For the first time in decades, there’s no clear GOP candidate to compete against Clinton in the race for the White House. Who will it be, folks? Batter up and whack-a-mole.
While the Republican presidential contenders were kumbaya-ing at CPAC, evidence continued to mount over which of them gets to suffer the embarrassment of winning 180 electoral votes. A USA Today poll found that 59 percent of respondents said they will or might vote for Clinton. It showed enormous improvements in personal qualities (Is she likeable? Is she honest?, etc.) since the first time she ran for president. Respondents even thought that she was six years younger than she actually is!
What the CPAC goings on tell us, combined with a burst of polls showing Clinton wiping out Chris Christie and just mopping the floor with Jeb Bush, is that as they face 2016, the Republicans are in a situation that has almost no precedent in the party’s modern history. In practically every nomination battle going back to Tom Dewey—I’m not even going to tell you the year, but trust me, that’s going back!—the Republicans have had a chalk candidate. The establishment guy, the early front-runner.
Dewey, Dewey, Eisenhower, Eisenhower, Nixon, Rockefeller, Nixon, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Reagan, Bush Sr., Bush Sr., Dole, Bush Jr., Bush Jr., McCain, Romney. These were the establishment nominees. You could make a case for William Scranton instead of Rocky in ’64, and you might argue, I guess, that at the start of the 1968 cycle, it wasn’t Nixon but George Romney, although he imploded in the pretty early innings. And anyway, I’m not sure Romney ever led Nixon in the polls. So these were the GOP establishment choices. You’ll have noted that only one of the whole bunch of them, Nelson Rockefeller, failed to capture the nomination.
Today? No chalk horse. Wide open. Christie was, but clearly isn’t anymore (by the way, Clinton leads him by 10 points—in New Jersey). Those who think Jeb Bush can step in and play this role are going on name and history, but they obviously aren’t looking at the numbers—Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee do just about as well against Clinton as Bush does. Establishment money might chase Bush if he got in, but there’s no evidence that votes would.
Calm down, everybody. Clinton's Hitler analogy was accurate—and it's hilarious to watch Republicans trying to use it to dent her foreign policy credentials.
I, for one, was sorry to see Hillary Clinton clarify her remarks comparing Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. Yes, I know the rule. No Hitler analogies. No mentions of his name period. I know the rule, but I don’t like the rule. I think in some ways we need more Hitler analogies, because when political figures around the world do things like some of the things Adolf Hitler did, we ought to be able to say, for the sake of historical accuracy and for the sake of issuing warnings that will get people’s attention, “This is like that thing Hitler did.”
And what Putin is doing is like what AH did in Czechoslovakia. In both cases, the claim is that annexation is the only possible solution to ensure the protection of the German/Russian population. In fact, if we do want to think about differences, we could easily argue that Hitler behaved less brutishly than Putin. The Nazis were carrying on about the German population of Czechoslovakia for three years before they struck, so at least poor Edvard Benes had warning and knew what was coming. Putin seems to have cooked this up in mere weeks.
If, then, the analogy is basically accurate, why was it controversial for Clinton to say this? Can no one can never compare any action taken by any leader to any action taken by Hitler? That’s absurd. Let’s say there’s a dictator out there with two separate and competing private militias. Let’s even say that one private militia wears black shirts and the other wears brown shirts. And let’s say that on that dictator’s orders, the guys in the black shirts wipe out the guys in the brown shirts, who are led by a man who was once arguably the dictator’s best friend, to the negligible extent that our dictator is capable of having friends.
This is just the crisis to make themselves seem relevant again within the GOP—even if they’re undermining the commander in chief at a pivotal moment.
Say this for Rudy Giuliani: He gave away the game with his now-infamous admiring comments on Fox News two days ago about Vladimir Putin. “He makes a decision and he executes it, quickly,” the former mayor said. “Then everybody reacts. That’s what you call a leader. President Obama, he’s got to think about it. He’s got to go over it again. He’s got to talk to more people about it.”
Giuliani, once a genuinely moderate Republican (go look up his mayoral immigration record) and a man whom aides used to describe a long time ago as the one figure capable of pulling the national GOP back toward the center (I swear, I had those conversations), has served for some time now as little more than a right-wing standup comic—and a staggeringly hypocritical one at that. I’ll never forget his St. Paul convention speech, when he defended Sarah Palin by mocking Barack Obama and the Democrats for not thinking her hometown was “cosmopolitan enough.” This from a man who, while ostensibly campaigning against Hillary Clinton in 1999 and 2000 to represent all of New York state in the U.S. Senate, I think literally never spent a single night upstate. Zoom—as soon as the event in Albany or Schenectady was over, it was on the plane and right back to the emotional safety of the Upper East Side.
A standup comic often serves as his audience’s id, and so it is in this case. The neocons, on some emotional level, prefer Putin to Obama. He’s rugged. He goes shirtless. He knows his way around a Kalashnikov. He “wrestles bears and drills for oil,” as Palin put it Monday night, also on Fox. Palin, of course, is a pretty id-dy figure in her own right. She and Giuliani can say what some others who live and operate in Washington may feel constrained from saying. But every time John Bolton and Charles Krauthammer and Lindsey Graham and others carry on about Obama’s weakness, they’re also implying that he’s not half the man Putin is. And in neocon world, it always comes down to who’s the manlier man (although this makes Osama bin Laden a manlier man than Bush or Cheney, and Obama a manlier man than all of them, but never mind).
I have been meaning for some time now to write about Russ Hemenway, one of the great unheralded liberal operatives of the last 50 years in American politics, and my dear friend, who died last month at 88. (Here is his New York Times obituary.) It’s taken me some time—because, I told myself, I’ve been really busy, and I have been. But it seems clear to me now that it’s mainly been because, even though he lived an amazing long life and passed in relative peace, I still haven’t wanted to accept the idea that he’s gone. He was like my second father.
That, I realize, isn’t of concern to you, so I won’t carry on too much about that. But here’s what is of concern to you. Russ had a dramatic impact from behind-the-scenes on American politics and liberalism for a solid half a century. Working closely with Eleanor Roosevelt as a young man, he helped propel the reform movement to power, the movement in cities (mostly New York but elsewhere to some extent) to take on the big corrupt urban machines. The reform movement was responsible for numerous positive changes—open primaries, easier ballot access for non-machine candidates, sweeping reforms of the judicial process, which before the movement’s efforts was more or less completely corrupt. A lot of these changes wouldn’t have happened without Russ, or certainly wouldn’t have happened as quickly or thoroughly.
That would be life’s work enough for a lot of people, but Russ went on to play an even bigger role in Washington politics through his National Committee for an Effective Congress, which Mrs. Roosevelt founded. NCEC was a pioneer outfit in candidate recruitment and in modern campaign-targeting techniques and the like, and it helped put dozens of liberals (a few of them Republicans, back in those days) in Congress. NCEC didn’t just do campaigns, though. It was active in all kinds of legislative battles. The first campaign finance reform law, for example, which passed in 1971, wouldn’t have made it through without Russ and NCEC, said The New York Times at the time. Pursuing political reform, opposing the Vietnam war, working for unions, fighting the imperial presidency; Russ did all these things.And he must have done them well. When Charles Colson presented to his president, Richard Nixon, his master “enemies list,” Russ’s name was on it.
So that’s the basic biography, but it doesn’t begin to describe what an amazing person he was and what an incredible life he led. I got to know him in 1987. He was 62 (he seemed so old!). At that point, and for about two decades prior, he knew virtually every prominent Democrat in the country, and I mean knew them: He huddled with senators and House members in the Casbah-decor bar of the old Democratic Club on Ivie Street, or in their private hideaways in the Capitol, plotting strategy on the current bill, sipping from their private bottles of 18-year-old scotch. He knew their strengths and, as any savvy operative should, their weaknesses: who drank too much, who catted around too much, who did nothing really but play golf, who was cheap, who was crooked. He hated the cheap far more than he hated the crooked.
Two out of John McCain’s three suggestions for how to aid the conflict in Ukraine and Russia are bad—and if the U.S. isn’t careful, it may end up more involved than it can afford to be.
I’m not sure what we should do about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I am, however, dead sure about what we shouldn’t do. Please, Washington—don’t listen to John McCain!
The leader of the capital’s bombs-away caucus spoke exclusively over the weekend to the Beast’s Josh Rogin, who nailed the scoop. It was a relief to see McCain acknowledging that there is no plausible military option. So that’s progress. But the steps McCain advises are certain to heighten tensions and probably start a new Cold War, which is surely what the thuggish Putin wants. It’s most definitely not what the United States should want, at exactly the time when, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has proposed, we should be reducing the size of our military and the reach of our global commitments.
McCain floated three notions: tougher sanctions against Russia and its higher-ranking officials; NATO membership for Georgia; expanded and sped-up missile defense systems in Europe. The first is unobjectionable. The world has to do something here, and sanctions are that something. If we can’t prevent Putin from engaging in this kind of aggression—and face it, we can’t—we can at least do what we can to harm his economy and limit the foreign travel of his high government officials.
Support for the repeal of Obamacare dropped to 31 percent this week, but right-wing states are still rejecting billions in free money. Buckle up Republicans, Obamacare is here to stay.
Somewhat quietly, Obamacare enrollment hit 4 million this week. Now, it’s certainly true—as critics have noted—that enrollees aren’t the same thing as people who will continue to stay with their plan for a full year. If an enrollee encounters an unexpected expense of replacing a head gasket or something like that, he might skip a payment. But even so, 4 million’s a more-than-respectable number.
© Mario Anzuoni / Reuters
Also rather quietly this week, a new tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed support for repeal of Obamacare down to 31 percent. As Jay Bookman noted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, overall the poll wasn’t something the president would exactly brag about, but it did represent noticeable change, especially among independents, 57 percent of whom now support the law.
That 31 percent number made me sit up straight for one reason. The percent of Americans who identify themselves as conservative is, lately, about 38 percent, says Gallup. So 31 percent is getting down there. And consider this: As of mid-December 2013, the percentage of Americans who favored repeal was 52.3 percent in a Real Clear Politics average of numerous polls. The Affordable Care Act may not be as popular as Twelve Years a Slave, but it’s not The Lone Ranger anymore either.
The history of civil-rights law is clearly on Jan Brewer's side with her veto of discriminatory SB 1062.
There’s no question that Jan Brewer did the right thing yesterday. No moral question. And no legal question either. Well, let me slightly amend that: With this Supreme Court, you never know about the future. But we know about the past, and decades of civil-rights case law are squarely on Brewer’s side, and supporters of SB 1062 just have to see this clearly and squarely and accept it.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer makes a statement saying she vetoed the controversial Senate Bill 1062 bill, at Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix February 26, 2014. (Samantha Sais/Reuters)
It’s not like we’ve never fought over these questions. We have, of course, and a result, there’s a history here. And that history, that body of court decisions, says clearly, like it or not, that generally speaking, citizens cannot opt out of civil rights laws.
As Harvard law professor Noah Feldman pointed out yesterday in a Bloomberg view column, segregationist business owners in the South argued after the civil rights act of 1964 that their “constitutional right to associate” as they chose should permit them not to serve black customers. (The religious-liberty right, Feldman notes, has the same “constitutional status” as the right to associate.) But courts never said that this was permissible.
One of America’s largest states has the highest percentage of uninsured citizens in the country—yet its bullheaded leaders still won’t get on board with Obamacare or the president himself. What’s more, it seems the Texan population are A-OK with that.
So what happens in Texas when the Republican gubernatorial candidate invites Ted Nugent to the state to campaign for him not long after the Motor City Motormouth has called the President of the United States a “subhuman mongrel,” not to mention a “Communist” and a “gangster”? Would you believe, as Maxwell Smart used to say, that the candidate increases his lead? Well that’s what has happened. There’s crazy, and then there’s Texas crazy.
In a poll that came out Monday, conducted as the Nugent controversy was brewing, Republican Greg Abbott leads Democrat Wendy Davis by 11 points, which Politico notes is up from six points in a poll last year. Now there are surely other reasons for this little surgette, but it certainly shows that Abbott’s decision to keep company with Nugent did him no harm at all in the state.
You think that’s bad, get a load of this, from the same poll. The candidate leading the Democratic field for the right to seek John Cornyn’s Senate seat is a woman named Kesha Rogers. Two of her top ideas? Impeach Barack Obama and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Yes, you read it right. She’s the leading Democrat. She’s also a La Rouchie, a fact that far from hiding she seems intent to rub in the other candidates’ faces: I can ramble on about crazy worldwide banking conspiracies all I want, she seems to be saying, but as long as I want to impeach Obama and repeal Obamacare, you can’t touch me! There’s crazy, and there’s Texas crazy.
This would all be merely amusing, but there’s another side to Texas crazy. Let’s get serious now for a few paragraphs.
I was on Hardball last night talking about the escapades of this Milton Wolf character, the tea party guy who’s challenging GOP incumbent Senator Pat Roberts this year. Wolf became freshly newsworthy this past weekend when the Topeka Capital-Journal revealed that in 2010, Wolf, a radiologist, posted photos of disfigured corpses on Facebook (of people who’d been shot, etc.) and joined other commenters in poking fun at the them.
One image he posted showed a human skull all but blasted apart, about which Wolf wrote: “One of my all-time favorites,” Wolf posted to the Facebook picture. “From my residency days there was a pretty active 'knife and gun club' at Truman Medical Center. What kind of gun blows somebody's head completely off? I've got to get one of those.”
The Kansas City Star headlines an AP story by asserting that Wolf has “apologized,” but I read the piece and I’ll be jiggered if I see any apology in there. What Wolf does is try to explain his actions, although not really, and then accuse Roberts of leaking the material (which, if he did, so what; any opposing campaign would). A release by Wolf’s campaign even called the alleged leak (and it’s only alleged) “the most desperate move of any campaign in recent history,” another clueless and self-pitying statement.
So, this is clearly freakazoid behavior, and is obviously a grotesquely inappropriate thing for a medical professional to do. And it raises the broader question: Where does the tea party find these people?
Recently released transcripts from a September 2008 meeting say Fed officials spoke more about inflation than the impending (and obvious) recession. Say what?!
If you didn’t read through the Federal Open Markets Committee transcripts released last week, I beg you to go take at least a cursory look. Unless you have a weak heart.
Mine, I can tell you, almost shot right out of my chest when I read these passages in Binyamin Applebaum’s New York Times write-up on Saturday morning:
As Fed officials gathered on Sept. 16  at their marble headquarters in Washington for a previously scheduled meeting, stock markets were in free fall. Housing prices had been collapsing for two years, and unemployment was climbing.
Yet most officials did not see clear evidence of a broad crisis. They expected the economy to grow slowly in 2008 and then more quickly in 2009.
Control of the Senate depends on turnout in November. Democrats need to tap what scares their base most: fear of an unrestrained GOP.
We’ve known for a long time now that the Democrats have a lot of Senate seats to defend in red states where Barack Obama’s approval numbers aren’t much higher than George Zimmerman’s—indeed, in these states, surely lower.
But I feel like the fear has just set in here in the last couple of weeks; that is, Democrats coming to terms with the possibility-to-likelihood that they might lose the Senate this November, and after that, the utter bleakness of a final Obama two years with both House and Senate in GOP hands, saying no to anything and everything except, of course, any remote whiff of an opportunity to bring impeachment charges over something.
Republicans need a net pickup of six seats. Democrats are trying to defend incumbent status in six red states (North Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, Montana, West Virginia, and Alaska); also in two blue ones (Michigan and Iowa). They’re hoping for upsets in two red states (Georgia and Kentucky).
You’ll read a lot about Obamacare and the minimum wage and the War on Women and everything else, and all those things will matter. But only one thing really, really, really matters: turnout. You know the lament: The most loyal Democratic groups—young people, black people, single women, etc.—don’t come out to vote in midterms in big numbers. You may dismiss this as lazy stereotyping, but sometimes lazy stereotyping is true, and this is one of those times.
If Republicans can keep discussion around the Affordable Care Act vague, they’ll win in the midterms. The party of health care should collect stories of success and confront the party of no.
The big electoral question hanging over Democrats, of course, is what to do about Obamacare this fall. The pundits say: It’s death! The Democrats are gonna get killed. The Democratic consultants advise their candidates to be as mealy-mouthed as they can possibly get away with being and change the topic as quickly as possible.
The pundits might end up being right after all the votes are counted. But I say the quickest way for Democrats to guarantee that the pundits end up being right is to take their consultants’ advice and pussy-foot around the issue. Democrats who do that will be hoping they sound “reasonable,” but what they’ll really be sounding, and everyone will hear it, is timorous, callow, and totally without conviction. If Democrats are going to say they support the ACA at all—and most of them are going to have to—they might as well do it in a full-throttle and in-your-face way. And they can. The material is there if they just have the onions to use it.
I was struck recently by the contrast in the way two well-known Florida Democrats are approaching the issue. Charlie Crist is the ex-Republican governor who’s now seeking his old office as a Democrat and, after calling himself a proud conservative just a few years ago, is suddenly to the left to me. Alex Sink is Democrat who lost to Crist’s successor, incumbent GOP governor Rick Scott, and is now trying to get to Congress in a special election in a district just north of Tampa Bay. Their approaches are day and night with respect to Obamacare,
Crist has his issues, Lord knows, and Floridians may well question how deeply he believes all this. But be that as it may, here was Crist to Chuck Todd on MSNBC earlier this month: “About a million of my fellow Floridians are not getting health care today. And I am told by friends at SEIU that means that six people in Florida die every day as a result of that. Every day.” Whoa, Todd said; that’s kind of a heavy charge. People are dying because of Rick Scott and his failure to push for Medicaid money under Obamacare? “That’s right. Well think about it…If people are sick, and they aren’t getting health care, what happens? They usually get sicker. Or they die.” The state would be losing, Crist noted, $51 billion in federal money over next 10 years. In other venues, Crist has been similarly full-throated, and less melodramatic, in saying that it’s a tragedy for his state not to take that money.
The Harvard economist famous for defending the one percent says America’s top earners “deserve” what they make, nevermind that our system immunizes them from the consequences of their mistakes.
I remember being mildly dismayed back in November 2011 when students at Harvard walked out on one of Gregory Mankiw’s lectures. Not that I’d agree with the economist who once headed George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers. It just struck me as kind of misplaced.
But today, after having read Mankiw’s opinion piece in Sunday’s New York Times, I officially reverse that position and indeed suggest—nay, plead—that every Mankiw student from here to the end of time boycott his lectures on the basis of its dishonest vapidity. The idea that someone could peddle these gaseous lies to college students (to our future leaders, no less!) fills me with horror. To the extent that the worldview he expressed is taken seriously in this country—which, alas, is a considerable extent—our economic prospects are grim.
The headline, “Yes, the Wealthy Can Be Deserving,” was undoubtedly slapped up there by the sheepish commissioning editor trying to understate the column’s more egregious claims. What Mankiw in fact argues is that nearly every super-rich corporate titan in America has earned whatever he makes, and that “the value of a good CEO is extraordinarily high.”
Sure, the value of a good CEO is extraordinarily high. Whether it’s 343 times as high as the wage of an average employee is highly debatable. But that’s not even my main criticism with Mankiw’s argument. The main problem in our society isn’t the over-compensation of good CEOs, scandalous though that is. It’s the over-compensation of bad ones.
Workers at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee could decide the future of unionization in the South today. Why the right is possibly breaking the law to get them to vote ‘no.’
Sometime today, we’re expected to find out whether the workers in that Chattanooga, Tenn., Volkswagen plant have decided to unionize. I hope very much that they didn’t let Sen. Bob Corker’s intimidation campaign—which strikes me as a possible violation of the Wagner Act, a point to which I’ll return—scare them out of voting yes.
The vote is the perfect occasion to recall that, on the right’s very long hate list of abortionists and gays and undocumented workers and Kenyans and so on and so on, very few groups—perhaps none—occupy a higher spot than labor unions.
This may seem an odd thing for me to say. After all, we argue, our two broad political sides, about gays and immigrants all the time. It never stops. But unions, we don’t discuss much. This would give the impression that they aren’t that important to the two sides anymore.
Alas, that’s only half true. Paradoxically, perhaps, it’s on the left that unions aren’t that important today. Most liberal activists are far more interested in women’s rights, LGBT rights, climate change, and other issues that are more au courant. Furthermore, most liberal activists are white-collar, and, how to put it, white-skinned upper-middle-class people who no longer feel any deep and reflexive empathy for the working classes. Liberal elites are more interested in other people and things. The broad left’s enthusiasm for unions is still real, but it’s a shadow of what it once was.
Tweaking the Clintons may help win over Republicans for a presidential bid. But talk of a 15-year-old affair won’t convince women who oppose his libertarian policies.
What on earth is Rand Paul thinking, bringing up Monica Lewinsky? On cable TV, they shake their talking heads: ancient history, irrelevant, etc. Quite true, it’s all those things. But in terms of intra-GOP presidential-positioning politics, I think it’s actually quite shrewd, and another sign that he is not to be underestimated in terms of possibly nabbing the GOP nomination. Unfortunately for Paul—although fortunately for America—it’s only shrewd in terms of intra-GOP politics. Among the rest of the electorate, responses will range from indifference to hostility, and the “GOP War on Women” narrative won’t suffer a scratch.
Here’s what Paul is doing. First, he’s getting right with the base. As a devolutionist-libertarian, he takes some unorthodox positions from the conservative point of view—his neo-isolationist, anti-neocon foreign policy views, his comparatively soft-line views on same-sex marriage (he’s not for it, but he’d leave it to the states). There are reasons, in other words, for hard-shell conservatives to give him the gimlet eye.
Given that, what are some ways to make conservatives think you’re “one of us” without having to alter those positions, which he surely knows would be a disaster for him, destroying the very basis of his appeal as principled and so on? Find something conservatives hate and say you hate it too. What bigger something than the Clintons? Well, there’s Obama, but hating on him is old hat. Dredging up Lewinsky, on the other hand, shows that some care was taken to cultivate conservatives. As Paul knows, Clinton-hatred is still mother’s milk for that crowd.
He is also, as Peter Beinart noted, aiming specifically at the Christian Right. He’s been doing this for some time now, talking, for example, of the persecution of Christian minorities around the world. His father never bothered much with evangelicals, an error the son, recognizing their importance in the Iowa GOP caucuses, clearly hopes not to make.
The Daily Beast's Michelle Cottle joined MSNBC to discuss the annual event where conservatives 'come out and let their hair down' and the tension among right-wingers over gay rights.
Heather Mizeur, a two-term Maryland delegate, is running for governor in an attempt to make the safely Democratic state a laboratory of liberalism.