Gubmint Shutdown

The Hillary Clinton Paradigm

Courtesy of the Rolling Stone, this is how it works:

You start with the assumption that Hillary Clinton is corrupt.

After all, there have been whispers and accusations and investigations and allegations and scandals with ominous names like WHITEWATER and BENGHAZI for years. Even if you can’t describe exactly what she’s done wrong, there must be something to all these stories, right?

And if she’s corrupt, then we definitely need to investigate her. Virtually everything she does is suspect. Any mistake she makes can’t simply be an accident or a lapse in judgment; there must be some criminal intent behind it. It doesn’t matter how many millions of taxpayer dollars or thousands of man-hours it takes in FBI investigations and congressional hearings. No price is too high.

And when you investigate endlessly, you find evidence. Emails and documents and memos and call logs and testimony. It adds up to thousands of pages, millions of words, piles of binders that make the perfect dramatic prop in a hearing room.

And we know all those documents must be suspicious. After all, they appeared because there was an investigation into corruption, so they must be evidence of something. Plus, there are just so darn many of them.

And with all that suspicious evidence, the conclusion is clear: Hillary Clinton is corrupt. And if she’s corrupt, we have to investigate her. And if we investigate her, we’ll uncover evidence. And if we find evidence, it must be suspicious. So she must be corrupt. So we have to investigate her.

And on and on it goes. For decades.

It’s also known as the Perjury Trap.  If you have enough investigations, then you can get her to testify under oath and maybe — just maybe — she’ll say something incorrect.  Doesn’t matter what: the weather, whatever.  Sure, maybe she was mistaken.  Or maybe her recollection is bad.  But if she is wrong, you can call it a LIE and maybe even PERJURY.  Then you can IMPEACH her.

This will be the next four years.

Short Takes

(1)  Trump likes to say that he is bringing enthusiasm to the GOP and people are voting in the Republican race in massive numbers, which means that Democrats should be worried about the general election.

Is he right?

He is not. As many have pointed out, voter turnout is an indication of the competitiveness of a primary contest, not of what will happen in the general election. The GOP presidential primary is more competitive than the Democratic race.  Historically, that has no bearing on the voter turnout, or the turnout of the parties, in the general election.

(2)  I get tired of journalists and pundits saying that “the people won’t understand” if Donald Trump goes into the GOP convention with the most votes, but doesn’t end up winning.   First of all, if that is true, then journalists and pundits need to explain the difference between a majority and a plurality, and that winning on the first vote requires a majority.  But more to the point, I think the people can understand the concept, and probably already do.  We need to stop being treated like we are idiots.  That’s how we GET candidates like Trump in the first place.

(3)  The attempt to suppress votes by Republicans in North Carolina seems to have worked.

(4)  I’m definitely the first to say this, but it is very very weird how Cruz has always been unpopular with Washington insiders, and he ran as being NOT a Washington insider, and now all the Washington insiders are trying to find a way to embrace him as the last resort to Trumpism.

(5) So if you are Hillary’s people, what is your attack point on Trump? Too conservative, or an unsteady unknown?  My sense is that you actually compliment Trump (say, in a debate) for a stance that conservatives hate (his kind words about Planned Parenthood, for example).  And then you bash him on his ignorance of the world, the Constitution, etc.  I don’t think you attack his temperament.  That seems to get people on his side.

(6) Some Republicans are caving on Mitch McConnell’s decision not to hold hearings:

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), one of just two Senate Republicans who have indicated an openness to even having a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, had a message for his GOP colleagues on Friday: give Garland a vote.

“We should go through the process the Constitution has already laid out. The president has already laid out a nominee who is from Chicagoland and for me, I’m open to see him, to talk to him, and ask him his views on the Constitution,” Kirk explained in a radio interview on WLS-AM’s Big John Howell Show.

 

Planned Parenthood, the Abortion Debate, and 2016 Elections

There is very little to recommend being over the age of 50, but one of the nice things is that it gives perspective and wisdom — the kind of experience that can’t be taught, but can only come from having lived several decades.

There is one thing I have learned – abortion rights are not going away.

notdifficultThat wasn’t always a certainty.  Roe v Wade was seriously challenged in the 1980s and 1990s, not only in the political arena, but also in the courts.  But that nadir of the conservative anti-abortion movement came in 1992, with the case of Casey vs. Planned Parenthood.  The Supreme Court was, like today, leaning conservative.  You had Scalia, you had Thomas, you had Alito, you had Rehnquist for crying out loud.  And they were handed, on a silver platter, a case in which Roe v Wade could have been overturned, or at least seriously curtailed.  The result was 5-4, with the conservatives losing.  The Casey case actually strengthened abortion rights.

Having lost in the legal arena, the anti-choice forces spent the next two decades challenging abortion in the political arena.  They have had some success there.  There was the Hyde Amendment, a legislative provision barring the use of certain federal funds to pay for abortion unless the pregnancy arises from incest, rape, or to save the life of the mother.  That was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993.  At the state and local levels, a hodgepodge of laws have restricted access to abortion through laws requiring waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds, and over-regulation of abortion clinics (like requiring wide hallways).  But abortion itself remains legal.

The recent attempt to defund Planned Parenthood is probably the strongest national push against abortion since the Hyde Amendment.  It is quite obviously punitive in nature — since the Hyde Amendment already restricts federal funds to go to Planned Parenthood for abortions, the current legislative push seeks to defund Planned Parenthood of federal funds for everything else they do (cancer screening, etc.).  And why?  Because they sell “baby parts”, which of course is a crass and not-altogether-honest way of saying that Planned Parenthood provides fetal tissue to medical research facilities in the hopes of curing disease.  Conservatives want to kill Planned Parenthood (the largest abortion provider) even if it means killing women’s health.

Of course, this dovetails nicely into the “war on women” meme.  And Hillary Clinton is right to pound Republicans on this.  This issue was a gift to her — she was sagging in the polls and Bernie Sanders has been making a serious play for the nomination (coming within 8 points of Hillary in New Hampshire).  Now she can talk about women’s health, and the Republican efforts to kill it.

I am perplexed as to why Republicans want this debate.  They seems to care more about two-celled zygotes than million-celled actual women.  After they lost the 2012 Presidential elections, they performed an autopsy of their failures, which included statements like this:

When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming.

If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues…

The RNC must improve its efforts to include female voters and promote women to leadership ranks within the committee. Additionally, when developing our Party’s message, women need to be part of this process to represent some of the unique concerns that female voters may have. There is growing unrest within the community of Republican women frustrated by the Party’s negative image among women, and the women who participated in our listening sessions contributed many constructive ideas of ways to improve our brand with women throughout the country and grow the ranks of influential female voices in the Republican Party.

But rather than do that, they seem to be doubling down on losing the women vote — going so far as to threaten a government shutdown.  At first I thought the talk of government shutdown was an empty threat, but maybe I am wrong.  Stan Collender at Forbes puts the odds of a government shutdown at 60% (up from his previous prediction of 40% ). Here’s his wonderfully descriptive way of saying what happened.

But the biggest change from last week in the odds of a government shutdown is because of the emergence of the one big thing that has been missing so far from the appropriations debate: a highly emotional, politically toxic and take-no-prisoners issue.

Even the front-runner in that contest right now – Donald Trump – declared his support for a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood. Any candidate who had doubts about whether or not a government shutdown would be good for their campaign will now have to weigh in with that in mind.  Also, we’ve already seen one example of a candidate making a mess of that when, in commenting about Planned Parenthood funding, Jeb Bush said yesterday that he was “not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” His campaign pretty immediately tried to walk that one back. Overall it’s very likely that, in order to win the GOP primary, these candidates will all wind up taking positions that their own autopsy suggested were one of the causes of their defeat in 2012.

The craziness of the high rhetoric of this 2016 election campaign is causing Republicans to shoot themselves in the face.  It is interesting to watch.

Government Shutdown Is Over (For Now); “Nobody Won” Says Obama…

… and he's right in a sense.  The Democrats didn't have to concede anything and they didn't gain anything; the Republicans didn't have to concede anything and they didn't gain anything.

On the other hand, the Democrats weren't trying to gain anything, and the House Republicans were (they wanted to defund Obamacare), sosomebody did lose in all this.

New_demandsx

And then there's public opinion:

The Tea Party's standing with Americans is at its lowest point since the movement took shape in 2010, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday.

The survey, conducted from Oct. 9-13, reports that nearly half (49 percent) of the public now view the Tea Party unfavorably, compared with 30 percent who view it favorably. Since February 2010, when Pew first began gauging opinion on the Tea Party, unfavorable views have nearly doubled, and the number of "very unfavorable" views has tripled.

In June, when Pew last polled on the Tea Party and before the latest Washington budget battle fully ratcheted up, 45 percent said they held an unfavorable view of the Tea Party, while 37 percent reported they had a favorable view.

Michael Dimock, the director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, told All Things Considered host Audie Cornish that one of the issues is that people don't really know what the Tea Party is about.

"There's not really a consensus about what the Tea Party is, whether it's kind of an outside group trying to steer policy or whether it's working within the Republican Party itself," Dimock says.

The poll, which was in the field as congressional Republicans continued their push to remove financing for President Obama's health care law as part of a deal to reopen the government, found that the Tea Party's popularity is falling even among Republicans.

Pew reported that 53 percent of Republicans now view the Tea Party favorably, down from 62 percent in June; and 27 percent view it unfavorably, up from 23 percent in June.

To show you just how crazy the far right has gotten, they've even lost Ross Douthat.  Even him!

But with tonight’s vote done and the government open once again, I want to return to the theme of my Sunday column, and stress once more the essential absurdity of the specific populist gambit we’ve just witnessed unfold, drag on, and now finally collapse. However you slice and dice the history, the strategery, and the underlying issues, the decision to live with a government shutdown for an extended period of time — inflicting modest-but-real harm on the economy, needlessly disrupting the lives and paychecks of many thousands of hardworking people, and further tarnishing the Republican Party’s already not-exactly-shiny image — in pursuit of obviously, obviously unattainable goals was not a normal political blunder by a normally-functioning political party. It was an irresponsible, dysfunctional and deeply pointless act, carried out by a party that on the evidence of the last few weeks shouldn’t be trusted with the management of a banana stand, let alone the House of Representatives.

This means that the still-ongoing intra-conservative debate over the shutdown’s wisdom is not, I’m sorry, the kind of case where reasonable people can differ on the merits and have good-faith arguments and ultimately agree to disagree. There was no argument for the shutdown itself that a person unblindered by political fantasies should be obliged to respect, no plausible alternative world in which it could have led to any outcome besides self-inflicted political damage followed by legislative defeat, and no epitaph that should be written for its instigators’ planning and execution except: “These guys deserved to lose.”

And it’s important for conservatives and Republicans to recognize this, and remember it, because what just happened can happen again, and next time the consequences may be more severe. The mentality that drove the shutdown — a toxic combination of tactical irrationality and the elevation of that irrationality into a True Conservative (TM) litmus test — may have less influence in next year’s Beltway negotiations than it did this time around, thanks to the way this has ended for the defunders after John Boehner gave them pretty much all the rope that they’d been asking for. But just turn on talk radio or browse RedState or look at Ted Cruz’s approval ratings with Tea Partiers and you’ll see how potent this mentality remains, how quickly it could resurface, and how easily Republican politics and American governance alike could be warped by it in the future.

The Deal

Looks like the House is getting ready to vote to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling in return for…. stripping members of Congress, their staff and White House appointees and employees of their Obamacare subsidies.

Sounds good to me.

Oh. Please Sarah. Weigh In.

Politico reports:

President Barack Obama is risking “impeachable” offenses with the way he is handling the debt limit debate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said in a post on her Facebook page Monday.

“Defaulting on our national debt is an impeachable offense, and any attempt by President Obama to unilaterally raise the debt limit without Congress is also an impeachable offense,” Palin wrote.

That has to be the most densely packed stupid that I have seen in a long time.  Where to begin?

First of all, Obama has no control for defaulting on the national debt.  If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, we default, but Obama hasn't created an impeachable offense.

Secondly, I don't know how he could raise the debt limit without Congress, but if he could, how can that both be an impeachable offense while avoiding one?

It's scary that some people actually think she makes sense.

The Strangest Sentence Ever Written About The Whole Government Shutdown Thing

Say what, Politico?

President Barack Obama may get the clean debt limit extension he’s been demanding, but it wouldn’t be a clean victory.

By adopting the House GOP plan to raise the debt ceiling, Obama would avoid a potentially crippling blow to the economy and, in the White House’s view, finally break Republicans of their habit of seeking concessions each time the debt ceiling needs to be raised.

But the downsides are significant. The federal government might not immediately reopen, there’s no guarantee Republicans would stop using the debt limit as leverage in the future and Obama could find himself in the same position once the temporary extension expires.

And yet, Obama may have little choice but to accept House Speaker John Boehner’s offer because it delivers what the president wants: a debt limit hike with no ideological strings attached.

Rrrrright.

That's kind of like saying, "If the Detroit Tigers don't hit the ball in the next several games, the Boston Red Sox have little choice but to accept the American League Championship."

How Low Can They Go?

The longer this government shutdown drags on the worse the polling situation gets for Republicans. The latest NBC/WSJ poll has some incredible results.

The poll found 46 percent of Americans think the shutdown is extremely serious and another 27 percent say it is quite serious. The blame for this serious situation is falling primarily on the Republican party. Only 31 percent of Americans think President Obama is to blame while 53 percent believe congressional Republicans are to blame.

The result is an amazing swing in the generic ballot. Last month Democrats lead 46 percent to 43 percent for Republicans. Now Democrats lead 47 percent to 39 percent. If the election were held today Democrats would likely take the House.

The Republican party’s brand is now the lowest it has been in the roughly 20 years NBC has being polling. Only 24 percent of the country has a positive opinion of the Republicans party and 53 percent have an unfavorable opinion.

This is polling finally bad enough to likely scare Republicans into folding.

Day 9 And No End In Sight

Nobody thinks this is government shutdown thing is fun anymore.   As John McCain said on the floor of the Senate, everybody realizes that there is not going to be any change re: Obamacare.  Everybody realizes that, at some point, the debt ceiling will be raised.  So why not just DO it?

But the rightwingers holding the government hostage don't want to give up without a concession (lest they look bad, although of course, they already do).

The buzz today is about Rep. Paul Ryan’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. He wants a grand bargain and not once mentions Obamacare. Not once.