Sunday, May 31, 2015


Here's the headline to a story about Marco Rubio from a recent issue of National Journal's print edition:

While his rivals spar elsewhere, Rubio is putting a stranglehold on South Carolina.
Hunh? Marco Rubio -- who's currently in ninth place in South Carolina according to both the Real Clear Politics and Pollster poll averages -- has "a stranglehold on South Carolina"? Really?

The story here -- and I'll admit that it's a legitimate campaign story -- is that Rubio is making an extraordinary effort to try to win the South Carolina primary. But that's not how National Journal is reporting this. Because so little of consequence actually happens day to day in our endless campaigns, much of our campaign journalism consists of stories spoon-fed to reporters by campaign insiders, and therefore reported exactly the way the campaign wants them reported. So we're told here that Mr. Ninth Place probably can't be beaten in South Carolina, so his rivals probably shouldn't bother trying:
... In the six years since launching his Florida Senate campaign, Rubio has become an adopted prince of South Carolina's political royalty. And not by chance. Rubio, whose national ambitions became apparent even before he was sworn into the Senate, quickly identified South Carolina as the home base for his eventual presidential effort, seeing this early-primary state as a more natural fit -- culturally, ideologically, geographically -- than either Iowa or New Hampshire. He has acted accordingly in the years since -- snatching up the state's top talent for his political operation, cultivating personal relationships with influential people on the ground, and making repeated trips to keep tabs on his burgeoning circuit of supporters in the state.

As a result, Rubio has quietly achieved something in South Carolina that no Republican candidate can claim in Iowa or New Hampshire: an organizational lock on one of the most important states en route to the GOP nomination.

The senator's inner circle is stacked with South Carolina veterans. His super PAC is headquartered in Columbia and run by the capital's most experienced strategist. And Rubio has secured the support of major players in the state's business community.
Well, yes, that's impressive -- but if he comes limping out of Iowa (where a new Des Moines Register poll has him tied for sixth place, 11 points behind leader Scott Walker) and New Hampshire (where he's competitive but is still only in fourth place), can even the best organization in one state guarantee him a win?

To National Jornal, the answer is basically yes:
"Senator Rubio has put together a first-class team," says Matt Moore, chairman of the South Carolina GOP. "Politics is all about institutional knowledge, and Senator Rubio's team has decades if not centuries of institutional knowledge in South Carolina politics.... They understand what motivates voters, how races have been won here in the past, and how races might be won here in the future." ...

"You can tell who's serious about South Carolina," says Glenn McCall, the state's Republican national committeeman. "The people Rubio brought on board are very well respected. When they call, people listen. Those hires tell me Rubio understands what it takes to win South Carolina."
And this isn't showing up in the polls why exactly?
Rubio's operation is eager to keep the network he has built under wraps for now, hoping to disguise its strength in the state and avoid attacks from rivals for as long as possible.
Oh, I see -- he has terrible poll numbers in South Carolina by design. It's all part of his ingenious strategy!

And besides:
Rubio's team doesn't want to rely on poll numbers to project his relative strength.
Oh, I see. He's really strong, just not according to your so-called "polls."

There's more gush here -- about how compatible Rubio and South Carolina are, and about how it's much more impressive to win there than in stinky old Iowa or New Hampshire:
Unlike Iowa with its heavy influence of evangelicals, or New Hampshire with its hordes of fiscal-minded libertarians, South Carolina is home to a cross-section of the party: social conservatives, business interests, defense hawks, and an outspoken slice of tea partiers.

In other words, it's a natural home for Rubio, whose capacity for winning the nomination derives from his ability to appeal across the GOP's ideological divides.... "Marco matches up very well with this state," [J. Warren] Tompkins [of the pro-Rubio super PAC Conservative Solutions] says. "The candidate who wins South Carolina is the one with a broad enough appeal across the spectrum of the party."
All this could play out Rubio's way, as predicted -- but if you report it as if it absolutely will play out his way, you're flacking for the candidate, not even doing minimally objective horserace journalism. But, far too often, flacking is what campaign journalists do. They report on campaigns the way CNBC reports on business -- rewriting one campaign's (or party's) press release after another. It's awful.


A guy was just caught charging tourists $200 to ride the Staten Island Ferry each way -- even though the ferry is free. Now, you'd assume the New York Post -- a conservative, law-and-order paper -- would be appalled at the actions of this perpetrator, right? Well, not quite. Here's the Post's lede, which blames the victims:
These suckers are the reason a $30 hot dog exists.

Dopey tourists are paying top dollar to bogus vendors for “tickets” to the Staten Island Ferry -- which has been free for 18 years, The Post has learned.

One clueless pair shelled out $400 for a round-trip journey to the city’s southernmost borough, sources said.

“They’re targeting people who are tourists, because they just don’t know better,” said a source with the city’s Parks Enforcement Patrol.

Career con Gregory Reddick, 54, hooked the big fish on Wednesday while wearing a snappy “Authorized Ticket Agent” jacket near the South Street Seaport, officials said.

“Usually, the people we’re seeing are complaining that they’ve been charged $25” for a Staten Island Ferry ride, said the parks-enforcement source.

“But this guy was charging $200 each way.”
The "$30 hot dog" reference harks back to an earlier story about a vendor who overcharged customers for hot dogs and other snacks, returned insufficient change, pretended he didn't know enough English to conduct business responsibly, failed to post prices for his goods as required by law, and shortchanged the owner of his cart, who subsequently fired him -- a guy who was defended in a Post op-ed titled "The $30 Hot Dog Guy Is a Capitalist Hero."

Once you get pat the lede of the Staten Island Ferry story, you read about the perpetrator, and he sounds like the quintessential New York Post villain:
Reddick, of Jamaica, Queens, was caught by Parks Enforcement Patrolman Jean-Baptist Joseph, 33, on Pier 15 as he allegedly took the cash from the two marks.

When Joseph asked to see an ID and Parks permit, Reddick shoved him in the chest and took off, a criminal complaint says.

Joseph chased Reddick to The Battery, where he and a half-dozen fellow officers surrounded the 200-pound suspect, subduing him with the help of pepper spray, the complaint says....

Reddick’s rap sheet dates to his early teens and includes six felony convictions, other law-enforcement sources said.

He has at least five aliases, six Social Security numbers and seven dates of birth -- and has spent at least nine years in prison for burglary and credit-card fraud, sources added.
So: he's a career criminal and he resisted arrest -- oh, and the accompanying photo makes clear that he's black. You'd think the Post would be exulting in his capture. But no, the story begins by blaming the dumb-rube tourists. (Reading the story, you feel that it may have been written as a straight law-and-order tale and then edited to suggest that a colorful rogue was gulling the suckers.)

I don't get it. Does the Post just assume its readers hate tourists? (We have a reputation in the city for not liking tourists, but we're usually pretty nice to them, and while we may get exasperated when groups of tourists block our way while making slow progress down our streets, we're increasingly having the same problem with locals who are zombified by their phones.)

Is it that, or is the Post just defending capitalist thievery because, well, capitalism?

The Post wasn't very nice to Eric Garner when he died at the hands of cops who were arresting him for selling loose cigarettes -- but the Post will always stick up for the cops no matter what they do, and the Garner case put the police on the defensive. Short of that, however, I guess you can do whatever you want in the name of capitalism, especially to tourists, and the Post will cut you a break.


Beau Biden, the vice president's son, has died of brain cancer. he'd also survived a stroke and, as a child, the car accident that killed his mother and sister. He's gone way to soon -- he was only 46. My thought are with the family.

Saturday, May 30, 2015


Front page of as I type:

Note the placement of the Dennis Hastert story, which I've highlighted.

The Hastert story is on the front page of Fox Nation, but in eleventh place, below the following more prominent headlines:
GOP Calls On AG Lynch To Prosecute Lois Lerner In IRS Scandal

Don't Miss The Premiere Of 'The Greg Gutfeld Show' This Sunday On Fox News At 10 PM ET

Are You a #ProudAmerican? Here's How to Share Your Pride!

Pelosi: Clintons Will Have To Answer For Foundation

Who Voted To Bring 33 Million Immigrants North?

Five Scandals For Hillary Clinton And Bernie Sanders That Would Sink Any Republican

Watters' World: Unemployed Edition

Baltimore Police Union Head: Mosby Political From Start

Chris Kyle's Widow: 'I Proudly Stand With,' Endorse Rick Perry

Todd Starnes: Feds Want You to Eat Healthier S’Mores
There are those who argue that Fox News isn't a propaganda tool of the GOP -- it's strictly a profit-maximizing infotainment enterprise. (See, e.g., Politico's Jack Shafer a few days ago.) But if all Fox wants to do is make money, why would it shy away from the most riveting, lurid, shocking story in the current news?

Fox is shying away because the story is an embarrassment to Republicans, and because the very act of shying away is perceived by the Fox audience as an act of tribal solidarity, a bird-flip to the "liberal media," which is devoting lots of resources to the Hastert story. (Go here for a whiny complaint about all that media attention to Hastert, from National Review's Ian Tuttle.) Fox, speaking for the right-wing tribe, insists that Lois Lerner is a much more important story right now than Hastert! Bill Clinton's ties to FIFA are much more newsworthy, says Tuttle!

So a big part of profit-seeking is rallying the Republican tribe by ignoring what normal people regard as news, and insisting that the right's obsessions and hobbyhorses are the real news. There's no point, on the right, where promoting the ideology ends and profit-seeking begins. They're one and the same.

Friday, May 29, 2015


Gallup says that more Americans are expressing support for abortion rights:
Half of Americans consider themselves "pro-choice" on abortion, surpassing the 44% who identify as "pro-life." This is the first time since 2008 that the pro-choice position has had a statistically significant lead in Americans' abortion views.

I've written about Gallup's polling on this question in the past, most recently in 2012, when the pro-choice number had dipped to 41%. Why was it down? Well, it was an election year and President Obama -- who was widely expected to win reelection -- was making it abundantly clear that he was an abortion rights supporter.

But why would that cause pro-choice sentiment to slip? I like to quote this L.A. Times article from 2000 -- another moment when the "pro-choice" number was low:
Typically when abortion rights are threatened, support for legal abortion rises, according to polling experts.

In the last decade, for example, previous polls show support for Roe peaking at 56% around 1991, when the decision was under attack across the country....

In 1992, the Supreme Court issued a decision upholding Roe, with some modifications. The same year, [Bill] Clinton, an abortion rights supporter, was elected president. Both events appeared to reassure people there would be no dramatic changes in abortion policy. Subsequently, support for Roe began to decline.

In a 1996 poll, 46% of respondents endorsed Roe vs. Wade. By 1999, support had slipped slightly to 43%....
So why is the pro-choice number going up now, even with Obama in the White House? I assume it's because of the large number of Republican-controlled state governments we have now and their relentless attempts to restrict abortion in the states. Here's a graphic from the Guttmacher Institute:

There's a lot of orange on that most recent map -- and the state governments that are "extremely hostile" to abortion rights include high-population Texas, Florida, and Ohio. These days, a hell of a lot of Americans live in a state where abortion is under concerted attack.

A lot of Americans have mixed feelings about abortion -- until the government starts saying that they can't get one. Maybe soon they'll start actually voting to defend abortion rights.


Right-wingers claim it's appalling that Bernie Sanders wrote an essay about male and female sex fantasies for an alternative paper in Vermont in 1972, and say it's hypocritical that he's not being raked over the coals in the press for it:
In a 1972 essay, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) opined that men fantasized about women being abused. He also claimed that women fantasized about being gang raped.

In an article entitled "Men-And-Women," published in an alternative newspaper called the "Vermont Freeman" Sanders shared his thoughts on male and female sexuality in ways that would cause a media firestorm if it had been penned by any current GOP candidate. Even one with as little chance at grabbing his party's nomination as Sanders currently has.

"A man goes home and masturbates his typical fantasy," wrote Sanders. "A woman on her knees. A woman tied up. A woman abused."

Sanders didn't specify as to how he had gained such a deep understanding of the male psyche.

In terms of his understanding of female sexual fantasies, Sanders provided similar insight.

"A woman enjoys intercourse with her man--as she fantasizes about being raped by 3 men simultaneously."
Here's the whole essay, via Mother Jones, which unearthed it:

The essay is cringe-inducing -- but in a very clumsy way, Sanders is stumbling toward a humane point: relations between the sexes should be steeped in less pain and cruelty. I'm a generation younger than Sanders, but my adolescence was in the early 1970s, and being a straight male and struggling to reconcile the worldviews of Larry Flynt and Gloria Steinem was confusing. Even cruel sexually explicit material seemed excitingly countercultural -- not just porn, but, for instance, Last Tango in Paris (which was released in the U.S. the same month Sanders published this essay). Yet if you had any human decency at all, it was obvious that the arguments of feminism were morally compelling. I can't imagine Sanders's worldview as my own in adolescence, but I can imagine nodding thoughtfully if a high school friend described male-female interactions as a sad battle between male "pigness" and a female "slavishness" brought on by an internalization of a piggish male worldview. Enlightenment takes time.


Right-wingers think liberal media bias is depriving them of an opportunity to humiliate the entire Democratic Party. Here's Charles C.W. Cooke at National Review arguing that this would be a major scandal if it had happened on the right:
... it wouldn’t just be Ted Cruz or Rick Santorum who would be asked about the essay: it would be every Republican in the race. In fact, it would be every Republican not in the race, too. Moreover, we’d see a host of think pieces on the GOP’s apparent ”rape problem”; we’d see endless Salon posts claiming stupidly that these attitudes were the product of free-market economics or a lack of gun control or of the pernicious influence that Protestantism has on the American mind; and we’d see dubious “studies” and ill-gotten “polls” commissioned to back up the message du jour. On cable news, the Democratic party’s cheaper mouthpieces would reference it over and over again. On social media, snarky memes would be made and sent around, the better to influence the low-information voters who are crucial come presidential-election season. Immediately, Planned Parenthood would start a fundraising drive. And eventually, when the drumbeat became too much to handle, the essay’s author would resign or withdraw or commit some form of political seppuku
But, of course, the guy who said the following in a 2003 AP interview didn't commit political seppuku -- in fact, he just announced another run for president:
SANTORUM: ... Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that's what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality --

AP: I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out.

SANTORUM: And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. The idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we're seeing it in our society.
See a difference between that and what Sanders wrote? Sanders wasn't advocating sexual brutality. Santorum was advocating curtailment of the rights of gay people (even though, as he so generously acknowledged, compared to people who commit bestiality they aren't that bad).

Another Republican who didn't commit political seppuku: Bob McDonnell in 2009.
At age 34, two years before his first election and two decades before he would run for governor of Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell submitted a master's thesis to the evangelical school he was attending in Virginia Beach in which he described working women and feminists as "detrimental" to the family. He said government policy should favor married couples over "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators." He described as "illogical" a 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried couples.
That story broke in late August of 2009. McDonnell was elected governor the following November.

Again, see the difference? What was controversial in McDonnell's thesis was what he actually advocated -- and went on to advocate as an officeholder:
The 93-page document, which is publicly available at the Regent University library, culminates with a 15-point action plan that McDonnell said the Republican Party should follow to protect American families -- a vision that he started to put into action soon after he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.

During his 14 years in the General Assembly, McDonnell pursued at least 10 of the policy goals he laid out in that research paper, including abortion restrictions, covenant marriage, school vouchers and tax policies to favor his view of the traditional family. In 2001, he voted against a resolution in support of ending wage discrimination between men and women.
But the right likes to ignore intent. The Sanders non-scandal reminds me of the right's attempt to smear Jim Webb during his 2006 Senate campaign by pointing out lurid passages in his Vietnam War novels, such as one in which a man on a road in placed a young boy's penis in his mouth -- never mind the fact that this is probably something Webb actually saw during his combat years. Intent doesn't matter. All that matters is shock value.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


I imagine you're following this story:
J. Dennis Hastert, the longest serving Republican speaker in the U.S. House, was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on charges that he violated banking laws in a bid to pay $3.5 million because of “past misconduct” against an unnamed individual from their hometown west of Chicago....

The indictment did not spell out the exact nature of the “prior misconduct” by Hastert against the individual from his hometown, Yorkville, but noted that before entering politics in 1981, Hastert spent more than a decade as a teacher and wrestling coach at the local high school. The unnamed individual has known Hastert for most of that person’s life, the indictment states.
What's going on here? What did Hastert do to Individual A that he's apparently being paying to keep secret?

I assume we'll find out soon. Until then, I'd like to be irresponsible and note that rumors about Hastert were being spread in 2006, the last full year of his term as as House Speaker. This was during the Mark Foley scandal -- Foley, you'll recall, was a Republican member of the House who made inappropriate advances to male House pages, including one who was sixteen years old. Hastert said he knew nothing about the scandal before it broke, although the House Ethics Committee subsequent said that the evidence showed advance knowledge by Hastert.

Hastert has been married since 1973 -- but some observers were speculating in '06 that Hastert had secrets. At the Huffington Post, Lawrence O'Donnell insinuated that Hastert and a male top aide were more than friends:
Who is Scott Palmer?

He is Speaker Hastert's chief of staff....

There are plenty of odd couple Congressmen who have roomed together on Capitol Hill, but I have never heard of a chief of staff who rooms with his boss. It is beyond unusual. But it must have its advantages. Anything they forget to tell each other at the office, they have until bedtime to catch up on. And then there's breakfast for anything they forgot to tell each other before falling asleep. And then there's all day at the office. Hastert and Palmer are together more than any other co-workers in the Congress.
At roughly the same time, AMERICAblog's John Aravosis published this cryptic post:
Denny Hastert has put me in a difficult position.

I've heard rumors. Unsubstantiated talk. No proof yet. But I've heard things. Just like I heard things about Mark Foley this past July. This time I've heard things about a relatively senior Republican member of the House, and also about someone on the Speaker's own staff. Both rumors seem relevant to this story as it's unfolding.

So here's my dilemma. Denny Hastert says that if I don't report the unsubstantiated allegations I've heard, I'm a criminal. But the thing is, I'm also a journalist, and a good human being. I don't think it's right to print unsubstantiated rumors I've heard, rumors that could make life quite difficult for this Republican congressman and this senior member of Hastert's staff.

So what do I do? Do I publish unsubstantiated rumors about a GOP congressman and one of Denny Hastert's top aides? I don't want to, I don't think it's right, but Denny Hastert says he'll sic the FBI on me for hurting children if I don't.
And at the untrustworthy fringe, there was this from Wayne Masden:
The rumors about another top GOP member of the House being involved in sexual encounters with young "men for hire" are confirmed to WMR by well-placed sources in Washington's gay community. The member in question is House Speaker Dennis Hastert, whose "alternate" life style is the primary reason for him and his staff covering up the scandal involving ex-Florida GOP Rep. Mark Foley and his lewd messages sent to underage male congressional pages....

WMR reported on old charges that swirled around Hastert when he was a high school wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in Yorkville, Illinois. Hastert decided to enter politics in 1980 after rumors surfaced about inappropriate contact with male high school students.
Masden seems to throw everything against the wall (in this post he tells us Hastert is known to have a small penis, and in another post -- found at Alex Jones's Prison Planet -- he insinuates that a Hastert visit to the Mariana Islands could have involved sex with minors).

I don't know what to make of this. But the point is that some rumors involving Hastert were going around a decade ago. And now this.


Responding to this post at Marco Rubio's campaign site, Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur argues that Rubio might be the Barack Obama of 2016:
A charismatic young first-term senator with with an unusual background and inspiring life story defies long odds to defeat a titan of American politics and win the presidency by capturing the country's imagination as a fresh face for a new generation.

In 2008, that was Barack Obama. Now Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who turns 44 on Thursday, is using the same playbook -- nominally aimed at presumptive Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, but conveniently doubling as a case against top Republican rival Jeb Bush -- in a similarly audacious quest for the White House.

"No one is entitled to the presidency, and no candidate has the right to skip the process of laying out a vision simply because he or she has the deepest connections in Washington or the most money in big-dollar donations," Rubio wrote in a Wednesday post on his campaign website. "In this country, what your last name is, what life you were born into, or how much money you have does not determine who you can be, where you can go, or what opportunities you can enjoy." The ostensible target was Democratic front-runner Clinton. But the carefully gender-neutral pronouns and the anti-dynastic rhetoric suggested that Rubio intended his volley to do double duty.
Um, yes, that quote could be targeted at Jeb Bush as well -- except that it appears under the bold red headline "This is What You Need To Tell Your Friends About Hillary Clinton" and under this graphic:

In any case, Kapur tells us that Rubio has great potential because he's Hispanic and because he's making a "generational argument."
"Yesterday is over, and we are never going back," Rubio proclaimed in his announcement speech. The message underneath it is buttressed by recent history: the most recent three presidents -- Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton -- were all less politically experienced than their opponents, John McCain, Al Gore, and Bob Dole. Each time the relatively fresh face defeated a known quantity with decades of experience in Washington. Rubio's bet is Americans will chose youth over experience again.
But if he's making a "generational argument" to the young, multicultural "coalition of the ascendant," then why, at least in the GOP, is his appeal primarily to old voters, at least according to a recent Pew poll (as I noted last week)?

Also note that a November 2014 Latino Decisions poll found that Rubio has a net unfavorable rating among Hispanic voters.

So why are people gushing over him? Why are Democrats gushing over him? Here's one Democrat quoted in Kapur's article:
"I would say that he [Rubio] is the Barack Obama of the Republican Party right now. His life story is captivating to people," Democratic strategist Steve McMahon said recently on Bloomberg TV's With All Due Respect, predicting Rubio will be the Republican nominee. He said the stories about his immigrant parents toiling so he could succeed "just melts your heart. It melts my heart. So I think he's got a very compelling story. And people are drawn to him."
I think some people are drawn to him -- but not the people you'd expect. In his own party, the people who are drawn to his story of a being a Latino son of an immigrant maid and bartender are the elderly.

Why would they respond to Rubio? Maybe because some of them remember being white ethnic have-nots in their youth, or hearing stories about their white ethnic parents' and grandparents' struggles. Maybe they still have a lingering belief in the notion that America is a nation of immigrants, although, because they're conservatives, they think those immigrants should de-ethnicize themselves as much as possible and expect nothing from government.

I think younger Republicans don't romanticize the quest to assimilate -- to them, members of non-European ethnic groups are people you have to keep from taking your stuff.

I'm not sure what will happen if Rubio is the general-election candidate. But first he has to win the primaries. And I'm not sure that can happen, because I'm not sure how many white people in his party really find his story captivating.


Quinnipiac has a new national poll out, and it has bad news for Republicans, particularly Jeb Bush:
In a general election matchup, Clinton gets 46 percent of American voters to 42 percent for Paul and 45 percent of voters to 41 percent for Rubio. She leads other top Republicans:

46 - 37 percent over Christie;

47 - 40 percent over Huckabee;

47 - 37 percent over Bush;

46 - 38 percent over Walker;

48 - 37 percent over Cruz;

50 - 32 percent over Trump.
So despite all the negative press she's getting, Clinton still beats all of these guys -- in fact, she's held or increased her lead over every one of them since the last Quinnipiac poll, in late April. The scandals don't seem to be hurting her.

Notably, Clinton beats Jeb Bush -- the guy whose selling point is supposed to be electability -- by 10 points. (The widely loathed Chris Christie loses only by 9.) What's more, Jeb can't even exploit the long-standing gender gap in American politics -- he doesn't even beat Clinton among male voters, as do Rubio, Walker, and (especially) Paul. (Rand Paul beats Clinton among men by 9 points, but loses to Clinton among women by 16. Dudebro semi-libertrarianism is, unsurprisingly, a guy thing.)

Is Jeb even the Republican front-runner? Among Republicans, this poll has a five-way tie for first:
Leading the pack with 10 percent each are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker....

Rounding out the top 10 for televised debates are U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky at 7 percent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 6 percent, Donald Trump at 5 percent, New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie at 4 percent and Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 2 percent each.
The numbers among Democrats are more evidence of something I told you a couple of days ago: that Bernie Sanders is the preferred alternative to Clinton, far ahead of Martin O'Malley:
Hillary Clinton dominates among Democratic voters nationwide, with 57 percent, compared to 60 percent April 23. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has 15 percent with Vice President Joseph Biden at 9 percent. No other candidate tops 1 percent with 14 percent undecided.
But please note this: Not only does Clinton still have a commanding lead in the Democratic race, she even beats Sanders 61%-28% among self-described "very liberal" Democrats. And only 9% of Democrats say they "would definitely not support" her (as opposed to 17% of Republicans who say that about Jeb). So Sanders has an uphill climb if he wants the nomination.

Clinton is still winning despite wariness about her:
American voters say 53 - 39 percent that Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, but say 60 - 37 percent that she has strong leadership qualities. Voters are divided 48 - 47 percent over whether Clinton cares about their needs and problems.
The "honest and trustworthy" numbers are awful, but how honest and trustworthy do Americans think most politicians are? We have low standards for this. We generally have to, don't we?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


A number of right-wing bloggers are treating this National Review story as a scoop:
Before the crash that she blamed on speculators, Senator Elizabeth Warren made a bundle by flipping houses.
"Before"? You mean immediately before?

Well, no -- all the houses mentioned in the NR story were purchased in the early 1990s. This had nothing to do with the housing crash that happened fifteen or so years later.

And what's peculiar about this story is that it was already reported back in the summer of 2012 by the right-wing Boston Herald, during Warren's Senate campaign against Scott Brown. The story made the conservative rounds then -- Breitbart, Glenn Beck's Blaze, Fox Nation, PJ Media -- and because the story broke at around the time Warren was also fielding questions about her claim of Cherokee ancestry, some conservative commentators weaved the two alleged scandals together in the charming manner we associate with the right. (Headline at Wizbang: "Elizabeth Warren helped family flip wigwams for heap big wampum.")

As a 2012 story at MassLive noted, Warren said this was all intended to help her family:
Reporters Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Elizabeth Warren and her husband lent money to family members to purchase the houses mentioned in the article. Warren didn't purchase the homes directly, according to her campaign.

Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren dismissed Republican criticisms about past real estate transactions on Tuesday, following a conference call hosted by the Massachusetts GOP targeting the Harvard Law School professor on the topic.

The Republicans referenced a recent Boston Herald report which listed several instances where Warren and her husband Bruce Mann lent money to family members who purchased houses, rehabilitated them and sold them for profits. Most of the transactions took place in the 1990s and one took place in 2000, according to the Herald, but all were well ahead of the U.S. housing market collapse....

Warren's campaign said the claims were baseless and that she and her husband helped family members purchase the houses, since they were in a financially secure position to do so.

"Elizabeth and Bruce are fortunate to be able to help their family," said Alethea Harney, Warren's press secretary, in a statement. "They have been able to help relatives buy their homes and after Elizabeth's brother lost his job as a construction worker, Elizabeth and Bruce were able to provide him support to buy and fix up properties."
This was all hashed out in 2012, and it obviously didn't bother Massachusetts voters very much, because Warren won the election. I don't know why National Review is revisiting the story, except that maybe somebody thought she'd be announcing a presidential campaign right around now. Even so, the questions raised by the story were asked and answered years ago.

NR's reporters don't add much. They try to find human suffering caused by Warren -- and fail miserably:
Nearly two years after Veo Vessels died, her daughter, 70-year-old Mary Frances Hickman, decided to sell the home her mother had left to her. A sprawling brick house in Oklahoma City’s historic Highland Park neighborhood, it was built in 1924, just a year after Mary’s birth.

Decades later, one of Vessels’ great-grandchildren fondly recalls the wood and tile floors, the fish pond, the butler’s quarters, and the multi-car garage where children played house.

“It was really, really nice,” says Hickman’s granddaughter, Andrea Martin. That’s part of the reason she’s so surprised her grandmother sold the home in 1993 for a mere $30,000. Despite a debilitating stroke, Martin says Hickman remained sharp, and she had always been business-savvy. As an Avon saleswoman, she had at times ranked among the top ten in the country. “So I don’t know why,” Martin says. “Maybe she just wanted out from underneath it, but to sell it for such a low number -- I don’t know. Maybe she got bad advice, maybe she was just tired.”

The home’s new owner: Elizabeth Warren....
So ... the family is bitterly angry at Warren? Well, no:
Hickman’s granddaughter Martin says of the home flip: “I don’t think it’s right, but I don’t really know much about it.... You flip houses to make a profit, so I can’t really fault [Warren] much. I think my grandmother made a mistake by selling it for so cheap.... She had worked hard all her life and was a self-made woman.”

Don Vessels -- a grandson of Veo Vessels, and the nephew of Mary Frances Hickman -- said he had not known that Warren had purchased the family home, but “my reaction is that it’s kind of par for the course.” He added: “What’s said and what’s done in politics are two different things. Mary Hickman, being the executor of the estate, should have sold it for the highest price on the market, which I’m not sure she did. But the house was not in fantastic shape, I can tell you that. It was a very nice house when it was purchased, but my grandmother kind of let it fall into disrepair.”
That's the best NR can do to try to turn Warren into a greedy, heartless hypocrite.

But, um, isn't it wrong on (liberal) principle to buy foreclosed homes and profit from them?

In a normally functioning mortgage market, there'll always be some people who simply can't make the payments and can't work out some other way to hold on to a home (or who'll choose to sell at an inappropriately low price). Responsible lenders try to lend to people who can pay their mortgages, but a certain percentage can't, and thus go into foreclosure.

That's very, very different from what caused the housing crash. The housing crash happened because amoral lenders were making loans to people they knew couldn't pay; the lenders then bundled these bad loans, sold them as blue-chip investments, pocketed the profits, then got away with slaps on the wrist when the whole thing fell apart and the rest of us were left to suffer the consequences. The outrage was that financial institutions were writing loans that were designed to go bad. The bad loans themselves were the problem.

So this is old news about alleged hypocrisy that's nothing of the sort. But it got some wingnut hearts pounding for a while today.


In January 2012, David Brooks tried to explain the surprising success of Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses by declaring that "the Republican Party is the party of the working class." But three and a half years later, Santorum is courting the working class with an economic message tailored to them -- and as Brooks's New York Times colleague Trip Gabriel points out, it's not working:
Mr. Santorum’s reinvention from a cultural warrior to a working-class hero is not catching on.

Last year, Mr. Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, published “Blue Collar Conservatives," a campaign manifesto arguing that Republicans should not cede the issue of middle-class income stagnation to Democrats. He wrote of laid-off factory workers who toil at “part-time jobs at big-box stores."

In campaign appearances, Mr. Santorum can seem either brave or crazy for ignoring red-meat social issues in favor of economic policies that go against his party’s usual views: raising the minimum wage, support for the Export-Import Bank....

At a joint appearance with former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas last week in Cedar Falls, Iowa, speaking to about 100 social conservatives who had elbowed their way past scores of gay rights protesters, Mr. Huckabee pumped up the crowd by warning that “religious liberty” was in dire jeopardy from “nine unelected men in black robes." The crowd loved it.

Mr. Santorum, by contrast, spent his time onstage criticizing the Republican Party for championing business owners rather than the people who work for them....

The applause was merely polite.
The obvious solution for Santorum? Time to play the Bella card!

Bella is Santorum's youngest child. She has a genetic disorder called Trisomy 18 -- and during his last presidential campaign he used her relentlessly as a campaign prop. In November 2011, he featured her in an ad:
Former Senator Rick Santorum released a web video today focusing on the heart and soul of the Santorum family -- his 3-year-old daughter Bella, a special-needs child....

"During the last debate I mentioned how I was looking forward to taking the red-eye home to see my three year old daughter Bella, who had surgery earlier that day," the Republican presidential candidate said. "Following that debate, Karen and I got numerous emails and calls from supporters asking how she was doing. We were so touched by the tremendous outpouring of support, the thoughts and the prayers we received for our sweet Bella."

"She is doing great and back to her joyful, smiley self. But since so many people were concerned, we wanted to share a little bit more about Bella and the great blessing she is for our entire family," he said. "We hope you'll enjoy this video."
That worked, so he kept doing it, as The New York Times noted in March 2012:
Bella has emerged as the emotional centerpiece of Mr. Santorum's campaign. His references to her are easily the most riveting moments of his speeches, usually leaving audiences silent and weepy. He has even built entire speeches around Bella's story, telling certain audiences, especially those in churches, every painful detail of her birth and how the family has embraced her as a blessing.
Santorum has exploited his family's medical history for years. In 1996, facing a tough fight to hold on to his Senate seat, he sat for a Washington Post interview and pointedly invoked his son Gabriel, who was born prematurely and died shortly afterward:
"That's my little guy," Santorum says, pointing to the photo of Gabriel, in which his tiny physique is framed by his father's hand. The senator often speaks of his late son in the present tense. It is a rare instance in which he talks softly.
And in 2013, he used the suffering and death of a nephew as the basis for a red-meat speech denouncing Democrats
Former Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum on Friday delivered an emotional address at the Conservative Political Action Conference, inspired by the death of his nephew the night before....

With tears in his eyes, the former presidential candidate talked emotionally about his nephew who passed away Thursday in Pittsburgh from what Santorum described as "a horribly painful disease that almost overnight began ravaging his body."

... As the silent crowd listened, Santorum spoke with conviction.... While society has made immense progress in stopping physical pain, he said, Democrats have gone too far in trying to use government programs to address almost every other pain....

"Obama has offered a new deal. He and his friends will reduce the pain and the suffering," Santorum said....
Now, you may have read that George Stephanopoulos, trying to stave off Republican calls for his ouster at ABC, is trying to do penance by landing interviews with Republicans:
Three days after that controversy broke, Stephanopoulos hosted an exclusive interview with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Then, on Wednesday, he landed an even bigger exclusive: Rick Santorum, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, would be announcing his bid for the presidency. Stephanopoulos also landed the first interview with Santorum, which will take place this afternoon.
Well, ABC has posted a Stephanopoulos-Santorum clip now, and what do you know -- it's about Bella:

ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News

So Stephanopoulos gets to overcompensate for the all-but-unforgivable sin of giving to a former president's charity, and Santorum gets to exploit his developmentally disabled child again on national TV. It's win-win!

Incidentally, you can buy Rick and Karen Santorum's new book, Bella's Gift -- not to be confused with Karen's earlier book, Letters to Gabriel -- wherever books are sold.


On the op-ed page of The New York Times, Peter Wehner, who's worked in a couple of Republican White Houses, tendentiously makes the case that it's Democrats and not Republicans who have become ideological extremists, all based on a comparison of the Obama and Clinton presidencies. Wehner does demonstrate that there's been a drift leftward, though not a particularly extreme one, especially given where the country is right now on most of the issues he discusses. (If the Obama administration is more tolerant on, say, drug legalization, that's hardly an example of getting ahead of the public.)

But then there's this:
While Mr. Clinton ended one entitlement program (Aid to Families With Dependent Children), Mr. Obama is responsible for creating the Affordable Care Act, the largest new entitlement since the Great Society. He is the first president to essentially nationalize health care.
Really? That's an example of Democrats' drift to the left since the nineties -- the fact that President Obama got a national health care plan enacted?

Did no one at the Times gently remind Wehner that there were, um, efforts made toward enacting a similar national health care program when Bill Clinton was president? Really, it was in all the papers. It was a big deal at the time. A good editor might have saved Wehner from this embarrassing memory lapse -- unless, of course, Wehner's memory is intact and he's hoping his readers won't remember. But he's too honorable a gentleman to pull a stunt like that, right?


UPDATE: Ed Kilgore gives Wehner's op-ed the thorough debunking it deserves.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


The Week's Ryan Cooper believes the press is being unfair to Bernie Sanders:
... the media has mostly presented Sanders as a non-serious kook....

Indeed, if anything Sanders is more credible than the likes of [Rand] Paul and [Ted] Cruz. He has risen markedly in the polls of late, where his support has about tripled since the end of last year. He's doing particularly well in New Hampshire, where a recent poll put him in second place at 18 percent support. As an opponent of the Iraq War and a longtime advocate for more progressive policy, he has a natural constituency in the liberal left, where he is genuinely admired.

... But more to the point, it is simply inappropriate for powerful media figures to consistently bookend any mention of Sanders with comments about his inevitable electoral demise.

... Bernie Sanders is a sitting United States senator who could easily finish second in the Democratic presidential primary. It is conceivable that he could even end up as Clinton's running mate. The fact that he is utterly fearless in advocating for Scandinavian-style democratic socialism is no reason to treat him like a kook.
But his campaign announcement today drew a good crowd and his speech is making a lot of points that progressives want made. He's not just polling respectably in New Hampshire, a neighboring state -- Public Policy Pollling has him at 24% in Washington State among Democratic voters, admittedly well behind Hillary Clinton (at 57%), but far ahead of Martin O'Malley (4%), Jim Webb (2%), and Lincoln Chafee (1%).

So I think he's going to be the top alternative to Clinton in 2016. He may not really have a serious chance at the nomination, but he'll be heard.

One reason he'll be heard: The press wants to see Hillary Clinton knocked around a bit. The mainstream press wants a battle rather than a coronation. And the right-wing press is extremely eager to see Clinton damaged.

Hillary Clinton was treated with surprising warmth on Fox News for much of the first half of 2008, after Barack Obama took a lead in the primaries, and Fox really might develop a surprising fondness for Bernie Sanders in the next few months. I'm not guaranteeing it -- Sanders said in his speech today that he doesn't want to engage in personal attacks, and unlike, say, Ralph Nader, he seems smart enough to know when the right-wing press is trying to make him into a useful idiot. Sanders is making very specific complaints about the concentration of wealth in this country, and it's going to be hard for Fox to edit that sort of thing down to a wingnut-friendly attack on Hillary. But if he ever talks in generalities about, say, "crony capitalism," Fox will happily run with that.

I defend Hillary Clinton because we have a horrible electoral system in which billions will be spent against the Democratic presidential candidate, so billions will be needed to keep the Supreme Court from being restocked with four fortysomething Scalias. I think she's all that's standing in the way of that. But I like what Bernie Sanders says. I can't imagine him becoming president in the same country where the 2014 elections gave us the greatest Republican dominance of Congress and state governments in eighty years, but I want him heard. Don't worry -- for good and bad reasons, he will be.


Jeb Bush has a moment of what appears to be compassionate conservatism:
Jeb Bush Signals More Funding and Faster Drug Approval for Alzheimer’s

.... Mr. Bush’s comments ... signal that ... if he runs for president and wins, he would be willing to reverse some of the spending cuts to medical research that Republicans have pushed for in recent years during budget battles.

The Republican from Florida suggested as much in March when he said at an event in Iowa that increasing spending would be wise in some cases.
A deviation from right-wing orthodoxy on Jeb's part? Well, there's a reason for that:
Former Gov. Jeb Bush opened up last week about his mother-in-law’s affliction with Alzheimer’s disease and, on Tuesday, shed some light on what he thinks should be done to fight the illness.

In an email exchange with Maria Shriver, the journalist, activist and author, Mr. Bush wrote that he has been getting a lot of feedback since revealing that his family has firsthand experience with the disease. As for how he would address Alzheimer’s disease, which according to the Centers for Disease Control afflicts five million Americans, Mr. Bush called for more research funding and a faster drug approval process.

“We need to increase funding to find a cure,” Mr. Bush said. “We need to reform F.D.A. [regulations] to accelerate the approval process for drug and device approval at a much lower cost. We need to find more community based solutions for care.”
So it's not that Jeb disagrees with his fellow Republicans on social spending in general, or even that he dispassionately examined the GOP's approach to medical research funding and found it inadequate to the task. He believes Alzheimer's needs more funding because Alzheimer's affects him personally, as the son-in-law of someone who's suffering from it.

This is how Republican compassion usually works. Who in the GOP supports same-sex marriage? Dick Cheney (gay daughter) and Rob Portman (gay son). Who in the GOP is skeptical about torture? John McCain (torture victim). Who in the GOP ever says a kind word about Muslims? Grover Norquist (married to a Palestinian Muslim).

There are exceptions to this rule, but not many. Jeb as president wouldn't rethink the GOP's entire approach to non-military spending -- but for this he'll make an exception. Because it matters to him.

Via Only4RM.)


UPDATE: The Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog lists multiple vetoes of Alzheimer's research by Jeb Bush when he was governor.


Paul Waldman thinks the Koch brothers are trying to winnow the Republican presidential field:
... while [Republican] voters might find [the large field of presidential candidates] an embarrassment of riches, for the party’s leaders and financiers, it looks like a recipe for trouble. Which is how I interpret this news:
In a Saturday interview on the Larry Kudlow Show, a nationally syndicated radio broadcast, David Koch let it slip that the roughly $900 million that he and his brother, Charles, plan to lavish on the 2016 presidential race could find its way into the hands of more than one GOP contender.

“We are thinking of supporting several Republicans,” David Koch said, adding, “If we’re happy with the policies that these individuals are supporting, we’ll finance their campaigns.”

Koch said the brothers would begin writing checks to individual candidates in “the primary season, winter and next spring.”
... By saying they’re going to support several candidates in the primaries, the Kochs are pledging to accelerate the winnowing process, by which the race’s chaff can be sloughed off and the focus can stay on the serious contenders.
But are the Kochs really trying to purge the field of also-rans -- or are they just focusing on the top tier?

These are two different strategies. The former means using their money to help push candidates like Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee further to the margins. The latter, which is what I think they're up to, is an attempt to pick a winner among the A-list candidates, or at least push all the potential winners into their ideological camp.

A month ago, Nicholas Confessore of The New York Times reported that the Kochs were throwing their weight behind Scott Walker. The Koch operation pushed back on that reporting, and Politico's Mike Allen subsequently wrote this:
... a top Koch aide revealed to POLITICO that Jeb Bush will be given a chance to audition for the brothers’ support, despite initial skepticism about him at the top of the Kochs’ growing political behemoth.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz debated at the Koch network’s winter seminar in January, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made a separate appearance. Those were the candidates who appeared to have a chance at the Koch blessing, and attendees said Rubio seemed to win that round.

But those four -- plus Jeb -- will be invited to the Kochs’ summer conference, the aide said. Bush is getting a second look because so many Koch supporters think he looks like a winner. Other candidates, perhaps Rick Perry or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, may also get invitations.
The initial set of invites suggested that the Kochs were concentrating on the big non-Jeb names -- Walker, Rubio, Cruz, and Paul. Jeb was subsequently thrown into the mix because he has (at least at times) looked like a potential winner, and therefore the Kochs want him at least partly dependent on them. Allen wrote:
The Kochs and their advisers will be looking for a candidate who is “solid on economic-freedom issues,” is “a passionate advocate for free markets,” and has “a positive, optimistic, pro-freedom message,” the aide said.

A candidate will get considerable extra credit for being on the brothers’ side of reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, which Koch organizations are spending big to oppose.
This was written about a month after Slate's Alec MacGillis told us this:
Jeb Bush has been adamant that he will not switch his positions on two issues, immigration and Common Core standards, that will generate conservative opposition in the Republican primaries. But he just made a major concession to conservatives on another issue of great importance to many of them -- he came out against the U.S. Export-Import Bank. And this new position of Bush’s is not just hard to reconcile with his politics -- it’s hard to reconcile with his own business career.
But it's easy to reconcile with Jeb seeking to lick the Kochs' boots.

I don't think Koch funding of primary challengers is about thinning the field. I think it's about bribing the A-listers to come around to their positions, and possibly to weigh in on behalf of a favorite or two from the A list. (I'm guessing that Koch's people are mentioning obvious D-listers Perry and Jindal because they read the mainstream press, where the two are still taken seriously as contenders.)

The Kochs could help do some winnowing now if they really wanted to -- but they're waiting to give until winter and spring. They don't want to thin the herd yet. There'll be plenty of clowning between now and then.

Monday, May 25, 2015


The L.A. Times is concerned about the relationship between civilians and the military community in America today:
Surveys suggest that as many as 80% of those who serve [in the U.S. military] come from a family in which a parent or sibling is also in the military. They often live in relative isolation -- behind the gates of military installations such as Ft. Bragg or in the deeply military communities like Fayetteville, N.C., that surround them....

As the size of the military shrinks, the connections between military personnel and the broad civilian population appear to be growing more distant....

Most of the country has experienced little, if any, personal impact from the longest era of war in U.S. history. But those in uniform have seen their lives upended by repeated deployments to war zones, felt the pain of seeing family members and comrades killed and maimed, and endured psychological trauma that many will carry forever, often invisible to their civilian neighbors....

"We've disconnected the consequences of war from the American public. As a result, that young man or woman putting on the uniform is much less likely to be your son or daughter, or even your neighbor or classmate," said Mike Haynie, director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University in upstate New York. "That is a dangerous place to be."
Some would say that what we need is universal conscription, or at least a universal national service requirement -- but it's hard to imagine such a policy being implemented in contemporary America without the rich and powerful finding a way to evade service, or at least locking up the cushiest positions.

Meanwhile, I see that two right-wing commentators, both military veterans, want us to know that they basically despise civilians. Here's RedState diarist streiff with a response to the L.A. Times story:
I served a couple of decades in uniform. I didn’t hold civilians in high regard, I didn’t know anyone who did (as we said, “I’m ashamed my mother was a f***ing civilian). I don’t suspect we were much different than the men at Fort Detroit in 1812 or Fort Kearney in 1850. If you want men who are willing to get killed on your behalf, not necessarily because you are in imminent danger but because the men and women you elect tell them to, then you are going to have men set apart, and men who don’t take you all that seriously. That will be unsettling to some. If that rejection of your seriousness comes hand-in-glove with a rejection of your view of society then you are going to hate the institution that rejects you and do your damnedest to change it. That is what’s behind this incessant caterwauling over the civil-military divide.

The military is open to anyone who wants to enlist... assuming they can meet the standards which, sadly, about 70% of American kids can’t... if they want to become more familiar with the military and increase its attachment to the civilian population. If not, then they should spend more time combing the quinoa out of their hipster beards and let the declining number of men in this nation get on with business.
So there you have it: According to streiff, everyone who hasn't served in the military is essentially a hipster with ancient grains in his beard who doesn't deserve the service the troops perform for the country.

The Times story suggests that the problem for a country where the military burden isn't widely shared is that civilians don't understand what servicemembers and veterans are going through. I think an equal problem is that servicemembers and veterans become like streiff and develop contempt for civilians -- which means contempt for the very country they're serving, because, after all, we non-warriors are a majority of the citizens.

A commentator, Steve Yen, an Army veteran, is, if anything, more contemptuous of the civilian population than streiff. According to Yen, he and his generation of servicemembers basically won both of George Bush's wars, but had victory stolen from them by ... well, it's not clear whether it was evil civilian liberals or Bush administration officials. Yen blames liberals (and other assorted soft-bellied civilians), though the timeline would suggest that it was the Bushies who were largely at fault:
In a time where victimhood is celebrated, where discourse is dominated by ineffectual and verbose liberal academics, and society led by inept deceivers -- we alone showed the world for the seven years after 9/11/01 that America was the indisputable world super power and that darkness could never put out the light. To the contrary, the light would come with insurmountable power to punish its enemies. We are the brave few volunteers upon whom the existence of the entire free world relies.

We are the lionhearted difference‐makers who -- in the flower of our youth -- cast off the mental shackles of our society’s historic entitlement, weakness, and cowardice to serve and to take the greatest of the world’s challenges head on....

We showed the world that, despite our society’s cowardly quibbling, America’s volunteer military was --incomparably -- the most powerful and professional in the world, and that we would defend our nation fearlessly when attacked. While civilians who risked nothing and sacrificed nothing trembled and called for surrender, we warriors roared undaunted toward imminent danger.

Those few of us who were there know the ferocity we brought to bear upon our enemies’ heads -- day in, day out, 24/7 -- despite being sent to war without the manpower mandated by our own doctrine and with a fundamental lack of the resources needed to employ our own best tactics.
(Um, who deprived you of sufficient manpower and resources? It wasn't anyone with a beard full of quinoa. Donald Rumsfeld is clean-shaven.)
... one of the greatest stories never told was our victory in Iraq. On its heels, however, was the greatest of betrayals: a deliberate surrender of the already won victory in Iraq to serve anti-American political objectives. We still have troops in Germany, Italy, Japan, and Korea -- yet we pull out of Iraq while the ground is still wet with the blood of the best and brightest of our young generation.

Afghanistan was won in 2002 and also would have been secured long ago if not for a total lack of national commitment over the entirety of the war’s now nearly 15-year history. Instead, that war has been allowed to persist in an inexcusable state –- ultimately becoming a telling dichotomy as America’s longest war and America’s first war to be forgotten while it was still being fought.

Our country completely and unapologetically failed us, yet we never once quit on our country.
I guess, to Yen, we pulled out of Iraq because quisling liberals were anti-victory (you remember that great victory we'd clearly won in Iraq right before January 20, 2009, right?) -- but he also seems to think that backing was withdrawn for the war in Afghanistan by the same people for the same reason, in 2002. If there's a civilian/military split here, maybe it's that the troops who actually fought the wars have no understanding of the politics surrounding them.

In any case, it's unsettling to realize that people like Yen and streiff believe that they gave us service we didn't deserve. To me, this contempt is reminiscent of the contempt city cops have for the communities where they serve. It's as if the taking up of arms becomes an end in itself, and the purpose -- securing the peace for the civilian population -- becomes secondary, and then not even relevant at all, because the people with the guns don't respect the people they're sworn to serve and don't think those people deserve protection. That's not a healthy state of affairs.


UPDATE: Yen link fixed.


I criticized Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan and Poppy Bush staffer, when he argued that Fox News is hurting the Republican Party -- I agree that Fox is making it harder for the GOP to get a presidential candidate elected, but the party's voters are motivated by the right-wing media to turn out in great numbers for non-presidential elections, which is the reason Republicans now dominate Congress and state governments. Fox can take a lot of credit for that.

But now along comes Jack Shafer, at Politico, to argue that Bartlett is mistaken because Fox is merely a profit-seeking enterprise that has no effect on our politics. That's ridiculous as well.

Shafer argues that, because Fox can't win the GOP presidential nomination for its own employees (Palin, Gingich, Santorum, Huckabee), or for Roger Ailes's dream candidates (Chris Christie, David Petraeus), and because the GOP keeps losing presidential elections, the channel can't possibly have any influence whatsoever on any level. I'd like to ask Shafer why he thinks Gingrich and Santorum, two clownish has-beens, punched way above their weight in 2012, and why frequent Fox guest Donald Trump was able to succeed in any polling at all in the 2012 race (and might be doing well enough to get a debate slot this year). Yes, all these guys lost to Mitt Romney -- but the Fox Effect at the presidential level is not in the GOP nominee's identity as much as it's in the rightward drift of the nominee's positions. Why did the architect of Romneycare have to identify himself as a sworn enemy of Obamacare? Why did he advocate "self-deportation"? Why, along with all of his fellow Republican candidates, did he find it necessary to reject even a ten-to-one ratio of budget cuts to tax increases?

Shafer writes,
The Republican Party had been fielding “Foxy” presidential candidates for decades before the network’s 1996 launch, such as Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Richard Nixon in 1968 (Ailes, by the way, was his media consultant), which suggests that the network isn’t leading the right-wing parade but has only positioned itself at the front of the procession.... After wounding Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential campaign, Reagan completed the reset of the GOP as an ideologically driven conservative party in 1980, and there it has largely remained.
But why has the party "largely remained" the Party of Reagan for 35 years since his first election? Why, in fact, is it now to the right of Reagan on immigration, tax increases (Reagan didn't reject them absolutely), and negotiating with enemies? For that matter, why couldn't the social-moderate wing exercise any influence over the national party in that time? That wing included quite a few stars: Colin Powell, Christie Whitman, William Weld, Condoleezza Rice, Rudy Giuliani -- and, for that matter, Mitt Romney when he was a governor. Why, in recent decades, have the only options for ambitious social moderates in the GOP been recantation or banishment?

Shafer also writes:
Another Foxy candidate on the 1968 general election ballot was George Wallace, who collected 13.5 percent of the presidential vote as a third-party candidate. Wallace traversed the sort of outrĂ© political frontiers that have become Fox territory. His politics make the Tea Party’s look like a very weak brew.
But Wallace in 1968 wasn't an across-the-board litmus-test wingnut. (Neither, of course, was Nixon, who gave us the opening to China, the EPA, the eighteen-year-old vote, and wage and price controls.) On economic issues, Wallace could sound at times like the New Deal Democrat he was. Here's some copy from a 1968 Wallace for President campaign leaflet:

EDUCATION...established a new university, 14 junior colleges, 15 trade schools and raised teachers' salaries....

ROADBUILDING...invested over $549 million in the greatest 4 year roadbuilding performance in Alabama's history -- without any hint of graft corruption or swindles.

WELFARE...record high help to the aged, the handicapped, mentally and physically ill. Old age pensions at highest level in Alabama history....

His Views...



Issued executive order incorporating minimum union wage rates in all state contracts. Increased Workmen's and Unemployment Compensation benefits 37%. Promoted and passed legislation that reduced firemen's work week from 72 to 56 hours and substantially increased retirement pensions.
And from the platform of Wallace's American Independent Party:
We pledge to restore the Social Security Trust Fund to a sound financial basis and by responsible fiscal policies to insure the following:

1. An immediate increase in Social Security payments with a goal of a 60% increase in benefits.

2. An increase in the minimum payment to $100, with annual cost of living increases.

3. Restoration of the 100% income tax deduction for drugs and medical expenses paid out by people 65 and over....

Medicare should be improved. It should be strengthened in conjunction with medical care provided at state and local governmental levels and by private insurance. Through sound fiscal management we set as a goal the following improvements in Medicare:

1. Relief to persons unable to pay deductible charges under Medicare.

2. Relief to persons unable to have deducted from their Social Security checks the monthly fee for physician service coverage under Medicare.

3. Providing for uninterrupted nursing home care for those with chronic illness who require such care.

4. We will encourage low-cost insurance programs for the elderly and will assist the states and local communities in building hospitals, nursing homes, clinics as well as medical and nursing schools.

In this land of plenty, no one should be denied adequate medical care because of his financial condition....

The concern of this Party is that the gains which labor struggled so long to obtain not be lost to them either through inaction or subservience to illogical domestic policies of our other national parties.

We propose and pledge:

To guarantee and protect labor in its right of collective bargaining;

To assert leadership at the federal level toward assuring labor its rightful reward for its contribution to the productivity of America;

To propose and support programs designed to improve living and employment conditions of our working men and women....

To support programs and legislation designed to afford an equitable minimum wage, desirable working hours and conditions of employment, and protection in the event of adversity or unemployment....
And regarding the Vietnam War, Wallace sounds a lot more moderate in the following ad than Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham sound now:

I'm cherry-picking the aspects of Wallace's rhetoric that weren't crazy -- but the point is that he would have been deemed too much of an economic moderate (or liberal!) for the contemporary conservative movement. The same is true for Nixon.

You can argue about the degree to which the right-wing media is to blame for the across-the-board extremism of current Republicans, but the extremism wasn't across the board even in the days of Nixon, Wallace, and Reagan, and it's not a law of nature now. It could be reversed. But Fox is at least one major impediment to that.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


At NewsHounds and Crooks & Liars, Ellen Brodsky finds Fox's Greg Gutfeld using the arrest of Daron Wint in a high-profile D.C. murder case as an excuse to launch an attack on multiple enemies of the right. Here's her transcript (emphasis hers):
The quadruple murder suspect has been caught. Quickly. But by whom? Al Sharpton? Michael Moore? Bill de Blasio? No, the cops. Yep, another innocent victim of an unjust society backed by evil law enforcement. I’m sorry, I’m just helping craft the story for the left, BBC and those well-paid Ferguson protesters. After all, we know he’s as innocent as the driven snow. I’m sorry, snow is white and that’s a racist microaggression.

... So how did the cops find this creep? Phone records! Now, did we violate his rights there? And did we violate everyone’s rights by violating his? After all, that’s how we applied the logic to surveilling terrorists. Heck, if we treated this thug like a terrorist, he’d still be out ordering Domino’s.

Look, I get it, this was a specific search, not a mass data grab but why shame a program that provides fruitful benefits like catching killers before they can kill again? Besides, quickly gathered phone records are the least of our worries. Consider the Ferguson protesters that were hired -- yes, hired -- by the ACORN successor group to protest. They staged a sit-in after they stopped getting paid, allegedly. The group, known aptly as MORE, forked out five grand a month to protesters to demonstrate there. So what does it tell you when agitators pay protesters to stir up trouble? That while black lives matter, so does cold, hard cash.
You read this and think, "Jesus, where to start?" And that's the point. This is a classic Gish Gallop. RationalWiki explains that term:
The Gish Gallop is the debating technique of drowning the opponent in such a torrent of small arguments that their opponent cannot possibly answer or address each one in real time. More often than not, these myriad arguments are full of half-truths, lies, and straw-man arguments -- the only condition is that there be many of them, not that they be particularly compelling on their own. They may be escape hatches or "gotcha" arguments that are specifically designed to be brief, but take a long time to unravel....

The term was coined by Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, named after creationist Duane Gish.... Sam Harris describes the technique as "starting 10 fires in 10 minutes."
Is it even worth trying to put out any of these fires? I'll try. Here's Gutfeld:
So how did the cops find this creep? Phone records! Now, did we violate his rights there? And did we violate everyone’s rights by violating his? After all, that’s how we applied the logic to surveilling terrorists. Heck, if we treated this thug like a terrorist, he’d still be out ordering Domino’s.
Even Gutfeld admits that there's a difference between obtaining a warrant to conduct surveillance on a specific individual and just hoovering up metadata on every phone call made in America. But the analogy to NSA surveillance is even less apt than Gutfeld acknowledges. Here's how the cops actually obtained the phone data in this case:
A law enforcement official told NBC 4 New York's Jonathan Dienst that they tracked Wint to Brooklyn in part through his phone, which his girlfriend had when they interviewed her Thursday.

Wint's girlfriend, a Brooklyn resident, talked to NYPD officers at the 69th Precinct in Brooklyn for hours after being picked up at her apartment Thursday. She told police Wint was going back to D.C., possibly to surrender. She is not under arrest, NBC 4 New York reports.
So the cops got the information from a phone that was surrendered to them. (Yes, it was probably surrendered to them in return for the cops not charging the girlfriend with harboring a fugitive from justice -- but does anyone see that as a problem?)

Ellen goes on to note that "the rest of the Five crew go along with" Gutfeld's line of argument. Here's the clip:

Wint, we're told, was arrested at a traffic stop. At 2:16, watch Kimberly Guilfoyle (a former assistant district attorney) conflate the arrest of Wint and stop-and-frisk:
Traffic stops, stop-and-frisk -- all these things are very important for getting dangerous criminals, and, in this case, what allegedly looks like to be someone who committed, you know, multiple heinous homicides.
Stop-and-frisk is generally directed against "suspects" on the scantiest of pretexts. Here's what actully happened in this case:
Wint was tracked to the Howard Johnson Express Inn in College Park, Maryland, on Thursday, and when officers approached, they discovered Wint in a Chevrolet Cruze in the parking lot, Fernandez said. They tailed the car, which was following a box truck, to northeast Washington, where Wint and several others were taken into custody during a traffic stop, he said.
So this was in no way comparable to the random detainment of young black males on the street for no reason.

I can debunk these arguments. I can ask what possible relevance the payment of Ferguson protesters has to this story (and also ask whether massive funding of the Tea Party movement by deep-pocketed conservatives ever upset any Fox commentators). I can point out that Guilfoyle (at 3:56) praises Maryland for obtaining and keeping DNA samples from those arrested for violent crimes, a practice that helped the police ID the suspect -- and then note that, a few weeks ago, the right was calling Maryland a cesspool because it's been controlled by Democrats for decades. I an ask whether the authorities would have done the first-rate job they did in this case if the victims weren't rich white people.

But what's the point? There's just too much here to debunk. You can't out-gallop seasoned Gish Gallopers like these folks.

Debunk ten of today's specious arguments and there'll still be some left over -- and tomorrow there'll be a dozen more, and more the next day, and so on into infinity. Ultimately, the rhetoric of Fox and the rest of the right-wing media is one long, rolling Gish Gallop. That's why it's so dangerous, and so effective.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Dana Perino has a memoir out that's currently at #2 on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list -- but the success of the book and the fact that her ex-boss has been out of office for more than six years aren't stopping her from working the refs to get him better media coverage, as NewsBusters reports:
Former White House press secretary and Fox News host Dana Perino appeared on The Kelly File on Friday night to lament that she shared a touching story about President Bush visiting wounded soldiers in Washington with National Public Radio, but they edited out a family who was overjoyed to see the president, choosing to focus just on an angry mother who was mad at Bush.
Here's the story NPR cut, as Perino reconted it to Kelly:
Perino said that Bush visited a wounded Marine who had not opened his eyes since his Humvee was hit by an IED in Iraq.
PERINO: His mother and dad were there, his wife, his daughter and son were there, and the President is there. The family was overjoyed to see them. And that was interesting to me. I hadn't seen that before. It was my first visit with him to see wounded warriors. And as he asked the military aide to read the Purple Heart [commendation], we all stood attention and at the end of it, the little boy grabbed the President's jacket and he said, "what's the Purple Heart?"

And the President got down on his knee and said, "well, the Purple Heart is for your dad because he is brave and courageous and he loves you and he loves you and he loves his the country and I hope you always remember that."
Yes, NPR cut that story. However -- as NewsBusters notes -- the NPR interview included Perino's assertion that most wounded veterans and their families were happy to see Bush:
PERINO: Most every family was just delighted that the president was there and so honored that the commander in chief would stop by. And I wasn't sure what it would be like. And on my first trip there, I witnessed that for about the first 25 people he visited.
And Perino used the other story, about a mother who chastised the president, as an example of Bush's empathy and compassion:
And then she yelled, you know, why are your children OK, but my son is here?

And the president stopped trying to comfort her because she was inconsolable. But he didn't leave. He stood there almost as if he needed to absorb it and to understand it. Commanders in chief make really tough decisions. And we went on to the next rooms, and I remember those being experiences where the families were very happy to see him.

But when we got on Marine One to fly back to the White House, the president was looking out the window. And then he looked at me. And he said, that mama sure was mad at me. And then he looked out the window and he said, and I don't blame her a bit. And a tear rolled down his cheek, but he didn't wipe it away. And then we flew back to the White House.
In fact, when Perino's book was first published, an excerpt appeared at the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal site -- and while it included both anecdotes, the headline of the piece was "Why George W. Bush Let a Soldier’s Mom Yell at Him." The story then went on to be the focus of items at other conservative sites: IJReview ("George W. Bush Once Let a Marine’s Mom Yell at Him. The Reason Why is Heartbreaking and Revealing."), Conservative Tribune ("Dying Soldier’s Mom Yells at George W. Bush ... He Responds with 7 Surprising Words"), and ("Soldier’s Mother Yells at President Bush, His Response is What You Would Expect").

So when right-wing sites focused on this anecdote, Perino was fine with that. But when NPR focuses on it, that's liberal media bias!

But I suppose it was unfair of NPR's interviewer, David Greene, to be interested in more than what an empathetic fellow Bush could be:
GREENE: I mean, I'm interested in moments like that because, I mean, the president was leading a war in Iraq that was, you know, incredibly controversial in this country.


GREENE: Is that one reason he felt like he had to absorb something like that from...

PERINO: Well, I think any commander in chief that asks his men and women in uniform to go on a mission and then that individual is harmed because of a decision that you have made - yes, of course.
Instead, he should have just said, "What a truly compassionate president we had before Barack Obama came along and sullied the Oval Office!" Right?

But not to worry. Yesterday, posted the same excerpt from Perino's book that was previously published by the Daily Signal -- but this time, no chances were taken with the headline. Fox's headline focuses on the anecdote NPR didn't include:
The day President Bush's tears spilled onto a Marine's face at Walter Reed
Here's the anecdote in full -- and let me warn you that it's even more offensively manipulative than it was in the telling on Megyn Kelly's show.
We started in the intensive care unit. The chief of naval operations (CNO) briefed the president on our way into the hospital about the first patient we’d see. He was a young Marine who had been injured when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb. After his rescue, he was flown to Landstuhl U.S. Air Force Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany. At his bedside were his parents, wife, and five-year-old son.

“What’s his prognosis?” the president asked.

“Well, we don’t know sir, because he’s not opened his eyes since he arrived, so we haven’t been able to communicate with him. But no matter what, Mr. President, he has a long road ahead of him,” said the CNO.

We had to wear masks because of the risk of infection to the patient. I watched carefully to see how the family would react to President Bush, and I was worried that they might be mad at him and blame him for their loved one’s situation. But I was wrong.

The family was so excited the president had come. They gave him big hugs and thanked him over and over. Then they wanted to get a photo. So he gathered them all in front of Eric Draper, the White House photographer.

President Bush asked, “Is everybody smiling?” But they all had ICU masks on. A light chuckle ran through the room as everyone got the joke.

The Marine was intubated. The president talked quietly with the family at the foot of the patient’s bed. I looked up at the ceiling so that I could hold back tears.

After he visited with them for a bit, the president turned to the military aide and said, “Okay, let’s do the presentation.” The wounded warrior was being awarded the Purple Heart, given to troops that suffer wounds in combat.

Everyone stood silently while the military aide in a low and steady voice presented the award. At the end of it, the Marine’s young child tugged on the president’s jacket and asked, “What’s a Purple Heart?”

The president got down on one knee and pulled the little boy closer to him. He said, “It’s an award for your dad, because he is very brave and courageous, and because he loves his country so much. And I hope you know how much he loves you and your mom, too.”

As they hugged, there was a commotion from the medical staff as they moved toward the bed.

The Marine had just opened his eyes. I could see him from where I stood.

The CNO held the medical team back and said, “Hold on, guys. I think he wants the president.”

The president jumped up and rushed over to the side of the bed. He cupped the Marine’s face in his hands. They locked eyes, and after a couple of moments the president, without breaking eye contact, said to the military aide, “Read it again.”

So we stood silently as the military aide presented the Marine with the award for a second time. The president had tears dripping from his eyes onto the Marine’s face. As the presentation ended, the president rested his forehead on the wounded warrior's for a moment.

Now everyone was crying, and for so many reasons: the sacrifice; the pain and suffering; the love of country; the belief in the mission; and the witnessing of a relationship between a soldier and his Commander in Chief that the rest of us could never fully grasp. (In writing this book, I contacted several military aides who helped me track down the name of the Marine. I hoped for news that he had survived. He did not. He died during surgery six days after the president’s visit. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery and is survived by his wife and their three children.
If, knowing how horribly Bush mismanaged two wars, you can read that story about "tears dripping from [Bush's] eyes" onto the face of a dying Marine without revulsion, you're made of stronger stuff than I am.