Even before Chris Christie’s traffic troubles took the shine off his presidential prospects, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was moving to position himself as an acceptable alternative for Republicans who might still be thinking that a governor would make a good 2016 nominee.
Walker has a long history of arguing choosing a state official with little experience in Washington—like, perhaps, Scott Walker—is the Republicans’ best option for retaking the White House. “An ideal candidate to me would be a current or former governor,” Walker said last fall. “Just because I think governors have executive experience and, more importantly, I think there’s a real sense across America that people want an outsider.”
But in January, as attention was turning toward him, Walker got more specific.
“There are similarities between a governor and a president,” he explained.
Asked how voters might judge governors who bid for the presidency, the Wisconsinite replied, “Governors should be defined not just by what they do and say, but who they surround themselves with, making sure to have the smartest person for a particular task or to head a specific agency. They should be judged on that basis and who they take advice from.”
Just as Christie did in January, Walker has responded to the release of controversial e-mails from an "inner circle" of top aides by suggesting that he did not know what was going on around him. But the people both men put in positions of authority and public trust certainly did know.
When he was bidding for the governorship of Wisconsin, Scott Walker selected aides who have since been convicted of engaging in illegal activities, disregarding the trust and the responsibilities that are supposed to go with public positions. At the same time, their communications included slurs on women, people of color, gays, Jews, immigrants and people with disabilities.
The release of 28,000 pages of e-mails and more than 400 legal documents associated with the John Doe investigation that led to the arrest and conviction of aides who served with Walker when, as the Milwaukee county executive, he was seeking the governorship.
In addition to doing campaign work on public time—a theft of taxpayer funds—Walker’s aides circulated e-mails that portrayed poor people and African-Americans as dogs. One top aide referred to the image as “hilarious” and “so true.” Another top aide used his e-mail account to circulate an e-mail that mocked racial and ethnic minorities, as well as gay men and people suffering from AIDS.
An unsettling disregard for the human beings they were supposed to be serving showed up on a frequent basis in the e-mails of the people closest to Scott Walker. And when an aide pondered attacking the use of respectful terms for immigrants, gubernatorial candidate Walker replied, “Don’t hold back!”
Walker’s aides rarely held back. Discussing an incident in which a woman died of complications related to starvation she experienced while committed to the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, Walker and his aides communicated with one another about how to keep developments in the tragic story under wraps until after the 2010 gubernatorial election.
The callous conversations were summed up by an e-mail in which one of the aides, Kelly Rindfleisch, announced that “no one cares about crazy people.”
Hubert Humphrey once said, “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.”
There is great truth in that statement, as there is in Scott Walker’s suggestion that “governors should be defined not just by what they do and say, but who they surround themselves with.”
Read Next: Nichols on what Chris Christie and Scott Walker have in common
Missouri is scheduled to put a man to death early Wednesday using a lethal drug procured from an unnamed compounding pharmacy, setting up the fourth execution in the state since November, the Associated Press reports.
Michael Taylor, 47, was convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl in 1989. He will be executed at 12:01 am if his attorneys’ last-ditch efforts for a reprieve prove unsuccessful. Per the AP:
Taylor’s attorneys have questioned Missouri’s use of an unnamed compounding pharmacy to provide the pentobarbital for his execution. They have also raised concerns that the state executes men before appeals are complete, and claim Taylor’s original trial attorney was so overworked that she encouraged him to plead guilty to lessen her own workload.
Last week, an Oklahoma-based pharmacy agreed in a settlement to not provide pentobarbital for Taylor’s execution. As a result, the state obtained the drug from another pharmacy, but refused to give its name. Attorneys argue that hiding the supplier’s identity could cause Taylor pain, amounting to cruel and unusual punishment, since we don’t know anything about the pharmacy’s “track record.”
Missouri law protects the identity of suppliers that provide death penalty drugs to the state’s Department of Corrections. The ACLU challenged that law last year, when it was used to hide the supplier of the lethal drug propofol, Missouri’s official execution drug before the state switched to pentobarbital. Reports revealed that the state obtained propofol from an unauthorized dealer.
Tony Rothert, Legal Director for the ACLU of Missouri, said the state is probably hiding the identity of its pentobarbital supplier for the same reason.
“The reason that Missouri is trying to keep it a secret is because the state knows that it’s not being done lawfully,” Rothert told The Nation. “We don’t believe that wanting to carry out an execution is a sufficient justification for the state of Missouri to be abetting the violation of federal drug laws.”
Missouri currently has one more execution scheduled for this year. According to AP, that puts the state on track for a record number in 2014.
Read Next: The maker of Ohio’s lethal injection drugs wants Ohio to stop killing people with them.
Fancy a side of irony with your corporate hypocrisy? Last night on MSNBC, Nation Editor-at-Large Chris Hayes profiled ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, a vocal proponent of hydraulic fracking, who is suing to prevent the construction of a water tower near his eighty-three-acre, $5 million horse ranch in Bartonville, Texas. The purpose of the tower? Storing water for fracking. Tillerson and his super-wealthy neighbors are concerned, the lawsuit states, that the fracking tower might “devalue their properties and adversely impact the rural lifestyle they sought to enjoy.” As Hayes put it, “Rex Tillerson is leading the fracking revolution, just not in his backyard.”
Speaking on PBS NewsHour following President Yanukovych’s flight from Kiev, Nation contributing editor Stephen Cohen urged the US to promote “a stable and united Ukraine, at peace with itself and not trapped in an either or proposition between Russia and Europe.” There’s a serious threat, Cohen warned, that Ukraine will split between two governments, one led by the EU-leaning protesters in Kiev and another headed by a Russia-leaning Yanukovych government in the country’s east. What’s more, the upheaval could stoke Putin’s fears that Western-allied forces might try to destabilize Russia, prompting the Russian president to crack down harder on dissenters within his own country.
When Obama first came to office, he signed an executive order that was intended to curtail the power of lobbyists in his administration. But the order didn’t actually make lobbying go away, it only sent it underground. Now, a deregistered, shadow lobby industry is booming, and money spent on lobbying in DC enjoys a 22,000% return on investment. The Nation’s Lee Fang joined The New York Times’s Nicholas Confessore on MSNBC’s Now with Alex Wagner to discuss these trends and the revelations from Fang’s Nation feature Where Have All the Lobbyists Gone?
The fight for LGBT equality has experienced some stark highs and lows recently. Attorney General Eric Holder called LGBT rights one of the central civil rights fights of our time, even as Arizon's legislature passed a bill that allows businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBT community, using religious convictions as justification. Nation contributing writer Ari Berman appeared on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry show to discuss how LGBT rights fit in to the larger civil rights struggle. According to Berman, the success of movements like North Carolina's Moral Mondays depends upon strong coalition-building. Berman attributed the strong turnout of a recent Moral Mondays rally to the fact that "so many different causes were represented." The groups behind those causes, which include LGBT, immigrant and traditional civil rights organizations, are "all fighting in a shared struggle."
Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: an archaic Senate policy is being used by a shameless Republican minority to obstruct the will of the president—and the people he was elected to represent.
You’d be forgiven for thinking I was referring to the filibuster, which has been the Republicans’ most effective and least democratic method of thwarting the will of the majority.
But no, this is another, more obscure and arguably more ridiculous procedural weapon called a “blue slip.” First instituted in 1917, the blue slip process has allowed individual senators to effectively veto a nominee for a circuit court judgeship who hails from their own state. This privilege has been used sparingly by some Judiciary Committee chairmen and more regularly by others. But in recent months, it has been taken to the extreme.
Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
The Sochi Olympics, which began with the hashtag #sochiproblems, ended with Russia winning the medal count and enjoying a dose of national pride and international prestige. But now the authorities will be left to figure out what to do with 206 stadiums and assorted buildings, and residents will have to deal with the “Olympic legacy,” whether that’s a highway built through their yard, bulldozed homes or environmental damage in the 8,700 acres of the Sochi National Park that have been affected.
The Russian government’s promise of a “Zero Waste Games” has already been discredited, and now its compensation efforts are also proving to “have only a minor effect compared to the environmental damage,” as the United Nations Environmental Programme predicted after reviewing the Sochi Olympic project in 2008. In one tragicomic example, after Russian Railways planted 55,000 compensatory trees and rare plants, more than half of them died from improper planting techniques and a complete lack of care, Russia’s state environmental watchdog found.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak’s recent claim that Sochi’s air and water have become cleaner doesn’t seem to apply to the Mzymta River, which has been polluted by chemicals and debris to the point that endangered Atlantic salmon no longer spawn here, WWF Russia head Igor Chestin wrote in a recent article. These salmon are just one among many animals suffering from habitat destruction, including red deer, wild boar, bears and ibex.
But the epitome of miscarried compensation has to be the Ornithological Park that Russia promised in its Olympic application to ameliorate damage to the Imeretinskaya lowland. Once designated one of the world’s “Important Bird Areas” by BirdLife International, the lowland was filled in with gravel to create space for the coastal cluster of Olympic venues.
The park was originally planned as a contiguous 740-acre territory (scientists had recommended 2,000 acres) to preserve the lowland’s lakes as a wintering place for up to sixty-five species of birds—peregrine falcons, Dalmation pelicans and pygmy cormorants among them—and a habitat for protected plants. But it was eventually spread out over fourteen chunks of swampland, drainage ponds and abandoned farmland. The Russian Bird Preservation Union opposed the park as far back as 2009 on the grounds that it would “not meet the biological needs of birds” and would include “only an insignificant part of the territory that has been important so far for preserving birds.”
On a cloudy afternoon last week, about a dozen geese could be spotted in one section of the park that has been covered with lawn and criss-crossed with walking paths, benches and palm trees (several parts of the reserve are now planned to double as public parks). Another section of the park located right next to the Olympic Village, though, was full of trash, wimpy trees and power boxes, and there wasn’t a bird in sight.
According to park employee Sergei, who declined to give his last name, shrubs have been planted so birds can feed. He said “a lot of nature has been preserved,” but also admitted that “nature and the Olympics can’t be compatible.” The Ornithological Park can restore some bird life in the Imeretinskaya lowland, he said, although “not in the same amount” as in years past.
“It’s hard to say how much it will compensate, but hope dies last,” he said, using a common Russian expression.
But the president of the Russian Bird Union recently called the park a “profanation.” It doesn’t look like it will even come close to restoring this migration spot, since two-thirds of the park territory is located outside the lowland, where “there aren’t reservoirs suitable for water fowl to winter,” the Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus concluded in a recent sweeping report on environmental destruction related to the Games.
Meanwhile, the environmentalists who have reported on travesties like the Ornithological Park continue to face pressure from law enforcement after Yevgeny Vitishko was imprisoned in what human rights advocates called retribution for his Olympics-related activism. Environmental Watch member Olga Noskovets and activist David Khakim, who attempted to picket for Vitishko outside Sochi city hall last week, were detained on the last day of the Olympics as they each arrived at a transport stop where they had agreed to meet. Environmental Watch has long feared that activists will face an even tougher crack down when the international media leave Sochi.
Previously, Noskovets was detained for three hours at the Russian-Abkhazian border, she said. “You understand you’re in some database, a blacklist,” she told The Nation in December.
The two activists face fifteen days in jail for allegedly resisting police, charges they deny.
Read Next: Alec Luhn on the crackdowns against activists in Sochi.
Today marks one of the most momentous nights in 1960s history. No, not another Beatles performance on Ed Sullivan but young Cassius Clay (already one of my boyhood heroes) whipping aging bad man Sonny Liston to take the heavyweight crown in a huge upset—paving the way for his decades at the forefront of American sports and culture and politics.
Yes, the Beatles visited him earlier in his training camp in Miami Beach for a much-publicized photo op. But the most amazing meeting was the coming together, in a modest hotel in a black neighborhood back in Miami after the fight—starring new heavyweight champ Clay, Malcolm X, Jim Brown (the greatest football player ever and Sam Cooke (possibly the finest singer of our time). Now that’s a line-up that tops even the Fab Four. Also in attendance: a certain undercover FBI agent.
Clay was about to announce his membership in the “black Muslims” and get a name change. Malcolm was about to get kicked out of that faith, despite (or partly because of) his friendship with Clay, and then make his epic trip to Mecca. Brown was getting more and more outspoken on race. And Sam Cooke was about to record a single with Ali—and write “A Change Gonna Come.” Within a little more than a year, Cooke and Malcolm would be dead.
But on that night, as Peter Guralnick writes:
They sat in Malcolm’s room with Osman Karriem and various Muslim ministers and supporters, eating vanilla ice cream and offering up thanks to Allah for Cassius’ victory, as an undercover FBI informant took note of this apparent nexus between the Nation of Islam and prominent members of the sports and entertainment industries. Sam was uncharacteristically quiet, taking in the magnificent multiplicity of the moment. To him, Cassius was not just a great entertainer but a kindred soul. He had made beating Liston look easy, and Sam was convinced he would beat him again. Because, armed with an analytic intelligence, he had made him afraid.
Jim Brown, an outspoken militant himself, though not a member of the Nation, appeared to veteran black sports reporter Brad Pye Jr. to be more elated over Clay’s achievement than any of his own. “Well, Brown,” said Malcolm with a mixture of seriousness and jocularity, “don’t you think it’s time for this young man to stop spouting off and get serious?”
That is exactly what Cassius did at a pair of press conferences he held in the two days following the fight. He was a Muslim, he said. “There are seven hundred fifty million people all over the world who believe in it, and I’m one of them.” He wasn’t a Christian. How could he be, “when I see all the colored people fighting for forced integration get blowed up… . I’m the heavyweight champion, but right now, there are some neighborhoods I can’t move into….
I’m going to add to this story over the next hour. For now, let me direct you to this lengthy excerpt from Guralnick’s excellent biography of Cooke, which covers that night and the aftermath.
And here’s a clip from the opening of the Hollywood film Ali, with Will Smith in the starring role and a Sam Cooke character singing in a Miami nightclub that week—which actually happened and was immortalized on one of the great live albums ever, Live at the Harlem Club. Below that, the scene in the ring that night as Ali welcomes Cooke to his celebration. Finally, a clip of Malcolm talking with and about Ali in the aftermath.
Read Next: Katrina vanden Heuvel: &ldqou;This Week in ‘Nation’ History: Want to Know What NAFTA Teaches Us About the TPP Fight?”
With Chris Christie flailing, is there another governor in the wings? Or an ex-governor, perhaps?
A new round of speculation is underway about whether Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, might be considering a run in 2016. According to Newsday, which reported on a speech that Bush delivered to a high-powered group on Long Island, New York, the former governor said that he’ll decide whether or not to run by the end of 2014. And, responding to a question about whether or not his last name is something he’ll have to overcome, Bush allowed as to how both he and Hillary would have to overcome the dynasty issue:
I get the point. It’s something that, if I run, I would have to overcome that. And so will Hillary, by the way. Let’s keep the same standards for everybody.
One difference being: Bill Clinton’s presidency was, if not a major success, at least modestly successful—while George W. Bush’s presidency was a catastrophe.
In any case, if Bush does run, it’ll be because the mainstream Republicans and the big donors behind the GOP need someone else to carry their water against the insurgents of the Tea Party. For many of them, both in 2011 and again today, Christie was seen as the savior who could stop any of the tea-drinking Republican Senate freshmen—Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz—from making a serious bid. Other possibilities include Scott Walker, the union-busting governor of Wisconsin and John Kasich, the center-right Ohio governor, but neither of them is particularly exciting or has much name recognition. Could it be another Bush?
Everyone’s got something to say. Charles Gasparino, a Fox Business Network senior correspondent and columnist for the New York Post, says that the scuttlebutt on Wall Street is that many of the heavy hitters are backing Hillary Clinton, while the conservative financiers who’ve long supported Christie, including Home Depot’s Ken Langone and ex-AIG poohbah Hank Greenberg are backing off—and looking at Bush. He writes:
In fact, it’s too soon to write Christie off: He might be able to recover from this mess (as long as there continues to be zero evidence that he had any idea his flunkies had snarled traffic approaching the George Washington Bridge to punish a political opponent). But the Wall Streeters I speak to (people with direct access to Christie and his inner circle) say the Christie presidential campaign is clearly on life support: They think he’s in the clear himself, but the stench from the scandal is starting to look impossible to overcome. They cite the cool reception Christie has been getting recently from Republican establishment types outside of his home turf in the Northeast, and the fact that many fund-raisers are now looking to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as the party’s savior.
On CNN’s Inside Politics, John King had this to say:
[Bush] has said he’s going to think about 2016. A lot of people think he’s not serious, he just likes the spotlight, that he won’t want to run. But I will tell you this: I spoke to several Republican fundraisers this week who got phone calls from Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, who hasn’t said he’s going to run but is starting to ask some serious questions. So people think that at least he’s giving it a very serious look.
Later, on CNN, King added that after speaking to “a half dozen GOP sources this past week, several reported having reliable information about Bush conversations with GOP moneymen.”
Perhaps the biggest GOP funder of all, the ultra-right, hardline pro-Israel hawk and casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, will have a say. Next month, under the watchful eye of Adelson, several Republican hopefuls—including Christie, Walker and Kasich—will travel to Las Vegas to appear at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s for its annual spring meeting, which boasts Adelson on its board of directors, along with other wealthy conservatives such as hedge fund magnate Paul Singer. And, according to the RJC, Jeb Bush will speak at a VIP dinner for big contributors.
Bush is traveling elsewhere, too, to raise his profile if nothing else, speaking at college commencements and, today, at a fundraiser for the Long Island Association at an invitation-only event at a local country club—and, of course, his bilingual son George P. Bush is campaigning for a statewide post in Texas, courting Hispanic voters. This spring, Jeb Bush will be in New York City to speak and get an award from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Says Ira Stoll in The New York Sun:
The save-the-date notice that went out last week about the dinner, which is to take place in May, will only add to speculation about whether Mr. Bush intends to run for president in 2016. If he does, accepting the Manhattan Institute invitation is a smart move—it will provide Mr. Bush some valuable exposure before a large audience of right-of-center donors and intellectuals.
But, as Stoll points out, Bush “went to work for Lehman Brothers in 2007, which was poor timing.” Indeed.
According to the Jim Geraghty of National Review Online, speculating on whether Christie’s troubles will boost Bush, a “senior Republican strategist” described the situation facing Christie and Bush this way:
Bush’s speeches are getting better, tighter, and more campaigny, from what I’ve noticed. I still think Jeb is only a three-in-ten shot to go, but if you’re in his shoes, and Chris Christie has taken a huge hit in stock value—wouldn’t you wait and see? If Christie survives and runs, it’s a harder proposition by far, obviously.
Like Christie, Bush will have serious problems winning over far-right voters, Tea Party types, and others. Bush has staked out positions on issues such as immigration and education policy that are anathema to the Tea Party—which, of course, is what makes both Christie and Bush attractive to mainstream Republicans such as the US Chamber of Commerce, other Big Business groups and Wall Street. As Geraghty points out, the US Chamber has used Bush to tape commercials for favored candidates in local races recently. And that’s part of the reason recent polls of Tea Party voters don’t help Christie or Bush, who finished dead last—twenty-second and twenty-first, respectively, out of twenty-two!—in a poll of 62,000 Tea Party activists. (Cruz and Paul won, not surprisingly.)
But Bush, perhaps capitalizing on his nearly 100 percent name recognition and on Christie’s scandals, has consistently topped Christie in polls taken among mainstream voters. In one recent poll, among Florida Republicans, Clinton beats Bush 49 to 43 percent, while she tops Christie overwhelmingly at 51 to 35 percent—but, of course, that’s in Florida, where Bush remains extremely popular among the GOP faithful. An according to a Washington Post poll in January, Republicans and Republican-leaning voters favored Paul Ryan (20 percent), then Jeb Bush (18 percent) and Chris Christie (13 percent), in that order. (Back in 2013, Christie consistently led most polls.)
Read Next: The Dreyfusses on Christie’s money-strewn path to 2106