Monday, April 27, 2015

OBAMA WASN'T JOKING -- AND IT DOESN'T MATTER

I was hoping not to write about the White House Correspondents' Dinner, but people are taking it way too seriously. Here's Ezra Klein:
The White House Correspondents' Dinner has become a strange event. It is, ostensibly, an evening when the president and the press can come together to share a few lighthearted laughs. But it's evolved into a recital of brutal truths -- albeit one neither side ever really admits happened.

The joke of President Obama's performance on Saturday was that he wasn't joking. Everyone just had to pretend he was.
Of course the president wasn't joking, and of course the seriousness of what he said won't be acknowledged. The point of the WHCD is that it's a ritualized event at which people say what they mean about the Beltway's conflicts, but everyone agrees not to get real about resolving those conflicts, because, hey, it's just a fun, silly night, right? It's not that people won't admit it ever happened -- it's that it's neatly pigeonholed as not serious -- which is why real things can be talked about there. It's like a Feast of Fools at which the political order is mocked, even though the feast never really challenges the political order -- the feast is a safe space for blowing off steam.

The WHCD is when Washington roasts itself -- and, remember, if you want to land a blow that leaves a mark, you don't do it at a roast. Fox News doesn't broadcast roasts of Democratic politicians -- it frames its attacks as news and packages them as serious stuff. Subjecting yourself to a roast is a way of quarantining the worst things said about you. That's why you see Justin Bieber, a teen idol turned noxious adult, subjecting himself to a Comedy Central roast. It places the criticism of him in a safe, harmless space. It does no damage to his career.

Yes, I know: some on the right, particularly Power Line's John Hinderaker, are whimpering about the mean things Obama said at the dinner, particularly about climate change in the segment featuring Keegan-Michael Key as Luther, the president's "anger translator":



That's fun, and it's fun to imagine that Hinderaker's whingeing and whining represents genuine hurt feelings. (The portrayal of Luther, a regular feature on Comedy Central's Key and Peele, is, Hinderaker says, a "hateful bit.") But Hinderaker is a soldier in the Koch army -- Think Progress remind us in 2011 that Hinderaker's law firm, Faegre and Benson, represented Koch Industries, and it was noted in 2012 that the Kochs had tried to place Hinderaker on the board at the Cato Institute. So he's just using the president's remarks as an excuse to do his usual climate bamboozlement on behalf of energy billionaires. The plutocrats' army of climate distorters is now so huge -- at this point it includes pretty much every elected Republican in America -- that even a forthright defense of climate science by the president of the United States in a highly visible forum changes nothing about the ongoing debate. Everyone went home after the dinner and resumed their old stances. It's still the official policy of the GOP that climate change is a non-issue because it snows sometimes.

So, yes, I wish what the president said mattered. It doesn't.

ON CULTURAL MATTERS, JEB IS STILL TRYING TO BISSINGERIZE THE PUBLIC (OR AT LEAST THE MEDIA)

Jeb Bush's campaign made a seemingly provocative venue choice for an event, whispered in some reporters' ears, and now The New York Times is covering Jeb's choice more or less the way the campaign wanted the choice covered:
MIAMI BEACH -- On his way to an ecologically friendly hotel here on Sunday, Jeb Bush ate a Paleo-diet-approved bison burger wrapped in lettuce and served by a Democrat-loving drag queen turned waiter....

His inaugural gathering of major donors and fund-raisers here was a sometimes flamboyant, and sometimes inadvertent, spectacle of Republican Party stereotype busting.

The message: Should he run for president, as widely expected, Mr. Bush will do it on his own, inviting, unconventional, South Floridian terms.

The two-day retreat here was held at 1 Hotel South Beach, known for its environmental ambitions and theatrical design.

Inside the beachside hotel, hundreds of Bush supporters found a brochure encouraging them to use complimentary electric cars made by Tesla, a longtime Republican Party demon because of its federal tax subsidies.

They encountered a copy of the sustainability-focused, left-leaning Modern Farmer magazine. (Headline: “Can plant factories save us from climate change?”)...
(Not only is Modern Farmer "sustainability-focused," its launch was bankrolled by Frank Giustra, the friend of Bill Clinton whose sale of uranium interests has attracted the attention of the times and Peter Schweizer.)

In the Times story about Jeb, there is some skepticism ("How much of this approach is window dressing, rather than a genuine break from his party’s past, remains hazy"). But Jeb did get the message out to readers of Eastern-sophisticate media: When he says things the rubes want to hear about gay rights and climate change, he's doing it with his fingers crossed behind his back. He doesn't really mean all that stiff. He's hip, just like you!

(Even all the talk about Bush's new Paleo diet seems for show -- if he thought he was getting fat, why didn't he start the diet before he'd be heading out out onto the hustings, where he'll be offered Iowa state fair corn dogs and New Hampshire diner pancakes? Answer: He wants this to be part of every story. It's meant to make him relatable to voters, especially non-Republican voters, who watch self-improvement segments on daytime TV and read self-improvement books and websites. It's an Obamaesque approach, and it might be working for him.)

Jeb's campaign wants Times readers to know that he was waited on by a drag queen and didn't run screaming. The campaign tried to send a similar message back in February, spoon-feeding a story about Jeb's social tolerance to BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins. Coppins wrote it up under the title "Jeb Bush, 2016’s Gay-Friendly Republican" -- but the effort blew up in Jeb's face when, shortly afterward, he defended businesses' right to discriminate against gay customers and when his super PAC hired Jordan Sekulow, a militantly homophobic lawyer who, among other things, defends draconian anti-gay laws in Africa.

But Jeb's campaign obviously intends to keep plugging away with this message. It's all meant to make the public, or at least the media, believe about Jeb approximately what Buzz Bissinger said he believed about Mitt Romney after the first Obama-Romney debate, in which Romney cynically recast himself as a moderate:
[Romney] revealed compassion that, during the entirety of this absurdly long march, had never been in evidence before. He recognized the needs of the poor. He recognized the need for regulation....

I think Romney realizes that lowering the rate to 20 percent will not fly if he is to lower the deficit and make the plan work. And he is hardly the only candidate to assert something during a campaign that will change once in his office....

I believe that Romney’s move to the center is not yet another flip-flop sleight of hand, perhaps naively. I believe he will send to the political Guantanamo those dirty old white men of the party ready to bomb Iran....
If you believe a modern Republican when he pretends to be a moderate, I invite you to revisit the 2000 George W. Bush campaign -- and the presidency that followed. We shouldn't be fooled again, but it's quite possible we will be.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

IMPEACHMENT FIRST, ELECTION AFTERWARDS

I imagine this is what's going to happen:
Author of book questioning Clinton donations demands federal probe

Federal investigators must probe Hillary and Bill Clinton’s finances, the author of a new book targeting the power couple’s foreign donations insisted Sunday.

“You see a series of actions that are enormously beneficial ... for the benefit of Clinton donors and I think this warrants investigation,” said Peter Schweizer, who wrote “Clinton Cash,” said on Fox News Sunday.

... Schweizer said Sunday he has no “direct evidence” that Hillary Clinton intervened on behalf of these foreign interests. But he argues a federal investigation could search for improper links using subpoena powers, much like it did in the bribery case against now-indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and a public corruption case against convicted former Gov. Bob McDonald (R-Va.).

“I am a journalist I don’t have access to government records,” Schweizer said. “I certainly don’t have access to her emails.”
Clever of him to get in a mention of those emails.

Yeah, this will happen, though probably not soon. We'll be solemnly told by congressional Republicans that the only time such hearings can possibly take place is 2016 -- and I mean throughout 2016 (or, rather, throughout the first ten months of 2016, ending sometime in late October). Impeaching Bill Clinton after he'd won two elections and built up a reservoir of goodwill didn't work out for Republicans, so they're basically going to impeach Hillary Clinton while she's running for president -- and, if she somehow wins the election, they'll just keep impeaching her.

Or we can elect Jeb or Scott or Marco and watch America turn into Kochistan before our very eyes. Anyone have an alternate scenario that could plausibly happen?

NO COMPASSION FOR THE DOWNTRODDEN, PLEASE, WE'RE CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS

National Review's Brendan Bordelon makes clear that Rick Santorum is approaching this campaign all wrong:
Rick Santorum was the returning champion at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition forum on Saturday. But inside Waukee, Iowa’s Point of Grace Church, it certainly didn’t feel like it.

After his upset victory in the 2012 Iowa caucus -- driven largely by the state’s powerful evangelical voting bloc -- many expected the former Pennsylvania senator to be welcomed back with open arms. But compared to the other eight Republican candidates present at the Des Moines-area conference, Santorum’s speech fell strangely flat.

The audience didn’t clap much, and when they did it was usually polite and perfunctory. Lines that felt like they were meant to be showstoppers were at times met with awkward silences.
Gosh, what happened?
Part of that may have been due to his choice of subject matter.... Santorum was selling a populist economic message that didn’t seem to land.

He called the Republican Party’s supply-side, free trade message outdated and pushed for a minimum wage hike. “We’re keeping down the wages of American families,” he said. “We need to say we’re on the side of American workers.”

Observers believe Santorum may be misreading his audience this time around. “It didn’t resonate,” said Dennis Goldford, a professor of politics at Des Moines’ Drake University. “Santorum sort of moved to that blue-collar conservatism, populist kind of approach ... That’s not what will sell this particular crowd.”
Right -- these are conservative American Christians. They don't want to hear about helping the poor and the downtrodden with their struggles.

Now, you might think Santorum bombed because he's just not connecting with any voters this year -- he's very low in the polls, after all. But Bobby Jindal is also struggling in the polls, and Bordelon says that his speech went over like gangbusters:
Bobby Jindal is barely breaking 2 percent in Iowa polls -- but you’d never know it from the way he wowed the crowd at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition summit on Saturday.
So what did he do that Santorum didn't? Well, he was a cheerleader for Jesus:
“Our God is an awesome God, can I get an amen?!” he began, spreading his arms wide and striding away from the podium. “Amen!” the audience responded loudly.
He talked about himself as a Christian:
Veering away from policy specifics, Jindal instead spoke at length about his personal journey to Christ -- thanking his high school friend for giving him his first Bible and describing the moment he came to Jesus during a choir performance at LSU.
And he attacked the enemies of conservative Christians:
“Here’s my message for Hollywood and the media elite,” he shouted, in the first standing ovation of the evening. “The United States of America did not create religious liberty. Religious liberty created the United States of America!” ...

“We saw corporate America team up with the radical left to come after our religious liberty rights,” he said, referring to Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s fight against gay rights groups after he signed a religious freedom law last month. “They might as well save their breath, because corporate America is not gonna bully the governor of Louisiana!”
See, Rick? That's the winning message: (a) tribal solidarity plus (b) rallying the troops against social-issues liberalism. Compassion for the needy? Don't even bother.

The point of Christianity, for this crowd, is to identify the saved (us) and the damned (everyone else) and to say, "We saved people are so much more awesome than the damned." All that "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me" stuff? Lose it, Rick. These people don't care.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

RICK SNYDER COULD KEEP GEORGE PATAKI OUT OF LAST PLACE IN THE GOP PRIMARIES

I really don't understand this:
Michigan governor Rick Snyder may be the newest GOP candidate for the White House.

Snyder mingled with donors at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) in Las Vegas on Friday and told at least one attendee that he was a candidate.

On Saturday morning, the former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman told reporters: “I met with Rick Snyder yesterday. He’s running. He’s running.”

In a talk with the RJC board, Snyder himself was not as explicit. Ari Fleischer, a board member and former spokesman for President George W Bush, told the Guardian: “[He] didn’t say to the board that he was running. He made a real strong presentation about his results and successes in Michigan.” ...
So Snyder may be running and may not be. But why would he run? I mean, sure, he's done a couple of things that could appeal to GOP primary voters:
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.
But he's done so many things that would infuriate the typical primary voter.

* He not only agreed to the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, he boasted about doing so during his reelection campaign in 2014.

* His state didn't set up a pure state Obamacare exchange, but the exchange in Michigan is a federal-state partnership, and if the Supreme Court gets rid of it, he's said he would seek a state exchange.

* In 2012, he vetoed a voter ID law.

* He supports immigration reform, and said so at an immigration summit with Mike Bloomberg.

* His outreach to his state's Muslim community gets right-wing media reactions like this:
Michigan’s liberal Democrat, er ... liberal Republican In Name Only (RINO) Governor Rick Snyder wants more Muslim aliens -- he specified “refugees” -- to come to Michigan. He’s made Muslim immigration the centerpiece of his Michigan economic policy. Just what we need.

Yesterday, he told Hezbollah- and HAMAS-supporting Muslims at the tax-funded, Muslim-dominated Arab American National Museum, that their community is a “role model” for Michigan, and that he wants them to help him bring more immigrants -- he cited “refugees from the Middle East who are struggling” and whom he wants to attract and help (with more government aid) -- to Michigan. Oh, and -- bonus! -- he vowed to hire more Arab Muslims on his staff.
And this:
Republican Governor of Michigan Rick Snyder will be giving the opening remarks for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference on Friday, August 29. ISNA has Muslim Brotherhood origins and a lineup of Islamist speakers. Former President Carter is the keynote speaker.
What is he thinking? Is being a twelfth- or thirteenth-place finisher in the GOP presidential primaries really a useful career move for him? Because, yes, there might be voters in these primaries who don't think it's necessary to meet all the litmus tests -- but they're going to vote for Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, or perhaps Chris Christie or Lindsey Graham. Or they're going to vote for someone who meets the litmus tests and is also a right-to-work-loving Midwestern governor, like Scott Walker.

Snyder? Toast. I don't get why he's doing this.

DANA PERINO: SWEETNESS AND LIGHT

Dana Perino thinks we're all just too nasty these days:
Dana Perino, former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush and co-host of the Fox News Channels "The Five," makes a plea for civility in her book "And the Good News Is ..."

Shes worried that "Weve gone from being the confident leader of the free world to bickering about every living thing under the sun."

Perino is not against arguing, mind you. "(B)eing civil means that we can argue vehemently and then either find some compromise, call it a tie or move onto something else," she writes.

She has some solutions for the partisan rancor that is paralyzing our government and poisoning our discourse.

"If you dont start off thinking the opposition is evil," she writes, "but that they want to get to the same place you do, then youre already on your way to having a more civil and productive conversation."
Yes, that's right: Perino thinks it's a bad thing to regard the opposition as evil.

That would be this Dana Perino:
Fox News' Dana Perino Calls Jim Carrey An '*Sshole' Over Gun Control

'Red Eye' panel member Dana Perino recently attacked actor Jim Carrey on Fox News for a comedy video that parodied gun owners and the late Charlton Heston....

'Red Eye' host Greg Gutfeld asked his panel if Carrey was a hypocrite for having armed body guards while attacking gun owners....

“In Jim Carrey’s case, it doesn’t make him a hypocrite; it makes him an *sshole,” said Perino.
And this Dana Perino:
Fox News host Dana Perino unloaded on Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Tuesday, calling him a “destructive entity” in Washington, D.C.

Perino, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush, was reacting to a jab Reid took at her former boss Monday.

“He’s an absolutely poisonous figure in Washington, D.C. He’s been a disaster for this country,” Perino told host Hugh Hewitt.

“And he is an equal opportunity basher, right? He goes after everybody,” Perino added. “And I think it is so frankly disgusting, and I’m a pretty level-headed person. But that person, Harry Reid, has been the most destructive entity in Washington when it comes to stability. By far.”
And this Dana Perino:
Freedom of belief doesn't appear to be important to Fox News host Dana Perino, who suggested that if atheists don't like having "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, well, "they don't have to live here."

... Regarding atheists, Perino said during a live segment, "I'm tired of them." She continued, "I remember working at the Justice Department years ago when I first started right after 9/11 and a lawsuit like this came through, and before the day had finished, the United States Senate and the House of Representatives had both passed resolutions saying that they were for keeping ‘under God’ in the pledge."

"If these people really don't like it, they don't have to live here," she concluded.
And this Dana Perino:
Fox's Perino Lashes Out At Democrats For Preventing Expansion Of Anti-Abortion Hyde Amendment In Human Trafficking Bill

... During the March 12 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Dana Perino chided Senate Democrats for demanding the removal of the anti-abortion language from the bill, claiming that "the human trafficking bill is not moving forward today because Democrats are jerks on this issue"...
But apart from all that, she's such a nice person, isn't she? Yes, I sure am glad she's doing her part to restore civility in America's political life.

Friday, April 24, 2015

GOTCHA, HILLARY! (NO, NOT REALLY.)

At the Daily Caller, Kerry Picket has what seems to be a Hillary Clinton gotcha:
Hillary On Abortion: ‘Deep-Seated Cultural Codes, Religious Beliefs And Structural Biases Have To Be Changed’

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took a feminist tone on Thursday. She told attendees at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” for the sake of giving women access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth.”

“Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice -- not just on paper,” Clinton said.
Hot Air's Ed Morrissey, citing a tweet from a Religion News Service reporter, writes:
David Gibson suggested this might be Hillary Clinton’s “clinging to guns and religion” moment, and he may be right....

In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is. As Hillary admits here -- albeit unwittingly -- the at-will destruction of the unborn goes against religious beliefs, long-held cultural values, and the structural “biases” that exist to recognize the value of human life. That’s what the “clump of cells” fallacy has to overcome, and as Hillary and the Left have discovered, it’s a tall order. And it’s not just abortion, but also same-sex marriage and forced participation in it, euthanasia dressed up as “right to die” movements, and the rest.
Is this an accurate reflection of what she really said?

Well, you might think so if you've only read the quote as excerpted by the Caller, or if you took the Caller's advice and watched the speech clip starting at 8:26:



But try watching it from 6:31. Here's what Clinton says, in context:
All the evidence tells us that despite the enormous obstacles that remain, there has never been a better time in history to be born female. Think about that. A girl born twenty years ago in Tanzania could not hope to one day own or inherit property. Today she can. If she were born in Nepal, there was a tragically high chance that her mother and even she would die in childbirth. Today, thankfully, that is far less likely. A girl born twenty years ago in Rwanda grew up in the shadow of genocide and rape. Today she can be proud that women have led the way out of that dark time, and now there are more women serving in her country's parliament than anywhere else in the world.

But the data leads to a second conclusion: that despite all this progress, we're just not there yet. Yes, we've nearly closed the global gender gap in primary school. But secondary school remains out of reach for so many girls around the world. Yes, we've increased the number of countries prohibiting domestic violence. But still, more than half the nations in the world have no such laws on the books, and an estimated one in three women still experience violence. Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half. But far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth.

All the laws we've passed don't count for much if they're not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will, and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.
She's talking about women being able to go to school and own property and live in societies where rape and beatings aren't shrugged off. She's talking about women being able to survive carrying a child to term. Undoubtedly she would include access to abortion under the heading of reproductive health care, but she explicitly includes prenatal care.

She's not saying what these people claim she's saying.

But that's how the right does it. If this gets picked up by Fox or Drudge (or both), every conservative will be certain forever that Hillary made a big speech in 2015 focusing on abortion (or maybe abortion plus euthanasia and gay marriage) and demanded that all cultures be forced to yield to them, and to hell with their cultural values.

It's a huge distortion of the truth. But distorting the truth is what the right-wing media does best.

C'MON, CONSERVATIVES. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO.

Uh-oh -- Mediaite says that the liberal fascists are being fascistic again:
The gay New York City hoteliers who recently played host to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) have their own controversy to deal with: Activists are calling for the boycott of their properties, including a gay hotel and establishments on Fire Island.

Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass ..., two gay real estate moguls who run numerous vacation properties marketed towards the LGBT community, spoke with The New York Times yesterday about the reception they held for the presidential candidate....

Within hours, a Facebook page calling for the boycott of the Fire Island Pines Establishments and the Out NYC Hotel, all owned by Reisner and Weiderpass, gained more than 2,500 followers, its wall filled with angry messages blasting the two for selling out their ideals.

“Weiderpass, an out gay man, held a ‘reception’ this past weekend for Senator Cruz,” said the first post on the page. “The question, among so many others, is, WHY???!!!”
Why so cranky? Just because of stuff like this?
Days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage, Senator Ted Cruz has filed two bills to protect states that bar gay couples from marrying.

Cruz's legislation would establish a constitutional amendment shielding states that define marriage as between one woman and one man from legal action, according to bill language obtained by Bloomberg News.

A second bill would bar federal courts from further weighing in on the marriage issue until such an amendment is adopted.
Gosh, I can't understand why little things like that get people so upset.

Obviously, what's being done to these poor, suffering hoteliers is just as bad as what intolerant lefties tried to do to upstanding businesses like Chick-fil-A. So the right-wing response should be obvious: True Patriots need to patronize the hotels these men run!

But ... um ... they're gay hotels, aren't they? And you can't really be gay if you're a True Patriot. What to do?

Well, the Out isn't a completely gay hotel, as Ian Reisner explained in this interview:
The OUT NYC is New York’s first straight-friendly urban resort. How have you enhanced the hotel experience for your customers?
My vision was not to open a gay ghetto.... We are truly the first gay-owned, gay-operated, gay-programmed, straight-friendly facility. One-third of my 20,000 sleeping customers who have come through the doors since we opened have been straight. Their way of thinking is that staying at a gay-owned and operated facility will definitely be more chic and definitely more fun, and they’re right!
It's "straight-friendly," righties! So you have to show support! For the Cause of True Conservatism!

So book a room! C'mon, aren't you ... curious?

IF YOU'RE NOT STRAIGHT, WHITE, AND MALE, THAT'S HOW REPUBLICANS EXPECT YOU TO ACT

This New York Times story about Ted Cruz sure seems like a gotcha:
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 dinner and “fireside chat” for about a dozen people with Mr. Cruz and his wife, Heidi, was at the Central Park South penthouse of Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner, longtime business partners who were once a couple and who have been pioneers in the gay hospitality industry....
But on the right, this isn't considered a gotcha at all. Here's Paula Bolyard at PJ Media:
If you’re a left-leaning reporter who believes that the only reason half of Americans oppose same sex marriage is because they’re hateful bigots who are acting out of raw animus, events and statements like this cause you all kinds of cognitive dissonance and consternation. All good leftist reporters believe in the deepest recesses of their hearts that mean-spirited Republicans who disagree with the push for same sex marriage never, ever associate with gay people -- unless they’re snooping around in their bedrooms....

This may come as a surprise to reporters at the Times, but Senator Cruz -- like most Republicans -- has gay friends (and supporters) and he’s willing to engaging in dialogue with people with whom he disagrees. And guess what? This is not newsworthy.
When thinking about people outside the party's core demographic (straight white men and their wives who are either Christians or right-wing Jews), Republicans don't seem to have animus or hate, necessarily -- they just want members of these outside groups to quietly accept the back of the government's hand. They think that's perfectly reasonable -- they believe gays and blacks and Hispanics and other non-favored groups should want to be Republicans even though Republicans want to deny them rights. A backlash against gay marriage? Extra hurdles in the pursuit of voting rights? A hard line on immigration? Republicans think minority groups should masochistically embrace these policies.

The odd thing is that some minority-group members do. Republicans, for instance, expect all black people to be like Clarence Thomas and Allen West and Mia Love (those who haven't seen the light are said to be on "the Democrat plantation"). In the case of gay people, Republicans expect a reaction like the Facebook message posted yesterday by one of Cruz's hotelier friends:
The fact that Senator Cruz accepted the invitation to my home was a step in the right direction towards him having a better understanding of who I am and what I believe in. We spent most of the time talking about national security issues and in particular the challenges from ISIS, Iran, and defense of Israel -- these are issues for which we did find common ground. However, i did not shy away from the opportunity to ask the Senator about social issues, in particular marriage equality, and made it clear that I completely disagree with him on that issue.
In other words: I'm just so thrilled to have talked to him about his belief that I'm a second-class citizen.

Republicans don't really hate you if you're not a straight white Christian. They like you -- as long as you know your place.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

THE TIMES USED SCHWEIZER'S RESEARCH ON HILLARY. THINK FOX WILL USE HIS RESEARCH ON JEB?

Bloomberg Politics says that Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash, is targeting Jeb Bush next. I'm not sure I believe it, but here's the story:
Schweizer is working on a similar investigation of Jeb Bush’s finances that he expects to publish this summer.

“What we’re doing is a drill-down investigation of Jeb’s finances similar to what we did with the Clintons in terms of looking at financial dealings, cronyism, who he’s been involved with,” Schweizer told me on Wednesday. “We’ve found some interesting things.”

Schweizer says he and a team of researchers have been poring over Bush’s financial life for about four months. Among other things, they’re scrutinizing various Florida land deals, an airport deal while Bush was governor that involved state funds, and Chinese investors in Bush’s private equity funds....

As he did with the Clinton book, Schweizer is hoping to partner with media organizations interested in reporting on and advancing his examination of Bush’s finances....
Assuming he's telling the truth about this, rather than merely claiming to have an anti-Bush project in the works in order to maintain a posture of objectivity -- which media organizations do you think will partner with him?

Do you think one of them will be Fox?

Here's the way the so-called liberal media works: You dig up anti-Clinton dirt of this kind and The New York Times is as eager to run it as Fox is. But the conservative media has never worked that way, at least not in my experience. Sure, during the primary season a not-excessively-wingnutty Republican might get less-than-worshipful coverage on Fox -- Mitt Romney certainly did in late 2011 and early 2012 -- but Fox knows that the wagons must eventually be circled.

Even if no one at Fox is thrilled at the prospect of a Jeb candidacy, he could very well be the right's guy in 2016. So I think there's no way in hell Fox will work with Schweizer on this. And if it there really is Jeb dirt and Fox gives it a miss, that tells you all you need to know about the difference between the conservative media and the non-conservative media.

TIMES CLINTON NARRATIVE DESCRIBES A SYSTEM WORKING THE WAY ELITES THINK IT SHOULD

Did Hillary Clinton personally pave the way for Vladimir Putin and his cronies to increase their control over the international market for uranium, all in return for dirty money shelled out to the Clintons and their foundation? That's certainly what a New York Times story you probably read (or decided was too long to bother with) would like you to believe.

Do I think people involved in the deal got too cozy with Bill and Hillary? Yes. Do I think this sort of thing goes on all the time? Again, yes.

This is now, according to the Times:
And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
This was a quarter-century ago, less than a year after Ronald Reagan left the White House:
The Reagans are being paid roughly $2 million to tour the Japan of Nobutaka Shikanai, the right-leaning founder of the Fujisankei Communications Group and one of Japan's most successful and most controversial entrepreneurs. Even though there is a growing practice in Japan of hiring big-name American power brokers, the company has been stung by criticism that it is taking this idea to an extreme. Still, it is hardly passing up the chance to let Mr. Reagan help showcase the $5 billion-a-year conglomerate.

... the younger Mr. Shikanai, who is joint chairman and chief executive of Fujisankei, has quickly set the company's sights abroad for the first time. A month ago Fujisankei purchased 25 percent of Britain's Virgin Music Group for $150 million, giving Fujisankei access to some of Virgin's biggest hits and an overseas outlet for its Japanese recording artists.

The company has invested an additional $10 million in the film maker David Puttnam, a former president of Columbia Pictures, and Hiroaki Shikanai says he might be interested in a movie studio someday, following in the steps of Sony, which recently bought Columbia.
Reagan was criticized for that -- but conservatives would still sing hosannas if he became the fifth face on Mount Rushmore.

And were the insider connections to the Clintons decisive? The Times would suggest they were, but Susie Madrak is right to note the way the Times story downplays the exact decision-making process. From the Times:
Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Madrak writes:
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (this one) is a multi-agency committee chaired by the US Treasury, not the State Department....
It consists of the heads of the Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, Defense, State, and Energy Departments, plus the U.S. Trade Representative and the head of the Office of Science & Technology Policy. Madrak writes, regarding Hillary:
She used her magical powers to force every single one of these agencies to do her nefarious bidding -- and override the security interests of the United States to allow these evil Rooskies to have access to uranium?

... And not one of those people ever made a peep. It's a conspiracy! Because Clinton!
I'd add one more person: the president. He believed, rightly or wrongly, that the Russians could be dealt with as reasonable people. Approving this deal was in sync with that idea, not in contradiction. How does it represent the Evil Clintons gone rogue?

****

I also want to talk about Frank Giustra, the Canadian mining magnate whose business machinations ultimately led to the deal that's the subject of the article. Giustra is a friend of Bill Clinton and a donor to Clinton's causes.

But, see, as a society we like guys such as Giustra. Conservatives have their Giustras and liberals have theirs -- fat cats who give generously to admirable causes and who, not incidentally, hobnob with high government officials.

Giusta got a philanthropic award last year from the Dalai Lama. He does good deeds:
Mr. Giustra donates to a broad-range of charities locally and internationally. Ranging from local charities including The Boys Club Network, StreettoHome and internationally like the Elton John Aids Foundation and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (yes, he has President Bill Clinton on speed dial). He established The Radcliffe Foundation in 1997 which supports a wide variety of international and local charities. Focusing on issues ranging from disaster relief, economic development and homelessness to offering children around the world hope for a better future.
And he does this in conjunction with Clinton and other swells:
[There are] charity events with U2 front man Bono, fundraisers co-hosted with jazz diva Diana Krall, face time with supermodel Petra Nemcova in the name of tsunami relief. And, of course, he has been welcomed into Clinton's inner circle as a bona fide Friend of Bill, or FOB.
This is how we think social problems need to be solved, because both liberal and conservative elite politicians, in the post-Reagan new Gilded Age, agree that business leaders are a huge force for good in the world. Yes, there are politicians who don't feel this way, but they scrounge for pennies while the politicians favored by swells run (or ostensibly run) the country.

That's how system works, folks. It will take a hell of a lot more than just examining the habits of the Clintons to change that fact.

GEORGE PACKER WHINES NOSTALGICALLY ABOUT A NONEXISTENT LOST EDEN

I understand why George Packer, writing for The New Yorker, is saying he's tired of politics -- other longtime political observers (Jon Stewart, Andrew Sullivan) are also throwing in the towel. (Politics is making me weary these days, too.)

But Packer says what's been lost for him is the "fun."
It might not be wise for a sometime political journalist to admit this, but the 2016 campaign doesn’t seem like fun to me....

American politics in general doesn’t seem like fun these days. There’s nothing very entertaining about super PACs, or Mike Huckabee’s national announcement of an imminent national announcement of whether he will run for President again....
Packer goes on and on about what he's anticipating in the upcoming campaign that, in his view, won't be "fun" -- but when he gets to a list of proposals that he says "would make American politics more relevant, more interesting -- maybe even more fun," the list doesn't sound like fun, but rather like eat-your-vegetables earnestness. A couple of examples:
2. A Republican should run against the Republican Congress. Its negativism has become a disgrace to the party and the country....
Oh, please. Republicans run against the Republican Congress all the timer -- they just do it by saying that Congress isn't radically right-wing enough. And negativism? Packer thinks that's what's really awful about congressional Republicans? What, they're too grumpy? Replace "negativism" with "nihilism" and you're a lot closer to the truth.
6. A Republican and a Democrat with national reputations should hold hands and break the partisan rules. They should announce early on the intention of making the other his or her running mate in the event of winning the nomination -- if only to test whether the political center is really as dead as it seems.
Oh, good Lord. David Broder lives!

Seriously, George, have you looked at Congress? Or the states? We're electing ideologues -- the ideologues your magic Third Way dream team would have to work with if they somehow came to power. Also: This, to you, would be fun? Here, check out this recent column by Jon Huntsman and Joe Lieberman, co-chairs of the centrist group No Labels (which, yes, still exists):
Our movement, No Labels, identified ... goals by asking the American people what national problems they most wanted their representatives in Washington to solve. The resolution will establish a framework for a National Strategic Agenda that can appeal to citizens and leaders of all political stripes:

• Create 25 million jobs over the next 10 years;
• Secure Social Security and Medicare for another 75 years;
• Balance the federal budget by 2030; and
• Make America energy secure by 2024.

... For our government to change course, goals must first be agreed to and set, then substantive policy negotiations can be held. That’s what a National Strategic Agenda is all about -- think of it as setting a destination in your GPS or favorite navigation application on your phone. The GPS or app may give you multiple options to reach the destination (goal), and there may be alternatives suggested along your way, but you know where the journey will end. You know you will accomplish the goal of arriving at your destination.
Hey! Hey! WAKE UP!

Packer rails against the sclerotic nature of our politics -- a would-be presidential candidate makes a "national announcement of an imminent national announcement" and so on. But what's more sclerotic than this No Labels proposal? A national survey that leads to a resolution that leads to a framework that leads to an agenda (or an Agenda) that leads to ... um, "substantive policy negotiations"? Which simply have to bear fruit, because Huntsman and Lieberman say so? Because everything in Washington ultimately always gets resolved once there's a framework for an agenda for a negotiation?

****

What's odd about Packer's essay is that there's a lost Eden for which he's nostalgic, and it doesn't seem like the Third Way, good-government, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington era he appears to crave now:
Since I was eight years old, and the Republican candidates were named Nixon, Rockefeller, and Reagan, and the Democrats were Humphrey, Kennedy, and McCarthy, I’ve been passionate about American politics, as a student, a witness, and a partisan. Politics was in my blood, at the family dinner table, in my work and my free time. But at some point in the past few years it went dead for me, or I for it....
So Packer is nostalgic for the period of our politics that started in 1968? The year we made Richard Nixon president? Packer wants earnest statesmanship, but he longs for forty or so years of dirty tricks, secret slush funds, candidate demonizations, foreign policy failings, ideological warfare, sexual embarrassments, and financiers given leeway to destroy the economy repeatedly? That was, I suppose, a grim sort of fun, but it wasn't good government.

We're just getting the first New York Times story built on Peter Schweizer's book about Bill and Hillary Clinton's ongoing search for cash, and, well, it's a bit sleazy. But Schweizer also swears he's going to go into Jeb Bush's secret deals. And Scott Walker and Chris Christie and Marco Rubio, to name three, have plenty of sleaze in their past.

So this campaign might be a hell of a lot more like what Packer actually lived through starting in '68 than he imagines. But much of what he lived through was bad for the country, and for most of its citizens, just the way the future he dreads will probably be.

So enjoy the ride, George. You've been on it before.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

THE CULT THAT VOTES

The good news in this report from Gallup is that, for all the right's propaganda efforts, only conservatives seem to believe climate-change nonsense:
Conservative Republicans Alone on Global Warming's Timing

While notable majorities of all other political party/ideology groups say the effects of global warming will happen within their lifetime, fewer than four in 10 conservative Republicans (37%) agree, a sign of that political identity's strident skepticism on this issue.

Conservative Republicans not only decisively reject the notion that the effects of global warming will happen in this lifetime -- a position in sharp contrast to all other political identities -- but another 40% say global warming will never happen. This is significantly higher than the percentages of moderate/liberal Republicans (16%), non-leaning independents (14%), conservative/moderate Democrats (5%) and liberal Democrats (3%) who say the same.
But you know the bad news: Congress and most of our state governments are controlled by the party in which climate-change denialism is rampant, and in which it's the position candidates are required to hold in order to obtain large amounts of campaign cash. And we're one presidential election away from possible total control of the federal government by the denialist party, despite the limited appeal of the denialist message, as seen in the poll results above.

But that's the nature of our politics.

Conservative Republicanism is a cult. Its adherents, like the adherents of all cults, have a belief system that's full of delusions. On the subject of global warming, this is obvious: Go to any right-wing media outlet and you'll be told that climate change is a massive hoax perpetrated for monetary profit (or in the pursuit of totalitarian control) by a sinister cabal of liberals and left-leaning scientists. On the right, this belief isn't even up for debate -- it's settled fact. As I said: the group delusion of a cult.

But the cult votes. The cultists are so fervent in this and other delusional beliefs that they turn out in elections when the rest of us don't. They have a mortal lock on many states and they seize control in contested states when we let our guard down, as they've done, for instance, in Wisconsin.

Will they vote in November 2016? Oh, hell yes. Will the rest of us? That's not clear. We may decide there's no difference between the cult's candidate and the major-party opposition, just as we did in 2000.

If that happens, the cult wins.

MAYBE GREG ABBOTT SHOWED SCOTT WALKER HIS FRAMED COLLECTION OF KOCH CHECKS

We were just hearing that the Koch brothers prefer Scott Walker in the 2016 presidential election -- though now it's reported that the Kochs are also looking at Bush, Rubio, Paul, and Cruz. Still, Walker seems to have the inside track. So what's this Walker move all about?
Republicans often rail about undocumented immigrants. But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, an expected GOP presidential candidate, took it a step further Monday by sounding some critical notes about the number of those who immigrate to the U.S. legally.

"In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying -- the next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages. Because the more I’ve talked to folks, I’ve talked to [Alabama Sen. Jeff] Sessions and others out there -- but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today -- is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages. And we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward," Walker said in an interview with Glenn Beck, according to Breitbart News.
Walker's now talking about limiting legal immigration? Never mind how far to the right that is. Never mind how off-putting it would be in a general election campaign in a multi-ethnic America. Let's be cynical: Why is Scott Walker putting Koch support at risk?

The Wall Street Journal suggests that the Kochs find this sort of thing appalling:
Scott Walker won plaudits from David Koch at a New York fundraiser this week, but the Wisconsin governor now finds himself at odds with the leader of Mr. Koch’s Hispanic outreach organization....

[Walker's immigration] comments drew scorn from Daniel Garza, the executive director of the Libre Initiative, the Koch-backed organization that promotes free-market principles to Hispanic audiences.

“Any call, by anyone, to further restrict legal immigration is not a viable, nor an acceptable policy remedy,” Mr. Garza said Tuesday.

... Mr. Garza ... said Tuesday he is disappointed with Mr. Walker’s latest turn. Mr. Garza said Mr. Walker is in danger of marginalizing himself should he becoming the GOP’s presidential nominee....

“I don’t think that any candidate should really speak on the issue in a way that satisfies only one dimension of the American electorate,” Mr. Garza said. “You can’t just have a narrow slice of Americans and cater to a very narrow slice. We’ll continue to coordinate activities with folks who want to align with us on these kinds of remedies.”
So Walker just blew off the Kochs?

Well, maybe he doesn't believe that's the case. Here's something Walker told Fox's Megyn Kelly about how his immigration position evolved:
“... having talked to border state governors and having talked to other people, seeing how screwed up immigration has become under this president, it was clear to me talking to them and listening on this issue, traveling to the border actually going there with the governor of Texas Gov. Abbott, seeing the problems there, yeah from my standpoint going forward we need to secure the border, we need to enforce the laws that we currently have with an e-verify system,” Walker said.
(Emphasis added.)

Abbott is an immigration hard-liner. So, um, that must mean that Abbott never got a dime from the Kochs as he rose through the ranks in Texas politics -- right?

Wrong. This is from 2013, when Abbott was Texas's attorney general:
When Greg Abbott needed a little help flying around as his campaign for Texas governor gets underway, who did he call? The Koch brothers. Abbott’s latest campaign report shows that Koch Industries in Washington provided Abbott with the use of an airplane for $7,500 worth of travel. The report doesn’t offer details. And Abbott’s campaign did not return a call seeking clarification. But one thing’s clear: the Texas Republican attorney general is a favorite of the billionaire Koch brothers, who are big opponents of Obamacare and efforts to curb air and water pollution.
And, a year later, when Abbott was running for governor:
Money from Koch interests flows to governor candidate Greg Abbott

Five months after an ammonium nitrate explosion that killed 15 people in West, Attorney General Greg Abbott received a $25,000 contribution from a first-time donor to his political campaigns -- the head of Koch Industries’ fertilizer division.

The donor, Chase Koch, is the son of one of the billionaire brothers atop Koch Industries’ politically influential business empire.

Abbott, who has since been criticized for allowing Texas chemical facilities to keep secret the contents of their plants, received more than $75,000 from Koch interests after the April 2013 explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. storage and distribution facility, campaign finance records filed with the state showed....
Ahhh, I see. Parts of the Koch network express support for immigration -- but the Kochs have no problem whatsoever backing a hardcore immigration opponent if he does other things the brothers like.

So maybe Scott Walker assumes his extreme position on immigration will win him lots of primary votes (he's probably right) while not really alienating the apparent immigration moderates in the Koch family if he serves their interests in other, more bottom-line-oriented ways. We'll see if he's right.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

AS IF 1993 NEVER HAPPENED

The headline of this New York Times story by Amy Chozick is "A Newcomer to Populism? Hillary Clinton Campaign Begs to Differ." The Clinton campaign made material available to Chozick that makes the case for Hillary as a longtime populist: Chozick offers the other side of the argument as well. It's a reasonably balanced story -- but how on earth did a sentence like the following make its way past Chozick's editors? Emphasis added:
In the years Mrs. Clinton served as secretary of state and since she left the State Department in early 2013, she has become more associated with the centrist policies of the Bill Clinton years than with policies of raising taxes on the wealthy and increasing government services that have become widely adopted on the left.
Really? Has Chozick forgotten that, before NAFTA and so-called welfare reform and Wall Street deregulation (and, also, an economy recovery more broad-based than any since), there was this?
The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 ... was a federal law that was enacted by the 103rd United States Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton....

* Previously the top individual tax rate of 31% applied to all income over $51,900. The Act created a new bracket of 36% for income above $115,000, and 39.6% for income above $250,000....

* Previously, corporate income above $335,000 was taxed at 34%. The Act created new brackets of 35% for income from $10 million to $15 million, 38% for income from $15 million to $18.33 million, and 35% for income above $18.33 million....

* The 2.9% Medicare tax previously was capped to only apply to the first $135,000 of income. This cap was removed....
Right-wingers still whine about that tax increase. But to Chozick, I guess, it never happened.

JOURNALISM! THE HILL REPORTS CRAZY CONSPIRACY THEORIST'S CLINTON ATTACK, IGNORES CRAZY CONSPIRACY THEORIES

I don't have a problem with the Daily Beast doing a feature story on Roseanne Barr -- after all, the Beast is a general-interest site, and Barr is the subject of a new documentary focusing on her attempt to win the 2012 Green Party presidential nomination, as well as her subsequent campaign as the head of the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. The documentary could be fascinating. There's no doubt that Barr is an interesting subject.

However, she's totally nuts.

Here's a 2010 post from her blog:
PEOPLE ARE SAYING THAT 9-11 WAS AN INSIDE BUSH JOB

that was done to destroy the enron and anderson books/records(bush’s friends) that were kept inside the buildings. Right after that our economy was gutted.
Two days after posting that, she put up a link to a lengthy 9/11 truther essay, which she called a "brilliant analysis."

She also believes that the Boston Marathon bombing was a "false flag" attack by the Obama administration intended "to remove the 2nd amendment," and she's approvingly cited the work of conspiratorialist Wayne Masden, including an article titled "Obama’s gay trysts confirmed again by senior congressional source" and another claiming "that the Mossad has gay pictures of Lindsey Graham."

The Daily Beast should have mentioned some of this -- but the Beast is not covering Barr as a political figure. The Hill, on the other hand, has no such excuse -- it's strictly a political journal. So why is this showing up at Ballot Box, "The Hill's campaign blog"? And why do we learn nothing from it about Barr's insane beliefs?
Roseanne: Hillary is 'the same old s---'

Comedian Roseanne Barr dismissed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid in an interview Monday, saying she offered "the same old shit."

“I think she’s a Democrat just like they all are,” Barr, who herself ran as an independent candidate in 2012, told The Daily Beast. “She seems like every other Democrat. I would not like to see her win. She’s the same old shit. I’d like to see me win...."

Barr said that she was not swayed to become a Clinton supporter by the prospect of electing America’s first female president.

“I think that a party that was woman-friendly would be revolutionary, and that party could be headed by a male or female,” she said. “It’s what the party itself stands for that matters. She is standing as a Democrat so she’s a Democrat, and I don’t see much difference between them and the Republicans. They both get paid by the same guys...."
I've edited the Hill post, but there's nothing to indicate that Barr is out of her mind.

And, well, of course there isn't -- this is clickbait for right-wingers, intended to advance the meme that Hillary's being attacked from the left by a left-leaning feminist icon! Oooh! Oooh! Catfight! Catfight! Libs in disarray!

Yes, the lefty media likes to cover crazies such as Victoria Jackson, Nick Searcy, and Ted Nugent -- but we always tell you these people are crazy. In fact, we're delighted to give you examples of how crazy these people are.

But if a mainstream outlet reported on a Victoria Jackson rant while describing Jackson as nothing more than a "former Saturday Night Live star," omitting her history of insane political pronouncements, that would be a journalistic embarrassment -- just like this.

RUBIO ROCKS OUR WORLD! (IN THEORY.)

In The New York Times today, David Brooks looks at Marco Rubio and sees starbursts:
... it’s probably right to see Rubio as the second most likely nominee, slightly behind Jeb Bush and slightly ahead of Walker.

He is, for starters, the most talented politician in the race....

Rubio gives a very good speech. He has an upbeat and pleasant demeanor. He has a great personal story. His policy agenda is more detailed and creative than any of his rivals. He has an overarching argument -- that it is time for a new generation to reform and replace archaic structures.
Here's my favorite passage from the Brooks column:
So there is beginning to be a certain charisma to his presidential campaign. It is not necessarily showing up in outright support. The first-term senator still shows up only with 8.3 percent support on the Real Clear Politics average of 2016 Republican presidential nomination polls, leaving him tied for 5th in the field. But primary voters are open to him; the upside is large.
Did you follow that? Rubio has charisma -- apparently! The polls don't actually show that he has charisma, but it sure seems as if he really has it!

Sorry, David, that's not how it works. Either the voters are feeling the Rubio magic or they aren't. You can't have hypothetical charisma. Voters can't be sort of electrified.

I'm seeing a similar misunderstanding of charisma in this Bloomberg article by Tim Alberta titled "Marco Rubio Is the Rock Star They Feared He Would Be." At first, you get the sense from Alberta that Rubio was really killing it in New Hampshire last week, especially in the eyes of one emblematic voter:
The speech had ended and the room was clearing out, but Barry Devine lingered near the podium, gazing at the stage. The 73-year-old Republican activist, in a suit and Vietnam veteran cap, had just heard a young senator deliver the dinner address at the New Hampshire GOP's spring kickoff event. And it left him mesmerized -- even a bit emotional....

"I'll just say this: We've got to bring this country back. I didn't fight in Vietnam for nothing," Devine said. Nodding to Rubio, he added, "And I think he could do it."

Everything about Rubio -- his policy prescriptions, his family history, his "youthful energy" -- resonated with Devine. But what made Rubio his favorite speaker in a day of appearances from Republican 2016 contenders was something less tangible. "The most important thing," Devine said, "is that he really loves his country."
And yet, several paragraphs later, we learn this:
Even the veteran activist Rubio wowed with his Friday speech, wouldn't commit. "I like Rand. I like Scott Walker. I even like, believe it or not, Rick Perry -- he's really done his homework," said Devine, who, after making 7,000 calls for Scott Brown's 2014 Senate campaign, will be a sought-after volunteer for any of the presidential hopefuls. "I don't want to close the door on anyone yet."
You see:
... there is a palpable sense that none of the buzz around Rubio -- his talent, his upside, his emotional appeal -- may wind up translating into concrete support. He has for months been polling in the single digits both nationally and in early nominating states. He has made no known staff hires in Iowa. And in New Hampshire, despite his sparkling debut, even those people singing his praises were quick to emphasize that they aren't prepared to pick a side.
Rubio isn't a "rock star." He's a contestant on American Idol or The Voice who's talented and pitch-perfect and undoubtedly appealing while he's on stage, but who's utterly lacking in the edge that actually make someone a "rock star." He generates enthusiasm, but no one's quite ready to get a Rubio tattoo yet.

After he announced his candidacy, Rubio got a bounce in the CNN poll and is now in a virtual tie with Scott Walker and Rand Paul for second place. (CNN has Jeb Bush still leading with 18%, then Walker with 12% and Rubio and Paul with 11%.) Now, remember: Walker hasn't had his official announcement yet. Nor does he have Jeb Bush's name recognition, or the family ties of Jeb or Rand Paul. He's still near the front based on a two-month-old speech at CPAC.

Why? Because Republican voters expect him to kick liberal ass. As for Jeb, the GOP voters in this poll who like him presumably think he's just another kid from a dynasty, but it's their party's dynasty -- being a Bush, he'll have the muscle to move the country in a Republican direction.

Do Republican voters think Rubio has the juice to do what they want him to do and kick the asses they want him to kick? Because if he never gives off that sense of power, then he's probably peaking right now.