Thursday, December 31, 2015


Marco Rubio will probably lose the GOP nomination for other reasons, primarily because he's not trying hard enough to stoke full-throated rage, but he's probably not going to lose because of this:
When Marco Rubio was majority whip of the Florida House of Representatives, he used his official position to urge state regulators to grant a real estate license to his brother-in-law, a convicted cocaine trafficker who had been released from prison 20 months earlier, according to records obtained by The Washington Post.

In July 2002, Rubio sent a letter on his official statehouse stationery to the Florida Division of Real Estate, recommending Orlando Cicilia “for licensure without reservation.” The letter, obtained by The Washington Post under the Florida Public Records Act, offers a glimpse of Rubio using his growing political power to assist his troubled brother-in-law and provides new insight into how the young lawmaker intertwined his personal and political lives.
If history is any indication, Rubio will skate on this. Voters have given a pass to many presidents with questionable relatives -- go here for a quick rundown on ethically challenged and/or shiftless presidential brothers such as Billy Carter, Neil Bush, and Roger Clinton, not to mention Clinton brothers-in-law Hugh and Tony Rodham. The public just doesn't hold candidates accountable for their no-'count relatives, even if the candidates have tried to use clout to help those relatives.

Remember, a lot of people have dodgy kinfolks. There's nothing odd about having a drug dealer in the family, for Republican voters or anyone else in America. I think most Americans assume that pulling whatever strings you can to help troubled family members is the decent thing to do. And yes, I realize this is Miami Vice-level crime, not tawdry street dealing:
Rubio also declined to say whether he or his family received financial assistance from Cicilia, who was convicted in a high-profile 1989 trial of distributing $15 million worth of cocaine. The federal government seized Cicilia’s home; the money has never been found.
But when we're voting for president we shrug this sort of thing off all the time. We probably will with Rubio.


Nate Cohn of The New York Times has noticed something about Donald Trump's backers:
[Trump's] geographic pattern of support ... is similar to a map of the tendency toward racism by region, according to measures like the prevalence of Google searches for racial slurs and racist jokes, or scores on implicit association tests....

... In many of these areas, a large number of traditionally Democratic voters have long supported Republicans in presidential elections. Even now, Democrats have more registered voters than Republicans do in states like West Virginia and Kentucky, which have been easily carried by Republicans in every presidential contest of this century.

... Many Democrats may now even identify as Republicans, or as independents who lean Republican, when asked by pollsters -- a choice that means they’re included in a national Republican primary survey, whether they remain registered as Democrats or not.

Mr. Trump appears to hold his greatest strength among people like these -- registered Democrats who identify as Republican leaners -- with 43 percent of their support.... Similarly, many of Mr. Trump’s best states are those with a long tradition of Democrats who vote Republican in presidential elections, like West Virginia.
This is the group of voters that's most supportive if Trump, though he's still doing quite well among actual Republicans. Cohn isn't sure that these people will actually vote for Trump in primaries -- in some states, legally, they can't. But the mere fact that Trump is leading in the polls has pulled his party further to the right on the sort of nativism that these voters want. Trump's candidacy has made clear the desire for this brand of politics.

Which makes me think that Jim Webb should have returned to his Republican roots and run in the GOP primaries this year. He was probably the most forthright defender of the Confederate flag among presidential candidates in either party in the immediate aftermath of the Charleston church massacre earlier this year (“'This is an emotional time and we all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War,' Webb said in a statement posted to his Facebook page") -- at least until he walked back his defense of the flag a few weeks after the mass shooting. He's attacked affirmative action for years:
Webb said in 2000 that affirmative action "has within one generation brought about a permeating state-sponsored racism that is as odious as the Jim Crow laws it sought to countermand."
See also the Wall Street Journal op-ed he wrote in 2010:
Forty years ago, as the United States experienced the civil rights movement, the supposed monolith of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant dominance served as the whipping post for almost every debate about power and status in America. After a full generation of such debate, WASP elites have fallen by the wayside and a plethora of government-enforced diversity policies have marginalized many white workers....

Unfortunately, present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white.
He would have been entering a crowded field if he'd run as a Republican, and he would have done so with a seemingly disqualifying history of skepticism about the Iraq War and about traditional corporatist Republican economic policies. But the same can be said about Donald Trump. So it's possible that somewhere along the line he might have challenged Trump in a poll or two, maybe as a result of support from Scots-Irish Americans who wave the Confederate flag and take pride in their own whiteness, a group he's long championed. They might see him as an ethnic champion in the Trump mold and as the tough guy Trump and Ted Cruz pretend to be. The voters he'd be attracting might be the very people Trump is appealing to.

In any event, if he does run as a third-party candidate for president (as Bloomberg Politics, a few days ago, said he might), he's highly unlikely to draw voters from the Democratic nominee. The kinds of people who'd vote for him stopped voting Democratic in presidential elections many years ago, even though some are still registered as Democrats.

I think he missed his chance. He should have run as a Republican.


Hi, folks. I'm back, but I'm running a bit behind schedule after a long, delay-filled cross-country trip yesterday through our incredibly normal winter weather. Thank you again, Yaz, Crank, and Tom, for great posts while I was gone. I'll be posting later today.


Santería practice on church steps, image via Ghost Lounge.
Trump plays the Santería card on Ted Cruz!
"You gotta remember. In all fairness, to the best of my knowledge, not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba, OK? Just remember that, OK? Just remember," he told the crowd in Council Bluffs, Iowa. "When you're casting your ballot, remember."
No indeed! What kind of religion comes out of Cuba? Something they don't hear much about in Council Bluffs, I bet!

I mean obviously I'm just kidding about the Santería, and Trump knows nothing whatever about cigar-smoking priestesses and Babalú-Ayé and the other orishas, but he does know exactly what he's doing with his still more ignorant audience, and it does have a distinct racist smell. What he's talking about to Council Bluffs is himself, not Cruz, and his own bizarre claim to be a Christian of the type the Council Bluffs Taliban recognize as one of their own.

He's saying, "Don't pay attention to my ignorance of the Bible, or my wives in their décolleté, look into my German blue eyes."

It's enough to make you want to vote for Cruz—though Cruz is in fact the whitest kind of Cuban you ever want to meet—both his father's parents were Spanish immigrants, born in the Canary Islands, and his US-born mother's name, Darragh, is Irish. It's pretty clear that no Mexican Americans or Puerto Ricans are likely to vote for him, or for Rubio either—and even the conservative Miami Cuban community generally prefers J.E.B. Bush to either, with pretty good reason. You know what I'd use to explain voting for J.E.B., in some horrible imaginary case in which I really had no recourse other than to vote for him? That I believe he would at some point be capable of embarrassment. Not shame, which would be better, but at least embarrassment.

Trump, in contrast, is literally incapable of embarrassment, and Cruz is as well. Rubio too, though he covers it up by looking as if he's dying of embarrassment at all times. Trump and Cruz are going to have an argument about who is a crazier adherent of a Dominionist sect holding that the Constitution is a biblically inspired document forbidding the separation of church and state. "I'm sorry, Donald, but I'm far crazier than you. My father has anointed me the Messiah of America, and I believe him." "Nonsense, Ted, you couldn't possibly be as crazy as I am. After all your family comes from Cuba."

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Brooks of the Year in Review

David Brooks in 1776, via Publius Maximus.
Twice a week or so for I don't know how long, probably three or four years, practically every Tuesday and Friday, I turn to the Times opinion section (nowadays generally on my phone, first thing in the morning during funding credits on NPR) to see what crimes against journalism and the English language David Brooks has committed that morning, and try to figure out something to say about it, or through it, or under it, whether with a Shorter (often with a lot of commentary) or a fully realized essay, a parody, or even once in a while a for-reals poem, as happened last January, when I got the impression from a column that he'd been trying out an online dating service (OK Cupid), and having a fairly humiliating time of it, and found myself moved for a change by a genuine compassion, together with a couple of really terrific rhymes.

I don't do this for every Douthat column, or every dithyramb by Jonah Goldberg, or anybody else (to say nothing of torturing myself the way fellow Brooksologist Driftglass does watching the Sunday morning shows every week), just Brooks, and I'm not completely sure why. One thing is it's a kind of exercise, and I sit down to it the way a high-tone jazz pianist might start a practice day with a little Bach (one prelude and fugue from WTC) and a little riff...

John Lewis, with assistance from Joel Lester, violin, Lois Martin, viola, Howard Collins, guitar, and Marc Johnson, bass.

But a part of it for sure has to do with the horrible sense that I resemble him in a way, autodidact in the fields (like politics and economics) I write about and hiding my insecurities behind a breezy tone, and overly anxious to be liked (which I fight with a rebarbative, gnarly sentence structure to drive readers away). That came out a little in February, when Brooks confessed something he'd always denied, that he reads the online comments on the columns, and they hurt his feelings, though he soldiers on, trying to regard them as gifts from which he might learn. For example, he learned how much he has in common with Abraham Lincoln.

He can even be a bit of a poet himself, as we learned in March, from the famous drunk-dialing column (whose referential meaning is now getting a little clearer) of that month. But of course the insecurity didn't last, and by April he was comparing himself to Lincoln again.

And also in April he clarified that he's exactly like Michael Lewis's Flash Boys, with his insatiable hunger for truth, and totally unlike those shallow souls who "just need to get as much information as you need to do your job. You don’t have time for deep dives into abstract matters. You certainly don’t want to let people know how confused you are by something, or how shallow your knowledge is in certain areas. You want to project an image of mastery and omniscience." Brooks is so completely the opposite of that.

And that's the other thing, that he represents, in fact, everything that is wrong in his kind of writing, his kind of politics, his kind of shifting responsibility away from his shoulders, his kind of tongue-sucking disapproval of everybody that isn't him. By assuming that everything he says is in some precise way wrong, I learn so much! For instance in May, when he announced the "center-right moment" (Rahm Emanuel had fought off a challenger in Chicago, and Netanyahu had managed to win the Israeli elections with his promise of "bold institutional reforms to modernize the welfare state", Brooks believed in his fantasy world, as opposed to the openly racist appeal to fear Netanyahu actually used) the week it became clear that there would be a powerful leftward swing in Canada, which I might never have seen if he hadn't been so determined not to notice it.

In June, Brooks had little to say about the horrible shooting as the Mother Emanuel Church in Columbia, South Carolina, but lots to say on the unsung casualties of this incident, on the Confederate flag at the South Carolina capitol and Robert E. Lee. He moved me inexpressibly, but I tried to express my emotions anyhow. It is possible that I was the first to bring up the subject of the Dukes of Hazzard in this context, so that Brooks, through his influence on me, could be ultimately to blame for getting their reruns kicked off (some of) the tube.

And so it went.

In July a lucky break put me in touch with Brooks's original column from July 3, 1776. He found, as you might expect, that in that year's dust-up between Whigs and Tories, both sides were doing it.

In September he was, as we later found out, on a $35,000 junket for Four Seasons Travel, having a horrible time, and filed a column from St. Petersburg communicating his irritation at the absence of dark eyes and balalaikas, or deep Dostoevskian spiritual experiences, as the case may be.

October was when he went to pieces with the sudden appalling realization that both sides don't do it; it only lasted for a moment, but it was pretty scary. I tried to explain it to him.


Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

The end of an era? The end of an error?

Via Talking Points Memo:
I blame you, Steve, for this tragic development. I'm sure he'd have had the courage to go on if you weren't on vacation.

Monday, December 28, 2015

It’s time to start thinking ahead to the 2020 Republican nominee for President. My favorite crazier-than-Trump candidate of the future is Sylvia Allen.

Arizona state senator Sylvia Allen: "The vapor
trail are coming! The vapor trails are coming!"

Look, either The Donald will or will not be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. At this stage, who can know? Who could even have suspected, only a few months ago, that Trump would be the leading contender? Or that Ben Carson would lose his footing as a leading contender by getting the story of the Biblical seven years of plenty confused with King Tut’s sarcophagus? Or that he would ever be a leading contender in the first place?

The rule of Republican politics seems to be, the more insane, the more ridiculous, the more outrageous, the more bombastic, the more insane, the more twisted, the more confused, the more ignorant of the U.S. Constitution and our nation’s history a candidate sounds, the greater the likelihood that he or she will enchant Republican voters.

With that in mind, I herewith nominate Sylvia Allen as a serious candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2020.

Sylvia who?

So glad you asked!

Sylvia Allen is a Republican from Snowflake, Arizona. 

Snowflake? It’s up Route 77 from Show Low. You say that's no help? Well, it’s kind of west of Concho. Still no help? Try a long drive southeast of Flagstaff or a helluva long hike from Mesa.

But I digress.

Earlier in her still-young political career, Sylvia was county supervisor in Navajo County, which is located…oh, never mind the geography. At any rate, she came to some prominence in her supervisor’s job when she tried to interfere with an investigation into her son in law, who seems to have done something, um, worthy of of investigation, concerning female inmates in the jail where he’s a detention officer.

So the county sheriff warned that he’d arrest Sylvia if she kept on messing with an official investigation. Whereupon she filed a state senate bill that gave detention officers like her son in law greater protection from disciplinary investigations.

No no, don’t get all excited about her candidacy yet. Because her CV gets lots better.
  • In 2009, during a committee hearing concerning a uranium mine she shared her impressive  geological knowledge by declaring the world is 6,000 years old
  •  This year, she declared that people should be required by law to go to church. The “establishment of religion clause, of the Bill of Rights, of the United States Constitution? Must be some kind of Moos-lim plot. She made her declaration during a debate on whether to let people carry concealed weapons in public buildings. (That's always a good idea since you can shoot the opposition on the spot instead of wasting time debating them.) Allen, who said she didn’t understand the opposition to this idea, decried a “moral breakdown.”
  • With all her geological and moral knowledge, it’s only natural that somebody like Sylvia Allen should be telling professional educators what that may and may not teach. So naturally, the President of the Arizona Senate appointed her chair of the Senate Education Committee.
But here’s the pièce de résistance. Well, why should I paraphrase it when I can lift it directly from Sylvia Facebook page? Here is is, with misspellings (or typos, depending on how charitable you choose to be) preserved intact.
Ok, I do not want to get into a debate about weather. However, I know what I see weekly up here on the flat where I live outside of Snowflake. The planes usely, three or four, fly a grid across the sky and leave long white trails streaming behind them. I have watched the chem-trails move out until the entire sky is covered with flimsy, thin cloud cover. It is not the regular exhaust coming from the plane it is something they are spraying. It is there in plain sight. What is it they are leaving behind that covers the sky?
Things are happening all around us that we see everyday and just don't get what it is. I think we throw the "conspiracy theory" at people when we don't understand or have the information they have so we try and explain it that way. Plus we just don't want to believe that our government would do anything terrible to us. Well, just a few examples, the IRS attack on the Tea Party, Benghazi, wire taping, Fast and Furious just to name a few and we think that they would not manipulate our weather?

Wow, that drove the crazies out of the woodwork like swarms of termites during spring mating season.  A few choice examples lifted directly from the same Facebook page:

"You go girl! We used to have articles about this all the time and it is real and it is poison in the air and it is happening over Snowflake. I used to see it all the time. We had letters from construction workers and others who swear that they got sick after every dump in the sky. It got so bad that some crews when they saw them would just home and hide in their houses. Thank you for saying what needs to be said. And, by the way, we were the first on the mountain that reported on the New World Order and on the Continental Super-Highway over 10 years ago. SWe were right then and you are right now! Please go shut down that puppy mill that I told you about. It's sick and you would cry if you saw it and smelt it. Love you!?
" have lots of photos I have taken over the years of the planes making "X" in the sky. Seems like a day or so later lots of peopl get sick. I call it population control..... hmmmmm"
 "It's ridiculous. Is there any way we can get them to stop making chem trails? Are there bills we can pass that they can't do it in the state of AZ? And while we're looking at issues to stop or protect ourselves from, is there anything we can do to protect our state from Common Core? Happy 4th of July, btw"

Admittedly, we have a while to go before 2020. And I know that by November 2016 you’ll probably be all politicked out. So do me a favor. Just print out this post and stash it in a safe place. Four years from now, you’ll have physical proof that you read it here first.

Cross-posted at The New York Crank

Moar Clinton

Hillary Clinton and Marian Wright Edelman at a Children's Defense Fund event, 2013. Photo by Alex Brandon/AP.
That Amy Chozick story about young Hillary Rodham as an undercover agent of change in Alabama in the summer of 1972, infiltrating the system of "segregation academies" set up in the South to evade civil rights law, contains an amusing example of rhetorical electric slide:
D. Taylor Flowers, the chairman of the board of Houston Academy, whose father was a founding board member, was in the ninth grade at the school (which locals call “H.A.,” jokingly saying it stands for “holy Anglo”) when Mrs. Clinton visited. “I've heard the story, and I don’t think Hillary Clinton made it up,” he said over lunch in Dothan.
The school was founded to prepare students for college, not as a segregation academy, Mr. Flowers said. But, he added, “I would be disingenuous if I said integration didn’t have anything to do with” parents’ enrolling their children in Houston Academy. “Integration was a huge social change for us.”
No, you're being disingenuous when you say it wasn't founded as a segregation academy, as if that public explanation couldn't be questioned (public schools are somehow inherently incapable of carrying on college prep?). If you said integration had nothing to do with it you'd simply be outright lying.

It's a pretty nice story, reminding us that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders come from pretty similar places, even if Clinton really was a Goldwater Girl in 1964, and president of the Wellesley Young Republicans in her freshman year, before the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war began pushing her in a different direction.

(As I've had occasion to note before, she also has something in common with Sarah Palin, having worked or at least attempted to work one summer as a salmon cannery slimer in Alaska; only unlike Palin she wasn't a compliant tool of capitalism:
She questioned the owner about how long the fish had been dead, and he warned her to stop asking questions. But she continued asking questions, and was fired within a week.)
It also seems that this was when Clinton got to know the activist Marian Wright Edelman, who was her boss in the project, a research team exposing persistent segregation (and tax cheating) at the Southern private schools, which was to evolve into the Children's Defense Fund. You may remember—I certainly did—how Edelman was a figure in one of the most distressing moments of the Bill Clinton presidency, when her husband Peter Edelman resigned from his job as chief advisor to the HHS secretary in protest against the 1996 welfare "reform".

Chozick doesn't advert to that episode at all, but the article includes a photograph of Marian Wright Edelman and Hillary Clinton looking pretty comfortably chummy in 2013, and I wondered how the Edelmans feel about this year's Clinton candidacy?

Other people hated the Clinton welfare bill, of course, even Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who thundered:
I estimate a five-year time limit [on welfare benefits] might put half a million children on the streets of New York in 10 years' time," he said. "We will wonder where they came from. We will say, 'Why are these children sleeping on grates? Why are they being picked up in the morning frozen? Why are they scrambling? Why are they horrible to each other, a menace to all, most importantly to themselves?
And Moynihan made his peace with Hillary pretty early, making her virtually his heir apparent in the 2000 campaign to replace him as senator in New York. The Edelmans seem to have taken a good deal longer, still angry in 2007 (along with those of us who couldn't consider voting for her in 2008 because of her failure to apologize for the Iraq war authorization), but this year they are, in fact, signed on, and these people are not naive. A President Clinton isn't going to go back to the 1996 "reform", in fact, or use the word "welfare" if she can avoid it, but her strong language on inequality suggests she's locked into approaching poverty issues in general (rural and urban) in a way the Obama administration has been awfully hesitant to do, and if she finally manages to say something about fair housing to match proposals toward universal childcare, she may well get there.

I'm still expecting to vote for Sanders in the primary (a cheap promise, since the New York primary is always too late in the calendar to mean anything anyway) but I'm determined if I'm going to vote for Hillary in November that I'll do it with a smile.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2015

This year's Jon Swift Memorial Roundup (named for the great late blogger Al Weisel/Modest Jon Swift the Reasonable Conservative who started the tradition), the annual blogfeast in which bloggers large and famous and small and obscure, mostly the latter, volunteer their best posts of the year for the delectation of readers everywhere, is up at the Vagabond Scholar, as ever offering a lot of great reading from blogfriends old and new. Everybody gets a trophy!

It's a wonderful custom, and curator Batocchio, who keeps it up, deserves applause and thanks, from writers and readers everywhere. So go there!

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

FDR Is Just Republican Lite; Sorry, Flappers, But I'm Still Voting for Norman Thomas

As many of you have noticed, Salon has an ongoing series called Millennials Are the Fucking Worst1. Yastreblyansky had an excellent post on this ("take-my-ball-and-go-homism", as Martin Longman calls it) yesterday.

At the risk of giving these boy-children more attention than they deserve, I just want to single out one bit from the latest entry in the series:
If the New Deal taught us anything it’s that unprecedented sweeping government action can happen quickly. FDR achieved significant reforms within the first hundred days of his presidency....Now, we must show courage and not settle for anything less than a New Deal-style overhaul.
Of course, the real FDR--not the FDR who resides in the lefty imagination--faced bitter criticism from the left for what they considered the inadequacy of his efforts. But that's not until after he's inaugurated. More relevant, I think, is how he campaigned. Here's a bit of his nomination speech:
Just one word or two on taxes, the taxes that all of us pay toward the cost of Government of all kinds.

I know something of taxes. For three long years I have been going up and down this country preaching that Government--Federal and State and local--costs too much. I shall not stop that preaching. As an immediate program of action we must abolish useless offices. We must eliminate unnecessary functions of Government--functions, in fact, that are not definitely essential to the continuance of Government. We must merge, we must consolidate subdivisions of Government, and, like the private citizen, give up luxuries which we can no longer afford.

By our example at Washington itself, we shall have the opportunity of pointing the way of economy to local government, for let us remember well that out of every tax dollar in the average State in this Nation, 40 cents enter the treasury in Washington, D. C., 10 or 12 cents only go to the State capitals, and 48 cents are consumed by the costs of local government in counties and cities and towns.

I propose to you, my friends, and through you, that Government of all kinds, big and little, be made solvent and that the example be set by the President of the United States and his Cabinet.
Oh, and did someone say "free trade"?
[T]here emerges one great, simple, crystal-pure fact that during the past ten years a Nation of 120,000,000 people has been led by the Republican leaders to erect an impregnable barbed wire entanglement around its borders through the instrumentality of tariffs which have isolated us from all the other human beings in all the rest of the round world....By our acts of the past we have invited and received the retaliation of other Nations. I propose an invitation to them to forget the past, to sit at the table with us, as friends, and to plan with us for the restoration of the trade of the world.

Go into the home of the business man. He knows what the tariff has done for him. Go into the home of the factory worker. He knows why goods do not move. Go into the home of the farmer. He knows how the tariff has helped to ruin him.
Does that sound like someone the 1932 edition of Walker Bragman would have voted for?

1Not the actual title, though it is apparently designed to demonstrate this proposition.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Attention Republican property owners. Get Congress to declare war on ISIS and you’ve just handed yourself a huge insurance bill

Ever since 9-11, when terrorist hijackers flew separate airplanes into each of the twin towers, the insurance industry has been scrambling to cover its butt.

Little wonder. The original claims of the landlord there, Larry Silverstein, came to the tune of $7.1 billion. He didn’t collect nearly that much because the insurance companies didn’t want to cough up that kind of money, so they fought him bare knockles to a lower sum. 
No surprise there. Whether it’s health insurance, car insurance or office building insurance, insurance companies hate to fork over the moolah. To paraphrase a line of advertising — from an insurance company advertising campaign, as it happens — not paying claims is what you do.

Most property insurance, whether it’s for homeowners, home renters, or for commercial office buildings, have “exclusions” for incidents like Al Queda or ISIS blowing up the premises. If you want to be covered against acts of terrorism, you have to buy, and pay through the nose for extra coverage to override that exclusion. 

Fine. But now along come a bunch of Republican presidential wannabes, drumming up a “war” on ISIS. Or ISIL. Or Daesh. Whatever the hell you want to call it. Rand Paul says we should declare war on them. Jeb! Bush says we should declare war on them. The Donald, forgetting all the property he'd have to carry additional coverage on, also says declaring war on ISIS is a good idea. Ted Cruz seems to believe the war is already declared.

Moreover, the usual suspects are also rousing the rabble to demand a declaration of war, including pundit Charles Krauthammer and the conservative Washington Journal.

Meanwhile, back in insurance company officer towers, the insurance biggies are rubbing their hands together with glee. See, if it’s determined we’re “at war” with ISIS, instead of merely trying to slap them down and stomp on them like the lowlife terrorist enterprise they are, you’re going to need a third kind of insurance, “act of war insurance,” to cover your home or office building. That's in addition to fire insurance. And terrorism insurance. Which means more money will jump  out of your pocket and into the insurance companies’ treasuries.

Corporation will also pay. And since property values of skyscrapers and office parks can run into the billions, they’ll have to pay a pretty penny.

That is, they’ll have to pay unless they’re foolish enough to think they can send the bill to Jeb!, Ted, The Donald, and Charlie the K, and wait to see which of them wants to part with five or six billion bucks. Any guesses about whether any of them will volunteer to write the check?

Cross-Posted at The New York Crank 

Forlorn hope and change

Cheery Xmas post!

From Patrick O'Brian's The Fortune of War, via Age of Sail:
Two weevils crept from the crumbs. “You see those weevils, Stephen?” said Jack solemnly.
“I do.”
“Which would you choose?”
“There is not a scrap of difference. Arcades ambo. They are the same species of curculio, and there is nothing to choose between them.”
“But suppose you had to choose?”
“Then I should choose the right-hand weevil; it has a perceptible advantage in both length and breadth.”
“There I have you,” cried Jack. “You are bit — you are completely dished. Don’t you know that in the Navy you must always choose the lesser of two weevils? Oh ha, ha, ha, ha!”
I love that joke, which Jack tells three or four times, to increasingly annoyed friends and guests, in the course of the 20-novel saga.

What put me in mind of it is BooMan's piece yesterday on what he calls "take-my-ball-and-go-homism" on the part of those who are or claim they are (11 months before an election) too pure in heart to vote for some candidate apparently situated on the right of some point on somebody's one-dimensional scale of leftness-to-rightness and will therefore be forced to not vote at all. This refusal to "choose the lesser of two evils" is as childish as Boo suggests, but it's also rhetorically pernicious, and I want to argue that it's not even properly speaking of the left.

I learned an alternative concept from another cycle of Napoleonic Wars novels, Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series (not great literature like the Aubrey-Maturin stories but terrific stuff), that of the "forlorn hope" (an inept mistranslation, it turns out, of the Dutch verloren hoop or "thrown-away heap"), for a band of soldiers sent to open up a breach in a siege defense on the understanding that they won't succeed, and probably will mostly die, but will make a space of which the next wave can take advantage. However bleak the situation, you can always insist on making a positive, active choice: not which evil should I resign myself to, but which course of action offers the hope, however forlorn, of a good outcome. To think of voting as choosing an evil is an essentially conservative approach—saying, basically, that things are already bad enough and any change is bound to make them worse, standing athwart the whatchamacallit hollering stop, as old Mr. Buckley said; it's what I've called the Eeyore position. A small-p progressive attitude is one that says we can get something out of this vote, however tiny, and the next campaign, or the next generation, can take it further. Not because it's less evil, but because it can bring some good, even if it's minimal.

And I don't mean voting for Reagan because his mismanagement will be so devastating that it will spark the Revolution, because guess what, that doesn't happen, and it's really just a variant lesser-evil approach. If you really want to spark the Revolution you'll vote for a more flexible and liberal education, family leave and minimum wage hikes, and other ways of freeing people to be revolutionary. A Reagan victory just makes the working class more frantic to stay above water, viciously competitive among each other and terrified of foreigners.

We voted for Obama in the 2008 primary not because he was the most leftist candidate, which he certainly wasn't, with his vapid insistence on ideas not being blue or red and all, and not because he was evil but not as evil as whoever either. We sent him into the general election in a way as a kind of forlorn hope, the most likely, if we were lucky, to succeed in ripping a hole in the superstructure to allow some fresh ideas—not necessarily his own—in.

And while we tend to focus on the things he hasn't done, the list of things he has done, as Peter Beinart formulates it in the current issue of the Atlantic, is really kind of astonishing:
President Obama has intervened more extensively in the economy than any other president in close to half a century. In his first year, he pushed through the largest economic stimulus in American history—larger in inflation-adjusted terms than Franklin Roosevelt’s famed Works Progress Administration. In his second year, he muscled [something like] universal health care through Congress, something progressives had been dreaming about since Theodore Roosevelt ran as a Bull Moose. That same year, he signed a law re-regulating Wall Street. He’s also spent roughly $20 billion bailing out the auto industry, increased fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, toughened emissions standards for coal-fired power plants, authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the production of carbon dioxide, expanded the Food and Drug Administration’s ability to regulate the sale of tobacco products, doubled the amount of fruits and vegetables required in school lunches, designated 2 million acres as wilderness, and protected more than 1,000 miles of rivers.
Not to mention the foreign policy successes with Cuba, Iran, Russia-in-spite-of-everything, possibly Syria (we won't have a clear sense of that for months yet), and certainly the extraordinary Paris agreement on climate change.

And some of his failures, as Beinart also notes, have had highly positive consequences too, leading to broad mobilization in the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements and the widening understanding of wealth and income inequality as a problem—you can't imagine Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton talking about that in 2007 the way Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders talk about it in 2015. (She always was to Obama's left in the domestic policy-wonk arena anyway, of course, though as First Lady she kept it primarily behind the scenes.) If elected, Clinton is really not going to re-deregulate the banks or dismantle the ACA or even set up that stupid no-fly zone in Syria. She's not! We have no idea what she will do, which will depend hugely on the kind of Congress she's given, but she will acquiesce far more, no matter what, in the leftward movement of the population as a whole (which is more significant than the political orientation of less-educated white men in particular) than a President Rubio would, or Cruz or, gasp, Trump.

If this primary season leaves us with the option of voting for Hillary Clinton in November or taking our ball and going home, people, voting for Clinton is not going to be a lesser evil—at worst a slightly dubious good, and at best a hope that's not even that forlorn.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Night Before Xmas

Happy holidays all, and Merry Xmas to those who celebrate, and God Jul to us crypto-pagans! Everything I'm trying to write today is unpleasant or boring or (in most cases) both, so let's just have some music.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


I'm out of here until December 31, but the relief crew will be here (I think), so please keep checking in while I'm gone. Thank you all for stopping by this year, and let's hope next year won't be dominated by idiots. Happy holidays, and I'll see you in a week or so.


A couple of struggling Republican also-rans are trying to appeal to New Hampshire voters' better angels:
... as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Jeb Bush grasp for some way to dissuade the proud New Hampshire electorate from supporting Mr. Trump, they are turning to a new, blunter instrument: guilt.

“America is counting on you,” Mr. Christie said Sunday night in [Peterborough, New Hampshire]....

“There’s 14 of us today,” Mr. Christie said of the Republican field. “You all will take us from 14 to four or five. And those four or five are the only ones Americans are going to have to choose from other than Hillary Rodham Clinton. You have enormous responsibility.”

On Monday night, speaking at the Christmas-bedecked American Legion hall in Alton, Mr. Bush picked up where Mr. Christie left off.

“New Hampshire has a special place in our democracy,” said Mr. Bush at his 27th town-hall-style meeting, alluding to its tradition of holding the first primaries, shortly after Iowa’s caucuses. “I, for one, will entrust the voters of New Hampshire to make this decision disproportionately more than any other place. I’m totally confident that you all will maintain your position as first in the nation, that you will be discerning about this.”

... Mr. Christie did not deny that he was in effect telling New Hampshire voters not to send their reputation for discriminating tastes in candidates down the drain.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying,” he said, again invoking how much the “country is counting on them” and noting their “huge responsibility.” ...

“You’re the answer,” said Mr. Bush.... “The question is will New Hampshire want to support a guy who might tarnish this extraordinary reputation that you have...."
You know what? New Hampshire voters don't care -- or maybe they do care, but they certainly don't have to. What are we going to do -- deprive New Hampshire of the right to hold the first primary? Nobody's ever figured out a way to do that, just as nobody's ever figured out a way to deprive Iowa of the right hold the first caucus.

A lot of us would like to change this system. Why should two small, rural, lily-white states have this level level of influence on how we select presidential candidates? Why do the residents of these two states get to demand multiple face-to-face encounters with every candidate over a period of a year or so, while most of the rest of us get TV ads at most? But if anyone makes a move to threaten the two states' precious privilege, the states will raise holy hell.

New Hampshire might make a bad pick? Hey, the state picked Pat Buchanan over Bob Dole in 1996, after coming fairly close to giving Buchanan an upset victory over sitting president George H.W. Bush in 1992. Did the state's primary status suffer? Not at all, any more than Iowa suffered after unelected religious-right extremists Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum won the last two Republican caucuses.

We defer to Iowa and New Hampshire. We yield to their mighty power. If their contests were later in the calendar, lazy elite journalists would have to discard far too many readymade clichés. State fair butter cows! Flinty independents at diners!

It's all tedious, but we can't quit it. We'll always do it because we've always done it. Christie and Bush can threaten New Hampshire voters all they want, but New Hampshire voters know we'll never take their precious firstness away.


CNN has released a new national poll. The numbers are here. Notice anything unexpected about this result in particular?

When all Americans are polled, it's no surprise that Marco Rubio has a positive favorable rating, or that the ratings are very negative for Jeb Bush (who's disliked by both liberals and conservatives) and Donald Trump (who's Donald Trump, and is therefore loathed by everyone who doesn't regard him as a god). It's not surprising that Ben Carson is in favorable territory, either, although his numbers have clearly slipped.

No -- what's surprising is that more people like Ted Cruz than dislike him -- and let me remind you that this is among all the poll's respondents, not just the Republicans.

That's worrisome if you're rooting for a Democratic victory in November and you think a ticket including Cruz, as either the Republican nominee or a running mate, would be doomed to failure. Cruz isn't a Trump clone, as far as the general public is concerned. Cruz, to the public at large, is an okay guy.

Trump has a very high favorable rating among Republicans (70%) -- but apart from that, most subgroups don't like him. He has unfavorable ratings in all age groups. Independents dislike him (40% favorable, 57% unfavorable). Even men dislike him (45%-54%), though not as much as women (34%-61%).

Cruz, however, has favorable ratings in every age group except 18-34, and even in that group he's at 36% favorable, 39% unfavorable. Cruz is in positive territory with independents (45%-36%) and with both genders (men, 48%-39%; women, 41%-38%).

People are clearly watching the debates and coming to the conclusion that Ted Cruz is a decent chap. He's still lagging on other measures with the general public (has the right experience to be president, shares your values, is someone you'd be proud to have as president) -- but Trump and Rubio also fail on all of those questions, and I wonder how Hillary Clinton would do. For now, at least, people like Cruz personally.

Now, maybe we don't really have to worry about having Cruz at the top of the ticket -- CNN polled just Republicans and found that Trump is still crushing the competition, with 39% of the vote. (Cruz is a distant second, at 18%.) But other polls, such as Quinnipiac's, have the race much closer, and Cruz is on the rise in polls of states with early primaries or caucuses. And in that Quinnipiac poll, Cruz ties Clinton, 44%-44%, and beats Sanders 44%-43$%. So be careful about wishing for a Cruz surge in the primaries.


In response to right-wing outrage, The Washington Post has taken down a cartoon by Ann Telnaes that depicted Ted Cruz as an organ grinder and Cruz's daughters as dancing monkeys.

Before it came down, Telnaes explained the cartoon this way:
There is an unspoken rule in editorial cartooning that a politician's children are off-limits. People don't get to choose their family members so obviously it's unfair to ridicule kids for their parent's behavior while in office or on the campaign trail -- besides, they're children. There are plenty of adults in the political world who act childish, so there is no need for an editorial cartoonist to target actual children.

I've kept to that rule, except when the children are adults themselves or choose to indulge in grown-up activities (as the Bush twins did during the George W Bush presidency). But when a politician uses his children as political props, as Ted Cruz recently did in his Christmas parody video in which his eldest daughter read (with her father's dramatic flourish) a passage of an edited Christmas classic, then I figure they are fair game.
On balance, I agree with the decision to take the cartoon down. Yes, Cruz is using his daughters as props (in more than one video release), but I can't remember a time when politicians didn't trot out their kids to win votes. Hillary Clinton is making a great show of being a grandmother right now, but Telnaes didn't single out Clinton or her granddaughter. Clinton's granddaughter is a baby, but Cruz's kids aren't much older. They're doing what their parents want them to do.

The monkey imagery also bothers me. I'm Italian-American -- my people are the ones who used to be mocked with organ-grinder-and-monkey imagery. Cruz's daughters may look more like their blond American mother, but Cruz is Hispanic. When you depict a darker-skinned person's child as a monkey, you're in racist territory.


But now that I've said that, I'll add this: Cruz and his fellow conservatives love to rail against "political correctness," regularly treating that phrase as a free pass that allows them to offend anyone and propose anything, but I guess something is sacred to Cruz and his ideological allies. It would be nice if this moment led them to recognize that other people can be legitimately outraged. It's more likely, though, that they'll continue to insist on their own right to umbrage, while treating everyone else's grievances as illegitimate.

Oh, and this, posted by a conservative blogger shortly before Telnaes removed the cartoon from Twitter, is not accurate:

No, a right-winger would not be fired by now. Recall 2009, when the New York Post published this cartoon by Sean Delonas:

At first glance, the main editorial cartoon in today's New York Post seemed like just another lurid reference to the story that the tabloid had been covering with breathless abandon for two days running - the shooting by Connecticut police on Monday of a pet chimpanzee that viciously attacked his owner's friend.

But the caption cast the cartoon in a more sinister light. "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," it read, prompting accusations that the Post was peddling a longstanding racist slur by portraying president Barack Obama, who signed the bill into law yesterday, as an ape.
The Post did ultimately issue an apology, after first defending the cartoon. But was Delonas fired? No -- he continued to work for the Post for four more years, until he took a buyout in 2013. So, sorry, you don't get fired if you're conservative and you do something like this -- at least not if Rupert Murdoch signs your paychecks.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


The latest Quinnipiac national poll of Republicans has Ted Cruz only 4 points behind Donald Trump -- and now a new set of polls suggests that Cruz is gaining ground in states with early primaries:
The crowded GOP field is harming Marco Rubio and helping Donald Trump, according to three new polls of likely Republican voters taken in New Hampshire, South Carolina and in Florida that also show Ted Cruz surging.

For the first time, Cruz ties Trump in South Carolina, and he’s also tied for second with Rubio in the Florida senator’s home state, according to a memo on the three surveys, which were conducted after last week’s debate.

The polls were commissioned by Associated Industries of Florida, a pro-business lobby that tracks the race for its largely Republican membership.
I don't know how reliable this polling firm is, but if we believe the poll, Cruz can absolutely win South Carolina, the third contest after Iowa and New Hampshire -- he and Trump are tied at 27%, with Marco Rubio a distant third at 12%. I think Donald Trump can survive a loss in Iowa -- he'll scream "Fraud at polls!," a complaint his fans will find plausible, then he'll focus on getting a win in New Hampshire, which would make the fans see him as an alpha male again. But if Cruz wins two of the first three contests, yes, Trump will start looking like a loser.

Now, if you believe conventional theories of politics, Cruz seems as unlikely a nominee as Trump -- party insiders actively dislike him. But check out the first minute of this new Cruz video (flagged by the Right Scoop). Cruz makes a virtue of being hated by everyone else in Washington:

One of the few people in politics Cruz doesn't seem to want to be hated by is Trump, of course. That's working for Cruz not because he's picking up voters from a fading Trump -- Trump isn't fading yet -- but because he's gaining on Trump and Trump isn't attacking him. Trump seems too focused on attacking Hillary Clinton right now to direct any fire at Cruz. Cruz's coddling of Trump seems to have lulled Trump. Trump isn't politically smart enough to attack whoever threatens his lead -- he attacks based on gut feelings rather than his campaign's needs.

An alternate theory of this race -- being advanced by Nate Cohn of The New York Times, who just doesn't want to hear any of your talk about how crazy Republicans are these days -- is that Trump and Cruz might win a few states, but then Marco Rubio will gradually emerge as the sane Establishment choice, maybe after doing well in Nevada. National Review's Eliana Plott tells us that Rubio is building a big operation in Nevada -- except that she also says Cruz has a substantial organization there. So why would Rubio necessarily triumph there? Apparently because he lived there until he was ... um, in the eighth grade. Somehow I don't think that's really going to be the deciding factor.

I think it's going to be Trump or Cruz, and I'm beginning to think Cruz has the edge. He's just enough of a professional politician to understand the process in a way that Trump doesn't, and, like Trump, he welcomes the Establishment's hatred. That combination might give him the advantage.


In Saturday night's Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton directed a lot of her attacks at Republicans, particularly Donald Trump. This was seen as evidence that she thinks she has the nomination in the bag and is already looking toward the general election.

But it's clear that it was also an effort to draw fire.

Being attacked by Trump may not have worked out particularly well for Jeb Bush or Lindsey Graham, but Hillary Clinton's first electoral victory came after her Republican opponent, Rick Lazio, crossed into her space at a debate and demanded that she sign a campaign financing pledge. Clinton succeeded in portraying Lazio as a bully.

So would Trump rise to the bait after Clinton's criticisms on Saturday night? Would he overreach? Well, of course. He started by questioning her assertion that ISIS is using his rhetoric in propaganda, but Trump is Trump, and Hillary is a woman, so the rhetoric headed in a predictable direction:
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump used a campaign stop in Michigan on Monday to make astonishingly sexist attacks against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

At one point, Trump told the Grand Rapids crowd that Clinton got “schlonged” by President Obama during their 2008 Democratic primary race.

“Even her race to Obama. She was going to beat Obama. I don’t know who’d be worse. I don’t know. How does it get worse? She was favored to win and she got schlonged. She lost. She lost,” Trump said.
That's from Think Progress, which adds, helpfully:
“Schlong” is a well-known reference to a man’s genitals. There are no alternative definitions for the word, according to Merriam-Webster.

In Grand Rapids, that wasn't the only sign of Trump's revulsion at Hillary's girl cooties:
Trump recounted how Clinton was seconds late to the Democratic debate stage on Saturday night following a commercial break. Trump asked the crowd four times where Clinton had gone.

"I know where she went -- it's disgusting, I don't want to talk about it," Trump said, screwing up his face, as the crowd laughed and cheered. "No, it's too disgusting. Don't say it, it's disgusting."

This is great for Clinton. This is Trump at his worst, the Trump that only his fans like. It's Trump the buffoon rather than the self-styled strongman. Clinton may have lost some luster over the years, but she's still a star, in a way that Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham aren't -- she's not going to seem diminished by this, because she still comes off as an alpha in this world, in a way that Graham and Bush never will, and she's been through too much to be fazed by it.

This makes Trump look infantile to the larger public and, probably, impressive to his idiot voters -- so it's a double victory for Clinton. She has him just where she wants him. She should just keep goading him.

Monday, December 21, 2015


This morning I argued that Paul Ryan sealed his doom by shepherding a budget deal through Congress that's less than 100% wingnut -- the crazies in the GOP will never accept compromise, so Ryan is inevitably going to be forced out as speaker eventually, and he certainly won't be the GOP's presidential nominee anytime soon.

I still think that's true. However, Charlie Pierce points out that the budget deal protects the wingnut "social welfare" organizations that are the backbone of the ridiculous IRS "scandal," which ought to make the crazies happy:
Buried in the budget deal that now has emerged from Congress is a provision by which the IRS will be actively forbidden from enacting new rules in 2016 to rein in the obvious scams in which most of the 501(c)4's engage. I don't care how loudly the flying monkeys howl at Speaker Paul Ryan for "betraying" them by striking a deal at all, this is the real joker in the deck, and the fact that this principle was so easily bargained away says a great deal about the people in power from both political parties. They have accepted the new reality of legalized influence-peddling and are finding ways to prosper in it. This, I guess, is another New Normal in our politics.
I think the crazies will pocket this win and still declare Ryan a pariah sooner or later for not getting them 100% of what they want. But yes, they'll be happy about this.

In any case, I don't believe this crazy scenario floated at The Hill by Bill Owens, a former Democratic congressman:
What would lead one to believe a brokered [2016] GOP convention would result in a Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) [presidential] candidacy? Here's what I see.

We have rumblings from establishment Republicans who have grave concerns about Donald Trump as the potential candidate, and for that matter, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) as well.

There are numerous reports of Republican donors holding back from supporting candidates at the same levels that they supported GOP nominee Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign. As Gregory Devor, a major Republican fundraiser, said, "I cannot commit a dime to anybody because I don't see a future." Translation: There is no candidate who is likely to succeed in the general election.

... If one were to create a storyline with Machiavellian overtones, it might go something like this:

Party insiders, looking at the chaos in the House of Representatives and simultaneously the chaos in the Republican presidential process, ponder to whom they should turn. The obvious choice is Romney, and, maybe as a less obvious choice, Ryan. To set that plot in motion, they create a drama around the selection of the next Speaker of the House, aided by front-runner House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (Calif.) blunder over Benghazi and the consistent chaos created by the Freedom Caucus and other far-right conservatives in the House, and see an opportunity to position Ryan as a savior in the House....
Bill? Stop -- your fillings are picking up signals from the aliens now, so you might want to get your meds rebalanced.

I can imagine the GOP Establishment wanting to stage a brokered convention with Ryan emerging as the nominee, but I can't imagine the crazies accepting it -- and I certainly can't believe that the downfall of both John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy was an elaborate bit of Kabuki theater meant to position Ryan as the party's savior at the 2016 convention. (If the muckamucks are thinking about him, he's well enough known that they didn't need to elevate him to the speakership in order to nominate him.)

This can't work. The nomination of an establishmentarian who didn't win any primaries would make the rank-and-file crazies more furious than they are now; they'd respond by boycotting the entire party up and down the ballot.

Maybe the muckamucks don't grasp that, so maybe they'll want to pull a backroom deal to nominate Ryan -- but they'll do that at their peril. (However, if Jeb Bush were suddenly to make a miraculous comeback and were to lead the race without quite having enough votes to win on the first ballot, the crazies would gladly welcome an alternative chosen by stealth -- but the party elders would want to go with Jeb, so speculation on that scenario is pointless.)

Maybe the party's voters will change by 2020. Maybe the party bosses will figure out a more Establishment-friendly way to structure the primaries by then. (They thought they had the contest rigged this time.) But with things as they are, I still don't see Ryan as a nominee in the near future.


Today The New York Times posted this video, titled "How Ted Cruz Connects."

There are several things worth noting about this video. First, Cruz is a much better speaker than you probably imagined he is. The video starts with a corny joke, but it's delivered with pretty good timing. After that we see Cruz preaching, and preaching effectively, as if he's learned a lot from his minister father.

Maybe what he's saying leaves you cold. It doesn't appeal to me. But I think it could appeal to a lot of heartland Americans, people -- not all of them conservative by any means -- for whom America is one big small town, mostly white, mostly Christian, where the citizens seek to preserve Norman Rockwell values but are struggling to do so. The country, in other words, where Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush became two-term presidents and, to some people, American heroes.

The Cruz in this video doesn't seem like an angry wingnut nerd who's obsessed with politics. If you were heartlander who heard him talk like this, you'd think he's a devout young man who believes in simple but profound virtues. I can see why he's supplanted Ben Carson as the Christian-right candidate of choice in Iowa (and elsewhere in Republican America).

I'd also like to point out that he's being taken very seriously here by the Times. Much of the mainstream press openly portrays Donald Trump as a buffoon or a dangerous demagogue -- but Cruz is portrayed here as a serious man with serious political skills. Crowds nod thoughtfully as he speaks; titles between segments of the video earnestly explain his rhetoric ("Mr. Cruz describes the political world through a religious narrative about saving a country in crisis"); there are sentimental shots of Cruz connecting with children. (Does the little girl with whom he exchanges a fist bump have Down's syndrome?)

Cruz could go all the way. He has the money. He has enough staff for a good ground game in Iowa and elsewhere, which, as the Times noted over the weekend, isn't true of Trump. I think Trump will survive a loss in Iowa if he runs a relatively close second to Cruz, but if his organization fails to turn out the vote and Cruz beats him badly, and if ground game is a problem for Trump in other states, then I think Cruz will be on his way to the nomination. And he'll seem sane and within-the-pale to a lot of Very Serious political observers. That scares me.


I spotted this headline at Fox Nation this morning:
Movement To Primary Speaker Paul Ryan Out Of Congress Picks Up Steam
FN is picking up a post from Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:
We Were Warned--
Harry Reid threw his support behind Paul Ryan for Speaker back in October.

In July 2013
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke with a Hispanic audience about his intention to push immigration reform in the House of Representatives....

In October 2013 Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wrote a bill that would grant citizenship to at least 11 million illegal immigrants.

Ryan was elected Speaker of the House in October.

On Thursday Speaker Ryan passed a trillion dollar budget deal that was widely praised by Barack Obama and Democratic leaders.

They got everything they wanted....

Now there is a movement under way to primary Paul Ryan out of office.

... A facebook page was set up to primary Paul Ryan from Congress....

There is also a Fire Paul Ryan webpage set up online.

And now this…

On Friday the Wisconsin Tea Party declared war on Ryan.

Is this a huge anti-Ryan movement? No, not yet -- the Facebook page had about 17,000 likes the last time I looked.

But Fox -- supposedly the GOP mainstream -- is promoting it. And that's the thing about Fox: Roger Ailes wants to be the kingmaker who uses the power of his media platform to elect an all-GOP federal government that will enact the complete wish list of conservative muckamucks, but Ailes doesn't want enemies on the right, so he always gives a platform to those who bash the GOP Establishment from the right, and who encourage the notion that the right ought to be able to have its way in Washington without compromise even when Democrats hold some power (the presidency, for instance).

Fox has been doing this for years -- and that's a big reason why John McCain felt compelled to pick a crazy extremist as his running mate and Mitt Romney felt compelled to run an Obamacare-bashing wingnut campaign. It's also a major reason why Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are combining for 71% of the Republican caucus vote in Iowa and 60% of the primary vote in South Carolina, according to the latest CBS poll.

Charlie Pierce thinks Paul Ryan is positioning himself to be the GOP's 2020 presidential candidate, a return-to-sanity choice after a 2016 debacle for the party:
Suppose the party nominates a real nutball this year. Said nutball goes down in flames, taking the Republican Senate majority with him/her. That will mark lousy everyone who took part in this daffy carnival of souls. Who will be the Serious Republican left standing, and the one best positioned to make President Hillary Rodham Clinton's life a living hell? No wonder the flying monkeys largely are giving Ryan a pass on "betraying" them in this budget. (Kansan Tim Huelskamp is the Laurie Anderson of mock outrage.) Paul Ryan is back, baby. If he's not giving a speech in Ottumwa within the month, I will be profoundly disappointed. I do like the beard, though.
But the flying monkeys who are complaining about Ryan are getting a megaphone from Fox -- and that will continue, especially if there's another Democratic presidency and gay marriage and Obamacare aren't made illegal by Groundhog Day 2017, not to mention voting by black people and all immigration by brown people. Maybe Ryan really does have his eye on 2020 and his victory plan is to win plaudits from the usual besotted pundits -- Pierce quotes a couple -- but I don't believe the plan can work as long as angry old white men roam the land and Roger Ailes still has a job making them angrier.


Ryan may not care, if this 2014 National Journal profile of him is accurate:
“I’M NOT GO­ING TO be in Con­gress 10 years from now,” Ry­an tells me one Septem­ber af­ter­noon. “I can be defin­it­ive about that.”

“You won’t be in Con­gress in 10 years?”

“No. God, no. I’ve already been there 16 years. I don’t want to be a ca­reer guy. Even though I’ve been there a long time, where you could already say that ... ” He stops him­self. “It’s just, I don’t want to spend my adult life in Con­gress.”

... This is a per­son who has been in Wash­ing­ton for nearly a quarter-cen­tury and says he doesn’t want to be there much longer; who sees Amer­ica ca­reen­ing to­ward fisc­al col­lapse, and is des­per­ate to re­form the tax code and en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams be­fore it is too late; who found his 55-year-old fath­er dead, and who knows that neither his grand­fath­er nor his great-grand­fath­er lived to see 60.

... “I think mor­tal­ity weighs on him,” says Bill Ben­nett, the former Edu­ca­tion sec­ret­ary and drug czar who has grown in­to something of a polit­ic­al fath­er fig­ure to Ry­an. “That’s the first ques­tion the doc­tor asks: ‘How old was your fath­er when he died? How old was your grand­fath­er?’ "

The two have spent sum­mers hik­ing the Rock­ies, and Ben­nett says Ry­an’s twin com­pul­sions, fit­ness and fisc­al re­straint, are driv­en by his race against the clock.
(I'm ignoring the grim irony of the physically fit Ryan confessing his mortality fears while hiking with William Bennett -- but I'm the son of a skinny father who died too young of a heart attack, so even though I loathe Ryan politically, I can believe this is a real concern for him, and that he knows nature can be a nasty trickster.)

At the time of the National Journal profile, Ryan was planning not to pursue the speakership. He wanted another top position, but only temporarily:
... When pressed to ex­plain where he fits in the party’s fu­ture, Ry­an sounds con­tent to be a sup­port­ing act­or rather than a lead­ing man. He says he wants to be chair­man of the House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee, a job with jur­is­dic­tion over taxes and en­ti­tle­ments. Chair­ing that pan­el in a Con­gress pur­su­ing tax re­form would hardly be com­pat­ible with a sim­ul­tan­eous bid for the pres­id­ency; in fact, that may be part of the ap­peal. Ry­an knows he can­not do both. He has al­ways de­clared policy work his pas­sion, and people close to him whis­per that Ways and Means would al­low him to achieve the en­dgame he’s hin­ted at since the 2012 de­feat: serve three terms as head of the com­mit­tee, au­thor a sweep­ing over­haul of the Amer­ic­an tax code, then re­tire from Con­gress at age 50, and ride in­to the sun­set.
He's speaker now, but I think he'll be fine if -- when -- the crazies force him out as they forced John Boehner out. He'll become a highly paid lobbyist. He'll fish and do his workouts and see his kids grow up. He's bad enough, but he'll cash in, and his party will just keep getting crazier than he is.