Democrat Fred DuVal, who is seeking to become governor of Arizona next year, had a weird early skirmish with the Arizona Republican Party last week.
It all started with a relatively lame press release from AZ GOP Chairman Robert Graham, who said that he and a crew of fellow Republicans down at the office looked over DuVal's résumé—which includes serving in Bruce Babbitt's gubernatorial administration in the '80s, Bill Clinton's presidential administration in the '90s and the Arizona Board of Regents in recent years—and concluded that DuVal would "be perceived by many as 'the most uninteresting man in the world.'"
The DuVal campaign responded by sending out a fundraising pitch saying DuVal—recast as "the most electable man in Arizona"—was already under attack by the GOP. The campaign raised nearly $12,000 and a few days later, Team DuVal delivered a case of Dos Equis to GOP headquarters, along with a thank-you card that featured DuVal dressed up like the beer company's signature spokesman, The Most Interesting Man in the World. The tagline on the card: "Stay Desperate, My Friends."
That's when things took a really weird turn, with the Arizona Republican Party posting a note on its Facebook page asserting that DuVal "photoshopped himself to appear Latino ... (and) put the doctored image out on Twitter and hand-delivered a printed copy to the AZGOP. Painful attempts at humor, especially with racial overtimes, usually backfire on candidates."
The story was first run through the Arizona Daily Independent's loony spin cycle, which produced the fairly radical interpretation that DuVal had "waded into the murky waters of racial politics."
Various national news outlets, including the Daily Caller and Fox New Latino, jumped on the bandwagon, not recognizing that the Arizona Daily Independent is essentially a poorly written collection of rehashed press releases and deranged efforts at revenge against anyone who has upset the shadowy cabal that runs the website.
DuVal campaign chairman and Phoenix City Councilman Daniel Valenzuela said the campaign had just put a beard on DuVal. He said he was offended by the accusation that DuVal was putting on a minstrel show in an attempt to appear more Latino.
"Talking about a character in a Dos Equis commercial is what the Republican Party started with," Valenzuela said. "And so Fred did a great job of spinning that and it backfires on the Republican Party. And now he's being called racist for that? It's offensive that the Republican Party would make such an accusation."
SUMMER RECESS IS HERE!
The House of Representatives wrapped up work last week and took off for August recess. The House calendar doesn't have members back to work in Washington until Sept. 9—at which point we'll see if Republicans will continue to move toward shutting down government altogether.
Just before members of Congress headed home, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey showed that they had sunk to a new low: A mere 12 percent of respondents say that they approve of the job Congress is doing, with 83 percent saying they disapprove.
House Speaker John Boehner is viewed positively by 18 percent of those surveyed, while 36 percent view him negatively.
Those lousy numbers are likely driven, at least in part, by Congress' inability to get much of anything done. The 113th Congress has enacted just 22 laws—which is less than a tenth of the 284 laws enacted by the 112th Congress, according to Govtrack. (Admittedly, the current Congress still has more than a year to get something done, but the forecast is not good.)
It's such a lousy record that Boehner told reporters last month that the American people don't want to see laws passed, but would rather see them repealed because we have too many laws already. Technically, though, repealing a law requires passing some kind of legislation, and there's not a whole lot of that going on.
Among the issues left unresolved: immigration reform, which has stalled in the House since passing the Senate back in June.
The NBC/WSJ poll had an interesting tidbit about how the public feels about immigration reform: If the effort collapses, 44 percent of those surveyed say Republicans will be to blame, while 14 percent say it would be the fault of Democrats in Congress, 21 percent say it would be President Barack Obama's fault and 11 percent say that everyone should share in the blame.
That's a big shift from June 2006, when a similar question was asked during the Bush administration's push for immigration reform. Back then, only 17 percent would have blamed the GOP, while 15 percent would have blamed the Democrats, 24 percent would have blamed Bush and 33 percent said there was plenty of blame to go around.
In other words: The public is identifying the GOP as the problem in passing immigration reform.
And the idea that reform can't come before the border is "secure"? That's not polling so well, either. The poll showed that 59 percent of respondents see that as an excuse to block reform, while just 36 percent see it as a legitimate concern.
One bit of business Congress did get done last week: The House of Representatives voted to approve the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act with a 391-31 vote, approving a measure that was originally hammered out in the Senate.
While the legislation reverses a hike in student-loan rates that had kicked in earlier this summer when lawmakers were unable to come to a deal, it isn't exactly bringing certainty to the student-loan racket. It bases lending rates on whatever is happening in the market Southern Arizona's congressional members split on the vote.
Congressman Raul Grijalva voted against it.
"This bill means students will pay $715 million more down the road than they would if current rates, which recently doubled for new borrowers, stayed untouched," Grijalva said in a prepared statement. "Today we reverse the July 1 student loan interest rate hike at the cost of ultimately charging students more over the next decade."Grijalva added: "We need to make student loans more accessible to students and easier to pay back. In this country, in our economy, students should not have to agonize over whether to go to college because of our nation's crushing student debt problem."
Congressman Ron Barber voted for the legislation, but said it was flawed.
"I voted for this bill today, to create certainty for students as they enter this school year, but it is far from the right answer for students," Barber said in a press release. "In the long run, we need a better solution that will protect students from high interest rates and ensures that rates remain stable. This bill fails to do that. I call on leadership in the House and Senate to come back to the table and pass real protections for students that will keep college affordable."