Category Archives: Virginia

Gee, You Think Tom Davis Might Be a Little Bitter?

Tom Davis, in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

“A convention restricts you to talk to 5,000 party activists where they ask you, ‘OK, now if you’re raped by an in-law and the mother’s life was in danger, you would allow an abortion? Oh, well, you’re not good enough for me.’ That’s what it comes down to. It’s ridiculous,” Davis told the paper.

If I were Tom Davis I’d be pretty bitter too. Davis would have had a very decent chance in the Senate race against Mark Warner. He could have at least held Warner’s margin down in Northern Virginia and would have run stronger in other parts of the state. But fortunately the GOP decided that value ideological purity above winning. Hence, Jim Gilmore or Bob Marshall. Larry Sabato is right.

“The Virginia Republican Party would rather be right than be president, senator or governor, and I mean ‘right’ in an ideological sense,” Sabato said.

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Bob Marshall Just Doesn’t Get It

VA Blogger over at Too Conservative has a really good post up that just devastates Bob Marshall’s position on trade. But he leaves out one other important point. Marshall’s blathering about how Value Added Taxes hurt American exporters is simply incoherent.

A VAT tax is essentially a tax on the value added to a product at each step of the manufacturing process. It’s a lot like a sales tax.

Here’s what Bob Marshall has to say:

As of January 2007, the U.S. traded with 137 countries which use a “Value Added Tax” or VAT on imports from the U.S. into their country, yet goods and services from foreign countries sold in the U.S. are not subject to VAT, resulting in unequal trade conditions which hurt U.S. based producers.

Countries with VAT taxes often rebate the VAT when their manufactures sell products to the U.S. in effect subsidizing most imports into the U.S. although U.S. exports to VAT countries are not eligible for VAT rebates.  In 2005, 94% of U.S. exports and imports were traded with VAT nations.  Foreign manufacturers trading in the U.S. received $239 Billion from their governments for VAT rebates on exports to the U.S.

In 2007, European Union nations imposed an average tariff of 4.4% plus 19.4% VAT equivalent tax for a total levy of 23.8% on products imported from the U.S.  Under present World Trade Organization rules, imports into the U.S. are charged an average tax of 1.3% with no VAT penalty.

Now, that sounds pretty unfair, right? But here’s the gigantic problem with Bob Marshall’s logic. Domestic companies in VAT countries have to pay the VAT too. So there while there is a “total levy of 23.8% on products imported from the US,” there is a 19.4% levy on products that are made domestically. The VAT does increase the cost of US goods in other countries, but not relative to any other goods made there. It’s the 4.4% tariff that increases the cost of US good relatively. And while the tariff should ideally be zero, it’s pretty small, especially compared to the problem Marshall makes it out to be.

Marshall’s complaint that other counties rebate or exempt the VAT on exports is similarly illogical. The US doesn’t have a VAT. We have a sales tax instead. Foreign goods aren’t exempt from the sales tax, just like US goods aren’t exempt from foreign VAT taxes. The fact that countries exempt exports from the VAT tax doesn’t give them an advantage in trade, it just levels the playing field. US companies don’t get charged a sales tax on exports. If foreign companies were charged the VAT on exports they would be taxed twice before they got to US consumers, both at home with the VAT and here with the sales tax.

In short, both US and foreign companies pay the VAT tax in foreign markets. Neither US nor foreign companies pay the VAT tax in the US market, but they both pay the same sales taxes. That’s not an unfair barrier to trade, thats a level playing field. To suggest otherwise just betrays Marshall’s ignorance of the issues.

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Bowerbank Getting Better

So, I spoke way too soon on Jon Bowerbank’s issues page and campaign website in general. His issues page is already significantly longer and his section on energy is really quite good. His bio page is significantly improved as well, mentioning his work on the Russell County Board of Supervisors and adding the interesting fact that his family immigrated to the US when he was 11.

Still, it will be good for Bowerbank to get some campaign experience before he has to go head to head against Bolling.

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Bowerbank is In

Jon Bowerbank has made it official. As I mentioned last week, he’s running for the Democratic Lieutenant Governor nomination to take on Bill Bolling next November.

Bowerbank has a website up, but it definitely isn’t ready for prime time yet, which seems odd for a guy who has locked up so much of the top Virginia Democratic web talent. His issues page is laughable at the moment, consisting entirely of:

Better Jobs
Jon will work to create better jobs. As a successful businessman, Jon knows that thriving communities are anchored by good paying jobs. As Lt. Governor, Jon will work with the business community to find ways to grow and expand jobs throughout the Commonwealth.

Education
Jon will work to improve our schools. Jon knows that a strong commitment to education creates opportunities for all of Virginia’s school children to reach their full potential. As such, Jon will work for stronger schools that give our kids the best chance to succeed.

Good Government
Jon will fight to make sure our government works for you. Jon understands and believes that state government has a responsibility to you as taxpayers to work efficiently and tirelessly and as such he will work to make sure that state government is accountable and efficient.

While all of that may be unobjectionable, it’s hardly anything like an agenda or campaign platform. I know he just got into the race, but if you’re going to put a website up, at least have it be credible.

One interesting thing thus far about Bowerbank is the extent to which he’s played down the fact that he already holds elected office in Virginia. His “About Jon” page is all about his business experience. Similarly, everything I’ve seen about him in the blogosphere describes him as nothing more than a businessman. However, Bowerbank was elected to a seat on the Russell County Board of Supervisors in 2007, running as an independent and defeating both a Democrat and a Republican.

The more I see about Bowerbank the more questions I have. Is this guy really ready to run the state if something happens to the Governor? He told the Roanoke times that “he easily could have won election to a district-level seat on the board of supervisors based on community reaction to the Honaker field. But he chose instead to test himself by running countywide.” If that’s his idea of a political test he’s nowhere near ready to take on Bill Bolling.

On the plus side he’s clearly willing to plow his own money into the race. The Post reported that he’s already put in $75,000 of his own cash to get off the ground. Clearly, however, Bowerbank would benefit greatly from a hotly contested primary if he is going to represent the Democrats next fall. I definitely hope Jody Wagner gets into the race to give Bowerbank a real opponent before he launches into a general election campaign.

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Virginia 2009

I know 2008 isn’t even half way over yet, but already the posturing for the 2009 Virginia General Election is heating up.

Governor

The GOP side of the equation is easy. Attorney General Bob McDonnell will be running. Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling had considered a run, but announced in March he was going to seek reelection instead. Nobody else is expected to challenge McDonnell. McDonnell will be an interesting candidate. He is from the Hampton Roads/Virginia Beach area and has a strong base of support down there. He represented them in the House of Delegates, has military ties and graduated from Pat Robertson’s Regent University, which is based in the area. McDonnell doesn’t have a great profile elsewhere in the state. He won a real squeaker of an election in 2005, beating Creigh Deeds by 360 votes. He is extremely conservative, both on social issues, as one might expect from a Regent alumnus, but also fiscally, where he consistently voted against taxes and spending.

On the Democratic side things are a little different. There are two strong candidates running. The first is Deeds, who is a State Senator. He is based in Southwest Virginia, representing Roanoke. He is a conservative Democrat who is extremely strong on gun rights, even winning the endorsement of the NRA over McDonnell in 2005. He probably has the broadest appeal of the two, but given that he couldn’t capitalize on Tim Kaine’s 2005 win to put him over the top there are serious doubts about whether he could be the more seasoned and higher profile McDonnell in a rematch.

The other Democrat running for Governor is Brian Moran, the brother of Arlington Congressman Jim. Brian is based out of Alexandria, which could be a liability in a state wide race. Nonetheless, he has cultivated a moderate record and been friendly with groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Virginia Sheriffs Association and the Chamber of Commerce. He is perceived as a liberal by many in the state, perhaps due to his strong partisanship in his role as Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Although Moran is likely the weaker of the two candidates statewide, he may have an advantage in the Democratic primary, where Northern Virginia has a larger voice.

Lieutenant Governor

Again, the GOP side of the ledger is easy. Bill Bolling is running unopposed for re-election. Bolling’s political base of support is Southwest Virginia, which he represented as a State Senator before winning the Lt. Governorship. He is a pretty doctrinaire conservative who won the biggest margin for the GOP in 2005. Bolling will be a formidable candidate for re-election, despite the fact that the nature of the job makes it that he hasn’t accomplished much of anything.

On the Democratic side things aren’t as clear. As per Too Conservative the other day, Jon Bowerbank, a Southwestern Virginia businessman is in the running. He’s unknown statewide and would have a tough time
getting his name ID up, but he could be a solid candidate. To begin with he appears to be the sort of culturally conservative Democrat who has succeeded in Virginia the last few election cycles. His firm is a natural gas and energy resources company, which could give him an advantage in going after what is sure to be a hot issue in 2009.

The other Democrat who is rumored to be interested in running is Jody Wagner, Tim Kaine’s Secretary of Finance. Wagner is based out of the Norfolk area and was a Congressional candidate in 2000. She was also Mark Warner’s State Treasurer. Wagner has a great record to run on, given that Virginia has consistently been name the best managed state in the Union under her watch, so she could be a very strong candidate. On the other hand, she could have trouble with the liberal blogs, given Bowerbank has already retained the services of Lowell from Raising Kaine and Ben from NLS obviously isn’t a huge fan of Wagner’s.

Attorney General

The Democratic side of the race is the easy one this time around, so I’ll start here. Delegate Steve Shannon of Fairfax is the only Democrat who seems to be looking at the race. Shannon, however, has definitely been eying it for a while and will be a formidable candidate. He is a former prosecutor and founded the Washington, D.C. AMBER Alert system, while he was still a private citizen. In the House he has been a consistently tough on crime legislator with a very moderate voting record.

The Republican side is much more up in the air. State Senator Ken Cuccinelli is the favorite. He’s the most conservative member of the Senate and is a darling of the state GOP. Despite his conservatism he’s the only Republican Senator left from Fairfax, though he only won his last election in 2007 by 92 votes over the incompetent Janet Oleszek. Cuccinelli would be a formidable candidate given his Northern Virginia base. If a Republican can hold down the margin of defeat in Fairfax it is almost impossible for him to lose statewide.

The second GOP candidate is former U.S. Attorney John Brownlee. Brownlee is based out of Southwest Virginia, which could be an advantage in the GOP primary, though Cuccinelli’s legendary status within the conservative wing of the party will negate much of that advantage. Brownlee is known as a conservative, law and order, tough on drugs prosecutor. He’s definitely running a very conservative campaign, “vowing to fight abortion, illegal immigration and drug trafficking,” according to the Washington Post. A nomination battle where Cuccinelli and Brownlee try to get to each other’s right could hurt their chances in November. If these two try to out crazy one another I’m not sure where it will stop. On the other hand, this thing could end up being completely uncompetitive, given that Brownlee didn’t even get a website up before he officially kicked off his campaign. That sort of incompetence won’t allow him to last long against a political master like Cuccinelli.

The dark horse in the GOP race is former Arlington School Board Chairman Dave Foster. Foster had a great reputation liberal Arlington, which is extremely tough for a Republican to do. Until he retired from the Board in 2007 he was the only elected Republican in the entire county. Were he to win the nomination it would be tough to see how he could lose, given his ability to win votes from liberal Northern Virginians. Whereas Cuccinelli has squeaked by, Foster won re-election by 8,000 votes out of less than 40,000 cast. He would be at a bit of a disadvantage in the primary, however, given that he has no record to speak of on the sorts of issues the Attorney General has to deal with, especially in comparison to Cuccinelli and Brownlee. In a contested GOP nomination fight he and Cuccinelli could easily end up splitting the Northern Virginia vote and allowing Brownlee to coast to the nomination.

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Traffic as a Voting Issue

You can really tell that Ezra Klein doesn’t live in Virginia. Here, traffic has been a voting issue for at least a decade now.

How long till traffic becomes a voting issue? Americans spend more time in it every year. They get heart attacks from it. And now, with gas prices well above $100 — and racing skyward still — how long till road rage, till driving, till a life spent in the car and a paycheck spent at the pump, become voting issues? Arguably, gas prices are already there. But no politicians has figured out how to do anything with that save promise lower gas prices. But we’re not going to lower gas prices. And discontent will only become more intense. Someday, some politician is going to figure out what to do with that, and my hunch in the word “transit” will be a big part of it.

Of course, part of the issue is the extent to which traffic is a federal voting issue. In Virginia and I’m sure lots of other states traffic and transit already are voting issues, but they don’t necessarily translate to the federal level. Even in Northern Virginia, as traffic clogged and pissed off a region as there is in the country, the only way transit has factored in as a federal voting issue is how well politicians like Tom Davis and Frank Wolf have been able to bring home the transit bacon. In terms of presidential level stuff, the things the federal government can do, like readjusting the formulae that given new roads the priority over mass transit, just aren’t that sexy.

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Virgil Goode Just Can’t Stop

Virgil Goode really is having a tough time recently. The other day he went on a bizarre rant against Muslims. Now, I see that he’s signed on to a bill that would outlaw in vitro fertilization.

H.R. 4157, which Representative Broun refers to as the Sanctity of Human Life Act, might more accurately be entitled the Zygote Political Enfranchisement Act or the Anti-Fertility Act. The legislation has been written by Congressman Broun in order to define a human egg created in the United States from the moment of fertilization, through its development into a fetus ready to be born, as a complete person with full legal rights and constitutional protections equal to that of any other American citizen.

Under Broun’s proposed law, this award of full legal protections to all fertilized eggs, even one created just one minute ago, would be given regardless of the ability of the fertilized egg to implant in a womb and grow to become a baby. H.R. 4157 states this very directly:

“the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.”

A fertilized egg must be given all the legal protections of a person, irrespective of health, function or disability? That means that even if a fertilized egg or blastula (a tiny hollow ball of human cells post-fertilization) is somehow determined to have a terrible genetic disease, it would nonetheless have to be given full medical treatment in order to make sure that it survived to be born. If that treatment was not given, its parents could be criminally charged with child abuse or neglect.

Think about in vitro fertilization, and you’ll see how absurd this new law would be. The way that in vitro fertilization works is that many eggs are fertilized, and then sorted, so that healthy fertilized eggs are separated from the unhealthy ones. Under Paul Broun’s law, the unhealthy fertilized eggs would have to be implanted in a woman’s womb, just like the unhealthy ones. Remember that the law says that “health” and “function” are irrelevant. So, even “fertilized” eggs in which the nucleus of the sperm and egg somehow failed to unite to create a genetically coherent union would have to be implanted in a woman’s womb as if they were viable.

This is what Virgil Goode is offering? This is just a crazy as Bob Marshall’s plan a couple of years back to bar unmarried women from having in vitro fertilization treatments. It really is a miracle a guy this crazy could not only get elected to Congress, but continually get reelected.

Hat Tip: Democratic Central

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Virginia’s Transportation Problem

Virginia has a transportation problem. Traffic is badly clogged in both Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and the primary funding mechanism in Virginia’s 2007 Transportation Bill was largely struck down by the Virginia Supreme Court in March. That was after the other funding mechanism in the bill, the abusive driver fees, had to be repealed because of voter backlash. Virginians have been complaining about transportation for years now and the General Assembly has completely failed to deal with the issue. As of now, not only does Virginia lack adequate capacity on its roadways, but it is facing a shortfall in funds for road maintenance.

But Virginia’s General Assembly is getting another chance to get transportation right. Governor Kaine has called for a June Special Session of the Assembly to deal with transportation. Everyone more or less agrees agrees what needs to be done. As a coalition of Virginia business groups said,

“We believe the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure is a critical component of its economic success and the quality of life of all Virginians. Additional investments of at least $1 billion annually must be made to sustain maintenance and construction costs,” the letter said. “The most appropriate solution is a package of revenue generators that are simple, sustainable, and sufficient and accrue from broad-based revenue options.”

The only question is how to raise the $1 billion a year Virginia needs.  Governor Kaine just proposed his plan to raised the needed money. He wants to increase the sales tax by 1 percent in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, raise the grantor’s tax, a tax on home sellers, from 10 cents per $100 of assessed value to 35 cents, increase the sales tax on cars by 1 percent and increase the annual car registration fee by $10.

So what is the Virginia GOP’s response? According to the Washington Post:

Del. David B. Albo, a Fairfax Republican involved in transportation negotiations, said Kaine’s plan had a “0.000 percent chance” of winning approval.

Many see Kaine’s tax proposal as a way of reaching out to Republicans in the House of Delegates. According to Jim Bacon, a conservative Virginia policy blogger,

Kaine appeared to adopt key elements of the plan — a motor vehicle sales tax, a vehicle registration fee and a grantor’s tax — because House Republicans embraced them last year when they crafted HB 3202, although not in precisely the same configuration. In his naivite, the governor no doubt assumed that if GOP legislators liked those levies last year, they would be OK with them this year. So, how did those charges become so unpalatable all of a sudden? It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that they are just opposed to anything that Kaine might propose?

Republicans aren’t the only ones who are down on Kaine’s plan. Liberals like Raising Kaine and Not Larry Sabato have blasted the plan, arguing that the sales tax increase is overly regressive and will hurt the working poor.

I largely agree that the sales tax isn’t the way to go. To begin with, it’s regressive. Sales taxes hit the poor the hardest and increase their tax burden as a proportion of their income the most.

Secondly, it has absolutely no connection to the people who will use the roads that are built with it. It will tax everyone at the same rate regardless of how much they use the roads or what choices they make. Jim Bacon is right in that “This highway funding mechanism will do nothing — repeat N-O-T-H-I-N-G — to encourage drivers to seek alternate modes of transportation or otherwise change the behavior that has created this crisis in the first place.”

Thirdly, the sales tax is only increased in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Now, I know there is a somewhat compelling argument to be made that since NoVa and Hampton Roads are the localities that need transportation improvements the most they should pay for it. It’s a logic that is probably very persuasive to Delegates from the rest of Virginia. But that logic is wrong. Every year, NoVa and Hampton Roads pay far more into state coffers than they get back. Taxpayers in these two regions have subsidized the rest of the state for decades. It is time they finally got some help back from the rest of the state to pay for transportation improvements that will improve the economic climate in NoVa and Hampton Roads, which will in turn increase the amount of tax money they send down to Richmond to subsidize the rest of the state. It’s an everybody wins scenario.

Lastly, its already been rejected. In 2002 Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads had the opportunity to pass a referendum which would have increased their regional sales tax. The referendum failed miserably. Now Kaine is trying to bring back a solution that citizens rejected directly and put it through the General Assembly.

A gas tax increase would be a far better solution. As Lowell at Raising Kaine wrote:

Virginia’s gas tax is among the lowest in the nation and hasn’t been raised since 1986, which  means that inflation has seriously eroded its value.

Currently, the Virginia gas tax constitutes only about 5% of the total price at the pump, and that percentage is declining all the time.  Looked at the other way around, every 1-cent-per-gallon increase in the gas tax raises about $65 million per year. This means that to raise $860 million per year, the gas tax would have to be raised about 14 cents per gallon. This may sound like a lot, but to put it in perspective, the overall price of gasoline has risen more than $2.20 per gallon since May 2002 — about 16 times the 14 cents per gallon mentioned above.

A gas tax benefit would have other benefits too. It would reduce the demand for fuel slightly, thereby helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It would be paid directly by the people using the roads, making heavier users pay more and allowing people to save on the taxes my making different choice in how they get around. Senate Democrats are on board for a gas tax hike. They passed one last session and are willing to do it again. However, its the no tax GOP who is unwilling to even consider a gas tax hike.

One final criticism. Kaine’s plan doesn’t envision any way to prioritize what projects get funding, beyond repairs to existing roads come first. To quote Bacon yet again,

No objective methodology for setting priorities. Nothing in this bill requires the commonwealth to establish an objective methodology for prioritizing projects based on their effectiveness at mitigating traffic congestion. There is nothing to prevent the usual suspects with the most to gain from boring into the political system like beetles into tree bark, canoodling administrators, making donations to elected officials, attending obscure public hearings, and bird dogging projects through the bureaucratic maze.

There is at lest one real positive in the Kaine plan. The grantor’s tax increase would be dedicated to a Transportation Change Fund, which would “increase investment in transit, rail, and innovative solutions to reduce traffic congestion like teleworking and ridesharing.” That is a major improvement over the way things are done. That would put about $155 million annually into mass transit, which would help create alternatives to driving for Virginians.

Kaine is at least trying here. He’s been willing to anger his political base, including the blog that was created to elect him, in order to propose a plan he had reason to think would be palatable to GOP lawmakers. But the House Republicans are saying “no” once again. It is pretty sad to see. Kaine was elected on an unambiguous platform of transportation reform. He’s now in his third year as governor and has yet to get a long-term, workable plan passed. Every time he has tried he has run into the roadblock of House Republicans. Even when the State Senate was in Republican hands Kaine was able to work with them and come to agreements. Yet the only thing House Republicans have proposed thus far is what turned into the awful 2007 transportation compromise that has already been almost entirely struck down or repealed. And Republicans wonder why there are only a handful of them left in Northern Virginia.

I’ll leave the end of this post to Jim Bacon. Virginians should take Kaine’s imperfect plan as a jumping off point. He has moved the ball forward at least somewhat on transportation and hopefully it won’t all come to naught again. Bacon addresses his list to “no tax” Republicans. But it really goes for everyone. Here’s what we need.

(1) Create a mechanism for actually raising money. We can’t build a transportation system for the 21st century with fiscal tricks and legerdemain.

(2) Be sustainable over time, and they need to be structured so that legislators can’t lay their hands on the tax money for other purposes.

(3) Display a direct and transparent nexus between who pays and who benefits from transportation projects.

(4) Address the “demand” side of the transportation equation, in other words, incentivize people to seek alternative means of mobility and access.

(5) Incentivize citizens and developers to adopt more transportation-efficient human settlement patterns.

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Virginia Republicans in Congress Make Fools of Themselves

Congressmen Eric Cantor and Virgil Goode really made fools of themselves today.

Goode came first. In the debate over Iraq today, Goode went on a bizarre rant against Muslims.

When the commentary begins in the Middle East, in no way do I want to comfort and encourage the radical Muslims who want to destroy our country and who want to wipe the so-called infidels like myself and many of you from the face of the Earth. In no way do I want to aid and assist the Islamic jihadists who want the crescent and star to wave over the Capitol of the United States and over the White House of this country. I fear that radical Muslims who want to control the Middle East and ultimately the world would love to see “In God We Trust” stricken from our money and replaced with “In Muhammad We Trust.”

He’s really just following up on his rant against Kieth Ellison.

I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.

Its never a good day when you further prove yourself to be a bigot.

Goode’s race against Tom Periello this fall ought to be fun. You see, Periello “was once the co-director of an organization that ran an apology on the Qatar-based network al-Jazeera on behalf of people of faith in the U.S. to the Iraqis for atrocities committed in U.S. detention facilities.”

Cantor came next, a little later in the day.

In an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg Barack Obama said:

JG: Do you think that Israel is a drag on America’s reputation overseas?

BO: No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable.

Cantor, along with House Minority Leader John Boehner, immediately put out a statement:

“It is truly disappointing that Senator Obama called Israel a ‘constant wound,’ ‘constant sore,’ and that it ‘infect[s] all of our foreign policy.’ These sorts of words and characterizations are the words of a politician with a deep misunderstanding of the Middle East and an innate distrust of Israel”

Only an idiot would read Obama’s comments as talking about only Israel, as opposed to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Does Cantor want us to think that Obama doesn’t think Israel is a “drag on America’s reputation abroad” but does think that it is a “constant wound” and a “constant sore.” Obama didn’t explicitly say the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it’s pretty damn clear what he was referring to. As ABC News’ Jake Tapper wrote Obama was very, very pro-Israel:

After describing some of the first times he thought about Zionism, Obama said “the idea of a secure Jewish state is a fundamentally just idea, and a necessary idea, given not only world history but the active existence of anti-Semitism, the potential vulnerability that the Jewish people could still experience.”

He talked about how “the idea of Israel and the reality of Israel is one that I find important to me personally. Because it speaks to my history of being uprooted, it speaks to the African-American story of exodus, it describes the history of overcoming great odds and a courage and a commitment to carving out a democracy and prosperity in the midst of hardscrabble land.”

He assailed Hamas as a terrorist organization and said the United States “should not be dealing with them until they recognize Israel, renounce terrorism, and abide by previous agreements.”

Does that sound like someone hates Israel? Tapper says that “Boehner et al are falsely accusing Obama of besmirching a nation and a people. They are accusing him of being anti-Israel, even anti-Semitic. It is false,” and that “Voters may conclude that Republicans think they have to make things up to beat Obama.” He’s right.

Talk about a bad day.

[Update] It’s not just me. Jeffery Goldberg agrees. After calling on Boehner to retract his statement on Obama and the “constant sore” comment Goldberg writes:

If he doesn’t, however, I would, sadly, have to agree with my colleague, the less-forgiving Andrew Sullivan, who called Boehner’s statement a “flat-out lie.” In fact, I would add to Andrew’s post, by calling Boehner’s statement mendacious, duplicitous, gross, and comically refutable. So Mr. Boehner, do the right thing, and correct the record. I’ll be happy to post the correction right here.

Not to mention, these wonderful performances came less than a week after voting against Mother’s Day.

It was already shaping up to be a difficult year for congressional Republicans. Now, on the cusp of Mother’s Day, comes this: A majority of the House GOP has voted against motherhood.

On Wednesday afternoon, the House had just voted, 412 to 0, to pass H. Res. 1113, “Celebrating the role of mothers in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of Mother’s Day,” when Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), rose in protest.

“Mr. Speaker, I move to reconsider the vote,” he announced…. This time, 178 Republicans cast their votes against mothers.

It has long been the custom to compare a popular piece of legislation to motherhood and apple pie. Evidently, that is no longer the standard….

Republicans, unhappy with the Democratic majority, have been using such procedural tactics as this all week to bring the House to a standstill, but the assault on mothers may have gone too far. House Minority Leader John Boehner, asked yesterday to explain why he and 177 of his colleagues switched their votes, answered: “Oh, we just wanted to make sure that everyone was on record in support of Mother’s Day.”

By voting against it?

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Look at that, people are price sensitive

A couple of days ago I noted that DC Metro ridership is way up in this era of high gas prices. Today, in the New York Times, I see that it’s not just DC, but the entire country that’s seeing a mass transit boom. In the New York region ridership is up between 5 and 10 percent, depending on the mode of transport, while cities in the South and West have seen increase of up to 15 percent.

Meanwhile, via Kevin Drum, I find this useful chart of average daily miles drive. Obviously, there is a large amount of seasonal variation in miles driven and gasoline demand, but after 2006 and 2007 , which had very little variation in average miles driven, there has been a small but significant reduction starting in about November of last year.

Obviously, it sucks that people are facing financial difficulties and are unable to pay for gas. But, in the grand scale of things, this is exactly what the United States needs. The only way for us to begin to confront global warming is to use less energy. Most economists would say the best way to do that would be to increase the gas tax and therefore the cost of fuel, reducing the amount of energy we use. American politicians have thus far lacked the political will to increase the price of gas, but now the markets are doing it for them. Granted, if Hillary Clinton and John McCain got their way we’d suspend the gas tax to reduce the cost again, but fortunately that idea’s not going anywhere.

Here in Virginia, in an attempt to deal with our choked traffic, a variety of state leaders have proposed raising our gas tax. The State Senate voted in February to increase the gas tax, but the House Republican caucus refused to go along. Now, after the Virginia Supreme Court struck down the regional tax authorities that were established by the 2007 Transportation Bill, there are calls to raise the gas tax again. Democrats are relatively united behind the idea and local business leaders are supportive. They understand that raising the gas tax is good environmental policy and will raise much needed revenue for transportation improvements.

But the state GOP is resolutely opposed. They’ve even stooped to the level of having Speaker of the House Bill Howell attack the state Chamber of Commerce at other business leaders for supporting the idea.

“I’m disappointed. I’m a little concerned that the quote ‘voice of business’ would be calling for a one and a half billion tax increase in a time of recession, a rough economic time,” Howell said. “Their businesses are certainly going to pay the additional expenses. I think it’s ill advised, ill thought out.”

[…]

“I really don’t think it’s representative of the business community at all. And for good reason, it’s not a pro-business thing,” Howell said. “The state chamber of commerce does not represent the small business, it represents the large businesses that are going to do OK. They don’t speak for business, I don’t believe.”

If we want people to use transportation less we need to let the price of gas go up. Given Virginia’s need for money for transportation raising the gas tax makes a lot of sense right now, both economically and environmentally. Economists have long told us that increased prices would lead to reduced demand. Now, with gas prices, people have again proved it. Increasing the gas tax would increase the money available to transportation and would reduce the demand for transportation. This is a win, win proposition for the state.

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