Archive for Presidential Race


Great balls of jello

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Frank Rich takes aim at the gutlessness of the GOP’s 2016 presidential hopefuls:

Say this about the Old Confederacy: At least its leaders had the courage of their own bad convictions. Today’s neo-Confederate GOP politicians, vying for primary votes in Dixie 150 years after Appomattox, proved themselves to be laughable cowards. Confronted with the simplest of questions – should a state capitol display a flag that stands for slavery, racism, and treason? – they hedged (all of them), spouted gibberish (Ted Cruz), or went into hiding (Rand Paul). If they’d been the Rebel generals in the Civil War, it would have been over in a week.

This was, Rich writes, “the second time in three months we’ve seen GOP presidential contenders unwilling to stand up to the unreconstructed bigots still infesting their party’s base.” In April, they had caved or hedged over “religious freedom” bills passed to sanction discrimination against gay families. They then retreated faster than Lee at Gettysburg after civil rights groups and the NCAA condemned Indiana’s version, and influential CEOs objected to the states dissing their customers.

Seems like only yesterday that Gov. Bobby Jindal and his legislative tigers were lying down like the Siegfried and Roy cats before the once enfant terrible, Grover Norquist. They wrote asking his and Americans for Tax Reform’s permission to sorta kinda raise state taxes after Republican economic dogma had driven Louisiana’s balance sheet (like Kansas’ before it) deep into the red.*

But boy howdy, whichever of these bowls of jello survives being a debate contestant on the RNC’s “Who Wants To Be The Next War President,” you can be sure we will be treated to months of tough-sounding ads telling us that only he (it will be a he) has the balls to protect Uh-murca from the jihadis’ long, curved knives.

* Meanwhile in Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton’s Democratic leadership led the state to the top of CNBC’s list of best states for business in 2015.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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A confederacy of lunatics

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I’m sitting in upstate South Carolina processing the Charleston mass shooting. I’m watching clips from politicians — conservative politicians — doing their damnedest not to say anything on camera that would alienate their political base. Or replaying talking points for their base that reinforce the toxic world view that produces people such as the alleged shooter, Dylann Roof.

Sen. John McCain was at least enough of a leader in 2008 to publicly disagree with the woman who said she was afraid if Barack Obama, “an Arab,” got elected. The crowd of supporters booed McCain when he said Obama was a good and decent man:

“Come on, John!” one audience member yelled out as the Republican crowd expressed dismay at their nominee. Others yelled “liar,” and “terrorist,” referring to Obama.

At Crooks and Liars, Susie Madrak yesterday posted footage of former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaking in South Carolina in March failing to do the same, using the word “tyrant” and having the chutzpah to talk about Obama’s “complete lack of leadership.” Madrak writes:

And just watch this video. This woman is a South Carolina teacher, and she’s plain batshit crazy. Listen to her! Straight out of InfoWars. And does Santorum talk to the woman, try to calm her down? Hell, no.

Instead, he validates her concern (while artfully avoiding actually leaving a record of anything that could be used against him later) and even whips it up!

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Even as Jeb! Bush and Hillary Clinton prepare for their close-ups, out in bayou country a GOP presidential wannabe is trying to keep from being the next Sam Brownback.

Republicans’ approach to taxes is not unlike Biblical literalists’ approach to confronting evolution. Christian fundamentalists will construct an elaborate house of cards on the shakiest of foundations and spend enormous time and effort trying to keep a puff of breeze from knocking it over before they will question their crappy theology. (Visit the Creation Museum on Bullittsburg Church Rd.
in Petersburg, Kentucky, and don’t forget to stop by the gift shop.)

Republicans — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, for example — will concoct an elaborate edifice of nonsense to create the illusion that they are not raising taxes, you know, to pay for services their constituent public actually wants. Like funding universities and hospitals. Facing a potential $1.6 billion budget shortfall (that’s another story), Jindal has gone to Creation Museum lengths to keep from offending Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Fairness.

Here’s how the local paper explained it last week:

State Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, and 10 other Louisiana House members sent Norquist a letter (PDF) Sunday night, asking Norquist to rethink his approach to Louisiana’s budget and the “no tax” pledge….

The governor has threatened to veto any budget plan or tax bills that don’t meet Norquist’s “no tax” requirements. Currently, the governor is pushing the Legislature to adopt a controversial higher education tax credit — commonly called SAVE — that Jindal says will make the budget comply with Norquist’s wishes.

These are leaders, mind you, elected by the people of Louisiana, sending a mother-may-I letter to a gadfly in Washington, DC for permission to do their jobs. And their governor wants to be president of the United States and stand up to terr’ists.

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It’s all Hillary Clinton all the time in the news this morning and, you can be sure, on the Sunday bobblehead shows later this morning. I was on the road yesterday, so I’m just catching Clinton’s Roosevelt Island speech on C-Span.

There’s no lack of snark. Politico calls the speech “the expected proto-State of the Union stuff.” But that’s not an unfair description.

Digby mentioned that Clinton’s line yesterday about not being a quitter is what makes her admired by those who respect her and frustrates those on the right who have spent a generation trying to knock her down. Like the those she asked yesterday to champion, she refuses to be knocked out. It was for that (not for any affiliation with Margaret Thatcher’s policies) that I suggested she is the Democrats’ Iron Lady. Weakness is the cardinal sin for the alpha dogs of the right, and something they try hard to pin on every Democratic candidate. With Hillary Clinton? Good luck with that.

John Nichols called the speech “short on populist specifics.” He calls for Clinton to go “all in,” as FDR did much earlier than the Four Freedoms speech Clinton’s Four Fights speech was meant to echo. Roosevelt went all in against “economic royalists.”

“There are two ways of viewing the Government’s duty in matters affecting economic and social life,” Roosevelt explained. “The first sees to it that a favored few are helped and hopes that some of their prosperity will leak through, sift through, to labor, to the farmer, to the small business man. That theory belongs to the party of Toryism, and I had hoped that most of the Tories left this country in 1776.”

Roosevelt called out the party of “trickle down” before the phrase existed, a phrase that drew strong boos when Clinton did the same yesterday. And indeed, most of the Tories — Royalists by temperament — did not leave the country after the Treaty of Paris, as I have noted here and at Scrutiny Hooligans:

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The Walmart of states

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A Montana man committed suicide last weekend after murdering his family. His wife was “mocking” him, he told a friend. Police described the survivalist as “a Constitutionalist who didn’t believe in government.” They’re like oxymorons who don’t believe in contradiction that way.

Speaking of not believing in government, Rick Perry, the returning presidential contestant and former Texas governor, boasts how the job-creating, Texas economic “miracle” is a model for how to run the country. (It was the same with another former Texas governor-president. What happened with that?)

The Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson finds the Texas miracle less than miraculous. By two measures of job quality, “Texas rates dead last.” Texans have the highest percentage
of people without health insurance in the country. What’s more, Meyerson writes:

The second measure of job quality is the share of people qualifying for government poverty programs who are nonetheless employed. In April, the University of California Center for Labor Research and Education released a study quantifying the number of Americans receiving Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, children’s health insurance coverage or the earned-income tax credit who have an employed family member. Low-paid work has become so prevalent, the study showed, that the yearly tab of federal dollars going to working families was $128 billion. The state with the highest share of funds going to such families was Texas.

By this measure, Texas is the Walmart of states — something else Texans who don’t believe in government can be proud of. After all, Walmart is a BIG box store.

The 49 other states are subsidizing Perry’s “so-called Texas miracle,” Meyerson writes. “Texas’s use of federal dollars to keep its workers afloat is only deepened by its favor-the-rich-and-soak-the-poor tax policies.”

Should he succeed in taking his model national, Rick Perry’s Texas-sized plan for America, I guess, is to recruit enough “downline” countries to do for America what America is already doing for Texas.

I wonder, does Perry also sell Amway?

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Republicans pound sand

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It is unlikely that Eugene Robinson wrote the online headline for his column today: “Republicans might as well pound sand.” But that is the gist of it. Their progress in weakening Hillary Clinton so far is “pretty close to zero.”

The  Democrats have the most admired woman in the country 17 out of the last 18 years. The Republicans have contenders bent on taking away health care from over 6 million neighbors and throwing the weak to the wolves. Can’t imagine why they’re having trouble getting traction.

And while Republican presidential hopefuls are still emerging — the party seems to think it is still a couple bozos short of a clown car — Robinson believes Hillary Clinton is hitting all the right notes:

Her fiery speech last week in defense of voting rights was her campaign’s best moment so far. Clinton slammed several of the leading Republican candidates — by name — for their roles in GOP-led efforts to restrict the franchise through voter-ID laws and other means. And she called for automatic voter registration of all citizens upon reaching age 18.

Talk about hitting the right buttons. The big question about Clinton’s candidacy is whether she can inspire the coalition that twice elected President Obama — young people, minorities, women. Voting rights is an issue that reliably sends African Americans to the polls in large numbers. I’ll be surprised if Clinton doesn’t soon have major messages for Latinos on immigration policy and women on issues of reproductive rights.

How cynical, Republicans complain. Translation: How effective.

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Wisconsin on everything

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Jack Russell terrier (Public Domain via Wikipedia)

The vigor with which our corporate overlords have sought to put the plebs back in their places and return the stars and planets to their spheres has been as stunning as it is pathetic (last dying moments of a cobra?). Still, you’ve got to hand it to them. Like a Jack Russell with a knotted rope, they don’t give up easily. What’s worse, they know most of the rest of us do. Just the way they like it.

In a plot twist that would make Rod Serling proud, conservatives have treated “The Road to Serfdom” as a cookbook for the re-medievalization of society ever since Ronald Reagan broke the aircraft controllers’ strike in 1981. It has been a race to the bottom (except for the top) ever since.

Mark LeVine observes for Al Jazeera, union membership is at a 100-year low in America. “In just the last two years, the percentage of unionized public employees dropped 2 points, just as union leaders feared and conservatives hoped.” Universities are next on the menu:

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Clinton “lets rip” on voting rights

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County elections staff met here last night with party officials to discuss recruiting election judges and poll workers for the next two years.** It all went smoothly until a man in the back asked what was being done to prevent people from voting here and then voting absentee in another state. You might as well ask what North Carolina is doing to prevent its 10 million residents from robbing convenience stores in Florida.

The electoral paranoia behind that question — and the Republican-sponsored voting restrictions spawned nationwide by it — was on Hillary Clinton’s mind yesterday when she called for universal, automatic voter registration at a speech in Houston yesterday. Reporters knew the speech would be about voting rights, Rachel Maddow noted last night, but nobody knew Clinton was about to “let rip” on the subject of voting rights:

[W]e have a responsibility to say clearly and directly what’s really going on in our country—because what is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people, and young people from one end of our country to the other.


North Carolina passed a bill that went after pretty much anything that makes voting more convenient or more accessible. Early voting. Same-day registration. The ability of county election officials to even extend voting hours to accommodate long lines.

Now what possible reason could there be to end pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and eliminate voter outreach in high schools?

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Jebbie finds a message

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They’re scientists. They know stuff. Of course, they’re elitists.

In all the earned media former Jeb Bush got with his complaint about climate science, nobody noticed…. Well, first, his statement via Think Progress (emphasis mine):

In comments reported by CNN on Wednesday, the potential 2016 presidential candidate called the science of human-caused climate change “convoluted,” and questioned the degree to which carbon emissions are responsible.

“For the people to say the science is decided on this is really arrogant, to be honest with you,” he reportedly said. “It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it, even.”

I’m loathe to call Bush’s statement brilliant, or to suggest that he planned it — it was probably just reflex — but that really is a clever bit of wedge politics. It plays to a carefully cultivated anti-intellectual sentiment among GOP base voters. You don’t have to be Richard Hofstadter to figure it out. What the left sees as pandering to anti-science sentiment on the right (or to oil interests) is really the politics of resentment. Also carefully cultivated. Us vs. Them. Real Americans vs. snooty intellectuals. Or the ever-popular city vs. county (deployed frequently around these parts).

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Any More Like Her At Home?

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From a Last Word segment on Friday:

Ivy Ziedrich, the 19-year-old Nevada college student who told Jeb Bush that his brother created ISIS, joins Lawrence O’Donnell for her first national interview in a Last Word exclusive.

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