Browsing the archives for the Republican Party category.


Who Wants to Vote for “Electable” Jeb?

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Republican Party

The GOP establishment has settled on Jeb Bush as the “electable” candidate to carry the Republican banner in 2016. The problem with this theory is that it’s hard to find people who want to vote for him.

Josh Kraushaar of National Journal writes that the Republican elite and the Republican base are not exactly on the same page.

But there are signs that a worst-case, crash-and-burn scenario for Bush is more realistic than even his skeptics recognize. He’s underperforming in early public polls and is receiving a frosty reception from Republican focus groups. His entitled biography is at odds with the Republican Party’s increasing energy from working-class voters, who relate best with candidates who have struggled to make ends meet. The Bush name is a reminder of the past at a time when GOP voters are desperate for new faces. And after losing two straight presidential elections, Republican voters are thinking much more strategically—and aren’t nearly as convinced as the political press that Bush is the strongest contender against Hillary Clinton.

It would be foolish to over-read the results of focus groups, but it’s equally egregious to ignore their findings—especially given that they’re paired with polls that show Bush’s candidacy a tough sell among voters. Last week, Bloomberg and Purple Strategies cosponsored a New Hampshire panel of 10 Republicans, most of whom were hostile to a Bush presidential bid. “I know enough to know I don’t need to keep voting for a Bush over and over again,” one participant said. Several laughed at the notion that he’s the front-runner. Not a single one said they’d support him for president.

The article goes on in this vein for a while. The Bush campaign people have decided that the public just doesn’t know enough about their boy yet. Somehow I don’t think that’s their problem.

Jeb’s entire sales pitch is that he’s the most electable candidate in a general election. Ed Kilgore writes,

The line about voters not buying Bush’s electability argument is especially important, and one I’m not sure anybody’s adequately made before Kraushaar’s column. Electability is supposed to be the Republican Establishment’s ace-in-the-hole, the argument carefully conveyed over time that wears down “the base’s” natural desire for a True Conservative fire-breather. In your head you know he’s right is the not-so-subtle message. But Jeb’s electability credentials are as baffling to regular GOP voters as they are obvious and unimpeachable to elites. …

… Looking at it more generally, the jury is out as to whether the appropriate precedent for Jeb is somebody like Mitt Romney, who gradually won over intraparty skeptics by dint of money, opportunism, and a ruthless ability to exploit rivals’ vulnerability, or somebody like Rudy Giuliani, a guy who looked great until actual voters weighed in. And even that contrast may not capture Jeb’s problem: Rudy did well in early polls.

And then there’s this:

Fearing that Republicans will ultimately nominate an establishment presidential candidate like Jeb Bush, leaders of the nation’s Christian right have mounted an ambitious effort to coalesce their support behind a single social-conservative contender months before the first primary votes are cast.

In secret straw polls and exclusive meetings from Iowa to California, the leaders are weighing the relative appeal and liabilities of potential standard-bearers like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and the former governors Rick Perry, of Texas, and Mike Huckabee, of Arkansas.

“There’s a shared desire to come behind a candidate,” said Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, a national lobbying group that opposes abortion and equal rights for gays.

There was a time that the Christian right would dutifully support whatever the Republicans told them to support, including Jeb’s little brother. I take it those days are gone.

And Jeb can’t even count on his brother’s friends, the neocons.

Aren’t GOP presidential politics just great? You wake up one morning and suddenly Jeb Bush is the “anti-Israel candidate” in the Republican presidential primary field.

And this is because Jeb occasionally talks to James Baker, and James Baker is no fan of Benjamin Netanyahu. And of course it’s blasphemy on the Right these days to declare anything less than total unquestioning loyalty to Benjamin Netanyahu.

This is not to say Jeb can’t pull it off. His competition doesn’t even rise to the level of clowns; they’re more like punch lines in a lame stand-up act. A lot of insiders will still back him. He will have an endless pool of money. The media will treat him very kindly.

And then there’s this — while declaring that he is “his own man” he’s already holding fundraisers with his former President brother.  Oh, wait …

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Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh

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American History, Republican Party

Well, it’s move-in day at the Zen Center (ZCNYC-Fire Lotus Temple). Exactly how long I’m going to be there is up in the air. My intention is to stay at least six months and possibly a year, but we’ll see how it goes. And where I go after that I have no idea.

Anyway, some brief comments — Tom Cotton has learned that Iran is expanding its reach in the Middle East and already controls Tehran. He’s a quick one, our Tom. See also Jeb Lund, “None Dare Call It Treason: Tom Cotton, Iran and Old GOP Ideas.”

The CPAC conference room was standing-room only, stuffy with faint sweat, hot worsted wool and heavy breathing for boilerplate comments you could have predicted before you crossed the threshold. Cotton – who looks appropriately like Anthony Perkins in Psycho – proudly likened America to Rome, an empire that slowly tore itself apart over for-profit foreign wars, external threats leveraged to drown out domestic discontent, revenue diverted from infrastructure. Listeners murmured approvingly. Cotton asserted the need to send America to war to “defend its national interests” against “trans-national terrorist groups.” By his utterly meaningless definitions, we need to fight anyone, and we need to do it anywhere, and it is our right. A thrill went through the audience.

IMO it’s important to understand neocons and other reactionary hawks as pro-active isolationists. Oldstyle isolationists just wanted the outside world to stay out, and maybe go away. Pro-active isolationists will not rest until anything “outside” has been either forced into assimilation or destroyed. They’re something like the Borg, in other words.

Lund goes on to review the history of right-wing obstruction of U.S. foreign policy interests, from the 1930s Neutrality Acts to Richard Nixon’s sabotage of Lyndon Johnson’s attempt to negotiate a peace in Vietnam. And there is a review of Iran-Contra and the lie campaign that stampeded America into invading Iraq. And the fact that nobody ever is held accountable for any of this, and indeed, most of the voting public doesn’t really understand what was done, anyway.  Lund concludes,

In its Constitutional idolatry and boundless bellicosity, Cotton’s Republican Party has arrogated to itself the presumption that anything it does is explicitly American. The normative conditions of patriotism are whatever they want to do at any given moment, because only they have the courage to defend you from enemies abroad with guns and enemies at home via a fundamentalist reading of the texts and hadith of Our Founding Prophets (which, conveniently, also mentions guns). Anything outside their chosen agenda is met with the word no, which is the finest distillation of their agenda for anyone other than their own.

This prospective nuclear deal with Iran merely creates a shredded barbecue plate of corpses and the idea of America as commonwealth of disparate voices represented in equal strength. Government is not allowed to function when it disagrees with Cotton, because he not only considers government’s existence indivisible from his ideology but also because the Constitution in his reading explicitly demands that he do this. You cannot chasten a man who believes by the word of his holiest texts that this is his job. And his job, as written, is to advise and consent. On Iran, his message is clear. His advice is to stop, and you do not have his consent, which reifies not only the illegitimacy of your actions but the holy writ of his own. Without his consent, you cannot have anything at all, except a potential nuclear clash of messianic visions of world order. In which case – to quote the previous president’s nuanced address to the same enemies foreign and domestic – bring it on.

It’s also election day in Israel, and while Netenyahu’s Likud party is likely to lose he likely will be able to put together a coalition that will allow him to keep his position as Prime Minister. A pity.

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Cotton Comes to Harmin’

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Congress, Middle East, Obama Administration, Republican Party

Japan had the 47 Ronin; we have the #47Traitors, currently the number one hashtag on Twitter. Heh. I do acknowledge that the 47 didn’t actually commit treason by U.S. standards; they were basically just being assholes. The Logan Act is another matter, of course, but an exceedingly fuzzy one.

Anyhoo, possibly the most delicious thing I read today was the response from Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Javad Zarif, who felt called upon to explain the U.S. Constitution and international law to the infamous 47.

Zarif expressed astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration. He pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.

Foreign Minister Zarif added that “I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfill the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.

The Iranian Foreign Minister added that “Change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran`s peaceful nuclear program.” He continued “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.

Of course, the #47Traitors don’t consider the Obama Administration to be the legitimate executive branch of the government, so this will have been lost on them. But how can some foreigner presume to speak for the “nuances” of the United States Constitution?  Wikipedia:

Zarif attended Drew College Preparatory School, a private college-preparatory high school located in San Francisco, California. He went on to study at San Francisco State University, from which he gained a BA in International Relations in 1981 and an MA in the same subject in 1982. Following this, Zarif continued his studies at the Graduate School of International Studies (now named the Josef Korbel School of International Studies) at the University of Denver, from which he obtained a second MA in International Relations in 1984 and this was followed by a PhD in International Law and Policy in 1988. His thesis was entitled: “Self-Defense in International Law and Policy”.

Oh, that’s how. He also represented Iran in the United Nations for a few years, so he’s spent quite a lot of time here.

At the New York Times, Rita from California wrote in a comment,

The letter is quite strange. It has kind of a chatty, juvenile tone to it – much like a gang of middle school kids suggesting to a star football player that he is making a mistake by hanging around the wrong crowd. May I paraphrase: “We just wanted to let you know that you are dealing with the wrong person. You really should be talking to us because “WE” are the “cool kids”. Clearly not the type of letter written by those serious about international relations.

Did these 47 Senators honestly think that the Iranian government is so benighted that it was not aware of the workings of the U.S. government or the politics at work in the US? Are these Senators really so ignorant of the world?

I love that; “We really should be making all the decisions because ‘WE’ are the ‘cool kids'” kind of sums up the GOP vibe, don’t you think? Well, that plus big doses of resentment and grievances to go with the entitlement.

Also in the New York Times:

But the senators’ suggestion that international political commitments made by presidents can and should be easily overturned — and therefore by implication have no value — is at odds with tradition, American security interests and good sense. Every president has negotiated scores of agreements with foreign governments that have not required congressional approval and sometimes, not even congressional review. These include last year’s security agreement with Afghanistan, the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime which aims to limit the spread of ballistic missiles and — oh yes — the 2013 interim agreement with Iran that has already substantially curbed the country’s ability to make nuclear fuel.

Oh, wait, who was President in 1987, again? I know it’ll come to me …

Charles Pierce has been going to town, so to speak, on the subject of ringleader Tom Cotton. One, Cotton made the Bush Administration disappear. Then read How Tom Cotton Runs the Nation.

I know I missed it on election night back in November, but it seems that 478,819 citizens of the state of Arkansas voted themselves in control of the foreign policy of the United States. They determined in ensemble fashion to visit upon the Senate—and, thereby, the country—the genius of Tom Cotton, who decided over the weekend on his own to lecture the government of Iran on How America Works—and, in fact, to lecture the government of Iran how it should work, for that matter. Put not your trust in Kenyan Usurpers, Tom cautioned the mullahs, for nothing is forever.

Cotton stands revealed as a true fanatic. He’s stalwart in his convictions as regards things about which he knows exactly dick. What he and practically every Republican in the Senate did was nothing short of a slow-motion, partial coup d’etat. It was not quite treason, and it was not quite a violation of the Logan Act, no matter how dearly some of us might wish it was. (Imagine the howls if the Justice Department actually inquired into that possibility, which it certainly has a right to do. Lindsey Graham might never rise from the fainting couch.) But it stands in history with Richard Nixon’s grotesque sabotage of the Paris Peace Talks in 1968 and with whatever it was that the Reagan campaign did to monkeywrench the possible release of the American hostages from their captivity in Iran in 1980. It is an act of unconscionable and perilous presumption, reckless at its base and heedless of eventual consequences.

Possibly the best part of Cotton’s move is that he has pretty much killed any chance Senate Republicans could get enough crossover Democratic support in an effort to put restrictions on President Obama’s efforts to reach a deal with Iran. Before Cotton pulled this stunt, there were a number of Dem Senators (and I’m looking at you, Chuck) who might have helped the Republicans keep war on the table. Right now about any Dem senator who dares stand with Republicans on this matter risks being laughed, if not drummed, out of the Party. This week, anyway.

Way to go, T.C.

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Jersey Boys

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Republican Party

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez is facing corruption charges that he accepted gifts from a political benefactor in exchange for favors. Corruption is something of a New Jersey tradition, of course, right up there with the Jersey Shore Food Truck Festival and Atlantic City mobsters. But, frankly, the charges against Menendez are small potatoes — in the form of Boardwalk Fries — compared to what it appears Gov. Chris “Hindenburg” Christie is trying to pull.

Here’s the background. For over a decade, New Jersey had been embroiled in a battle with Exxon Mobil over the contamination and loss of use of more than 1,500 acres of public land in the northern part of the state. The company was found liable several years ago, but the amount of damages and cleanup costs it owed had not yet been determined.

Expert witnesses for the state ballparked the total figure at $8.9 billion, and a judge was expected to rule on the final number soon. But then, this month, the state’s lawyers swooped in and decided to settle for a mere $225 million, not including undisclosed cleanup costs.

You will never guess why the state’s lawyers did such a thing. Oh, wait, you did guess.

Most of the coverage of the peculiarly low settlement has emphasized Exxon Mobil’s generous donations to the Republican Governors Association. The company gave hundreds of thousands of dollars last year, while Christie was its chair and the case was in trial; suspicions about a tacit tit-for-tat don’t seem unwarranted.

But there’s more!

Christie’s crowning achievement as governor of the Garden State has supposedly been balancing the budget without raising taxes. He’s even managed to reduce corporate taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars annually. But he’s primarily accomplished these goals through accounting tricks, raiding rainy-day funds and other shortsighted gimmicks. He has, in other words, sold off the state’s future to preserve the fiction of his fiscal responsibility.

These environmental settlements are no exception.

Historically, under state law, money received from environmental settlements has to be used on environmental efforts. But last year the Christie administration snuck some language into the state budget that effectively overrode this. For this fiscal year — and potentially this fiscal year only — the first $50 million of any environmental settlement will go toward environmental programs; anything above that can be diverted to plug holes in the state’s general fund.

You really have to read Brian Murphy’s bit at Talking Points Memo to take in the breadth of the whole thing and get just a glimpse of the many layers of kickbacks and quid pro quo going on here, and not limited to Christie himself. And it’s probably not even limited to Republicans. You’ll remember how the state Democratic party effectively stood aside and let Christie take the 2014 election without a fight. Now those same Dems in the state legislature are making much noise about investigations, but I question whether they mean it.

See also Charles Pierce.

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Does the GOP Fear the Fallout from King v. Burwell? (Updated)

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Congress, Health Care, Obama Administration, Republican Party, Supreme Court

SCOTUS will hear the King v. Burwell case on March 4. This is the case in which it is alleged that states that did not set up their own exchanges under the Affordable Care Act cannot offer federal subsidies to people buying insurance through the federal exchange. The New York Times editorial board says of this,

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in one of the most anticipated cases of the term: King v. Burwell, a marvel of reverse-engineered legal absurdity that, if successful, will tear a huge hole in the Affordable Care Act and eliminate health insurance for millions of lower-income Americans — exactly the opposite of what the law was passed to do.

Even an idiot ought to be able to understand that the primary point of the exchanges is to facilitate people buying individual health policies that can be subsidized. I suspect even some Republicans realize this.

The suit is based on one ambiguously worded sentence in the ACA. In a subsection of the law dealing with tax credits, the ACA describes exchanges “established by the states.” The authors of the bill say this was a vestige of the original assumption that the states would set up their own exchanges. It wasn’t anticipated that so many would refuse to do so. But the Burwell challenge hangs on  those four words — established by the states.

The challengers did not innocently happen upon these words; they went all out in search of anything that might be used to gut the law they had failed to kill off once before, on constitutional grounds, in 2012. Soon after the law passed in 2010, Michael Greve, then chairman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is helping to finance the current suit, said, “This bastard has to be killed as a matter of political hygiene. I do not care how this is done, whether it’s dismembered, whether we drive a stake through its heart, whether we tar and feather it and drive it out of town, whether we strangle it.”

After the challengers found the four-word “glitch,” as they initially called it, they worked backward to fabricate a story that would make it sound intentional. Congress, they claimed, sought to induce states to establish exchanges by threatening a loss of subsidies if they did not. (Not coincidentally, the challengers also traveled state to state urging officials not to set up exchanges, thus helping to create the very “crisis” they now decry.) Of course, if Congress intended to introduce a suicide clause into a major piece of federal legislation, it would have shouted it from the mountaintops and not hidden it in a short phrase deep inside a sub-sub-subsection of the law. So it is no surprise that no one involved in passing or interpreting the law — not state or federal lawmakers, not health care journalists covering it at the time, not even the four justices who dissented in the 2012 decision that upheld the Affordable Care Act — thought that the subsidies would not be available on federal exchanges.

So, the purpose of Burwell is to kill Obamacare, and if SCOTUS decides for the plaintiffs, it might very well succeed. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that if the states without their own exchanges lose subsidies, 13,402,890 Americans who ought to be insured by 2016 will lose out. And the entire law could quickly unravel for everyone, as the health insurance industry is thrown into chaos. I understand roughly 9 million people would lose their insurance almost immediately.

The immediate fallout from a decision for the ACA challengers would, therefore, be chaos and devastation, and the long-term consequences potentially even worse. The ripple affect could impact just about everybody, and probably not in a good way.

 This past week Republicans in Congress seemed almost frantic in demanding the Obama Administration reveal their “Plan B” to the world. What will they do to save the ACA if the subsidies are struck down in so many states? And the Administration has said, over and over, there is no Plan B. If the subsidies are lost, there’s not a whole lot that can be done to salvage anything.

But rightie media are not accepting this. The Administration is hiding Plan B. HHS denies it is preparing Plan B. The Administration won’t say it is preparing Plan B. (Actually, it plainly says there isn’t one and none are in the works.) But there must be a Plan B! How could there not be a Plan B? Of course there is a Plan B, and congressional Republicans demand to know what it is.

Smart money says all this posturing is trying to signal the Court that the actual fallout of a decision for the challengers wouldn’t really be that bad; the Administration has a Plan B! Also, when the dominoes start crashing and people find themselves cut off from health care again, they are prepared to point to the White House — See? They should have had a Plan B. It’s their fault.

Republicans also have proposed a Plan B, although no one who knows anything about health care insurance thinks it will work. And a whopping majority — 64 percent — of Americans think that if SCOTUS rules against the subsidies, Congress immediately should step up and reinstate them. Which Republicans in Congress have no intention of doing.

Which makes me think that at least a few Republicans are genuinely nervous that a ruling in their favor could bite them, hard. Deep down, a few of the less demented among them may really want the White House to jump in with a Plan B and save their butts.

Update: Here’s something interesting — a GOP senator is proposing that if the subsidies are struck down, Congress should extend them for 18 months.

The loss of subsidies for millions of people would also put the Obama administration on the offense for the first time to protect its signature healthcare law.

A White House crusade against the GOP would mean a firestorm of accusations that the party is taking away care and endangering lives  – building up for the 2016 election.

To avoid that situation, some Republicans are floating a stopgap that would keep the subsidies in place temporarily.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) promised this week that he would introduce legislation that creates a “temporary model to protect those harmed by ObamaCare” in which people could still receive financial help for their healthcare costs for 18 months after a court decision.

Startin’ to sweat a bit there, dude?

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hinted at a similar proposal earlier in the week, promising “a short-term solution” until a Republican can enter the White House.

By some coincidence, 18 months from the likely date of the decision — end of June, 2015 — would possibly take us just past the 2016 elections.

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The GOP Tryouts, Self-Absorption Edition

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Republican Party

Apparently Chris Christie thinks the world owes him a presidential nomination.

He does not return phone calls. He does not ask for support. He arrives late for meetings. And he acts as if he has all the time in the world.

The complaints have piled up for weeks, dismaying many longtime supporters of Gov.Chris Christie of New Jersey and sending others into the arms of his rivals for the presidential nomination, according to interviews with more than two dozen Republican donors and strategists. …

“He’s a very popular figure, but he’s made a mistake by not creating the necessary momentum for the kind of national organization you need to be successful,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a New York hedge fund manager who is now backing Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. “He’s not touching enough people. And I think this is a classic rookie mistake.”

Friends say Mr. Christie is both understaffed and too controlling. They also say he is convinced that his raw talent and charisma can overcome the political obstacles in his way. Thomas H. Kean, a former governor of New Jersey and Mr. Christie’s onetime mentor, with whom he mended fences after a public break, said Mr. Christie had “gotten in the habit of kind of doing everything himself.”

“You can’t do that in a presidential campaign,” Mr. Kean said.

Especially since Christie would be challenged to win his own state in a presidential general election, his overconfidence would be puzzling. Would be, that is, until you consider his competition.

According to a CNN/ORC Poll taken February 12-15, the Republican field currently ranks in this order, top to bottom: Mike Huckabee (seriously?), Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Chris Christie or None (tie), Marco Rubio, and Someone Else. Then there’s a four-way tie among Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Unsure. Then comes John Kasich, and finally scraping the bottom at 1 percent each are Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham and Carly Fiorina. Note that Bush and Christie were numbers one and two a month ago. Make of that what you will.

Speaking of mutts, Charles Pierce comments on Scott Walker:

By his works shall ye know him, and by his budget shall ye know Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, and current frontrunner in the Premature Nonsense Primary portion of the 2016 Republican nominating process. Where it is not actively hostile to the interests of anyone except his state’s plutocrats and out-of-state mining interests, there is in the budget a low-running contempt for the concept of the government’s obligation to do much of anything except protect the wealth of the wealthy and throw the right people in jail. His idea of “going big and bold” is to be petty and small-minded. His budget is a melange of childish vandalism, cut-rate empire building, and the construction of a Potemkin record for the consumption of oligarchical moneybags and hayshaking god-botherers in Iowa and elsewhere.

Pierce has the details.

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Failure Accomplished

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Republican Party

Paul Waldman asks if it’s too soon to declare the current Congress a failure.

In fairness, with a Democratic president there really isn’t much that a Republican Congress can achieve unless it’s willing to compromise, which this Congress isn’t. But after six years of waiting for the moment they’d take complete control, you’d think they’d have some kind of plan. If they do, it’s hard to discern how it’s supposed to work. Every conflict they have with the president only seems to make them look worse, and they seem to be lurching from day to day with no idea how to do anything but fall on their faces.

Ironically, the Republicans had a lot more power when they were in the minority than they do now. With a Democratic Congress, the administration set out an ambitious legislative agenda, which Republicans were able to obstruct and subvert as long as they stayed unified, which they did very well. But once they took control, the administration all but gave up on legislating (apart from unavoidable tasks like passing budgets to keep the government open), which leaves Republicans with no fights to wage apart from the meaningless ones they manage to concoct on their own. And they can’t even figure out how to win those. Winning Congress has put Republicans in a position where they have little choice other than to make things worse.

The box they’ve put themselves in is that they can’t actually do anything. Even if they were capable of doing something, they can’t allow themselves to do it. The few things they might be able to do, like approve the XL pipeline, will be vetoed, and anything that wouldn’t be vetoed would probably get them in hot water with the base. Waldman continues,

They could come to an agreement with President Obama on infrastructure spending, which everyone used to agree is absolutely necessary. They could make tough but realistic demands on the budget, and pass something that Obama will be willing to sign but still manages to move government’s priorities in the direction they’d like — even if tea partiers call it a betrayal, because tea partiers will call any compromise a betrayal. If the Supreme Court rules in their favor in King v. Burwell and takes insurance subsidies from millions of people, they could be ready with a plan to help them immediately, instead of just celebrating the fact that they successfully made so many Americans’ lives worse.

All that could happen. But based on their first month with control of Congress, does anyone think it will?

The health care issue more than any other reveals how hamstrung they are. They’ve been promising their own version of health care reform since the bleeping Clinton Administration. Where is it? The one halfway workable idea they came up with ended up becoming Obamacare, which they have sworn to destroy.

Recently the GOP announced it was creating a task force, headed by Paul Ryan, to come up with an alternative plan in case the SCOTUS screws with the subsidies. CNBC reported,

The GOP has been criticized for their continued opposition to President Barack Obama’s signature health law without offering a serious alternative to the program, which is credited with significantly reducing the number of uninsured Americans last year.

But the pending Supreme Court case, due to be argued in March, has spurred what could turn out to be serious action by Republicans.

But … but … but … for years they’ve been saying they do have an alternative plan. Lots of them, actually. Here on this very blog I have written about them. For example, I wrote about a plan back in 2009 that, remarkably, is a lot like their other plans. These plans largely are designed to provide talking points so they can fake having a plan. They survive scrutiny about as long as a Popsicle in July.

They’re in the same box regarding presidential politics. They may not allow themselves to address real issues or propose workable solutions, because it will piss off the base. Michael Tomasky wrote,

I finally sat myself down and watched that Scott Walker speech from last week that everyone is raving about. If this was the standout speech, I sure made the right decision in not subjecting myself to the rest of them. It was little more than a series of red-meat appetizers and entrees: Wisconsin defunded Planned Parenthood, said no to Obamacare, passed some kind of law against “frivolous” lawsuits, and moved to crack down on voter “fraud””—all of that besides, of course, his big move, busting the public-employee unions. There wasn’t a single concrete idea about addressing any of the major problems the country faces.

There’s lots of noise that Walker is the front runner this week.

He’s gained because those items— kicking Planned Parenthood, denying your own citizens subsidized health-care coverage, pretending that voter fraud is a thing—are what pass for ideas in today’s GOP. Walker is even more vacuous on foreign policy, as Martha Raddatz revealed yesterday, twisting him around like a pretzel with a couple of mildly tough questions on Syria. The Democratic Party has its problems, but at least Democrats are talking about middle-class wage stagnation, which is the country’s core economic quandary. Rick Santorum is, in fairness, but a) his solutions are the same ones conservatives have been advertising for years (lower taxes, less regulation, more two-parent families) and b) he’s not going anywhere in the polls so far, undoubtedly precisely because he’s trying to drop the homosexuality-is-bestiality shtick and talk about actual economic problems.

This vacuity works for them sometimes, especially when they can blame screwups on Democrats and OH LOOK MUSLIMS SHAIRA LAW MOSQUES BOOGA BOOGA. So, one can argue, they don’t need to accomplish anything; they just have to persuade enough voters that Democrats will take away their guns / give them cooties / hate Jesus. So we’ll see.

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GOP 2016: Preseason Tryouts

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Republican Party

So Mittens announced today that he wouldn’t be running for President. I’m actually sorry; I was so looking forward to seeing Mr. Privilege retool himself as a champion of the downtrodden. It would have been fun.

The  “I will not run” statement reveals a lot about the man. He has decided to magnanimously step aside and give “other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” even though he believes he had it in the bag:

Let me give you some of my thinking. First, I am convinced that with the help of the people on this call, we could win the nomination. Our finance calls made it clear that we would have enough funding to be more than competitive. With few exceptions, our field political leadership is ready and enthusiastic about a new race. And the reaction of Republican voters across the country was both surprising and heartening. I know that early poll numbers move up and down a great deal during a campaign, but we would have no doubt started in a strong position. One poll out just today shows me gaining support and leading the next closest contender by nearly two to one. I also am leading in all of the four early states. So I am convinced that we could win the nomination, but fully realize it would have been difficult test and a hard fight.

I also believe with the message of making the world safer, providing opportunity to every American regardless of the neighborhood they live in, and working to break the grip of poverty, I would have the best chance of beating the eventual Democrat nominee, but that is before the other contenders have had the opportunity to take their message to the voters.

In brief, I am the superior candidate, the one America wants and needs, the one who would most likely whip whatever the Democrats nominate, but I am stepping aside to let lesser men take a shot at it, because that’s the kind of guy I am.

Mark Halperin apparently had insider information, and his assessment doesn’t make Mittens look any better. Mittens thought  he ought to run, because by golly he would make a great President, and he felt downright obligated as a patriot to jump in there and take the White House and make America a better place. It was his duty. And he could win it this time, too; he just had to persuade a few more of the little folks that he really cares about them , too, in an abstract sort of way.

On the negative side, winning the nomination would be hard, because all those other GOP candidates will say unkind things about him, and in the meantime Hillary Clinton is going to take the Dem nomination in a cakewalk and will enter the general election unscathed. Not that he couldn’t beat her, of course, but it would be hard. He’d have to fight for it. And even though he is far and away the best man and the front runner for the GOP nomination, and he felt obligated to serve his country as head of it, because nobody but him understands how to do anything.  he might lose. So he quit.

Seriously; that’s what Halperin says of Mittens’s decision, in a lot more words. What a pathetic weenie.

Compare/contrast Crazy Bill Serman’s  “I will not accept if nominated, and will not serve if elected,” which were his actual words, not the “If nominated I will not run ….” thing. His troops called him Crazy Bill, but in fact Sherman was a man who had been through hell and seen and done hard things, and he was a man with few illusions. Pretty much the opposite of Mittens.

But if Mittens truly is out … and it wouldn’t surprise me if his faux noblesse oblige called him back into the Clown Car in a few months — we may luck out and get Lindsey Graham , who is exploring the possibility of running on his sterling record of — get this, children — foreign policy.

I know. Kind of takes your breath away, huh?

Simon Maloy reviews part of Sen. Graham’s record as a foreign policy genius at Salon. For some of the senator’s more recent geniius, see Maloy’s  America’s most terrified senator: Lindsey Graham’s never-ending doomsday visions from last September.

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Opposing Income Inequality Is the New Black

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elections, Mittens, Obama Administration, Republican Party

It was funny enough when Rick Santorum tried to rebrand himself as an economic populist. But you’ll never guess who’s getting on the “we are the 99 percent” bandwagon. Well, unless you’ve already read this.

Mitt Romney, sudden champion of Americans trying to make ends meet — it’s coming off to progressives and veterans of Obama’s winning re-election campaign as a little too rich.

The 2012 Republican nominee’s sudden return to presidential politics already had them dusting off old attack lines. His reinvention Friday night as an anti-poverty warrior has them in a frenzy of excitement, even glee at what they see as the Democratic Party’s stroke of good luck.

Yes, children, Mittens now fancies himself to be the Savior of the Downtrodden. This is something like making Ronald McDonald the poster boy for heart-healthy diets.
His message, or as much as I can glean from news stories, is this:
  • Mittens really cares about poor people. He knows this because his wife Ann says so.
“She knows my heart in a way that few people do,” he said. “She’s seen me not just as a business guy and a political guy, but for over 10 years as you know I served as a pastor for a congregation and for groups of congregations… She’s seen me work with folks that are looking for better work and jobs and providing care for the sick and the elderly. She knows where my heart is.”
  • Liberal policies haven’t worked. Of course they haven’t actually been tried for decades because they’ve been obstructed by conservatives, but let’s not quibble. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, and this must be Obama’s fault. The fact that the rich have been getting richer and the poor poorer since the Reagan Administration is water under the bridge.

“Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before,” Romney said. “Under this president, his policies have not worked. Their liberal policies are good every four years for a campaign, but they don’t get the job done.”

  •  Mittens has a plan, something bold and original that hasn’t been done before. He explained to Republican National Committee members,
“The only policies that will reach into the hearts of the American people and pull people out of poverty and break the cycle of poverty are Republican principles, conservative principles,” Romney said to no applause from the Republican crowd.
I’m sure they forgot to applaud because they were struck numb by the boldness of Romney’s plan. And maybe he could get Gov. Sam Brownback to serve as an economic policy adviser.

Snark aside, it appears income inequality is going to be a big issue in 2016. Hillary Clinton also has been making noise about it and trying to tie herself to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a long-time friend and alleged progressive. Opposing income inequality is the new black.

But hearing it from Romney, de Blasio said, is a sign that income inequality has really arrived as the defining issue of the 2016 campaign.

“This is on the minds of more and more people around the country, because income inequality is basically the touchstone of what we’re dealing with right now,” de Blasio said. “It is very telling that a guy who’s trying to find his way back to political relevance will grab onto it.”

It is telling, and it suggests the 2016 election campaigns will be a ton of fun. But if we end up with a HRC-Jeb Bush general election choice the terrorists will have won.
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The Results Are In: As Governor, Christie Sucks

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Republican Party

The economic recovery being enjoyed by most of the country has bypassed New Jersey.

Twenty-first century New Jersey is a state so disconnected from the national narrative of “recovery” it might as well be its own country. The fact that the major media has ignored this story for so long is a tribute to Governor Christie’s prowess as a great entertainer. Not since the arrival of the Great Pandas from China has the major media been so distracted by sideshow antics.

New Jersey is only one of three states where poverty has gone up according to the latest U.S. Census data. (New Mexico and Washington are the two others.) Back in 2007, 8.6 percent of the state lived below the poverty line. That went up to 9.4 percent in 2009 and in 2013 hit 11.4 percent.

New Jersey was positioned to be in better shape than this. I lived in NJ from 1983 to 2000. It had a healthy mix of industry, lots of corporate headquarters, lots of office operations that had moved from Manhattan to save expenses. A lot of consumer product companies had their product development operations in New Jersey, and there were labs doing more basic scientific research. And, of course, Manhattan is right there. Lots of people work in the City and live in New Jersey, and lots of companies used office space in New Jersey but could still do business in New York.

When Christie took office in 2010, of course the state had been smacked hard by the financial crisis. The population of the state had been shrinking slowly for some time, but before Christie took office this had turned into a regular diaspora. And one of his campaign promises was to stop the flow.

“People are leaving the state in droves, businesses are leaving this state in droves and taking their jobs with them. That’s why we have the worst unemployment rate in 33 years,” Christie charged.

Scroll forward six years, as Gov. Christie is set to give his second state of the state in his second term, and the exodus continues — and for good reason. According to United Van Lines’ annual analysis of national migration data, they booked 4,003 outbound moves from Jersey but posted only 2,169 incoming. 2014 was the fourth time in the last five years that New Jersey topped the nation for out migration according to United Van Lines.

Late last year a Monmouth University/ Asbury Park Press poll found that half of the New Jersey residents surveyed wanted to leave the state more than five years after Christie was first elected. In the survey of 802 adults 54 percent identified the state’s cost of living and tax burden as the primary driver for their desire to relocate.

Even worse, the people who are leaving are the high income earners. Most of the people who are left are ALICEs. Asset Limited, Income Constrained, but Employed. Between ALICEs and the unemployed, about 40 percent of the people of the state are struggling to meet basic living expenses. And while New Jersey is cheaper than Manhattan, and taxes are lower than New York’s (as I remember),  it’s still expensive compared to the rest of the country.

The Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) rail tunnel that Christie killed would have done the state a lot of good, not only making it easier for New Jersey residents to take jobs in Manhattan but also making it easier for New Yorkers to shop in New Jersey and take advantage of lower sales taxes. As I understand it, with ARC people could have gone directly from midtown to the malls in Secaucus, easy peasy. Now, getting into New Jersey from Manhattan to shop on a Saturday is a major headache. As I noted a few days ago,

The project would have eased overcrowding in Penn Station by building a new rail station at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue on the West Side of Manhattan, and it would have generated 5,700 construction jobs and 44,000 permanent jobs, and increased home values in towns that would now have one-seat service to Manhattan, the study noted.

… And keep in mind that New Jersey under Christie has had terrible job growth numbers. Under Christie, New Jersey jobs growth has been among the slowest in the nation. I’m pretty sure New Jersey beats Kansas, but not many other states. Most damning is that New Jersey has lagged way behind all its neighboring states in jobs growth, especially Delaware and New York.

Like a lot of Republican governors Christie had been trying to create jobs by handing out tax break packages to big corporations, to limited results, but as far as manufacturing is concerned NJ can’t compete with the South — too expensive — and the research labs and product development facilities have been drying up as well.  And these are trends that started long before Christie took office, but his administration did zilch to slow the hemorrhage. Surrounding states were hit with similar challenges, but none have failed to meet those challenges as spectacularly as New Jersey.

I remember in the 1990s — remember the Clinton Administration? — McMansions were sprouting in New Jersey like flowers in spring. According to the article, there are so many empty and abandoned properties that in some communities the city government has taken over maintaining lawns and at least making cosmetic repairs to abandoned homes so that entire neighborhoods don’t go to seed.

Way to go, Chris Christie.

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