At Least Four National Journalists Have Been Fooled by a Fake Tea Party Congressman's Twitter
A parody Twitter account has fooled at least four prominent TV news hosts, including CNN host Christiane Amanpour and MSNBC regulars Ezra Klein, Touré, and Zerlina Maxwell.
Today's chapter of Political Twitter Drama began when "Rep. Steve Smith" of Georgia tweeted at Touré, and he responded:
Impeached? Why exactly, Congressman? RT @RepStevenSmith: We'll see in 2014 buddy. He should be impeached, not just the lamest of lame ducks.-- Touré (@Toure) November 19, 2013
It escalated from there:
It's worth noting that this is not the first time Touré has fallen for a Twitter hoax. Klein linked to the interaction and added, "Wow," and Maxwell chimed in with her disbelief. Amanpour also fell for the account just a day after "Smith" tweeted for the first time on Oct. 30.
The sad and great thing about the account is, it's almost believable. It's easy to mock the journalists who were duped, but it really speaks to the caliber of the parody. "Steven Smith" may well be a doppelgänger for Rep. Steve Stockman. But the pièce de résistance is the fake congressman's Twitter avatar, which, as Mediaite points out, was culled from a big-and-tall clothing store based in New Hampshire. Carpetbagger!
The Acolyte of Wisconsin's Extreme Voter ID Law
I'll be your humble Weigelblogger for the next few weeks while Dave is on book leave. Please bear with me.
If there were an annual award for Zaniest State Legislator of the Year, Glenn Grothman probably wouldn't win, but he'd come close. The Wisconsin state senator represents the wealthy exurbs north of Milwaukee in Washington County, and handily won re-election last year with 69 percent of the vote despite a failed recall attempt.
Aside from being one of the primary union-bashing lawmakers in the state's collective bargaining debacle back in 2011, Grothman has spoken out against Martin Luther King Jr. Day and denounced Kwanzaa as a liberal scam. "Of course, almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa - just white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people's throats in an effort to divide Americans," he wrote in a press release.
Now, Grothman is speaking out on behalf of black Wisconsinites again, this time on the issue of voter ID:
Wisconsin Republicans are pushing a bill to end early voting on the weekend. The measure would make it harder for people in the state’s most populous areas to cast a ballot—and it would hit blacks especially hard.
But state Sen. Glenn Grothman, a Republican who is sponsoring a Senate version of the bill, told msnbc it’s already easy enough to vote.
"Between [early voting], mail absentee, and voting the day of election, you know, I mean anybody who can’t vote with all those options, they’ve really got a problem," he said. "I really don’t think they care that much about voting in the first place, right?"
Wisconsin's voter ID law has been called the most restrictive in the country, though the law in Texas and the law in Kansas (which requires proof of citizenship) are close runners-up. A challenge to Wisconsin's voter ID law in federal court* concluded last week, but the ruling likely won't come until early next year.
Correction, November 19, 2013: This post originally said Wisconsin's voter ID law was being challenged at the state supreme court.
Special Prog Rock Programming Note
Starting today and continuing through Dec. 9, I'm taking a short leave from this blog to work on a forthcoming book about progressive rock. Based on "Prog Spring," my 2012 series for Slate, it's going to be a narrative history of/argument for the music and its unappreciated role in pop. I've been working through more than a hundred interviews; many hundreds of pages of memoirs, music magazines, and reviews; old audio chats with musicians and producers. Point is, it takes time to churn this into the sort of book people might want to read, and I'll be off for a while as I hack through the first few miles of vines and branches.
Emma Roller will be keeping up the blog during the next few weeks. I'm not vanishing completely; I can be reached at this email address for anything politics-related, though Emma's the person you should send tips to. Drop me a line, honestly, if you want to point me to anything prog-related. The Internet communities that have been built up to share and talk about this music have been a huge help thus far.
How the Washington Post Trolled Democrats Into Moving Left on Social Security
My colleague Matthew Yglesias writes about Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her endorsement of Social Security expansion. I'll just fill in the backstory about the politics—and what this says about the whole "Warren 2016?" boondoggle.
So: For months, progressive groups spurred and organized by labor and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee have gotten Democrats to talk up a change to the Social Security formula. Social Security's in trouble in the long run? No problem: raise the cap on taxable income, bring more money into the program from wealthy taxpayers, and expand coverage for the elderly. This has won the support of liberals like Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin (who's retiring) and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (who's in line to run the banking committee after 2014, if Democrats hold the Senate), but coverage has generally been limited to the liberal press.
Until today. The Washington Post's editorial board, one of the most reliable centrist organs of "get real on entitlements!" chatter, sighed deeply and condemned the progressives. "In recent days, those styling themselves 'bold progressives' have been rallying support for a bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (Calif.), both Democrats, that would increase Social Security benefits."
The "bold progressives" are the members of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which claims a million-liberal list, built by many campaigns like this. It's the PCCC that makes sure stickers that read "I'm From the Elizabeth Warren Wing of the Democratic Party" materialize at Democratic events. (This is a reference to the old Paul Wellstone/Howard Dean line "I'm from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.") Thus having been trolled—"Just this morning, the Washington Post wrote an editorial mocking the coming 'retirement crisis' "—Sen. Warren took the floor today to endorse the expansion plan.
And voila. PCCC hypes Warren; journalists respond to hype by hyping Warren some more; Warren advances PCCC-backed position, making sure it gets covered more seriously as a goal of the left. All of this is made possible by the media's white-knuckle junkie obsession with 2016 and the presidency.
Poll: The Surge in Public Opposition to National Health Care, Explained
For 13 years, Gallup has been asking voters whether the the government should "make sure" Americans have health insurance. The trends hardly need any explanation, but, well, just look for the moment they flip.
We all know what happened in 2008: A Democrat won the presidency. Most voters spent the year expecting one to win. Health insurance reform was going to happen. So whose mind did it change?
There we go: The independents. In two years, from 2007 to 2009, their opposition to mandated health insurance surged by 30 points. It's stayed largely negative since then, during the Obama presidency. In the longer term, from the Bush era to the Obama era, Republicans have moved from slight majority opposition to mandates (48 to 65 percent) to supermajority opposition (77 to 87 percent).
When does that change? What if it doesn't? It's the existential fear behind all of the Democratic health care panic—the fear that a public that used to blame private insurers for the cost of health care will start blaming the feds, and never stop.
This Conservative History Book Will Make You Stupider
One of the great perks of working at a magazine is the ever-growing pile of free books that arrive, almost unsolicited, every day. Not all of these books are about the JFK assassination; a quick glance suggests that only half are. A Patriot's History of the Modern World, Vol. II is the final installment in the fast-selling* "Patriot's History" series, with University of Dayton prof Larry Schweikart teaming up with "self-employed businessman" Dave Dougherty to tell the history of things from World War II to 2012. It's one of those tomes that may end up on thousands of conservatives' bookshelves while remaining utterly unknown to liberals. That's a shame, because it's so often wrong that it probably shouldn't wind up anywhere.
I'll just focus on the section that purports to teach us about Barack Obama. No one's asking conservative authors to make the 44th president look good, but the version of him that appears in these pages is sort of wrong, an unfinished voodoo doll. "In the state senate," the authors write of Obama, "his most common vote was 'present' (to avoid taking a stance on controversial issues)." That's not actually true—Obama's (still remarkable) 129 "present" votes represented 3 percent of the votes he took in Springfield.
In the Schweikert/Dougherty telling, Obama's rise to power can only be explained by the compliance of a biased media. Where was he born? The authors don't say, only noting that his "place of birth continued to be questioned in lawsuits two years after his election." Obama's 2012 re-election is noted as "perhaps one of the most unexpected political events of the last seventy-five years." How did he win, they ask, when he told one Virginia crowd that the small-business owner "didn't build that" infrastructure that allowed him to live his life? "Obama's phrase by then encapsulated the Keynesian and even quasi-socialist views of the mainstream Democrat Party that economic growth emanated from government, not the private sector," write the authors. "Astoundingly, the comment did not sink Obama's campaign."
Astoundingly! How astoundingly? "For the first time in recent memory," we're told, "the losing candidate carried the independent voters and by a solid margin." That depends on how you define "recent," as both Al Gore and John Kerry won self-identified "independent" voters. After the election, we are told that "the media and the Democrat Party" went on "a frenetic crusade in 2012 to eliminate firearms." (Eliminate!) There's no mention of Sandy Hook, which was the impetus for the winter 2012/2013 gun control push, but there is a mention of how "President Obama's own daughters already attended a school with 11 armed guards." There is no footnote for that fact, probably because it's completely false.
*The first book was a #1 New York Times best-seller, and subsequent books have moved plenty of units.
Marco Rubio's Brilliant Plan to Make Obamacare Cost More for You
Sahil Kapur is out with an informative piece about Sen. Marco Rubio's doomed-from-birth attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act by repealing the pool for insurers in the "risk corridor." It's fairly simple—the ACA as constructed includes a bunch of money to be doled out to insurers if they end up with riskier groups of people in the exchanges than they had expected. Rubio's office frames this with one of the most reliable buzzwords in Republican politics:
"We need to protect taxpayers from having to bail out anyone as a consequence of ObamaCare," Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, told TPM in an email. "Rubio's bill will fully repeal the risk corridor provision in Obamacare, preventing a bailout under the existing risk corridor provision of Obamacare."
But how brilliant is it, as (to use the word Jon Gruber uses with Kapur) trolling? "Repealing the risk corridors is good policy and strategically smart," says Cato Institute scholar Michael Cannon, who was recently named one of the law's most effective underminers by TNR.
ObamaCare has two basic features. The first are the community-rating price controls, which force insurance companies to cover the sick at premiums well below cost. The second is a bazillion different provisions designed to funnel money to insurance companies so they don’t go out of business. (See, e.g., the individual mandate, premium-assistance tax credits, cost-sharing subsidies, risk adjustment, reinsurance, marketing restrictions, network adequacy requirements, etc., etc.). The risk corridors are one such provision. They tax carriers that got relatively few sick people and give the money to carriers that got relatively more.
Repealing the risk corridors doesn’t increase the cost of the law. It shifts part of the cost back to insurance carriers, by preventing the government from shifting that cost from Carrier A to Carrier B. This will make Carrier A unhappy, perhaps to the point where it will no longer participate in the Exchanges, and maybe even to the point where it will join the chorus demanding that Congress reopen the law. Since Carrier B probably doesn’t know in advance whether it will be a net payer or recipient under the risk corridors, Carrier B may respond exactly the same way. Which is another way of saying that the uncertainty associated with repealing the risk corridors could motivate all insurers – a powerful and now-supportive interest group – to switch sides on ObamaCare.
So it sounds good, as a sneak attack. But Rubio's hardly sneaking, is he? He's approaching this with all the foresight of Auric Goldfinger leaving James Bond on the table and walking away, assuming the laser will get the job done.
Republican Endorses Medicaid Expansion, Wins Special Election
The newest member of our beloved House of Representatives will be Vance McAllister, a first-time candidate who surprised everyone and routed state Sen. Neil Riser by double digits in a weekend runoff vote. Both candidates were Republicans, but Riser had the backing of national leaders. McAllister—and this is basically the only detail national reports on the race noticed at first—had the backing of the Duck Dynasty cast. In northeast Louisiana, that matters.*
Arguably more important, as a matter of policy: Riser was a doctrinaire opponent of Obamacare. McAllister pledged to "stop Obamacare," too, but in the final candidate debate, he came out for the Medicaid expansion.
During Friday's debate, he made it clear that because of the high poverty rate in the 5th District -- one of the highest in the country -- he believes the governor should accept the Medicaid expansion. He also criticized Jindal for his push to do away with the state's charity hospital system.
"Our governor and Sen. Riser right here have gutted (heath care) to the core and privatized it," said McAllister, adding, "Before we give handouts, we need to give hand-ups."
Not accepting offers like Medicaid expansion is the wrong choice, McAllister said: "If you're going down the road at 50 mph, you just can't throw it in reverse."
A Republican came out for the Medicaid expansion—and he won! Does this represent a sea change or a game change or a double down or a [insert cliche] in our politics?
Maybe not. See, Louisiana is one of three states that hold open primaries and runoff elections. McAllister and Riser made the runoff; a Democrat narrowly missed it. That left a huge pool of votes for someone to grab in a district that's 36 percent African-American—one of the largest nonwhite populations in a district currently held by a Republican. In those other 47 states, where Republican nominations will be decided by Republican voters only, endorsing part of the Affordable Care Act to benefit the very poor might not be a stone-cold winner.
*I updated this with a reference to Louisiana that was previously, mysteriously absent.
Democratic Panic: Still All About Healthcare.gov
I've been collecting the most doomy predictions of how Obamacare will undo liberalism. This is not to prove that these predictions are wrong. Honest liberals admit that the early failures of the implementation, and the public backlash to plan cancellations, challenge their worldview in two huge ways. One: They rattle faith in government's ability to do anything right, something that wasn't exactly on the upswing. Two: They suggest that millions of people are rebelling against paternalism in favor of a sort of health-insurance libertarianism that ties their financial fate to luck and risk.
Still: Come on with this stuff. Josh Kraushaar writes in National Journal that the 39-vote Democratic rump for the Upton bill hints at doom to come.
There's not much time left on the election clock to turn things around. They've shown unfailing loyalty to the president, but unless he manages an unlikely fourth quarter comeback, those bonds could break.
It's Nov. 18, 2013. The next election is on Nov. 4, 2014. That's "not much time"? That's oceans of time. If we're closing in on the fourth quarter, maybe it's one of those fourth quarters that's dragged out to three hours by weather danger and constant injuries.
You can find anonymous Democrats to panic about anything, and you can find plenty of Democrats willing to trash implementation so far, on the record. But recently, when I was talking to one of the Democrats assigned to win House seats in 2014, I got the impression that the panic is tied largely to the crisis of healthcare.gov. If the website sucked wind through Thanksgiving, said the Democrat, it was dreadful but, for Democrats, survivable. If it failed into 2014? That would blow open doors for Republican-led delay bills, and the party's vulnerable members would start to endorse those bills, because what choice would they have?
Day to day, it's very easy to write a "collapse of liberalism" story. Talk to Democrats, though, and you learn that to a staggering degree they think a fixed website would end the general crisis. One month of increased signups—that's all they want. Ask them how they feel in mid-December.
Cheney Family Now at War Internally Over Gay Marriage
The last time Mary Cheney manifested as a political issue in a campaign, it ended rather well for the greater Cheney family. In two debates, John Edwards and John Kerry mentioned that one of Vice President Dick Cheney's daughters was gay. In a year when gay marriage bans were about to be approved by landslide votes, Republicans interpreted this (correctly!) as a Democratic attempt to muddy waters.
"The only thing I can conclude is [Kerry] is not a good man," said Lynne Cheney, the family matriach, at a campaign stop. "I'm speaking as a mom. What a cheap and tawdry political trick."
It was a simple position: Mary Cheney might be gay, but it had nothing to do with politics or the opposition to gay marriage that was held by the entire Bush administration. But this had an expiration date. By 2009, Dick Cheney was endorsing gay marriage in the states. By 2012, Mary Cheney was married (in D.C.) to her longtime partner, Heather Poe.
None of this would have been a problem for Liz Cheney had she run for office where she used to live, in northern Virginia. But Cheney's running for U.S. Senate in Wyoming. According to polling this year, only 42 percent of Wyoming residents approve of legal gay marriage, a number that's probably lower among the smaller pool of Republican primary voters. A third party ad has helped drive down Liz's numbers by pointing out that, in the beltway, she's been more supportive than not of marriage rights. This was what Chris Wallace took advantage of in a solid Sunday interview with the candidate.
"I love Mary very much," said Cheney, trying to change the subject from her family to the campaign ad. "I love her family very much. This is just an issue in which we disagree... I don't believe we've got to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation. If people are in a same sex relationship and they want their partner to be able to have health benefits or be designated as a beneficiary on their life insurance, there's no reason they shouldn't do that. I also don't support amending the constitution on this issue. I do believe it's an issue that's got to be left up to the state. I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage."
Among the viewers of Fox News on Sunday: Heather Poe. She quickly posted this on Facebook.
I was watching my sister-in-law on Fox News Sunday (yes Liz, in fifteen states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law) and was very disappointed to hear her say "I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage."
Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 - she didn't hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us.
To have her now say she doesn't support our right to marry is offensive to say the least
I can't help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other.
I always thought freedom meant freedom for EVERYONE.
Jonathan Martin called up Mary herself. Would she punt or agree with Heather? Oh, she would agree with Heather.
Mary Cheney, 44, said in a phone interview Sunday that she presumed her sister shared her father’s views on marriage, and that view was reinforced because Liz Cheney “was always very supportive” of her relationship with Ms. Poe and the couple’s two children. She learned otherwise in August when Liz Cheney declared, shortly after announcing her Senate candidacy, that she was opposed to same-sex marriage rights. Mary Cheney said it is now “impossible” for the sisters to reconcile as long as Liz Cheney maintains that position.
“What amazes me is that she says she’s running to be a new generation of leader,” Mary Cheney said, citing her 47-year-old sister’s slogan in her campaign against Mr. Enzi, 69. “I’m not sure how sticking to the positions of the last 20 or 30 years is the best way to do that.”
Liz Cheney's position is trickier than Dick Cheney's was in 2004. Back then gay marriage was a fringe enough issue (check the margins of those marriage ban ballot measures) that the vice president could get away with being hypocritical. Liz Cheney affected an early distance from the issue, one that she'd probably never legislate on if she were in the Senate, anyway. And it doesn't work for her. Her sister hasn't signed off on this whole "throw me under the bus" policy; Cheney can hardly affect a new, outraged position without looking like she flip-flopped on her sister.