Sunday, February 28, 2010

In high risk gamble, HRC promises DADT will be repealed this year, and disagrees with WH spokesman - says repeal must happen before Nov. elections

John Aravosis, AmerciaBlog Gay: Pam Spaulding reports that America's largest gay civil rights group last night laid down a clear benchmark for the Obama administration, Congress, the Democratic party and itself. Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese promised an audience of his organization's donors and members that Don't Ask Don't Tell will be repealed this year.

Speaking at HRC's North Carolina fundraising dinner, Solmonese committed, categorically, to repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell this year:

And finally, finally this year we are going to bring down the discriminatory policy known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'...once and for all.
Just as interesting, Solmonese now agrees with the analysis of the gay Netroots, that the November elections could kill our chances for repealing DADT, or enacting any other pro-gay legislation. Thus, DADT repeal, and any other pro-gay legislation, must happen before the elections this fall.
I also get that there is a drumbeat coming from our community to put more pressure on, to make more demands of the President and members of Congress to get it done this year because who knows what's going to happen at the mid-term elections and frankly they are right and our time is now.
This is rather significant what happened last night, for a number of reasons.

1. Solmonese laid down the gauntlet before the Obama administration and Congress. He has now said that this year we WILL get DADT repeal (and also federal employee domestic partner benefits, the domestic partner tax, and an expansion of HIV/AIDS treatment to those on public assistance). That puts the White House, Congress and HRC in a bind.

Currently, no one other than HRC thinks the DADT repeal effort is going well. In fact, both Barney Frank and Armed Services chair Levin, Nathaniel Frank of the Palm Center, and SLDN expressed their concerns about the administration and DADT repeal only a week or so ago. Additionally, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs refused to simply say that the administration wants DADT repealed this year when directly asked, twice, by reporter Kerry Eleveld in the past two weeks. And finally, Chairman Levin has repeated said over the past few days that he may push for a moratorium on discharges, rather than full repeal, this year, because he's not sure if he has the votes (votes that he can only get if the White House commits to full repeal this year, and actually does something to lobby members of Congress to GET their votes). None of that bodes well for repeal this year.

So in sum, HRC, at a fundraising dinner, told current and future donors of their organization that if you support HRC, you will have DADT repealed this year. If DADT is not repealed this year, that will mean that Solmonese either lied, or that HRC is no longer an effective force in Washington politics. Either way, Solmonese just gave us all a clear benchmark for judging whether HRC is worthy of your continued donations. By October we'll have our answer.

2. Just as significant was when Solmonese contradicted White House spokesman Robert Gibb. Gibb was asked by Kerry Eleveld, during the same conversation in which he refused to say that the President would like to see repeal this year, whether the uncertainty of the 2010 congressional elections didn't make it all the more important that we pass DADT repeal this year. Gibbs said no.

There is increasing concern that Democrats may lose the House to the Republicans in the fall. In fact, veteran election analyst Charlie Cook said he can't envisage a way in which Democrats hold the House. I've also heard Democratic strategists worrying that we may lose the Senate as well. If we lose the House or Senate, there won't be a single pro-gay piece of legislation passed for years to come. Remember, the last time we lost the Congress it took 14 years to get it back. And even then, we'd need a pro-gay president to sign whatever pro-gay laws Congress were to pass. (And, as we learned over the past year, even having large Democratic majorities in the Congress and a "pro-gay" president doesn't guarantee that any of their top promises will be kept.)

But even if the Dems retain their majority in Congress, everyone still expects Democrats to lose seats in the House and Senate. Consider how difficult it is to get anything pro-gay out of Congress now, with large Democratic majorities in each body, and how difficult it is to get the White House to do anything other than speak kind words about repealing DADT and DOMA, and passing ENDA. Now ask yourself, will the President and Congress be better or worse advocates for our civil rights if they get thumped in the next election?

What Solmonese did last night was confirm that if we don't get DADT repealed this year, we may not see any pro-gay legislation for years to come. If HRC can't get the President to actually commit to repealing DADT this year (the White House has outright refused) - and that means the President including DADT repeal in the DOD budget transmittal's sent to the Armed Services committees over the next few months, and actually lobbying individual members of Congress to get us the votes we need - and if HRC can't get Chairman Levin to push for full repeal in the DOD authorization bill, and can't get Jim Webb and other Dems on the committee to vote for the repeal this year, then we likely won't get another chance for years to come. That wasn't what we were promised.

If HRC, the White House, the Congress, and the Democratic party are going to prove to gay and lesbian Americans, and our friends and allies, that their promises in exchange for our votes and donations mean anything, they are going to have to get DADT repealed this year.

I'm surprised that HRC would make such a clear-cut promise - with such a firm deadline, and such a clear-cut statement that if it doesn't happen this year, it may not happen for a long time. I give HRC credit for putting its reputation, and its organization's future, on the line by promising that DADT will be repealed this year. Come October, we'll know if HRC, and the Democrats, still matter to our community.

3. What happened to ENDA and DOMA? Nowhere to be found on HRC's list.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

If Judge Walker Lets Prop 8 Stand, Is He a Gay Traitor?

Queerty: As we await the ruling of Judge Vaughn Walker in the Prop 8 trial, we're being treated to sample attacks by conservative extremists, who will be ready to pounce on the judge if he knocks down the voter-approved law as unconstitutional. But lost in this debate is the other side of the coin toss: What happens if Walker, an openly gay judge, lets Prop 8 stand?
The immediate aftermath: utter disappointment from the gay community, Gay Inc. struggling to find its footing (and someone to blame), Ted Olson and David Boies wondering what went wrong, and blogs like this one pointing fingers, because that's what we do.
But Walker's sexuality will, without question, be part of that debate in the second phase of the news cycle. And if he rules against the plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, it won't be the zealots supporting Prop 8 whom attack him, but the gay community going after one of their own.
As Walker's gayness was confirmed (anonymously! through the media! reluctantly!), both supporters and opponents of Prop 8 took turns analyzing what it would mean come decision time.
On the far right, it meant pointing to Walker's alleged courtroom activism; striking down Prop 8 would only represent yet another "legislating from the bench" move in favor of a demographic he's a part of. But gay marriage supporters also worried aloud whether there could be a measure of "overcompensating," where in the interest of appearing fair, Walker would ultimately uphold Prop 8 because it's something voters decided. Throw in Walker's history of arguing against gay causes (see: Gay Olympics), and there's really no way to nail down how his sexuality will play a role in his decision.
Except that it almost certainly will not. At least not the way the peanut gallery thinks.
The same way Sonia "Wise Latina" Sotomayor, as a woman of color who grew up in a less-than-middle-class environment, is arguably better equipped to understand the everyday concerns of the populous her decisions will affect, so too can Walker, as a sixty-something gay man who grew up with anti-gay discrimination first-hand, know that a laws like Prop 8 actually do affect Americans in ways no voting bloc, court, or elected official should ever support. Such personal experience and awareness does not make him biased; it makes him competent.
We've already shot down arguments using Walker's sexuality as a chip should he rule against Prop 8. That same reasoning stands if he supports it: Walker is no more qualified to rule on Prop 8 as a homosexual or a heterosexual.
But should he decide to uphold Prop 8, it won't be that Walker is a traitor to gay Americans. It's that he is a traitor to the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Silly Arguments For Keeping DADT, from the Remaining 25% of Americans

Ex-Marine Accused of Murder Running for Congress in N.C.

From the Left: A former Marine once charged with murder in the deaths of two Iraqis is running for Congress as a Republican in North Carolina.
Ilario Pantano announced his candidacy [January 28th] in Wilmington. He is seeking the Republican nomination. The 35-year-old Pantano will challenge Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre for North Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District.
Pantano shot two men in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, in 2004 and hung a warning sign on their corpses. A Marine general decided in 2005 not to bring Pantano to trial, following the advice of an officer who presided over the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing.
Please North Carolina, don’t elect his man to the Congress.
LSB: To be fair, he was never charged with murder. War is hell, and until we've walked in his shoes I won't be passing judgment. However, this bears closer scrutiny and I will be watching to see what further information comes out about this incident.

Dick Cheney Supports 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal

Sam Stein, Former Vice President Dick Cheney expressed support on Sunday for the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, saying that the climate has changed "significantly" since his tenure as Secretary of Defense.
Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Cheney said that on matters of military personnel he took his cues from the brass. Now that they felt the time was right to revise the policy that prevented gays from serving openly, he too was comfortable with a change.
"Twenty years ago, the military were strong advocates of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' when I was Secretary of Defense," Cheney said. "I think things have changed significantly since then. I see that Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has indicated his belief that we ought to support a change in the policy. So I think -- my guess is the policy will be changed.
"I think the society has moved on," he added. "I think it's partly a generational question. I say, I'm reluctant to second-guess the military in this regard, because they're the ones that have got to make the judgment about how these policies affect the military capability of our -- of our units. And that first requirement that you have to look at all the time is whether or not they're still capable of achieving their mission, and does the policy change, i.e., putting gays in the force, affect their ability to perform their mission? When the chiefs come forward and say, 'We think we can do it,' then it strikes me that it's -- it's time to reconsider the policy. And I think Admiral Mullen said that."
In coming out in support of a repeal of DADT, Cheney puts himself at odds with many in his own party, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who once said he would follow the military's lead on the matter only to reverse course several weeks ago.
But it is not all that rare for the former vice president to strike a relatively progressive posture on gay rights issues. Cheney has spoken out in favor of gay marriage, provided that it is sanctioned by the state and not federal government.
Cheney spent much of his sit-down with ABC on Sunday taking broad swipes at President Obama, attacking the current White House occupant for, above all, abandoning a homeland security doctrine that he helped put in place. But there was one other issue, in addition to a DADT repeal, on which Cheney found agreement with the current president: a troop surge in Afghanistan.
"I'm a complete supporter of what they're doing in Afghanistan," Cheney said. "I think the president made the right decision to send troops into Afghanistan. I thought it took him a while to get there.
"Having Stan McChrystal now in charge in Afghanistan I think is an excellent choice," he added. "General McChrystal's one of the most able officers I know. I'm glad they're doing what they're doing in Afghanistan. I'm not a critic of what they're doing, in terms of how they're dealing with that situation."
LSB: Fuck - hell must have frozen over this week! I guess I'll have to give the Prince of Assholery a pass today, because you know the Religious Right is gonna tear him a new one. However, I am gonna give VP Biden a chance to say his piece about the former VP.

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"Gay" Poem Shakes Up The Utah State Legislature

John Lundberg, Utah's House of Representatives usually begins the day with a morning prayer, but this past Wednesday, state representative Christine Johnson decided instead to read an inspirational poem.
That's all well and proper, except that the poem, entitled "Say Yes," was written by a gay and self-described activist poet named Andrea Gibson [shown at left]. Add on the fact that Johnson herself is gay (and, well, that you're in Utah) and you've got a full-on kerfuffle.
Local news jumped the story, expressing surprise that the "gayness" of the poem wasn't immediately clear to the state's conservative legislators, reporting that "the Utah House of Representatives was gay and didn't even know it," and "few if any of the other legislators realized their chamber had gone gay."
Well, the poem's supposed gayness probably went unnoticed because the poem's message isn't gay at all, nor does it contain any gay symbolism. "Say Yes" strikes notes of hope, peace and altruism--themes that aren't antithetical to the Mormon faith. The most radical aspect of Johnson's reading was probably that she subjected the legislature to the rhythms of spoken word poetry.
Johnson said that while she respects the opinions of her conservative colleagues, she wanted to offer them "something different." She only censored the poem a bit, cutting the line "for the radical anarchist asking the Republican to dance." Johnson, hardly a radical anarchist, was only asking that they listen. And--if only because they did not know what they were listening to--they did. Click here to watch Gibson passionately perform a version of the poem.
Say Yes
when two violins are placed in a room

if a chord on one violin is struck

the other violin will sound the note

if this is your definition of hope

this is for you

the ones who know how powerful we are

who know we can sound the music in the people around us

simply by playing our own strings

for the ones who sing life into broken wings

open their chests and offer their breath

as wind on a still day when nothing seems to be moving

spare those intent on proving god is dead

for you when your fingers are red

from clutching your heart

so it will beat faster

for the time you mastered the art of giving yourself for the sake of someone else

for the ones who have felt what it is to crush the lies

and lift truth so high the steeples bow to the sky

this is for you

this is also for the people who wake early to watch flowers bloom

who notice the moon at noon on a day when the world

has slapped them in the face with its lack of light

for the mothers who feed their children first

and thirst for nothing when they're full
this is for women
and for the men who taught me only women bleed with the moon

but there are men who cry when women bleed

men who bleed from women's wounds

and this is for that moon

on the nights she seems hung by a noose

for the people who cut her loose

and for the people still waiting for the rope to burn
about to learn they have scissors in their hands
this is for the man who showed me

the hardest thing about having nothing

is having nothing to give

who said the only reason to live is to give ourselves away

so this is for the day we'll quit or jobs and work for something real

we'll feel for sunshine in the shadows
look for sunrays in the shade

this is for the people who rattle the cage that slave wage built

and for the ones who didn't know the filth until tonight

but right now are beginning songs that sound something like
people turning their porch lights on and calling the homeless back home
this is for all the shit we own

and for the day we'll learn how much we have

when we learn to give that shit away

this is for doubt becoming faith

for falling from grace and climbing back up

for trading our silver platters for something that matters
like the gold that shines from our hands when we hold each other
this is for the grandmother who walked a thousand miles on broken glass
to find that single patch of grass to plant a family tree

where the fruit would grow to laugh

for the ones who know the math of war

has always been subtraction

so they live like an action of addition

for you when you give like every star is wishing on you

and for the people still wishing on stars

this is for you too
this is for the times you went through hell so someone else wouldn't have to

for the time you taught a 14 year old girl she was powerful

this is for the time you taught a 14 year old boy he was beautiful

for the radical anarchist asking a republican to dance

cause what's the chance of everyone moving from right to left

if the only moves they see are NBC and CBS
this is for the no becoming yes

for scars becoming breath

for saying i love you to people who will never say it to us

for scraping away the rust and remembering how to shine

for the dime you gave away when you didn't have a penny

for the many beautiful things we do

for every song we've ever sung

for refusing to believe in miracles

because miracles are the impossible coming true
and everything is possible
this is for the possibility that guides us

and for the possibilities still waiting to sing

and spread their wings inside us

cause tonight saturn is on his knees

proposing with all of his ten thousand rings

that whatever song we've been singing we sing even more
the world needs us right now more than it ever has before

pull all your strings
play every chord

if you're writing letters to the prisoners

start tearing down the bars

if you're handing our flashlights in the dark

start handing our stars

never go a second hushing the percussion of your heart

play loud

play like you know the clouds have left too many people cold and broken

and you're their last chance for sun

play like there's no time for hoping brighter days will come

play like the apocalypse is only 4...3...2

but you have a drum in your chest that could save us

you have a song like a breath that could raise usl
ike the sunrise into a dark sky that cries to be blue
play like you know we won't survive if you don't
but we will if you do
play like saturn is on his knees
proposing with all of his ten thousand rings
that we give every single breaththis is for saying-yes
this is for saying-yes

Openly Gay Providence Mayor to Run for Kennedy House Seat Providence Mayor David Cicilline announced today he's running for the House seat being vacated by Patrick Kennedy:

"Cicilline became the second Democrat on Saturday to declare his candidacy for the seat, just two days after Kennedy's unexpected announcement that he would not seek relection. Cicilline's announcement, at a hastily called news conference held at the site of swine-flu vaccination clinic, came just hours after William Lynch, chairman of the state Democratic party, said he will seek the seat. Cicilline, 49, the state's first openly gay mayor, said he would not step down as Providence's mayor during his run for Congress. He has held the job for eight years."

Scott Brown and Do-Nothing Senate Will Cause 900,000 More to Lose Jobs

emptywheel: Count me among those who are grateful that Harry Reid scaled back the Senate jobs bill instead of letting MaxTax Baucus and Chuck Grassley [shown at right] use it to push through another estate tax break for Paris Hilton. That said, what he is pushing is another poorly-designed tax break that will do little to support jobs. More importantly, it offers no relief for states, trying to keep teachers and cops and firemen on the job. And that means as many as 900,000 people will lose their jobs because the Senate is unwilling or unable to do what the House has already done. (h/t Calculated Risk)
Federal aid to the states was among the top priorities in an early Senate job creation bill, as well as in a $154 billion measure passed by the House in December. But it has fallen off the list as Senate Democrats look to craft legislation that will attract bipartisan support.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday unveiled a jobs bill that does not contain state aid. A Senate Democratic aide said Reid hopes to back a state aid measure in the future. Republican support, however, remains questionable.
States are looking at a total budget gap of $180 billion for fiscal 2011, which for most of them begins July 1. These cuts could lead to a loss of 900,000 jobs, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s
The article goes on to describe CA’s well-publicized woes. But it also notes that Senator Scott Brown’s state of Massachusetts may have to dramatically cut back because it is not getting $600 million in federal Medicaid funds they were counting on.
Just so long as we make it clear that Scott Brown bears a great deal of responsibility for holding that money up.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

New poll finds more Americans in favor of eliminating the filibuster. One of the greatest obstacles to passing progressive legislation in Congress has been the use of the filibuster in the Senate. With upwards of “40 cloture votes since the start of the 111th Congress in January, this Senate is on pace to record the second-largest number of filibuster roll calls,” transforming what was intended to be a seldom-used procedural tactic into an all-out tool for obstructionism. Now, a new CBS/New York Times poll finds that more Americans support ending the filibuster and requiring legislation to pass by a simple majority:
As you may know, the Senate operates under procedures that effectively require 60 votes, out of 100, for most legislation to pass, allowing a minority of as few as 41 senators to block a majority. Do you think this procedure should remain in place, or do you think it should be changed so that legislation is passed with a simple majority?

Should remain 44
Should be changed 50
[Don't Know] 6
Changing the filibuster would not be without precedent. In 1975, the filibuster threshold was lowered from 67 to 60. Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) have introduced legislation that would “change Senate procedure to create a four-step process that would eventually allow a majority of 51 votes, rather than 60, for cloture — ending debate and moving to a final vote on passage of a bill.” Yet Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has “dismissed the effort” as unlikely to succeed. OpenLeft’s Chris Bowers has an ongoing whip count for the effort to pass Harkin’s reforms here.

Taking Names on GOP Hypocrisy

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Shameless Cheney Ignores Own Record to Cast Stones

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Bush Supporters Continue to Rewrite History

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Insurance rates soar in 4+ states

John Aravosis (DC), It's not just four states. These bastards are doing it nationwide. In DC, my CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield rates went up "only" 15% this year. Previous years were, I believe, in the 20% to 25% range per year.
Anthem Blue Cross, a subsidiary of WellPoint Inc., has been under fire for a week from regulators and politicians for notifying some of its 800,000 individual policyholders in California that it plans to raise rates by up to 39 percent March 1.
The Anthem Blue Cross plan in Maine is asking for increases of about 23 percent this year for some individual policyholders. Last year, they raised rates up to 32 percent.
Kansas had one recent case where one insurer wanting to raise most individual rates 20 percent to 30 percent was persuaded by state insurance officials to reduce the increases to 10 percent to 20 percent. The insurance department would not identify the company but said it was not Anthem.
And in Oregon, multiple insurers were granted rate hikes of 15 percent or more this year after increases of around 25 percent last year for customers who purchase individual health insurance, rather than getting it through their employer.
So, here's a problem I have with the excuse the insurance companies gave for raising rates on the individual market:
Premiums are far more volatile for individual policies than for those bought by employers and other large groups, which have bargaining clout and a sizable pool of people among which to spread risk. As more people have lost jobs, many who are healthy have decided to go without health insurance or get a bare-bones, high-deductible policy, reducing the amount of premiums insurers receive.
Yeah right. Insurance company X insures, say, 10,000 people working for Microsoft in Washington state. But, they argue, that if I work for myself in Washington state, they have to charge me a lot more money than they charge Microsoft employees because my "pool" of individual policyholders is more costly and risky than the Microsoft employees.
That's an utter bunch of crap. If they insure me in Washington state as a self-employed individual, they're not taking a massive risk that I might end up being Typhoid Mary when there's no large group to spread the risk around. There is a large group. It's called every single other person that insurance company is already covering in that state and or nationwide (if there's a parent company). All those Microsoft employees are already helping you spread the risk of having me on board. And the past ten years of BCBS insurance, when I wasn't having problems with my eyes, I helped BCBS cover other people both in the individual market and in the large group market. Money is fungible, and for Blue Cross and all the rest to pretend that their profits in one venture don't permit them to suffer potential losses, or lower profits, in another venture, is utter bs. There's no excuse for them charging different rates for essentially the same coverage.
Yet another reason I can't believe the White House and Congress blew it this past year on this issue. How hard can it be to demonize demons?

Bill Gates' TED Speech 2010: 'We Need Energy Miracles' Microsoft founder Bill Gates took on climate change during his TED speech Friday. He told those gathered at the conference that "What we're going to have to do at a global scale is create a new system... So we need energy miracles."
To cut CO2 emissions to zero and stop climate change -- a problem that he said is bigger than creating new vaccines -- Gates urged researchers to find clean sources of energy. CNN reports:
Gates said the deadline for the world to cut all of its carbon emissions is 2050. He suggested that researchers spend the next 20 years inventing and perfecting clean-energy technologies, and then the next 20 years implementing them.
The world's energy portfolio should not include coal or natural gas, he said, and must include carbon capture and storage technology as well as nuclear, wind and both solar photovoltaics and solar thermal power.
According to CNN, Gates spent a large portion of his speech endorsing technology that could turn spent uranium fuel rods into clean energy. Gates told the audience that the technology could power the world indefinitely, and that the U.S. could be powered for 100 years using the spent fuel rods already in its possession.
Gates told the audience that climate change will cause poverty and famine that will disproportionately affect the world's poorest people.
Australia's Gizmodo reports that Gates used a jar of fireflies as an onstage prop to talk about clean energy. At his TED speech in 2009, Gates unleashed mosquitoes on his audience.

McCain Faces Toughest Re-Election Challenge

JONATHAN J. COOPER, Associated Press: Defeated just two years ago as the Republican presidential candidate and with his bonafides as a true conservative again being challenged, John McCain finds himself in a struggle to get even his party's nomination for another term in the Senate.
Many conservatives and Tea Party activists are lining up behind Republican challenger and former talk radio host J.D. Hayworth, reflecting a rising tide of voter frustration with incumbent politicians. Only 40 percent of Arizonans have a favorable view of McCain's job performance.
Faced with his toughest re-election battle ever, McCain has moved to the right on several hot-button issues, like gays in the military and climate change, and has built a campaign war chest of more than $5 million. Former running mate Sarah Palin and newly elected Republican Sen. Scott Brown, both popular with conservatives, are pitching in.
Hayworth, who will officially launch his campaign Monday, began using his talk show on conservative radio station KFYI to drum up opposition to McCain.
"You have a consistent conservative challenger and an incumbent who calls himself a maverick but in fact is a moderate," Hayworth said, outlining what he views as the central choice for conservative GOP primary voters in August.
McCain is launching his own statewide tour, complete with visits next month from Palin and Brown, who already has recorded calls asking Republicans to support McCain.
The four-term senator and his allies also are taking aim at Hayworth. In December, they filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission arguing that the talk show host was a de facto candidate and his radio station was providing a corporate gift by allowing him to campaign on the air. And they're attacking Hayworth's 12-year record as a congressman representing the eastern suburbs of Phoenix.
"When Arizona voters are reminded of Mr. Hayworth's long record in Washington of liberal spending and questionable ethics, he will be defeated again just as he was in 2006," said McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.
Democrat Harry Mitchell defeated Hayworth four years ago, winning the GOP-dominated district amid a rough national climate for Republicans and questions about Hayworth's dealings with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. (More)

Republicans and Medicare

PAUL KRUGMAN, NYTimes Editorial Columnist: “Don’t cut Medicare. The reform bills passed by the House and Senate cut Medicare by approximately $500 billion. This is wrong.” So declared Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, in a recent op-ed article written with John Goodman, the president of the National Center for Policy Analysis.
And irony died.
Now, Mr. Gingrich was just repeating the current party line. Furious denunciations of any effort to seek cost savings in Medicare — death panels! — have been central to Republican efforts to demonize health reform. What’s amazing, however, is that they’re getting away with it.
Why is this amazing? It’s not just the fact that Republicans are now posing as staunch defenders of a program they have hated ever since the days when Ronald Reagan warned that Medicare would destroy America’s freedom. Nor is it even the fact that, as House speaker, Mr. Gingrich personally tried to ram through deep cuts in Medicare — and, in 1995, went so far as to shut down the federal government in an attempt to bully Bill Clinton into accepting those cuts.
After all, you could explain this about-face by supposing that Republicans have had a change of heart, that they have finally realized just how much good Medicare does. And if you believe that, I’ve got some mortgage-backed securities you might want to buy.
No, what’s truly mind-boggling is this: Even as Republicans denounce modest proposals to rein in Medicare’s rising costs, they are, themselves, seeking to dismantle the whole program. And the process of dismantling would begin with spending cuts of about $650 billion over the next decade. Math is hard, but I do believe that’s more than the roughly $400 billion (not $500 billion) in Medicare savings projected for the Democratic health bills.
What I’m talking about here is the “Roadmap for America’s Future,” the budget plan recently released by Representative Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee. Other leading Republicans have been bobbing and weaving on the official status of this proposal, but it’s pretty clear that Mr. Ryan’s vision does, in fact, represent what the G.O.P. would try to do if it returns to power.
The broad picture that emerges from the “roadmap” is of an economic agenda that hasn’t changed one iota in response to the economic failures of the Bush years. In particular, Mr. Ryan offers a plan for Social Security privatization that is basically identical to the Bush proposals of five years ago.
But what’s really worth noting, given the way the G.O.P. has campaigned against health care reform, is what Mr. Ryan proposes doing with and to Medicare.
In the Ryan proposal, nobody currently under the age of 55 would be covered by Medicare as it now exists. Instead, people would receive vouchers and be told to buy their own insurance. And even this new, privatized version of Medicare would erode over time because the value of these vouchers would almost surely lag ever further behind the actual cost of health insurance. By the time Americans now in their 20s or 30s reached the age of eligibility, there wouldn’t be much of a Medicare program left.
But what about those who already are covered by Medicare, or will enter the program over the next decade? You’re safe, says the roadmap; you’ll still be eligible for traditional Medicare. Except, that is, for the fact that the plan “strengthens the current program with changes such as income-relating drug benefit premiums to ensure long-term sustainability.”
If this sounds like deliberately confusing gobbledygook, that’s because it is. Fortunately, the Congressional Budget Office, which has done an evaluation of the roadmap, offers a translation: “Some higher-income enrollees would pay higher premiums, and some program payments would be reduced.” In short, there would be Medicare cuts.
And it’s possible to back out the size of those cuts from the budget office analysis, which compares the Ryan proposal with a “baseline” representing current policy. As I’ve already said, the total over the next decade comes to about $650 billion — substantially bigger than the Medicare savings in the Democratic bills.
The bottom line, then, is that the crusade against health reform has relied, crucially, on utter hypocrisy: Republicans who hate Medicare, tried to slash Medicare in the past, and still aim to dismantle the program over time, have been scoring political points by denouncing proposals for modest cost savings — savings that are substantially smaller than the spending cuts buried in their own proposals.
And if Democrats don’t get their act together and push the almost-completed reform across the goal line, this breathtaking act of staggering hypocrisy will succeed.

We Are The World: New Version For Haiti Earthquake Victims