Saturday, January 31, 2015


You know what happened yesterday:
Several media outlets on Friday were forced to walk back articles announcing a definite presidential run by Mitt Romney for 2016.

The spark began with Bloomberg News, which published a scoop early Friday morning by Mark Halperin reporting that Romney would declare his intentions about whether to run. That of course turned out to be accurate.

But then the trouble began....
The now-altered headline of that article, preserved at the Huffington Post and Muckrack, was "Why Mitt Romney Thinks He Can Win (and Jeb Bush Can't)." The piece clearly suggested that Romney was running. Accompanying it was this tweet:

After Romney announced he was running, Rick Massimo wrote this in my comments:
I'd really like to know how Mark Halperin spent his day. If he has any self-respect, or even pretensions at being a journalist, he'd have spent the day (and the next couple of days) calling (or better yet barging past the secretaries of) the sources for his original story and saying, in different combinations, "What the fuck?!" "I hope you don't think I'm ever quoting YOU again" and "You think I don't have other sources, some of whom have some pretty uncomplimentary shit to say about YOU?!"

But who am I kidding? He wrote what they told him. Next week, he'll write what they tell him again.
I would have severed all lines of communication, at least for the weekend, and either crawled into bed or started drinking heavily. But Rick's suggestion is very good.

What did Halperin do? Among other things, he did his regular Web video show, which included this:

No, that's not a joke:

But why am I expecting shame from Halperin? Why am I expecting him to reveal any sign that he feels humiliated? When you're a Beltway insider journalist, there's no penalty for being wrong -- ever.

Friday, January 30, 2015


Jesus, what the hell was that all about?
Mitt Romney said Friday that he would not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, shared his decision on a conference call with a small group of advisers.

In a second call to a larger group of supporters, Mr. Romney said, “After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee.”

Mr. Romney said he believed he could win the nomination, but he expressed concern about harming the party’s chances to retake the White House. “I did not want to make it more difficult for someone else to emerge who may have a better chance of becoming the president,” he said.

He added that it was “unlikely” that he would change his mind.
That's from the New York Times story on Romney's decision. So what was Romney doing in recent days? Why on earth did he dispatch an underling to whisper sweet nothings in Mark Halperin's ear so Halperin would produce this huge story on why Romney was totally planning to run (a story that, yes, I fell for)?

How divorced from reality was the Halperin story? Halperin wrote:
In fact, at the senior staff level, Romney has been heartened that with the exception of lawyer Ben Ginsberg (who, also, has long standing ties to the Bushes), all other members have been actively encouraging Romney to run, most prominently his chief fundraiser Spencer Zwick.

In addition, although Romney has heard from many of his past bundlers that they are switching to Bush, the Romney camp is convinced he would easily retain a high enough percentage of them to be able to raise the tens of millions of dollars required to secure the nomination.
Now let's go to the Times:
... some of Mr. Romney's former aides and donors have begun moving on to other candidates.

In a more than four-hour meeting last week, Mr. Romney’s top staff members and trusted advisers from 2012 relayed a sobering reality -- they supported Mr. Romney and thought he would be the best president, but they did not necessarily encourage a third run.

One by one, loyal supporters talked about surveying their troops from 2012, and finding that the enthusiasm and support were just not there. Some Iowa precinct leaders were not coming back, and even in New Hampshire -- where Mr. Romney had won the primary -- the mood was described at best as “cautiously optimistic.” The situation with donors was also going to be an uphill climb.
All that happy talk, in Halperin's story and others, was Mitt's way of stroking the press so he'd be able to read that he absolutely should have won in 2012 and could certainly win in 2016, and in any event would be far and away the best person for the job. He believes that and he wanted to have that message reflected back to him -- and, obviously, he hoped he could persuade enough other people of his greatness to be a credible candidate again. These weeks of generating speculation were Mitt's Sunset Boulevard -- he's still big, it's the elections that got small! He's ready for his close-up, Mr. Murdoch!

It's sad. I thought he was going to go for it, but primarily as a salve to his very sensitive, easily wounded ego. Post-Nixon Republicans are supposed to be simple, direct men of action, unreflective and uncomplicated, but Romney has always seemed like a huge bundle of neuroses. And now I think everyone can see that that's true.


Oh, and I almost forgot to mention my favorite line from the Times story:
He added that it was “unlikely” that he would change his mind.
Oh, for crissake, Mitt. Just stop. We know this is killing you and you still want to leave the door open a teeny, tiny, crack, but it's closed, it's locked, and it's bolted. Nice knowing you. Now go away.


There's a lot of trash talk out there in Republican Land, a lot of it intramural. For starters, here's Rand Paul with what seems like a failed Funny or Die audition tape:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the 2016 field’s most prolific adopter of social media, has posted what aides wryly call a “secret tape” of a fake phone call between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.

RAND PAC, Paul’s political organization, used actors to portray the conversation, which hits both rivals on the dynasty issue.

“Bush” tells her he’s thinking about running for president: “I just wanted to call and give you a heads-up in hopes we could work something out.”

“Clinton” says: “We both agree on so many issues: bigger government, Common Core, and amnesty for illegal immigrants.”

Dave Weigel -- or whoever writes his headlines at Bloomberg -- calls this tape "weirdly conspiratorial," but I'm sure Weigel knows that the rap on Bush among True Conservatives is that Jeb and Hillary are indistinguishable. Last month Rush Limbaugh said that Clinton/Bush would be "the perfect ticket for the 2016 election" because "when you compare their positions, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, on the key important issues, they are two peas in the same pod." This Rand Paul tape seems as if it could be a comedy interlude on Limbaugh's show -- Paul may not be able to master wingnut foreign policy talking points, but I think he's attuned to the base's sense of humor.

Mitt Romney is also trash-talking Jeb Bush -- but then Mitt doesn't seem to have much respect for anyone else in the Republican field. Oh, not personally -- Mitt has people to do this for him. His surrogates just spoon-fed a story on What Mitt Is Thinking to Mark Halperin, and it's dripping with contempt for the rest of the field:
Perhaps most surprising is Romney’s assessment of the major establishment figures who are lining up at the starting gate: Jeb Bush and Chris Christie....

... those familiar with Romney’s thinking now and over the years say that he ... has come to see Bush as a non-entity in the 2016 nomination contest. Romney is said to see Bush as a small-time businessman whose financial transactions would nonetheless be fodder for the Democrats and as terminally weighed down with voters across the board based on his family name. Romney also doesn’t think much of Bush’s political skills (a view mocked by Bush’s camp, who say Romney is nowhere near Bush’s league as a campaigner)....

Romney and Christie became friends in the last cycle, but Romney nevertheless has dismissed his pal as a non-factor. Thanks to the 2012 veep vetting process, Romney is intimately familiar with some of the less publicized controversies from the New Jersey governor’s past, and believes that several of those flaps would mushroom so broadly that Christie soon would be eliminated from consideration by voters and donors.
Apparently, according to the folks in Romney World, Mitt is a giant among men, and there are only two other Republicans who can go toe-to-toe with him: John Kasich and Rob Portman, neither of whom is running. (Romney's "candid assessments of the GOP field, according to a source, are crisp, considered, and rather bleak," Halperin tells us.) Read the piece, even if (like me) you're not a Halperin fan, just to get the full measure of Romney's ego at this moment. The guy is madly in love with himself.

And then there's Scott Walker:
Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he won’t let stereotypes about his persona get in the way of him running for president.

“The media is going to peg any prospective candidate with a tag. I’d rather have ‘bland and uncharismatic’ than ‘dumb’ or ‘ignorant’ or ‘corrupt’ or any of the other things they would label other would-be candidates out there -- or ‘old’ for that matter,” Walker told Wisconsin’s WTMJ radio on Wednesday.
I don't know if he has specific candidates in mind when he says "dumb," "ignorant," and "corrupt" -- any guesses? As for "old," that could be a reference to Hillary Clinton -- or Walker could be thinking about Romney and Bush. Walker, who's 47, does have a habit of expressing contempt for older people.

He's certainly mocked Hillary's age in the past. From November:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a possible 2016 presidential candidate, raised the subject of Hillary Clinton's age when discussing when he might run for president.

"Whether it’s two years, six years, 20 years from now, because at 47, I mean I think about Hillary Clinton, I could run 20 years from now for president and still be about the same age as the former secretary of State is right now," Walker said in an interview with the local Fox affiliate....
And from a couple of weeks before that:
Shortly after the latest midterm elections, Walker told Fox News that Clinton, who recently turned 67, embodies "old" politics.

"I think the biggest loser (in the midterms) was Hillary Clinton," Walker said. "She embodies Washington. She embodies that old, tired top-down approach from the government...."
But Walker doesn't limit this sort of thing to Hillary:
After Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, 62, mentioned 1980s-era congressional doings, when he was in the House, at a news conference here, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, 47, shot back: "John talked about '86? That’s when I was in high school."
This is odd because, as I've said before, Walker's wife is twelve years older than he is. He's hoping to be a 49-year-old general-election candidate on Election Day 2016, but on that day his wife will be 61. But that won't stop him from snarking off about other people in their sixties -- we're going to hear this a lot from him.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


I'm a couple of days late to this Kathleen Parker column, which -- preposterously -- portrays Sarah Palin as more sinned against than sinning:
When Democrats were looking for evidence of a Republican war on women, they overlooked Exhibit A -- Sarah Palin.

This isn’t to say that Palin was part of the war on women, though many Democrats would say so. Rather, she was one of the war’s most conspicuous victims -- fragged, you might say, by her own troops.

... blame for her general collapse beginning in 2008 can be placed in large part upon her own party, which used her and cast her aside.
Please explain, Kathleen.
Not that long ago, Palin was a breathtakingly attractive politician of a rare sort.... Republican strategists desperate for a running mate for John McCain who brought some razzle-dazzle saw her as the game-changer....

What Republicans didn’t know about Palin, however, did hurt them. Despite her many talents, she was “clearly out of her league,” as I wrote in September 2008....

Let’s be honest. Any man of Palin’s comparable deficits, no matter his winning ways, would have been eliminated from consideration within minutes of opening his mouth.
Um, Dan Quayle?
This doesn’t mean that Palin was incapable of becoming a formidable national politician. It only means that she wasn’t ready. She needed to do what former Texas governor Rick Perry has done. Recognizing his mistakes in 2012, Perry has spent the past two years meeting with conservative scholars for briefings on economics, health care, budgets, tax policy and so on.

Palin apparently took a different route....
So, Kathleen, what has prevented her from doing something like this in the years since 2008, even as she's labored mightily to inject herself into political debates? In fact, what prevented her from doing more cramming during the 2008 campaign? And if she didn't have the policy chops to handle the running-mate job (much less the vice presidency or, God help us, presidency), why couldn't she figure that out about herself when she was invited to be on the ticket? Why couldn't she say, "Thanks, but no thanks"? She was a grown woman. She was a fairly high-level Republican elected official, which means she ought to have known something about the job requirements of a VP candidate. There'd been some talk of her as a possible running mate for about a year. Oh, and she had an unmarried pregnant teenage daughter whom she exposed to national humiliation by taking the gig. (Yes, John Edwards and Bill Clinton exposed their kids to humiliation with their own infidelities, but they were idiots for doing that.) Was saying no never an option for Palin, if it should have been clear to her she was unprepared when the call came?

Apparently, to Parker, Palin had no agency in this situation -- Parker wonders why Palin agreed to run with McCain, then concludes that when the evil slicksters came to her with their offer (which, yes, was an appalling misjudgment on their part), she just couldn't help herself and had to say yes:
If Republican strategists had viewed Palin in 2008 as someone with talent who needed nurturing and support, she might have been ready for a national ticket by 2016. But this possibility exposes the matter of her own judgment. One wonders why Palin would accept the invitation to become McCain’s running mate, given how ill-prepared she was, not to mention that she’d just had a baby. Then again, a woman like Sarah, always the brightest star in her orbit, couldn’t resist the roar of the crowd.
They said she'd be famous! How can you say no to that?
What she didn’t count on was the stress of constant travel, performance and cramming for speeches -- or the pain of separation from her family.
She needed it explained to her that running for vice president would have these consequences?
... Imagine being the governor of a frontier state, suddenly being placed before millions of armchair critics and asked to perform without proper preparation, training or support. This is crazy-making on its face; devastating and crushing to the individual who finds herself alone on the ledge.
Yes, I can imagine it. Why couldn't she?
In the end, the story of Palin’s rise and fall is a tragedy. And the author wasn’t the media as accused but the Grand Old Party itself. Like worshipers of false gods throughout human history, Republicans handpicked the fair maiden Sarah and placed her on the altar of political expedience.

They sacrificed her.
No, because even after 2008 she didn't have to become a national embarrassment. After Dan Quayle left the vice presidency, he flirted with a couple of political runs and wrote a couple of books, but mostly he's kept a low profile. Similarly, Mike Dukakis stayed out of the limelight after he lost the presidency in '88 and his gubernatorial term ended.

Palin could have done something like that, or she could have grown up and gotten serious about politics if she wanted to stay in the game. No slicksters prevented her from doing that. But in Parker's eyes, a woman like Palin has no control over her own bad choices. If there's sexism here, it's that point of view.


Politico's Todd Purdum says the Republican Party has looked at Hillary Clinton and concluded that she ain't all that:
... the burgeoning GOP field ... reflects this conviction, growing among both potential candidates and professional operatives: Hillary Clinton is far from invincible. Or, to put it another way, pollsters and consultants in both parties say, she is eminently beatable despite her current double-digit advantage over prospective Republican foes in public polls.

The clumsy rollout of Clinton’s State Department memoir last summer, Barack Obama’s steadily lagging job approval numbers and her own sizable unfavorable rating among voters -- which has stayed stuck in the mid 40 percent range for years -- have combined to embolden potential Republican opponents.

... no one in either party thinks it would be wise to underestimate them for so much as a moment. But her disadvantages -- some structural and historical, and some personal -- are just as baked in to the equation....
But at The New York Times, Amy Chozick notes that Republicans are desperately rooting for a not-gonna-happen Elizabeth Warren run because they think Clinton needs to be weakened:
On cable television and in private strategy sessions, conservatives are steadily stoking the flames of a movement to recruit Ms. Warren....

“Please give us Elizabeth Warren. Please, God, let us have Elizabeth Warren,” said Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, who is considering a presidential bid....

Former Representative Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party Republican from Minnesota, told CNN that Ms. Warren would be “an extremely attractive candidate.” Mrs. Bachmann also said that if she were Mrs. Clinton, she would be “extremely concerned.”

The tactic says much about the 2016 landscape for Republicans. A crowded field of people who say they are considering running for president ... has emerged. That means the party is expecting a bruising ideological battle for the nomination....

An easy path to the nomination could allow Mrs. Clinton to enter a general election with more funding than the Republican nominee, who would have had to spend heavily to beat a wide field of competitors. Ms. Warren represents Republicans’ best hope for an expensive, prolonged battle for the Democratic nomination, weakening Mrs. Clinton along the way, political operatives on both sides say....

“Elizabeth Warren says, ‘I’m not running; I don’t want to be president,’” the radio host Rush Limbaugh said recently. “Translation: ‘I can’t wait and I am running. But I’m just not going to admit it right now.’”

Republicans said Ms. Warren would deliver a perfect “trifecta” in diminishing Mrs. Clinton. She attracts young, liberal supporters who view Mrs. Clinton as too centrist. A Warren candidacy would take away a central theme expected of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign -- that it is time to elect a female president. And Ms. Warren’s presence in the primary season could push Mrs. Clinton to adopt liberal positions that might turn off independents in a general election....
So which is it? Is Hillary's weakness as a candidate so obvious that Republicans are jumping into the race in droves, just drooling at the prospect of taking her on? Or is she so strong that they need the dea ex machina of an Elizabeth Warren run to save them from themselves?

I do think Hillary is beatable -- I just question whether she's beatable by the actually existing Republican Party. Purdum says, for instance, that "the quirky libertarianism of a Rand Paul ... could ... pose a challenge for Clinton’s highly orthodox approach to politics, and hurt her with younger voters, who might see her as too hawkish on matters from Syria to Iran." Yeah, but Paul's reluctance to bang the neocon war drums is alienating Koch-affiliated fat-cat donors, thus diminishing Paul's chances of winning the nomination. Purdum also writes, "Jeb Bush, a fluent Spanish speaker, would have obvious appeal to Latino voters, if he does not find himself forced to contort his current sympathy for comprehensive immigration overhaul." He won't merely have to "contort" it -- he'll have to abandon it altogether, or he's going to go down in flames in the primaries the way Jon Huntsman did.

Hillary's greatest vulnerability is to someone like Scott Walker, who can nod and wink to the wingnut base through the primaries, never uttering a heresy against the religion of conservatism, then run a gee-whiz-aw-shucks campaign full of folksy platitudes in the general election, in the manner of Joni Ernst. But Hillary win win if Republicans are perceived as what they actually are.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Here's a story that was posted at Breitbart yesterday:

An Islamic Tribunal using Sharia law in Texas has been confirmed by Breitbart Texas. The tribunal is operating as a non-profit organization in Dallas. One of the attorneys for the tribunal said participation and acceptance of the tribunal’s decisions are “voluntary.”

Breitbart Texas spoke with one of the “judges,” Dr. Taher El-badawi. He said the tribunal operates under Sharia law as a form of “non-binding dispute resolution.” ...

El-badawi said the tribunal follows Sharia law to resolve civil disputes in family and business matters. He said they also resolve workplace disputes.

In matters of divorce, El-badawi said that “while participation in the tribunal is voluntary, a married couple cannot be considered divorced by the Islamic community unless it is granted by the tribunal.” ...

He also said there is a difference between how a man and a woman can request a divorce under their system. “The husband can request the divorce directly from the tribunal,” El-badawi stated. “The wife must go to an Imam who will request the divorce for her.” He called it “two paths to the same result.” ...
Yeah, no religion other than Islam would have a blatantly gender-biased procedure for obtaining divorce -- oh, sorry, I just remembered a movie preview I saw over the weekend, for this:
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, a new Israeli film about the problems of divorce for religious Jews, has been nominated for a Golden Globe in the best foreign language film category....

Gett deals with the problematic issue in the Jewish world of religious divorce, or Gett. In Jewish law a woman must receive the official divorce decree from her husband before she can remarry. Unfortunately, many men refuse to do so, leaving their ex-wives unable to remarry.

This is not so much a problem for non-orthodox Jews around the world. But in Israel there is no civil marriage. All marriage is religious and Jewish marriages and divorces must be sanctioned by the national Rabinate.

In Gett, Viviane Amsalem has been trying to get her husband Elisha to give her a religious divorce for three years, but he has refused. So Viviane has to fight for her freedom from Elisha....

But that's Israel -- nothing like that would be allowed in America, right? Um, not true:
Rachel Balassiano is young, attractive and trapped in a marriage she cannot escape.

An Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, Balassiano, 35, can’t dream of remarrying, let alone having children with another man because her husband, Maurice, refuses to give her a get, a Jewish divorce.

By Jewish law, only men have the power to end a religious marriage.

If Balassiano were to wed again, her union would be considered adultery by the Orthodox Jewish community. Her future children would be labeled mamzerim -- bastards -- and therefore not able to marry other Orthodox Jews.

Balassiano’s limbo status makes her an agunah. Translation: a chained woman.

“I am upset. I want this to end,” said the mother of three who has been separated from her husband for four years. “He doesn’t want to give me up.” ...
So, yeah, there is religion-based arbitration in America that's not Muslim, and it can be sexist.

There's Christian arbitration in America, too. In fact, some of the language that seems to horrify the author of this Breitbart piece sounds awfully similar to what's on the sites of firms dedicated to Christian mediation:

From the Breitbart story:
The website for the Islamic Tribunal states, “The courts of the United States of America are costly and consist of ineffective lawyers. Discontent with the legal system leads many Muslims in America to postpone justice in this world and opt for an audience on the Day of Judgment.”

It goes on to state, “It is with this issue that Muslims here in America are obligated to find a way to solve conflicts and disputes according to the principles of Islamic Law and its legal heritage of fairness and justice in a manner that is reasonable and cost effective.”
Compare that to language on the site of Texas's Metroplex Counseling ("A Center for Biblical Soul Care"):
When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers! Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves?...If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church?...Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. (1 Cor. 1-7a)
The Breitbart story makes much of the Islam Tribunal's religious motives. Somehow, this passage from the Tribunal's site never gets quoted:
These proceedings must be conducted in accordance with the law of the land; local, state and federal within the United States. Through effective mediation and arbitration, decisions can be made that are stipulated in the Shari’ah and adhering to the binding, ethical and legal code that exists within this country with the final approval of the relevant courts and judges.
If nothing the Tribunal does contradicts the laws of the U.S. or, God help us, Texas, then what the hell is the problem?


Politico tells us that attendees at a recent Koch brothers donor conference that featured Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio liked Rubio best:
In an informal straw poll of some conference donors, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida came out ahead of four other would-be GOP presidential candidates who had been invited, according to an attendee familiar with the results. The poll was conducted by Frank Luntz, a veteran GOP pollster....

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul -- who received the least enthusiastic response from donors during a Sunday night forum of prospective candidates that also featured Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz -- finished last in Luntz’s poll, the source told POLITICO.
Dave Weigel thinks that Paul's presentation at this shindig might not have been as forceful as the donors would have liked -- but he also thinks this may have to do with decades of libertarian infighting:
Paul libertarianism is not Koch libertarianism. Rand Paul has actually spent a lot of time finding common ground between the Koch movements and the "liberty movement," which found an icon in his father Ron Paul.

... It's really a grassroots thing. After his 1980 campaign for vice president, as a libertarian, David Koch poured his political money into think tanks. Charles Koch was doing the same. The most famous result of this was the Cato Institute. Ron Paul, at this time, was closer to Murray Rothbard and a more pugnacious and minarchist form of libertarianism. Cato built its beachhead in Washington; the Rothbardians built theirs in Auburn, Ala., at the Mises Institute.

The Cato wing of the libertarian movement was slow to embrace Ron Paul. In 2007, when I worked for the partially Koch-funded Reason magazine, the worry was that Paul's brand of populist, Federal Reserve-bashing libertarianism was not the best way to sell the philosophy....
I could quote more, but I'll stop there. I'm sure Weigel lost you at "minarchist," if not earlier.

Sorry, but I'm pretty sure Weigel's overthinking this. Paul didn't lose these donors because the libertarian Judean People's Front has differences with the libertarian People's Front of Judea. Paul lost these donors because they're standard-issue billionaire wingnuts, not libertarians at all, and, as Weigel's Bloomberg colleague Julie Bykowicz reported on Monday, Paul said a few things that aren't politically correct in Wingnuttia, particularly on foreign policy (I'm sure the gathered potentates would like our foreign policy to be as muscular as humanly possible):
On display was Paul's nontraditional approach to defense spending and foreign policy. Seated between two colleagues whose fathers fled Cuba, the junior senator from Kentucky alone made the argument that Obama's outreach to the country was worth a try. Paul also called it problematic for Congress to authorize new sanctions against Iran in the middle of international nuclear negotiations—a view neither Cruz nor Rubio shared. Cruz, in fact, said it's worth remembering that the leaders of Iran are "radical religious Islamic nutcases, and that is the technical term."

Donors in attendance seemed to side with Rubio and Cruz on those issues, judging by their applause. Paul reiterated that while he believes national security is the government's most important job, the Pentagon should be audited and reduced in civilian ranks. Rubio said the country ought to spend more on defense research and development, otherwise it will be "eliminating options for future battle chiefs."
These people are rich, influential CEOs, but they watch Fox News just like every other wingnut. If you want their money, before you open your mouth in their presence, ask yourself: Would Sean Hannity say this? If the answer is no, shut up. Rubio and Cruz understand this (although Rubio was a bit of a slow learner on immigration). Paul still doesn't completely get it.

It does seem as if Rubio gave a successful pitch:
Rubio said the country ought to spend more on defense research and development, otherwise it will be "eliminating options for future battle chiefs."
That's what Rubio said. Here's what the titans of industry heard, presumably: KA-CHING!

Rubio said the "anti-business rhetoric" out of Washington is contributing to the U.S.'s diminishing role as a global economic force.
Run your tongue over this side of my loafer, Marco. I think you missed a spot.


Before Joni Ernst delivered the GOP's response to the State of the Union address, Charlie Pierce's prediction seemed very plausible:
The conservative starmaker machinery has become far more efficient since the days when they tried to convince us of Quayle's maturity or Palin's intellect.

... her appearance has been preceded by an orgy of amnesiac beat-sweetening unlike anything I've ever seen before.... she has been the subject of mainstream media profiles that are, to say the least, laudatory.... All the reviews will be glowing.
But Ernst's speech was underwhelming, and her reference to a childhood in which she wore bread bags as galoshes inspired a lot of chuckling online. So her rise to stardom is all over, right? The Republican star system isn't working for her, is it?

Um, not so fast. According to Politico, the voice of the Beltway, she's still going to be a superstar:
Sen. Joni Ernst hasn’t been in office a month, but she’s already delivered the GOP response to the State of the Union. And now the Iowa Republican is looking to parlay her newfound celebrity into something more powerful: influence in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Likely candidates are expected to attend a summer political event put on by Ernst that will showcase her sway at the national level. Weeks after Ernst won a hotly contested Senate race, her staff started planning the June 6 gathering that she aims to turn into an annual tradition akin to the steak fry that her Democratic predecessor, Tom Harkin, put on 37 times.

“It should be a can’t-miss event for presidential candidates who want to get to know Iowans better,” said Matt Strawn, a former chairman of the state GOP who helped Ernst during her campaign; he played her opponent, former Rep. Bruce Braley, in debate prep.

The “Roast and Ride” will likely be held in central Iowa and is expected to be a family friendly event featuring motorcycle rides and a pork-heavy menu.
Oh God, the Village scribes are going to eat this up. Greasy food! Harleys! It's all so authentic!

A lot of Iowa political figures organize confabs like this -- but Politico assures us that this one will be special:
... none of those GOP players have the juice right now that the 44-year-old Ernst does.
Well, there you have it! It's decided! She's already a superstar!

More gush:
“I certainly would [attend] if I was one of those candidates,” Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is close with Ernst, said of the event Ernst is planning.

... Her profile -- Iowa’s first female senator, who won in a swing state without bending on her ideology and boasts a military background -- would guarantee prominence in either party.
The press loves so many things about Ernst -- the motorcycles, the pig castration, the military background, the Midwestern realness. It doesn't matter at this point that she'll never castrate a pig again, never go out in the rain again without proper footwear, never again serve in or near a war zone, and probably never get on a Harley again except as a photo op. Unless she screws up Palin-style, she's going to be a star. The GOP needs that to happen. And the press wants it to.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I have mixed feelings about Jonathan Chait's denunciation of contemporary "political correctness." I have differing opinions about the things Chait damns as fascistically PC (trigger warnings: not a big fan; protests against bigots and war criminals who want to deliver high-profile speeches on college campus in which they'll repeat exactly what they say at all the other high-profile venues where they get to hold forth: go ahead, shut 'em down). I agree with many of Chait's critics that he's decrying attempts to silence the "politically incorrect," but his response is to try to silence the silencers -- who are mostly just trying to engage in speech acts of their own, which the First Amendment doesn't guarantee will always be nice, polite, or temperate. On the other hand, I just read that right-wing column that got the guy canned from his student paper and led to his room being vandalized, and I think the column was pretty mild stuff, not that vandalism is ever a proper response to speech. (Then again, neither is threatening to rape and kill the speaker, which is a common occurrence in the lives of people Chait isn't defending in this essay.) So. y'know, it's complicated.

But one of the smartest things I read about Chait's essay was from the Rude Pundit:
Inside and outside the college campus, one reason why people dig in and call out every instance of potential offense is that it's a way to have some power in a time when power is being consolidated by fewer and fewer members of society. You might not be able to vote some sexist asshole out of office because you can't afford a Super PAC, but if, say, Todd Akin says something about "legitimate rape," you can make his life a living hell, for good reason. Speech in this way is an equalizer. Hashtag advocacy may seem facile, but its potency cannot be denied. And if you have carved out a space where your voice matters, like the classroom or a Facebook group (one of which Chait describes), then you are going to defend that, sometimes even to excess. The solution would be more power in general going to a more diverse and larger group of people, in our politics, our business, our lives.
Chait says the current moment reminds him of the early 1990s, when, he says, speech was being policed (on campuses, at least) in much the same way it is now. If there were excesses then and there are excesses now, maybe it's because the times were similar: Then, we were in the third consecutive Republican presidential term, and there seemed to be no end to the Reaganite backlash, and we were also in a recession that left young people facing bleak job prospects; now, we have an economic downturn that's longer and more miserable, and while Obama's in the White House, he's been Bushite on a few things by his own choice and the country is run by Mitch McConnell, Rupert Murdoch, John Roberts, and the Koch brothers on many others. And did I mention relentlessly increasing economic inequality?

So, yeah, a lot of people feel powerless. They feel they've been kicked by powerful forces and can't kick back. So they kick the dog.

Chait says the last P.C. era ended with the Clinton presidency:
The most probable cause of death of the first political-correctness movement was the 1992 presidential election. That event mobilized left-of-center politics around national issues like health care and the economy, and away from the introspective suppression of dissent within the academy. Bill Clinton’s campaign frontally attacked left-wing racial politics, famously using inflammatory comments by Sister Souljah to distance him from Jesse Jackson....
Chait may have the timing right, but I think his explanation is wrong. Under Clinton, the economy got better; maybe young people didn't feel they had any more political power, but suddenly they seemed to have a bit more economic power. A generation later, that seems long gone, though maybe there's a break in the downturn and things are finally changing. Until that time, it's understandable if the young are looking for something to kick.


Maureen Mullarkey, a blogger for the right-wing Catholic journal First Things, could have been satisfied with writing a hit piece on the pope for Ben Domenech's Federalist site titled "Pope Francis Is a Leftist and Must Be Called Out" -- but no, that wasn't good enough for her. She had to start it with a Nazi joke:
Don’t pick a political fight with Pope Francis? The title of Rachel Lu’s recent essay and the timidity behind it reminds me of a old Jewish joke.

Max and Moishe are being escorted to the execution chamber in a Nazi prison. In a sudden gesture of defiance, Max raises his arm and gives the guards his middle finger. Horrified, Moishe pulls his arm down and blurts, “Please, Max, don’t make waves.”

Just so all the reflexive excuses for Pope Francis’ dismaying behavior and increasingly obvious ideological bent.
Is it just me, or is Mullarkey actually comparing life as a Catholic under Pope Francis to existence (and death) in a Nazi extermination camp?

Mullarkey doesn't linger on the Holocaust. Instead, she proceeds swiftly to an attack on Francis as a commie fellow-traveler. Francis, you see, met with Argentine anti-fracking activists in 2013:
And these were not just any activists. The older of the two men in the photo is Fernando Solanas, an Argentine film director, avowed propagandist, and politician. A key player in Buenos Aires, he ran for president of Argentina on the Socialist ticket in 2007 and stood for the senate last year. In the 1960s, he co-founded the influential, radical film collective Grupo Cine Liberación (The Liberation Film Group) with Octavio Gettino, Both were Marxists and supporters of Juan Perón at the time.

Together with Gettino, Solanas also founded Tercer Cine (Third Cinema), a title referencing the Third Word. Prominent in the 1970s and 1980s, it was a movement -- a school -- opposed to neocolonialism and capitalism. It issued a manifesto, “Documentary Is Never Neutral” that opened with the words of Frantz Fanon: “...we must discuss; we must invent.” In the obligatory style of left-wing manifestos, it included quotations from Mao, from Che Guevara’s handbook “Guerilla Warfare,” and anti-colonial, and pro-Cuba tracts. It rails against “bourgeois values,” “surplus value cinema” and “the lords of the world film market, the great majority of whom were from the United States.”
It seems to me that many of Mullarkey and Domenech's fellow right-wingers also regularly rail against "the lords of the world film market, the great majority of whom [are] from the United States." But I guess that's different.

Solanas is a big commie, and if Pope Francis met with him, now he obviously has commie cooties, because communism rubs off.

Although maybe I'm being too glib, because there is this:
Earlier this month, Peter Berger reported in The American Interest that Leonardo Boff is an advisor to the pope on his forthcoming encyclical on climate change. Boff, a former Franciscan priest, is one of the major proponents of Liberation Theology, rejected as radical by both previous pontiffs.
And, well, look at some of Francis's writings on the environment -- pure communism, and a massive break from the two previous pontiffs! Read this, for example:
It must also be said that the proper ecological balance will not be found without directly addressing the structural forms of poverty that exist throughout the world. Rural poverty and unjust land distribution in many countries, for example, have led to subsistence farming and to the exhaustion of the soil. Once their land yields no more, many farmers move on to clear new land, thus accelerating uncontrolled deforestation, or they settle in urban centres which lack the infrastructure to receive them. Likewise, some heavily indebted countries are destroying their natural heritage, at the price of irreparable ecological imbalances, in order to develop new products for export. In the face of such situations it would be wrong to assign responsibility to the poor alone for the negative environmental consequences of their actions. Rather, the poor, to whom the earth is entrusted no less than to others, must be enabled to find a way out of their poverty. This will require a courageous reform of structures, as well as new ways of relating among peoples and States.
... Oh, wait -- that wasn't Pope Francis. That was written by the extremely anti-communist Pope John Paul in 1990.

Sorry, I meant to quote this radical screed from Francis:
Questions linked to the care and preservation of the environment today need to give due consideration to the energy problem. The fact that some States, power groups and companies hoard non-renewable energy resources represents a grave obstacle to development in poor countries. Those countries lack the economic means either to gain access to existing sources of non-renewable energy or to finance research into new alternatives. The stockpiling of natural resources, which in many cases are found in the poor countries themselves, gives rise to exploitation and frequent conflicts between and within nations. These conflicts are often fought on the soil of those same countries, with a heavy toll of death, destruction and further decay. The international community has an urgent duty to find institutional means of regulating the exploitation of non-renewable resources, involving poor countries in the process, in order to plan together for the future.
Whoops! Sorry again -- that was Pope Benedict in 2009.

Mullarkey wants to portray environmentalism and a concern with the exploitation of the poor as a pinko break with the past. But even John Paul and Benedict expressed similar concerns.

So I guess that means they were all much worse Catholics than Mullarkey.


I just want to get a few things on the record:

I bring this up because, yes, the storm here in New York City is a big bust (we have only about half a foot of snow right now), and o the next thing you're going to hear from Fox about the city, and Mayor de Blasio in particular, is this:

The storm de Blasio anticipated actually exists -- it just bypassed New York City on its way to Long Island and New England. Boston and the south coast of Massachusetts are getting socked.

The Murdoch press is going to denounce de Blasio for a liberal-fascist totalitarian response to a non-emergency that the Murdoch press hyped, too, and is still hyping as I write this. Any failure to acknowledge this is pure hypocrisy. And, of course, if de Blasio had underestimated the storm, the Murdoch press would have pounced, as it did last year. So I don't want to hear it.

Monday, January 26, 2015


According to USA Today, a new political hero shot to stardom over the weekend because he bargain-shops:
Good reviews from the Iowa Freedom Summit keep pouring in for Scott Walker.

The Wisconsin governor may have helped his presidential ambitions with his speech Saturday....

An anecdote from Walker about shopping at Kohl’s seemed to underscore his budget-cutting ways and his ability to relate to voters.

He noted that he and his wife, Tonette, will celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary next month. When they were first married, Walker recalled, he bought a sweater at Kohl’s -- for full price. Tonette chided him, saying he could never go back to the store again “until you learn how to shop at Kohl’s.” (Translation: Wait for a sale, use coupons or deals from Kohl’s rewards program.)

Fast forward to a more recent purchase, with Walker joking he had used so many coupons and other discounts and “the next thing you know they are paying me to buy that shirt!”

John Dickerson of CBS News, writing in a column for Slate, summed up the appeal of Walker’s anecdote: “I’m one of you” the governor was saying....
I read this around the same time I read Peggy Noonan's spirited defense of the "bread bag" anecdote in Senatot Joni Ernst's State of the Union response:
Response on the left to Ernst and the bread bags was snobbish, superior and dumb to the point of embarrassing. First, they couldn’t believe it -- no one wears bread bags on their shoes in a storm, how absurd, she must be developmentally challenged. Then they denigrated what she said, putting pictures on Twitter of themselves wearing bread bags on their feet, accompanied by comments that had all the whiff of the upper class speaking of the quaint ways of the help....

I liked what Ernst said because it was real.
I have no desire to mock either of these people for having to make do with less at various points in their lives. But here's another story I just read, which reminds me that no matter who the public face of the GOP is in the near future, the people running the show are folks who think Kohl's sales and bread-bag galoshes are for losers:
The Koch brothers’ political operation intends to spend $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 elections, according to an attendee at the operation’s annual winter donor gathering in the California desert.

The spending goal, shared with donors at a Monday morning session at the Rancho Mirage Ritz Carlton, reflects the sweeping ambition of a private conservative political network that in many ways has eclipsed the power of the official Republican Party.

The $889 million spending goal dwarfs the $404 million the Republican National Committee spent during the 2012 election and the $188 million it dropped during last year’s midterm campaign....
The Kochs, who've given a hell of a lot of money to Ms. Bread Bag and (especially) to Mr. Kohl's Sale Rack, were born with silver spoons in their mouths. They've never had to scrimp or make do. So even if we get a Walker/Ernst ticket in 2016, I don't want to hear about the "Main Street values" of the post-Romney GOP. The puppets were once of modest means. The puppet masters never were.


I was tempted to ignore this weekend's disjointed, semi-coherent Sarah Palin speech, which stole the spotlight from remarks made by serious candidates for president, and thus greatly embarrassed the GOP. Republicans shouldn't worry, though: Palin will never, ever run for president (or, in all likelihood, any other office) because she utterly lacks the self-discipline and emotional maturity she'd need in order to be a serious candidate. In fact, she seems to lack even the self-discipline necessary to be a regular embarrassment to the party -- she's not going to make a daily habit of going out to high-profile venues and saying stupid things, because that would be hard work. So don't worry about her.

I will say, however, that I'm surprised to see this an explanation for the strangeness of Palin's speech:
The Republican Party’s most treasured rabble-rouser was forced to improvise part of her speech at a Tea Party conference in Iowa Saturday after her teleprompter apparently broke in the middle of her delivery.
Funny, but I remember a time when we were told that Sarah Palin was such a great speaker that she didn't need a teleprompter.

It was 2008. Palin had just delivered her acceptance speech at the Republican convention -- a speech that wowed the crowd. She seemed to be a star in the making ... and then Erick Erickson told us that the speech was even more impressive than we realized:
BREAKING: Sarah Palin “Winged” Her Speech Because of “Broken” Teleprompter

Halfway through Sarah Palin’s speech tonight at the RNC, people following the speech noticed she was deviating from the prepared text.

According to sources close to the McCain campaign, the teleprompter continued scrolling during applause breaks. As a result, half way through the speech, the speech had scrolled significantly from where Governor Palin was in the speech....

Unfazed, Governor Palin continued, from memory....

Contrast this to Barack Obama who, when last his teleprompter malfunctioned, was left stuttering before a crowd unable to advance his speech until the problem was resolved.

Sarah Palin. Winner.
The Drudge Report picked this up, and it momentarily became part of Palin's Cinderella legend.

Except that it wasn't true, as Politico's Jonathan Martin noted:
The teleprompter did not break

Sarah Palin delivered a powerful speech last night, but she did not "wing it."

... Perhaps there were moments where it scrolled slightly past her exact point in the speech. But I was sitting in the press section next to the stage, within easy eyeshot of the teleprompter. I frequently looked up at the machine, and there was no serious malfunction. A top convention planner confirms this morning that there were no major problems.
Robert Schlesinger of U.S. News said there was, at most, a slight malfunction:
I too was sitting in the press section, (behind Palin and off to her right side). I had a clear view of the TelePrompTer, and read along with her.

At one point I noticed, and remarked to a colleague, that it would jog a line or two ahead of where she had paused. I noticed that she seemed to use the pause afforded by applause to glance down at the papers in front of her. Having found the missing line or two (it was not more than that), she would resume.

Certainly she managed the hiccups smoothly, but this is not an example of winging it in the same vein as a Truman, Kennedy, Nixon, or Clinton might have.
If you watch the video, you can actually see the prompter showing the words Palin is saying, at 21:57, 26:24, and 32:15:

The press debunkings and the video evidence should have been the end of this nonsense. (Even Erickson's post is corrected in an update.) But days later, John McCain's brother Joe repeated the falsehood in Rupert Murdoch's Australian newspaper. So did right-wing blogger Don Surber. And Palin herself got into the act, saying, "The teleprompter got messed up, I couldn’t follow it, and I just decided I’d just talk to the people in front of me."

I'm sure there are right-wingers who still believe that Palin improvised that professionally crafted speech. The fact that her incoherence over the weekend is being blamed on improvisation would cause these people cognitive dissonance, if they were capable of thinking logically.


UPDATE, THURSDAY: Palin is still telling this tall tale herself. Here's what she said on Sean Hannity's show last night, in response to a question from Hannity about the Iowa speech:
“I’m used to teleprompters not working,” Palin said. “Remember at the GOP acceptance speech back in ’08? The teleprompter broke there, too. It didn’t work and I kept on going. So, no, I don’t know, I received a standing ovation throughout and at the end of the speech.”
Yeah, whatever.


I see from Politico that Bill Vlinton has warned his wife's campaign to take Jeb Bush seriously ("Bill Clinton is already deeply engaged in the campaign, warning that Jeb Bush is a real threat, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is probably just a sideshow") -- but that suggests to me that the Big Dog has lost some of his political acuity. I can see that the campaign Jeb is running might make him an appealing general election candidate, but there's no way in hell Jeb's going to win even a single delegate:
This weekend in San Francisco while speaking to the National Automobile Dealers Association, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) said, “First and foremost we need to control our border.”

“The 40 percent of the people that have come here illegally came with a legal visa and overstayed their bounds,” he added. “We ought to be able to figure out where they are and politely ask them to leave.”

State and local enforcement should partner with the federal government to encourage illegal aliens to return to their home countries in a “compassionate” way, Bush continued.
(Emphasis added.)

I saw this story at Breitbart, and the quote is so gobsmackingly tone-deaf for a would-be Republican nominee that at first I thought it had to be a paraphrase of what Jeb actually said. No -- he really said it, according to C-SPAN.

This quote is going to haunt him until he drops out, which he will do very, very early in the race, assuming he runs at all. In fact, this quote is going to haunt him for the rest of his political life (although I guess this race will probably end his political life).

Mitt Romney, at least, is trying to win back the GOP's affection primarily by waving a lot of red meat at Republicans in order to achieve his goals, even if it's not as much as the rest of the field. But Jeb has apparently decided that the base wants to be insulted and will reward repeated insults with votes. It's the kind of conclusion you come to when you take centrist pundits seriously -- voters want you to give it to them straight. No, they don't -- Republican voters sure don't. Elsewhere we're told that Jeb said of America's population of undocumented immigrants, “There is no way they are going to be deported. No one is suggesting an organized effort to do that. The cost would be extraordinary." Really? Is that what you think, Jeb? The people whose votes you want think deporting all undocumented immigrants is precisely what we should be doing, cost be damned -- and we should have across-the-board tax cuts at the same time! And balance the budget! While fighting more overseas wars!

It apparently flatters Jeb's ego to imagine that he's going to be 2016's big truth-teller. Jon Huntsman went on the same ego trip four years ago. It's a weird, autistic-spectrum approach to running for president. And it's going to work out for Jeb exactly the way it worked out for Huntsman. Unless his real goal is a slot in Hillary Clinton's Cabinet.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Dear Republican Party: This weekend, the press was at the Iowa Freedom Summit trying to help Americans figure out whether you're ready to run the country. What we found out was that you're more interested in roasting the country, or at least roasting whoever in the country isn't Republican (or isn't your type of Republican).

Some examples of Republican insult comedy from this weekend:
Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster, told the crowd, “Don’t worry about being called mean. Let’s talk about Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is the second most influential person in her own household. I would say Hillary Clinton has the wrong vision for America, but I don’t know what it is.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn decided to re-brand some major TV networks:

“ABC: All About Clinton network

“NBC: Nothing But Clinton

“CNN: Clinton News Network

“CBS - - just think about it!” Translation: Clinton b.s.
More, from possible presidential candidate Carly Fiorina:
“Like Hillary Clinton, I too have travelled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe,” she said. ”But unlike her, I have actually accomplished something. Mrs. Clinton, flying is an activity, not an accomplishment.”
Yet more, from near-certain presidential candidate Ted Cruz:
“There are 110,000 employees at the IRS,” he said. “We need to padlock that building ad put every one of those 110,000 on our southern border. If you crossed border and the first thing you saw was thousands of IRS agents, you’d turn around and go home too.” The crowd whooped and cheered.
And more from Cruz:
Cruz, R-Texas, lampooned what he predicted would be the pitch of his rivals to caucus-goers, portraying himself as the conservative who's taken stands.

"Gosh darnit, who-diddly, I'm conservative," Cruz said. "Don't talk -- show me...."
And then there are some of the more coherent lines from Sarah Palin's speech:
“Screw the left and Hollywood!”

“Coronation, rinse, repeat.”

Obama “is so over it. America, he’s just not that into you.”
Wait -- these are the folks who thought Obama's State of the Union address was undignified? No -- these folks are Don Rickles. A party of insult comics is not a party that's ready to sit at the grown-ups' table.


Jim Rutenberg's breathless, gushing New York Times Magazine profile of Fox's Megyn Kelly has already been the subject of a couple of excellent takedowns, by Asawin Suebsaeng at the Daily Beast and Ellen Brodsky at NewsHounds. In his puff piece, Rutenberg prints a legend -- that Kelly is the future of Fox because she's the kind of conservative who'll occasionally break with right-wing orthodoxy, which means moderates and liberals really, really ought to watch her. But Suebsaeng reminds us of her gutter-scraping reinforcement of right-wing memes (no one pushed the New Black Panthers non-story harder than Kelly), while Brodsky notes that Kelly's breaks with conservative orthodoxy (which Rutenberg refers to, like a PR flack, as "Megyn moments") are usually just palate cleansers between courses of the usual red meat.

I'd just like to add that Rutenberg is so invested in the not-your-father's-Fox-host story line that he doesn't let the factual video record get in the way.

Let's go back to the now-famous moment when Mike Gallagher, a radio talk-show host, grumbled about Kelly's maternity leave. Kelly brought Gallagher on to Fox after her return and lit into him. Jon Stewart, however, detected a note of hypocrisy, as Rutenberg points out:
Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” was not buying it and showed clips in which Kelly questioned the need for men to take long paternity leaves and criticized entitlements in general.
But Rutenberg gives Kelly the last word on this subject:
In a later phone conversation, Kelly confronted Stewart, arguing that he had taken devil’s-advocate questions out of context to make them seem like her positions. “Typical Stewart,” she said. “He wouldn’t budge.”
In the online version of this story, Rutenberg (or the Times) provides a link to the clip -- but Rutenberg surely hopes you won't actually watch it:

Do Kelly's denunciations of other entitlements, particularly what she sneeringly says about paternity leave at 3:27 -- "Correct me if I'm wrong, Lee, but don't they call it ma-ternity leave for a reason?" -- seem like "devil’s-advocate questions" to you?

And then there's the segment with former Navy SEAL Jonathan Gilliam that opens Rutenberg's piece. Fox was (and is) deeply invested in another SEAL, Robert O'Neill, who participated in the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. O'Neill claims to have fired the bin Laden kill shot (a claim that's been vigorously disputed, and that violated the SEALs' code of silence), but his story has been a ratings bonanza for Fox.

Gilliam had criticized O'Neill on CNN, which led Kelly to invite Gilliam on her show. Rutenberg wants to portray Kelly's interview of Gilliam as another orthodoxy-defying "Megyn moment," but the videotape tells a completely different story. Here's Rutenberg:
“This is a little dicey because you’ve been very critical of this man,” she said, the model of stern sincerity. “But I wanted to give you the chance to explain it. Because I think a lot of our viewers are looking at him thinking, That man is a national hero.”

Gilliam was prepared. He wasn’t attacking O’Neill. He was attacking the president. “There’s a problem that starts at the top and works its way down,” he said.

“Head of the Navy SEALs?” she asked innocently.

No, he said. “Let’s start with the president, commander in chief. He’s never even been in the military. We elect somebody who’s never been in the military before, and we don’t put them through any training so they know how the military works. Then you have a vice president who goes out -- “

But Kelly, incredulous, stopped him midsentence. She then asked him a question often heard on Fox News, though seldom in nonrhetorical form: “What did the president do wrong?”

Here was the Megyn moment, and Gilliam would never recover.
He tried to explain his case, arguing that the White House set the bad example for O’Neill and his fellow SEALs by divulging details about the operation in a craven bid to win credit for the president. But Kelly didn’t let it shake her focus: his mistreatment of O’Neill. “You made people view him as a pariah,” she said.

It was another win, and another winning night, for Megyn Kelly.
(Emphasis added.)

Now watch the video. Nothing of the sort happens. Yes, Kelly interrupts with that question, and yes, she momentarily seems to be expressing incredulity. But she gives Gilliam plenty of time to bash President Obama and Vice President Biden. And Gilliam in no way seems to be thrown off stride by the question -- in fact, it's a very gentle, respectful interview, and Kelly agrees with Gilliam that the Obama administration leaked classified information about the raid, some of it to the people who made the movie Zero Dark Thirty. If "Kelly didn’t let" Gilliam's reference to the president "shake her focus: his mistreatment of O’Neill," it's because O'Neill had become a Fox star, and Kelly needed to steer the conversation back to O'Neill for the good of the copany. She was plugging Fox's product.

But that's not the story Rutenberg wants to tell. So Rutenberg told the story he liked rather than the truth.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


The New England Patriots are accused of cheating in the playoff game that sent them to this year's Super Bowl by not fully inflating footballs used in the game. Now, you just knew that someone on the right would find a way to link this scandal to President Obama and liberalism, didn't you? Of course you did! It takes quite a bit of effort for Ian Tuttle of National Review to get from deflated footballs to evil liberalism, but Tuttle is a determined young man. Follow him on his tortuous journey:
Marshawn Lynch, a.k.a. “Beast Mode,” starting running back for the Seattle Seahawks, is being fined $20,000 by the National Football League for grabbing his crotch during a touchdown celebration amid last week’s NFC championship game against the Green Bay Packers. Prior to the game, Lynch had planned to wear custom-made gold cleats -- footgear finished with a 24-karat gold-flake paint, featuring gold-chrome-plate soles; value: $1,100. For that, the NFL threatened to outright suspend him.

Perhaps those penalties are warranted. But it seems that the NFL has bigger problems to worry about.

Like, for instance, the New England Patriots, the other half of upcoming Super Bowl XLIX, who apparently deflated eleven of twelve footballs used in their AFC championship-game victory over the Indianapolis Colts....

[If] the above is true, it would be an example of what most people typically call “cheating.” But the same NFL that threatens to suspend Marshawn Lynch for flamboyant footwear could issue the proverbial slap on the wrist to the Pats....

The NFL has rules upon rules upon rules. Professional football in the United States might be the most painstakingly regulated sport in history -- and, increasingly, the rules most zealously enforced are those that don’t seem to matter.

How could such a thing have come to pass?
Um, maybe as a result of the NFL's anality regarding flamboyance on the field? Maybe as a consequence of the fact that fining Lynch is very easy and has minimal impact, while nullifying a victory in a championship game is extremely disruptive for the league and generates awful publicity?

Nahhh. It's all about culture. (Sorry, we haven't quite gotten to liberalism or Obama yet. Hang tight -- we'll get there.)
Ask Marty Hahne, a.k.a. “Marty the Magician,” who, with his rabbit, Casey, performed astonishing feats of enchantment for school groups in the Springfield, Mo., area -- until, in July 2013, he was informed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that Casey would be confiscated if Hahne did not submit to the agency a “disaster” plan for his rabbit, detailing how he planned to protect his furry friend in the event of “flooding,” “earthquake,” “landslide/mudslide/avalanche,” “wildfire,” or “intentional attack.”
Yeah, this seems excessive -- though I'm not sure how much of a commentary on contemporary values it is, given the fact that the decision to do this was based on a Nixon-era law intended primarily to protect circus animals, and given the fact that when Hahne's case got publicity, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack ordered an immediate review of the case and a reexamination of the policy.
Or ask Kenneth Wright, who was arrested in his boxer shorts when a dozen gun-wielding Department of Education agents -- “it was like a task force of a SWAT team,” said a neighbor -- raided his home in 2011. The DOE’s Inspector General’s Office executes search warrants on “bribery, fraud, and embezzlement of federal student-aid funds.” Problematic crimes, to be sure, but not ones that should lead to an active-shooter situation.
Well, it was Attorney General John Ashcroft who authorized federal inspector generals' offices to engaged in armed searches of this kind; he signed a set of guidelines in 2003. This story initially went viral, on the left and the right, when news reports suggested that the search was conducted by an actual SWAT team, and the raid concerned nothing more than unpaid student loans. It was later revealed that no SWAT team was used, and that the principal target was Wright's estranged wife, who was accused of fraudulently obtaining multiple student loans, some using stolen IDs of severely handicapped students. This was in pursuit of real crime, though, yes, it was law-enforcement excess.

But you want to know what all this has to do with Obama and liberalism. Tuttle -- after a couple more examples of heavy-handed authoritarianism -- finally gets where he's headed:
... as the law’s minutiae are being fervently prosecuted by every badge-brandishing bureaucrat in every government agency from Sitka to St. Petersburg, the nation’s chief executive, constitutionally tasked with enforcing the law, has decided that the words of the law do not much matter. In 2011, the Obama administration announced that it would stop enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act. The next year, under the auspices of “prosecutorial discretion,” the administration stopped enforcing immigration laws against young illegal immigrants. Two years later, following a laughably disingenuous expansion of prosecutorial discretion to effectively amnesty half of the illegal-immigrant population currently in the country, the president plainly proclaimed to have “changed” the law -- in explicit violation of the constitution, of course, the supreme law of the land. And one need hardly the mention the multiple occasions on which the president has refused to enforce -- or ordered the non-enforcement of -- the provisions of the health care law that he signed.

The law, as Saint Paul suggested, was a matter of both letter and spirit. But our over-inflated regulatory state, with its bloated bureaucratic class, has all but forsaken the latter, while our puffed-up executive has utterly abandoned the former. At one and the same time, our land of laws, not men, grows impulsively legalistic and alarmingly lawless.

Is it any surprise, then, that in a country more concerned with crisis plans for bunnies than crises at its borders, a Michael Jackson move in the end zone is the real menace?
So there you have it -- Tuttle shows how "Deflate-gate" is inextricably linked to Obamaism and "our over-inflated regulatory state": this depraved culture will crack down on you only if you're doing something trivial, because liberalism.

It takes Tuttle a while to get from Point A to Point B, but he gets there, and that's why Young Ian is "a William F. Buckley Jr. fellow at National Review and you're not.

(Story via Fox Nation, naturally.)

Friday, January 23, 2015


There's a lot of talk, especially on the right, about the Obama administration's anger at Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu because of Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress demanding new sanctions on Iran, which would probably put an end to any chance for an Iranian nuclear deal. On the right, Obama is seen as an appalling anti-Semite because members of his administration have uttered unkind words about Netanyahu. How dare an American president show anything less than unwavering support for Israel!

I just want to remind you of an earlier moment when an Israeli prime minister and a U.S. president got into it like this. It was 1981. President Reagan was trying to arrange the sale of AWACS aircraft to Saudi Arabia. Reagan was to meet with Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin in September -- but just prior to this, he sent a warning to Begin:
President Reagan’s special advisor on Jewish affairs, Jacob Stein, is reported to have warned Premier Menachem Begin not to press his luck with Reagan by continuing to try to block the sale of American AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia. Stein was in Israel last week for talks with Begin and Israeli leaders, in apparent preparation for Begin’s visits to Washington for talks with the U.S. President next month.

Israeli papers say that Stein told Begin that Reagan and the U.S. Administration would view a continued Israeli policy to persuade Senators and Congressmen to oppose the aircraft sale as a personal affront to Reagan himself.
Reagan and Begin met -- and, according to Reagan's post-presidential memoir, An American Life, Begin agreed not to lobby Congress in opposition to the AWACS sale, then did just that:

Before Reagan ultimately won the fight, unpleasant words were uttered about Israel:
The Reagan Administration actively sought to diminish Israel's voice and influence over the deal. In public speeches, Administration officials admonished Israel for getting involved in a U.S. foreign policy matter. Secretary of State Alexander Haig said the President must be "free of the restraints of overriding external vetoes," and went on to say that were the AWACS deal blocked by Israeli influence, there would be "serious implications on all American policies in the Middle East. ... I'll just leave it there." ...Reagan himself declared, "It is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy."
But Reagan was a god among men, so his dispute with Israel was OK, right?


I don't think it's surprising that some of Mitt Romney's donors from 2012 are hesitant about jumping on board his 2016 bandwagon -- after all, a lot of other prominent Republicans are thinking of running in 2016. So I understand why some deep-pocketed former Mitt backers would be considering other big names in the GOP:
The 2012 Republican nominee is struggling to secure the financial backing even of the people who were his staunchest supporters.

The Center for Public Integrity in recent days attempted to contact roughly 90 top Romney fundraisers from his most recent presidential run, including every federal lobbyist who helped him raise $30,000 or more.

The vast majority willing to speak on the record say they haven’t decided whom to support in 2016. Almost all of these fundraisers said they’re wrestling with conflicting loyalties to Romney, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and other potential Republican hopefuls such as [Senator] Marco Rubio ... and Govs. Mike Pence, Scott Walker and Chris Christie.
But then there are these guys and the candidates they think might be a better bet than Romney (emphasis added below):
Van D. Hipp Jr., chairman of consulting firm American Defense International and a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, said he thinks the array of choices “shows the strength of the Republican field.” He served on Romney’s finance team in 2012 but hasn’t committed to Romney in 2016.

“I’ve got several friends looking at it mighty strong. I think the world of Romney,” Hipp said, while noting his ties to other prospective candidates, including Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former New York Gov. George Pataki.

Add [Lindsey] Graham, the U.S. senator from South Carolina, to Hipp’s mix, too.

“I’ve talked with some folks in South Carolina this past week who said they had gotten phone calls [from Graham] telling them, quote, to keep their powder dry,” he said. Hipp says he personally hasn’t yet heard from Graham, but added, "we go back a long ways and he’s a good friend of mine.”

Someone who has been in touch with Graham: David Wilkins, who leads the public policy and international law group at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.

Wilkins bundled $87,000 for Romney in 2012. He was the state chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004 and was an ambassador to Canada under President George W. Bush. “I have great admiration and respect for Gov. Bush, but until Lindsey makes a decision, a lot of us are -- we’re for Lindsey Graham,” Wilkins said.
Lindsey Graham?

George Pataki? Seriously? George Pataki?

Wow, that's gotta sting.


I give Peggy Noonan credit for saying, in her latest column, that it's highly inappropriate for Republicans to invite Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress next month. But she's also upset that British prime minister David Cameron is lobbying members of Congress personally on Israeli sanctions -- and, of course, she's offended by the man in the White House, whose State of the Union address and other recent utterances, she says, have been lacking in respect:
After forgetting to be gracious to the victors of the 2014 election, or even to note there’d been a significant election, he referred to his relations with Congress. “Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different,” he said. “A better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.” It is instead one “where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.” Well, OK, but before this sweet hectoring he had sternly threatened to veto Republican-backed legislation. (CBS News’s Mark Knoller counts nine veto threats since the new Congress was sworn in Jan. 6.) Somehow Mr. Obama’s olive branch always looks like a blunt instrument. He has spent the past six years blaming Republicans when he wasn’t ignoring or dissing them, and despite some nice touches in the speech, his essential disrespect for his political adversaries shone through.
Yes, because presidents never spoke disrespectfully of the opposition before Obama. Certainly Noonan's old employer never did anything like that! Certainly Ronald Reagan would never go around insolently issuing multiple veto threats after his party lost control of Congress!

Oh, wait -- here's a story from July 1987, a few months after Democrats had taken control of the Senate as well as the House:
In Indianapolis this week, Mr. Reagan said, "If any tax hike ever comes across my desk, my handling of the veto pen will make the way Eliot Ness went after Al Capone look like child's play."

The week before, he cracked that "if a tax hike makes it to my desk, I'll veto it in less time than it takes Vanna White to turn the letters V-E-T-O."

And in Florida last month, Mr. Reagan borrowed a line from a familar television commercial when he said, "How do you spell relief? V-E-T-O."
Here's a quote from a Reagan speech delivered shortly after that story appeared:
Looking at the way Washington spends money, you would think that you were watching "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" on TV. [Laughter] The special interests want to raise the American people's taxes to pay for their high times and holidays. Well, as long as I am President, those holidays are over. And any tax increase that reaches my desk will be headed on a different kind of vacation: a one-way cruise to nowhere on the SS Veto.
Here's another 1987 Reagan speech:
No way are the American people going to be made to foot the bill for the tax-and-spend crew on Capitol Hill. Now, I have to tell you, some in Congress are standing against this tax tide. When I visited the Republican Senators last week, they gave me a giant veto pencil especially designed to take care of tax hikes. I'm keeping that pencil at the ready in my desk, and believe me, any tax hike bill that makes it into the Oval Office won't make it out alive. So, the tax-and-spend crew might as well just face the facts: There isn't going to be any tax hike in this administration. What there is going to be is a Capitol Hill cleanup....
And yes, there really was a giant veto pencil -- I couldn't find a photo of it online, but here's one from Paul Slansky's book on the Reagan years, The Clothes Have No Emperor (which is the source for some of these quotes):

And while Noonan doesn't mention Obama's reference o his two electoral victories in the State of the Union address, that certainly got up a lot of Republicans' noses. Well, here's Reagan doing some similar trash talk in a 1987 speech:
And then there are those in the other party who are clamoring for an increase in tax rates. You'll remember, of course, that it was just a little better than 2 years ago that one Presidential candidate promised not to raise taxes, while the other candidate promised that he would. And while I don't want to be immodest about this, it's true that the fellow who promised no tax increase carried 49 out of 50 States. Now, with less than 2 years to the next Presidential election, to see the other party once again demanding a tax hike -- well, if you'll permit me, there they go again. [Laughter]
Reagan was the best president ever, wasn't he? So frequent presidential taunts and veto threats must be a good thing -- right?