Monday, August 9, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) talked up secession. "I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government," Wamp told National Journal. Wamp went on to praise Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who has referenced "dissolving" the Union, for also raising concerns about the U.S. government's "oppressive hand."

This Civil War talk has been echoed by other Republicans, including Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), and disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

All of this, of course, is insane. It's hardly news that contemporary Republicans have become more radical, but this secession talk helps drive the point home nicely.

Dana Milbank takes this one step further in his column today, noting that some of the secession talk among Republicans has been repackaged, though it's every bit as extreme.

Most conservatives know it sounds loopy to talk about dissolving the union. After all, it didn't go so well the last time around. That's why it's more acceptable to talk about secession's cousin, nullification. Calling themselves "Tenthers" (for the 10th Amendment, which gives states powers not assigned to the feds) they're claiming that states can merely ignore any federal law they don't like. [...]

But nullification, like secession, has been tried before, with poor result. In 1832, Andrew Jackson threatened to use force against South Carolina for nullifying federal law, saying the state was on the brink of treason and argued that "to say that any state may at pleasure secede from the Union is to say that the United States is not a nation." A compromise held off violence for another quarter century. [...]

If a state thinks the law is unconstitutional, it can challenge the law in court, as Virginia is doing. If people don't like the law, they can elect a new Congress and president to repeal it. Or, they can attempt to amend the Constitution, as several Republican lawmakers would do with the proposed repeal of the 14th Amendment, the one with all that nonsense about equal protection under the law. But secession and nullification have all the legitimacy of a temper tantrum.

But that tantrum is nevertheless becoming increasingly common, as evidenced by Tom Emmer, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota, who believes states should reject all federal laws unless explicitly endorsed by supermajorities in state legislatures.

There is no better example of hysterical Republican extremism. Such madness would have been laughed at by the GOP mainstream not too long ago, but is now a familiar component of the Republican message of the 21st century.

mistermix: Words of a RINO

As E.D. notes, Ted Olson will probably be called a RINO after this appearance on Fox News Sunday. Here’s what it takes: believing in the Bill of Rights, the 14th amendment, and an independent judiciary. It’s worth watching just to see him demolish Chris Wallace’s “but you’re a conservative!” questions, including one about how he could possibly agree with Hollywood Liberal Rob Reiner.


In light of last week's federal court ruling on California's Proposition 8, marriage equality received a fair amount of attention on the Sunday morning shows, including interviews with both Ted Olson and David Boies, the legal team that won the case.

On CBS's "Face the Nation," Boies, perhaps best known as the attorney representing Democrats in 2000's Bush v. Gore, faced off against Family Research Council chief Tony Perkins. As expected, Perkins spewed a lot of nonsense, prompting Boies to make plain the limits of far-right rhetoric. (via John Cole)

"Well, it's easy to sit around and debate and throw around opinions appear-- appeal to people's fear and prejudice, cite studies that either don't exist or don't say what you say they do. In a court of law you've got to come in and you've got to support those opinions. You've got to stand up under oath and cross-examination. And what we saw at trial is that it's very easy for the people who want to deprive gay and lesbian citizens the right to vote, to make all sorts of statements and campaign literature or in debates where they can't be crossexamined.

"But when they come into court and they have to support those opinions and they have to defend those opinions under oath and cross-examination, those opinions just melt away. And that's what happened here. There simply wasn't any evidence. There weren't any of those studies. There weren't any empirical studies. That's just made up. That's junk science.

"And it's easy to say that on television. But witness stand is a lonely place to lie. And when you come into court, you can't do that. And that's what we proved. We put fear and prejudice on trial, and fear and prejudice lost."

As the kids say, boo-yah. Perkins can repeat his talking points, and maybe even persuade the uninformed and/or those inclined to agree with him, but when it comes to withstanding scrutiny, Perkins and his ilk have built a house of cards that crumbles with surprising ease.

On a related note, on "Fox News Sunday," Olson, perhaps best known as the attorney representing Republicans in 2000's Bush v. Gore, sparred a bit with host Chris Wallace, who threw just about every GOP talking point he could think of at Bush's former solicitor general. The central point of Wallace's questioning seemed fairly straightforward: if voters want to limit the scope of Americans' rights, they should be able to do so at the ballot box. Olson turned the question around:

"Well, would you like your right to free speech? Would you like Fox's right to free press put up to a vote and say well, if five states approved it, let's wait till the other 45 states do? These are fundament constitutional rights. The Bill of Rights guarantees Fox News and you, Chris Wallace, the right to speak. It's in the Constitution. And the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the denial of our citizens of the equal rights to equal access to justice under the law, is a violation of our fundamental rights. Yes, it's encouraging that many states are moving towards equality on the basis of sexual orientation, and I'm very, very pleased about that.... We can't wait for the voters to decide that that immeasurable harm, that is unconstitutional, must be eliminated."

Seems pretty obvious, doesn't it?

Greg Sargent:

* Inside the emerging GOP strategy on the Bush tax cuts: Senate Republicans will mount a new push this fall for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, just when the war heats up over whether to extend the tax cuts for the rich.

The idea is that even though this has no chance of passing, such an amendment polls well in states with contested Senate races. Pushing it would apparently allow Republicans to call Dems' bluff when they point to GOP opposition to letting the tax cuts expire as proof Republicans don't care about the deficit.

* But this won't help matters: David Gregory can't get John Boehner and Mike Pence to explain to him how the tax cuts for the rich will be paid for.

* Why Harry Reid still could lose: Nevada journalist Jon Ralston plumbs the depths of voter hatred for Harry Reid.

* Anti-mosque hysteria gets notice: The right's campaign against mosques across the country is becoming a national story.

Also in that link: The untold story is that in each community where this is happening, counterprotests are springing up, and "their numbers have usually been larger."

* Scapegoats for a bad economy: The anti-mosque fervor and the talk about changing the 14th amendment are both part of a larger rise in xenophobia similar to previous spikes in "illiberal populist nationalism" during periods of economic stagnation.

* Can't we tweak the 14th amendment a bit? Rep. Boehner adds his voice to those tentatively suggesting we should think about maybe tweaking the amendment.

* Losing David Broder? The Dean says that the GOP's flirtation with changing the 14th amendment might be cause for concern:

"That is a radical change, freighted with emotional baggage, and if this is an example of what it would mean to have more Republicans on Capitol Hill, watch out."

* No more whining about GOP obstructionism: Chris Dodd tells fellow Dems that this only makes them look weak and ineffective, and that the real Dem failure was to expect GOP cooperation.

Okay, Senator, fair enough, but how do you square that with your bizarre opposition to reforming the filibuster?

* Things that aren't gonna happen: White House energy chief Carol Browner says Dems just may try to pass cap and trade during Congress' lame-duck session. Yeah, right.

* Not sustainable: As I noted here the other day, it's hard to see how Obama's position on gay marriage is sustainable.

* And don't miss Mitch McConnell's justification for GOP obstructionism: Once Obama and Dems made it clear they wanted to turn the United States into France, we had no choice but to stop them by any means necessary, for the good of America.

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