History

1812: The War No One Wants to Commemorate

It was a war we won, despite the burning of Washington D.C. by British soldiers in 1814. So why does no one seem to want to celebrate its bicentennial?

Selling the burning of Washington to Washingtonians turns out to be not so easy.

This summer marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. Why, one might ask, is a war that began in Canada in 1812 and ended in 1815 in New Orleans being celebrated in Washington D.C. in 2014? “Although it seems rather morbid to celebrate the burning of Washington in the summer of 1814, it was the turning point of the war. It was the force that pushed the American side to really come out and push for the victory that culminated in the battle of New Orleans with Andrew Jackson a few months later,” says Leslie Jones, public programs manager at the National Center for White House History at Decatur House, one of a dozen organizations organizing events marking the anniversary.

But even though the U.S. won it, the War of 1812 seems to be the buck-toothed stepsister of American military victories. Jones and a small battalion of historians and curators are all very eager to talk about the important milestones of America’s second war of independence—Dolly Madison saving George Washington’s portrait from the White House fire; the brave, tiny militia of Washingtonians who tried to defend the city; Francis Scott Key’s ode to the Battle of Fort McHenry, otherwise known as the Star Spangled Banner — but despite their best efforts, there seems to be little interest thus far in marking the bicentennial.

Other historical anniversaries have fared better. The bicentennial of the American Revolution, for example, saw nearly a decade of celebrations that encompassed televised fireworks, concerts, speeches, nautical and ticker tape parades and a yearlong exhibit at the Smithsonian. It was the theme of Superbowl X as well as two American bids for the Olympics. The original planned name for the first space shuttle was Constitution, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the signing of the founding document, but that was before NASA engineers got carried away by Star Trek and switched the name to Enterprise.

The 150th anniversary of the Civil War that started last year saw the Steven Spielberg biopic Lincoln, a spate of books including Rise to Greatness by my colleague David Von Drehle, a History Channel series, an exhibit of Abraham Lincoln’s papers at the Library of Congress and more battle reenactments than can be counted.

Compared to all that, the celebrations for the War of 1812 seem modest indeed. On Flag Day on June 14, the Smithsonian will hold a concert and will display the U.S. flag that inspired Key to pen the nation’s anthem during the war. The annual July 4 Independence Day celebration of the National Mall will be 1812 themed.

But you’ll need to look hard for more events around the nation. Washington, Virginia and Maryland museums and landmarks will hold a “Muster the Militias” open house weekend on July 25-26 featuring free admissions, special tours and family programs. Bladensburg, Md. will unveil a monument commemorating that pivotal battle. Alexandria, Va. will hold a commemorative weekend of events, and the White House Historical Association will hold a half-day symposium entitled “America Under Fire.”

Aug. 24, the actual day of the 200th anniversary of the burning of the Capitol, will be celebrated in Washington with little more than a 5k run at the Historic Congressional Cemetery, a family festival in Georgetown and a beer festival at Yards Park. The only sponsors signed on thus far are the British, Belgian and Canadian Embassies, WAMU radio and On Tap Magazine, who is sponsoring the beer festival. However, there are cool commemorative stamps and coins to collect.

So why the relative lack of enthusiasm about 1812? Maybe because the U.S. is now best friends with the aggressor, Great Britain. But that didn’t seem to generate any awkwardness during the Revolutionary War bicentennial, when Queen Elizabeth was happy to visit to join in the celebrations. More likely, say some historians, it’s simply a lack of awareness.

“This is an area of history that is so not well known by the broader American public,” says Karen Daly, executive director of Dumbarton House, an historic Washington property that is now a museum. “I find when people visit Dumbarton House, an incredible number of Americans don’t even know this event even happened. They tend to jump from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War. This area of history is glossed over in our schooling. And yet, this is what gave us our national anthem and it is very much the event that cemented the union and the democracy. It’s an incredible piece of our history.”

So come on America, have some pride for the 1812 War! We actually won this one.

States

The Nevada Ranch Rebellion Takes a Racist Turn

Rancher Cliven Bundy near Bunkerville, Nev., April 18, 2014.
Rancher Cliven Bundy near Bunkerville, Nev., April 18, 2014. Steve Marcus —Reuters

Cliven Bundy became an overnight icon for his refusal to pay the government to graze his cattle herd on public land, but that stance lauded by some conservative media is becoming overshadowed by his recent pro-slavery comments

It doesn’t take much to mint an icon in this political climate. Cliven Bundy became one nearly overnight. The story of Bundy’s battle against federal bureaucrats fit neatly into a resonant narrative: the defiant land-owner taking a stand against government overreach.

As word of Bundy’s refusal to pay the federal government to graze his herd on public land spread, more than 1,000 armed sympathizers descended on his Nevada ranch in the desert outside of Las Vegas. When the U.S. Bureau of Land Management abandoned its effort to seize Bundy’s cattle, the rancher, 68, was celebrated as a hero in certain right-wing circles. Supporters compared the Battle of Bunkerville, Nev., to the American Revolution; there was even a hashtag, #AmericanSpring. With his ten-gallon hat and gruff rhetoric, Bundy was an irresistible symbol of a certain frontier ideal.

The reality was much different. Bundy’s herd of cattle has been illegally grazing on federal land for more than 20 years. He owes the government more than $1 million, which he refuses to pay because, he says, he does not recognize federal authority to collect it. While some conservative media outlets rushed to canonize Bundy, the vast majority of elected Republicans steered clear of the standoff, perhaps because the facts suggested Bundy was less a patriot than a deadbeat.

Or worse. Speaking to supporters on Saturday, Bundy digressed into a discussion of race. “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy said, according to Adam Nagourney of the New York Times:

Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

These remarks will surely dim Bundy’s spotlight. The few national politicians who flocked to his cause have already denounced the remarks. Nevada Senator Dean Heller, who had praised Bundy’s supporters as “patriots,” released a statement Thursday morning calling his views on race “appalling.” Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who said Bundy’s case raised a “legitimate constitutional question” about federal authority, called his remarks offensive. “I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” Paul said.

Conservative media and political outfits which had promoted Bundy’s cause fell silent. Fox News ignored the remarks, though journalist Greta Van Susteren, who has featured the story, released a statement condemning Bundy’s remarks. Americans for Prosperity’s Nevada branch, which also latched onto the ranch rebellion, did not immediately respond to an inquiry from TIME.

Calls to Bundy’s ranch and to a mobile phone belonging to his family went unanswered Thursday. Craig Leff, a spokesman for the BLM, told TIME the agency will “continue to pursue this matter administratively and judicially.” The Battle of Bunkerville is over. Now the backlash has begun.

Health Care

Advocates React To Mississippi Ban On Abortions After 20 Weeks

The bill signed this week by Gov. Phil Bryant that bans abortions after the midpoint of a pregnancy, and which makes no exception to cases of rape or incest, has quickly provoked adverse reactions from the pro-choice and pro-life communities

A bill signed by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday that bans abortions after 20 weeks with no exception for cases of rape or incest has provoked typically split reactions from the pro-life and pro-choice communities.

“Today is an important day for protecting the unborn and the health and safety of women in Mississippi,” Bryant said after signing HB 1400, which is set to become a law July 1. The bill bans abortion starting at 20 weeks’ gestational age, or since the beginning of the woman’s last period of menstruation. Pregnancies typically last 40 weeks. While the bill doesn’t provide exceptions to women who have been the victim of rape or incest, it does allow women to abort if they face risks of death or permanent injury or “severe fetal abnormalities.”

Bryant’s remarks were echoed by supporters who believe the law is a crucial step for women’s health. “A woman seeking an abortion at 20 weeks is 35 times more likely to die from abortion than she was in the first trimester. At 21 weeks or more, she is 91 times more likely to die from abortion than she was in the first trimester,” Dr. Charmaine Yoest, CEO of Americans United for Life, said in a statement. “I commend the leadership in Mississippi who worked together to achieve commonsense limits on dangerous abortion procedures.”

Opponents, however, called the new restrictions “dangerous” and “unconstitutional.” The Center for Reproductive Rights said that instances of abortions after 20 weeks were “exceptionally rare,” claiming only two were performed in 2012.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, which deals with reproductive health, while 23 percent of American abortion providers offer abortions at 20 weeks, only 1.2 percent of abortions occur after that point. Still, there has been a recent trend of legislation to bar abortion at that period. Several states including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas ban abortions from the mid-pregnancy point.

But Planned Parenthood claimed that while those bans begin at the point of fertilization — or two weeks after the first day of a woman’s last menstrual cycle — the Mississippi law would start counting the pregnancy at gestation, prohibiting abortions two weeks earlier than most other so-called 20-week bans. “Women who make the deeply personal and often complex decision to end a pregnancy [at its midpoint] should do so in consultation with their physician, not politicians,” Felicia Brown-Williams, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, told The Clarion-Ledger.

But Diane Deriz, who owns Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, says that the bill would have little bearing on actual abortion practices in the state. “[The bill is] a totally irrelevant piece of legislation that I’m sure was aimed at the clinic,” Derzis, owner of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, told the Jacksonville Free Press in March. “The clinic goes to 16 weeks, so what difference does that bill make?”

Barack Obama

Watch: Obama Meets ‘Scary’ Humanoid Robot In Japan

+ READ ARTICLE

On the second day of his visit to Japan Thursday, President Barack Obama toured the country’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation where he came face to face with the tiny Honda-built humanoid robot ASIMO.

“It’s nice to meet you,” the robot said in a metallic voice, welcoming Obama to the facility. It then proceeded to run around and kick a soccer ball at the commander-in-chief, who deftly stopped it.

But the experience left Obama spooked. He later quipped, “I have to say that the robots were a little scary, they were too lifelike,” he said. “They were amazing.”

Military

Killing of 3 Americans Raises New Questions About Afghanistan and Iraq

AFGHANISTAN-UNREST-HOSPITAL-ATTACK
An Afghan policeman outside Kabul's Cure hospital, where another Afghan policeman killed three U.S. doctors Thursday. SHAH MARAI / AFP / Getty Images

The deaths of three U.S. doctors at the hands of an Afghan policeman raises questions about a continued American presence there

The killing of three U.S. medical personnel Thursday, allegedly by an Afghan policeman guarding their hospital, raises anew questions about the wisdom of a continued U.S. presence there, in uniform, scrubs or any other kind of garb. While U.S. troops may have increased protection after a spate of so-called blue-on-green attacks in recent years, the lifesavers working at Kabul’s Cure International Hospital apparently were slain by a policeman dedicated to their protection.

The murders come as two veteran reporters file on what life is like in Iraq, where the last U.S. troops left in 2011; and Afghanistan, where the U.S. troop presence has shrunk to 33,000, on the way to removing all U.S. combat troops by year’s end.

“Two years after the last American soldiers departed, it’s hard to find any evidence that they were ever there,” Dexter Filkins writes of Iraq in the latest New Yorker. Bombings are a deadly, and everyday, occurrence. Filkins notes that the U.S. started pushing for the election of Nouri al-Maliki as Iraq’s prime minister in 2006, after a Central Intelligence Agency officer recommended him to U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. “Among many Iraqis, the concern is that their country is falling again into civil war,” he writes, “and that it is Maliki who has driven it to the edge.”

A total of 4,486 U.S. troops died in Iraq.

Meanwhile, 1,800 miles away in Afghanistan, a unit from the 82nd Airborne Division recently returned and came “looking for a fight.” But it hasn’t happened. “Although they’re still preparing for the worse, the soldiers are discovering that the Afghanistan they left in 2012 isn’t the same country they returned to,” Drew Brooks of the Fayetteville Observer wrote Tuesday. “The job of fighting off insurgents now falls to Afghan national security forces.”

It was a member of those forces who killed the three Americans earlier today.

A total of 2,317 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan.

Two countries, one lesson: there is more than one way to win, or lose, a war.

Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: April 24

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the News: Obama in Japan; FCC proposes 'net neutrality' rules; did Sarah Palin blow the Alaska Senate race; and the 2014 TIME 100

  • Obama to Japan, yes we will defend you [TIME]
  • Overseas, Obama projects a whole lot of nothing [Washington Post]
  • “The Federal Communications Commission said on Wednesday that it would propose new rules that allow companies like Disney, Google or Netflix to pay Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon for special, faster lanes to send video and other content to their customers.” [NYT]
  • From The Wall Street Journal: “This latest plan is likely to be viewed as an effort to find a middle ground, as the FCC has been caught between its promise to keep the Internet open and broadband providers’ desire to explore new business models in a fast-changing marketplace. It likely won’t satisfy everyone, however. Some advocates of an open Internet argue that preferential treatment for some content companies inevitably will result in discriminatory treatment for others.” [WSJ]
  • A defiant rancher savors the audience that rallied his side [NYT]
  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that sanctions against Russia need to be “widened and tightened” to prevent the crisis in Ukraine from escalating further on Wednesday [The Hill]
  • Caroline Kennedy says she would ‘absolutely’ back Hillary Clinton if she decided to run for president [ABC News]
  • Georgia governor signs expansive new gun law: “House Bill 60, or the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 — which opponents have nicknamed the “guns everywhere bill” — specifies where Georgia residents can carry weapons. Included are provisions that allow residents who have concealed carry permits to take guns into some bars, churches, school zones, government buildings and certain parts of airports.” [CNN]
  • The left’s secret club [Politico]
  • LA Times reports: “The IRS handed out a total of nearly $1.1 million in bonuses in a 27-month period to more than 1,146 employees who had been disciplined for failing to pay taxes, according to an inspector general’s report.”
  • How Sarah Palin threw the Alaska Senate race [Politico Magazine]
  • “Sen. Elizabeth Warren claims she’s not running for president in two years. Of course, President Obama and many others said the same thing before running. But even if she does seek the Oval Office, the Massachusetts Democrat wouldn’t be 2016′s version of Barack Obama in 2008. Still, Warren may be able to transform the policy debate in the way John Edwards did in 2008.” [FiveThirtyEight]

What’s prettier in print: TIME 100 2014

Political highlights

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sen. Rand Paul

Former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Congressman John Lewis on Attorney General Eric Holder

Gov. Chris Christie on Gov. Scott Walker

41 women made the 2014 TIME 100 list

 

 

TIME 100

Political Outsiders Shine on TIME 100 List

With Washington, D.C. mired in partisan gridlock, the nation’s political power centers have shifted outside the nation’s capital to statehouses and boardrooms across the country. That migration is reflected in this year’s TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people, where alongside must-mention names like President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are Edward Snowden, Jerry Brown, and Scott Walker.

The admitted National Security Agency leaker and Time Person of the Year runner-up is one of several political figures making their debut on the list. Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists, philanthropists, and Republican donors, and Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist and Democratic donor, earned spots on account of the growing influence of outside political campaign spending on American politics.

Brown, the Democratic California governor who has worked to right his state’s finances, is an established figure on the political stage but eschews the nation’s capital. Republican up-and-comers like Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, and Sen. Rand Paul, are both eyeing runs at the White House built on a disdain for the way business is done in Washington. And New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has built a name for herself taking on the Pentagon and other lawmakers in an effort to reform the way the military handles cases of sexual assault.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes the list yet again, as her consideration of a repeat bid for the presidency locks up the Democratic field and keeps the nation waiting. Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the outspoken officer twice-passed over for promotion, made the list because of his willingness to challenge the military’s conventional thinking. He will soon take over the Army’s command focused on designing the service’s future.

Here is the full list of politicos and the authors of the profiles:

California Gov. Jerry Brown by former California Gov. Gray Davis

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by Malala Yousafzai

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) by former New York Sen. Alfonse D’Amato

Attorney General Eric Holder by Rep. John Lewis

Secretary of State John Kerry by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

David and Charles Koch by Karl Rove

Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster by Lt. Gen. Dave Barno (Ret.)

President Barack Obama by Joe Klein

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Edward Snowden by Daniel Domscheit-Berg

Tom Steyer by former Vice President Al Gore

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen by International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde

Military

Chelsea Manning: Not the Only Military Name Change

With a stroke of his pen, President Harry Truman finished changing the name of the Department of War to the Department of Defense in 1949. Truman Library

The Pentagon has long replaced names it doesn't like

A Kansas judge on Wednesday allowed Bradley Manning to change the imprisoned Army private’s name to Chelsea Manning. “It’s a far better, richer, and more honest reflection of who I am and always have been—a woman named Chelsea,” Manning said in a statement on ChelseaManning.org.

The name change shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has spent time in or around the U.S. military. The Department of Defense has been known to erase one name in favor of another when it has suited its purposes—and it didn’t need a judge’s approval to do it.

The Army said Leavenworth County District Judge David King‘s ruling is “only a name change” and won’t change Manning’s status. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence at the Army’s all-male Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks in Kansas, for leaking 700,000 classified documents to Wikileaks before his arrest in Iraq in 2010.

War always generates an often-foul ground-pounders’ patois, but it’s the top-down rebranding that’s of interest following the Manning case.

For starters, the Department of Defense was known as the Department of War until 1947, when the newly-created (and named) Air Force, along with the Army, gathered under the same roof for the first time with the Navy (the new outfit was known as the National Military Establishment until 1949).

War has always had, not to put to fine a point on it, a specific and violent meaning. With the end of World War II—and the beginning of the Cold War—the U.S. government found itself needing a standing Army for the first time in its history. Replacing War with Defense made the change more palatable.

The Pentagon tends to embrace words that make war seem antiseptic: exploding bullets, bombs and missiles have become kinetic, which is the Pentagon’s preferred way of saying bloody. “When you fire a kinetic weapon, it blows something up—you can see the effect,” Mark Lewellyn of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, explained to Congress last year. “With some of the non-kinetic weapons you don’t really know what effect you’ve had until either the weapon from the other side doesn’t show up or it misbehaves.” Non-kinetic weapons include forms of electronic warfare that disable while not destroying (at least in a physical sense).

Along the same lines, over the past generation, civilian casualties have become collateral damage. When the Obama Administration was weighing military action against Syria last year for its alleged use of chemical weapons, a congressman voiced concern that “the possibility of civilian casualties could be very great” to Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Well,” Dempsey responded, “the targeting requirements actually, as given to me by the president, require us to achieve a collateral damage estimate of low.” Doesn’t hurt quite as much, rhetorically, when stated like that.

In 2010, the Pentagon opted to replace the term Psychological Operations with Military Information Support Operations, which went over like lead leaflets for the psyop troops charged with airdropping them on Afghans and Iraqis far below. But psyops—with its connotations of deception and other black arts—was deemed so tainted that U.S. commanders were leery of working with its proponents.

“Although PSYOP activities rely on truthful information, credibly conveyed, the term ‘PSYOP’ tends to connote propaganda, manipulation, brainwashing and deceit,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote in 2010, according to the National Journal. “As a result, a wide range of military-information related activities and capabilities have become tarnished by the term.”

One of the late comedian George Carlin’s wryest bits was the evolution of World War I’s shell shock to World War II’s battle fatigue. The nervous malady wrought by combat became operational exhaustion in Korea, and post-traumatic stress disorder in Vietnam.

“The pain,” Carlin said of the changing nomenclature, “is completely buried under jargon.”

justice

Low-Level Drug Convicts Get New Route to Ask Obama For Clemency

The Obama Administration opens a door for non-violent drug offenders to reduce their sentences

Non-violent federal inmates who have served at least 10 years of their prison term are eligible to participate in a new initiative to send more clemency requests to President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The Obama Administration has been working for years to reduce the sentencing disparities between convictions for crack cocaine and powder cocaine, but sentencing legislation updated in 2010 was not made retroactive. Obama recently granted commutations to eight crack-cocaine offenders who were serving lengthy sentences, but there are thousands more in similar positions, some of who are expected to qualify under the expanded criteria for clemency announced Wednesday. Under the 2014 Clemency Initiative, non-violent, low-level, federal prisoners who would have received a lower sentence if convicted today and have served 10 years in prison with good conduct can be identified and seek clemency through the Bureau of Prisons, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said.

“These defendants were properly held accountable for their criminal conduct,” Cole said. “However, some of them, simply because of the operation of sentencing laws on the books at the time, received substantial sentences that are disproportionate to what they would receive today.

Officials said the new initiative will streamline the process of clemency requests and identify more candidates for Obama to consider. They said the initiative will keep public safety in mind, reiterating that clemency does not mean prisoners are being pardoned for their crimes. “Even low-level offenders cause harm to people through their criminal actions, and many need to be incarcerated,” Cole said.

A number of pro-bono lawyers and organizations, including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union have also agreed to work with prisoners who fit the criteria and request legal assistance. The groups praised the administration’s shift on sentencing, while noting there are many other federal inmates whose sentences are disproportionate to their crimes.

“The doors of the Office of the Pardon Attorney have been closed to petitioners for too long,” said Mary Price, FAMM General Counsel. “This announcement signals a truly welcome change; the culture of ‘no’ that has dominated that office is being transformed. We stand ready to assist in any way we can to support petitioners and bring their cases to the attention of the President.”

2014 Election

The Republican Woman Loses, Again

Lizbeth Benacquisto
Lizbeth Benacquisto, facing, hugs supporters after losing to opponent Curt Clawson in the special Congressional District 19 Republican primary during her election night party in Fort Myers, Fla., on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. AP Photo/Naples Daily News, Carolina Hidalgo

It's starting to look like the GOP won't have many female candidates left standing by November

Voters in a Florida congressional district went to the polls Tuesday to elect a new representative following Trey Radel’s resignation this year after pleading guilty to cocaine possession. The winner was millionaire businessman and Tea Party darling Curt Clawson, who self-funded his campaign to the tune of $2.65 million. But the story of who won isn’t much of a surprise: A rich, white Tea Partier is not a new breed in Washington these days. It’s the story of who lost that’s more telling for the GOP: Florida state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto.

Benacquisto was the establishment favorite for the seat and had the most political experience by far. Her supporters in Tallahassee spent almost $300,000 in Super PAC money to help get her elected and she received money from Republican Reps. Aaron Schock and Jason Chaffetz. Not to mention former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin came and campaigned for her.

But while she raised almost $1 million in less than three months, Benacquisto couldn’t compete with Clawson’s self-funding. Nor could she keep pace with the nastiness of the special election.

During a midterm election cycle in which establishment candidates are generally beating back Tea Party challengers, it’s striking how many female House GOP candidates have lost primaries or are trailing in both polls and in fundraising. In statewide elections this year, Republicans have succeeded in attracting a host of qualified women who are running strong campaigns. But House candidates continue to lag. To date, House Republicans have 33% less women running this cycle than in 2012.

Theoretically, Benacquisto should have gotten help from Project GROW, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s push announced last year to help elect women. But that program has done little since failing to help Kathleen Peters, a Florida lawmaker, win a primary in another special election earlier this year. And the NRCC’s director of strategic initiatives and coalitions, Bettina Inclan, who ran Project GROW, made a rare mid-cycle jump from the NRCC earlier this month to a Florida consulting firm. Jessica Furth Johnson, the NRCC’s deputy executive director and general counsel, has taken over running to program, according to NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek.

As I wrote earlier this week in a story about another neglected female House candidate, highly qualified Republican women are struggling to break through in House races this cycle. Female lawmakers on the state level tend to be more moderate and thus have a harder time competing in highly gerrymandered districts where primaries favor the most conservative candidate. And even if they are as conservative, women candidates also tend to be less bombastic, making it tough to break through on a rhetorical level. “The NRCC doesn’t endorse candidates in primaries,” Bozek says. “We work with all candidates in competitive races put together strong campaigns.”

At this rate, there won’t be many Republican women left standing come November.

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