Tag Archives: Jeff Merkley

Dr. Monica Wehby, the Hollow Candidate

22 Aug

Monica WehbyThe 2014 mid-term elections have conservatives salivating, and the Tea Party holds out hope they can gets folks to drink their rancid brew. With many Congressional Democrats retiring and a handful of red-state Democrats seen as highly vulnerable, the GOP is working hard to retake the Senate. If they succeed, President Obama’s final two years in office will make his first six look like a productive picnic. Despite the friendly playing field, conservative operatives are trying not to take anything for granted, noting the many deeply flawed candidates that have cost them probable seats in the past two cycles. (Remember these charm free folks: Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle?) To hedge their bets, they’re looking at less likely pickups and dumping huge amounts of money on some long-shots. The amount of money being poured into GOP hopeful Monica Wehby’s campaign is disturbing. I suspect there are many countries that run on budgets that are much less than what the Koch brothers are pouring into campaigns such as Wehby’s.

The support for Wehby is perplexing. She’s running against Senator Jeff Merkley, the first man to receive the Marilyn Epstein Pro-Choice Champion Award from the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, who is finishing his first term. He’s popular, effective, and honest, but as a Freshman may be vulnerable. Despite the conventional wisdom, Oregon is NOT a blue state, but rather a very purple state with a slight Democratic edge in statewide races. The Koch Brothers and their ilk (The top 1%) have decided that this makes Oregon a potential pickup, so they found themselves a candidate.

Sadly, they did a worse job of vetting their pick than Sen. John McCain (R – Angrytown) did when he chose half-term half-wit Sarah Palin as a running mate. Dr. Monica Wehby is a surgeon and a political newcomer. In a “throw the bums out” year with Congressional approval ratings at an all-time low, this telegenic candidate seems promising. Until she tries to pick a position on, well, anything. Sadly, a number of advertisements against Senator Merkley  are already in full swing.

Before winning the GOP primary, Wehby made headlines for her history of stalking ex-boyfriends. She spun that as proof that she’s a determined person who would work hard to get what she wants in the Senate. The two different and independent stalking cases are pretty serious and my first thought was: “Oy! I only hope she does not have a gun on her.”  She also gained some notoriety for fleeing press conferences and debates once she’d used up her carefully crafted talking points. When pressed about LGBT rights in a TV interview, she kept talking about marriage equality, even though the question was about anti-discrimination laws. She says she’s pro-life but would support a woman’s right to choose while celebrating laws like “partial birth” abortion bans. She says she supports equal pay for women while saying that laws that actually enforce equal pay are bad because they would make employers hire more men to avoid lawsuits. Really. Stammering, stunned, and wide-eyed, she clearly isn’t comfortable taking a position that hasn’t been fed to her by the Kochs and their cronies. Again, I am reminded of Charles Durning’s performance of Dance A Little Sidestep from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Suddenly that Koch money is showing up on the airwaves. Wehby’s new ads are everywhere, trying to make her sound like a smart fiscal conservative. She attacks Sen. Merkley for voting to raise the debt ceiling and for opposing a balanced budget amendment. With a homey but deeply flawed analogy between the Federal budget and household money management, she manages to avoid any real fiscal facts. Raising the debt ceiling was critical to avoiding another, worse financial meltdown if the US were seen to ignore its obligations. The debt that Sen. Merkley wisely voted to keep paying is mostly the result of the fiscal ineptitude of George W. Bush and two pointless, costly wars. The balanced budget amendment is a nightmarish concoction that would hamstring the government. Economists both liberal and conservative decry it as a disaster that should be avoided at all costs. As an experienced legislator, Sen. Merkley knows this. I continue to be shocked and mortified that such falsehoods are allowed to be aired!  I know that in Georgia the Koch money is spreading lies and attacking Democrat hopeful Michelle Nunn. Koch money is fueling elections across the entire country.

It’s clear that Dr. Wehby is intended to be the anti-Merkley. That’s certainly true. Sen Merkley is an experienced, talented legislator with a deep understanding of the issues and a true passion for the needs of Oregon’s citizens. Monica Wehby is a shallow political puppet pursuing a Senate seat just because. Oregon’s choice this November is clear.

Update: Wow! I’m rather appalled and nonplussed to see Ben West doing a commercial supporting Wehby. Mr. West, I’m curious as to how you would support Wehby when she was NOT pro-marriage equality until after it was a fait accompli?  I’m also curious that she was not at Gay Pride nor has she attended a Basic Rights Oregon function?  In the commercial you assert that she is for all families, but it seems rather obvious that she is only for white wealthy families, and now you her token gay friend.

Toxic Tea Party: Repealing Obamacare?

19 May

Tea PartyAs the midterm elections grow near, the bizarre behavior of extreme right wingers moves into action.  Of course, they are bringing out the typical fear mongering tactics with heavy doses of homophobia and misogyny, but now we are hearing right wingers such as Oregon U.S. Senate hopefuls Jason Conger and Monica Wehby threaten to “overturn Obamacare.”

I would love to see the implementation of this overturning of Obamacare. Do the Tea Party and GOP plan on visiting every one of 8 million plus people to revoke their health insurance?  Who will pay for these home health revocation visits? One by one the Affordable Care Act horror stories funded by the Koch brothers have turned out to be lies, half-truths, willful misrepresentations, and strange irrelevancies. By the thousands come the stories of people whose lives were improved — often saved — by better access to healthcare. The ACA is far from perfect, but it is making a positive difference in the lives of millions and the changes needed look nothing like Conger’s repeal-and-replace demands or Wehby’s wishy-washy wanderings.

One has to love Wehby’s mantra of “We need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps”  (a phrase heavy with racist overtones). Well that would be lovely, Dr. Wehby, if we were all on a level playing field and if all people started off with bootstraps to pull up.  I must confess that I do so enjoy watching her fumbled and waffled attempts to answer ANY questions on pressing issues such as marriage equality, poverty, and abortion. Wehby clearly took inspiration from Charles Durning’s performance of “Dance a Little Sidestep” from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.  

Sadly, Jason Conger makes Wehby look reasonable. Lacking her ambiguity, he is burdened with the ability to form coherent sentences, most of which are toxic odes to the furthest Tea-stained extremes. Conger’s anti-marriage equality and “only men should be able to govern women’s bodies” approach to politics makes me think he took his inspiration from Rick (the P is silent) Santorum.

Across the nation GOP candidates are stuck trying to explain how they would actually care for their constituents whose healthcare they want to strip away. Supposedly endangered Democratic senators like Mark Pryor of Arkansas are defying expectations by standing up for the law and leading in the polls. The right’s racist obsession with dismantling the President’s signature accomplishment coupled with a narrow-minded and oppressive desire to block fundamental rights is a scary thing indeed. Let’s hope voters are smart enough to make choices that help move the country forward. I know here in Oregon, Jeff Merkley is the right choice.

Hero of the Week Award, November 22: Democrats in the U.S. Senate

22 Nov

GraphCongratulations to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D – NV) and the Democratic caucus in the U.S. Senate. After years of abuse and obstruction by the GOP, they finally said, “ENOUGH.” Unable to get a simple up-and-down vote on three recent nominees to the DC Circuit Court, Reid made it clear that the Republicans had violated both the spirit and letter of every agreement made in the past few years about Presidential nominees. Even some long-standing holdouts — like Sen. Feinstein and Boxer of California and Sen. Leahy of Vermont — realized that this level of obstruction must be stopped. It’s about time.

I think it might be helpful to have a  brief history lesson: In 1917 the Senate created a method for ending filibusters, the cloture vote. It originally required a 2/3 majority and was revised down to a 3/5 majority. Both filibusters and cloture votes were used sparingly. In 1975, the non-speaking filibuster arrived, creating the model we’ve seen grow over the past few years. Just saying one intended to block a vote counted as a requirement for cloture. Even then, however, use was relatively rare.

Since President Obama took office, the Republicans have done everything they can to obstruct him. Their extraordinary use of the virtual filibuster has served as a way to nullify his election and especially his re-election–it is difficult for me not to see a racist agenda here. They didn’t like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but couldn’t repeal the law, so they filibustered the President’s nominees. (That resulted in the election of Sen. Warren of Massachusetts, so they shot themselves in the foot with that one!) They want to keep the federal courts as conservative as possible, so multiple judges have been blocked. One might ask, one should ask: this type of block voting says two things: one, the GOP is not interested in serving all citizens of the United States, and two, where is there room for independent thinking and creating partnerships?

The so-called Nuclear Option that changed the rules only required a majority vote and it succeeded. For the rest of this Congress, any Presidential nominee except for Supreme Court justices will only require a simple majority to be approved. That ends a major logjam and takes a critical piece of obstruction away from the GOP. Given how broken the filibuster is, something more might be needed, but this is an excellent start. I might suggest that something more to be removing John Boehner as the Speaker of the House.

Of course the GOP is screaming with rage, even though they could have stopped the rules change simply by sticking to the agreements they had made. It’s amusing to note that one of the biggest whiners, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R – KY), threatened the very same thing when Democrats invoked far fewer cloture votes on Pres. Bush’s nominees. Hypocrisy much?

This change is long overdue. Big thanks to the trio of senators who have pushed hard to help make the Senate work again, Tom Harkin (IA), Jeff Merkley (OR), and Tom Udall (NM).

A related honorable mention goes to the ever wonderful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D – NY). She’s been pushing hard for reform in military justice protocols to help stem the tide of sexual abuse and assaults. When senior Democrats pushed to water down her bill, she stood firm and now has majority support for real reforms.  Gillibrand is one of the best civil servants the United States currently has.

Victories for the LGBT Community and for Humanity

8 Nov

ENDA copyThe past week has seen a number of big events in LGBT news and the majority have been very positive. It’s nice to have a chance to celebrate!

A major milestone happened yesterday when the U.S. Senate finally passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Some version of the law — which prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity — has been in the works for nearly 40 years. The current ENDA has been floated in almost every Congress since 1994; the inclusion of gender identity has been a point of contention and has been in and out of the bill. The current version is the most comprehensive, requiring most employers with more than 15 employees to comply and with a very narrow religious exemption. ENDA was a lifetime goal of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D – MA). Just before he died, he passed the torch to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D – OR), who was instrumental in similar legislation in this state. I’m very proud of our Senator for pushing so hard to make this a reality.

I feel that such discrimination is wrong and our vision of equality in the Constitution, our vision of the pursuit of happiness in the Constitution and kind of a fundamental sense of fair play—all of those things mean that it is just wrong for people not to have a fair shake at getting or retaining a job.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid built on the post-shutdown debacle momentum and rounded up enough Republican support to break a filibuster. In fact, when opposition voices were invited to speak, no one stepped forward, not even rabid opponents like Ted Cruz. After a bit of amendment posturing, the bill got a full vote and passed by an impressive  64 – 32 vote. Now it’s up to House Speaker John Boehner to move it forward. He has expressed skepticism, saying that ENDA would lead to “frivolous lawsuits.” Points to Sen. Reid for this sharp rebuke:

Speaker Boehner opposes ENDA for fear of frivolous lawsuits? He led a frivolous lawsuit defending DOMA that cost taxpayers over $2 million!

Well said, Sen. Reid. Let’s hope the House can help move equality forward. President Obama has expressed his full support and encouraged Boehner to do the right thing.

On the marriage front, Illinois is on the verge of becoming the 15th state to have full equality for same-sex couples. The Illinois House finally passed a Senate bill from May. Gov. Quinn has indicated that he will sign the bill soon. When he does, another 13 million Americans will live in a place with marriage equality, moving the nation up to 37%. In Hawaii, a similar bill is moving forward and seems likely to pass by the end of the year. True equality is never piecemeal, but this is certainly movement in the right, inevitable direction.

Also in workplace protection news, Virginia Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe has said that his first act after being sworn in will be to reinstate an Executive Order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity for state workers. How nice to see him living up to his promises already!

Also on the gubernatorial front, things heated up in Maine this week. Toxic Governor Paul “Tea, please” LePage tried to start a smear campaign against his chief competitor, Rep. Mike Michaud. Showing his rabid disregard for many of his constituents, he hinted that Michaud was gay and that this was sufficient grounds to vote against him. Merging the kindergarten playground with McCarthyism — how lovely! Michaud’s response was flawless:

Yes, I am. But why should it matter? […] I write this now merely to let my opponents and the outside interests who fund them know that I am not ashamed of who I am. And if seeing someone from my background, in my position, openly acknowledge the fact that he’s gay makes it a little bit easier for future generations to live their lives openly and without fear, all the better.

Well said, Rep. Michaud, and best of luck in next year’s election.  I guess current Gov. LePage is only interested in serving selected residents of his state.

Number 3 Hero of the Year 2012: The American Voter

29 Dec
Number 3 Hero of 2012

Number 3 Hero of 2012

This year’s election was a critical choice between two starkly different philosophies of government. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent  (which will be a whole blog article in itself) and Americans were inundated with thousands of hours of advertising and opinions. In the end, despite poor expectations, corporate investment, hardship, and obstacles, the people stood up and said that they want a government that works for everyone, not just the chosen few.

Most pundits believed that the grass-roots coalition of voters built by the Obama campaign in 2008 was a fluke. Minorities, the poor, and the young are less likely to vote in general, so their turnout was supposed to go way down. What the naysayers didn’t realize is that the mobilization and empowerment weren’t just a one-time effort but an ongoing strategy. While all turnout in 2012 was down a bit from 2008 and the full data aren’t available, it’s clear that Latinos, African Americans, and young voters showed up at the polls, stood up for their rights, and helped Democrats and fairness take the day.  Never underestimate progressive social movements and grass-roots activists.

SuperPACs and corporate donations were also supposed to help Republicans this year. Hundreds of millions were filtered into shadowy groups who supported Mitt Romney and a host of Teahadists. Fortunately, all that Citizens United energy did little to change the election results. Obscene amounts of money were wasted, but voters made up their own minds and tuned out the ghastly shrieking from the right.

Many states launched voter suppression efforts, usually sponsored by Republican legislatures that expressly wanted to ensure a Romney win. Voter ID laws, voter registration purges, and changes to early and absentee voting were the typical strategies. Despite this, voters stood up and demanded their rights, paying attention to the changes and demanding their votes. The courts were also very helpful, striking down the vast majority of the odious new laws as unconstitutional.

American voters supported marriage equality for the first time in FOUR states. They handed President Obama a clear mandate for his second term. They kept Democrats in charge of the Senate and sent more women to that body than ever before. They shrank the Republican advantage in the house while electing the most diverse Congressional delegation ever. Despite the screaming and spending, voters showed up — even in the states ravaged by hurricane Sandy — and used their most powerful right. What a wonderful thing to see.

Honorable mention today goes to Oregon’s own junior Senator, Jeff Merkley. Since taking office in 2009, Merkley has been a champion of progressive values and functional government. He stood up for filibuster reform before he was even sworn in and is pushing hard for it now (with the help of Sen. Tom Udall (D, NM). His efforts won him recognition in The Nation‘s 2012 progressive honor roll as “Most Valuable Senator.” Congratulations and thank you, Sen. Merkley!

The Number 1 Hero Award of 2010

31 Dec

What a delight I had in writing this post.  I always have to compose the Bigot post first to get rid of the bile.  Composing the Hero articles feels like dessert.  This year’s Hero Award goes to Kirsten Gillibrand , with an honorable mention to Patrick Murphy.  Kirsten Gillibrand has been a champion of repealing DADT for two years now, as demonstrated in this video from 2009. She introduced repeal legislation in the Senate in March, well before the more-reported last-minute efforts that eventually succeeded. She is also a strong proponent of equal protection for the LGBT community and for marriage equality.  We need more heterosexual and outspoken allies like Gillibrand.  She has shown great leadership as the Senator from New York and does not shy away from confronting her peers by protecting civil rights. As we move into a difficult new Congress, we need strong leaders like Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders, and this year’s hero: Kirsten Gillibrand.

Nominees for Hero of the Year Award, 2010

24 Dec

Composing this post was a true delight and gave me some hope for the future.  It was inspiring to reflect on the Top 10 list of heros.  Each nominee demonstrated courage, compassion, and integrity; it will be difficult to narrow it down to five winners starting next Monday.  Here is the list wonderful souls:

Proud of Oregon’s Democrats in Congress

9 Dec

In posts over the past couple of days we’ve expressed our deep frustration with the quagmire that is the U.S. Congress. Nancy Pelosi has demonstrated some real courage and leadership, but otherwise things have seemed messy and, at times, hopeless. Suddenly, House Democrats are playing Deal/No Deal and standing up to the capitulation games.

I’ve always been proud of Oregon’s Democratic Congressional coalition. They stand on principle and vote for real values rather than manufactured (or purchased) ideals. I don’t always agree with them (though I usually do), but I respect them. Pretty weird, huh? Well today I feel even more proud.

  • All four Oregon Democrats in the House stood up strongly against the one-sided non-deal that President Obama handed to the Republicans in the Senate.
  • As mentioned earlier today, Senator Jeff Merkley is mounting a bold campaign to fix Senate debate rules.

Although he’s been out of the spotlight, Senator Ron Wyden is a strong supporter of key issues like DADT repeal and tax structures that support the middle class.

Please take the time to congratulate your Oregon Congressman for demonstrating that elected leaders can lead.

Dear America, thanks for letting us play with your Senate. Sorry we broke it. Best, Republicans.

9 Dec

The U.S. Congress has two houses for a reason. The House of Representatives is the very democratic, majority rules, free-for-all. The Senate is supposed to be the more deliberative, contemplative, august body that weighs the significant issues and gives every state an equal vote in major national issues. The minority party has a certain level of authority in the Senate, allowing, hypothetically, a broader spectrum of input. Bad news, folks, it just doesn’t work that way anymore.

If you’ve heard/watched/surfed any news over the past two years, you’ve been bombarded with they myth of the 60-vote majority. The Republicans in the Senate have hijacked the filibuster to derail any issue they dislike. Because they are much better at voting in lockstep than the Democrats, even a 60/40 split paralyzed action on major issues. Action in the Senate has come down to a minority vote of fewer than 40 rather than a majority vote of 51 or more. This is wrong. However much CNN wants you to believe it, a 60-vote majority is not a part of the Founding Fathers’ plan for the Senate.

The filibuster was intended as a measure to continue debate so that all aspects of a key issue could be considered. If a Senator found a particular issue particularly troublesome, he or she could hold the floor to wear down the opposition. Now all one has to do to derail an issue is imply that one might not vote to suspend debate, which takes 60 votes. Suddenly the hypothetical moderate Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine get huge amounts of control as Harry Reid and President Obama court them with all kinds of promises and negotiations, just to get them to agree to end debate. (Republican in Petulant Jackass Clothing Joe Lieberman plays this card a lot too.)

Back when the Republicans held the Senate, Democrats tried to use the filibuster to block noxious Bush appointees. The Republicans threatened the “nuclear option” which would have changed the rules (at least for appointments) to minimize the use of cloture votes and the 60-vote requirement. A gang of 14 Senators panicked and agreed to let most of the nominees get through so the rules wouldn’t change. Bad plan – the rules don’t work any more and need to change. Yes, some day the Republicans will control the Senate again and I’ll be a bit sad that the supermajority isn’t required for every little thing. But here’s the rub – those rules can change with a simple majority vote at the start of each new Congress. You think the Republicans won’t take advantage of that as soon as they can?

Let’s use our (shrinking) majority to accomplish something. At the start of the new Congress in January, the Senate needs to change the rules of debate and voting. Respect for the minority should be reasonably maintained, but the power of the minority to hobble legislative action should be eliminated. Harry Reid should remember that he’s the Majority Leader, not Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Scott Brown, or Joe Lieberman. We need legislative action, not more partisan paralysis. Bad deals and goofy negotiations to maybe get one Republican to consider voting to end the bloody debate must end. If it doesn’t, we wind up with more watered-down healtcare initiatives, no action on climate change, and billionaires holding the unemployed hostage.

P.S. – Cheers for my Senator Jeff Merkley for a strong proposal to improve the rules.

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