* Kevin Drum offers an easy-to-understand list of bullet points laying out what has happened to the V.A. over the last couple of decades, to get you up to speed.
* And if you want to see a chart of how the V.A.’s budget has grown since the 1960s, I’ve got you covered over at the American Prospect.
* Brian Beutler reports that Republicans think the V.A. scandal will undermine trust in government, which might be true if privatizing veterans’ health care were popular. It isn’t.
* An important moment here: Univision’s Jorge Ramos showed up at a John Boehner press conference and confronted the Speaker on immigration reform, asking the obvious question: why, if Boehner wants reform as he says, won’t he bring a bill up for a vote?
“You can do it. You haven’t done it,” Ramos said. “You can do it, Mr. Speaker. You can do it and you really haven’t done it.” Boehner replied, “I appreciate your opinion. Thank you.” Still no action, though.
* And Fernando Espuelas brings us the latest edition of Boehner’s ongoing “can’t trust Obama” excuse for refusing to act on immigration, and makes short work of it indeed.
* Last July, an amendment to cut off funding for the NSA’s telephone record collection program failed in the House in a surprisingly close vote. Today, the House passed a bill approved by GOP leaders and the White House, imposing some modest limits on the program, a suggestion the left-right civil liberties alliance on the NSA is getting some results.
* David Barron got confirmed by the Senate for an appeals court judgeship after the administration agreed to release his drone memo. That hasn’t happened yet, and when it does, it will be time for another big debate about the drone program. This isn’t going away.
* Reality check of the day for Dems, from Alan Abramowitz, who notes that Senate elections have become more nationalized in recent years, with voters’ opinions about the president more and more likely to line up with their Senate choices. In 2012:
Ninety percent of voters who approved of President Obama’s job performance voted for a Democratic Senate candidate while 82% of voters who disapproved of the president’s performance voted for a Republican Senate candidate.
This doesn’t bode well for Democrats’ prospects in red states like Kentucky and Georgia.
* So if you’re one of those candidates, you may spend the next six months putting as much distance between yourself and Obama as possible. Which may partly explain why Alison Lundergan Grimes today got out of the box quickly to call for VA secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.
* A group of conservative writers is getting attention for a new, 121-page document laying out conservative reform ideas. But when Ed Kilgore went to the web site, he found this quote from Jonah Goldberg: “You constantly hear about how conservatives have no ideas. The best thing about this book is you can slap the people who say such things with it. A close second: They can read it to discover how wrong they are.” Kilgore comments:
That tells you a lot about the political fears of these “reformers.” A tome intended to convince their big dumb party to be smarter is marketed to its audience as an insult to liberals and a confirmation that conservatives have been brainy all along. Guess that’s the sweetener to help make the castor oil of positive governing ideas go down a bit more easily.
And it does make you wonder why that’s the audience they think they have to appeal to.
* Michigan Republican Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land is still getting heat over her claims about her grandparent’s motel and trailer park, which she bulldozed to make room for a development project.
* Harold Meyerson highlights a new study showing that areas with the highest minimum wage are often the ones with the highest job growth, in contradiction to the claims of opponents of raising the minimum.
* Francis Wilkinson looks at the way “open-carry” advocates are turning fast-food joints into ideological battlefields:
While all this effort is unlikely to produce converts to the open-carry cause, it does force business proprietors — and basically everyone else — to choose sides. In other words, it polarizes. “If we’re not welcome, we’re not going to spend money there.” Like Starbucks, Chipotle chose — at gunpoint — to align itself with contemporary American culture, not an imagined one of freedom-loving frontier days. Even Chick-fil-A, a one-time cultural hero on the right, seems to be moving in the same direction.
The wave of open-carry gun demonstrations are not so much assertions of rights as militarized renditions of “Which Side Are You On?” The gun guys have now forced Starbucks and Chipotle to show their colors. There will be no caramel Frappuccinos or burrito bowls behind the barricades.
If you’re trying to convince people that you aren’t a bunch of crazy, dangerous nutballs, maybe bringing your AR-15 down to the Chipotle as an assertion of your “rights” is not the best way to do it.
* And today’s edition of the Darrell Issa follies, courtesy of Steve Benen: Despite the new Benghazi committee, Issa is still at it, releasing documents he think will indict the White House, but actually reinforce what the White House says. Perhaps this sort of thing helps explain why Issa was shoved aside?