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“Consultant” Larry Kilgore, running on a platform to have Texas secede from the US and become a nation governed by “biblical law,” wins over 225,000 votes—18 percent of the total vote—in Texas’s Republican Party primary for the US Senate seat held by John Cornyn (R-TX). Cornyn wins the primary and eventually wins re-election. Kilgore’s showing prompts two campaign Web sites to proclaim the results as a victory for “Texas independence.” Kilgore’s proposed “sovreign state of Texas” would, according to his campaign platform, execute adulterers, free all prisoners, eliminate all social welfare programs, eliminate public education, and institute public flogging for illegal immigrants. Kilgore said as a US senator he would negotiate with the “US empire” for Texas independence, and would not vote on any legislation unrelated to the creation of an independent state of Texas. Kilgore has run unsuccessful campaigns for the Texas State House and for governor. During the campaign, Kilgore touted the support of a number of prominent figures in the Christian far right, including anti-abortion leader Michael Marcavage and ministers Dave Daubenmire and John Weaver. (Anti-Defamation League 3/10/2008)
US Senate candidate Al Franken (D-MN) is confirmed as the winner of the Minnesota Senate race over incumbent Norm Coleman (R-MN) after over a month of vote recounting and legal maneuvering by both sides. Coleman was initially declared the winner, but Franken immediately requested a recount, as the vote margin was very close (see November 4-5, 2008). Franken is declared the winner by 225 votes out of 2.9 million cast. The final totals: Franken with 1,212,431 votes and Coleman with 1,212,206 votes. Third-party candidate Dean Barkley also garnered a significant number of votes. Coleman says he intends to file a lawsuit challenging the results, blocking Franken from being seated in the Senate. Coleman’s attorney Tony Trimble says: “This process isn’t at an end. It is now just at the beginning.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says, “The race in Minnesota is not over.” Franken says, “After 62 days of careful and painstaking hand-inspection of nearly 3 million ballots, after hours and hours of hard work by election officials and volunteers around the state, I am proud to stand before you as the next senator from Minnesota.” Both sides mounted an aggressive challenge to votes, with campaign officials challenging thousands of ballots during the recounts. Franken made headway when election officials opened and counted some 900 ballots that had erroneously been disqualified on Election Day. Coleman says some ballots were mishandled and others were wrongly excluded from the recount, thus denying him the victory. His loss was made certain when the Minnesota Supreme Court refused to change the totals of the recount (see December 24, 2008). The state Canvassing Board, the entity in charge of the recounts, votes unanimously to accept the totals as final. Franken’s lawyer Mark Elias says of Coleman’s promised court fight: “Former Senator Coleman has to make a decision. And it is a profound decision, one that he has to look into his heart to make: Whether or not he wants to be the roadblock to the state moving forward and play the role of a spoiler or sore loser or whether he wants to accept what was a very close election.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says, “The race in Minnesota is over,” and calls Republican efforts to continue challenging the result “only a little finger pointing.” However, a spokesperson for Reid says Franken will not be seated when Congress convenes later in the week. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) warns that any attempt to seat Franken would result in “chaos.” Trimble says that the recount was handled poorly, and there “can be no confidence” in the result. The seat will remain unfilled until Coleman’s legal challenge is settled. (Stern 1/5/2009; Bakst 1/6/2009; Diaz 1/6/2009) Republicans in the Minnesota legislature have speculated on the possibility of Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) appointing someone, presumably a Republican, to take the Senate seat on a temporary basis while the recount plays out, but Democrats, who hold the majority in the legislature, say they will block any such efforts. Legal experts say Pawlenty’s legal authority to make such an appointment is dubious at best. (Diaz 1/6/2009) Later press reports will state that Franken’s margin of victory was 312 votes, after a judicial panel reviews the recount totals. (Duchschere 4/22/2009) Coleman files a lawsuit to block Franken’s victory (see January 7, 2009).
Several media outlets report discredited Republican claims that the Obama administration’s “cap-and-trade” global warming initiative would cost American taxpayers over $3,000 per year. Fox News anchors Eric Shawn and Alisyn Camerota (see October 13, 2009), CNN producer Ted Barrett, and the Washington, DC, newspaper Roll Call repeat the claim, which originated in a March 23 House Republican Conference (HRC) “talking points” press release. (GOP (.gov) 3/23/2009; Media Matters 4/6/2009) The claim points to a 2007 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but one of the study’s authors, John Reilly, says the Republicans’ interpretation of it is wrong (see March 24 - April 2, 2009). Reilly says the average household cost of $3,128, as calculated by the HRC, is “nearly 10 times the correct estimate” based on his study’s cap-and-trade model. The HRC’s error is further shown by a March 30 analysis conducted by the St. Petersburg Times. (Adair 3/30/2009; Media Matters 4/6/2009) Both Reilly and the Times show that the average annual cost per household will be closer to $340. On Fox News’s America’s News HQ, Shawn claims “this cap-and-trade, or as the Republicans call it, cap-and-tax—could add $3,000 a year on our electric bills.… [T]hat’s about—$290 or so a month. I mean, imagine the American public, everyone watching right now—all of us—getting an extra 300 bucks or so a month tacked on to our utility bills.” Camerota tells viewers of Fox News’s America’s Newsroom that the cap-and-trade proposal “would be $3,100 per US household.” Roll Call’s Jay Heflin publishes a claim by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) that “the effort equates to a ‘light switch tax’ of up to $3,128 each year for families” without informing readers of Reilly’s and the Times’s differing analysis. (Media Matters 4/6/2009; Heflin 4/6/2009) Similarly, on CNN’s Political Ticker blog, Barrett repeats a similar claim, writing, “Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell praised the Senate for having ‘slammed the door on using the fast-track process to jam through a new national energy tax’ that Republicans say will cost families $3,000 a year in higher energy costs.” (Barrett 4/1/2009; Media Matters 4/6/2009)
John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he is “troubled” by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (see May 26, 2009) in light of her supposed “judicial activism” (see May 26, 2009) and supposed willingness to put her personal background above her dedication to the rule of law (see October 26, 2001). However, Cornyn repudiates some of the more vicious attacks on Sotomayor from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former House Republican Tom Tancredo, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, and others who have termed her “racist” (see May 26, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 27-29, 2009, May 27, 2009, May 28, 2009, May 28, 2009, and May 28, 2009). “I think it’s terrible. This is not the kind of tone that any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advice and consent,” Cornyn says. Of Gingrich and Limbaugh, Cornyn adds: “Neither one of these men are elected Republican officials. I just don’t think it’s appropriate and I certainly don’t endorse it. I think it’s wrong.” (National Public Radio 5/28/2009; Smith 5/28/2009) The next day, Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking Republican on the committee, says the inflammatory rhetoric from right-wingers such as Limbaugh, Tancredo, and Gingrich makes him “uneasy,” and he advises Republicans to limit their criticisms of Sotomayor to her judicial record. “I don’t think that’s good rhetoric,” says Sessions. “The question is, has the judge gone too far or not, given the established law of the land?” The Washington Post notes that in 1986, Sessions was denied a federal judgeship because of his record of racial insensitivity (see June 5, 2009). Neither Sessions nor the Post mentions Sessions’s recent attack on Sotomayor (see May 26, 2009). (Eggen and Kane 5/29/2009) On May 31, Sessions tells an NBC audience that his Republican colleagues should refrain from calling Sotomayor a racist, and he would prefer that they not continue to attack her over her 2001 remarks. (Associated Press 5/31/2009)
Former President George H. W. Bush condemns the right-wing attacks against Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (see May 26, 2009), speaking out specifically against the charges that she has racist tendencies (see May 26, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 28, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 27-29, 2009, May 27, 2009, May 28, 2009, May 28, 2009, May 28, 2009, May 29, 2009, May 29, 2009, June 2, 2009, June 5, 2009, and June 7, 2009). “I don’t know her that well but I think she’s had a distinguished record on the bench and she should be entitled to fair hearings,” he says. “Not—[it’s] like the senator John Cornyn said it (see May 28-31, 2009). He may vote for it, he may not. But he’s been backing away from these… backing off from those radical statements to describe her, to attribute things to her that may or may not be true.… And she was called by somebody a racist once. That’s not right. I mean that’s not fair. It doesn’t help the process. You’re out there name-calling. So let them decide who they want to vote for and get on with it.” (Terkel 6/12/2009)
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), says the outcry and dissension over health care reform as demonstrated by protesters in town hall meetings across the US (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, and August 5, 2009) will help the Republican Party elect more people to Congress. Democrats say Cornyn, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), and other Republican lawmakers are actively encouraging the sometimes-explosive town hall confrontations. Inciting fear and anger among conservative voters is a perfectly defensible strategy for a party that has been soundly defeated in two straight elections, Cornyn says. “Fear, I would say, precedes anger, and I think there are a lot of people who tell me they are scared of what they see coming out of Washington in terms of spending and the debt and muscular federal intervention on everything from financial institutions to healthcare,” he says. “It’s almost like a part of the grieving process.… I see real opportunities for us.” (Wilson 8/5/2009) In July, Cornyn’s colleague James Inhofe (R-OK) said that for the GOP to succeed in 2010, it must “stall” health care reform (see July 22, 2009).
President Obama holds a “town hall” meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to discuss health care. Although the audience is allowed to attend on a first-come first-served basis, it is comprised mostly of health care reform supporters. During the event, Obama repeatedly solicits questions from skeptics of his health care plan, telling the audience, “I don’t want people thinking I have a bunch of plants in here.” In his remarks, Obama addresses what he calls some of the “wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to what’s in the [reform] bill.” He says for years, patients have been “held hostage” by insurance companies, and adds that “for all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary” and risky would be the status quo, such as projections that Medicare will be in the red within five years. (Tapper and Miller 8/11/2009; Think Progress 8/11/2009) Seventy percent of the participants in the town hall were chosen in a random, online lottery, without consideration of political affiliation. The questions Obama answers are not prescreened. (MSNBC 8/12/2009)
Debunking 'Death Panels' - Obama opens by saying: “I do hope that we will talk with each other and not over each other. Where we do disagree, let’s disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that’s actually been proposed.… Because the way politics works sometimes is that people who want to keep things the way they are will try to scare the heck out of folks. And they’ll create boogeymen out there that just aren’t real.” (MSNBC 8/12/2009) Obama notes the claim of so-called “death panels that will pull the plug on Grandma,” directly referring to former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK)‘s recent claim that the Democrats intend to create “death panels” that would decide who lives and dies (see August 7, 2009). Obama responds: “[I]t turns out that this, I guess, rose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care,” as well as living wills, hospice care, and the like. The “intention” is to help patients prepare for “end of life on their own terms.” Ironically, Obama adds, one of the chief sponsors of this idea is a Republican, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who “sensibly thought this would expand people’s options.” (Isakson takes issue with being identified as a sponsor of “end-of-life” counseling—see August 11, 2009). Obama says that beneath the false claims of “death panels” exists a real concern: “if we are reforming the health system to make it more efficient that somehow that will mean rationing of care.” He gives an example of such a concern: “some bureaucrat” saying “You can’t have this test, you can’t have this procedure” because “some bean counter” says so. This will not be the case, Obama says. The reform package would ensure that doctors and patients, not bureaucrats, make such decisions. He notes that insurance company bureaucrats “right now are rationing care.… So why is it that people would prefer having insurance companies making those decisions rather than medical experts and doctors figuring out what are good deals for care?” Obama tells his listeners: “I want to be very clear” about the “underlying fear that people won’t get the care they need. You will have the care you need, but also care that is being denied to you right now—that is what we are fighting for.” (Tapper and Miller 8/11/2009; Think Progress 8/11/2009)
Countering Claims of 'Enemies List' - Obama also counters recent claims that the White House is attempting to compile a list of “enemies” in asking that emails containing “fishy” health care information be forwarded to it. “Can I just say this is another example of how the media just ends up completely distorting what’s taking place?” he says. “What we’ve said is that if somebody has—if you get an email from somebody that says, for example, ‘ObamaCare is creating a death panel,’ forward us the email and we will answer the question that is being raised in the email. Suddenly, on some of these news outlets, this is being portrayed as Obama collecting an enemies list. Now, come on guys, here I am trying to be responsive to questions that are being raised out there—and I just want to be clear that all we’re trying to do is answer questions.” In recent days, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) claimed that the White House “want[s] information on opponents of its health care plan.” (Nill 8/11/2009)
Advocating Violence outside the Venue - Outside the venue, a man, William Kostric, stands in the crowd with a gun strapped to his leg. Under New Hampshire law, he is within his rights to openly carry a handgun. He carries a sign that reads, “It is time to water the tree of liberty.” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow notes: “It’s a reference, of course, to Thomas Jefferson’s famous words, ‘The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.’ For perspective on the implication of Jefferson’s words in this context being quoted by the guy with the gun at the event as which the president was speaking, when Timothy McVeigh was arrested 90 minutes after the Oklahoma City bombing, he was wearing a t-shirt with that slogan and a picture of Abraham Lincoln on the front and a tree dripping with blood in the back” (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). Maddow later notes that McVeigh’s shirt bore the words “Sic Semper Tyrannis”—“thus always to tyrants”—the words shouted by Lincoln’s assassin after firing the fatal shot. Another anti-reform protester, Richard Terry Young, is arrested by security officials after sneaking inside the building hours before Obama arrives. He is carrying a knife on his person and a .38 caliber semi-automatic pistol in his truck with a round in the chamber. A number of anti-reform protesters from the New Hampshire Republican Volunteer Coalition also stage a protest outside the event. One advocates murdering all undocumented immigrants: “Why are we bankrupting this country for 21 million illegals who should be sent on the first bus one way back from wherever they come from? We don’t need illegals. Send them home once. Send them home with a bullet in their head the second time. Read what Jefferson said about the Tree of Liberty—it’s coming, baby.” (Nill 8/11/2009; MSNBC 8/12/2009; MSNBC 8/13/2009)
Many Republican lawmakers and their supporters celebrate the controversial Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court (see January 21, 2010), which allows corporations and labor unions to spend unrestricted amounts of money in support of, or opposition to, federal candidates. Most observers believe that Republicans will benefit from the ruling, as large corporations who can now spend large amounts on influencing elections tend to support more conservative candidates and causes (see January 21-22, 2010). Most Republicans who praise the decision do not mention the presumed financial advantage they may now enjoy, but instead focus on the issue as one of freedom of speech. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) says of the decision: “It is about a nonprofit group’s ability to speak about the public issue. I can’t think of a more fundamental First Amendment issue. [The ruling could] open up resources that have not previously been available [for Republicans].” Representative Steve King (R-IA) says: “The Constitution protects the rights of citizens and employers to express their viewpoints on political issues. Today’s Supreme Court decision affirms the Bill of Rights and is a victory for liberty and free speech.” Fellow Republican House member Mike Pence (R-IN) agrees: “If the freedom of speech means anything, it means protecting the right of private citizens to voice opposition or support for their elected representatives. The fact that the Court overturned a 20-year precedent speaks volumes about the importance of this issue.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says the ruling is a big step towards “restoring the First Amendment rights [of corporations and unions].… By previously denying this right, the government was picking winners and losers.” Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Michael Steele says: “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC serves as an affirmation of the constitutional rights provided to Americans under the first amendment. Free speech strengthens our democracy.” And US Senate candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL) says, “Today’s SCOTUS decision on McCain-Feingold is a victory for free speech.” One of the few Republicans to speak against the decision is Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who calls it “regrettable” and “disappointing.” Snowe is joined in her criticism by fellow Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the co-author of the legislation partially overturned by the ruling (see March 27, 2002), who also says he is “disappointed” by the decision. (Sherman 1/21/2010; Think Progress 1/22/2010)
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