April 4, 2014

There's a line in Ocean's Eleven that goes like this: "The last guy they caught cheating in here? [casino owner Terry] Benedict not only sent him up for 10 years, he had the bank seize his house and then he bankrupted his brother-in-law's tractor dealership."

...If you think that's bad, just imagine what they would have done to him if he had supported Proposition 8 in California!

I'm being facetious of course — but only slightly. When you consider how Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich was drummed out as the company's CEO, the consequences of holding politically incorrect views about gay marriage are becoming clearer. The message is simple: We won't just drum you out of polite society — we'll take your job, too!

Such messages aren't intended solely for one person, of course. The larger purpose is to create a chilling effect — to disincentive your future opponents from participating in politics, altogether. (If you wonder why conservatives are suddenly fighting to ensure some political donations — the so-called "dark money" — remain undisclosed, fear of retribution is at the top of the list.)

Along those lines, Andrew Sullivan is speaking out:

Will [Eich] now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me — as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today — hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else — then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.

The difference, of course, is that the religious right rarely claimed to be paragons of tolerance. Liberals have, generally speaking, enjoyed the positive press associated with being perceived as open minded — which makes this incident not merely authoritarian, but hypocritical, to boot. Matt K. Lewis

8:35 a.m. ET

A super PAC "closely aligned" with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released an ad Tuesday that skewers the Republican primary challenger to Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, Kelli Ward, Politico reports. Ward has been publicly backed by President Trump. The ad is the latest move in an unfolding proxy war between Trump and certain Senate Republicans, where the future of vulnerable senator Flake, a constant thorn in the president's side, hangs in the balance.

The Senate Leadership Fund's ad blasts Ward for being an "embarrassing" conspiracy theorist, dubbing her "Chemtrail Kelli Ward" and "not conservative. Just crazy ideas." The ad additionally slams Ward for calling on Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to resign following his cancer diagnosis after having previously lost to him "big league" in a bid for the senate last year.

People close to the super PAC told Politico that the Senate Leadership Fund's "offensive [is] part of a broader effort to show that any Trump-led push to undermine Flake, or any GOP incumbent for that matter, won't go uncontested." Watch the ad below. Jeva Lange

7:54 a.m. ET
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump has been campaigning for his re-election since not long after his inauguration, but the Democratic National Committee, like Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and veteran GOP political consultant Mike Murphy, isn't so sure Trump will be the GOP standard-bearer in 2020. DNC research director Karen Dillon confirmed to Politico that the Democrats have already started a full-bore opposition-research operation on a number of potential Republican rivals in 2020, including Vice President Mike Pence, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. The idea is that either a weakened Trump will have a strong primary challenger or he won't run for re-election for whatever reason.

"With Trump's tumultuous presidency in complete chaos, we are prepared for all scenarios," Dillon told Politico. Sitting presidents don't usually get serious primary challengers, and when they do — Pat Buchanan taking on George H.W. Bush in 1992 or Ted Kennedy challenging Jimmy Carter in 1980 — it doesn't usually end well for the president in the general election. "For an opposition party to be scrutinizing potential intraparty re-election rivals to an incumbent president just seven months into his term is highly unusual," Politico's Gabriel Debenedetti notes, though Trump's entire chaotic presidency "has been nothing if not unusual."

Other potential Trump challengers include Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), plus Mitt Romney. Spokesmen for Sasse, Kasich, and other Republicans being investigated mocked the Democrats for spending their money this way, but the Republican National Committee is also already digging for information on Democrats including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And conservative radio host Charlie Sykes actually thinks this early opposition research could be a blessing for the GOP. "Needless to say, there is no historical precedent for this kind of challenge to a sitting president this early in his term," he said. "I do think it's important to begin to have these discussions, if for no other reason than to make it clear that there remain Republicans unstained by Trump's presidency." You can read more about the Democratic effort at Politico, and Mike Murphy's case for Trump not making it to 2019 at CNN. Peter Weber

7:51 a.m. ET

While President Trump's speech on his way forward in the Afghanistan War received mixed praise at home, the Afghanistan government deemed it a "10 out of 10" on Tuesday, The Associated Press reports. Afghan Ambassador to the U.S. Hamdullah Mohib said his fellow countrymen had heard "exactly what we needed to" from Trump and the U.S.

Trump on Monday said the United States military is "not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists." He additionally did not set a timetable for withdrawing troops, instead using a conditions-based approach, and he decided against further revealing the number of troops on the ground in the country or announcing upcoming military actions.

Mohib also praised Trump's decision to "[break] the silence" on Pakistan. Trump claimed the country has "much to gain" by working with the U.S. in Afghanistan, and "much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists."

At The Week, Damon Linker writes that Trump's speech commits "the United States to a few more years of madness in Afghanistan" and David Faris claims "in all likelihood, we are headed toward another disastrous troop surge that will end the way every previous attempt to 'win' in Afghanistan has ended: in failure." Jeva Lange

7:23 a.m. ET

The remains of several missing U.S. Navy sailors were discovered Tuesday after the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain and a tanker collided early Monday in the waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca, The Washington Post reports.

Divers found the bodies of "some" of the missing 10 sailors in a compartment that had sealed to stop the ship from flooding after it was heavily damaged, said the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift. He added that the Malaysian Navy "has reported that they have located potential remains. They are working to confirm and identify those remains."

This is the second crash in the Pacific involving a ship from the Navy's 7th Fleet in two months, following June's collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship, which killed seven sailors. Jeva Lange

6:51 a.m. ET

As of Monday, only Paulding County, Ohio, does not have at least one insurance plan in place for individuals shopping for health insurance in the Affordable Care Act marketplace for 2018, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports. That affects 334 ACA enrollees out of more than 12.2 million nationwide. The insurance plan options won't be finalized until the fall, so it's possible that at least one insurer will step in to offer coverage for Paulding County, or insurers could pull out of other counties in the U.S.

As late as Aug. 2, 20 U.S. counties had no ObamaCare exchange coverage. Ohio became the last state without any options after Wisconsin found an insurer for Menominee County. People in counties with no exchange options aren't able to get federal subsides to help pay for their health insurance, the Kaiser Family Foundation explains. In 2017, 84 percent of marketplace enrollees, or 8.7 million people, received tax credits, while 57 percent (5.9 million people) got cost-sharing reductions. Peter Weber

6:00 a.m. ET

President Trump is holding a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday night, and he mentioned on Fox News last week that he's "seriously considering" a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff recently convicted of criminal contempt for disregarding a federal judge's racial-profiling order before Arizona voters declined to re-elect him last year. If Trump plans to announce the pardon at the Phoenix rally, as widely believed plausible, he won't have gone through the normal channel for presidential pardons, CNN reports, citing a source familiar with that process.

Usually, a petitioner for a presidential pardon, serving time for a federal offense, submits a request to the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney, who reviews the application and gives a recommendation to the deputy attorney general, who makes his or her own recommendation to the president. Trump does not have to follow this process, and there is some precedent for a president pardoning a controversial ally without going through the Justice Department, as former President George W. Bush did when he commuted Scooter Libby's sentence in 2007.

Arpaio told The New York Times last weekend that he has not spoken with Trump since November, was "honored by the potential pardon," and would accept it if offered. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton asked Trump last week to postpone the rally, especially if he plans to pardon Arpaio, saying such an announcement at a raucous rally would just "enflame emotions and further divide our nation" after Charlottesville. On Monday, Stanton and other Phoenix officials said they will do their best to balance the risks of clashes against public safety and everyone's First Amendment rights. You can watch their comments and footage of early protests below. Peter Weber

4:45 a.m. ET

At a CNN town hall forum in Racine, Wisconsin, on Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed President Trump's various comments in the wake of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the previous week. He told one constituent that he believes Trump was "pitch perfect" in his remarks on white supremacists and neo-Nazis a week ago Monday, but added, "I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday, when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity when we need extreme moral clarity." He added that he doesn't support a motion to censure Trump because he doesn't want condemning white supremacy to turn into a "partisan food fight."

If he appeared a little hesitant to criticize Trump, Ryan was happy to scold the Senate for not passing a health-care reform bill — part of the audience cheered when he mentioned the bill's failure, which he took in stride — and he encouraged the upper chamber to revisit the legislation. He optimistically predicted that "it's going to be far easier for us to do tax reform than it was for, say, health-care reform," because of Senate rules that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) invoked so no Democratic votes would be needed.

Ryan also said he wished Trump would tweet less, and there are "some of those tweets that I'd prefer not to have seen," but he is only responsible for his actions and Trump probably isn't going to change his Twitter habits. Which seems fair — White House Chief of Staff John Kelly can't tame Trump's tweeting habits, and the House speaker has enough other things on his plate. In September, for example, Ryan actually needs to shepherd through a budget, fund the government, and pass legislation to raise the debt ceiling. He did not address those must-pass bills at the CNN town hall. Peter Weber

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