Archive for February 5th, 2012
WASHINGTON — Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s leading anti-breast-cancer charity, has insisted that its since-reversed decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood arose from a routine change in criteria for grant eligibility that had nothing to do with abortion politics.
But a Komen insider told HuffPost on Sunday that Karen Handel, Komen’s staunchly anti-abortion vice president for public policy, was the main force behind the decision to defund Planned Parenthood and the attempt to make that decision look nonpolitical.
“Karen Handel was the prime instigator of this effort, and she herself personally came up with investigation criteria,” the source, who requested anonymity for professional reasons, told HuffPost. “She said, ‘If we just say it’s about investigations, we can defund Planned Parenthood and no one can blame us for being political.’”
Emails between Komen leadership on the day the Planned Parenthood decision was announced, which were reviewed by HuffPost under the condition they not be published, confirm the source’s description of Handel’s sole “authority” in crafting and implementing the Planned Parenthood policy.
Handel’s strategy to cut off Planned Parenthood involved drafting new guidelines that would prevent Komen from funding any organization that was under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. Since Planned Parenthood is currently the target of a congressional inquiry prompted by House Republicans into the way it uses government funds, the family planning provider would have been immediately disqualified from receiving new Komen grants.
After the initial uproar when news of the decision broke, the story that Komen told the public was that the cut-off was unrelated to a political agenda against Planned Parenthood.
“While it is regrettable when changes in priorities and policies affect any of our grantees, such as a long-standing partner like Planned Parenthood, we must continue to evolve to best meet the needs of the women we serve and most fully advance our mission,” the charity said in a statement this past Tuesday.
Americans United for Life and other pro-life groups have been pressuring Komen for years to cut ties with Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics offer abortions, even though none of Komen’s money was used toward abortion services. Handel’s internal strategy, the Komen source told HuffPost, was to exaggerate those attacks and use them to convince the leadership that funding Planned Parenthood was a political liability.
“Komen’s been dealing with the Planned Parenthood issue for years, and you know, some right-wing groups would organize a protest or send out a mailing every now and then, but it was on a low simmer,” the source said. “What Karen’s been doing for the past six months is ratcheting up the issue with leadership. Every time someone would even mention a protest, she would magnify it, pump it up, exaggerate it. She’s the one that kept driving this issue.”
Handel and Komen President Elizabeth Thompson didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The source said Handel submitted a final version of the new grant criteria to Komen leadership in November, and the board approved it in December, at which point Komen’s top public health official, Mollie Williams, resigned “on the spot.”
“It was apparent to everyone in the organization that Karen was doing everything in her power to defund Planned Parenthood,” the source said, “and that’s why Mollie Williams quit.”
Williams has previously declined to comment on why she left, but she told National Journal that she respects the work of Planned Parenthood.
But the criteria did gain the support of Komen’s top executives and board. And in an interview with HuffPost, board member John D. Rafaelli, a Democratic lobbyist and a supporter of Planned Parenthood’s mission, took responsibility for the changes. As the only lobbyist on the board, he told HuffPost, he should have anticipated the political fallout.
“Honestly, I didn’t think it through well enough,” Rafaelli said. “We don’t want to be pro-choice or pro-life; we want to be pro-cure. We screwed up, I’m saying it. We failed to keep abortion out of this, and we owe the people in the middle who only care about breast cancer and who have raised money for us an apology.”
The backlash against Komen was intense, including threats of violence, angry letters from members of Congress and public rebukes from political figures such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The charity struggled to deal with the pressure, especially in a face-off against Planned Parenthood, an organization whose fine-tuned political team has experience in these high-pitched, high-stakes debates.
It was speculated that Komen founder Nancy Brinker hired her friend Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, to help her handle the crisis. But Fleischer told HuffPost that he had no part in guiding Komen’s strategy on this issue except to recommend an outside crisis management firm.
“It’s just sad for everybody concerned,” he said on Friday. “Komen is a great group, but politically speaking, they’re no match for Planned Parenthood.”
The Komen insider agreed with Fleischer’s assessment.
“Komen’s not equipped to spend its days fighting political battles,” the source said. “Abortion is not our issue, and I think [leadership] tried to finesse a way out of it, and this investigation criteria was the solution. And it blew up in their faces. They were just naive in the face of [the] incredibly sophisticated Planned Parenthood operation.”
Stunned by the fallout, Komen leadership decided within three days to reverse the Planned Parenthood decision and apologize. But the Komen insider said Handel was furious about the cave and fought against it up until the point that it was announced Friday morning.
“It became clear Thursday night that something had to give,” the source said. “Nancy Brinker, Liz Thompson, the board, and leadership were saying, ‘We’re really worried about Komen’s mission if we don’t figure this out.’ But Karen was still arguing against it as of Friday morning — she was horrified that we were caving, she said. She’s politically tone-deaf.”
In light of the political damage and the abrupt reversal of the Planned Parenthood funding decision, pressure has mounted inside Komen for Handel to resign.
“Everybody in the organization wishes she would do the right thing,” the Komen insider said.
So far, Handel hasn’t indicated an intention to step down. Nor does it appear that she’s been formally asked to do so. But as a result of her efforts, Komen has been left reeling and its reputation as a top charity endangered.
“We’re under attack. We’re getting threats of violence,” the source said. “It’s devastating.”
© 2012, agentleman.
The Great Man’s Wife By MAUREEN DOWD
IF you want to figure out why Newt Gingrich is still out there grasping for lost power, howling at the moon like King Lear, look to Callista.
You can find her anytime standing statue-still on stage next to Newt as he speaks, gazing at him with such frozen attentiveness that she could give a master class to Nancy Reagan.
Ann Romney often introduces her husband, chatting warmly about his uxorious virtues, and then disappears offstage or to the back of the stage while he talks. But the 45-year-old Callista has created an entirely new model for a spouse, standing mute in her primary color suits and triple-strand pearls looking at the 68-year-old Newt for the whole event, her platinum carapace inclined deferentially toward his shaggy gray mane.
“She’s a transformational wife,” Alex Castellanos, the Republican strategist, told me. “She’s the wife who makes the candidate think he is destiny’s gift to mankind, born to greater things.”
While a trophy wife is admired by her man, the admiring eyes of a Transformational Wife are there to propel her man to the next level. And when a woman who wants to be a Transformational Wife merges with a man who calls himself a Transformational Figure, you can expect a narcissistic blastoff.
Castellanos weaves the common tale of a “great but frustrated” man: “The first wife, and often the second, do not grasp his brilliance or grandeur. The starter wives try to confine him in their small world. But his drive to fulfill his gargantuan potential is too powerful. He rebelliously breaks conventions.
“Then he finds the muse who sees him as he sees himself. He is a man of history and belongs to something larger. She agrees that his rejections have been the fault of the audience. They cannot stare into a light so bright. She directs and channels him, saying, ‘This is what you have to do to achieve your destiny.’
“Now he is unleashed. The best and worst of him have been fed and watered.”
The Republican establishment is chasing Newt around the country with a butterfly net. But when he looks into Callista’s bright blue eyes, he’s reminded of his adolescent dreams of exploring galaxies and saving civilization.
When Barack is cocky and looks at Michelle, he might see her thinking: “You’re no messiah. Pick up your socks.” But when Newt is cocky and looks at Callista, he sees her thinking: “You are the messiah. We’ll have your socks bronzed.”
Where Michelle sees herself as the puncturer of delusions, “the Department of ‘Let’s Get Real,’ ” as an aide called her, Callista reinforces Newt’s delusion that he can be president — even when the staff quit en masse last June because he put pampering her above campaigning.
In business, the Transformational Wife is less complicated. In politics, she’s a double-edged spouse. She feeds his ego like a goose destined for pâté, but drains support among some women and some evangelicals who disapprove of a man who keeps trading in wives, even sick ones.
At the Texas meeting of evangelicals last month, one of the leaders, James Dobson, questioned whether Callista, “a mistress for eight years,” as he put it, would make a good first lady.
Gingrich’s plaint that his passion to save the country may have led him to give in to more corporeal passions did not persuade the women of Florida, who favored the Mitt-bot over him by a 24-point margin. One indignant woman I interviewed at a church in Columbia, S.C., where Newt was speaking, hurrumphed that Callista was “his Barbie.”
Draped in Tiffany diamonds, Callista is the embodiment of the divide between Gingrich’s public piety and private immorality.
Gingrich’s communications director, Joe DeSantis, has airbrushed Callista’s Wikipedia page 23 times since 2008, often to banish unflattering details from the site, according to BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski.
DeSantis edited the introduction, taking out the fact that she is “the third wife of,” and excising the sentence, “She met her husband while he was in the House, and had an affair while he was conducting the impeachment investigation for President Bill Clinton.”
As The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza reported, the top Google search for Gingrich in Florida during the primary there was “Callista,” right up there with “Newt wives” and “Newt scandals.”
That may be why she has a largely nonspeaking role in the campaign, as silent as the slender heroine of “The Artist,” even though Newt relays that she has described herself as a hybrid of Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush and Jackie Kennedy. The campaign does not want to remind voters that the relationship, portrayed as so redemptive, was born in sin and hypocrisy.
There’s always a chance, of course, that Callista is not staring so intently at Newt to make him feel more Napoleonic. Maybe she just doesn’t want to let him out of her sight.
As the maxim goes, “When a man marries his mistress, he creates a job opening.”
© 2012, agentleman.
Rich White People Are Awesome! The Rest Of Us Are Lazy Fatasses
I wasn’t aware of this, but I’m apparently in the middle of an identity crisis and so is the rest of white America. Yeah, I’m white. Sometimes laughably so. I grew up in the suburbs. I drink too much expensive coffee. I spend too much time in front of a computer. My dogs are my children. I’m self-indulgent enough to contemplate an identity crisis, real or not.
To 2012 conservatives, white people are the last untapped voting bloc. Yep, I just said that. The most sought after demographic of the last 236 years is now fresh and new. First though, Republicans need to figure out, Who The Hell Are White People? The answer, it appears, is exactly like the answer to same question about any minority voting bloc. It’s that we are two dimensional. We either wear hardhats and swill cheap beer while watching NASCAR or we rest our sparkling clean tushies on solid gold toilets.
In fact, some guy named Charles Murray wrote a book about it. It’s called Coming Apart. It’s one of many recent essays on the supposed demise of white America, including, and most famously, Pat Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower.
Gawker took a look at Murray’s website at the right-wing think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. On his site, he attempts to end white confusion by telling us exactly what sort of white person we are. If you score a 20, you’re Hank Williams, Jr. white. If you score a zero, you’re even more Mitt Romney than Mitt Romney. I scored between a 9 and a 12, which means:
On a scale from 0 to 20 points, where 20 signifies full engagement with mainstream American culture and 0 signifies deep cultural isolation within the new upper class bubble, you scored between 9 and 12.
In other words, even if you’re part of the new upper class, you’ve had a lot of exposure to the rest of America.
In other words, it means absolutely nothing. The interesting conclusion I can gather from the quiz and from Murray’s writing is that everyone but politicians should strive to be rich and white. Politicians, on the other hand, should strive to be more “every man.”
Curious to know how the politicians scored? So was Gawker. They took the test for them. Here are the results:
Barack Obama: 8
Mitt Romney: 6
Newt Gingrich: 4
Rick Santorum: 6
Ron Paul: 5
As I look across the field of Republican Presidential candidates, I see nothing but a whiter shade of pale. More importantly, I see white privilege. I see millionaires trying to assert their values and their agenda on the rest of us. Quite frankly, I have less in common with the four Christians In Name Only in the race than I do with any of my non-white neighbors.
So, rather than try to understand the vast white middle ground, or even attempt to find out what the hardhat/cheap beer/NASCAR crowd is really concerned about, conservatives are doing what they always do, just assume that everyone in the world strives to be exactly like them and more importantly, that they and their demographic brethren are simply better than absolutely everyone else.
In a book review of sorts, rich white guy, David Brooks profiled rich white guy Charles Murray’s book. Brooks’ review of the book starts innocently enough. He correctly illustrates the growing gap between rich and poor with this:
His (Murray’s) story starts in 1963. There was a gap between rich and poor then, but it wasn’t that big. A house in an upper-crust suburb cost only twice as much as the average new American home. The tippy-top luxury car, the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, cost about $47,000 in 2010 dollars. That’s pricey, but nowhere near the price of the top luxury cars today.
More important, the income gaps did not lead to big behavior gaps. Roughly 98 percent of men between the ages of 30 and 49 were in the labor force, upper class and lower class alike. Only about 3 percent of white kids were born outside of marriage. The rates were similar, upper class and lower class.
Then he goes on to say that the classes have become “tribes,” which sounds pretty damn scary. He says that the “upper tribe” is the upper 20% of the country’s economic class and that the “lower tribe” is the bottom 30% of the country, and they are far inferior people.
Roughly 7 percent of the white kids in the upper tribe are born out of wedlock, compared with roughly 45 percent of the kids in the lower tribe. In the upper tribe, nearly every man aged 30 to 49 is in the labor force. In the lower tribe, men in their prime working ages have been steadily dropping out of the labor force, in good times and bad.
People in the lower tribe are much less likely to get married, less likely to go to church, less likely to be active in their communities, more likely to watch TV excessively, more likely to be obese.
Of course, as a conservative, Brooks’ answer to economic and social inequities is not to encourage policies that will help bridge the gap, like protecting unions, enacting regulations that protect customers or bringing jobs back to the US. No. Brooks’ answer is to send us all to sleepaway camp so we can see what really great people the wealthy are:
We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.
Brooks and Murray are simply regurgitating the entire Republican philosophy. While the reality is that most Americans are just a paycheck or two from abject poverty, Republicans manage to convince a good percentage of those teetering on the edge that they are just a couple of good habits away from being one of the elite. Or as Herman Cain phrased it, ‘If you don’t have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself!’
And sadly, that strategy works. Despite the fact that the wealthy and primarily white write the laws that protect their own wealth, the less-than-wealthy still believe that the brass ring is within reach. And therein lies the problem with the message of the Democrats. While we are undeniably right that we live in a world of “I got mine so f*** you,” it’s not a message of hope. In a country where vapid but wealthy “housewives” are held in higher esteem than teachers and community organizers, it’s tough to sell the message that value can be defined as something other than monetary. It’s also tough to sell the idea that it’s okay that the housewives buy one less pair of Louis Vuittons and have that money used in a way that might allow the government to create jobs that will actually help bridge the gap. Oh no! That would be class warfare, unlike calling us tribes.
© 2012, agentleman.