It took Senator Tammy Baldwin precisely 0.64 seconds to completely reverse her position on the Senate’s duty to “advise and consent” on presidential Supreme Court appointments. That’s about how long it took for President Trump to utter the name “Judge Neil Gorsuch.”
In 2016, when a nominee of President Obama was forced to sit in the proverbial waiting room for most of the year, Baldwin joined the chorus of feigned outrage from the left. But now that a new president – one who she doesn’t like as much – has made a nomination of his own, she’s completely reversed her position by supporting a filibuster to clog up the pipeline to the high court.
A new Politifact column declares Baldwin’s new position to be a full flip-flop. When Politifact calls out a Democrat, you know the case must be airtight. They write:
When [Merrick] Garland was nominated in March 2016, Republicans moved to block his nomination, which prompted the ire of Democrats.
Baldwin declared: “It’s the constitutional duty of the president to select a Supreme Court nominee, and the Senate has a responsibility to give that nominee a fair consideration with a timely hearing and a timely vote.”
But now that Baldwin is in the minority and facing a Republican nominee, she is supporting a filibuster that creates a roadblock to reaching that final vote. Her claim to “support” a cloture vote makes no sense since that isn’t up to her party — cloture would be pushed by Republicans and is only needed if Baldwin and other Democrats pursue a filibuster.
On the day Trump announced his nomination of Gorsuch, Baldwin said she would give him a fair hearing, but apparently she immediately suffered a severe case of amnesia and declared two days later her intention to vote against Gorsuch – before ever meeting with him. The hypocrisy didn’t slip past Governor Walker:
Hypocrisy: telling others to meet with #SCOTUS nominee in 2016, but announcing your vote on nominee in 2017 before a meeting.
— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) February 3, 2017
President Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court last March following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. In the spirit of Obama’s own “elections have consequences” declaration, the Republican-controlled Senate decided not to take action on the Garland nomination. They cited a longstanding precedent that a lifetime appointment to the high court shouldn’t be made in the waning months of a presidency.
As the election’s outcome made plain, the argument seems to have held true that a Supreme Court nominee in the last few months of a president’s term might not reflect the sentiment of the time, and many voters made their decision in large measure because of the grave importance of who would fill the Scalia seat.
And of course, after the election of now-President Trump and the glorious departure of Obama, Garland packed his bags. Trump selected Judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee on January 31.
Suddenly, Democrats whose hair was ablaze at the GOP’s refusal to hold hearings and an “up or down” vote on Garland…well, their hair is still ablaze, except now they’re angry the American people elected a Republican president and dashed their hopes of regaining control of the Senate.
The halls of Congress reek with hypocrisy. Suddenly, Democrats like Baldwin who hugged the Constitution while demanding a “timely hearing and a timely vote” on Garland are now hell bent on doing everything possible to stop Gorsuch – by all measures one of most qualified candidates for the Supreme Court imaginable and as close a fit to the strict constructionist, originalist judicial philosophy for which Justice Scalia was legendary.
In fact, Gorsuch has famously said that a judge who likes all the outcomes of his or her decisions is not a good judge – judges should apply the rule of law objectively, not manipulate it to create outcomes they like. This speaks volumes about Gorsuch’s sterling character – and Democrats’ rabid opposition to him speaks volumes about theirs.
For their part, the Republicans argue that, unlike their opposition to Garland, blocking a SCOTUS nomination made literally within days of a new president’s inauguration is unprecedented. That’s not stopping Democrat Senators from flip-flopping en masse like a sinking boatload of wet waffles – even some from states Trump won, like Wisconsin.
Baldwin’s staff is trying hard to muddy the waters with as much double-speak as they can muster, but Politifact does an excellent job of cutting through the nonsense her office is putting out:
In an email, Baldwin spokesman John Kraus said the senator’s position is consistent because she supported a hearing, a committee vote and a floor vote for both nominees.
Politifact goes through the byzantine Senate rules behind the filibuster to explain why Baldwin is a hypocrite. Essentially, a filibuster is the use of Senate rules to create a debate of infinite duration, thereby blocking any final vote on the nominee (only in Washington, eh?). A filibuster can be stopped by the use of cloture, a vote that sets a limit on debate – that vote requires 60 votes, so Democrats theoretically have enough votes to stand in the way.
The Baldwin spokesman slyly told Politifact that the senator supports a vote for cloture, but since she’s in the minority, her party wouldn’t even be in a position to make such a motion. Her position on cloture is as meaningful as my position on the clothing lines at Kohl’s. Politifact explains further:
But cloture is a maneuver executed by the majority party (Republicans in this case), so Baldwin’s “support” for that is both unnecessary and irrelevant.
The filibuster/cloture tactic has only been used four times for nominees to the Supreme Court since 1968 – and this one would be in the first few months of a presidency. The obstructionism and the hypocritical double-speak to justify it is hard to fathom. Fortunately, the Republicans can and might (and should) simply change Senate rules (with a simple majority vote) to eliminate the 60-vote cloture requirement for Supreme Court nominees.
The Democrats used this “nuclear option” for lower court nominees, presumably to get judges approved and keep the courts moving effectively. Since the Supreme Court is, well, the supreme court, it stands to reason that using the nuclear option to get Gorsuch approved is of even more supreme importance and even more supremely logical.
Elections do have consequences, and unfortunately for obstructionist Democrats like Tammy Baldwin, Justice Neil Gorsuch will be one of them.
Giving advice to Democrats is simple, but it’s not easy. Most of their ideas involve either a new government initiative for every wrong in society, or creating a wrong for every new government initiative.
But the soup d’jour is figuring out what the hell is wrong with the Democratic Party, and how they can fix it, and it’s difficult not to chime in. My thesis, in short, is that the Democrats don’t care about anyone who won’t show up at a protest.
Democrats spent many years splicing the electorate into segments – segments that started broad. By race, by gender, by immigration status, and so on. I’d suppose that this formulation started after 2004 – after Howard Dean yelled himself out of the Democratic primary, and became a ground-changing chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Dean led the DNC to a remarkable tech-driven renaissance that put his party ahead of the medieval GOP for years.
But the identity-driven politics that Dean’s data operation enabled became increasingly nuanced. Pretty soon the Democrats were targeting college-educated-women-who-change-their-own-oil-and-drive-six-cylinder-domestic-vehicles who may support bisexual school board candidates.
You can cut your electorate into too-small chunks, then get obsessed with whipping them into a meringue.
That’s what the Democrats did. They spent quite a bit of time championing non-sexual bathrooms and transsexualism, which doesn’t appeal to people who just tele-trained their foreign replacement. They flung flames about global warming, which is on the back burner for someone who is working two jobs to pay for the next trip to the grocery store. They blabbed nonstop about increasing taxes on “the rich,” all while average working people saw one-third of their paychecks going to the government – people who started wondering what the government’s definition of “the rich” really is.
I have nothing against an adult who makes a decision about their gender identity. I have plenty of things to concern myself with – that’s not one of them. I think climate change is happening – it has been for billions of years. I think wealthy and well-connected people get away with too many tax loopholes – a problem that only major tax reform can change.
But the Democrats didn’t make that case. They claimed Republicans hate the LGBT community. They claimed they Republicans want Manhattan to be destroyed by a tsunami/ice storm in which Dennis Quaid suffers a tragic end. They claimed the Republicans love to enrich billionaire hedge fund managers.
Lost in the ridiculous rhetoric for the last decade? Working middle class people who haven’t gotten a real raise in decades. Those are people like my dad, who drives truck for a construction company, or my mom, a preschool teacher – one of those relatively rare public workers whose pay and benefits exist in the real world like everyone else’s.
Nowadays, qualifiers like “the real world” and the “private sector” must be applied to areas of the economy populated by those who work in sectors of the economy where economic realities are fully felt. These realities, felt by Wisconsinites who bear a tremendous tax burden, are a large part of why Gov. Scott Walker won three elections in four years. It has nothing to do with jealousy over the deal public workers get – it has to do with the holy grail of progressive rhetoric: fairness.
Even without regard to public employees, the average working person has been fully cognizant of their declining status for decades. Many people have lost well-paying jobs during their working lives, many have been forced to take lower-paying jobs, and many others are forced to be on unemployment or assistance.
Most Americans don’t want assistance. Trump spoke to them.
Both parties have very recently gone through times when they needed serious introspection. After 2012, when the GOP lost a winnable race for president, they did their famous autopsy. Now, after losing the presidency to Donald Trump and Congress by an even wider margin, the Democrats have suffered three clobberings when Barack Obama was off the ballot. They are at least going through the motions of introspection, but re-electing Frisco weirdo Nancy Pelosi didn’t help.
Nonetheless, it appears rumors of the Republican Party’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Maps of the party’s control of Congress are dominating; if Obama’s assertions that he would lower the seas in 2008 were true, and if the blue House districts around the country were the Democrats’ estuaries, the president has indeed fulfilled his goal. Blue areas have receded like floodwaters after a mild storm.
The Democrats have lost seats in the U.S. Senate, dozens of seats in the House, at least 12 governorships, and somewhere near 900 statehouse seats nationwide. There are now only four states where the Democrats control the governor’s mansion and both houses of the state legislature. In addition, one-third of all Democrat members of the House are from just three states: Massachusetts, New York, and California.
Geographically, most of the state of New York is red, and roughly half of California is red.
The Democrats answered a recent challenge to change their tone to address the concerns of working class Americans in “flyover country” via the challenge of Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, but they chose to put Nancy Pelosi back in place. Also, far-left Keith Ellison of Minnesota – documented to be an extreme left-wing socialist, is the frontrunner to take control over the Democratic National Committee.
Ellison should be organizing a protest; he’s hardly someone who can marshal the party to relate to average working Americans.
On healthcare reform, the Democrats’ flagship initiative, Obamacare, has led to an inflation of healthcare premiums and deductibles, rendering many plans as useless as a power drill without a battery. Americans recognize this, even if Donald Trump didn’t articulate it well on his campaign.
On the minimum wage, Democrat professional operatives are flooding the street demanding a $15 minimum wage. For Americans who work for that amount or less in far more important jobs than slapping together a smooshed fast-food burger, the demand is downright offensive.
The Democrats are also now the party of political correctness. On campuses and elsewhere, the stories stream forth about nonsensical, fabricated offenses, microaggressions, safe spaces, and other idiocies that Americans who are struggling to afford to go to the grocery store simply don’t give a crap about.
Most Americans don’t care about someone’s race. On race relations, the Democrats have become the party obsessed with race versus race. To be sure, there are concerns to address about criminal justice, mandatory sentencing, and police profiling, but most Americans are more concerned about crime in America’s communities than what the skin color is of who commits the crime. That’s a legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s crusade to remove skin color from the most important conversations about public policy in America.
On abortion: most Americans aren’t extreme on the issue, but few believe abortion should be a method of birth control. The thought that aborted babies are a source of material for research also unsettles many Americans. It seems now that many Democrats have taken a hard-line stance on abortion that the American people, who are more nuanced than many in the political elite give them credit for, do not support.
And while a large number of Americans are aware of the issue of climate change, it’s not at the forefront of Americans who are suffering a declining standard of living. And despite its best efforts, the left has not effectively made the case that massive economic disruptions are worth addressing it. Most Americans are aware that the climate is never static and are deeply skeptical that expensive corporate welfare for green energy corporations that put up wind mills in Indiana is the solution.
Back to geography: Thirty percent of the House Democratic Caucus is from three states: Massachusetts, New York, and California. That astounding fact shows that claims the GOP was doomed to decay into a regional, marginal party was in fact diametrically untrue.
In the wake of their lurch to the left, the Democrats have become a starkly regional party, limited to the coastal and urban areas of the country – all despite a decade-long campaign to besmirch conservatives.
The Democrats and their allies in the media mocked the Tea Party movement that emerged during the debate over Pres. Obama’s healthcare law in 2009-2010 as Koch Brothers-funded astroturf. That era produced a massive upswell of conservative voter sentiment and swept Democrats from power at all levels of government.
Six years later, Democrats’ fortunes have not improved. In their mockery, the Democrats erred. The Tea Party movement and the subsequent high tide on the right has produced an incredible number of fresh faces in politics in state legislatures, governor’s mansions, congress, and the Senate. The Left has produced its own uprisings, from “Occupy” to “Black Lives Matter.” Neither appears poised to produce viable candidates for office, and the core message of nonstop protests by leftists is muddled at best, and will only turn people away.
Those who spend their time working, raising a family, and running a household are not impressed by protesters who march out, block the streets, and in some cases smash windshields and destroy storefronts.
In the foreseeable future, the Democratic Party will be hobbled by extreme causes that are disjointed with the pocketbook concerns of most Americans. Their hyper-segmentation of the electorate that produces anger among a very small slice of the American people, who take to the streets and block roads that people use to get home from work in order to protest, will only increase that party’s marginalization.
There’s simply nothing left that the Democratic Party stands for that the majority of Americans care all that much about.
The Democratic Party’s star has not gone supernova. Instead, it has just shriveled, shedding its hot corona and shrinking to a small core that is dense, hot, potentially dangerous, but otherwise insignificant in the broader political universe.
Check out this tweet by Noah Rothman, an editor with Commentary Magazine.
The House in the Obama years.
Left: After 08 elections
Right: After 16 elections pic.twitter.com/mborZ28482
— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) November 30, 2016
One map shows the national Congressional map after the 2008 election. A mere eight years later, the 2016 elections have resulted in an ocean of red almost everywhere except some coastal enclaves.
One-third of all House Democrats are from just three states: Massachusetts, New York, and California. Note that geographically, most of New York state is actually red, and half of geographic California is also red. About that San Andreas Fault…
As for Wisconsin, two Congressional districts have flipped GOP since 2008 – the 7th from Democrat Dave Obey to Sean Duffy, and the 8th from Dem Steve Kagen to Reid Ribble, and now to Mike Gallagher – who won the historically centrist district in November with an astounding 62.7 percent of the vote over a relatively strong opponent.
That’s a district that Obama carried in 2008.
And the 3rd, which is represented by Ron Kind, is relatively conservative despite their love of Kind, who advertises himself as a gun-toting centrist Democrat and leader of the “New Democrat” coalition, a presumably shrinking group of reasonable Democrats.
Obama did say he’d make the oceans recede. Well, if the shrinking pools of blue on the maps were the estuaries of the Democratic Party, he certainly did.
The Tomah VA’s abusive over-prescription of narcotic painkillers has shocked veterans and concerned citizens alike in west-central Wisconsin, but so far, politicians like Ron Kind have managed to escape serious questioning about what they knew and when they knew it. However, recent reporting crystallizes prior evidence that Kind did in fact know exactly what was happening and that he did nothing until it became a threat to his image. The issue has been put on the back burner by local media, so first, a little background.
I’ve strongly suggested time after time that Ron Kind knew about the deadly over-prescription practices of the Tomah VA, which has been dubbed “Candyland” because it has leaned on narcotic opiate painkillers as a cure-all for the veterans who relied on their care. This practice has resulted in deaths, such as the death of 35-year-old Jason Simcakoski of Stevens Point and 45-year-old Kraig Ferrington of De Pere, both in Kind’s Congressional district. In the case of Ferrington, Fox 11 reported that when Kraig’s sister would pick him up after a visit to the facility, he was so high on pills he was incoherent. Her requests for him to enter detox were ignored, and her brother’s prescription was simply refilled time after time until his death.
Recently revealed evidence also suggests more deaths may be attributed to the facility’s obsession with narcotics, going back as far as 2008.
In addition to deaths resulting from the over-prescription of narcotics, the Tomah VA’s practices also led to noted instances of “drug diversion” in which legally prescribed drugs are sold on a black market. In a region where heroin and meth have eroded communities that were once strong and proud, there’s little doubt that the Tomah VA has functioned as a hidden nexus of addiction. There’s no telling to what extent the Tomah VA’s “Candyland” habits have harmed communities in west-central Wisconsin by contributing to addition to illegal drugs.
In January, shortly after the news broke via
an enterprising journalist in local media a California-based investigative journalism group, I was the first to wonder about what Congressman Ron Kind knew and when he knew it (and I was sure to note that I worked for Kind’s 2014 opponent, Army veteran Tony Kurtz). I had little doubt that Kind, the prototypical politician, had something to hide:
Kind’s office claims it received its first anonymous complaint in 2011. Yet he also claims the Tomah VA “didn’t notify me…they didn’t notify anyone.” In a press conference, Kind dodged all responsibility for the scandal, slyly shifting blame to the VA for his own failure to follow up on complaints while simultaneously offering limp platitudes about the whole situation.
Kind admitted his office heard about the over-prescription practices of the Tomah VA, but left ample room for the whole “well, I’m sure his office gets lots of complaints” thoughts that people use to delude themselves about politicians they habitually return to office cycle after cycle, like 18-year stalwart Ron Kind. New information suggests Kind did not first hear about the situation in 2011, but years earlier.
Following the widespread breaking of the news earlier this year, Kind elbowed other politicians out of the way, took the podium, shoved his finger heavenward, and proposed a “blue ribbon” government commission to investigate the situation. But evidence began to mount that he wasn’t just now finding out about the outrageous over-prescription of serious pain killers and the trampling of whistleblowers. Kind wasn’t rushing to take action acting unearthing an outrage – he was well-prepared with carefully crafted talking points because he had known for a long time that this was coming.
It was clear as far back as January that Ron Kind should have and most likely did know more than his blue-ribbon-commission-proposing gumflapping was letting on. In February, I wrote about an interview by Ryan Honl on Capitol City Sunday:
On Capitol City Sunday yesterday morning, Tomah VA whistleblower Ryan Honl told host Greg Neumann, “I had never heard from Congressman Kind’s office, and I had contacted him and I didn’t hear anything”…The OIG’s report was completed sometime last spring. But instead of aggressive action, Kind stood by while a deadly situation brewed in Tomah, blaming his not pursuing the facts of these cases on inaction by the VA and its inspector general.
Honl served as a secretary in the mental health area of the Tomah VA, but after confronting a series of situations that confounded his ethical compass, culimating in the decision to report the blatant drug abuses, and facing constant retaliation for sending those complaints up the ladder, he decided to leave. He has since become known as the face of a guerrilla insurgency against the Tomah VA and its now-dethroned head, David Houlihan. For what it’s worth, Honl is a Democrat.
La Crosse Tribune Green Bay Press-Gazette reported that several Democrats’ offices were contacted back in 2009 with detailed and shocking information about the Tomah VA’s practices, including Ron Kind. A union representing staff at the Tomah VA prepared the memo, listing as a major concerns the over-prescription problems at the Tomah VA. The memo was not mailed to Kind’s office, sent via carrier pigeon, or tied to a balloon in the hope favorable winds would drop it in front of his district office. It was hand-delivered to Kind at meetings on Capitol Hill. Yet Kind’s office claims it has no recollection of the memo.
The memo makes clear that as far back as 2009, tensions in Tomah over the problem had reached a “boiling point”:
In spring 2009, when Ellinghuysen wrote the memo, tensions about narcotics at Tomah had reached a boiling point. A pharmacist had been fired for refusing to fill large prescriptions. A clinical psychologist received a written reprimand at Houlihan’s direction after he raised concerns that too many opiates were being prescribed.
The memo, located in full here, lists two major concerns of the union. The second one begins, “A second serious concern is the fact that many of the Veterans served at this facility are prescribed large quantities of narcotics” (emphasis NOT added by me). It explains that practitioners who refused to fill Houlihan’s orders for large quantities of narcotic prescriptions were “yelled at and perhaps fired.”
The memo detailed the retaliation against a provider who refused to fill an order for “1,000+ narotic tablets for a 30 day supply for one of Dr. Houlihan’s patients.” (emphasis added). Take a moment and digest those numbers.
The report further outlines that Houlihan:
- Counted a complaint to the Patient Advocate against a provider as a “negative event” on the individual’s personnel file (punished them for filing a complaint)
- Instructed staff not to do urine/drug screenings prior to ordering narcotics for veterans
- Had earned the nickname “Candy Man” as far back as 2009
- There were “several unexplained deaths at this Medical Center” including 3 suicides in 2008 by veterans in parked vehicles at the Tomah VA
Put yourself in the shoes of a Congressman who regularly and publicly declares your dedication to veterans in your district. Imagine you’re someone who praised the Tomah VA in your 2014 campaign against a U.S. Army Veteran, in the midst of a nationwide VA scandal. Envision that you’re Ron Kind.
Having been handed a memo making the shocking statements that this memo made back in 2009, how could you just forget that you read it? After multiple complaints over the ensuing years, including one by a concerned whistleblower, how could you praise the Tomah VA in 2014?
Ron Kind knew about these problems for 6 years. He only expressed “outrage” after it became public – which conveniently happened just after the 2014 election.
If Ron Kind isn’t part of the problem facing veterans in this country, I don’t know who is.
Sam talks about Tammy Baldwin’s attempt to sweep her problems under the rug.