Republicans

Word

Seriously, I think he’s actually correct. I think they literally DO try to do the dickish thing possible.

NC Legislature Still At It

Despite protests, widespread criticism and a threat by the governor-elect to challenge in court any moves that he believes would unconstitutionally limit his power, the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature is pushing through reforms that would severely limit the incoming Democratic governor’s power.

It’s insane.  One such measure, which passed the House, was that the GOP and the Democratic Party would alternate the years in which they serve as the head of the Board of Electors in each county.  The catch? The GOP will chair all 100 county boards of elections in high-turnout even-numbered years (2018, 2020, 2022, etc.).

And get this…

How indeed?  Do they think we don’t see the inherent disadvantage that one party chairs the board of elections during even-numbered years?

Fortunately, there is pushback from the Dems about the LACK of bi-partisanship.

As I write this, there are citizen protest in the gallery.  They are trying to close the gallery now.

Other measures include the partisan election of NC Supreme Court judges.  The trend in America is to move AWAY from partisan elected judges (i.e., where judges indicate their political party).  But North Carolina is to become the first state since Pennsylvania in 1921 to move back to partisan Supreme Court judge elections.

LATE UPDATE:  SB4 passes and is signed by Gov. McCrory

SB4 would create a bipartisan commission merging the current State Board of Elections, State Ethics Commission and the lobbying functions of the Secretary of State’s office, although Democrats correctly say that there is nothing “bi-partisan” about it.

Democrats said it couldn’t be called bipartisan because they weren’t involved in creating the proposal. Republicans call it bipartisan because it would create a state board and county election boards comprised of members equally split between the parties. It would also deprive the incoming Democratic administration of control of those boards; currently, the administration can appoint three of the five state members and two of the three members on each county board.

Democrats also argued that the bill is far-reaching and should be discussed in more detail in the long session next year. Republican sponsors said the ideas in the bill have been discussed in the legislature for years, and that this is a good time to make the changes because there is no impending election.

The bill would also give Gov. Pat McCrory the authority to make a one-time appointment to fill a vacancy on the state Industrial Commission for a six-year term plus the unexpired portion of the commissioner’s term. Normally, a vacancy replacement only fills out the remainder of a term.

It would also identify state Supreme Court candidates by party in primary elections.

AND MORE:

Good way to phrase it.

Another bill nearing final legislative approval would force Cooper’s Cabinet choices to be subject to Senate confirmation.

Republicans Will Like Anything As Long As It Helps Republicans

This graph says it all:

Republican opinion on Putin seems to have moved not because Trump is pro-Russia or because there’s suddenly an opportunity for better relations with Moscow. It moved because Russia interfered in the election to the Democrats’ detriment, whether that was the core motive or not. That’s the point we’ve reached in partisan polarization, apparently. Want better relations with the U.S.? Then do what you can, legal or not, to make the eventual winning party’s path to electoral victory easier.

To put that another way, the surge in favorability among Republicans for a Russian fascist and kleptocrat who’s used anti-American propaganda relentlessly to consolidate power at home may be a more or less straightforward byproduct of partisan politics.

If widespread murder helped Republicans win political offices,.Republican voters would start favoring widespread murder.

The Brazen NCGOP Power Grab

The lame-duck North Carolina legislature’s is engaging in a last-minute effort to weaken the office of the governor before Democrat Roy Cooper.

Here’s one thing they are doing.

Back in 2013, this same legislature dramatically increased the number of what are technically called “exempt positions” under the governor, giving newly elected Republican Gov. Pat McCrory significant new patronage power. The number of political appointees authorized for McCrory exploded from about 500 to 1,500.

Now a new bill introduced in the surprise special session, called yesterday with about two hours notice, cuts the number of political appointees for Cooper from 1,500 down to 300, even fewer than McCrory originally started with.

Let that sink in. And it’s not just political appointees being taken away from Cooper. The lame-duck GOP legislature scheming with the defeated lame-duck GOP governor to handcuff the new Democratic governor on everything from the courts to the elections boards to higher education.

It’s a power grab of epic proportions.

House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis (Republican) was frank that some of the appointment and election board changes were prompted by Cooper’s election.

“Some of the stuff we’re doing, obviously if the election results were different, we might not be moving quite as fast on, but a lot of this stuff would have been done anyway and has been talked about for quite some time,” he said.

House Democratic Leader Larry Hall of Durham said Republicans were trying to “nullify the vote of the people” in electing Cooper, who defeated McCrory last month.

The Charlotte Observer editorial board:

It’s both breathtaking and hardly surprising.

With a scope never before seen in North Carolina politics – and with an all-too-familiar disrespect for democracy – Republicans in Raleigh are engaging in a stunning reach for power this week.

They want to change the ideological makeup of election boards. They want to make it more difficult for court challenges to get to a Democrat-friendly Supreme Court. They want to limit the number of appointees Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper will be able to make. They want approval authority over some of those appointees.

It is an arrogant display of muscle-flexing, and Republicans weren’t shy about the goal. Legislators, said House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis, wanted “to establish that we are going to continue to be a relevant party in governing this state.”

In other words: We’re in control. We want more control. We’ll do what we want to get it.

You might recognize that sentiment. It was what Democrats expressed in 1977 after the Democrat-led General Assembly passed legislation that allowed new Gov. Jim Hunt to fire all employees hired in the previous five years by his Republican predecessor. Said Joe Pell, then special assistant to Hunt: “The game of politics, as far as I know, is still played on the basis of ‘to the victor belongs the spoils.’”

That 1977 power grab was much smaller than what Republicans have attempted this week. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now, not only because it weakens the other branches of state government, but because it subverts the will of voters who elected Cooper and a Democrat Supreme Court justice to be a check on the Republican legislature.

The 1977 statute also was unconstitutional, and judges struck it down. You can expect this week’s measures to also head straight to the courts, a place where N.C. Republicans have regularly been reminded of the limits of their power.

There’s someone else, however, who can do that first. Gov. Pat McCrory is a lame duck now, which means he has one more opportunity to stand up to the extremists in his party. He also has little to lose, which means he can be the governor many had hoped for all along – one who was willing to do what’s right for North Carolina, not just what’s good for Republicans.

We’ve seen more glimpses of that McCrory lately. His response to Hurricane Matthew and its aftermath was both strong and compassionate. He was the leader the state needed, including this week in following through on relief so many North Carolinians desperately need.

Now North Carolina needs McCrory to lead again. He knows that limiting the next governor’s power, as Republicans are attempting this week, is wrong. As governor, he fought the legislature’s attempt to steal his appointing authority to key N.C. commissions, eventually winning in the N.C. Supreme Court earlier this year. He should veto all new attempts to weaken the office he’s about to leave.

Will doing so change McCrory’s legacy? Probably not. And any veto he makes might fall in an override vote – a fear that’s caused McCrory to bow to Republicans in the past.

But North Carolina has learned plenty these last four years the damage that can be done when one party – any party – accumulates too much power. That’s been on display once again this week, perhaps more brazenly, and dangerously, than ever.

People have noticed, fortunately.

Incoming governor Roy Cooper warns that the substance of these bills are horrible:

“Most people might think this is a partisan power grab, but it’s really more ominous,” Cooper said at a news conference.

House Bill 17, which was introduced Wednesday night and was moving through committees on Thursday, does the following:

  • It reduces the number of exempt positions under Cooper’s supervision from 1,500 to 300. Exempt positions are those that a governor can hire or fire at will, either because they are managers or because their job is somewhat political in nature. Although former Gov. Bev Perdue had roughly 500 such positions under her control, GOP lawmakers gave Gov. Pat McCrory 1,500 to work with.
  • It removes gubernatorial appointments to the various boards of trustees that run each campus in the University of North Carolina system. Those appointments would be would be transferred to the General Assembly.
  • It requires Senate confirmation for gubernatorial cabinet appointments. Although the state constitution allows this, the legislature hasn’t exercised this power in recent memory.

Cooper said the proposal “is really about hurting public education, working families, state employees, health care and clean air and water.”

Putting the legislative thumb on his appointments for the Revenue and Commerce departments would encourages more corporate tax cuts and loopholes, he said. Likewise, renewable energy efforts and rules for clean air and water would be hurt by requiring Senate approval of the environmental secretary, he said.

“We don’t look great to the people of North Carolina or to the rest of the country when laws are passed hastily with little discussion in the middle of the night,” he said.

He cited House Bill 2, the law limiting LGBT rights that lawmakers passed in a one-day emergency session in March, as an example of the damage created by last-minute legislating. Business expansions, concerts, athletic events and conventions have been moved out of North Carolina as a result of the law.

“I will use all of our tools … to lead this state in the right direction,” Cooper said, including possible litigation to overturn legislation.

“If I believe that laws passed by the legislature hurt working families and are unconstitutional, they will see me in court – and they don’t have a very good track record there,” he said.

This last-minute legislation is a Republican tactic, one of many seen around the country, where the GOP tries to gain political control through means other than popular vote (gerrymandering being another).  Forget about winning over people by the strength of your ideas with these guys.

A Bunch Of Funny Side Stories From This Week

(1)  NC GOP CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT, INCLUDING MOCKING DEMS

When Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine addressed the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Wednesday night, the North Carolina GOP thought it quickly spotted something wrong.

When Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine addressed the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Wednesday night, the North Carolina GOP thought it quickly spotted something wrong.

“[Tim Kaine] wears a Honduras flag pin on his jacket but no American flag,” the state party tweeted as he was speaking. “Shameful.”

There was one problem: Kaine’s pin, which had a single blue star on a white background bordered with red, wasn’t the flag of Honduras, where he spent a year as a missionary decades ago. It was the symbol for Blue Star Families, or those with members serving in the military.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article92303587.html#storylink=cpy
“[Tim Kaine] wears a Honduras flag pin on his jacket but no American flag,” the state party tweeted as he was speaking. “Shameful.”

ncgoptweet

There was one problem: Kaine’s pin, which had a single blue star on a white background bordered with red, wasn’t the flag of Honduras, where he spent a year as a missionary decades ago. It was the symbol for Blue Star Families, or those with members serving in the military.

The tweet was deleted with an apology.

(2) FROM HER GRAVE, ABIGAIL ADAMS PWNS BILL O’REILLY

Michelle Obama delivered a powerful speech during the Democratic National Convention on Monday, as the first lady shed light on the historical significance of her family’s eight years at the White House as its first African-American family.

“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves,” Mrs. Obama said in her keynote address. “I watch my daughters — two beautiful, intelligent, black young women — playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”

As it turned out, one person was not entirely amused and went so far as to “fact check” the first lady’s comments.

FOX News personality and political lightning rod Bill O’Reilly defended the working conditions slaves faced while building the White House by offering the following explanation during The O’Reilly Factor on Tuesday:

“Slaves that worked there were well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802. However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor. So, Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working as well. Got it all? There will be a quiz.”

If there was a quiz, Bill failed.

The notion of the “happy slave” is old racist trope, and it is despicable that O’Reilly peddles this shit on television. But let’s get to the facts….

As O’Reilly noted, Michelle Obama’s predecessor as first lady, Abigail Adams was living in the White House at the time when slaves were building it, and she recorded her observations of those working on landscaping the grounds.

“The effects of Slavery are visible every where; and I have amused myself from day to day in looking at the labour of 12 negroes from my window, who are employd with four small Horse Carts to remove some dirt in front of the house,”she wrote. Moreover, Mrs. Adams took note of their condition—and her observation stands at odds with O’Reilly’s:

Two of our hardy N England men would do as much work in a day as the whole 12, but it is true Republicanism that drive the Slaves half fed, and destitute of cloathing, … to labour, whilst the owner waches about Idle, tho his one Slave is all the property he can boast.

“Half-fed”.

Adams’s rebuke to O’Reilly is not the first time that a benign recollection of slavery has broken apart on the shoals of reality.

(3)  SPEAKING OF FOX, THE TENSION THERE IS CRAAAAZY

The New York Times reports on hard times at Fox News:

Megyn Kelly and her co-hosts [at the Democratic convention], including Bret Baier and Brit Hume, have not been speaking during commercial breaks, according to two people with direct knowledge of the anchors’ interactions, who described the on-set atmosphere at Fox News as icy. During ads, the hosts are often absorbed with their smartphones.

….Employees say there is a continuing split inside the network, with one camp of old-guard Fox News loyalists — some of whom owe their careers to Mr. Ailes — upset at his ouster. Some are resentful toward Ms. Kelly for cooperating with lawyers brought in by the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, to investigate Mr. Ailes’s behavior. (About a dozen women have reported improper behavior by Mr. Ailes to investigators.)

Another contingent inside Fox News is equally dismayed by the responses of stars like Kimberly Guilfoyle, Greta Van Susteren and Jeanine Pirro, who were quick to publicly defend Mr. Ailes after he was accused of harassment in a suit filed by the former anchor Gretchen Carlson.

And the pressure really seems to have gotten to Bill O’Reilly:

“I think the time has come now, where this whole network is going to have to band together, all of us, and we’re going to have to call out the people who are actively trying to destroy this network, by using lies and deception and propaganda. We’re going to have to start to call them out by name, because that’s how bad it’s become,” he said.

….”Jesse Watters goes on the floor of the Democratic convention, and some photographer comes up and starts swearing at him and cursing at him right in his face? This is provocation,” he continued. “These people are doing this. They want me dead, Bolling, literally dead.”

Bolling responded to O’Reilly, “I’m not sure they want you dead.”

“Oh they do, believe me,” O’Reilly said.

Poor Bill. I think he revels in the notion that we all want him dead. It would be a shock to his ego to find out that most of us just want him to go away.

(4)  CONSERVATIVES AREN’T AWARE THAT BRADLEY COOPER ISN’T ACTUALLY A SNIPER

Bradley Cooper’s appearance at the Democratic National Convention has irked some conservative fans of the actor’s portrayal of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in 2014’s “American Sniper.”

Cooper was spotted by TV cameras Wednesday night seated at the meeting in Philadelphia alongside his Russian model girlfriend, Irina Shayk.

Some Twitter users say they plan to boycott Cooper’s future films over his presence at the convention. Another commented that they thought his experience playing Kyle would have rubbed off on him.

The complaints have been mocked by others who say Cooper was simply acting a role when playing Kyle and conservatives shouldn’t be surprised.

Cooper earned an Oscar nomination for “American Sniper,” which became a blockbuster thanks in part to an enthusiastic reception among conservative moviegoers.

(5)  LIKE AN IDIOT, DONALD TRUMP JR KEEPS PLAGIARISM IN THE HEADLINES WITH A REALLY BAD COUNTER-EXAMPLE

The plagiarism in question? It was an entire paragraph.  No three sentences.  One sentence?

Nope. Both men used the line “This is not the America I know” in their respective convention speeches.

The problem?  As NBC News pointed out, Obama has used versions of this line in several past speeches. In a 2010 speech, he used the line, “That is not the America we believe in.” And in addresses delivered in 2012 and 2016, he used the line, “That’s the America I know.”

Former President George W. Bush also once used the line, “That’s not the America I know,” as NBC News noted.

See, Don Jr., five or six common words can’t be plagiarism, whereas 70 or so?  Yeah.

(6)  THIS SHOULD BE AN ANTHEM

Unity In Color, At Least

Salon:

At last official count, there were expected to be a total of 18 black delegates at the Republican National Convention this week. Yes, eighteen, or roughly 0.7 percent of the 2,472 national delegates in Cleveland.

***

According to the best estimate we have, the share of black delegates at this week’s GOP convention is lower than any time it has been in more than a century (and possibly even longer)—including during a dozen or so conventions that took place back when there were still legally segregated water fountains and lunch counters in our country.

Anyone surprised?

RELATED UPDATE: 

Jesus:

RNC Deletes LGBT Reference In Its Orlando Statement

In its original statement following the Orlando shootings, the Republican National Committee made an attempt to acknowledge that the attack specifically targeted LGBT Americans—a sad attempt, but an attempt nonetheless. But meh, who really cares about that aspect anyway? So they finally just edited gays out altogether. Rebecca Ruiz reports on the line that was just too dangerous to include:

“Violence against any group of people simply for their lifestyle or orientation has no place in America or anywhere else,” it said.

The RNC’s reference to gender identity and sexual orientation was vague and awkwardly worded. Still, the sentence stood out in a statement that otherwise declined to clearly identify Pulse nightclub as a gay destination or describe the victims as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.

But by Monday, the statement had been updated. It was missing that key sentence and contained no explanation for the revision.

RNC spokesperson Lindsay Walters later explained the change:

Walters said the revision was meant to be more inclusive because it invoked a common humanity and referenced all Americans instead of singling out LGBT people.

Right! Including LGBT folks by explicitly excluding them. Note to GOP: even straight people have a lifestyle and orientation, if you think about it.

Texas GOP Platform

It’s no fun to live in North Carolina sometimes, with its backward state legislature.

But at least it ain’t Texas.  Check out the Republican Party of Texas Platform below.

Here are some of my favorites:

The Rights of a Sovereign People- The Republican Party of Texas supports the historic concept, established by our nation’s founders, of limited civil government jurisdiction under the natural laws of God, and we oppose the humanistic doctrine that the state is sovereign over the affairs of men, the family, and the church. We believe that government properly exists by the consent of the governed and must be restrained from intruding into the freedoms of its citizens. The function of government is not to grant rights, but to protect the unalienable, Godgiven rights of life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Texans should be free to express their religious beliefs, including prayer, in public places

which is right on the same page as….

United States Senators- We support the repeal of the 17th Amendment of the United States Constitution and the appointment of United States Senators by the state legislatures.

So much for government existing by the consent of the governed.

And then there is

Unelected Bureaucrats- We oppose the appointment of unelected bureaucrats and we support defunding and abolishing the departments or agencies of the Internal Revenue Service, Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Interior (specifically, the Bureau of Land Management), Transportation Security Administration, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and National Labor Relations Board. In the interim, executive decisions by departments or agencies must be reviewed and approved by Congress before taking effect.

And the internally contradictory:

Voting Rights- We support equal suffrage for all United States citizens of voting age who are not felons. We oppose any identification of citizens by race, origin, or creed and oppose use of any such identification for purposes of creating voting districts. We urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized

They are in favor of equal suffrage, but want to do away with the Voter Rights Act, which enforces equal suffrage.  Makes sense?

Homosexuality?  Same-sex marriage?  Forget about those…

Homosexuality- Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We oppose the granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.

As Texas Monthly rightly points out, the first sentence in the section above actually says that homosexual behavior “has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.”  That’s probably not what Texas Republicans meant.

corrected_custom-a76243e666eb54ccc0f70826ac9948fdf758dec6-s800-c85

And ..

“Climate Change” is a political agenda promoted to control every aspect of our lives.

Lots more in here… enjoy:

 

On His Deathbed, Bob Bennett Apologizes For What He Wrought

Bob Bennett was a rightwing conservative senator from Utah.  He served in the US Senate for 18 years, and I rarely agreed with him on anything. He was consistently earning high ratings from conservative activist groups such as the National Rifle Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Conservative Union.

But in 2010, something happened — the emergence of the Tea Party.  They deemed Bob insufficiently conservative.  Despite an enthusiastic endorsement from Mitt Romney, Bennett was denied a place on the primary ballot by the 2010 Utah State Republican Convention, placing third behind two Tea-Party-backed candidates.

He never practiced national politics again.  He died two weeks ago of pancreatic cancer.

And how did he spend much of his last few days?  Feeling regret for what the GOP had become, regret for Trump, and regret for the hand that he had in its creation:

Former GOP senator Bob Bennett lay partially paralyzed in his bed on the fourth floor of the George Washington University Hospital. He was dying.

Not 48 hours had passed since a stroke had complicated his yearlong fight against pancreatic cancer. The cancer had begun to spread again, necessitating further chemotherapy. The stroke had dealt a further blow that threatened to finish him off.

Between the hectic helter-skelter of nurses, doctors and well wishes from a long-cultivated community of friends and former aides, Bennett faced a quiet moment with his son Jim and his wife Joyce.

It was not a moment for self-pity.

Instead, with a slight slurring in his words, Bennett drew them close to express a dying wish: “Are there any Muslims in the hospital?” he asked.

“I’d love to go up to every single one of them to thank them for being in this country, and apologize to them on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump,” Bennett told his wife and son, both of whom relayed this story to The Daily Beast.

The rise of Donald Trump had appalled the three-term Utah senator, a Republican who fell victim to the tea-party wave of the 2010 midterms. His vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, had alienated many conservative activists in his state, who chose lawyer Mike Lee as the GOP nominee for Senate instead.

But as Bennett reflected on his life and legacy in mid-April, following the stroke, he wasn’t focused on the race that ended his political career. Instead, he brought up the issue of Muslims in America—over and over again.

He mentioned it briefly in a hospital interview with the Deseret News, a Utah news outlet. “There’s a lot of Muslims here in this area. I’m glad they’re here,” the former senator told the newspaper in April, describing them as “wonderful.”

In the last days of his life this was an issue that was pressing in his mind… disgust for Donald Trump’s xenophobia,” Jim Bennett said. “At the end of his life he was preoccupied with getting things done that he had felt was left undone.”

Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigrants from America had outraged the former senator, his wife Joyce said, triggering his instincts to do what he could on a personal level. They ultimately did not canvass the hospital, but Bennett had already made an effort in his last months of life.
As they traveled from Washington to Utah for Christmas break, Bennett approached a woman wearing a hijab in the airport.

“He would go to people with the hijab [on] and tell them he was glad they were in America, and they were welcome here,” his wife said. “He wanted to apologize on behalf of the Republican Party.”

“He was astonished and aghast that Donald Trump had the staying power that he had… He had absolutely no respect for Donald Trump, and I think got angry and frustrated when it became clear that the party wasn’t going to steer clear of Trumpism,” his son relayed.

Emphasis mine.

Not the first time this has happened.  I remember Lee Atwater — the creative mind behind the “Southern strategy” — doing the same thing.  Isn’t it interesting that as people get closer to seeing their God, they become liberals?

 

Watch As House Republicans Go Out Of Their Way To Discriminate Against LGBT

A chaotic scene unfolded on the floor of the U.S. House today as a measure to ensure federal contractors can’t discriminate against LGBT people was defeated by a single vote.

It initially appeared that the measure — an amendment to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would’ve nullified a Republican “religious liberty” provision allowing federal contractors to discriminate against LGBT employees — had enough votes to pass. But Republican leaders kept the vote open and persuaded a handful of members to change their votes, which ultimately resulted in the LGBT protection being defeated by a single vote.

As you can see in the clip below, Democrats could be heard booing and chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” as seven Republicans changed their votes.

Following the fiasco, the author of the amendment, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), released a statement saying Republicans “literally snatched discrimination from the jaws of equality.”

“In the past day, House Republicans have gone out of their way to rig votes and block bills that prevent discrimination against LGBT people,” he added. “When they break their our own rules to make sure taxpayer dollars can go to folks who discriminate, they showed who they truly are – bigots and cowards.”

My cousin weighs in:

Texas Republicans Debate Whether A Muslim Can Be A Republican

A Texas pastor stood up Monday in a local GOP meeting to vocally oppose one precinct chair’s appointment because he is Muslim, the Washington Post reported.

Trebor Gordon, the chaplain for the Harris County Republican Party, said Syed Ali should not be able to serve as a leader in the local GOP “on the grounds that Islam does not have any basis or any foundation.”

Watch:

You know, in the current Republican party,.maybe a Muslim can’t be a member.

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.

 

Garland

Is it hard to do cartwheels over President Obama’s choice of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland today.  Professor Epstein seems to think he’s a good liberal…

Epstein

… but you always have to question the methodology of these things.

Merrick Garland is 63 years old and currently serves as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. A former Justice Department official in the Clinton administration, Garland was nominated to the D.C. Circuit by President Bill Clinton in 1997 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 76-23. Sen. Orrin Hatch remarked at the time that Garland was “not only a fine nominee, but as good as Republicans can expect from [the Clinton] administration.”  He’s actually pretty conservative on police issues and war on terror.  But he’s no threat to Roe v Wade.

Sure, Garland is smart.  And qualified.  But if the tables were turned, and it was a Republican president and a Democrat-controlled Senate, I don’t think the judicial candidate would have been so…. moderate.

I mean, I get it.  Everyone gets it.  Obama is picking a guy who has already been approved by the Senate for his current judicial gig, who is not an ideologue, etc.  This forces Senate Republicans to consider AND approve the nominee, or look like the reason why Washington sucks so bad.  Also, with a Clinton presidency looming, Republicans might just want to get Garland and not get someone far more liberal.  (In fact, a President Trump could pick a liberal judge for all anybody knows).

In other words. holding out for another Scalia just might get Republicans a lefty version of Scalia.

Over at 538, they did some quick calculations and determined what the future might look like:

chances

Facing those possibilities, confirming Garland, might just be the best thing the GOP could do.  You gotta play the cards you’re dealt.

And the other hand, I get annoyed at this (if it is true):

Why would Obama capitulate to the Republicans when he has them over a barrel?

In the end, it seems that Obama has made a pragmatic choice.  And let’s face it.  It saves the Court.  And if it doesn’t, it makes the GOP look horrible.

Early indications are that the right wing is bent on looking obstructionist, even in the face of a reasonable moderate candidate.  Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice issued a statement repeating his call for “no confirmation proceedings until after the election.” Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver similarly repeated that there should be “no Senate hearing on any Obama nominee.” Alliance Defending Freedom’s Casey Mattox offered no criticism of Garland himself but claimed that the Obama administration is untrustworthy and so Garland’s nomination should be blocked: “The Obama administration has demonstrated it cannot be trusted to respect the rule of law, the Constitution, and the limits of its own authority. So it should be no surprise that the American people would be highly skeptical that any nominee this president puts forth would be acceptable. Heritage Action, which was calling for an end to most judicial and executive branch confirmations even before Scalia’s death, declared that “nothing has changed”  with the nomination of Garland and that we areone liberal Justice away from seeing gun rights restricted and partial birth abortion being considered a constitutional right.”  Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council similarly tried to paint Garland as a liberal, saying he is “far from being a consensus nominee,” although he offered no specifics on the
“serious questions” he said their were about Garland’s “ability to serve as a constitutionalist.”  And anti-abortion groups also doubled down on their opposition to any confirmation proceedings, although they struggled to find specific reasons to oppose Garland.

Aaaaand as I write this, it looks like the Senate Republicans are taking the bait and biting down hard:

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has called President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland, and explained that no action would be taken in the Senate on the nomination, Mr. McConnell’s spokesman said.

Mr. McConnell also informed Judge Garland that they would not be meeting in person at the Capitol.

“Rather than put Judge Garland through more unnecessary political routines orchestrated by the White House, the leader decided it would be more considerate of the nominee’s time to speak with him today by phone,” Mr. McConnell’s spokesman, Don Stewart, said in a statement.

“The leader reiterated his position that the American people will have a voice in this vacancy and that the Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the person the next president nominates. And since the Senate will not be acting on this nomination, he would not be holding a perfunctory meeting, but he wished Judge Garland well.”

“Political routines orchestrated by the White House”?  That’s a funny way to say “obligations placed upon the President by the U.S. Constitution”.

Who Is To Blame For Trump?

A short incomplete list by conservatives and even GOP moderates to explain how Trump happened.

 

ANSWER ONE: Obama is to blame for Trump says Bobby Jindel in the Wall Street Journal. We’ve had eight years of the “cool, weak and endlessly nuanced” Barack Obama, he argues, which means now voters are hungry for the precise opposite – they want “a strong leader who speaks in short, declarative sentences.” Per Jindal: “You can draw a straight line between a president who dismisses domestic terrorist attacks as incidents of workplace violence and a candidate who wants to ban Muslims from entering the country.”

Well, you can draw a straight line between ANY two points, Bobby, no matter how far and remote that are to each other.  One of the many problems with that argument is that Trump is running a campaign that is a clear revolt against the Republican Party as much (if not more) than Obama.

 

ANSWER TWO: Obama is to blame for Trump says conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. Presidential campaigns have always had a celebrity component, argues Douthat, but Obama “raised the bar” by getting Oprah’s endorsement and appearing in music videos.  Even more than that, Obama cloaked himself in almost-religious iconic imagery, creating a cult of personality that Trump is merely exploiting now.  Also, by abusing executive authority, Obama became Caesarian, an imperial president, and attractive to those power-and-fame hungry like Trump.

 

ANSWER THREE:  The media is to blame for Trump says Redstate co-founder Ben Domenech.  Hour-to-hour coverage, softball interviews with no follow-up, and so on.  The media just fawns over Trump.  Even when something happens that has nothing to do with Trump, the first question from the media is “What will Trump say?”  He’s good TV, Domenech writes.  That accounts for his rise.

Domenech isn’t wrong, although he is answering the “how” rather than the “why”.  And if you want a better understanding of the media’s complicity, read The Rude Pundit today.

 

ANSWER FOUR:  Franklin Roosevent is to blame for Trump argues Jonah Goldberg, National Review contributing editor.  Because FDR took all kinds of power into his hands.  For example, he interred all those Japanese Americans during WWII (and Trump had already supported that decision).  It is the power grab that appeals to Trump.

To which I say, WHOA there.  Let’s being the horse back into the stable.

 

ANSWER FIVE: Al Franken is to blame for Trump says the stupidest theory of all, written by Josh Kraushaar at the National Journal behind the pay firewall.  His argument goes something like this: Franken’s narrow 2008 Senate victory in Minnesota provided Barack Obama with a 60-vote supermajority, which enabled him to pass the Affordable Care Act without Republican support, which then became the rallying cry for the Tea Party wave, which crashed into Washington and turned everyone crazy.  THAT begat Trump. If Franken hadn’t won, writes Kraushaar, then Obama would have been forced to win the vote of at least one Republican senator to pass healthcare reform, which would have made things better somehow.

Also, a butterfly flapped its wings in China.

But seriously, the Trump phenomenon isn’t a blacklash against the Affordable Care Act.  When trying to figure out how Trump came to be, you have to discern what is the appeal of Trump.  What is it that gets his crowds riled up.  And it isn’t healthcare.

What connects Trump supporters is plain to anyone who can see: his adherents are grounded in a common anti-immigrant nativism and anti-Muslim xenophobia.

Trump is the direct product of the Republican Party’s years-long strategy of aggravating racial and ethnic resentments to scare up votes from white conservatives.  It used to be spoken in the form of dog whistles as far back as Reagan’s invocation of the legendary “welfare queen” who drove around the streets of Chicago in a fancy Cadillac.  The Welfare Queen actually existed, although she actually bilked the government out of only $8,000 dollars and she committed even far worse crimes which proved more lucrative (kidnapping, etc).  She hardly was a representative example of common fraud against the government, but Reagan invoked her often in a not-so-subtle way suggesting that people of color were lazy and living off of government handouts.  The Welfare Queen myth exists today, where people believe that people on government assistance are out blowing all that “free money” on iPhones, fancy shoes and lobster.

You can draw a line from Reagan’s Welfare Queen through the Willie Horton commercial from Bush 41 to the Tea Party insurgence right up to Romney’s 47%. It is all about racially-coded messages that strike nervousness, or even hatred, within the white person about the “other”

But it was always in code… until Trump came along and said “what people are thinking” (a phrase we hear from many Trump supporters).  Meaning, Trump effectively gave permission for people to hate Mexicans, followers of Islam and other ethnic and religious minorities.

538 has an interesting study of political voters over time.  The study started in 2007 and follows the same large group of voters over time.  It enables us to see what Trump supporters were ideologically before Trump came along.  And not surprisingly, Trump appeals to those who possessed high levels of prejudice and strong concerns about unauthorized immigration.  Trump didn’t create them.  They were already there. . . from decades of being nurtured by the GOP.  Trump just picked them up without resorting to the dog-whistle code.  The GOP is to blame.

 

P.S.  Or maybe we can pin it on the daddy issues of the dwindling white working class.

The Scalia Gambit

Without question, the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia has set all sides of the political spectrum into a frenzy.  Everybody is weighing, but the stupidest comments are coming from Republicans who say that Obama shouldn’t nominate a justice at all because there is an election coming up.  Rand Paul, who supposedly loves the Constitution, says that Obama has a “conflict of interest”, which is ridiculous.

The Constitution on this issue is not hard to understand: “[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the supreme Court.” The provision creates a power — and perhaps even a duty — in the president to make a nomination.  No, it does not give him a right to have his nominee confirmed or even considered. That power lies with the Senate.  But certainly the President SHALL do what the Constitution instructs him to do.

This puts the ball in the Senate’s court (so to speak) and Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell made the foolish error of showing his cards.  He said that the Senate will not vote on an Obama nominee.  They will delay, filibuster, whatever.

That’s fine, but who will pay the price for that?  Republicans, I suspect.  They need to show that they can govern, something that they have failed to do in the past few years.

Loretta_Lynch-10-facts-black-enterpriseSo knowing the GOP gamebook, what should Obama do?  Invigorate the base by nominating Loretta E. Lynch, the 83rd Attorney General of the United States.  Very qualified, and approved already for the Senate for AG.  And a black woman.

And the GOP can spend the whole election season explaining why this qualified black woman should not be the first black woman on the Supreme Court.  I don’t know how they can win the politics of this, even if they succeed in keeping her off the bench.

Hillary and/or Bernie can add fuel to the fire by saying that if they won the election, they would nominate…. Larry Tribe.  It might force Republicans to accept Obama’s nominee, as the lesser of two evils.  Especially if it looks like Trump might not take the White House.

Then, there’s this:

It could all come down to 17 crucial days in January.

If Democrats win back the Senate and lose the White House in November, they would control both branches of government for about two weeks before Obama leaves office. That overlap in the transition of power is set in stone. The Constitution mandates the new Congress begins work on January 3, while President Obama stays in power until January 20.

So if Democrats take back the Senate, President Obama could send a Supreme Court nominee to that new Democratic majority, which would have 17 days to change the filibuster rules and ram in a vote before a new President takes power.

Sri_SrinavasanSo maybe Obama might do better to select a consensus nominee. Sri Srinivasan is an often-mentioned choice.  He is 48, an Indian-American, and a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — a traditional launching pad for Supreme Court nominees.  Obama first nominated him to the post in 2012, and the Senate confirmed him, 97-0, in May 2013, including votes in support from GOP presidential contenders Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Now, undoubtedly there are bloggers and pundits on the right who see this playing out — politically — in their favor.  And to be sure, if you are embedded on the bigoted women-and-immigrant-hating right side of the political spectrum, you’re not worried about Lynch or Srinivasan being nominated, and you hope their nomination will rally other bigots like you. Bring it on!

The problem is… America isn’t like the right.  It’s not that conservative, and you only need to look at Trump to know there is a problem with right wing politics these days.

South Carolina Primary Outlook

A the Republican debate last Saturday, which I didn’t see, this occurred:

TRUMP: George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.
DICKERSON: But so I’m going to — so you still think he should be impeached?
BUSH: I think it’s my turn, isn’t it?
TRUMP: You do whatever you want. You call it whatever you want. I want to tell you. They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.
(BOOING)
DICKERSON: All right. OK. All right.
Governor Bush — when a member on the stage’s brother gets attacked…
BUSH: I’ve got about five or six…
DICKERSON: … the brother gets to respond.
BUSH: Do I get to do it five or six times or just once responding to that?
TRUMP: I’m being nice.
BUSH: So here’s the deal. I’m sick ask tired of Barack Obama blaming my brother for all of the problems that he has had.
(APPLAUSE)
BUSH: And, frankly, I could care less about the insults that Donald Trump gives to me. It’s blood sport for him. He enjoys it. And I’m glad he’s happy about it. But I am sick and tired…
TRUMP: He spent $22 million in…
(CROSSTALK)
BUSH: I am sick and tired of him going after my family. My dad is the greatest man alive in my mind.
(APPLAUSE)
BUSH: And while Donald Trump was building a reality TV show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe. And I’m proud of what he did.
(APPLAUSE)
BUSH: And he has had the gall to go after my brother.
TRUMP: The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign, remember that.

Now, it is gospel on the left that (a) the notion that Bush 43 “kept us safe” is laughable when you take into account, as you should, 9/11/01 and (b) the justification for the Iraq War was based on known lies.

What’s remarkable is that these things were said (a) by a Republican candidate for President (b) on national television (c) to Bush’s brother (d) just before a primary in a Southern state which loves the Bushes.

For any other candidate, that would have been political suicide.  But the first post-debate poll, and from a reliable polling firm, too, tells us this:

Donald Trump is the clear front-runner heading into Saturday’s South Carolina Republican primary.

A new Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday found Trump leading in the crucial third-nominating state by a large margin.

According to the poll, 35% of likely Republican voters supported Trump. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tied for second with 18%.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) trailed in fourth with 10%, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson each captured 7% of the support.

So once again, the notion that Trump “went too far” never proved reliable.  I’m not particularly surprised anymore.  Also, as the transcript above shows, Bush didn’t really hit back so much as clutch his pearls (“Oh, how dare he!”).

I still believe that Trump has a ceiling.  But we won’t know what it is until the establishment candidates — who remain at this point to be Kasich, Bush and Rubio — unite behind one candidate.  I don’t see that happening before Super Tuesday, which may just mean that Trump will have the momentum to be unstoppable.

Trump At War With Fox

This may be the point where the fracture in the Republican Party becomes unfixable.

You have a candidate who leads the GOP poll by double digits nationally, fighting with the media mouthpiece of the GOP in a bizarre carnival of testosterone.

It’s the climax of a bizarre confrontation between the candidate and the dominant conservative news outlet. The first debate the network hosted involved some tense moments between Trump and Megyn Kelly, one of Fox’s premier personalities. The aftermath was much uglier, with Trump making comments about Kelly that were acknowledged as misogynistic by pretty much everyone except, well, Trump.

Fox announced that Kelly would be moderating tomorrow’s debate, too, and Trump started making noises about a boycott.

Fox responded by mocking Trump: “We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president—a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”

That was too much for Trump, who announced his intention to skip the debate. Since then, the two sides have engaged in continuing skirmishes. Trump called the ayatollah statement “a disgrace to good broadcasting and journalism. Who would ever say something so nasty & dumb.” Fox accused Trump’s campaign of threatening Kelly. Trump called Kelly a bimbo, while claiming he wouldn’t. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz—who’s been engaged in a tense struggle with his old pal Trump for dominance in Iowa—piped up to challenge Trump to an alternate, “mano-a-mano” debate.

Anyone who confidently predicts how this will shake out is either bluffing or employed by Trump or Fox. If Fox manages to get one up on Trump, it’d be a huge victory. Trump has consistently managed to marginalize conservative media outlets throughout the campaign, including, to a certain extent, Fox.

But Trump announced he wouldn’t be attending.  The gamble could pay off because it shows Trump marching to the beat of his own drum, a promise consistent with the message of his campaign that has caught on with voters.

It seems to me that GOP voters would be served by Trump NOT being there.  I think it opens up the other candidates to say what need to be said and (incredibly) still hasn’t been said on the right — that Trump is in this for Trump (not public service), that it is about extending the Trump brand (even while serving as President), and that when confronted with such daunting foes as Megyn Kelly, he whines like a four year old.

Hell, I’d watch that debate.

You Read Digby Now

She wrote about how Trump has revealed something very important about the conservative movement for Salon this morning. A good many of its believers have just been mouthing words all these years. They don’t care about their elaborate ideology. They just hate the other team…. a snippet:

The Republican establishment is under a tremendous amount of stress right now. Donald Trump has the party functionaries running around like his personal factotums and the elected officials are all figuring out the angles to ensure they come out on the Donald’s good side. It’s possible it may not survive in the form we’ve come to know it.

But the conservative movement is equally under pressure.  They thought their years of carefully growing and indoctrinating the right wing of the Republican Party had resulted in a common belief in a certain conservative ideology, strategic vision and commitment to a specific agenda.  It turns out that a good number of the people they thought had signed on to their program just wanted someone to stick it to ethnic and racial minorities and make sure America is the biggest bad ass on the planet — authoritarian, white nationalism. If you’ve got a man who will deliver that you don’t need ideology. And he doesn’t need democracy.

The mystery is why all these smart conservatives didn’t see this coming. They unleashed this beast a long time ago with the hate radio and the media propaganda and the ruthless politics. It was only a matter of time before it turned on them.

Can You Hear The Dog Whistles?

This:

Did Ted Cruz Leak Classified Information During The Latest GOP Debate?

It went down like this.  While Rubio and Cruz were debating each other’s records on national security and surveillance, Cruz got into some details about what the bulk data program covers.

“What he knows is that the old program covered 20 percent to 30 percent of phone numbers to search for terrorists,” Cruz said, referring to Rubio. “The new program covers nearly 100 percent. That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism, and he knows that that’s the case.”

It’s not clear if Cruz, who is unpopular with many of his Senate colleagues, revealed classified information. But in his response to Cruz, Rubio noted that he did not want to say too much about the program.

“Let me be very careful when answering this, because I don’t think national television in front of 15 million people is the place to discuss classified information,” Rubio said. “So let me just be very clear. There is nothing that we are allowed to do under this bill that we could not do before.”

And that was how it went down.  Moments afterward, this was tweeted:

Becca Watkins is the communications director for Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Burr told reporters that his staff was looking into the matter as to whether or not Cruz disclosed classified information. Cruz is not well-liked in the Senate, even by his Republican colleagues.

Late yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced that it will not be investigating anything said during Tuesday’s debate.

Meaning…. well, anything.  If Cruz leaked classified information, they’re certainly not going to admit it.  Better than the terrorists think that 100% of bulk phone data is being culled.

Another Debate Tonight As Trump Stays Ahead

Yes, I’ll probably live-tweet the debate tonight.

Meanwhile, Cruz leads in Iowa (according to one poll), but the story remains Trump Trump Trump. Ever since is incendiary and divisive comment about blocking Muslim immigration, Trump has become the darling of the pants-wetting and/or white supremacist right.

Here’s what happens at Trump rallies:

But it quickly became clear Monday night that the protesters had no interest in a quiet extraction — nor, for that matter, did Trump.

By the time security swooped in, several amped-up Trump supporters had already encircled the protesters — booing, and chanting, and slowly closing in — while a crush of smartphone-wielding media scrambled to capture footage of the clash. The guards managed to remove one protester, but the other resisted, stiffening his limbs and screaming about the First Amendment as they tried to haul him toward the exits. When he toppled to the floor, a horde of rallygoers assembled to hurl insults and threats at him.

“Light the motherfucker on fire!” one Trump supporter yelled.

Physical altercations between protesters, security, and the occasional tough-guy supporter have been a running theme in Trump’s combative campaign this year — but Monday night was different. Reporters who regularly cover Trump said they had never seen anything like the fevered, frenzied mood that gripped the ballroom in Las Vegas.

With the candidate’s ever darkening political style seeming to grow more perversely effective by the day, his grassroots opponents on the left are becoming more defiant and effective at causing trouble. Activists interrupted Trump at least half a dozen times at the event — and the longer the night wore on, the more crazed many in the crowd seemed to get.

One after another, protesters were forcibly dragged from the ballroom — limbs flailing, torsos twisting in resistance — while wild-eyed Trump supporters spewed abuse and calls to violence.

“Kick his ass!” yelled one.

“Shoot him!” shouted another.

When a white activist proclaimed “Black lives matter!” as she was being carted out of the building, a male Trump supporter leaned toward her and snapped, “White lives matter.”

According to NBC News, someone at the Trump rally even yelled a German Nazi-era salute — “Sieg heil!” — while a protester was being removed from the event.

Trump, meanwhile, gleefully narrated the madness from his podium like a tabloid talk show host presiding over an on-camera brawl between guests — egging on the confrontation, whipping the audience into a frenzy, and basking in his fans’ celebratory chants.

“Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!”

“This is what we should have been doing to the other side for the last seven years!” Trump exclaimed during one of the scuffles with protesters.

Emphasis mine.

The Republican establishment doesn’t want Trump, and even Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin warn against him… in favor of Cruz.  Cruz is positioning himself to be the likeable version of Trump, but for Trump fanatics, the fact that Cruz is a senator makes him too inside.

As always, I think Trump’s numbers are overblown, especially national polls.  I MAY have been wrong about Rubio though.  He can’t seem to get traction, and Cruz may end up being the best compromise between the GOP establishment and the Trump-ites.

Josh Marshall at TPM used to think like me, but he’s now conceding that Trump might actually be the nominee.  Might:

That is one of the many things that makes the current Trump-Cruz phony war so compelling. Trump is baiting Cruz into the same smackdown he’s used to eat up Bush, Walker, Fiorina and others. But Cruz won’t take the bait. Like two zen masters facing off in a martial arts classic or perhaps two wizards do battle in The Lord of the Rings, we have an epic confrontation between two master who have trained for decades in the arts of assholery and bullying. But their powers equally matched, it is a stand off.

I keep thinking that Trump won’t pull this off and I’ll be kicking myself for not paying more attention to all the reasons why this sort of thing just does not happen. And basically I still think, things like this, things so catastrophic for a major party simply don’t happen. But each day it gets more difficult to imagine the scenarios required to prevent it. And if the savior is Ted Cruz, he could do worse in the general election than Trump. Somehow Marco Rubio needs to start coalescing support. But at the moment, it’s the reverse that is happening.

But now the talk is how this all shakes out, and when.  Eventually, the GOP might gravitate to Cruz, but what if that doesn’t happen until late in the primary season?  In other words, what if no candidate gets enough delegates at the convention to win on the first ballot?  Now, we’re talking about a “brokered” convention, which by definition is not very democratic.  Will the hard right anti-establishment types stand for that?  Absolutely not.  It could get interesting, and even a little scary.

I don’t think the debate is really going to result in any monumental shifts.  There will be a “winner” or two, and a “loser” or two, but nothing will change yet.  The movements on the GOP side of the primaries are geological in speed.

But I expect to see some of the candidates try to out-crazy Trump.  Just to try to catch a ride on the same wind he’s been riding.

The Trump Backlash Continues

A $6 billion golf community under construction in Dubai is removing his name from the project. Trump was tossed from a respected business network in Scotland, where the billionaire says he invested more than $300 million in golf courses and other developments. And Lifestyle, a retailer that does business in an enormous marketplace spanning the Middle East, India and Africa, stopped selling Trump branded products. Trump lost his honorary doctorate at Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Scotland.

Trump says that these nations are “caving to political correctness”.

In the national media, Tom Brokaw, the veteran NBC News anchor, has called Trump’s proposal “dangerous,” and likened it to the Holocaust and the Japanese internment. On its front page, The New York Times has said Trump’s idea is “more typically associated with hate groups.” Dan Balz, of The Washington Post, has called Trump’s rhetoric “demagogic,” while BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith has informed staff that it is acceptable to refer to Trump on social media as a “mendacious racist,” because, he said, those are facts.  Thankfully, journalism has moved into the ‘have you no shame’ mode, rather than the typical “he-said she-said”.

Muslim-Americans are speaking out.  The prize goes to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for his Time editorial, which begins:

The terrorist campaign against American ideals is winning. Fear is rampant. Gun sales are soaring. Hate crimes are increasing. Bearded hipsters are beingmistaken for Muslims. And 83 percent of voters believe a large-scale terrorist attack is likely here in the near future. Some Americans are now so afraid that they are willing to trade in the sacred beliefs that define America for some vague promises of security from the very people who are spreading the terror. “Go ahead and burn the Constitution — just don’t hurt me at the mall.” That’s how effective this terrorism is.

I’m not talking about ISIS. I’m talking about Donald Trump.

This is not hyperbole. Not a metaphor. Webster defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal; the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”

If violence can be an abstraction — and it can; that’s what a threat is — the Trump campaign meets this definition. Thus, Trump is ISIS’s greatest triumph: the perfect Manchurian Candidate who, instead of offering specific and realistic policies, preys on the fears of the public, doing ISIS’s job for them. Even fellow Republican Jeb Bush acknowledged Trump’s goal is “to manipulate people’s angst and fears.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” Now, we don’t require by law that our candidates tell the truth. They can retweet (as Trump did) racist “statistics” from a white supremacist fictional organization that claimed 81% of murdered whites are victims of blacks, when the truth is 84% of whites are murdered by whites. They can claim (as Trump did) to have seen on TV thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering on 9/11, even though there is no evidence of this. They can say (as Trump did) Syrian refugees are “pouring” into the country when only 2,000 have come (out of 4.3 million U.N.-registered refugees). Then, when caught lying (as Trump has been over and over), they can do what every belligerent child does: deny, deny, deny.

While Trump is not slaughtering innocent people, he is exploiting such acts of violence to create terror here to coerce support. As I have written before, his acts could be interpreted as hate crimes. He sounds the shrill alarm of impending doomsday even though since 9/11, about 30 Americans a year have been killed in terrorist attacks worldwide — as The Atlanticpointed out, “roughly the same number as are crushed to death each year by collapsing furniture.” Trump’s irresponsible, inflammatory rhetoric and deliberate propagation of misinformation have created a frightened and hostile atmosphere that could embolden people to violence. He’s the swaggering guy in old Westerns buying drinks for everyone in the saloon while whipping them up for a lynching.

About 30,000 foreign fighters have gone into Syria to join ISIS, thousands of them from Europe and at least 250 from the United States. What most of us in these bountiful countries can’t understand is how our young, raised with such opportunity, choose to abandon our values to embrace a culture of pitiless violence. Before going, many of these recruits spend much of their time on social media being brainwashed by propaganda videos. One 23-year-old woman, a devout Christian and Sunday school teacher, was recruited via Skype. The recruiter spent hours with the lonely woman teaching her the rituals of Islam. Maybe that’s because, according to some psychologists, the brain’s default setting is simply to believe because it takes extra work to analyze information.

The same process works for Trump’s supporters. They are impervious to facts or truth because their (understandable) frustration and anger at partisan greed and incompetence have fatigued them out of critical thinking. Like deranged newscaster Howard Beale in Network, they are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore. To express their outrage, they have rallied around a so-called “outsider” with no political experience, no detailed policies, and whacky ideas that subvert the very Constitution that he would be required to swear to uphold. Electing him would be like asking the clown at a child’s birthday party to start juggling chainsaws.

Muhammad Ali hit Trump with this released statement:

I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.

We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.

Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.

Even Ted Cruz, who has taken pains to avoid critiquing Trump, remarked at a private fundraiser that he would have problems with Trump as President and having his finger on the button.

None of this, of course, has affected Trump in the polls.  He leads in NH and SC by quite a bit.

Interestingly, there is an article in the New York Times today which reads

Fear of Terrorism Lifts Donald Trump in New York Times/CBS Poll

I am among the many who thinks it should read

Donald Trump Lifts Fear of Terrorism in New York Times/CBS Poll

The San Bernadino shootings (and to a lesser extent, the Paris attacks), of course, started the fear, but Trump is exploiting that fear in a way that even ISIS couldn’t.

On the other hand, not everyone is in Trump’s grip.  He is viewed as strongly negative by the electorate in general.  Here are some graphics from a WSJ/NBC poll released today:

WSJNBC1

WSJNBC2

Again, I think Trump has a ceiling and he’s a media phenomenon, but I don’t think he has a chance in hell to be the GOP nominee.  That’s almost irrelevant though, as his behavior this week is actually damaging to national security.  This is the culmination of years of anti-government right wing radio and TV — an actual honest-to-God fascist candidate who doesn’t see what he advocates as fascism.  In the guise of rejection of political correctness, he rejects the US Constitution and American values.

He’s yuge among white supremacists and crazy people.  The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts. Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers in part to cope with a Trump traffic spike.

This typifies a Trump fanatic/.  This lady, I am embarrassed to say, is a state representative in New Hampshire:

This is an interesting chapter in American politics, like the McCarthy Era was at one time.  I can’t wait until it is over.

UPDATE: It’s getting ugly too.  Here are Trump protesters being forcefully removed from a Trump event at the Plaza Hotel


UPDATE #2:  The first poll conducted entirely after Trump’s Muslim remarks just came out.  It was conducted by Reuters/Ipsos:

Trump led the pack of candidates seeking the Republican Party’s nomination in the 2016 election with 35 percent of support from Republican voters, the opinion poll released on Friday found, the same lead he held before Monday, when he said Muslim immigrants, students and other travelers should be barred from entering the country.

Most Republican voters said they were not bothered by his remarks, though many said the comments could still hurt Trump’s chances of becoming president. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans, who will pick the party’s nominee for the November 2016 election, said they found Trump’s remarks offensive against 64 percent who did not.

***

Still, in a sign of how Trump’s rhetoric has polarized the electorate, 72 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of voters overall said they were offended by Trump’s comments.

Forty-one percent of Republicans polled said Trump’s remarks could hurt his chances of becoming president; that figure was higher among all respondents.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson came in second among Republicans with 12 percent in the Reuters/Ipsos poll, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tied with 10 percent.

Trump May Have Hit The Ceiling

Donald Trump has defied political pundits for months now.  When he first attacked John McCain, the thought was that it would kill him in the polls, but then he went up.  And that’s been the story for over four months now.  He keeps on appealing to the worst-of-the-worst conservative base and his numbers go up.

But many are now saying what I have always said.  Yes, he has a strong base, but he has a low ceiling.  I have put that ceiling on mid-30% of Republicans.  I don’t think he can get much higher than that.

Yesterday, Trump crossed a line.

Donald J. Trump called on Monday for the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country until the nation’s leaders can “figure out what is going on” after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., an extraordinary escalation of rhetoric aimed at voters’ fears about members of the Islamic faith.

A prohibition of Muslims – an unprecedented proposal by a leading American presidential candidate, and an idea more typically associated with hate groups – reflects a progression of mistrust that is rooted in ideology as much as politics.

Mr. Trump, who in September declared “I love the Muslims,” turned sharply against them after the Paris terrorist attacks, calling for a database to track Muslims in America and repeating discredited rumors that thousands of Muslims celebrated in New Jersey on 9/11. His poll numbers rose largely as a result, until a setback in Iowa on Monday morning. Hours later Mr. Trump called for the ban, fitting his pattern of making stunning comments when his lead in the Republican presidential field appears in jeopardy.

Saying that “hatred” among many Muslims for Americans is “beyond comprehension,” Mr. Trump said in a statement that the United States needed to confront “where this hatred comes from and why.”

“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” Mr. Trump said.

That was too much, even for Republicans who have avoided taking shots at him.  Every GOP candidate spoke against this.  Jeb Bush called it “unhinged”.  Others called it “unamerican”. The former vice president, Dick Cheney, said Mr. Trump’s proposal “goes against everything we stand for.” And others.

Cruz, who rarely distances himself from Trump, took a small step away, saying “I do not believe the world needs my voice added to that chorus of critics” referencing the large group of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates who have criticized the plan, adding “I commend Donald Trump for standing up and focusing America’s attention on the need to secure our borders.”  But then he tweeted how he will always defend religious liberty.  So… a VERY small step away — small enough to still pat The Donald on the back.

But Cruz stands alone in his weak condemnation.

GOP lawmakers have gone to the House floor telling Trump to drop out of the race.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman (D) tweeted late Monday that he was barring Trump from his city “until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps.”

Some are concerned and saying that, even as a candidate, Trump is a threat to national security.  There’s a lot of truth to this.  Trump’s rhetoric is the best recruitment tool that ISIS could have.

Trump is also getting burned overseas. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said: “The only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”

Then there is the media.  The Philly Daily News:

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Trump’s rationalization for this is pretty bizarre.  He keeps using the “what’s going on” phrase:

Here’s something else that’s telling: In an interview with ABC News this morning, Trump repeated various formulations designed to express generalized uncertainty and anxiety, over and over: “What is going on?” “We don’t know what is going on.” “We have to figure things out.” “What the hell is going on.” “We have to figure out what’s going on. Something is happening that’s not good.” “Until our country’s Representatives can figure out what is going on, we have no choice but to do this.”

The details don’t matter in the least. What matters is that Trump is speaking to a basic sense among his supporters that something is going on, thatsomething is wrong. He is willing to admit this and speak to the need to do something about it, even something drastic or “frankly unthinkable.” If that offends the politically correct and corrupt media, which is probably complicit in this American decline in any case, all the better.

Details, indeed, don’t matter. On the radio this morning, I heard a CNN interviewer ask exactly how banning Muslims from entering the country would be done, since religion does not appear on passports.  Trump, obviously speaking off the cuff, said in essence, that the customs people would ask them “Are you Muslim?”

Right.  I see a few flaws in that.approach.  From a practical standpoint (they will lie) and, oh by the way, can it get MORE unconstitutional?  I think not.

Trump compares his policies to Roosevelt’s during WWII, but unfortunately for Trump, most people view Japanese internment as a BAD part of our history.  And Trump is getting compared to Hitler today, more than Roosevelt.

Will it deter Trump die-hards?  Of course not.  CNN and NBC News interviewed a number of Trump supporters in South Carolina, and asked them to react to the new “plan.”.  Here’s what they said:

“I don’t want ’em here. Who knows what they gonna bring into this country? Bombs? ISIS? What?”

“That’s a very prudent idea. I think that he’s done due diligence when he makes that statement. We have to protect our American citizens first.”

“We just let terrorists into this country.”

“Somebody just needs to go in there and take control of this. It’s going rampant, and I’m worried about America. Worried about our safety. They’re getting in. They need to be stopped.”

“I think it’s a good idea. With everything that’s going on in the world right now — it sounds harsh, but reality is reality.”

“I’m a veteran paratrooper. Been in three different campaigns and two different wars. Both Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’ve had too many brothers and sisters lost over there in those two wars to just let them come here free range in our country now. It’s a kick in the face to every veteran there is that’s fought in those wars, to us trying to protect our homeland from them coming in.”

As CNN’s reporter put it: “No one here we spoke with had a problem with the plan.”

It’s too soon to see if this has any effect on his polling numbers.  But given the VERY LOUD outcry, I don’t expect him to go up, as he usually does.  I think this propels him into the ceiling.

Actually, it might be polls that drove this.  According to one poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers, Ted Cruz is on top in Iowa at 24%, followed by Donald Trump (19%), Marco Rubio (17%), and Ben Carson (13%).

The real issue isn’t Trump, but the GOP’s reaction to it.  So far, the party spokesmen have said nothing.  (Reince Pribus simply has said, “I don’t agree”).  But White House press spokesman Josh Earnest said it best:

“The Trump campaign for months now has had a dustbin of history-like quality to it, from the vacuous sloganeering to the outright lie to even the fake hair—the whole carnival barker routine we’ve seen for some time now… The question now is about the rest of the Republican party and whether or not they’re going to be dragged into the dustbin of history with him.”

Draft Of GOP Candidates Debate Demands

Via Dave Weigel and Robert Costa at the Washington Post, here’s the complete draft — second draft, actually — of the letter Republican candidates are considering sending to TV networks, with their questions/demands about the upcoming debates.

None of the candidates have actually signed this yet, so it still could change.  And note that it isn’t a “demand” so much as a letter soliciting information so that each candidate can determine if he/she wants to participate.

Some of these seem reasonable.  Some of these are just whiny.  On the whole though, I would say that the candidates would prefer that debates become joint press conferences rather than anything resembling a debate.  Which, by the way, is impossible when there are ten people onstage anyway!

But hey, there’s one thing they can all agree on:

The campaigns reached an early consensus on one issue, according to several operatives in the room: the secure standing of Fox News Channel. Any changes would be applied to debates after next week’s Fox Business Network debate. Among the reasons, according to one operative in the room, was that “people are afraid to make Roger [Ailes] mad,” a reference to the network’s chief.

Of particular interest to me is the issue of “gotcha” questions.  They are not rejecting “gotcha” questions outright — but they want to ensure that each of them get the same amount of “gotcha” questions.  Because nobody wants to look like Nixon in a pack of Lincolns, I guess.  The thing this — what if you are a Nixon in a pack of Lincolns?

Dear _____:

This letter is on behalf of the 15 Republican Presidential campaigns. We are aware that you are sponsoring a debate on _____ at ______. Below and attached are questions about your debate to which the campaigns would appreciate answers at your earliest convenience, and in any event no later than a month from today.

The answers you provide to these questions are part of a process that each campaign will use to determine whether its candidate will participate in your debate. All the candidates recognize that robust debates are an important part of the primary elections. It is also important that all debates be appropriate platforms for discussing substantive issues and the candidates’ visions for the future.

To achieve this going forward, the campaigns ask that you:

– Answer the questions below within 30 days of receipt by communicating directly with the campaigns. We’ll provide an email list for that distribution.

– No later than a month before your debate (earlier if possible), schedule a conference with all the campaigns participating jointly so that the campaigns may ask questions about the format for your debate, the moderators and your answers to the questions below. The campaigns may request an additional call(s) to discuss specific issues.

– The campaigns’ will use the manner in which your debate(s) are run (and changes you say you will make from your past debates), the quality and fairness of your moderators’ questions, their enforcement of the rules and their ability to achieve parity in distribution and quality of questions and time among the candidates to evaluate whether the candidates wish to participate in your future debates.

– In addition, based on their evaluation of previous debates, the campaigns wish to have in all future debates a minimum 30-second opening statement and a minimum 30-second closing statement for each participant; candidate pre-approval of any graphics and bios you plan to include in your broadcast about each candidate, and that there be no “lightning rounds” because of their frivolousness or “gotcha” nature, or in some cases both.

The campaigns appreciate your participation to achieve what they feel is a great need for more accountability and transparency in their primary debate process. In addition to addressing the above points, please answer the following:

 Where and when will the debate be held?

 What are criteria for inclusion? If you choose to base this on polls, please detail which polls and why each poll’s methodology and sample size is acceptable to you.

 Who is the moderator? Will there be any additional questioners? Are they seated?

 What is the estimated audience for the debate? Will it be disseminated on-line? By radio? Will it be disseminated by other means and do you have any additional partners?

 What format do you envision – podiums, table, other?

 Will there be questions from the audience or social media? How many? How will they be presented to the candidates? Will you acknowledge that you, as the sponsor, take responsibility for all questions asked, even if not asked by your personnel?

 What is your proposed length of the debate?

 Will there be opening and closing statements. How long will they be?

 Will you commit to provide equal time/an equal number of questions of equal quality (substance as opposed to “gotcha” or frivolous) to each candidate?

 How long are the answers and rebuttals? If a candidate is mentioned, will he/she automatically be called on so they can rebut?

 Will there be a gong/buzzer/bell when time is up? How will the moderator enforce the time limits?

 Will you commit that you will not:

o Ask the candidates to raise their hands to answer a question

o Ask yes/no questions without time to provide a substantive answer

o Have a “lightning round”

o Allow candidate-to-candidate questioning

o Allow props or pledges by the candidates

o Have reaction shots of members of the audience or moderators during debates

o Show an empty podium after a break (describe how far away the bathrooms are)

o Use behind shots of the candidates showing their notes

o Leave microphones on during breaks

o Allow members of the audience to wear political messages (shirts, buttons, signs, etc.). Who enforces?

 What is the size of the audience? Who is receiving tickets in addition to the candidates? Who’s in charge of distributing those tickets and filling the seats?

 What instructions will you provide to the audience about cheering during the debate?

 What are the plans for the lead-in to the debate (Pre-shot video? Announcer to moderator? Director to Moderator?) and how long is it?

 Are you running promo ads before the debate about your moderator(s)?

 What type of microphones (lavs or podium)?

 Can you pledge that the temperature in the hall be kept below 67 degrees?

If there is any additional information you would like to provide the candidates and the campaigns, please do so. Thank you for your cooperation. Should you have any questions, the campaigns will be pleased to answer them.

Sincerely,

UPDATE:  Uhoh.  A fly in the ointment.  Donald Trump is going rogue!!

Donald Trump and his advisers have decided to work directly with television executives and take a lead role in negotiating the format and content of primary debates, which have become highly watched and crucial events in the 2016 race, according to Republicans familiar with their plans.

Trump plans to reject a joint letter to television network hosts regarding upcoming primary debates drafted Sunday at a private gathering of operatives from at least 11 presidential campaigns, the Republicans said.

And from The Onion:

  • All moderators to be quarantined from society 18 months prior to debate to eliminate bias
  • Statute of limitations prohibiting questioning candidate about any statements made more than 60 seconds in the past
  • Mechanized, continuously rotating debate stage gives every candidate equal time at center podium
  • No questions from, for, or about women
  • At least one tray of pigs in a blanket during pre-debate luncheon
  • All questions must be prefaced with personalized compliment about candidate’s policies or appearance
  • One consequence-free tirade against any marginalized group of each candidate’s choosing
  • Rule stating that any participant thrown off stage by another candidate automatically disqualified from presidential campaign
  • Safe podium space for all candidates made uncomfortable by line of questioning
  • Multiple-choice section
  • Each candidate given five paper DebateBucks they can use at any time to buy new questions from moderator
  • When a candidate A causes the debate ball to go out of play, candidate B will start at the top of the key and check the ball before resuming play
  • Every candidate allowed to deliver five minutes of closing personal attacks

RIP Fred Thompson

Actor, lawyer, senator, and even presidential candidate.  This guy did a lot of cool things.  He died yesterday at the age of 73 in Nashville.

I first noticed him way back during the Watergate hearings in 1974.  Back then, when there was a congressional investigation, Congress was smart enough to hire lawyers to ask the questions and get information, rather than ask the questions themselves. A young Roy Cohn asked the questions for McCarthy.  And so on.  Thompson was Watergate council for the Republicans back then, and he was interested in getting to the truth — not covering Nixon’s ass.

The leap from lawyer to actor was relatively simple.  In 1977 Mr. Thompson found himself representing the whistle-blower in one of Tennessee’s biggest political scandals. In her role as a parole administrator, Marie Ragghianti refused to release inmates granted pardons after paying then-Gov. Ray Blanton. Mr. Thompson successfully represented Ragghianti in a wrongful termination case, helping her win a settlement and a return to her job in 1978.

That case eventually became the subject of a book and launched Mr. Thompson’s acting career. Mr. Thompson played himself in the 1985 version of the movie “Marie.” Critics praised his performance, and more roles soon followed.

Five years later, Mr. Thompson had roles in three of the biggest films of 1990: “Days of Thunder,” “The Hunt for Red October” and “Die Hard 2.”  He also enjoyed a five-year run on NBC’s “Law and Order” as District Attorney Arthur Branch from 2002-2007.

Though he took a break to run for the Republican nomination for president in 2008.  Failing that, he returned to acting, including the role of Judge Noose in a Broadway production of “A Time To Kill”.

GOP Debate #3 Preview

On CNBC tonight.  I will not be watching.  Ratings will be lower than the others I expect.

Trump is already complaining that the debate is unfair, even though it hasn’t happened yet.  I expect him to be more Trumpian than ever because of the recent polls showing that Ben Carson has passed Donald Trump as the top choice among the GOP electorate both in Iowa and nationally.

And the silliness has already begun, because now the candidates are squabbling over — I am not making this up — the green rooms:

DENVER, Colo. — Just hours before GOP candidates take the stage here Wednesday night, tensions over the Republican National Committee’s handling of the debates are flaring anew.

At issue this time: greenrooms.

During a tense 30-minute meeting at the Coors Event Center, which was described by three sources present, several lower-polling campaigns lashed out at the RNC. They accused the committee of allotting them less-than-hospitable greenroom spaces while unfairly giving lavish ones to higher-polling candidates, such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

The drama began Tuesday afternoon as RNC officials led campaigns on a walk-through of the debate site. After touring the stage, candidates got a peek at what their greenrooms looked like.

Trump was granted a spacious room, complete with plush chairs and a flat-screen TV. Marco Rubio got a theater-type room, packed with leather seats for him and his team of aides. Carly Fiorina’s room had a Jacuzzi.

Then there was Chris Christie, whose small space was dominated by a toilet. So was Rand Paul’s.

Palin Started It

Light blogging as things are busy, but I had to draw attention to this op-ed by William Paley in the Washington Post, entitled “The GOP’s dysfunction all started with Sarah Palin” because I think it is right on the money, i.e.:

Once McCain put Palin on the ticket, Republican “grown-ups,” who presumably knew better, had to bite their tongues. But after the election, when they were free to speak their minds, they either remained quiet or abetted the dumbing-down of the party. They stood by as Donald Trump and others noisily pushed claims that Obama was born in Kenya. And they gladly rode the tea party tiger to sweeping victories in 2010 and 2014.

Now that tiger is devouring the GOP establishment. Party elders had hoped new presidential debate rules would give them greater control. But they are watching helplessly as Trump leads the pack and House Republicans engage in fratricide.

It’s hard to feel much sympathy. The Republican establishment’s 2008 embrace of Palin set an irresponsibly low bar. Coincidence or not, a batch of nonsense-spewing, hard-right candidates quickly followed, often to disastrous effect.

In Delaware, the utterly unprepared Christine O’Donnell promised “I’m not a witch,” but it didn’t save a Senate seat that popular, centrist Republican representative Mike Castle would have won, had he been the nominee.

In 2012, Missouri Republicans hoped to oust Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). Those hopes died when GOP nominee Todd Akin opined that “the female body” could somehow prevent pregnancy from “a legitimate rape.”

Party leaders aren’t responsible for every candidate’s gaffe. And Republican primary voters, not party honchos, choose nominees. But it’s easy to draw ideological lines from Palin to O’Donnell to Akin and so on to some of the far-from-mainstream presidential contenders of 2012 and today.

Then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) was rising fast in Republican presidential polls in July 2011. Pizza company executive Herman Cain led the polls three months later. Does anyone now think Bachmann and Cain had the skills, experience and temperament to be president?

True, the party eventually settled on Mitt Romney. But for months, Americans wondered, “Is this party serious?” Now the Republicans’ leading presidential contenders are Trump — who vows to make Mexico pay for a “great, great wall” on the U.S. side of the border — and Ben Carson, who questions evolution and asks why victims of the latest mass shooting didn’t “attack the gunman.

This isn’t to heap new scorn on Palin. But let’s not diminish the recklessness of those who championed her vice presidential candidacy. It was well known that McCain, 72 at the time of his nomination, had undergone surgery for skin cancer. It wasn’t preposterous to think Palin could become president.

Now Republicans ask Americans to give them full control of the government, adding the presidency to their House and Senate majorities. This comes as Trump and Carson consistently top the GOP polls. Republican leaders brought this on themselves. Trump calls Palin “a special person” he’d like in his Cabinet. That seems only fair, because he’s thriving in the same cynical value system that puts opportunistic soundbites above seriousness, preparedness and intellectual heft.

Hillary Clinton vs. Benghazi Committee

Before I get into this, if you’re not up to speed on what the whole Benghazi controversy is about, Vox has a really great primer on the issue.

As the primer states, the number of investigations and hearings into the Benghazi incident is unprecedented.  Check out these graphs:

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investigations-03-816x438

Today, Hillary Clinton is appearing before the House Benghazi Committee to testify, and the media is playing it up like a wrestling match.  “What Hillary needs to do is blah blah blah”.  They keep saying the stakes are high for Hillary.  They say emotions are high, and if she slips up just once, that sound bite will be repeated over and over again.

I don’t think the stakes are high at all.  I think all Hillary needs to do is go in there and tell the truth.  If the Committee beats her up, she’ll look good, and they will look bad.

The Committee has been under fire because members within the Committee have basically revealed that their raisen d’etre is to ding Hillary, rather than investigate what happened in Benghazi.  In fact, a new CNN poll released today says that 73% of Americans think the Committee is politically motivated.

Is this political?  Listen to this NBC reporter:

Here’s a livefeed which obviously won’t be working once the whole thing is over:

I’ll be having live updates as the day goes on…. if anything happens.

UPDATES:

10:09 am:

Gowdy (the chair of Committee) seems to be launching into an impassioned defense of the Committee’s existence, stating the goals of the Committee.

He’s very much in a defensive crouch.  He strains to make the link between Hillary’s email and the “whole point” of the Committee — what happened in Benghazi.  Also, he uses the word “truth” a million times.

Oddly, he’s bashing all the other investigative committees (all led by Republicans) in order to justify his own committee.  Sounds like SOME Republicans were wasting taxpayer money.

10:20 am:

Elijah Cummings (D-Md), the Democratic ranking member.of the Benghazi Committee, is speaking now… and he has turned it up to 11.  A viscous attack on the Committee and its politically motivated investigation.  He points out that Trey Gowdy cancelled interviews with DoD and CIA officials in favor of interviews with Hillary Clinton campaign staffers.  Boom!  Says “Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Sec. Clinton’s campaign.”  Pow!  He makes the point that all the Republican-led national security committees already exonerated the administration.  Bam!

As he wrapped up, Cummings mocked the accusation that Sidney Blumenthal was Clinton’s “primary foreign policy advisor on Libya” and noted that it been awarded four Pinocchios by the Washington Post.

The thing for Hillary to do now is be quiet, responsive and helpful.  Cummings is doing the fighting.

10:28 am:

Cummings is done.  I’m trying to be objective, but Gowdy just looks like a guy who got spanked publically.

Hillary is talking. “I am here to honor the service of those four men…and the work their colleagues do every single day all over the world.”  Unlike the two previous speakers, she talks about the people who died in Benghazi.  HUGE points.

Hillary Clinton on death of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi: “I was the one who asked Chris to go to Libya as our envoy … after the attacks, I stood next to President Obama as they carried his casket”

Hillary Clinton on foreign policy post-2012 Benghazi attack: “America must lead in a dangerous world and our diplomats must continue representing us in dangerous places”

Hillary’s strategy is to rise above the din.  She’s the only one paying tribute to those who died in the Benghazi attacks.  She’s the only one talking about the history of embassy attacks.  Her strategy is very effective.  She’s coming off as the only grown-up.  She says she “took responsibility” and “launched reforms to better protect our people in the field.”

“There is more to do, and no administration can do it alone. Congress has to be our partner as it has been after previous tragedies.”

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10:45 am:

Gowdy pats himself on the back for not interrupting Hillary’s opening statement.

And now we’re into the Q&A.  Here’s the part where it get boring and everybody tunes out.  Because nobody cares about details.  In truth, THIS is how the an investigation SHOULD be.

9 more hours of this?  Yawn.  Don’t expect more fireworks or updates for a while.

11:05 am:

Cummings destoys a talking point.  He played a clip of Darrell Issa lying on cable television about Clinton denying requests for extra security in Benghazi. In truth, that decision was made without Clinton’s knowledge or input, as all previous investigations have already concluded.

Clinton clarified that all State Department cables carry a stamp with the secretary’s signature, so a signature stamp doesn’t indicate that she has seen something. She claimed that the State Department didn’t have enough money appropriated for their security requirements and so naturally they had to make decisions about priorities.

Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., presents piles of Hillary Clinton’s emails from 2011 and asks why so many from 2011 and so few from 2012 when Libya became a hot spot.  Weird GOP pivot from “How could you use email for such sensitive work?” to “Why are there not way more emails about this stuff?”  Is Sen Brooks upset that Hillary did NOT conduct classified business via email?? Clinton answers that she didn’t work primarily from e-mails (she didn’t even have a computer in her office, which to me is the biggest scandal to be revealed so far), and that she got classified briefings, met with staff, etc.  That was how she got informed.

12:15 pm:

Hillary Clinton blows back against myth that she denied security requests from our embassy in Libya:

12:30 pm:

Generally speaking, the questions are Benghazi-centric and not email-centric.  I’ve scanned a few popular rightwing blogs, and there seems to be little interest (other than repeating long-debunked talking points).  The few that are following it seemed discouraged and angry at the “feckless” Republicans on the Committee who are “incompetent” at bringing Clinton down.  These people just refuse to accept the possibility that Clinton didn’t do anything wrong.

12:45 pm:

Jim Jordan (R-Oh) is laying into Clinton (and not letting her respond) about why the attacks happened.  He openly states that Hillary was part of an administration lie saying that the attack was caused by a protest against a video, rather than a pre-planned terrorist attack.  His focus is on statements and emails coming from Clinton within the first 24 hours of the attack, when, of course, nobody was quite sure why. Clinton to Jim Jordan: “I’m sorry that it doesn’t fit your narrative, congressman. I can only tell you what the facts were.”  She points out that even today, you can’t get into the head of every attacker to determine why they attacked the embassy, and some were there because of the video.  And not for nothing, but the CIA initially thought it was the video as well.

1:15 pm:

Gowdy banging Secretary of State about emails from Sydney Blumenthal.  He’s saying that the Obama team rejected Blumenthal to work in State Dept., but that Hillary used information from Blumenthal anyway.  (Ironically, this is just after Gowdy insists that this isn’t a prosecution where you try to prove something).  Not sure what relevance this has to Benghazi, and Hillary says so. It will not help us understand security at the Benghazi mission or why we didn’t know an attack was imminent. It’s just an attempt to undermine Clinton’s reputation by linking her with Blumenthal. I think everyone watching this show understands that.

Fireworks at the end before the break as Cummings demands a recorded vote to release Blumenthal transcript.  He says that if Gowdy is going to ask questions about the Blumenthal emails, why not release his testimony so people can understand the context?  Cummings and Schiff accuse Gowdy of selective releasing of emails to make Hillary look bad. Gowdy adjourns. In a snit. He threatens more and bigger Blumenthal drama to come. I’m still not sure what this is all about or why it has anything to do with the Benghazi attacks.  I guess Gowdy is trying to say that Blumenthal advised Clinton on Libya, and he shouldn’t have been so important.  Yet, Clinton has already testified (today and many times before, as well as in her book) that Blumenthal was not her primary source on Libya. Actually, at one point Gowdy claimed Blumenthals emails are relevant because former Libya ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the Benghazi attack, had to read them. As if to say, “well Chris Stevens read these emails, and just look what happened to him.” It doesn’t come close to passing the laugh test. And I assume Republicans know it. Or maybe the objection is that Clinton had more access to Blumenthal than Stevens?  No, that’s dumb too.   Anyway, if Blumenthal’s emails are so important, the Committee should release his deposition transcript.

Aaaaand why CNN is going downhill….

I like Josh Marshall’s take on how things are at halftime:

Listening to the questions from Republicans questioning Hillary Clinton, it’s hard not to step back and ask what it is they’re even trying to prove or what their point is. The lines of questions are disjointed and they’re pressing points she either freely concedes (yes, it was terrible and she’s ultimately responsible) or the point of which isn’t even clear (why did Sid Blumenthal send you so many emails?). It’s not going well for the committee at all. And what’s most revealing about the testimony so far is that they definitely get that: they know it’s going badly for them. And that’s led to a rather churlish and defensive tone to the whole proceeding that’s further deflated any sense that this is more than a clown show where the clowns are struggling. As I’ve now said several times, it’s a world of difference that this happening post-McCarthy and not pre-McCarthy. The questions wouldn’t necessarily have been different. The arguments from the GOP would not have been any better. But now the assumption from the press is that Hillary is on the upswing (both in her poll numbers and on the ‘Benghazi’ question) and the committee members are on the defensive. At least to a degree, she’s been vindicated in this whole drama and the committee has been discredited. *** Because of all this, Republican committee members just seemed pissed because this was supposed to be awesome – after all, a committee designed to bring down Hillary and circulate all those numskull conspiracy theories about Chris Stevens wearing a chest cam and how President Obama was watching everything happening live on his iPhone. Hillary’s yet to get at all flustered and has even had the opportunity to gently explain to Republican members how the State Department works. She looks poised; they’re radiating spittle.

But Gowdy hinted at some kind of Blumenthal-related bombshell in the next segment… is it something actually damaging?  Or is it one of those insinuation-if-you-read-between-the-line things that maybe could be damaging if you hold it up to the light at just the right angle?

3:30 pm:

Hearings restarted about an hour ago.  No flashbangs, a little more about Sid.  But we can all relax because Chuck Woolery has weighed in:

3:50 pm:

Peter Roskam (R-Il) is asking questions now and….

Very true.  And of course, this relates to security at Benghazi how?

Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam:

Let me tell you what I think the Clinton Doctrine is. [Reads from prepared card.]I think it’s where an opportunity is seized to turn progress in Libya into a political win for Hillary Rodham Clinton. And at the precise moment when things look good, take a victory lap, like on all the Sunday shows three times that year before Qaddafi was killed, and then turn your attention to other things.

See? This hearing is nothing more than a disinterested investigation into the events surrounding the Benghazi attacks of 9/11/2012. You partisan naysayers who think it’s just about attacking Hillary Clinton on national TV should be ashamed of yourselves.

And now we’re on another break.

GOP In Disarray: House Freedom Caucus Cools To Ryan

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced Tuesday night that he will consider a bid for House speaker as long as a few conditions are me and one of those conditions is that he doesn’t have to kiss ass to the House Freedom Caucus, the group of 40 far-right Republicans who don’t want to compromise, who want to shut down government, etc.  Basically, he doesn’t want to do what Boehner had to do, dealing with all the in-fighting and spending most of his time fundraising for people who are giving him problems.

You can’t really blame Ryan.  It’s not a great job, trying to lead the contentious and fractured GOP.

But political reporters suggest that the unbendable House Freedom Caucus may not be warming to Ryan today.

You know you’re in trouble when the voice of reason is Peter King.

King is right.  Anyway, the HFC is supposed to meet with Ryan later today.  Could be fireworks if they push Ryan too far and he says “screw it”.  I don’t think that will happen, but it could.

David Brooks On His Own Party

He’s pissed:

Over the past 30 years, or at least since Rush Limbaugh came on the scene, the Republican rhetorical tone has grown ever more bombastic, hyperbolic and imbalanced. Public figures are prisoners of their own prose styles, and Republicans from Newt Gingrich through Ben Carson have become addicted to a crisis mentality. Civilization was always on the brink of collapse. Every setback, like the passage of Obamacare, became the ruination of the republic. Comparisons to Nazi Germany became a staple.

This produced a radical mind-set.

***

Welcome to Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and the Freedom Caucus.

Really, have we ever seen bumbling on this scale, people at once so cynical and so naïve, so willfully ignorant in using levers of power to produce some tangible if incremental good? These insurgents can’t even acknowledge democracy’s legitimacy — if you can’t persuade a majority of your colleagues, maybe you should accept their position. You might be wrong!

People who don’t accept democracy will be bad at conversation. They won’t respect tradition, institutions or precedent. These figures are masters at destruction but incompetent at construction.

These insurgents are incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed. But they are not a spontaneous growth. It took a thousand small betrayals of conservatism to get to the dysfunction we see all around.

Brooks isn’t a moderate Republican.  He’s a conservative.  A conservative’s conservative.  The thing that separates him from the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus is that he believes that government has a role and a function.

Dems In Disarray*

*If you don’t get the joke, there is a political meme out there known as “Dems In Disarray”.  It seems that certain columnists and websites every so often love to write what is known as a “Dems in Disarray” piece, usually when there is very little about the Democratic Party which is in disarray.  (I’ve even seen “Dems In Disarray” opinion pieces simply because Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are running against each other). My use “Dems In Disarray” as a post title here is tongue-in-cheek.  The story is that Republicans are in disarray.  It’s so bad that even conservative sites cannot deny it.

Anyway, what is clear in the fight for the Speaker of the House position is that nobody wants it, and the conservative House Freedom Caucus has a litmus test that nobody wants to try to meet.  However, a party turns its lonely eyes to one man: Paul Ryan.  It seems every Republican is hoping, begging, pleading with Paul Ryan to run for Speaker. And it seems clear he has the votes and then some.

I don’t really know why.  For a conservative, he is very practical and pragmatic.  I don’t think he is the type to shutdown the government and engage in hostage-taking over raising the debt limit or defunding Planned Parenthood.  Yet, that’s just what the HFC wants in a leader.   So why does everybody think Ryan will make the HFC happy?

In the meantime, this disarray gets disarray-ier. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) dropped out of the conservative House Freedom Caucus yesterday, citing the caucus’ recent focus on the speaker race

Still, the HFC seems to hold all the cards.

UPDATE:

And why won’t Paul Ryan take the job as Speaker of the House?

The former 2012 vice-presidential candidate isn’t much more conservative that McCarthy, but he’s arguably the one Republican with the national stature to overcome the reflexive insurrection from the right. So far, no good. “While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate,” the Wisconsin Republican said in a statement on Thursday.

Why not? A Ryan pal offered this explanation to me: “Because he’s not a f—ing moron.” Translation: Ryan has a real future. No speaker has ever been elected president (Since James Polk in the 1840s, anyway) — and no speaker dragged into ugly budget crises by his strife-stricken party is ever, ever going to be.

Breaking: Who Is The House Speaker?

As my Twitter feed suggests, something is happening with the GOP House.

Kevin McCarthy was expected to voted in as House Speaker.  But the rumor is he is out.  He dropped out.

Chaffetz is it.

Yup, not a rumor.  McCarthy, who admitted that the Benghazi investigation was politically motivated to get Hillary, dropped out.  Election postponed.

Remember, this person comes after the Veep in the line of succession.

It’s not clear why McC dropped out (or was allowed to “drop out” when he was actually forced out) or what forces are at work here.  Something in his past?  Are the uber-far righties rallying against him?  Have the moderates made a comeback?  To be continued….

UPDATE:  NBC News reports that US House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy recognized he had no path to get to 218 votes to claim the speaker’s chair. The House Freedom Caucus, which is believed to have about 40 members, announced it would back Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., to become the next speaker.  The conservative House Freedom Caucus is the group that thinks funds for Planned Parenthood should be blocked as part of a bill to keep the government open.

The HFC has received criticism among Republicans like Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), who publicly broke with the caucus last month. McClintock, a social and fiscal conservative, wrote in a letter to the HFC: “I know that every member of the HFC sincerely supports these (conservative) principles, but as I have expressed on many occasions during our meetings, I believe the tactics the HFC has employed have repeatedly undermined the House’s ability to advance them.”

Basically, this means that even Kevin McCarthy is not wingnutty enough for the far right.

Quote Of The Day

From former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, in his new memoir, The Courage To Act:

[I] lost patience with Republicans’ susceptibility to the know-nothing-ism of the far right. I didn’t leave the Republican Party. I felt that the party left me.

That’s a Reagan quote, except Reagan was talking about the Democratic Party.

Bernake was nominated for the job by president George W. Bush, for whom Bernanke served as head of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.

It’s not hard to see what Benanke feels this way. The know-nothing wing of the Republican Party rebelled against the TARP rescue package at the height of the economic meltdown. They howled that low interest rates would lead to imminent hyperinflation. They resolutely refused to consider fiscal stimulus despite Bernanke’s repeated pleas (see helpful illustration below from 2011). They wanted to audit the Fed. They wanted to end the Fed. They wanted to put us back on the gold standard. When Bernanke told them that spending cuts would lead to higher unemployment, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (who is about to become Speaker of the House) refused to believe him.

Republicans Don’t Really Want “Religious Freedom”

Someone at Daily Kos pulled certain results of this PPP poll and turned it into this revealing bar graph:

religion

What does it mean?

While most Republicans want religious freedom, almost half of them mean they want religious freedom for Christians only (and/or no freedom for followers of Islam).  Perhaps they don’t understand what “freedom” means, or perhaps they think “religion” means Christianity only.

Shut Down The Benghazi Committee

The normally-unfriendly-to-Hillary New York Times has had enough of the Benghazi thing.  That’s pretty surprising since The New York Times has run one phony exclusive after another. First, her famous emails were illegal, except they’re not. Then they were contrary to regulations enacted, oops, 18 months after she left office. Next Hillary was the subject of an FBI criminal probe. Except that too turned out to be false. Now they’re making a big deal out of the exact date she changed email addresses. Seriously.

Well, welcome to the party, New York Times.  Some of us had enough of the Benghazi investigations a long time ago when other congressional committees turned up nothing.  But the McCarthy admission (explained below) seems to have been the last straw: there’s no question now that there is no “there” there, and the only Benghazi scandal is the committee itself, soaking up tax dollars on a political vendetta against Hillary Clinton.  The NYT editors:

House Republicans may be disinclined to disband the Select Committee on Benghazi with the presidential race heating up. But at the very least they should rename their laughable crusade, which has cost taxpayers $4.6 million, “the Inquisition of Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, a leading candidate to become the next speaker of the House, acknowledged last week that was the point of burrowing into the details of the 2012 attacks on government facilities in eastern Libya that killed the American ambassador and three colleagues.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” Mr. McCarthy said in an astonishing moment of candor that was clearly a gaffe, rather than a principled admission. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today?”

Lawmakers have long abused their investigative authority for political purposes. But the effort to find Mrs. Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the Libya attacks, was personally responsible for the deaths has lost any semblance of credibility. It’s become an insult to the memory of four slain Americans.

The deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and his colleagues have been exhaustively investigated by several other congressional committees and an independent panel of experts commissioned by the Department of State. The reviews found systemic failings at the State Department. But they found no evidence that Mrs. Clinton was directly responsible for the security lapses, which, of course, is the goal of the Republicans who want to derail her presidential bid. The possibility that all those investigators have somehow missed a crucial, damning piece of evidence seems negligible.

>Led by Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, a former federal prosecutor, the Benghazi committee has trudged on, summoning a seemingly endless list of witnesses who have offered little new substantive information about the attacks. Since it was impaneled in May 2014, the committee has spent more than critical congressional committees, including the House Intelligence and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, which have oversight over bureaucracies with multibillion-dollar budgets.

“There’s nothing to justify the committee’s long duration or expense,” said Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California who sits on the committee and has called for it to be disbanded. “We have nothing to tell the families and nothing to tell the American people.”

Mrs. Clinton is scheduled to testify before the committee on Oct. 22. The hearing will give Republicans another chance to attack the credibility and trustworthiness of the leading Democratic presidential candidate. It will do nothing to make American embassies abroad safer or help the relatives of the four killed in Libya.

The hearing should be the last salvo for a committee that has accomplished nothing. If the Republicans insist on keeping the process alive, the Democrats should stop participating in this charade.

For her part, Hillary is running this ad:

And then there is this….

Good for her.

CQUG_KTUYAA5orN

Say this about him, House Benghazi Czar Trey Gowdy has a knack for getting reporters to give him good coverage no matter how absurd his claims. For instance, the Washington Post gave him an uncritical platform for his some more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger pushback against Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s public admission—or, really, bragging—that the Benghazi Committee’s purpose is attacking Hillary Clinton. Gowdy’s response is just precious:

“It’s tough,” he says after a moment. “People should go by what we’ve done. How many people have we interviewed? How many of those people have been named Clinton?”

This is where reporter Elise Viebeck could have gone back to something she herself wrote the very same day:

During his deposition, [Sidney] Blumenthal was asked more than 200 questions related to the Clintons, significantly more than about Benghazi. A source who was in the room said the first time the word “Benghazi” was uttered in a question to Blumenthal was at 6:30 p.m. The deposition began at 10:30 a.m.

They did not ask him about Benghazi, which is supposedly their entire focus, until eight hours into the interview. That is … something of a tell.

Aid For Me And Not For Thee

What a jerk

Washington (CNN)Sen. Lindsey Graham is asking for federal aid for his home state of South Carolina as it battles raging floods, but he voted to oppose similar help for New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2013.

“Let’s just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs,” Graham told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” on Monday of the devastating floods in his home state.

Graham was among the Republican senators who opposed a federal aid package in January 2013 to assist states hit by Hurricane Sandy, but now he doesn’t remember why.

“I’m all for helping the people in New Jersey. I don’t really remember me voting that way,” Graham said.

This is a pretty common thing with Republicans.  Cruz did it too.

The objection from Graham and other Republicans at the time was that the Sandy relief bill supposedly contained “pork”, i.e., helping people pay for flood insurance.  That’s supposedly “pork” — when you help taxpayers in need..

What Democrats Have Said All Along

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the candidate to replace House Speaker John Boehner, to Sean Hannity on Tuesday

Don’t think the Hillary Clinton campaign hasn’t jumped on this.  The House Majority Leader just committed the huge sin of telling the truth.  I guess he forgot he was on television.  Benghazi investigation was political?  Of course it was!

He’s doing some walkback and damage control today, but I think the toothpaste is out of that tube.

 

Departing Boehner Takes A Swipe At Tea Party Congresscritters

The exiting John Boehner is free from his shackles and can say anything he wants.  And boy, does he hate the rightwing extremists:

Outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner (R) ripped into some of his Republican colleagues on Sunday for failing to be realistic about what the party can and cannot do, and took a jab at bombastic Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) to make his point.

Appearing on Face the Nation, Boehner said he that he had begun to make plans to step down after colleague Eric Cantor was primaried out in July of last year by a Tea Party backed candidate.

***

Speaking of his legislative accomplishments, Boehner became quite animated when noting opposition often came from within his own party.

“All [my legislation] done over the last four and a half years with a Democrat president and voted against by my most conservative members because ‘it wasn’t good enough,’” an incredulous Boehner said before asking sarcastically, “Really?”

“This the part that I really don’t understand,” he continued before being asked if the hard liners were “unrealistic.”

“Absolutely, they’re unrealistic!” he exclaimed. “You know the Bible says beware of false prophets. And there are people out there, y’know, spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean this whole idea about shutting down government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013 — I mean, this plan never had a chance.”

Asked if Cruz was one of the “false prophets,” Boehner smirked and became coy, saying, “I’ll refer you to a remark I made at a fundraiser in August, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado,” where the GOP leader called the Texas senator a “jackass.”

Good on you, Boehner.  A reasonable Republican gets forced out…. again.

Breaking: Boehner To Resign From Congress End of October

I wonder if this has anything to do with his rift with others on the right — in particular, the pressure from the far right to shut down the government in order to defund Planned Parenthood.

Boehner is also facing two difficult, and interrelated, challenges right now: many House Republicans want to shut the government down over defunding Planned Parenthood, and some House conservatives want to use an unusual parliamentary maneuver to launch a coup against Boehner. The problem for Boehner is that a shutdown would likely be a disaster for the Republican Party, but stopping a shutdown would make a coup against him more likely to succeed.

In a statement to reporters, a Boehner spokesman said:

Speaker Boehner believes that the first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution and, as we saw yesterday with the Holy Father, it is the one thing that unites and inspires us all.

The Speaker’s plan was to serve only through the end of last year. Leader Cantor’s loss in his primary changed that calculation.

The Speaker believes putting members through prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution.

He is proud of what this majority has accomplished, and his Speakership, but for the good of the Republican Conference and the institution, he will resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective October 30.

That seems a little hasty and thrown together.

I never cared for Boehner, but I respect the fact that he warded off dangerous factions within his party. We are much worse off without him.  Whoever replaces him is going to face the same pressures, and is more likely to cave I think.  Which means more government shutdowns in Washington (or threats of it) and gridlock.

Rep. Pete King (R-NY) has reacted to the news of Speaker John Boehner’s resignation on Friday by telling Politico reporter John Bresnahan it was a “victory for the crazies.”  Yup.

UPDATE:  Some blogs are reporting that Boehner wanted out a while ago, but he wanted to bring the Pope to Congress, which he did.  He reportedly said last night that after bringing the Pope to Congress, he has “nothing more left to do”.  So as to the question of “Did Boehner jump, or was he pushed?”, the best answer seems to be “a little of both.”

UPDATE #2:  The conservatives rejoice.  Here is video of Rubio announcing the resignation at the Value Voters Summit this morning:

Yet Another Post-Debate Analysis

Junior Varsity Debate:  Heard almost none of it, but my understanding is that Senator Graham did well and was folksy at times, even while predicting the end of the world as he is inclined to do.

Varsity Debate:  I saw and/or heard most of it, although some was in during the replay.

First of all, kudos to CNN.  It was, at times, an actual debate.  Yes, three hours made it seem like we were binge-watching on Netflix, but there was a lot of substance in there.  Even the softball questions (“What would be your Secret Service codename?”) were fairly interesting.

But this is about winners and losers.  So let’s get to it.

The biggest winner was unquestionably Carly Fiorina.  Before the debate, it was clear that everyone was looking for someone to break out.  I think perhaps a couple of candidates “broke out” last night, but none so fiercely as Fiorina.  She was consistently well-prepared without sounding canned. Attacks on her business record seemed to bounce off her.  She attacked Trump’s business record who she said was “forced into bankruptcy not once, not twice, but a record four times.”  When asked about Trump insulting her looks, she didn’t have to say anything more than “all women heard what Trump said”, forcing him to say that she was a “beautiful woman” in a way so patronizing that he would have been better off just saying nothing.

Remarkably, she was the only candidate who refused to answer what woman should be on the $10 bill, pointing out that women are not a special interest, but a majority in the country.  Putting a woman on the $10, she said dismissively, was a “gesture”.

Her temperament was tough and serious. I thought she even came off a little harsh.  You know how Rush Limbaugh characterizes “feminazis” as humorless and harsh-looking?  That’s how Fiorina came across.  In the future, she might want to soften it up (not necessarily be more feminine, just more humorous).

That said, Fiorina was grossly and negligently wrong on her facts.  She gave a harrowing description of the Planned Parenthood sting videos, challenging Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to watch “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”  No such video segment exists.  She just made it up.

The biggest loser was Donald Trump.  This debate was substantive, and Trump’s schtick is rhetoric.  The whole “I’ll assemble a really good team and we’ll fix it” line just fell flat, and Trump faded into the background, especially when it came to foreign policy.  Will it affect his commanding lead in the polls?  I doubt it.  But I think it might be the beginning of the end for him.  He did a lot of odd backpeddling, like sticking to, but also amending, his previous statement about how vaccines cause autism.  How nuts is that?  (By the way, the whole thing about “spreading out vaccines” is bullshit, and perhaps dangerous too).

As for the others….

Bush had his moments.  The biggest applause line was when he stood by his brother and said “he kept us safe”.  Yeah, except for that thing that happened in his first year.  It kind of reminds me of “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln….”

I know many pundits think Bush did badly, and I think he started out the debate badly and finished much stronger.  Unfortunately, a lot of GOP voters may have tuned out by then.

Also having good moments were Rubio (although I don’t think he’s a GOP favorite on immigration), and Christie, and Huckabee (if you go for that religious bent), and Rand Paul (whose libertarianism comes off as liberal sometimes).  In their own way, they all broke through a little.

I think Walker and Kasich did fine but didn’t break through.

I know a lot of people thought Ted Cruz did well, but I thought that his looking at the camera was creepy.

And Doctor Carson, in my view, really did not help himself.  Like Trump, the other outsider ahead of him in the polls, he seemed unsure of any specific policies.  For example, on immigration, Carson has previously said that deporting all illegal immigrants isn’t practical. Asked about this sensible position in the debate, he said he doubts that it’s practical but will listen to those who say it can be done.  Immigration has been front and center in the GOP agenda for months, and the best he can do is waffle and say, “I’ll listen to other ideas”?

For me, the most disturbing part of the evening was the question on climate change.  Yes, they finally got a question on climate change.  And they talked about it for a full three minutes!  The question, though, was framed in an interesting way: Ronald Reagan’s own secretary of state, George Shultz, has advocated for some kind of action on climate change, just as an “insurance policy.” Tapper asked, why not follow Reagan’s example, and take out an insurance policy to respond to what scientists overwhelmingly believe will be devastating impacts of climate change?

Three candidates responded: Rubio, Christie, and Walker. All three argued that nothing should be done by the American government to combat the problem, and Christie even said that he “respectfully disagrees” with Reagan’s secretary of state (gasp!). But all three also backed up their argument using a factually murky claim: that government efforts to combat climate change won’t do anything to solve the problem (which is, of course, untrue, as the premise of the question pointed out).

Bottom line: Don’t expect the GOP to do anything about climate change.

And what it made it even worse was that it segued into the aforementioned very unscientific conversation about vaccines causing autism.

Trump spoke the longest, and sadly, too many questions were about him or what he said (“Candidate X, Donald Trump says you’re a jerk.  How do you respond?”).  Here are the times:

Trump: 18:47
Bush: 15:48
Fiorina: 13:30
Carson: 12:56
Christie: 12:36
Rubio: 11:21
Cruz: 10:45
Paul: 10:28
Kasich: 9:44
Huckabee: 9:20
Walker: 8:29

Fiorina did most of the interrupting, and it obviously worked to her benefit.  Other candidates interrupted to steer what would otherwise have been a good conversation into something within their own bailiwick.  I hated it when that happened.

Anyway, it’ll take a few days to determine what impact, if any, this has on the polls.  I suspect that not much will change for Trump — his followers have a cult-like devotion and probably thought he was amaaaazing last night.  But I expect to see a shakeup, with Fiorina overtaking Carson.  And a winnowing of a few more.

That said, I think Ed Kilgore my have the smartest final take on the outcome:

Above all, I don’t think this debate did much to solve any of the Republican Party’s problems. Did it “take down” Donald Trump, as so many hoped? I don’t think so, despite the bountiful opportunities the other candidates — at the earlier “J.V.” debate, where the first four questions were about Trump, as at the main event — had to do so. Did it “winnow” the field? Nobody did that badly, and the candidates with the least steam, like Mike Huckabee, are already committed to a living-off-the-land county-by-county effort in Iowa. Did the “uprising” on behalf of “outsider” candidates with dubious qualifications abate? Probably not; whatever ground Carson lost was probably gained not by the “experienced” pols but by Fiorina, whose background remains a real time bomb that only Trump has tried to exploit.

Should the “outsiders” fade, moreover, this debate did little to help build an “Establishment” consensus behind a candidate prepared to move into the lead just as people start voting. Indeed, an Establishment candidate long left for dead, Chris Christie, may have revived his extremely limited prospects with a good performance tonight. So the long slugfest may have resolved nothing.

GOP Debate #2 Thoughts

The second round of GOP debates are this evening.

In related news, Facebook is coming out soon with a “dislike” button (bit not soon enough).

Here are some random notes and thoughts:

  1.  The candidates in the junior varsity debate are Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum and George Pataki.  That starts at 6 pm.  No news will come out of it.
  2.  The candidates in the varsity debate are Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie and John Kasich.
  3. The moderators are Jake Tapper of CNN and radio talk guy Hugh Hewitt.  Hewitt is known for “tough questions” requiring some knowledge (what many in the GOP call “gotcha questions”), but I predict he will tone it down tonight.
  4. The debate will be held at the Ronald Reagan Library in a room with a retired Air Force One plane in the background.  This will NOT be a stadium-sized audience like last time.  Maybe only 500 to 600 people.  So expect something less… uh… rowdy.
  5. Trump will be Trump.  Loud, obnoxious, and bombastic.  It will not go as well as the first debate for him, because of the small room.  Without a cheering mob, his dickishness will shine through more.  Don’t get me wrong: he will still be on top after the debate.  But he won’t “win” it.
  6. Carson will stay about the same too.
  7. There will be comparisons to Reagan since they are at the Reagan Library.  Someone will point out that Trump actually gave to the Carter campaign in 1980.
  8. The winner of the debate will be the one who “breaks through”.  That will probably be Carly Fiorina or perhaps John Kasich.
  9. I still maintain that Trump will never ever ever be the GOP nominee.  Many pundits on the left have said that, but now they are getting wobbly knees and saying, “Well, he keeps on defying the odds.  Everytime we say he has peaked, he goes higher.”  True, but that is because nobody has dropped out yet (except Perry, and he was only at 3%).  Once the crowd of candidates winnows, others will come up to meet Trump.  Carson and Fiorina, I expect.  In any event, the longer Trump stays up there, that is good news for Democrats.  Hell, if he is the nominee, that is the BEST news for Democrats.  So…. go TRUMP!!!
  10. So basically, tonight’s debate is about who gets winnowed out prior to Iowa.  Could be a couple of these people.

Palin Word Salad: “Speaking American” Edition

Immigrants to the United States should “speak American,” former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said on Sunday, adding her voice to a controversy triggered by Donald Trump’s criticism of Republican rival Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish.

“Speaking American” is a punchline of a joke to show how stupid we are as Americans.  Yet, when Palin used it, she really meant it.  She actually believes there is a language called “America”.

Obviously, no such language exists, but even if it did, “America” isn’t the United States anyway.  We live in North America.  Mexicans and others live in Central America.  And there is South America.  So basically, anyone in North, Central, or South America who speaks their native tongue IS speaking “American”.

But geographical bigotry aside, Palin added hilarity to insult when she spoke more about this on CNN, and made up an “American” word that doesn’t exist:

Partial transcript: I think Republicans and independents, that is the party of tolerance! It certainly doesn’t matter the color of your skin! And some of the other things that uh, you know, are banted round as being, um, kind of the judging barometer of whether somebody is welcome in the party or not.

Wuuuuuuut?!? That is such lovely Palin salad-ism.

And “banted”?? She means bandied, I suppose.  Heck, she’s speaking American — who can refudiate that?

Video I Love And Hate

On the one hand, there’s nothing better than low information Fox News voters arguing with each other (over, of all things, Donald Trump).

On the other hand, these people are from my home state of New Hampshire. (Thank God I don’t know any of them).

Enjoy

I’m still not too worried about Donald Trump.  Because I’ve seen this movie before:

The American public is sick and tired of politics as usual. They’re angry at Congress and angry at the president. You can almost feel it out on the campaign trail. That’s why _______ is getting so much support. He’s different. He doesn’t represent politics as usual. He taps into that anger.

We heard this about Herman Cain (and a cast of thousands of others) in 2012, Rudy Giuliani in 2008, Howard Dean in 2004, John McCain in 2000, Pat Buchanan in 1996, Ross Perot and Jerry Brown in 1992, Gary Hart in 1984, John Anderson in 1980, etc. etc.

Do you notice how many of these folks won their party’s nomination?

The New Word For “RINO” (And What It Says About Republicans)

In the early 2000s, just as the wars in the Middle East were ramping up, a new word started appearing in the Internet lexicon: RINO.  It stands for “Republican In Name Only”.  It is an insult hurled from Republicans to any member of the GOP who’s more liberal than a Republican “should be”.  Any politician tagged as a RINO — and many were — virtually became extinct in the GOP over the following decade, as fewer and fewer moderate Republicans got re-elected.

There is a new similar phrase floating about.  It is “cuckservative”.  It’s a play on the words “conservative” and “cuckold”. “Cuckold” in this sense has a sexual connotation:

A cuckold, of course, is a legitimate word for the husband of an adulterous wife — but that doesn’t really do justice to what they’re suggesting here, either. The people who throw this term around are most likely referencing a type of pornography whereby a (usually, white) man is “humiliated” (or ironically thrilled) by being forced to watch his wife having sex with another (usually, black) man. I’m not going to link to this, but feel free to Google it.

Being a combination of those two words, a “cuckservative” is a conservative who sells out his racial heritage — i.e., a race traitor.  Underlying the use of the word — which comes up ion debates about immigration reform, criminal justice reform, etc.– id the notion that whites should only support policies that help whites. The goal is to stir up fear among whites — “Don’t be a cuckservative” — and to encourage more tribalism and polarization.

Over at Salon, Joan Walsh is alarmed by the prevalent use of this word, a word rooted in racism and misogyny:

“Cuckservative” started showing up in my Twitter mentions last week, after I suggested Donald Trump supporters might not be the brightest bulbs. As I clicked around, I came to a shocking conclusion: I’ve been uncharacteristically downplaying the amount of racism and misogyny powering the right today. The spread of the epithet “cuckservative” is a sign that the crudest psycho-sexual insecurity animates the far right….

This is not merely a new way to shout “RINO.” It’s a call to make the GOP an explicitly racist party, devoted to the defense of whites. It’s no accident it’s taken off in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign launch/performance art, where he attacked illegal Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals.”

White nationalist Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute explained Trump’s appeal to Dave Weigel: “a) he is a tougher, superior man than ‘conservatives’ (which isn’t saying much), and b) he seems to grasp the demographic displacement of European-Americans on a visceral level. We see some hope there.”

Rush Limbaugh helped spread the term to the mainstream when he praised Trump like this: “If Trump were your average, ordinary, cuckolded Republican, he would have apologized by now, and he would have begged for forgiveness, and he would have gone away.”

The folks behind the term are also wildly anti-Semitic. Huckabee became a popular target after he claimed President Obama’s Iran deal was “marching Israelis to the ovens.” The guys who bray “cuckservative” hate Obama, of course, but they may hate Israel more.

These are the people that 17 presidential candidates are catering to.  And not one of them as the decency to say enough is enough.

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.

The Penny Drops

Over at the right wing site The Daily Caller — one of the many right-wing websites that has grown from a steady diet from Fox News and AM talk radio to form the final wall in the echo chamber — a lonely columnist quietly looks and Donald Trump’s antics and wonders aloud this:

What If The Base Is Wrong?

by Matt Lewis
Senior Contributor

One of the explanations for Donald Trump’s surging poll numbers goes like this: The base doesn’t trust Republican leaders on immigration. This manifests in support for a man who tells it like it is.

The problem with this is that the immigration schism on the right is largely about rhetoric. Almost everybody agrees we must secure the border, and even the most hawkish anti-immigration reform advocates won’t admit they want to deport the 11 million, or so, illegals. There are differences of opinion on whether to allow for a pathway to citizenship or to legalize them, but almost nobody is advocating for mass deportation.

As such, the real disagreement, it seems, is about rhetoric: Should we talk about immigrants in a way that suggests we believe they are children of God who (in most cases) are seeking a better life for their family — or should we assume most of them are rapists?

Based on Trump’s popularity, there is a market for doing the latter.

Now, suppose you’re a Republican “leader” tasked with winning elections today — and in the future. Demographic shifts suggest that doubling down on white, working class, non-college educated males from rural areas won’t cut it forever.

Putting aside the fact that you might support immigration reform on its merits, wouldn’t it make sense to try to tone down rhetoric guaranteed to turn off segments of the national electorate that are actually growing? (And here, I’m not just talking about Hispanics.) That way you might be able to win elections, finally secure the border, defend the right to life, cut job-killing regulations, etc.

This brings us to some fundamental questions about leadership: Should leaders merely reflect the opinions of their followers, or try to lead them? My take is that, ideally, leaders persuade followers to follow them. But sometimes that doesn’t work. And then we’re left with this: If you’re the captain of a ship, and your most vocal passengers insist you to steer towards something that looks to you like an iceberg, do you do it?

In other words he’s asking, “Can we win by putting forth nominee blowhards like Trump?”

The answer of course is “no”, but if the comments section is any hint, the base is, if nothing else, tenacious.  You pass their litmus test or else they’ll . . . well, I don’t know.  Not vote (which is good) or start a revolution with their guns from their confederate flag be-decaled Chevy pickups (not so good).

And Now Scott Walker

And I think that’s it.  With Scott Walker’s entry this morning, all the major candidates and more than a few minor ones are in the GOP race for President.  All the hats are thrown in the ring.  All the clowns are in the car.

What is it — 17?

Walker could be a contender.  He’s not very dynamic, which means the more colorful candidates could drown him out before he can build momentum.  He needs to stick around long enough for the herd to thin out of the nutbars, and then hit his stride.  He should be able to do that because he’s got a solid résumé as a small-government conservative. His social-conservative credentials are also strong, but without the culture-warrior baggage that sometimes brings. And Walker has won three difficult elections in a blue-ish state.  Plus — and perhaps most importantly — he’s reputed to be a favorite of the Kochs.

And not for nothing, but his campaign website has a good “missing page” webpage.

The Death Of The Moderate Republican

Yes, the moderate Republican is extinct.  Like the dodo bird of the days of yore.  But just in case you need a graph showing this, I proffer the following from the Washington Post wonkblog.

The graph employs a widely-used measure of political polarization, a score of ideology based on voting developed by Kenneth Poole and Howard Rosenthal.  Let’s look, for example, at the US House of Representatives over many decades.  Republicans in the the House have drifted away from the center far more rapidly than Democrats. The chart below, taken from the most recent slice of their data released just last month, illustrate this pretty clearly:

repdrift

Put another way, are there any Republican moderates in the House?  This graph shows the Republican versus Democrat NON-moderates over time….

nomods

So there you go.

Short Takes

Yeah, I’m playing catch-up.  Been very busy since last week.  I have a little to say about a lot of things, so now comes a slam of quick posts.

(1)  As for the clash in Phoenix between Islamophobes and would-be terrorists, the Islamophobes went home disappointed.  No violence. No anything, really:

Protesters at Friday’s “Freedom of Speech” rally outside a Phoenix mosque were met by counterprotesters.

The two groups lined both sides of the street in front of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix and yelled at each other, with a line of police officers standing in the middle of the street to keep them separated, CNN affiliate KNXV reported.

***

“When we see these two things … then obviously it becomes more of a concern,” [Imraan Siddiqi with the Council on American-Islamic Relations] said. “We’re advising people … it’s better to stay clear from the event, don’t engage with these people.”

Good advice.

(2)  Who has joined the 2016 presidential race since I last blogged:

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (D)
Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D)
Former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee (D)
U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina (R)
Former New York Governor George Pataki (R)
Current Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) (just this morning)

That’s four Dems total.  And on the clown car side, that makes ten total (and we haven’t included Bush, Walker, Trump, Jindel or Christie)!

Hastert Indicted

The Justice Department has charged former House Speaker Dennis Hastert with lying to FBI agents and trying to hide financial transactions intended to keep prior misconduct secret, prosecutors alleged.

The 73-year-old Hastert, a top Republican on Capitol Hill before he left Congress in 2007, agreed five years ago to pay an unidentified person $3.5 million “to compensate for and conceal” prior “misconduct against” that person, according to prosecutors.

The question of course is, what did Hastert do that he is ow spending 3.5 million to cover up?

I wasn’t a fan obviously, but he did seem like a “clean” Republican.  Kind of a sad ending, really.

UPDATE:  Oy….

….the misconduct dates back to Hastert’s time as a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois, where “Individual A” is from, and that Hastert was making the payments to conceal a past sexual relationship with him. The second anonymous official told the Times that the “misconduct” alleged in the indictment was sexual abuse

This Can’t Possibly Be A Thing

The Wall Street Journal:

A budget advanced by Kansas legislators would eliminate funding for state courts if a judge strikes down a controversial law passed last year.

Republican senators and representatives agreed Monday on a two-year judicial budget that would self-destruct if any court blocks or overturns a 2014 law that stripped the Kansas Supreme Court of some administrative authority, giving local courts control over their own budgets and leadership.

A lawsuit pending in Shawnee County District Court, in northeastern Kansas, says the 2014 law violates the Kansas Constitution. The bill approved Monday says that if the law is “stayed or is held to be invalid or unconstitutional,” the other provisions including funding for the courts, “are hereby declared to be null and void.”

The legislation provides for $208 million for fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017 combined and is expected to pass in the Republican-controlled legislature as early as this week. A spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, declined to comment.

So basically, the GOP-dominated Kansas state legislature is saying to the Kansas Supreme Court, “If you don’t decide the case the way we want you to, we will defund you.”

That’s a SERIOUS threat to checks and balances.  Let’s hope this doesn’t spread to other states…..

Response To Amtrak Train Crash: Let’s Gut Amtrak

TrainCrash-816x511On Tuesday, an Amtrak train — the Northeast Regional train, No. 188 — was traveling from Washington to New York when it derailed around 9:30 p.m., just outside Philly. The National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed that the train was traveling at more than 100 miles an hour or twice the speed limit in that part of the corridor.  More than 200 people, including eight now in critical condition, were taken to hospitals, officials said.  Seven are dead, including a college dean at Medgar Evers College, and officials have not accounted for everyone on board.

Naturally, early focus is on the 32 year old engineer, who was slightly injured and has not spoken to the NTSB yet.  According to the engineer’s attorney (yes, he’s lawyered up), his client has no recollection of the accident.

But let’s move off the engineer and note that technology that could have remotely slowed the train, which the president of Amtrak has called “the most important rail safety advancement of our time,” has been installed on much of the Northeast Corridor, but not the section where the train derailed — and if some in the Senate have their way, it may not be in place for another five years.

For decades, the National Transportation Safety Board has urged the the nation’s railroads to implement a technology called positive train control systems (PTC). This technology would allow railroads to use GPS to stop or slow trains in cases of driver emergencies, switches left in the wrong position, hijacking, natural disasters, or other human error. In 2008, Congress enacted the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which required the nation’s busiest railroad operators to have these technologies fully in place by December 2015.

Knowing all that, the House decided it was a good time to… wait for it…. cut our infrastructure spending:

A House panel approved a measure Wednesday that cuts funding for Amtrak, less than a day after a train derailment left at least seven people dead and many more injured.

The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee voted 30-21 to reduce grants to Amtrak by $252 million — a drop of about 15% from last year’s level. The cut would apply only to Amtrak’s capital spending and wouldn’t touch funding levels for safety and operations. The measure still needs to clear the full House and Senate before it would go into effect in October.

Democrats on the panel fought unsuccessfully to boost Amtrak funding by $1 billion, to $2.4 billion. But Republicans argued that such a spending increase would need to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget, and they admonished Democrats for pointing to the derailment in an effort to increase funding for the passenger rail service.

“Don’t use this tragedy in that way. It was beneath you,” Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said to Democrats.

 

The Indiana Fix

The proposed new bill working its way through the Indiana state legislature today seems to negate the worst things about the RFRA law:

It doesn’t undue Hobby Lobby or other grievances.  The changes would not establish sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class under the state’s civil right’s laws.  That will have to come another day.  All this does is say that the Indiana RFRA cannot be used to discriminate, nor can it be used as a defense in a lawsuit for discrimination.

On the other hand, you have to ask yourself…. if the original “unfixed” law did not discriminate, why are so many on the right claiming that their side “lost”?

UPDATE:  Angie’s List is having none of it.  Angie’s List, one of the first companies to object to Indiana’s religious freedom law, on Thursday morning said that the changes proposed by Indiana lawmakers did not go far enough in addressing the company’s concerns.

Oesterle said that as long as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) remains in place and Indiana does not provide further protections for gays and lesbians, Angie’s List will not expand its presence in the state, according to the Star.

“Employers in most of the state of Indiana can fire a person simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. That’s just not right and that’s the real issue here. Our employees deserve to live, work and travel with open accommodations in any part of the state,” Oesterle said in the statement.

Arkansas Governor Wisely Seeks To Avoid Same Headache That Indiana Has

Moments ago, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said that he does not plan to sign the version of the religious freedom bill that currently sits on his desk and called on the state legislature to make changes before sending it back to him.

Hutchinson, who called the issue “divisive” and cited his own son as an example of someone urging him to veto the bill, made the announcement during a Little Rock press conference Wednesday morning.

The Arkansas House on Tuesday approved a religious freedom measure that mirrors the one Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law in Indiana — sparking outrage from businesses, sports organizations and popular culture figures who said it opened the door to discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Hutchinson, a Republican in his first year in office, said Monday that he’d sign the measure — but that was when lawmakers were still trying to find tweaks that ultimately eluded them.

Bigots Get It

At yesterday’s press conference, Indiana Governor Mike Pence spent a great deal of time blaming the media for its representation that Indiana’s RFRA law allows businesses to discriminate against gay people.  “Not true”, Pence said.  Well, it is true if you read the actual law, and apparently, even the bigots think so:

WALKERTON, Ind. -A small-town pizza shop is saying they agree with Governor Pence and the signing of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The O’Connor family, who owns Memories Pizza, says they have a right to believe in their religion and protect those ideals.

If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” says Crystal O’Connor of Memories Pizza.

She and her family are standing firm in their beliefs.

The O’Connor’s have owned Memories Pizza in Walkerton for 9 years.

It’s a small-town business, with small-town ideals.

“We are a Christian establishment,” says O’Connor.

The O’Connor family prides themselves in owning a business that reflects their religious beliefs.

We’re not discriminating against anyone, that’s just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything,” says O’Connor.

So, when Governor Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, the family was not disappointed.

“We definitely agree with the bill,” says O’Connor.

When ABC 57 asked O’Connor about the negative backlash the bill has been getting for being a discriminatory piece of legislation, she says that’s simply not true.

I do not think it’s targeting gays. I don’t think it’s discrimination,” says O’Connor. “It’s supposed to help people that have a religious belief.”

I do believe that the Indiana RFRA legislation has now been sufficiently clarified, yes?

I mean, I guess … thank you, O’Connor family? You have done a great job showing exactly why this law is so awful, the kind of mean-spirited bigotry it was passed to enable, and the degree to which all of Pence’s talk of the Golden Rule and how Hoosiers are too nice to discriminate has been a shameless lie. You are the perfect voice for this, which is to say you are abhorrent, un-Christian people.

Of course we know the likely next chapter of this story: the O’Connor family goes whining to the right-wing media about how mean people have been to them (on Yelp, for instance) since they bravely expressed their bigotry and announced their intention to discriminate. Cry me a damn river.

By the way, what respecting wedding couple — gay or straight — would have pizza at a wedding?

Pence Lies Himself Into A Corner

UPDATE:  Pence is giving a press conference this morning in which he re-asserts that the Indiana RFRA is just like the federal RFRA and the RFRAs passed in 30 other states.  He is lying (or is stupid).  It is similar, but has important differences.  He’s playing the victim, claiming (repeatedly) that he and Indiana are being “smeared”.  Still, he’s calling on the Indiana General Assembly to “fix” the bill.  Bit of a mixed message.  It also bears repeating — Indiana Assembly Democrats offered an amendment to #RFRA saying it couldn’t be used to discriminate. GOP legislators voted that down.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has been all over the media for the past few days, pretending the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” has nothing to do with discriminating against LGBT people, and yesterday he announced that he’d push for a “clarification” of the bill, to show that it doesn’t do that thing everybody knows it does.

Pence has a problem, though; the anti-gay activists who helped ram this bill through the Indiana legislature are opposed to any such clarification, because of course they are.

Micah Clark of the American Family Association’s Indiana chapter, who stood right behind Pence, along with several other Religious Right leaders, when he signed the bill into law and has quite a record of anti-gay activism, said today that he opposes any such clarification.

He told AFA President Tim Wildmon today that conservatives should call Pence and other state officials and demand that they oppose any effort to clarify that the law does not legalize discrimination: “That could totally destroy this bill.” (In Georgia, supporters of a similar bill also opposed a push to ensure that the legislation will not permit discrimination in business.)

Wildmon agreed, adding that the Indiana law is necessary to protect anti-gay business owners from “persecution.” The law’s critics, Wildmon claimed, are waging “spiritual warfare” against state officials.

Here’s a photo originally posted proudly by Micah Clark, showing Clark and several other anti-gay activists standing with Pence when he signed the RFRA, with annotations added by GLAAD to make it very clear that Pence is simply lying about its intent.

pencelies

Let’s get real.  The real motive behind much of the “religious liberty” crusade is this: an effort to depict religious conservatives as an embattled but righteous remnant engulfed in a self-destructing society, and wishing only to be left alone to their own beliefs and customs. But the definition of “left alone” inevitably involves friction with social norms, which politicians promoting this meme wish to exacerbate, not mitigate. And so the alleged “shield” of religious liberty protections becomes a “sword” for eroding civil liberties for others. It is impossible, ultimately, to ignore the precedent set in the fight for civil rights for African-Americans, where opponents also retreated to a position of “simply” demanding the right for private parties to live their lives and conduct their businesses according to “custom.” Here’s how People for the American Way recently put it:

Fifty years ago, Americans decided that a private business owner who serves the public can be required to abide by laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Since then, many states and municipalities have added prohibitions on discrimination based on other characteristics like disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. It is those laws that some religious conservatives are objecting to, arguing that they should be free to refuse to provide services to same-sex couples even when states have decided as a matter of public policy to ban anti-gay discrimination.

Many religious conservatives object to the civil rights model for looking at this issue on grounds that sexual orientation is a matter of “choice,” not nature, a position that fewer and fewer people accept the more they get to know LGBT folk. But at bottom, their scriptural objections to homosexuality are no stronger than the scriptural objections to racial integration cited so often in defense of Jim Crow. And like them, the current efforts to identify Christianity with homophobia will look ludicrous and shameful in a generation or less. So when we are told these poor innocent conservative religious folk “just” want their consciences respected, and that means a zone of sanctioned discrimination must be created for them, the proper answer isn’t to dismiss religious liberty as a legitimate concern, but instead to ask: does your liberty really require a right to discriminate, and to disobey laws others must obey? It’s the self-definition of the right to discriminate that’s so dangerous here, and so tempting to bigots.

You Would Think These People Should Know Better Than To Opine

Unbelievable:

Schock Out

It wasn’t the Dowton Abbey-themed office, or the private jets to the Taylor Swift concerts, or the $5k custom-made “Presidential” lectern that finally sent Rep. Schock scrambling for the exit — it was a classic sales grift. According to Politico:

Schock billed the federal government and his campaign for logging roughly 170,000 miles on his personal car from January 2010 through July 2014. But when he sold that Chevrolet Tahoe in July 2014, it had roughly 80,000 miles on the odometer, according to public records obtained by POLITICO under Illinois open records laws. The documents, in other words, indicate he was reimbursed for 90,000 miles more than his car was driven…

The OCE probe —and any potential Ethics Committee investigation — will disappear with Schock’s resignation. However, federal law enforcement could still look into Schock’s actions…