Posts Tagged ‘immigration reform’

A Call From the Gallup Poll

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

By Michael Kaufman

One day last week I was at my desk writing a medical news article on a tight deadline when the phone rang and I heard the non-human, monotonous voice that says who is calling announce, “Call from Gallup Poll.” I tried to ignore it but when I heard it repeated I couldn’t resist. Was it really the Gallup Poll calling to ask for my opinions? How could I pass up the chance to tell them how I feel about drones, Afghanistan, cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? Guantanamo? I’d say “Close it!” Immigration reform? “Yes and without punitive restrictions.” Minimum wage? ”Raise it.” Health care? “Single payer.” Obama? “Disappointing.”

So I picked up the phone and a woman who said her name was Samantha said she was calling from the Gallup Poll and may she please speak to the nearest person in the household over 18. “Wait,” I said. “Do you mean the person over 18 nearest in age to 18, or anyone in the house over 18?” Once we’d established it was the latter I said I would be glad to speak with her but I don’t have a lot of time because of my deadline. She said it would only take about 15 minutes. I said okay. And for the next half hour or so it went something like this:

SAMANTHA: What is your religion?

ME: That’s a tough one. I kind of doubt the existence of God so I’m inclined to say I’m agnostic. Is that an option?

SAMANTHA: Yes. So do you want to say agnostic?

ME: I don’t know. I’m agnostic but I’m Jewish even though I’m skeptical about God. I respect the ancestors. I’m observant in my own way.

SAMANTHA: Okay, so do you want to say Jewish?

ME: Yes.

SAMANTHA: Where you live do you feel safe when you walk alone at night?

ME: Well, we live in the country and when I walk the dog at night I worry about coyotes, rabid racoons and even black bears. One time there was a big one standing on its hind legs and pawing at our garbage can right when I went out with the dog. And also I’m from the city originally so a lot of the noises at night seem a little scary. But I think that question is really about feeling safe with regard to other people….so I’ll say yes.

SAMANTHA: Do you think conditions in the town or area you live are changing for the better or for the worse?

ME: Worse….because there’s too much development and a lot more traffic now than when we first moved up here.

SAMANTHA: Are you planning to move to a different location within the next few years?

ME: No. We love it here.

SAMANTHA: In the past 7 days, how many times have you exercised for at least 45 minutes?

ME: Geez, I don’t know.

SAMANTHA: Do you want to just take a guess?

ME: Okay, four times. I walk the dog a lot but I was out of town last week so I…..wait a minute! I did a lot of walking there around the convention center and the streets in Chicago. Put five times.

SAMANTHA: How many times in the past 7 days did you eat at least four servings of fresh fruits and vegetables?

ME: Man, I don’t know! Just say three.

And so it went, with questions about my personal health and whether I have health insurance coverage, and whether I worry about finances (I wanted to answer that one with a question of my own: “Is the Pope Catholic?”) She never asked my opinion about Guantanamo or the drones or any of the other things I wanted to talk about.

But it is the one question I asked her at the start that made me stay on the phone: “Do you earn more money if someone takes the survey when you call?” She said she doesn’t think she is supposed to answer that question. So even though I never got to give my opinions and I almost blew my deadline I was glad to help Samantha earn a few extra bucks at her job.

Michael can be reached at


GOP ‘Reform’: The Crying Game

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

John Boehner, Speaker of the House, 113th Congress

By Emily Theroux

By focusing his second inaugural address on equal opportunity, did Barack Obama finally give John Boehner something to cry about?

I certainly hope so.

At the very least, the Weeper of the House still appears to be running scared. After Obama walloped Republican prognosticators in November by depriving Mitt Romney of what they envisioned as certain victory, Boehner appeared shell-shocked during his post-election press briefing.

“We’re ready to be led, not as Democrats or as Republicans but as Americans. We want you to lead, not as a liberal or a conservative but as a President of the United States of America. We want you to succeed. Let’s challenge ourselves to finding the common ground that has eluded us. Let’s rise above the dysfunction and do the right thing together for our country.”

Boehner’s acquiescence was a far cry from his disingenuous “Hell no, you don’t!” eruption in 2010. As columnist Dana Milbank noted, Boehner delivered his 2012 speech in a room named for Speaker Sam Rayburn, who allegedly said, “Any jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a carpenter to build one.” (“Boehner sounds as though he’s ready to pick up hammer and nail,” Milbank observed. “But will his fellow Republicans stop kicking?”)

President Barack Obama

That question set the stage for the contentious two-headed behemoth that the Republican Party has devolved into since last fall. Boehner has already changed strategies several times. After the president’s speech, the beleaguered House speaker told the conservative Ripon Society he believes Obama intends to “annihilate the Republican Party, to just shove us into the dustbin of history.”

(If Boehner asked me, I’d advise him to guard his right flank. He won a second term as speaker with a record 12 GOP defections — probably revenge for ousting four recalcitrant teabaggers from their committee assignments in December. The refusal of far-right ideologues to support the speaker’s agenda — particularly when it emerges from a bargain with the president — has driven Boehner to assemble a pragmatic yet uncertain coalition of  moderate Republicans and Democrats who have voted so far to thwart the fiscal cliff, pass Obama’s tax increase on the wealthy, allocate Hurricane Sandy aid, and postpone another disastrous debt-ceiling stalemate.)

Republicans are terrified by Obama’s ambitious second-term agenda of passing progressive legislation on comprehensive immigration reform, gun control, gay rights,  and climate change. They’re dismayed that the president has converted his campaign machinery into a nonprofit group, to promote his initiatives and oppose GOP intractability. They’re also rattled because Obama is bypassing them, as he did during the campaign, and speaking to Americans directly — and Americans appear to be listening.)


Will Republicans ever stop kicking?

In the three months since the president’s reelection threw them for a loop, Republicans have advanced and retreated; pissed and moaned; stamped their feet and squealed like stuck pigs. On occasion, they’ve done a 180 and meekly fallen in line to vote with Democrats. Here are a few highlights of the GOP’s baffling recent machinations on matters of policy, posturing, and the subterfuge known as “messaging”:

La. Gov. Bobby Jindal

1) The ‘stupid party’: Immediately after Gov. Willard “Mitt” Romney lost the 2012 election, Gov. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, the son of Punjabi immigrants (and Louisiana’s first non-white governor since African-American newspaper publisher P.B.S. Pinchback served for 35 days during Reconstruction), began angling to position himself as the multicultural face of the “new” GOP. “We’ve got to stop being the ‘stupid party’,” Jindal railed. Unfortunately, his harsh, regressive policy proposals (drastically cutting Medicaid benefits for nursing homes and the poor, and replacing state income and corporate taxes with a sales tax increase targeting the bottom 80 percent of Louisiana residents) tarnish any claim he might eventually stake to the 2016 nomination.

 2) Rekindling the ‘war on women’: Jindal and other Republicans have called out failed Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock for making “offensive and bizarre” remarks about rape. For awhile, the GOP appeared to have shifted its frenzied campaign against women’s reproductive rights to the back burner. Then John Boehner inexplicably dialed up the misogyny by throwing red meat to the culture warriors at the “March for Life”, an annual D.C. anti-abortion protest. Boehner vowed “to make abortion a relic of the past” and a fundamental Republican goal.  (Translation:  to criminalize safe, legal abortion, returning us to an era of butchery that all too frequently terminated the woman along with the pregnancy.)

3) ‘And build the danged fence’: After Romney lost the Latino vote by 40 points, pols and pundits proclaimed that the GOP needed to retire its blatant aversion to immigrants. What Republican policy-makers fail to realize is that even if they eventually climb aboard Obama’s bandwagon and support creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, it may do little to thwart the repercussions from decades of right-wing ethnic prejudice against Latinos. (Right now, green cards look like a distant prospect. The president’s immigration proposal is meeting determined resistance from GOP hardliners who would rather shine the president on than cooperate, strutting their belligerent “border security” stuff  all the way from Laredo to San Diego.)


Summit attendees oddly complacent

What does the Republican Party need to do to recoup?” asked MSNBC analyst Howard Fineman on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show. “They need to get back to a message of hope, instead of a message of rejection.”

The problem with the “evolving” GOP is that it many of its members seem to have reached a premature verdict (especially in light of the strange complacency on display at last weekend’s National Review post-election summit): The party’s problem resides not in its core precepts, but in its candidates, its tactics, its “messaging.” These folks have decided they don’t need to change what they’re saying; just rejiggering the words they’re using, and the people who are saying them, should suffice. They’re probably too deeply invested in Machiavellian chicanery (which masquerades, for them, as “principle”) to truly change.

The Republican Party has become a figment of its own delusions, the same ones it devised to foist on unwary simpletons. It has no moral center, and Americans know it.

Faced with the enormity of the GOP’s decline into selfishness, avarice, and intolerance, Professor David Schultz pronounced its aging white constituency “the real takers.” Columnist David Brooks advised throwing the baby out with the bathwater. “In this reinvention process, Republicans seem to have spent no time talking to people who didn’t already vote for them,” Brooks observed, adding that the GOP conundrum of battling government is incompatible with actual governance. His conclusion: “It’s probably futile to try to change current Republicans. It’s smarter to build a new wing of the Republican Party” that can compete outside the South and rural West.

Do any of the cagey, conflicted partisans in the current GOP dare call their recent experimentation with “messaging” and theatrics “Republican Party reform”? Don’t believe it until you see the whites of their eyes — and then be sure to look for any trace of genuine tears.