Jon Chait has a smart read how Rubio got to the top of the GOP heap:
As recently as a few months ago, Paul Ryan — despite his nominal subordinate position to Mitt Romney on the Republican ticket — was the unassailable leader of the Republican Party. But Marco Rubio appears to have seized the mantle from Ryan. Or, at least, if Ryan is the party’s mind, Rubio is its face, the Bush to Ryan’s Cheney.
The party’s brief post-election period of questioning its direction has, for the time being, been settled in favor of what I call the Krauthammer plan. This strategy was laid out by the ubiquitous pundit in a column published a mere two days after the election. In it, Krauthammer audaciously declared that the party needed to take a dive on immigration reform, and otherwise change nothing else.
Correctomente. Chait goes on to say that Republicans seem to think that if immigration reform does pass, it will somehow be Rubio's great victory, and not Obama's. This of course is exactly what they will try to say, and places like Politico will sort of buy it. Certainly, if immigation reform does pass, he overtakes Ryan and all the others as the front runner for 2016. But the idea that it will be his baby, when he opposed a path to citizenship until a few weeks ago, is absurd, and most Americans will know that.
As usual, when it comes to the rankings of OECD countries, on pre-school, the United States is down toward the bottom of the barrel, down there near Greece and Turkey. The average across the OECD countries in 2008 was to have 77 percent of three to five-year-olds enrolled in pre-school. The US figure looks to be about 58 percent. So it's just another one of those obvious good things that we're not going to be allowed to do in this country because of our ridiculous right wing.
But even so, it'll presumably happen someday or another, and there are going to be one hell of a lot of Barack H. Obama Pre-School facilities around this country when that day comes, believe you me. And Obama is going to put forth a specifical proposal. What will it look like?
Jon Cohn of TNR is on the spot with this one. Here's what he wrote just hours ago:
...the plan will probably resemble a recent proposal from the Center for American Progress.
Let me just put it this way. I follow a number of conservative pundits on my Twitter feed, and while Marco Rubio was talking, I sure didn't notice them lighting up the switchboard, as it were. At point Ramesh Ponnuru tweeted: "Rubio is doing well I think but why does he keep touching his face?"
A bigger question about his physical actions would, of course, present itself in short order. That was the most ill-advised drink of liquid since Socrates took hemlock. It will dominate commentary and late-night, and it deserves to. Just bush league. And the way he kept nervously looking at the camera...
Otherwise he wasn't bad. It wasn't a failure. And I don't think he's a complete lightweight. He gave a good speech at the GOP convention. But he didn't succeed last night at all. Two reasons.
First, Quixote-like, he kept tilting at the right-wing caricature of Obama that only right-wingers buy into. I doubt very strongly at this point that most Americans will just sit there listening to how Barack Obama opposes the free enterprise system and think that it makes sense to them. No. It doesn't. The R's could sell middle Americans on that idea when the memory of the stimulus was fresh, and when the jobless rate was 9 percent. But with things getting better, that's a story that only conservatives believe. They make the error of continuting to believe that others believe it.
My quick take: A very strong speech, better that most, an A-. The writing was prose, except for the "they deserve a vote flourish at the end," which was powerful, but the structure was very effective. I really liked the way he opened by diving right into the sequester (as I suggested!). The words weren't exactly the ones I'd have chosen, but it was good that he said--early, when everyone was still watching--that the Republicans are going to be the ones to blame if these cuts kick in.
The general economic program was strong. The innovation and science, the education, the energy, the immigration pitch, the big long section on climate change; all good stuff. Raising the minimum wage, and indexing it, were terrific to hear. Personally I don't think $9 an hour is enough, and I'm sure he'll settle for even less if he can get indexing, but that would be huge. Also, universal pre-K is a big, big deal. That has very broad support. Republican governors like it. It's a good thing to be associated with.
The foreign policy section, a little less successful. The conlaw prof understood that he'd better say he understands that drones are problematic. He said he'll listen more to Congress and consult more with them on this going forward; will be interesting to see exactly what that means.
Then, the ending. The right to vote, and guns. Very powerful stuff. And the Republicans looked like idiots, frankly, sitting there not applauding for that poor 102-year-old woman who waited six hours to vote, not applauding victims of gun violence. They whine that Obama says they're heartless? Can't they understand that that's how they look?
I read through your comments on my challenge about the South yesterday. Interesting. Not bad. Not overwhelmingly persuasive.
From mngeller: the Constitution, and the 16th and 17th amendments (the income tax; direction election of senators).
Constitution--okay, Madison took the lead, but really: Yes, the Constitution was a miraculous document, except for the problematic matter of its endorsement of slavery. All these PBS shows and things celebrating the genius of the Constitution, well, yes, but there's a pretty large BUT there, and we all know why it was in there.
16th Amendment--there's a little something to this one. Apparently the income tax was seen as a substitute for tariffs, which of course the South opposed. So lo and behold the South was pro income-tax. Kind of amazing but true. In any it ought to be noted that the tax was pushed by a president from Ohio, Taft, and by senators from Nebraska and Rhode Island, although it's true as mngeller writes that the first states to pass the amendment were southern ones.
The Washington Post did a clever thing with its latest poll. They asked people whether they support or oppose proposal X in general terms. Then they let respondents know Obama's position and asked them again. Someone earned his paycheck this week.
Most of the results aren't that surprising with one exception. In general, Democrats are likely to be somewhat more supportive of tihngs when Obama's name is attached, Republicans somewhat less so. Independents show greater variance. They become 9 percent less likely to back a path to citizenship, going from 70 to 61 percent, and 15 percent more likely to support withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, up to 84 percent. Still, no big flips from overall support to overall opposition on anything.
Except for Republicans on path to citizenship. Without Obama, it has 60 percent support--a quite surprising number. With Obama, it's 39 percent.
That's obviously all about racial anxiety. The blacks and the browns are teaming up on us. The only question is whether that 60 percent finding is real to begin with. I think it's a little dubious, but it's the number. It's like those cases where conservatives approve of "our" blacks and Latinos with an especial zeal. In any case, I'm sure the phenomenon this poll describes was true with Bush in reverse, but I doubt to tune of 21 points.
Obama needs to expose the GOP’s fiscal dishonesty in his State of the Union, says Michael Tomasky.
Barack Obama has a lot of work to do in tonight’s State of the Union address. He has to go over the heads of recalcitrant Republicans and cowardly Democrats and make a case to the American people on his gun-control measures. He has to do something similar, although it’s not quite as high a hurdle, on immigration reform. He has to make the cases for his defense and intelligence nominees. And more. But job No. 1 seems pretty clear to me: frame the debate about the sequester and the budget. The GOP strategy on this actually stands a chance of fooling a considerable portion of the American public, unless Obama uses tonight’s stage to expose its dishonesty and paint the GOP into a corner with specifics.
President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden (left) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) delivers his State of the Union address on January 24, 2012, in Washington, D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty)
The cuts are scheduled to happen, as I’m sure you know, on March 1. Reductions in the amount of $1.2 trillion over the next decade—$500 billion to Defense and $700 billion to domestic programs—would start kicking in on that day. The cuts will be paced as if to play out over a decade, but even so, they’re deep. There will be furloughs, maybe some layoffs, some programs discontinued or put on hiatus.
The Republicans’ position right now is to let this happen, or at least to act like they’re completely ready to let this happen. Charles Krauthammer laid out the strategy last Friday in his Washington Post column. The Republicans, he wrote, should do nothing. That is, Obama has been calling on the GOP to come to the bargaining table and agree on a package of cuts and revenues to substitute for the sequester. The Republicans, he advises, should say no thanks; we’re definitely not giving you any new tax revenue, and if you can’t come up with a set of cuts to replace the sequestration cuts, then we’ll just sit on our hands and let the sequestration cuts kick in, and people will blame you (Obama) because you keep insisting on raising taxes.
Two interesting New Republic pieces provide the occasion for further reflection on some of our favorite topics around here: the Republicans, the South, and race.
The cover piece by Sam Tanenhaus on the GOP and the legacy of John Calhoun is getting attention because the cover is a very clever riff on the white album cover (lower case because of course the album was called "The Beatles"). Whether you think "An Historical Investigation" (the cover copy) is acceptable American English is between you and your maker. I find it awfully hoity-toity.
It's a good piece. I and others have written plenty about nullification and South Carolina's malignant influence on American politics since this current madness started in 2009, but Tanenhaus does do a nice job of invoking Calhoun's views in such a way as to make their present-day relevance clear:
Calhoun's innovation was to develop a radical theory of minority-interest democracy based on his mastery of the Constitution's quirky arithmetic, which often subordinated the will of the many to the settled prejudices of the few. At the time of the constitutional convention, the total population of the Union, as reported by the most recent census, was just under 3.5 million; yet, Calhoun pointed out, the four smallest states, "with a population of only 241,490, something more than the fourteenth part of the whole, could have defeated the ratification." In other words, "numerical" or "absolute majorities" were severely limited in the actions they could take—or impose on others—especially on questions that put sectional interests at odds with the "General Government."
Fascinating report from NPR's Tom Gjelton this morning on cyber warfare. The Pentagon is quintupling its cyber warfare workforce from the current 900 to something around 4,500. But more than that, Gjelton reports that while the public posture of the DoD has always been that our cyber warfare units are defensive in nature, we're out there playing some offense, too:
"The thrust of the strategy is defensive," declared William Lynn, the deputy secretary of defense at the time. Neither he nor other Pentagon officials had one word to say about possible offensive cyberattacks. The Pentagon would not favor the use of cyberspace "for hostile purposes," according to the strategy. "Establishing robust cyberdefenses no more militarizes cyberspace," Lynn said, "than having a navy militarizes the ocean."
Those assurances are deceptive. Behind the scenes, U.S. commanders are committing vast resources and large numbers of military personnel to planning offensive cyberattacks and, in at least some cases, actually carrying them out. But the secrecy surrounding offensive cyberwar planning means there has been almost no public discussion or debate over the legal, ethical and practical issues raised by waging war in cyberspace.
Offensive cyberattacks carried out by the United States could set precedents other countries would follow. The rules of engagement for cyberwar are not yet clearly defined. And the lack of regulation concerning the development of cyberweapons could lead to a proliferation of lethal attack tools — and even to the possibility that such weapons could fall into the hands of unfriendly states, criminal organizations and even terrorist groups.
Pope Benedict's announcement that he's about to become the first Pope to resign since the 1500s gives the Catholic Church an opportunity--to deal with sex-abuse victims more honestly, and to wake up and listen to the parishioners who have been widely ignoring Church teaching for decades.
He says it's for health reasons, and one look at him confirms the likelihood that that's true. But we all know that it may not be the only reason. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he was in charge of handling the child abuse scandals for the four years before he became Pope. There's the well-know case in Munich, where as archbishop he allegedly reassigned a molesting priest who molested again. And if you've been following the revolting recent stories out of Los Angeles, Ratzinger would have been overseeing the handling of some of those cases, too.
Not being Catholic, I don't feel it's really for me to bring the hammer down here with great thunder. Not only am I not Catholic, but my mother left the Church as a young woman (before marriage--dad was basically an atheist and wanted no part of the Catholic Church at all) and was glad of it. The only photo of a living human that adorned the walls of our house when I was a kid? Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. So you know where I'm coming from.
It sure has been sickening to watch, thinking about all those young men, and women, damaged or destroyed by the very people they are instructed to respect the most. Sexual abuse of a child being pretty much the single worst thing a human being can do, it's kind of difficult to imagine many things in life more offensive and disgraceful than that. Covering it up is a pretty close second. Then there are all the non-scandal questions on which the Church is so behind our times. Forget gays. That'll take a while. Just letting priests marry, for God's sake. No brainer. And making social justice and compassion at least as important as abortion. How long is the Church going to resist the flow of history and keep choosing conservatives or reactionaries? This is a chance for the Church to join the modern world as it did in the early 1960s under John XXIII. But I would imagine it's an opportunity the Church won't take.
The president’s civil-liberties record is far from ideal. But, says Michael Tomasky, at least give Obama credit for exploring ways to limit his own power.
At John Brennan’s CIA confirmation hearing last week, which came right after the leak of the controversial Justice Department memo about the targeting of U.S. citizens, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said that the Senate was reviewing proposals for special courts to oversee the program. At least that way, this awesome power to determine that a U.S. citizen had forfeited his right to due process by joining an enemy army wouldn’t repose in one person. Then on Saturday, The New York Times noted that President Obama has been considering exactly this move. This provides a good occasion, then, to reflect on a difference between Obama and his predecessor—Obama has certainly continued and maybe even expanded some dreadful Bush-era practices on wiretapping, but at least he’s apparently willing to relinquish some executive power. And that serves as a reminder that while we always have to be on guard against abuse of executive power, it’s also the case that some presidents are less creepy than others, and that in the post-9/11 era, we don’t have much choice but to live with a lot of ambiguity in these matters.
Presdent Obama arrives to speak during the House Democratic Issues Conference last week at the Lansdowne Resort in Virginia. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)
The Times article cites a number of senators—Feinstein, Ron Wyden, Saxby Chambliss, freshman Angus King—expressing their concern about the fact “that a president can use secret evidence to label a citizen a terrorist and order his execution without a trial or judge’s ruling.” For several paragraphs, you’re reading this piece thinking that it’s a building congressional hue and cry that will force the Obama administration to submit to judicial reviews of the targeting of citizens.
But then you get to this sentence: “An administration official who spoke of the White House deliberations on the condition of anonymity said President Obama had asked his security and legal advisers a year ago ‘to see how you could have an independent review’ of planned strikes. ‘That includes possible judicial review.’”
It seems that Chuck Hagel's fate is basically in John McCain's hands now. If McCain reverses field and decides that he won't oppose a filibuster of Hagel, then I think Obama is going to need to start looking for a new SecDef.
Tom Ricks, probably Washington's best journalist on defense issues, thinks it's 50-50 that Hagel withdraws. What? That's way out there from what most people think, but Ricks is worth listening to:
Hagel has the votes, but not much else. His big problem is that no one much wants him running the Pentagon. Congressional Republicans consider him a traitor. Congressional Democrats see him as anti-gay and anti-abortion, undercutting their support for him. And Northeastern Democrats (and some others) worry about his stance on Israel. Democratic support in the Senate appears more dutiful than passionate.
That said, I don't think that a Hagel exit would hurt President Obama much. SecDef nominees have blown up on the launch pad before: Remember John Tower (picked by the first President Bush) and Bobby Inman (picked by President Clinton to replace Les Aspin)? Interestingly, both were succeeded as nominees by men who went on to be very successful stewards of the military establishment: Dick Cheney and William Perry. Calling Michèle Flournoy?
If you follow my Twitter feed you know I got into a bit of a thing with Glenn Greenwald yesterday, which was interesting. (And if you don't follow my Twitter feed at @mtomasky you can correct that now!). I was surprised at the number of people who seemed to take my side, or at least sort of take my side, or alternatively who rebuked GG for his tone.
Far more civilly, Joan Walsh took issue with me. Most of her piece seems to be about the use of drones generally, which I wasn't even writing about. On the question of targeting US citiziens, Walsh writes:
I’m proud of the extraordinary rights we enjoy as Americans, and I don’t know why so many people shrug at the notion that the president can abrogate those rights if he decides, based on evidence (which he doesn’t have to share) that you’re a terrorist. When it comes to Anwar al-Awlaki, who renounced his citizenship and made many public commitments to al-Qaida, those questions don’t keep me awake at night. But don’t we want assurances that the evidence against every citizen who winds up on that list is just as clear? Don’t we want more oversight, even after the fact?
We still don’t know enough about the drone strike that killed al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son; some U.S. accounts defined him as a male of military age who might have been a legitimate target, others as unintended collateral damage. Are we really not supposed to care about the truth?
Why it’s going to take four more years before Republicans truly hit rock bottom—and begin moving back to the center. By Michael Tomasky.
You remember the famous Bertolt Brecht line about how the government should just “dissolve the people and elect another”? I keep thinking about it as I read more and more about the Republican attempts at redefinition—Eric Cantor’s speech, Karl Rove’s new group, Fox’s quasi makeover, Marco Rubio’s beer with Ben Smith, and so on. They have all these fancy ideas about how to rebrand. But they can have all the fancy ideas they want. They still have an electoral base that sees politics basically as an arena to exact revenge for a series of resentments and grudges. Until they change that, they are stuck—and it isn’t happening anytime soon.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor arrives to speak at the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday. As the GOP tries to reinvent itself, Cantor spoke of conservative reforms to make life easier for more people in regards to education, health care, workforce reform, and immigration. (Mark Wilson/Getty)
Cantor’s “Make Life Work” speech Tuesday was more about repackaging than rethinking. He put forward one actually excellent idea, for which I give him credit. He proposed that colleges be required to make public data revealing employment and earning patterns among their graduates. Universities fear this to death, for reasons that education expert Kevin Carey explained in an article in the journal I edit, Democracy, as it could ultimately lead to a reduction in tuition costs.
So I applaud that one. Otherwise, the ideas ranged from OK to largely irrelevant to done before to actively bad. You’ve got to hold on to your wallet any time a Republican talks about “modernizing” Medicare. Endorsing a path to citizenship for DREAM Act recipients is fine, but small potatoes. It is interesting, though, as E.J. Dionne observed, that Cantor was mostly playing on the Democrats’ side of the field, talking about using government to improve people’s lives. Noted.
I’ve always written about politics with part of my brain focused on the question of what I would do if I were in Politician X’s position. This line of thought came so naturally to me that I imagined everyone did this. But I guess everyone doesn’t.
I've now read the DoJ white paper unearthed by Michael Isikoff (nice job! And by the way, who leaked that one, eh?) that justifies the killing of US citizens. You can read it for yourself here. It’s certainly not something that makes the breast swell with pride. But it does make me wonder what I would do in this situation, and I can’t honestly come up with easy answers. While I don’t condone what the Obama administration is doing here, I’m also suspicious of high-horse denunciations, because I think the question of whether an American forfeits his due process rights when he joins an enemy army is a complicated one.
The logic of the paper goes like this. The US is at war with Al Qaeda. If American citizens have become operational leaders of Al Qaeda, they have in effect made themselves enemies of the United States. In cases where the capture of said person is "infeasible," killing the person does not deprive him of his constitutional rights, provided that "the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States."
It's the paper's definition of the word "immiment" that is new here. Isikoff writes:
With the approval rating of Congress at an all time low, The Daily Beast columnist Keli Goff says term limits may be the best remedy for the current political situation.
The Senate’s youngest member, Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, held his fellow lawmakers’ feet to the fire on gun control. A year after Newtown, he says he’s not giving up the fight.