Monday, April 27, 2015

The unintended consequences of Republican campaign funding

By Richard Barry

It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to understand that the more money a candidate has access to, the longer he or she can stay in the race. So, for example, to do poorly in the Iowa or New Hampshire primaries has in the past been disastrous because it made it that much harder for presidential hopefuls to present themselves as worthy of financial support. 'Bye, 'bye.

But, as recently reported in The Washington Post, that may no longer be true.

“There could be as many as a dozen candidates that have a threshold amount of money in their campaigns and super PACs to compete vigorously in the early states,” said Phil Cox, a Republican strategist who runs America Leads, a super PAC supporting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that has the backing of at least two billionaires.

[. . .]

Never have so many candidates entered a White House contest boosted by such huge sums. The financial arms race could fuel a protracted primary season similar to the one in 2012 — exactly what party leaders were hoping to avoid.

If raising money is not the problem it used to be, at least for a number of candidates,  more of them will stick around hoping, perhaps, that the improbable happens. 

Though I doubt lower tier candidates like Cruz or Paul stand a chance, the longer A-listers have to fend off their attacks, the more damaged they will be, and the more likely they will be to say things that will not help them in the general election.

These could be the kinds of things that alienate moderate voters if they go too far to the right or that demotivate far right voters if they push back against extremist views.

In politics, as they say, if you're explaining, you're losing. Whoever the GOP nominee is, he will have had a lot of explaining to do.

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Hillary's the one

By Infidel753 


Hillary Clinton is now officially in the 2016 Presidential race, and will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee. And we're lucky to have her. She can do the job, she can do the job right -- and, critically, she can get the job. She can beat the Republicans.

[I mean no disrespect by adopting the common habit of referring to Hillary Clinton by her first name. Given that Bill Clinton remains a prominent figure, just calling her "Clinton" would be ambiguous, and her own campaign is called "Hillary for America".]

Here's Charles Pierce (found via Progressive Eruptions) explaining what's at stake: 

If she is elected, she unequivocally will accept the science of anthropogenic climate change and treat it as a crisis. This cannot be said of any of the Republican candidates, real or potential. 

If she is elected, she unequivocally will support marriage equality, and oppose discrimination against our fellow citizens based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This cannot be said of any of the Republican candidates, real or potential. 

If she is elected, she will not destroy the Affordable Care Act, an article of faith among all the Republican candidates, real or potential. 

If she is elected, and despite her closeness to certain Wall Street interests, she will not destroy the Dodd-Frank reforms, another article of faith among all the Republican candidates, real or potential.

[...] 

To get elected, she does not have to wink at state's rights, up to and including incidents of armed resistance. 

To get elected, she does not have to equivocate on the science behind the theory of evolution as does any Republican candidate who seeks the votes of Republicans in Iowa. 

To get elected, she does not have to peddle the snake oil of supply-side economics, nor does she have to peddle scare stories about the oncoming caliphate, nor does she have to create bogeymen about jackboots coming to steal your guns.

That is to say, Hillary thinks and functions in the real world as opposed to being committed to dangerously-delusional policies. I'd add that she won't put any more theocratic nutcases like Scalia on the Supreme Court. And she will build on the progress Obama and Rouhani have made on bringing Iran out of isolation to the point where it has a stake in the international system, and will continue working with amenable Middle Eastern groups and governments to fight violent extremism, as opposed to the Republican strategy of "when in doubt, bomb and invade and hope for the best."

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The 2016 Republican nomination race is going to be crazy. Is there any doubt?

By  Richard Barry


To hear some people tell it, we're going to go through a lot of trouble just to find out that Jeb Bush is the Republican nominee for president. And maybe I agree with them, but it's not going to be easy.

Yes, Jeb's got that name, which is both a positive and a negative. He seems to be working his butt off. He's able to raise money like few others. And he seems to be a very intelligent and smooth presenter. But as Dan Balz at The Washington Post rightly points out, few rivals "seem to be quaking right now." So, whatever else may be true, it's going to be a long and hard slog.

Bush acknowledged all this when he was in New Hampshire a week ago. Noting his strong establishment support, one voter, concerned about whether he was a true conservative, said she and others don’t want to see a coronation for the GOP nomination in the way Democrats seem to be moving to anoint Hillary Rodham Clinton as their nominee.

An incredulous Bush responded with laughter. “I don’t see any coronation coming my way, trust me,” he said. “Come on. What do you see that I’m not seeing? We’ve got 95 people possibly running for president. I’m really intimidating a whole bunch of folks, aren’t I?”

Line 'em up, announced and potential: Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rick Snyder, Carly Fiorina, Mike Pence, George Pataki, John Bolton, Peter King, Bob Ehrlich (who?), Jim Gilmore (again, who?), that retired surgeon, the guy with all that money and the bad hair piece who does TV reality shows, and is there a point at which Romney says, what the hell?

Surely with this many in the race, few are thinking about the inevitability of Jeb. More likely some still on the sidelines are thinking they can't believe the cast of characters who are already getting press because they have announced or are musing. As Balz write, some of these must be thinking "why not me," especially as they consider that "even those at the front of the pack right now are struggling to get even a paltry 20 percent share of support. They’re stuck in the mid-teens or lower."

We should all remember the 2012 Republican primary race when there was a different front-runner almost every week. We could easily see a different candidate winning Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. We could see polls fragmenting in all sorts of directions. 

And let's not forget the expectations game in which lesser known candidates do better than expected and stronger candidates tank.

There are a lot of very experienced and talented people likely to run, a number of whom could catch fire if they are able to up their game when it counts. 

There are many considerations, including how much money will be available to allow weaker candidates to continue, polling numbers that thin the field and, as noted above, the expectations game for early front runners who just never manage to distinguish themselves beyond a certain point. 

We haven't even mentioned the Tea Party vs. establishment Republican dynamic, and how that will play itself out. 

Lot's to think about.

Yes, I believe it will be Jeb Bush, but this is going to be crazy. 

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Robert Reich explains it all to you (three economic myths)

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Is Rick Snyder going to run for the GOP presidential nomination? Doubt it.

By Richard K. Barry

Just kiddin' ya!

Although Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is not as clear on the matter as former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman, Snyder may be giving consideration to running for the GOP presidential nomination. 

Coleman is going around saying that Rick Snyder has, in fact, made up his mind. “I met with Rick Snyder yesterday. He’s running. He’s running.”

So far, nothing so clear from Snyder himself, but who needs confirmation when you have rumour?

So, maybe not, Norm.

Who then is Rick Snyder?

Snyder, who was recently re-elected for a second term, is a business-oriented and comparatively socially moderate Republican. A former president and chairman of the board of the computer company Gateway, he won a Republican state primary in 2010 as a first-time candidate and underdog who ran as “One Tough Nerd”.

In office, Snyder has pushed legislation to put Detroit under emergency bankruptcy management and signed a controversial “right to work” bill that greatly restricted the ability of unions in Michigan to collect dues from members.

Coleman's enthusiasm notwithstanding, Snyder spokesman Jarrod Agen tells a different tale.

Governor Snyder is traveling the country to tell the remarkable Michigan comeback story. The country can learn from the historic reinvention of Michigan and the governor is helping change the perception of the state nationally.

[...]

The governor indicated that he’s watching the presidential race closely and hoping a common sense problem solver emerges, but he has not made any decisions about entering the field at this time.

What does it say when someone like Snyder starts to look at running? It may say that there is so much uncertainty in the process that the ultimate winner could in fact come from outside the current crop. You get a relatively popular governor and he's bound to look in the mirror, read the daily press clippings, and at some point and say, "Why not me?"

But the other possibility, mentioned in a Politico story, is that Snyder is "just trying to raise his national profile [and realizes] he would face long odds."

Of course, these reasons could be related. Because there is so much uncertainty in the GOP nomination process, someone with a legitimate bio like Snyder is bound to try for and get a some media attention, which no politician is going to turn down.

But I'll bet he doesn't run.

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Constitutional conservatives are neo-Confederates

By Frank Moraes

Last week, Steve Benen wrote a post entitled "Steve King Unveils Radical Court Scheme." It seems that King is proposing a new law, Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act of 2015. It would stop federal courts from having jurisdiction over cases related to marriage. It is actually somewhat funny. This is the ultimate sign that conservatives have lost the same-sex marriage debate. But Benen is confused because King claims to be a "constitutional conservative," and such a law would be outrageously unconstitutional. What gives?

Well, Ed Kilgore responded, "Yes, Constitutional Conservatives Are Radicals." He pointed out that what these conservatives mean when the append "constitutional" to their descriptor is just that they want to go back in time — to when the Constitution was new — "before it was ruined by courts and legislators and presidents alike." And so, in this particular case, King doesn't see a problem, because this is a states' rights issue: the federal government should have nothing to say about how states want to deal with issues related to marriage. I have a few things to add.

Note that by this logic the federal government would have no right to end slavery — much less Jim Crow. The thinking of people like Steve King is so shallow that their philosophy basically gives no guidance regarding policy matters. It is very much like the Stephen Colbert idea of "truthiness," where the the truth is whatever you feel in your gut. They really think this is a good thing. But Rob in High Fidelity is right: "I've been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I've come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains." Or more to the point: the gut is just a repository for all our baser instincts, like hating and fearing people who aren't members of our tribe.

The more fundamental issue is that constitutional conservatives actually are neo-confederates. Because the document that they constantly return to is not the Constitution but the Articles of Confederation. I wrote about this last year with regards to Garrett Epps' excellent book, Wrong and Dangerous: Ten Right-Wing Myths About Our Constitution, in a post entitled "Conservatives on Constitution Are Wrong and Dangerous." The Tenth Amendment has a very distinct change. The Articles said "the powers not expressly delegated to the United States" are given to the states. The Constitution says "[t]he powers not delegated to the United States..." The difference is in implied powers, and this is huge, as Epps explains:

If "implied powers" still sounds like tricky lawyer talk, ask yourself the following question: is the American flag unconstitutional? The Constitution doesn't make any reference to a national flag. By the "express" argument, states and only states would retain what we might call "the flag power." The U.S. Army would have to march under the fifty state flags, depending on the origin of each unit. That would be cumbersome, confusing, and dangerous — and, more to the point, stupid. Congress can "raise and support armies." Armies have to have flags — they are required under international law and necessary for military discipline and cohesion. A country that has an explicit power to raise an army has the implied power to designate a flag. Nobody seriously reads a constitution any other way.

If you hang out with hardcore conservatives (including libertarians), you will hear the Tenth Amendment brought up all the time: the federal government is interfering, taking all this power from the states, and it is unconstitutional. This is because their understanding of the Constitution is that it is just following the Articles of Confederation — when this one difference is the primary reason that we needed a Constitution and could not continue on as a confederacy.

This is also why these kinds of conservatives so often turn out to be racists. This misunderstanding of the Tenth Amendment was using in the nullification campaign of John Calhoun to support slavery. And after the Civil War, it went away — only to come up again in the 1950s in support of Jim Crow. These same people gloss over the far greater powers that the Fourteenth Amendment gave to the federal government. So Ed Kilgore is right that these people are indeed radicals and want to go way back in time. But they are also neo-Confederates, and the main reason that they are is that they want the right to discriminate.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bill and Hill: The appearance of wrong-doing

By Richard Barry

Aren't we special?

Are all of those fat cats lining up to donate bigs bucks to politicians expecting nothing in return? Are we really supposed to believe their only interest is in supporting a candidate who happens to embrace a particular view of the world? Is that really what it's all about? Hardly.

Okay, if Sheldon Adelson or the Koch brothers or, yes, a very wealthy Democratic donor (say a Hollywood type) gives a lot of money to a presidential candidate, we may say he or she is doing what every donor does, which is supporting their preferred candidate, someone who shares their values. But if a particular project of interest to one of these donors lands before a president for a decision, and the donor just happens to be in the neighbourhood and drops in for a visit to remind the president of the previous large donation and the donors interest in said issue, what is that?

I would say, sadly, it's politics.

Are the allegations facing Hillary Clinton over her husband's foundation work any different or any worse? Maybe, maybe not. But the Clinton's certainly should have seen it coming. They should have known that as she was being considered for her post as Secretary of State, and as she considered a run for the presidency, this would be an issue.

I'm not sure that the appearance of wrong-doing in the eyes of people who will always want to take you down is a good enough reason to reconsider your actions, but it would be politically smart.

I'm inclined to agree with Chuck Todd, who said this:

Look, for the life of me, and this is just political judgment, the Obama administration when they offered her the job looked at the [Clinton] Foundation and said, boy, there will be the appearance of influence. We better be careful here. [Former Senator] Dick Lugar, at the time, ranking member of the [Senate] Foreign Relations [Committee], even said very publicly, you know, it's going to look like foreign governments can buy access to you because of the foundation. How many more warnings did the Clintons need to have and yet they ended up doing these things. Look, I hear what David [Axelrod] is saying, and clearly he is right. There is not proof, it's sort of circumstantial scandal.

The question I have is it's politically though just dumb and inept. And I guess -- somebody I read the other day, I can't remember who it was, said there is something about the way President Clinton has operated in his post-presidency that's simply been sloppy. What's he doing hanging out with the questionable president of Kazakhstan? You know, and taking money to do things like that?

I understand he may rationalize it and say, yeah, you know, what we'll use this money for good, they're not buying influence from me, I don't care. But, boy, the appearance of it is terrible.

Before I'm willing to say that the Clinton's did anything wrong in a moral or legal sense, I need some proof. That it was pretty dumb in a political sense seems obvious. 

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Bruce Jenner is a courageous idiot

By Michael J.W. Stickings

There isn't much about the Kardashians and their bubble of cultural degradation and egomaniacal excess that I respect, but I do respect Bruce Jenner's decision, if one can even call it that, to come out as a woman (he is still a "he" for now, but he says that he is a woman, and the "he" may soon become "she"), that is, his courageous coming to terms with, and acceptance of, his sexual identity. Even now, in 2015, it is not an easy thing to do, in private let alone in public, where you subject yourself to speculation and ridicule, if not worse, as much as to admiration and respect.

Now, I don't know Bruce Jenner. I watched part of his interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC as it's been a story on CNN this afternoon and I caught it flipping through the channels, and I can only take him at his word, and I can only give him the benefit of the doubt. That is, I can only assume that he is being sincere, that he has spent the better part of his life struggling with his sexual identity, and that his coming out as a woman -- cosmetic surgery and hormone treatment but not yet, and perhaps not, full conversion -- isn't yet another publicity stunt on the part of the Kardashian Klan, of which is, of course, a central member. Needless to say, the Kardashians, Jenner included, are long-time publicity whores, and it wouldn't be a stretch for Jenner to use his transgendered status to get some attention, not least with another reality show coming up.

But again, let's give him the benefit of the doubt. I do not know what it's like to be transgendered, nor to struggle with one's sexual identity, and he does seem genuine.

But if I credit him with courage, I must also debit him for his idiocy. Because there is so much of it:

After months of speculation that he was transitioning into a woman, Bruce Jenner confirmed the news in an interview with Diane Sawyer that aired on ABC Friday night, clarifying that he is also a Republican and a Christian.

When asked about Barack Obama addressing LGBT rights in his State of the Union, the 65-year-old former Olympic athlete said that didn't affect him much.

"I've always been more on the conservative side," Jenner said.

*****

Jenner said he is a Christian as well.

"I would sit in church and always wonder, 'In God's eyes, how does he see me?'"

But now, he said, he's realized that maybe this is part of his purpose.

"Maybe this is my cause in life."

"This is why God put me on this earth... to deal with this issue."

That's from The Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson's right-wing toilet paper, and the tone of the piece suggests that it is rather gleeful that this famous transgendered person is Republican and Christian, as if that somehow sticks it to the left. In any event, let's address the idiocy here:

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War on the cheap leads to eternal war

By Frank Moraes

As I say quite a lot, in many ways, I am a conservative. There are two kinds of conservatives in the world. Imagine you are trying to sleep and your next door neighbour is having a party. If you are the kind of conservative that has now taken over the Republican Party, you are waiting for the slightest sound so they can make angry phone calls, pound on the neighbour’s door, or call the cops. If you are my kind of conservative you just want to live and let live. And this is not just because I don’t like confrontations. In general, people should be allowed to live their lives unless doing so is really infringing on my doing the same. It is probably not hard to see how I managed to be a libertarian for so long.

Daniel Larison at The American Conservative — like most of the staff there when it comes to foreign policy — is my kind of conservative. He highlighted an interview that John Kasich had with Hugh Hewitt. In it, Kasich says a number of things that are wrong, and dangerous. And they all show that despite his reputation, Kasich is just your typical Republican. Well, just like with conservatives, there are two kinds of Republicans when it comes to foreign policy. There are those who want to go to war everywhere and there are those who just want to fund and supply arms to some faction everywhere in the world.

Larison refers to the first kind of Republicans as “expensive hawks” and the Kasich kind as “cheap hawks.” And I don’t think he means that just in the sense that expensive hawks cost the nation more money than the cheap hawks. There is definitely the sense — which I share — that the cheap hawks get their policy on the cheap. It is easier to make war everywhere if there aren’t dead American soldiers and grieving American families. This is a big problem with drone warfare. There isn’t a political price to pay for this foreign policy adventurism. So I would much rather deal with the expensive hawks, because at least they are being upfront about what they want to do.

One of Larison’s great insights about Kasich — and by extension, all the hawks — is that the policies that he’s for will not further the goals he claims to have. “Kasich wants to create the impression that he wants to maintain stability, but everything he recommends doing here is necessarily destabilizing.” As we knew well before the Iraq War, but should be crystal clear since, overthrowing dictators — while potentially good — is hugely destabilizing. To go back to my party analogy, sending weapons to insurgents is like thinking that you are going to make your neighbor’s party quieter by having a few cases of beer delivered.

Of course, other than being a whole lot smarter and less inclined to go everywhere, the Democratic Party is filled with cheap hawks as well. I have been happy that Obama has limited our engagements. But where he hasn’t — most especially in terms of drone warfare — he is cheap hawk all the way. And we are the worse for it. At least as the Iraq War dragged on, people started talking about it. Almost no one in the mainstream media talks about the drone strikes, except when something “notable” happens like an American getting killed. Drone strikes and funding rebels is a very cheap approach to war indeed.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Okay, we have to take Rubio seriously

By Richard Barry

And if elected class president there will be hamburgers
in the cafeteria every Thursday 

Earlier I made a dismissive remark about Marco Rubio to the extent that I was having a difficult time imagining him as the GOP presidential nomininee. Instead, I think Jeb Bush the most likely winner although believe Scott Walker could have potential.

But, why not Marco?

Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight notes:

In a race so tight, the most important thing to pay attention to continues to be the underlying fundamentals of the race: Is the candidate liked? Is she building a campaign infrastructure? Does she hold positions amenable to voters? And so on. Those look good for Rubio.

Sure, after Rubio's recent announcement that he would run, he got a polling bump but, according to Enten, that's not the point. The point is that Rubio is "well-liked across the party apparatus. He pulls in conservatives with his voting record and moderates with his impressive 2010 Senate victory in Florida, a crucial battleground state."

This is all evident in non-horse-race polling. Rubio’s net favorability rating among Republicans is near the top of the field. The gap between Republicans who could see themselves voting for Rubio and those who couldn’t is among the field’s best, according to an average of CBS News surveys conducted this year.

According to all of this, and despite what my gut tells me,  Rubio may well  "be in a good position to win over Republicans who are currently undecided or tentatively supporting another candidate."

Of course even Enten wants to hedge, as he quickly adds that Rubio may not actually win voters over but  "he’ll just be in a good position to."  Still, he concludes that "few other candidates look as strong in the underlying data that will ultimately dictate the direction that the 2016 Republican primary takes."

So, why can't I take Rubio seriously? For starters, he looks too much like a boys scout or class valedictorian and seems way too prone to want to please, which may help explain his flip-flop on immigration.

Or maybe my reason for not taking him seriously is a matter of age. I'm too old.

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Jeb Bush: The GOP's long-distance runner

By Richard Barry


That's what I'm talkin' about

Amy Walter at the Cook Political Report expresses what I believe is a rapidly forming consensus position on who will likely win the GOP presidential nomination.

She writes:
At the end of the day, when you put all the assets and liabilities on the table, it's hard to see anyone but Rubio, Bush or Walker as the ultimate nominee. Sure, one of them could stumble or come up short in a key early state. It's also highly likely that someone like Huckabee, Paul, Cruz and even Perry could win in Iowa. But, when you look at the candidate vulnerabilities instead of just their assets, these are the three who are the most likely to win over the largest share of the GOP electorate. Winning the "Evangelical" or the "Establishment" or the "Tea Party" lane isn't how you win the nomination. Cobbling together the broadest coalition is the key.

And of Walker and Bush, she writes:

Scott Walker is on top in the polls, but just about every Republican not associated with the Wisconsin Governor argues that the polls are underestimating his weak candidate skills. Just about every room Bush walks into contains a pretty high degree of skepticism. However, I've witnessed that skepticism melt away once he's had a chance to make his case. It's not that the Republicans in the room are in love with him, but they are at least open to hearing more from him and about him. That's about the best he can hope for at this point in the campaign.

And Rubio? I'm just not feeling it. What can I say? Maybe that will change.

Look, I strongly agree with Walter that it's easier to like Walker if you haven't seen him perform, and it's harder to like Bush until you've watched him at the front of the room, which voters will have a lot of time to do.

As for Clinton v. Bush in 2016, I wouldn't have the courage to bet a nickel one way or the other.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ted Cruz courts gay voters. Seriously

By Richard Barry

Earlier in the day I wrote about the consistent movement of Americans in the direction of embracing same-sex marriage and the likelihood that Republican presidential hopefuls will begin to understand that they will have to soften their rhetoric as they defend "traditional marriage."

I'll grant that it's a somewhat obvious point, but it's still gratifying to see support for an observation be so quickly forthcoming.

The New York Times:
Senator Ted Cruz has positioned himself as a strong opponent of same-sex marriage, urging pastors nationwide to preach in support of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, which he said was “ordained by God.”

But on Monday night, at a reception for him at the Manhattan apartment of two prominent gay hoteliers, the Texas senator and Republican presidential hopeful struck quite a different tone.

During the gathering, according to two people present, Mr. Cruz said he would not love his daughters any differently if one of them was gay. He did not mention his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying only that marriage is an issue that should be left to the states.

The article went on to state that one of the gay men in attendance was a strong supporter of Sen. Cruz's foreign policy, particularly on Israel. He was described as a businessman so may well also have a conservative view of economics. He then said that he "did not agree with the senator on social issues. Same-sex marriage, he said, 'is done — it’s just going to happen.'"

Politics is a complex affair. Voters hold a range of views, which are usually only imperfectly reflected in any given candidate. Voters who may strongly support same-sexy marriage will obviously believe all kinds of things on all kinds of other issues, and may decide they can live with Ted Cruz, or someone much like him, as long as they don't perceive him as too big a jerk.

On the point, as the Times notes,  Mr. Cruz had previously written to a group of ministers: 

"Will we discard an institution, ordained by God, which has brought so much stability and happiness to the human family? Or will we stand in its support?”

But he never said anything like that last Monday night. 

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The country is moving further and further away from the GOP

By Richard Barry


A new Wasington Post-ABC News poll indicates that 6 in 10 Americans support same-sex marriage and also say that "individual states should not be allowed to define marriage as only between a man and a woman."
The Post-ABC poll finds 61 percent of Americans support allowing gays to marry and 35 percent are opposed. Support is up only slightly from last year but is a reversal from public sentiment a decade ago, when opponents outnumbered supporters 58 percent to 39 percent.

In the short and long run, support for same-sex marriage has grown significantly across demographic and political groups.

Among those under age 30, support has grown since 2005 from 57 percent to 78 percent. Among those 65 and over, it has increased from 18 percent to 46 percent. Support has also risen by double digits across partisan groups, though Democrats and independents have shifted the most.

Equally interesting is that more than 6 in 10 Republicans oppose allowing gay couples to marry, and 71 percent of conservative Republicans, who play an out-sized role in the party’s presidential primaries and caucuses.

Obviously, Republican hopefuls are going to state unequivocally their opposition to same-sex marriage, especially through the nomination process, but even then the language they use and the stridency they bring to the issue will be worth watching.

Certainly I don't believe a Republican can't win the general election while opposing same-sex marriage, but tone will matter, especially among voters who are on the periphery of the issue, accept it as a basic human right, and simply want the country to move on.

Any Republican who really digs in, as Bobby Jindal did today in the New York Times, will find him or herself on the wrong side of history and perhaps ultimate electoral success.

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Grovelling for dollars on the campaign trail

By Richard Barry

Maybe I'm too sensitive, but I find it very troubling that some in the media are referring to the spectacle of GOP presidential hopefuls auditioning in front of wealthy donors as things like the "Koch brothers primary" or the "Sheldon Adelson primary."

Perhaps we should assign these "primaries" a date and have said rich people announce their choices with great fanfare. An American Idol or The Voice format would work just fine. Who would be the show host? So many options.

We are supposed to pretend that the scads of money thrown at the winners of these special primaries won't corrupt the democratic process, that the Adelsons and Kochs of the world have as much right as anyone to support their choices in whatever manner they see fit. What fresh nonsense.

If you are keeping track, here's the latest:
Before Iowa and New Hampshire, GOP candidates are competing in the Sheldon Adelson primary, and some will travel to his posh Venetian hotel in Las Vegas this in hopes of winning it. But one candidate — Marco Rubio — has emerged as the clear front-runner, according to nearly a half-dozen sources close to the multibillionaire casino mogul.

In recent weeks, Adelson, who spent $100 million on the 2012 campaign and could easily match that figure in 2016, has told friends that he views the Florida senator, whose hawkish defense views and unwavering support for Israel align with his own, as a fresh face who is “the future of the Republican Party.” He has also said that Rubio’s Cuban heritage and youth would give the party a strong opportunity to expand its brand and win the White House.

Again, the image of a bunch of supposedly accomplished candidates waiting together in the outer room of the great man's compound waiting for an opportunity to beg for cash is more than a little sickening. No?

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dana Perino, self-righteous fool

By Richard Barry


Dana Perino, White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, doesn't like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). In fact, she has called him  “poisonous.”

“He’s an absolutely poisonous figure in Washington, D.C., he’s been a disaster for the country,” she said on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

“I think a lot of the dysfunction in Washington can be traced directly to his doorstep."

And what moved her to such passionate criticism? It was a comment Reid made about W.
Reid quoted a New York Daily News column by Mike Lupica that noted that Republican White House hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush backed the nomination of Loretta Lynch as attorney general. Reid then quoted from a section of Lupica's column that attacked George W Bush.

“Bush didn’t just show grace in doing that, he also showed more common sense than his brother showed in eight years as president of the United States,” Reid said, quoting from Lupica's column, on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

And that was enough to send Perino over the edge as she said that Reid’s impending retirement is “very good for this country, for the world, and especially for the Democrats," adding, “I've never seen anything so abhorrent in my entire life as Harry Reid."

So, Dana, I'd like to help. You want to see something more abhorrent? What about Dick Cheney, or Liz Cheney or any number of Tea Party extremists who hide their racism, homophobia or misogyny behind a stated interest in "taking their country back."

If you want poison, look no further than your own party, which uses the stuff as fuel to motivate its base.

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Democrats should like their odds of retaking the Senate

By Richard Barry

Doug Sosnik at Politico seems to be saying three related but distinct things in an article about who will hold a majority in the U.S. Senate after the 2016 election. The first is that whichever party wins the presidency is likely to take the Senate; the second is that since the odds seem to favour Hillary Clinton winning it all, the Democrats will likely regain control;  and the third is that even without a Hillary win the Democrats hold certain advantages based on demographics and where Republican incumbents are.
After picking up nine seats in the 2014 elections, Republicans maintain a decisive 54-seat majority in the Senate. In 2016, they will face a much more difficult map that coincides with a presidential election year. Nineteen months before the 2016 elections, the contours of the race for the presidency are only now starting to take shape. But one thing that is clear at this point is that the outcome of the presidential race will likely determine control of the Senate

His analysis is based on five point:

  • 2016 presidential and Senate target states are almost perfectly aligned;
  • A state’s vote for a Senate candidate increasingly mirrors the vote for president;
  • Changing demographics and increased turnout during a presidential election year will benefit all Democrats on the ballot;
  • The Senate math favors Democrats (more senators are up for re-election in blue states);
  • The party that wins the White House will control a 50/50 Senate.
Maybe the overall point is that 2016 will be kinder to Senate Democrats than 2014, whatever else happens. That seems like a safe bet.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The swift-boating of Hillary Clinton?

By Richard Barry

We are now starting to hear about a new book by Peter Schweizer called “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.” It will be released May 5th.

One reason it is making headlines is because various major media outlets, including Fox News, The Washington Post, and the New York Times, have made "exclusive agreements" with the author to pursue stories contained therein.


Amy Chozick at the Times writes that “Clinton Cash” purports to expose how “foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.”

Those defending Mrs. Clinton point out that Schweizer comes at things from a decidedly conservative perspective and has a documented track record of getting important things wrong.


Erik Wemple at The Washington Post contacted people at three of the major media outlets involved to discuss what the "exclusive agreements" entailed. The National Editor at his own paper, Cameron Barr, said this:
We made an arrangement with Peter Schweizer’s publisher so we could read his book before publication because we are always willing to look at new information that could inform our coverage. Mr. Schweizer’s background and his point of view are relevant factors, but not disqualifying ones. What interests us more are his facts and whether they can be the basis for further reporting by our own staff that would be compelling to our readers. There is no financial aspect to this arrangement.

Well, what could be wrong with that? Maybe nothing. Or maybe giving someone credibility out of the gate who doesn't deserve it is a problem.

In an interview with Rachel Maddow below, David Brock calls what Schweizer is up to "swift-boating," which is a term we all remember well. And for a long time we have also known that if you repeat a lie often enough, it starts to feel like the truth to too many.

Perhaps Hillary and Bill Clinton have done some things that are problematic. If so, I hope that comes out.  But I am also sure that the anti-Hillary machine, and all the money behind it, will make up what they can't prove.  I just hope "serious" media outlets don't help them do it. 

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Note to Koch brothers: People sometimes believe you when you say things

By Richard Barry

Yesterday it was reported that the Koch brothers, those wild and crazy gazillionaires who like to make and break Republican politicians, had settled on Scott Walker as their choice for the GOP presidential nomination.

It was reported because the brothers said so at a fund-raising gathering, though, we are told, the comments were not for public consumption.

Commence the back-pedalling as the Koch's are now saying on the record that they are "not endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point in time."

Jonathan Chait writes:

The Koch damage control continues this morning, in the form of a Mike Allen report that, per an unnamed “top Koch aide,” the brothers remain uncommitted. Indeed, reports Allen, “Jeb Bush will be given a chance to audition for the brothers’ support.”

The Kochs seem to be hoping for a lead character who can play the role a little less patrician and a little more Middle America, but Jeb will be given an opportunity to show that he can stretch. So for anybody concerned that the democratic process might be short-circuited by the Kochs precipitously anointing a front man, rest assured. All the candidates will have the chance to curry their favor.

No, the Kochs don't want to give up the opportunity to make other candidates grovel, or kiss their rings or whatever else is put in front of them to kiss.

Oh, to be filthy, stinking rich.

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Was Hillary Clinton the "original Elizabeth Warren?"

By Richard Barry

Will Hillary Clinton ever be left enough for the left? Well, no. But she's trying.

As Amy Chozick at the New York Times writes

For anyone who wondered what kind of economic message Mrs. Clinton would deliver in her campaign, the first few days made it clear: She is embracing the ideas trumpeted by Ms. Warren and the populist movement — that the wealthy have been benefiting disproportionately from the economy, while the middle class and the poor have been left behind. And the policies Mrs. Clinton is advancing, like paid sick leave for employees and an increase in the minimum wage, align with that emphasis.

As Chozick goes on to say, Hillary's inner circle is more than a little annoyed that their candidate is perceived as late to the game. The say that Mrs. Clinton was the "original Elizabeth Warren" and a "populist fighter who for decades has been an advocate for families and children; only now have the party and primary voters caught up."

So why can't Hillary Clinton get any traction for her populist words and deeds?

Maybe this comment tells a bit of the story.

Mrs. Clinton “wakes up asking how she can accomplish real things for families, not who she can attack,” said Gene B. Sperling, an economic adviser in the Clinton and Obama administrations. He added, “When she shows that fighting populist edge, it is for a purpose.”

She's not really a fire breathing dragon when it comes to populist rhetoric and is, I suspect, uncomfortable with "class warfare" type attacks. She's a policy wonk and, in the early stages, seems ready to signal a willingness to propose policies that should be welcome to many on the left, though they would be reluctant to give her many style points.


I'm willing to see where this goes. What choice do we have?

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