MIAMI — A Highlands County, Florida, father and husband, working in Japan for a U.S. Department of Defense subcontractor, tried to consummate his monthslong online relationship with a 13-year-old girl by flying her to Northern Japan to have sex. Whether or not Garrett Pako, 29, was conversing with an actual 13-year-old isn’t clearly stated by the Fort Pierce federal court paperwork. But Pako thought he was and he pleaded guilty to attempted coercion or enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity. Pako received the minimum 10-year sentence. A court filing by Pako says the resident of Hig...
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who recently bowed out of a much-anticipated U.S. Senate bid, revealed that he was "bothered" after conversations with dozens of Republican Senators, who apparently wanted him to be a "roadblock" until the GOP retakes the White House. Sununu told The Washington Examiner this month that he was initially "pretty close" to running, explaining: "I wasn't ready to make an announcement, but I was like, 'OK, this makes sense. I think I could be a voice nationally.'" But after chatting with "most" of the GOP Senate caucus, Sununu reportedly soured on the role once it became apparent that they wanted him to be a legislative mule.
This article first appeared in Salon.
"They were all, for the most part, content with the speed at which they weren't doing anything. It was very clear that we just have to hold the line for two years," he told the Examiner. "OK, so I'm just going to be a roadblock for two years. That's not what I do."
"It bothered me that they were OK with that," the governor added.
Sununu's comments come in the wake of an intense legislative standoff between Democrats and Republicans over voting rights, an issue which became the focus of President Biden's agenda after negotiations on the "Build Back Better Act" – the president's $2.2 trillion social safety net plan – fell apart.
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered Biden's sweeping voting rights overhaul – known as the "Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act" – which would standardize voting laws across all 50 states and clamp down on voter suppression. Not a single Republican backed the measure, even though the bill is supported by nearly 70% of Americans, according to a Navigator poll from November.
With Republicans having dashed Biden's hopes of passing the party's two signature pieces of legislation – the "Build Back Better Act" and the "Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act" – Democrats now question whether their colleagues believe in anything other than mindless obstructionism.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Biden echoed the spirit of Sununu's remarks, asking reporters, "What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they're for."
That same day, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sidestepped questioning when asked to lay out GOP's official agenda. "That's a very good question," McConnell said. "And I'll let you know when we take it back."
According to a recent Axios report, the Kentucky Republican has privately told colleagues and donors that the Republicans have no legislative agenda and are more interested in picking apart Democrats'.
Meanwhile, the House GOP caucus appears to be adopting the opposite strategy, according to The Washington Post, with its leadership drumming up a "list of policy pledges" designed to buoy support for the party in 2022.
Among those helming this effort are House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., both of whom ardently supported Donald Trump's election fraud conspiracy and voted to overturn the 2020 election.
Playing an advisory role to McCarthy is former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who crafted the "Contract with America," a legislative platform widely linked to the GOP's successful campaign to flip both chambers in 1994.
Gingrich told the Post that McCarthy doesn't believe an anti-Biden agenda is sufficient for 2022, saying, "We need a positive message."
"I think that's clearly what McCarthy wants to do and I've offered to look at stuff and offer advice," Gingrich added. "There's lots of people in the House working on it. It will be a widespread commitment."
While the exact details of McCarthy's agenda remain hazy, the broad contours of the plan are clear.
So-called "parental rights" are expected to be front and center as Republican state officials continue to decry the alleged instruction of "critical race theory" – whose prevalence appears to be vastly overstated. For remedy, McCarthy has already released an informal "Parents Bill of Rights," which includes such provisions as the "right to be heard" and the "right to know what's being taught in schools and see reading material."
The House Speaker is also expected to assemble seven "issue-specific task forces" that will tackle a variety of other policy objectives, such as countering China's economic prowess, combating the recent crime wave, securing the nation's borders, regulating Big Tech, cutting corporate taxes, bulldozing environmental regulations, and curtailing inflation.
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The soaring cost of consumer goods has proven an evergreen source of whataboutism for Republicans, even as the year-end jobs numbers indicate that Biden has steered the economy through an unprecedented economic recovery since he took office. Fox News called inflation a "top weapon" for the GOP to wield against Democrats in the upcoming midterms.
Throughout 2021, the consumer prices index rose 6.8% – the highest increase it has seen since 1982.
RELATED: Behind Biden's booming economy
But when it comes to actually tackling inflation, lawmakers have historically had to walk a tightrope, said Brian Riedl, who served as an aide to Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
"There is nothing that messages well, significantly reduces inflation and is painless," Riedl told the Post. "It's easier to criticize inflation than to map out an actual solution going forward, and that's the box Republicans are currently in."
Comedian Bill Maher facetiously suggested Friday night that Democrats should grant former president Barack Obama a third term by having him "gay-marry" President Joe Biden.
Pointing to Biden's record-low approval ratings, Maher said during the season premiere of HBO's "Real Time" that it's time to "move him into a more ceremonial role."
According to Maher, the problem is that even when Biden does something good, he gets no credit.
"This is what happens when you lack passionate defenders, as opposed to Trump, who every day sh*t the bed, and 90 percent of Republicans blamed the bed," Maher said. "And Biden may well have even further to fall, because there's no die-hard Biden base. His is a coalition of the un-enthused. No one ever fainted during one of his speeches, or claimed Biden was appointed by God, or asked him to sign their tits."
Quipping that the Democratic Party lacks any "big-d*ck energy," Maher said the "bench is so thin" that "they're even talking about running Hillary (Clinton) again." He added that Vice President Kamala Harris' approval rating is even lower than Biden's, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is "too old," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is "too young," and former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo "didn't work out."
"But there is one guy all Democrats could rally behind and would love to see back in the White House," Maher said, referring to Obama. "Of course, you're saying Obama can't be president again — he's had two terms, and that's the rule. You know, politics, often called the art of the possible, really is now the art of whatever you can get away with, something only Republicans seem to realize, like when they just made up that presidents can't appoint a Supreme Court justice in an election year, or when they changed their mind and said, 'Oh wait, they can when our side is in power.'"
"To them, hypocrisy is not a bug, it's a feature," Maher said. "They're all about grinning in the mirror as they shove it up your ass, like Jesus would do. That's the essence of Trumpism."
He compared the GOP's tactics to the 1970s Disney movie "Gus," about a mule who gets signed to kick field goals for a football team because there's no specific rule that prohibits it.
"Trump pulled a 'Gus' every day when he was in the White House," Maher said. "What the Democrats have to do now is their version of a 'Gus.' And it goes like this: Biden and Obama must divorce their wives — not leave them, just officially legally divorce them. Then, Biden will gay-marry Obama, thereby putting him back in the White House. The law says Obama can't be president again, but there's nothing that says he can't be first lady."
Noting that all first ladies have pet projects, Maher said Obama's would be "running the federal government."
New Rule: First Lady Barack Obama | Real Time (HBO) www.youtube.com
An ad released Friday by a group called "Remove Ron" mocks former president Donald Trump's alleged rift with Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“What’s the matter, Donald?" the ad's narrator states. "Is it something Ron said? Or perhaps something he hasn’t said yet? Am I right, Donald. We keep hearing reports that you're grumbling to friends at Mar-a-Lago, trashing Ron in private, calling him gutless, all because he hasn't ruled out running against you for president."
"Rumor is, you’re still waiting for those magic words from Ron," the narrator continues. "Isn't that so, Donald? But after all this time, if Ron weren’t thinking of challenging you for president, don’t you think he would have told you by now? Time's running out, Donald. If Ron wins re-election, he's coming for you in 2024. Your only hope now is to stop him before it's too late."
During an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday night, Trump dismissed reports about his rift with DeSantis as "totally fake news."
"Those comments came in the wake of widely reported tensions between the two, including claims it would be 'too much to ask' for DeSantis to preemptively endorse another Trump term in 2024, while he lamented a 'dull' DeSantis and alluded to 'gutless' politicians who wouldn’t say whether they had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19," Florida Politics reports.
Remove Ron: Magic Words www.youtube.com