon Martin had been born white he would be alive today.... If he had been white, he never would have been stalked by Zimmerman, there would have been no fight, no funeral, no trial, no verdict. It is the Zimmerman mindset that must be found guilty – far more than the man himself,” wrote Michelle Alexander, a civil rights advocate and an Ohio State University associate professor of law, in a Facebook post reacting to the Zimmerman verdict.
With immigration reform legislation hanging in a perilous balance in Washington, its fate in the House in question, a new poll shows that more Americans relate to the Democratic Party’s position on the issue than to the Republican Party’s.
The Gallup survey, released Monday, indicates that 48 percent believe the Democratic Party’s policies on immigration and immigration reform are closer to their own, while 36 percent said the same of the Republican Party.
It is the demographic breakdown within the poll, however, that provides a caution for the GOP, as members consider whether to nix legislation providing a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants or to get on board. As Republicans more broadly assess how to reposition their party nationally in advance of the open 2016 White House contest, aiming to shake loose the Democrats’ hold on vote-rich minority constituencies, the immigration issue has grown in political importance.
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Some 70 percent of blacks and 60 percent of Hispanics surveyed by Gallup more closely aligned with the Democrats, with 14 percent and 26 percent, respectively, identifying with the Republican Party. Whites are split – 41 percent say Democrats’ views come closer to their own, while 42 percent were with the Republicans.
In its analysis, Gallup notes that the percentage of Hispanics indicating a preference for Democratic immigration reform policies is higher than the 51 percent found during the 2012 contest to generally identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party.
Hispanics were a crucial voting bloc in the past two presidential campaigns, giving strong margins to President Obama over his Republican rivals, Sen. John McCain of Arizona in 2008 and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012. Their backing helped Mr. Obama win in key battleground states, including Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico.
To see Hispanics moving with marginally more strength toward the party that currently holds the White House should give pause to Republican opponents of immigration reform – especially those considering a future national campaign. The issue has fragmented the GOP, with some conservatives – namely Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and his state’s former governor, Jeb Bush – pushing for reform that includes some kind of a path to citizenship. Others, including Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, have dug in on the issue, voting against legislation that was passed by the full Senate last month.
Senator McCain, who represents a heavily Hispanic state but who is also aware of the political importance of the voting bloc, was, of course, part of the so-called Gang of Eight who crafted the legislation and backed the bill.
Meanwhile, another voting group that helped carry Obama to victory in both cycles – young people – narrowly favors the Democrats’ approach on immigration reform. Gallup shows that among white Americans between the ages of 18 and 49, 44 percent line up with the Democratic Party’s immigration policies and 39 percent choose the Republican Party. Whites 50 and older flipped – 46 percent named the Republicans and 39 percent the Democrats.
It’s worth noting that while the Democrats have an advantage with Hispanics and young voters, independents – another coveted group come the nation’s quadrennial contest – were split, with 37 percent choosing the Democrats and 35 percent identifying with Republicans. Those with strong Democratic Party or Republican Party identification tend to side with their own parties on immigration reform.
Those polled who favor tightening border security and requiring employers to check immigration status of their workers, two signature Republican issues, are "about equally likely to name the Democratic or the Republican Party as the one they more agree with on immigration," according to Gallup.
House Speaker John Boehner has said his chamber will not take up the Senate’s bill, suggesting instead that his members might craft a separate plan that emphasizes stronger border controls. His Republican members are divided about how to tackle the nation’s undocumented residents. So it’s not clear if the House will move on any legislation tackling the matter; agreement on the best steps forward has so far been elusive.
“I'm a big fan of what legal immigration has done for our country,” Senator McConnell said, mentioning that his wife, Elaine Chao, was born in Taiwan and served as US Labor secretary under President George W. Bush. “I hope, even though the Senate bill in my view is deficient on the issue of border security, I hope we can get an outcome for the country that improves the current situation. I don't think anybody is satisfied with the status quo on immigration, and I hope the House will be able to move forward on something.”
Gallup’s results were based on a poll of 4,373 US adults; the survey was conducted between June 13 and July 5. The margin of error is 2 percentage points for the full survey. Due to weighting methods, it is 3 percentage points for results pertaining to non-Hispanic whites, 5 percentage points for results on non-Hispanic blacks, and 6 percentage points for Hispanics.
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Texas legislators last week passed a suite of antiabortion laws that, according to critics, would result in the closure of all but five of the state's 42 abortion clinics.
With state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) making herself a statewide celebrity through her efforts to forestall the bill – including an 11-hour filibuster – there is a line of thinking that suggests the abortion debate could become the beginning of a blue avalanche across the Lone Star State.
“Texas voters came out in record numbers to oppose this bill every step of the way, and they will turn out in record numbers at the next election,” said Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, in a statement.
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Latinos make up a growing share of the state population and are reliably Democratic voters, the thinking goes. Moreover, the new abortion bill, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks and make clinics meet tough new medical standards to survive, could shift a growing number of women voters to the blue column.
In short, some activists suggest the bill lays bare how the demographic and political forces that resoundingly swept President Obama to a second term in 2012 are even now knocking on the door of perhaps the nation's reddest state.
While the logic is sound, the data suggest that the idea of a "Blue Texas" is, for now, little more than wishful thinking on the part of liberals.
Changes are coming, and the rise of Latinos in Texas could put the state in play for Democrats by the middle of the next decade, according to some analyses. But three main points, in particular, are keeping Texas deep red and should continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Latino voting rates. The demographics of the Lone Star State suggest irresistible change. The 2010 Census showed that 45 percent of Texans are white, 38 percent are Latino, and 11 percent are black, with other ethnic groups making up the remaining 6 percent. A decade before, the white-Latino split was 53 to 32 percent. White Texans, already no longer a majority, will soon no longer even be the plurality.
But that doesn't mean Latinos are having a proportionate impact on Texas politics. As in other states, Latinos typically pack less punch at the ballot box than the numbers suggest they should. One reason cited in an analysis by the Daily Kos, a liberal website, is that 10 to 15 percent of Texas Latinos are not citizens. The Latino population also trends much younger than the white population, meaning a larger share of Texas Latinos have not yet reached voting age.
The result is that, while a Latino plurality in Texas might not be far away, the political effects of that shift might lag significantly. The Daily Kos analysis concludes that, for Democrats, "Texas ought to be on the cusp of competitiveness by 2024."
Redistricting. Redistricting is the great political hammer in the hands of the political majority. In states that allow the Legislature to draw up the political maps every 10 years – as Texas does – the majority can solidify their hold on power by creating districts that tilt in their favor. Both parties do this, and for a time, redistricting can insulate a majority party somewhat from demographic changes.
Also in the special legislative session that saw abortion take center stage, Texas legislators passed new redistricting maps that Democrats say underrepresent Latinos. The main objective of the Republican majority "was to limit Latino voting strength," according to the office of US Rep. Pete Gallego (D) of Texas, as reported by politic365. "The right to vote is one of the fundamental pillars of our democracy. The process shouldn’t shut out entire communities."
Texas is still Texas. The fact is, at the end of the day, Texas voters are still some of the most reliably red voters in the nation. While change may be ahead, there is little sign that it has yet arrived – or even has begun to arrive. The last time Texas elected a Democrat to statewide office was 1994. Among the best performances by a Texas Democrat since then: Gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell lost to Gov. Rick Perry by 9 points in 2006, notes the Texas Tribune.
From there, it only gets worse.
Indeed, many have touted Senator Davis as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2014. But she's been hesitant to declare any intentions, surely aware that any attempt to run for statewide office could mark an abrupt end to her political career.
For Democrats for now, it seems, politics in Texas remains a dead-end job.
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Will history judge first lady Michelle Obama to be a social media pioneer? We ask that because either Mrs. Obama herself or someone on her staff is doing a good job using new networked forms of communication to create positive publicity that reflects back on the White House itself.
Case in point: On Thursday, the first lady’s FLOTUS Twitter feed joined in the popular meme #ThrowbackThursday and tweeted out an arresting photo of Michelle and Barack in their early days together. The pair is hugging; she’s staring directly at the camera, while he’s sort of squinting and looking aside, as if he’s thinking about stuff, like becoming president, or maybe how long it is 'til lunch.
Retweets piled up. The photo went up on her Instagram account, too, where it was a huge hit, with more than 50,000 “hearts” in a day.
Yes, Ann Romney Instagrams, too, and did so during the 2012 campaign. It isn’t as if Michelle Obama is the only spouse of a national politician to venture into the world beyond Facebook. But she works them all together, linking it up with her appearances on non-hard-news television shows such as “Ellen" to produce an overall media strategy that bypasses the traditional media filter.
Even headlines about her are acquiring a new media sheen. On Friday, Politico’s Jennifer Epstein wrote a piece titled “Michelle Obama’s YOLO moment." (That’s “you only live once," in Twitter-speak.) The story’s premise was that the first lady, with her husband reelected, was enjoying lots of seize-the-moment experiences, such as lunching with U-2 frontman Bono, scolding hecklers, and posting decades-old personal photos.
“For this first lady, the second term is YOLO territory,” writes Ms. Epstein.
But here’s another question: Is Michelle Obama able to do all this without real scrutiny because the media are too easy on her?
In this regard, Politico’s “YOLO” story may have been the last straw for some conservatives. They feel it symbolizes the light-weight and credulous approach of much coverage of Mrs. Obama and her activities.
“Has any First Lady since Jackie Kennedy received press coverage as worshipful as Michelle Obama?” tweeted the plugged-in, right-leaning Byron York, chief political correspondent of the Washington Examiner, on Friday.
Mr. York linked to a Politico slide show of first-lady magazine covers that showed Mrs. Obama in glamorous poses.
Others on the right grumbled about the uncritical reception of the first lady’s “Kids’ State Dinner” this week, where she entertained winners of a school lunch healthy recipe contest.
It’s one thing to cover an event where one category of winner seemed to be “lettuce cups," and another to ignore that many kids just don’t want to eat that stuff, in this view.
As a “Daily Caller” story noted earlier this week, one New York State school district has decided to withdraw from a first lady-backed national school lunch program because the nutritional guidelines resulted in hungry students.
"The high schoolers especially complained the portion sizes were too small, and many more students brought in lunch from home," said Nicky Boehm, food service manager for the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school district, according to the Daily Caller.
Two US lawmakers have filed legislation that would establish a US national park on the moon.
No, we’re not making this up. Democratic Reps. Donna Edwards of Maryland and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas are proposing a moon-based Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park.
“As commercial enterprises and foreign nations acquire the ability to land on the Moon it is necessary to protect the Apollo lunar landing sites for posterity,” reads H.R. 2617, otherwise known as the “Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act.”
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Load up the minivan, kids! We’re skipping the Smoky Mountains this year. Go now – there aren’t many rest stops on the way.
Sorry. Getting back to reality, both lawmaker sponsors are members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. They say that setting up a moon national park would preserve artifacts left on the moon’s surface and provide for “greater recognition and public understanding of this singular achievement in American history.”
They’re proposing that NASA work with the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service to manage access to, provide interpretation of, and help historically preserve all areas where astronauts and instruments connected with the 1969-72 Apollo space program touched the lunar surface.
The bill would also allow the US to accept private and international donations to help pay for this huge project, and it would require the Department of the Interior to apply to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for designation of the park as a World Heritage Site.
OK, we’ve got a few questions here.
DO WE OWN THE MOON? Don’t US national parks have to be, you know, on US territory? Last we looked the moon was not yet the 51st state, despite Newt Gingrich’s past efforts to make it so. (No, we’re not making that up either – then-Congressman Gingrich once filed a bill that would have allowed a moon base to apply for statehood.)
While the bill talks about moon landing sites, it appears to define the prospective park only in terms of artifacts left behind by astronauts, which presumably remain US property. Maybe it skirts the ownership issue via a technicality.
HOW WILL WE GET THERE? Talk about an Odyssey for your Honda – that’s a long way, the moon. Perhaps lawmakers will see this as a way to encourage a burgeoning commercial space tourism industry. It would be like the Dry Tortugas National Park, which is in the ocean 70 miles off Key West, Fla., and accessible only by private boat or charter. Only it would be 239,000 miles away, and accessible via private pressurized space vehicle.
WILL THERE BE SOUVENIRS? As any visitor to a national park knows – especially those with children – no trip is complete without a visit to the souvenir store. Many of these sell astronaut ice cream, so presumably that would be a big seller on the actual moon as well. Slogan T-shirts (“I swam in the Sea of Tranquility!”) are always hot. Maybe they’ll sell replicas of the number 6 iron Alan Shepard sneaked onto Apollo 14 to hit a few golf balls on the lunar surface.
“I’m gonna try a little sand trap shot here,” said Shepard at the time.
Come to think of it, a nine-hole moon golf course concession might pay for the whole park.
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“It might just be the first step in a makeover of presidential proportions,” crowed the New York Daily News earlier this week. “Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared Monday at [an] Arkansas library dedication, sporting a new refined hairdo that could be a sign of her further polishing her image ahead of a 2016 White House bid.”
Oh, for goodness sake, has she – and have we – not yet graduated from all that talk of the former secretary of State’s up-dos and -don’ts? Yes, as the Daily News reminds us in a slide show accompanying this vital story, Ms. Clinton has, over 30 years in public life, sported a bob, a classic Washington helmet head, a ponytail, and long and loose straightened locks, among many, many other looks. And oh, those 1990s headbands!
But, really. Hardly a week can go by without a new critical (or in this case limp) indicator that she might be, should be, is perhaps running for president.
Hair speculation aside, let’s note somewhat more importantly that ABC News Wednesday reported two new hires at Ready for Hillary, the "super political-action committee" encouraging the former first lady to run for president in 2016. And those staffers are veterans of President Obama’s campaigns: Jeremy Bird was the national field director for Mr. Obama, and Mitch Stewart led the organization’s efforts in critical battleground states.
The pickups, more than just sparking speculation, could indicate a hoped-for (at least among Democrats) seamless transition between the well-oiled and famously expansive Obama ground-game operation and a 2016 Clinton enterprise.
“It’s her decision to make,” Mr. Bird told ABC News. “This is about putting the infrastructure in place on the grass-roots side, should she decide to run.”
The Ready for Hillary group is not officially backed – nor is it permitted to be, per election laws – by Clinton, her husband, or daughter Chelsea. The Washington Post reported, though, that it “is fast emerging as the quasi-official stand-in for potential 2016 presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton, scooping up advisers and gathering big donations more than three years ahead of election time.”
Nick Merrill, a Clinton spokesman, told The Washington Post that participants in Ready for Hillary “are an independent entity acting on their own passion.”
He continued: “Their energy and enthusiasm to convince her to run is inspiring, though only she in the end can make that very personal decision.”
Still, several longtime Clinton allies and boosters have signed on, including a band of formidable fundraisers: former California Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher; Shelly Porges, a former senior adviser of the State Department’s Global Entrepreneurship Program (GEP); and Esprit cofounder Susie Tompkins Buell, among them.
The group also aims to open chapters on college campuses this fall, another early nod to one critical element of Obama’s success – the youth vote.
And then, what’s a burgeoning movement without the swag? All available for purchase ... T-shirts ($30), iPhone home button dots ($10), baseball caps ($35), and what looks like a unisex tote bag ($35) emblazoned with Clinton’s visage and the word ‘READY’ or the group’s ‘H’ logo.
And finally – at least for this week – Emily’s List is taking its ‘Madame President’ pitch to Des Moines in time for the Iowa State Fair, a must-go for all those White House hopefuls aiming to grip and greet voters in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. Emily’s List, which advocates for female Democratic pro-abortion rights candidates for office, will hold a town hall meeting Aug. 9 to discuss its data indicating a national readiness for a woman in the country’s top elected job.
"Our polling shows that Iowa voters are absolutely ready to elect our first woman president and now is the time to capitalize on that energy and enthusiasm," said Stephanie Schriock, the group’s president. "Emily's List is eager to lead this discussion in the state that is the first step to the White House – and offer a clear contrast to the Republican 2016 hopefuls who'll be hawking their backwards agenda at the Iowa State Fair."
It’s at least a year until primary stumping begins in earnest, but let’s remember that Iowa caucus-goers elevated Obama in 2008 over Clinton (and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards), giving the then-first-term US senator from Illinois a much-desired legitimacy at the start of a long nomination fight. Perhaps with some of Obama’s faithful allies on her side and groups like Emily’s List focused laser-like and early on key contests, Clinton will see an easier path to the nomination in 2016.
Otherwise, what will her hopeful supporters do with all those ‘H’ iPhone home buttons?
Is the US public standing behind Edward Snowden? That’s what the results of a new poll appear to indicate. The just-released Quinnipiac survey shows that, by 55 to 34 percent, respondents judged Mr. Snowden to be a whistle-blower, not a traitor.
In what Quinnipiac called a “massive shift in attitudes,” respondents said, by 45 to 40 percent, that the government’s antiterrorism efforts now infringe too far on US civil liberties. Two years ago a similar Quinnipiac poll found that, by 63 to 25 percent, those efforts did not go far enough to adequately protect the country.
“Americans’ views on anti-terrorism efforts are complicated,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Hamden, Conn. “They see the threat from terrorism as real and worth defending against, but they have a sense that their privacy is being invaded and they are not happy about it at all.”
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Does this mean that Snowden’s revelations about massive National Security Agency programs to collect US phone metadata and foreign Internet traffic routed through US servers have indeed shocked US opinion? That’s what Snowden has said he wants, and it’s certainly possible that is what has happened.
Snowden’s struggles to find a country that will accept his application for asylum have him in the news, and each story repeats his revelations about the NSA, even if it focuses on his personal travails.
“This strikes me as a big deal – a big shift in public attitudes on civil liberties and counter-terrorism,” writes Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and editor-in-chief of the national security blog, “Lawfare."
However, a single poll seldom, if ever, proves a point. And previous surveys dealing with Snowden have shown mixed responses to his role in publishing US secrets.
A June 17 Pew survey found that, by 54 to 38 percent, respondents believed the US government should pursue a criminal case against the person responsible for leaking the NSA information, for example.
At the same time, the Pew result showed that, by a 49 to 44 percent margin, respondents believed those leaks were in the public interest. And a Gallup survey from June 12 showed that Americans disapproved of the NSA activities revealed by Snowden by 53 to 37 percent.
The Gallup survey showed Americans almost split in their views of Snowden personally, with 44 percent of respondents saying he had done the right thing; and 42 percent, the wrong thing.
What’s the bottom line here? Admittedly, the Pew and Gallup polls were taken some weeks ago, and may not reflect a movement in public opinion. But given the paucity of data here, we’ll still go with Gallup’s conclusion: “Results from the Gallup poll indicate that Americans have somewhat flexible views about the government’s surveillance program and/or that they are still forming their opinions on the issue,” wrote Gallup editor Frank Newport.
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Isn’t it aerial wolf hunting season somewhere? Doesn’t Sarah Palin have something to do this summer, say, in the wilds of her home state, rather than float fresh interest in a 2014 bid for US Senate?
“I’ve considered it, because people have requested me considering it,” she told conservative radio host Sean Hannity earlier this week. “But I’m still waiting to see what the lineup will be and hoping that … there will be some new blood, new energy, not just kind of picking from the same old politicians in the state.”
Ms. Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and a former Alaska governor, added: “I, along with anybody, would have to say that I would do whatever I could to help. And, you know, if that was part of that help, then it would have to be considered.”
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Hey, Lorne Michaels, don’t summon Tina Fey back to "Saturday Night Live" just yet. That was perhaps about the most tepid declaration of interest in a campaign we’ve heard of late. Not to mention the undeniable fact that Palin abandoned her last elected office, the governorship, halfway through her term. Lawmaking was not her thing. She prefers sipping Big Gulps (as a sign of her distaste for those officials who are working to limit the public’s soda consumption) and ragging on liberals, for cash. She has, of course, returned to the Fox News Channel as an on-air commentator.
“Giving up her current lucrative career may be hard given a less than certain outcome in the race,” Terry Nelson, a veteran Republican operative who has done work in Alaska, told the Washington Post. “And a losing campaign won’t help her.”
Sure, it’s not unthinkable that Palin would run against incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, who is up for reelection next year. She is still a draw among conservatives, but her national popularity seems to trump residual affection for her in Alaska. So far the polls don’t show a home-state public clamoring to have Palin on the ballot.
One survey – conducted in May by Harper Polling, a GOP shop, for the Tea Party Leadership Fund – indicates that she would narrowly lead the field of possible Republican candidates. Palin would take 32 percent of the primary vote, followed by Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell at 30 percent, and Joe Miller, the tea party-backed Republican nominee in 2010, with 24 percent.
Meanwhile, a poll conducted earlier this year by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling concludes that Senator Begich would fare well in a general election against Palin, besting her by 16 points, 54 to 38 percent.
For his part, Begich isn’t taking lightly Palin’s coy offer to run if she believes she’s needed. In an interview with Politico on Wednesday, he repeatedly questioned whether she lives in Alaska.
"I don't know if she's a resident," Begich said. "She's been away from Alaska a lot and has probably lost touch with what's going on. She should go to my webpage. Most Alaskans I see on a pretty regular basis, but I haven't seen her for a long time.”
(Palin is still registered to vote in Wasilla, where she served as mayor, Politico notes.)
Begich also suggested that he won’t take Palin too seriously unless she emerges from what’s expected to be a crowded primary. “A Republican primary in Alaska? She may not survive,” he said.
But Palin’s star power still shines enough – and her potential to raise money looms large enough – for Begich to weigh in on her potential candidacy. Palin pushed back on Facebook Thursday, criticizing Begich for being in President Obama’s pocket and for voting with “ultra-liberal Senators Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid approximately 90 percent of the time.” He voted, she said, “FOR Obamacare, FOR massive tax increases, FOR carbon taxes which could cost Alaskans 21,000 jobs, AGAINST pro-life legislation, and there’s so much more.”
“Really, Mark? Really?” Palin wrote. “Margaret Thatcher used to say, ‘I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.’ So, thank you, Mark Begich, for making me and others exceptionally cheery today!”
It’s probably too early yet to be drawn in by Palin’s fighting language – or her seeming good cheer at the prospect of Begich’s engagement. Fighting, after all, is a Palin trademark, and she’s not necessarily interested in sparring from behind a desk in a storied congressional chamber. Palin is, first and foremost, a moneymaking machine. She is Sarah Palin Inc., and, frankly, her brand isn’t what it was for a fleeting moment in 2008. As Begich bites and the social network sniping commences, the spotlight grows brighter around the former pol.
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Summer is reading season for vacationers, and as the nation’s capital clears out next month for its annual August sabbatical, there’s no doubt that most Washingtonians will tuck one book in particular into their beach bags and backpacks. If they haven’t already snagged an advance copy, as notables are wont to do, and set out for a marathon read.
"This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral – Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking! – in America’s Gilded Capital," by New York Times Magazine chief national correspondent Mark Leibovich, skewers the inappropriately chummy, often insufferable incestuousness that is Washington today. It was a book so feared before publication that Politico, the city’s online chronicler of every tick and tock, did “some reporting on his reporting” several months ahead of its release, which is scheduled for next week.
The New Republic – in classic Washington fashion – then wrote that Politico's scribes were simply trying “to kneecap a writer whose upcoming revelations may well depict them as the people that they are: obsessive insiders who are obsessed with insiderism.”
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This is, of course, a prime exhibit of why just such a book is necessary, The New Republic concludes.
The picture Mr. Leibovich paints of this company town as sadly self-promoting, with few workhorses and a vast stable of preening if also less-than-spectacular show horses, is as to be expected, according to the reviews. At least if you live here. There is no modest intersection of government, media, and the special-interest lobby in "This Town." Instead, it’s as if the Venn diagram of Washington, which once contained a modest overlapping center between those three worlds, has fallen in on itself, forming one large swarming circle of always-striving inhabitants.
As if to taunt this master class of very important people, Leibovich failed to include an index at the end of his book. But no matter, The Washington Post published an unauthorized version. (Pity the summer interns who spent their weekend on this project.)
So who is targeted? Will the rendering of them be devastating? Literary blows too damning to endure? Which subjects will be forced to flee to flyover territory?
Most of those chronicled are probably no-names to the vast majority of Americans outside the Beltway. They include: party-thrower and -goer and media-relations guru Tammy Haddad, super lawyer Bob Barnett, and a young congressional aide named Kurt Bardella. These folks are cogs, Leibovich suggests, with personal agendas that barely, maybe never, touch on the public interest.
Then there are the boldfaced names, weighing in on other boldfaced names – often in a fashion that makes them all seem a wee bit smaller. As a headline on the Fox News website puts it: "Book: Harry Reid Says John Kerry Has No Friends."
Reviewers who have logged Washington time (many of whom must publish accompanying disclaimers about their work or social relationships with the author) say the book is a witty and accurate portrayal.
“His tour through Washington only feeds the worst suspicions anyone can have about the place – a land driven by insecurity, hypocrisy and cable hits, where friendships are transactional, blind-copying is rampant and acts of public service appear largely accidental,” writes Carlos Lozada of The Washington Post.
Mr. Lozada adds: “Only two things keep you turning pages between gulps of Pepto: First, in Leibovich’s hands, this state of affairs is not just depressing, it’s also kind of funny. Second, you want to know whether the author thinks anyone in Washington – anyone at all? – is worthy of redemption.”
Under the headline, “Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is (Duh!) Washington,” one New York Times reviewer suggests that extreme partisanship has contributed to the city’s lack of productive work for the nation as well as to its draw of fame-seekers. Those hard at work, in journalism and beyond, writes David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Pittsburgh Press, would never appear in a book like this one. Why? Because they’re doing their jobs, not schmoozing it up.
“So here’s to all the big mouths, big egos, big shots, big machers and big jerks,” Mr. Shribman toasts. “In case you’re wondering, Mark Leibovich is on to every one of you, and his portrayal of ‘This Town’ is spot on. Because Mr. Leibovich, perhaps alone among capital insiders, has realized that Washington, once an inside joke, now looks more and more like a bad joke.”
So will you read the book? Or does 24-hour cable tell all you need to know about This Town?
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How much forgiveness-asking can one city’s voting populace endure? Should New York be renamed Redemptionville?
Not just yet.
Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former Democratic congressman turned Big Apple mayoral candidate, is now thematically joined in his unceasing apology tour by disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), who launched a petition drive this week to be city comptroller (the top financial officer).
Just two years after a sexting scandal forced him to resign his House seat, Mr. Weiner is hoping he’s logged enough time in the wilderness to re-earn his wife’s favor, make personal peace with his foibles, and, well, deserve the city’s top job. Mr. Spitzer, the one-time anti-Wall Street crusader felled by his dalliances with a prostitute, has spent the past five years gabbing on an ill-fated CNN talk show and writing op-eds. He seems to believe that he’s paid his penance and that New York needs his services, as well.
If Spitzer collects enough signatures by Thursday, he and Weiner will be on the primary ballot in September.
The talking heads are hashing out the differences between the two men, as if the distance between their deeds – Weiner used bad judgment but didn’t do anything illegal, Spitzer crossed the line, they suggest – provides insight about their fitness again to hold elected office. Why isn’t the chattering class instead evaluating if either man has spent his limited time on the periphery of the limelight doing any kind of work that reflects real character restoration or sincere public service?
Well, because it seems that the mere casting of ballots in their favor would be sign enough of both. Political rebirth as evidence of a new lease on life. If the public says you’re OK, you’re OK. In America today, it would appear that many of us don’t much care whether our public officials have the deepest character, the sturdiest morals. Only that they win – or that they know how to negotiate their apologies deftly enough to communicate that they’re still winners.
Most recently, Weiner and Spitzer have former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) to thank for that. Cheating on his wife, lying about his whereabouts while doing said cheating, and embarking on an international tryst instead of running the state were not disqualifiers for voters there; they sent him to Congress in a special election this spring. Once, Sanford had national aspirations: How long before his name is added to the long list of Republicans likely to seek the party’s 2016 presidential nomination?
So, too, should the two New Yorkers tip their hats to former President Bill Clinton (survivor of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and related impeachment proceedings) and Sen. David Vitter, the Louisiana Republican whose telephone number was found in a D.C. madam’s book and who later apologized for a “serious sin.”
Should his wife make another White House bid, Mr. Clinton could be a future first spouse. Their marriage endures, and, through his family’s foundation, he is an international philanthropic superstar. And Senator Vitter never stepped down: He was elected to a second term in 2010.
New York is just the current epicenter of the reality television world takeover of American politics. Weiner and Spitzer are not rewriting history. They’re just providing a rare ballot twofer. And the tabloids are jubilant! Spitzer’s announcement this week brought headline writers a new raison d'être.
The cover of the New York Daily News barked, "What the El!"
The New York Post: "Here we ho again!"
The Daily News chimed in with, "Lust For Power.”
While Weiner has seen his star rise anew – recent polls suggest he has catapulted to the front of the pack of Democratic mayoral hopefuls – New York residents seem divided about Spitzer.
"Too soon,'' Julia Mair, a documentary scriptwriter, told USA Today, as she walked past the media horde gathered Monday near Spitzer. "All these guys, they lie and they lie and they lie, and then they think we should trust them and give them another chance. Why should we think they're going to do anything different?''
Spitzer, for his part, is taking the forgiveness banner and running with it – from network to cable, street corner to street corner.
“There is forgiveness in the public, whether that forgiveness will extend to any individual is always a separate and independent question,” Spitzer said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning." “And I will have to make a case very different than any other person has made. I expect I will make it every day between now and the election, and I look forward to making it.”
On MSNBC’s "Morning Joe," Spitzer took the forgiveness-seeking one step further, stepping into rare – real? – emotional territory when asked personally how he’s different from who he was five or six years ago.
“A lot of pain, a lot of pain,” he said, his eyes filling with tears, his chin beginning to tremble. “You go through that pain, you change.”
Ultimately, though, the voters will decide. "I'm sorry" will get Weiner and Spitzer only so far. And maybe in addition to assessing their merits, their qualifications for the offices they seek, and their character, New Yorkers will be faced with another soul-searching question: Does forgiveness allow for ticket splitting?