Pataki’s rut, Hastert’s rule, Rowling’s rip

     

    I’m on the move today, so here’s a quick quintet:

    When George Pataki announced his presidential bid – huh? who? – I wondered whether he, too, would be weighed down by Bush baggage. So many of his Republican rivals have struggled to explain how or whether they would’ve sidestepped Dubya’s Iraq disaster, but what about the ex-New York guv?

    No need to wonder. Having covered the 2004 GOP convention, I seemed to remember that Pataki had something in his podium speech – wait, I have it right here:

    “With supreme guts and rightness, President Bush went into Iraq. . . . Some people have called this an abuse of power. I call it progress.”

    Oh dear.

    Also, Pataki said it didn’t matter that we never found weapons of mass destruction, because Saddam Hussein alone was “a walking, talking weapon of mass destruction.”

    I doubt that his praise for the failed president’s “guts and rightness” would play well with independent swing voters in a general election. But he won’t make it that far.

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    In Washington, there’s something called the Hastert Rule. Named for Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican House Speaker in history (’99-’07), the rule decrees that no bill should get a floor vote unless a majority of the majority party’s members support it.

    But according to a federal indictment handed down yesterday, it appears we have a whole new set of Hastert Rules:

    1. If you engage in “misconduct” against an individual, agree to pay $3.5 million in hush money “in order to compensate and conceal prior misconduct.”

    2. Try to withdraw the money from your bank in small increments – less than $10,000 each time – so as to escape federal reporting requirements.

    3. When the FBI comes around to ask what you’re doing, lie to the FBI and say that you withdrew the money because you didn’t have faith in the banking system. Say something like, “I kept the cash.”

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    All hail the Nebraska legislature, which, in bipartisan fashion this week, overrode its Republican governor and outlawed the death penalty. Nebraska is the first red state to outlaw state-sanctioned murder in 40 years. My guess is, it won’t be the last. Texas will.

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    All hail Brian McCrory, the Republican governor of North Carolina. This week, his Republican legislature passed a bill that said it was OK for religiously devout magistrates to refuse to marry gay people. But McCrory, their ally on most things, said no. He vetoed the bigotry:

    “I recognize that for many North Carolinians, including myself, opinions on same-sex marriage come from sincerely held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman. However, we are a nation and a state of laws. Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer, or magistrate, no public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath.”

    Exactly. The italics are mine. If a public official paid with taxpayer money wants to practice his religion on the job, he should go work for his church. But if he’s on the public dime, he works for everybody. I believe this is called the separation of church and state.

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    You’ve probably read J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books (I prefer her current grown-up mystery books). She thinks it’s important to engage with Internet trolls, to rip them when necessary (I, and most writers I know, prefer to ignore them). But I’ll admit that this week she made a great case for engagement.

    After Ireland approved gay marriage by a landslide margin, she fancifully tweeted that Dumbledore (the headmaster of Hogwarts) and Gandalf (the Lord of the Rings wizard) were now free to wed in the Emerald Isle. This prompted a retort-tweet from the bigots at the Westboro Baptist Church: “So @jk_rowling wants Dumbledore & Gandalf to marry in Ireland; if that happens, WPC will picket.”

    To which Rowling retort-retort-tweeted, “Alas, the sheer awesomeness of such a union in such a place would blow your tiny bigoted minds out of your thick sloping skulls.”

    Yup, the woman can write.

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    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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