By Nick Paleologos, on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 1:30 PM ET
Last week, the US Senate voted 54-46 to strengthen gun safety laws in America. It failed.
That’s right. 54%–a solid majority of the US Senate–voted in favor of universal background checks, and the bill still lost. Because the filibuster rule requires a 60% vote for anything to pass.
Which made me think about Elizabeth Warren.
You will recall that Ms. Warren carried her reform message together with everybody’s highest hopes into the halls of congress. Shortly after her election–I received an email from her. This is what she said:
“You know what I want to do. You know what I care about. But here’s the honest truth: Any senator can make a phone call to register an objection to a bill, then business comes to a screeching halt. On the first day of the new session in January, the Senate will have a unique opportunity to change the filibuster rule with a simple majority vote. I’ve joined Senator Jeff Merkle and four other senators to fight for this reform on day one. No more bringing the work of this country to a dead stop.”
The only problem is that on the first day of the session she fought for nothing of the sort.
Neither did Jeff Merkle, nor any other senator—Democrat or Republican. And by fight, I mean rise to their feet on the floor of the Senate and use the filibuster to change the filibuster. Bring that shameful institution to a screeching halt on behalf of majority rule.
Stop everything. Force a national conversation on why—in the “world’s greatest deliberative body”–a simple majority isn’t enough.
Why–after 20 kids got their heads blown off—doesn’t 54% of Senators voting in favor of gun safety legislation advance that bill to the next step? I’d like Ms. Warren, and Mr. Reid, and the Democratic majority in the United States Senate to explain to the parents of those twenty dead six year olds, why protecting the filibuster is so much more important than protecting our children?
Read the rest of… Nick Paleologos: Filibuster the Filibuster
SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.
On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.
Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.
I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending.
Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.
I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.
People have told me that I’m courageous, but I have seen greater courage. Gabe Zimmerman, my friend and staff member in whose honor we dedicated a room in the United States Capitol this week, saw me shot in the head and saw the shooter turn his gunfire on others. Gabe ran toward me as I lay bleeding. Toward gunfire. And then the gunman shot him, and then Gabe died. His body lay on the pavement in front of the Safeway for hours.
I have thought a lot about why Gabe ran toward me when he could have run away. Service was part of his life, but it was also his job. The senators who voted against background checks for online and gun-show sales, and those who voted against checks to screen out would-be gun buyers with mental illness, failed to do their job.
They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.
They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done — trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you — but their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest. I say misplaced, because to preserve their dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their constituents. They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their agony.
This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I’ve always known would be a long, hard haul. Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list.
Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s. To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way.
By Lauren Mayer, on Tue Apr 16, 2013 at 3:00 PM ET
Parents of teenagers are used to over-reactions – if someone doesn’t laugh at their Facebook post, they’re despondent, or a bad hair day leads to “I’m too hideous to go to school today,” or my personal favorite, teens who stare at a completely full refrigerator and moan, “There’s nothing to eat!” This could be a valuable skill in politics – in fact, I used to hypothesize that moms of toddlers could solve even the toughest diplomatic crises (“Israel and Palestinian settlers, if you can’t agree on how to play nicely with the occupied territories, I’ll put you both in time out!”) But these days, I think the additional skills gained by dealing with teenagers could help even more.
Because our political system has become so virulently partisan, even the slightest policy proposal creates shock and horror – both sides are guilty of over-reaction on occasion, but lately the most flagrant example is this week’s Senate vote on background checks for guns. From the way the NRA and many politicians are reacting, you’d think Senators Manchin & Toomey had proposed banning assault rifles, pistols, shotguns, and any ammunition and were considering banning bows & arrows and fishing poles. Strengthening existing background checks and closing a couple of loopholes is a really mild step, and from all the times Wayne LaPierre has ranted about ‘bad guys with guns,’ it’s hard to understand why he is so opposed to making it slightly harder for a bad guy to get a gun. The whole thing smacks of teenage over-reaction – “Today, background checks, tomorrow, they’ll have to pry my gun out of my cold dead body” is logically identical to “if Jason asks Kendra to prom instead of me, I’ll never have a social life and I’ll die alone.”
We already regulate weapons – no one is screaming about the slippery slope caused by the fact that you can’t own a nuclear missile just in case the coyotes out back get feisty. And we already regulate a TON of products and services that haven’t sent us on a never-ending decline into fascism – so far the government isn’t coming after our cars just because they’re registered, and while food vendors do need licenses and health inspections, it hasn’t led to goose-stepping officers shutting down little Susie’s lemonade stand. So get a grip, gun lobby – and to help you stop acting like hysterical teen girls who couldn’t get Justin Bieber tickets, here’s a musical reminder of all the things that have survived being regulated . . .
In the morning’s Daily Beast, The RP reports on how Democratic failure to frame the narrative on the recordings of a Mitch McConnell campaign staff meeting is consistent with the historical pattern that has seen Democratic incompetence greasing the path for McConnell’s 5 U.S. Senate victories:
Here’s an excerpt:
When Mitch McConnell, perhaps America’s most powerful Republican Senator, was caught on tape with senior aides lampooning then-potential opponent Ashley Judd’s courageous public admission of her past struggle with depression, you’d expect Kentucky Democrats to respond briskly to this vicious smear, right?
Wrong. Instead most Democrats – the state’s party chair and one state senatorhave been rare exceptions – have piled onto the GOP-driven, media-fueled bandwagon that’s instead been focused singularly on decrying the alleged behavior of two independently-acting twenty-somethings who may or may not have been involved in recording the meeting.
Sadly, the circular firing squad Democrats have again assembled comes as no surprise to observers of the state, who have watched for decades as McConnell’s national rise has been aided by his utterly inept opposition.
Students of modern campaign tactics remember Mitch McConnell’s first U.S. Senate race, in 1984, as a early and landmark triumph of negative attack-ad politics: The Roger Ailes-produced “Hound Dog” ad – which featured bloodhounds desperately seeking the “missing” incumbent Senator Walter “Dee” Huddleston – played a critical role in McConnell’s longshot victory. But the jar might never been opened had the lid not been loosened first by the primary challenge of incumbent Governor John Y. Brown, Jr. Brown ultimately abandoned his bid, but according to Al Cross, the dean of the state’s political journalists, Brown’s very entry revealed for the first time that the popular Huddleston was “vulnerable to defeat,” providing real legitimacy to a GOP challenge.
When McConnell sought his first re-election six years later, the internal Democratic warfare was even more perverse, and devastating. Party activists and insiders had coalesced around the candidacy of former Louisville Mayor Harvey Sloane, a well-known statewide figure with access to substantial funding. However, as Cross remembers, the then-incumbent Governor Wallace Wilkinson was steamed at Sloane for failing to support his gubernatorial ambitions – Wilkinson, after all, had served as Sloane’s state finance chair four years prior. So Wilkinson sabotaged his former ally first by recruiting a primary opponent who weakened Sloane and depleted his resources, and then by refusing to provide support in the general election. The governor’s personal pettiness may have proved the difference-maker in a race where McConnell secured just 52% of the vote.
By John Y. Brown III, on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 9:15 AM ET
Will the real school bullies please stand up?
Of course not. All bullies, at bottom, are hurt cowards. But they do need to be called out and held accountable.
The actual bullies, of course, are the perpetrators. But they are typically very misguided and emotionally wounded pre-teens or teens. Not adults. But adults are involved and sometimes subtly (or not so subtlety) are complicit in school bullying incidents. They may want to “fit in” themselves with the “cool kids” or simply not “rock the boat.” And in doing so they may bend the rules or look the other way or even pressure innocent kids to lie or further bully these kids in other ways to avoid standing up to the real bullies and doing the right thing.
The courage to do the right thing begins with administrators who are capable of being honest with themselves about their motives. And then having the courage of their convictions be the kind of honorable role models these young people, deep down, really crave to see. And stare down bullies, rather than appeasing them in hopes they will harass them last.
Is that easy to do? No, it isn’t. In fact, it is difficult. But not as difficult as it is important for the grown ups involved to act like grown ups and stand up to the bullies. Otherwise, the “actual bullies” are being aided and abetted by the adult administrators, who then can, quite literally, become the “real bullies.”
And when that happens, the young and impressionable victims are “doubly bullied.” They are literally sucker punched by a classmate bully, and then figuratively sucker-punched by the school authority figures they have been taught to trust. And that is more than doubly unfortunate!
By Jonathan Miller, on Thu Apr 4, 2013 at 1:30 PM ET
My dad and I circa 1968
On this day in which we remember the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., we re-run this piece — in which the RP honored King, his father, and contributing RP Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s father — that first appeared at The Recovering Politician on April 4, 2011.
Today — as on every April 4 — as the nation commemorates the anniversary of one of the worst days in our history; as some of us celebrate the anniversary of the greatest speech of the 20th Century; my mind is on my father. And my memory focuses on a winter day in the mid 1970s, sitting shotgun in his tiny, tinny, navy blue Pinto.
I can still remember my father’s smile that day.
He didn’t smile that often. His usual expression was somber, serious—squinting toward some imperceptible horizon. He was famously perpetually lost in thought: an all-consuming inner debate, an hourly wrestling match between intellect and emotion. When he did occasion a smile, it was almost always of the taut, pursed “Nice to see you” variety.
But on occasion, his lips would part wide, his green eyes would dance in an energetic mix of chutzpah and child-like glee. Usually, it was because of something my sister or I had said or done.
But this day, this was a smile of self-contented pride. Through the smoky haze of my breath floating in the cold, dense air, I could see my father beaming from the driver’s seat, pointing at the AM radio, whispering words of deep satisfaction with a slow and steady nod of his head and that unfamiliar wide-open smile: “That’s my line…Yep, I wrote that one too…They’re using all my best ones.”
He preempted my typically hyper-curious question-and-answer session with a way-out-of-character boast: The new mayor had asked him—my dad!—to help pen his first, inaugural address. And my hero had drafted all of the lines that the radio was replaying.
This was about the time when our father-son chats had drifted from the Reds and the Wildcats to politics and doing what was right. My dad was never going to run for office. Perhaps he knew that a liberal Jew couldn’t get elected dogcatcher in 1970s Kentucky. But I think it was more because he was less interested in the performance of politics than in its preparation. Just as Degas focused on his dancers before and after they went on stage—the stretching, the yawning, the meditation—my father loved to study, and better yet, help prepare, the ingredients of a masterful political oration: A fistful of prose; a pinch of poetry; a smidgen of hyperbole; a dollop of humor; a dash of grace. When properly mixed, such words could propel a campaign, lance an enemy, or best yet, inspire a public to wrest itself from apathetic lethargy and change the world.
Now, for the first time, I realized that my father was in the middle of the action. And I was so damn proud.
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Click above to watch my eulogy for my father
My dad’s passion for words struck me most clearly when I prepared his eulogy. For the past two years of his illness, I’d finally become acquainted with the real Robert Miller, stripped down of the mythology, taken off my childhood pedestal. And I was able to love the real human being more genuinely than ever before. The eulogy would be my final payment in return for his decades of one-sided devotion: Using the craft he had lovingly and laboriously helped me develop, I would weave prose and poetry, the Bible and Shakespeare, anecdotes and memories, to honor my fallen hero. In his final weeks of consciousness, he turned down my offer to share the speech with him. I will never know whether that was due to his refusal to acknowledge the inevitable, or his final act of passing the torch: The student was now the author.
While the final draft reflected many varied influences, ranging from the Rabbis to the Boss (Springsteen), the words were my own. Except for one passage in which I quoted my father’s favorite memorial tribute: read by Senator Edward Kennedy at his brother, Robert’s funeral:
My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.
Read the rest of… My Father, RFK & the Greatest Speech of the 20th Century