Wednesday, September 30, 2015


At Vox, German Lopez writes:
Marco Rubio shows other Republicans how to respond to Black Lives Matter

... in a largely unnoticed appearance on Fox News's The Kelly File in August -- resurfaced by Peter Beinart and Jamelle Bouie on Wednesday -- Sen. Marco Rubio gave a surprisingly strong response to the issues raised by Black Lives Matter that showed he not only views racial disparities in the criminal justice system as a real issue, but actually understands the roots of the problem.

"This is a legitimate issue," Rubio said. "It is a fact that in the African-American community around this country there has been, for a number of years now, a growing resentment toward the way law enforcement and the criminal justice system interacts with the community. It is particularly endemic among young African-American males -- that in some communities in this country have a much higher chance of interacting with criminal justice than higher education. We do need to face this. It is a serious problem in this country."

Rubio also gave a personal anecdote: "I have one friend in particular who's been stopped in the last 18 months eight to nine different times. Never got a ticket for being stopped -- just stopped. If that happened to me, after eight or nine times, I'd be wondering what's going on here. I'd be upset about it. So would anybody else."
There's more, and Lopez is right: What Rubio says a hell of a lot better than most of the rhetoric we hear on this subject from other Republicans. Watch the clip here:

But let's talk about Beinart's gloss on this. Will Rubio really win the White House if he keeps talking this way? Yes, possibly, if he manages to win the Republican nomination -- but this kind of talk hurts his chances of winning in his party.

It certainly didn't help Rand Paul. Back in August 2014, in the wake of Michael Brown's death, Paul published an op-ed in Time in which he wrote,
If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot.
In The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza wrote that the op-ed "shows why [Paul] is the most interesting voice in the GOP right now." Eight months later, Paul made an appearance at historically black Bowie State University:
Senator Rand Paul laid out his vision on Friday for a legal system that makes it easier for people with criminal records to get jobs and to vote, telling students at a historically black college here that he believes there are still “two Americas” as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said almost a half century ago....

Mr. Paul also made a case for expunging criminal records of people who have been convicted of nonviolent felonies so they can find employment more easily, a stance that puts him at odds with many in his party.

“As Republicans we’re big on saying, ‘Well, we don’t want people permanently on welfare; we want them to transition from welfare to a job,’” he said. “People say, ‘Well, how am I supposed to get a job? I was a convicted felon.’”

“There has to be a way to figure out how we can get people back to work,” he added.
How's that working out for Paul? The Real Clear Politics polling averages currently show him with 2.3% of the GOP vote. There are a lot of reasons for that, but talking this way didn't help him at all.

Rubio gave this interview to a guest host on Megyn Kelly's show, at a time when the politically world was mostly talking about Hillary Clinton's emails, the Donald Trump/Roger Ailes feud, and a rumor that Al Gore might enter the presidential race. Not a lot of people noticed what he said at the time, but it was picked up by the conservative message board The Right Scoop. Commenter response was not charitable:
... The Black Lives Matter movement is bigoted at the core, based on lies, and should be condemned as reprehensible by every sane prominent figure. It's not about traffic stops, which happen because cops have to flood the zone in high crime neighborhoods (or just sit back and let those regions burn which is increasingly happening). The movement claims white cops are systematically SLAUGHTERING blacks because they're black, which is completely false and a dangerous lie to tolerate. Grassroots Nazis in Germany had sincerely held grievances against Jews and others, but that didn't make their grievances "legitimate". This dysfunction has been coddled and enabled by society for way too long....


Rubio just lost any support that I have considered giving him. This is a non issue, pushed by radicals based on false premises. Black lives matter members are lunatics who do not listen to fact or reason. I thought Rubio was a lot smarter than that.


The problems in the black community can only be fixed by the black community. The only thing conservatives can really do is reach out to black churches and support them by any means necessary. Unfortunately the most organized groups within black communities are the criminal elements i.e. the gangs....


He sounded like a democrat. Black Lives Matter is right up there with the Black Panthers...they encourage and justify thugs to break the law....

MO, the problem in the black community is cultural...blame whitey on everything that goes wrong and the entitlement mentality. There's very little personal responsibility and so many babies born out of wedlock - these are future parolees. Look at the role models they have...thug rappers and sports athletes. Successful black people like Ben Carson and Condoleeza Rice are portrayed as sellouts and their race called into question. If the culture doesn't change, many blacks continue to live on the democratic plantation and go nowhere in life.
So this is not likely to appeal to the GOP base, to put it mildly.

However, it's likely to appeal to the mainstream-media figures who are desperate for a safe alternative to the current Republican front-runners (and to Hillary Clinton, whom they despise). Vox's Lopez says this clip was "resurfaced" by Peter Beinart and Jamelle Bouie, but I'm skeptical -- I think Rubio's campaign fed it to the non-right-wing press in an attempt to get some good MSM coverage, and Beinart took the bait. Interesting move on the campaign's part, I guess -- but Rubio really should avoid talking like this as the GOP campaign heats up if he wants to get past the primaries.


I'm supposed to be upset because the Vatican is now confirming that Pope Francis secretly met with Kim Davis, the notorious gay-marriage refusenik who's still a county clerk in Kentucky. This news is supposed to be devastating to me because Francis is assumed to be one of the brightest stars in my pantheon of progressive heroes.

Well, I was a Francis skeptic when being a Francis skeptic wasn't cool. Yes, he's gotten up the noses of conservatives with statements I applaud, on climate change and capitalism's tendency toward rapaciousness, and bully for him, but I was wary of him early on because I didn't see any sign that he was going to revisit Church teachings on core issues -- abortion, homosexuality, the role of women in the Church. That ambiguous "Who am I to judge?" remark notwithstanding, he's stuck to the party line on all these matters. So while I've been caught up in the hoo-ha surrounding his visit, and while I appreciate his obvious empathy, he's still on the wrong side on a lot of issues as far as I'm concerned. I don't scratch my head and wonder, "Is the Pope a liberal?" He has a mix of views. Some are what we call liberal, some are what we call very conservative. I don't find it particularly difficult to wrap my head around that. And on the latter issues, he and his church leave me cold.

I'm not surprised that the anti-divorce Pope met with a multiply married woman -- Jesus hung out with Mary Magdalene, Francis does make a point of outreach to all sorts of people, and popes have never shied away from the divorced when they deemed it politically appropriate to strike up an alliance (see: John Paul II and Ronald Reagan). Also, Davis's parents are Catholic, and Davis's conservative-bigwig pal, the Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver, grew up attending Mass with his Catholic mother. And the U.S. religious right established ties to Catholicism a while back, ties I'm sure are still strong.

Now, was this a mistake for Francis? Ed Kilgore thinks so:
... maybe Francis got punk’d into this meeting without understanding what a big deal it would be. But I have to say, if this Pope was trying to “transcend” the culture wars, googling Davis before giving her a private audience might have been a real good idea.
As does Charlie Pierce:
Everything [Francis] said about capitalism and about the environment is going to be drowned out because he wandered into a noisy American culture-war scuffle in which one side, apparently the one he picked, has a seemingly ceaseless megaphone for its views. What a fcking blunder. What a sin against charity, as the nuns used to say.

This is, obviously, the dumbest thing this Pope ever has done. It undermines everything he accomplished on his visit here. It undermines his pastoral message, and it diminishes his stature by involving him in a petty American political dispute.

... the pope trashed whatever good will he'd accrued here....
But what good did that goodwill do him? Immediately after a speech to Congress in which he enjoined legislators to work together for the common good, John Boehner resigned as Speaker under pressure and a government shutdown later in the year became all but inevitable. The state of Georgia put a female prisoner to death despite a plea from the Pope for a stay of execution.

(And I suppose conservatives would say that after cheering on the Pope we liberals went right back to aborting and gay-marrying.)

Francis has everyone rooting on parts of his agenda, and he also has everyone a little off balance. I'm sure that's exactly what he wants. But none of it's going to matter much -- personable popes make most people giddy, but the ability of popes to change minds on political issues is vastly overrated.

I'm grateful to Francis for the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement. In terms of political efficacy, I don't think he's ever going to top that. Ultimately, he's not that powerful -- and on quite a few issues that's a good thing.


On Monday Last night, Kevin McCarthy, who's likely to be the next House Speaker, was interviewed on Fox by Sean Hannity. Oliver Willis watched and noticed that McCarthy indirectly acknowledged the obvious:
The House of Representatives Select Committee on the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi is all about attacking Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers, admits a senior Republican.

Current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told Fox News host Sean Hannity during an interview on Monday night ... that Clinton’s dropping poll numbers are evidence of the effectiveness of the committee....

It is a tacit admission by the second most powerful Republican in the House that the Committee’s true goal is taking out Secretary Clinton as a presidential candidate.
Here's what McCarthy said. He and Hannity were talking about what's going to be different in the House now that John Boehner has resigned as Speaker.
MCCARTHY: ... What you're going to see is a conservative speaker, that takes a conservative Congress, that puts a strategy to fight and win. And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought and made that happen.
Beyond the acknowledgment of an obvious fact -- that the committee's goals are entirely political -- notice that McCarthy doesn't even bother with the right's usual phony sanctimony about Benghazi. There's not one mention of the four Americans who died in the Benghazi attack. There's none of this:

I guess the pretense that this is about lost lives is being dropped.

Go to 4:04 in the clip for the Benghazi exchange:

The conventional wisdom about McCarthy is that he's not one of the lunatic zealots, but in this interview he's certainly trying to establish his lunatic-zealot cred. The first thing he tells Hannity is that, yes, the House has voted to repeal Obamacare dozens of times, but things are going to be different now -- not because he's come to his senses and plans to discourage any additional repeal votes, which is what a sane right-centrist would do, but because the post-Boehner House is going to use reconciliation to fight Obamacare.

So he's saying he'll double down on relentless Obamacare opposition. And then, near the end of the interview (go to 5:19), he promises to double down on the Planned Parenthood inquisition, using new tactics -- it sounds as if he's promising some sort of tax-funded anti-Planned Parenthood roadshow, plus, apparently, a propaganda effort coordinated with Fox:
McCARTHY: This is what we're going to do, Sean, and we're not going to be able to do it alone: We're going to put a strategy together. Just as we do a select committee on Planned Parenthood, so we go out across the country, and they see. The president won't even watch those videos. The Democrats won't watch those videos. We need America to watch those videos. And you know what? We need your help as well.
I see a lot of lefties arguing that the GOP's ongoing Planned Parenthood witch hunt is a colossal political blunder, because polls show strong support for the organization. It's quite possible that it is a miscalculation -- but I worry when Republicans go on open-ended hunts for alleged villainous behavior in this way. Whitewater was a nothing scandal -- until it morphed into Monicagate. Benghazi was a nothing scandal -- until it morphed into Emailgate.

This is aimed primarily at Hillary Clinton. These SOBs know that, on a subconscious level, any attack aimed at Planned Parenthood can implicitly be one on Hillary because, to a lot of people, Planned Parenthood = militant feminism and Hillary = militant feminism. I know that's not true about Planned Parenthood for the majority of Americans, but I'm guessing that Republicans think it could be true for aging white Catholics in high-electoral-vote states such as Ohio and Michigan. Anything that might keep those aging white Catholics from coming home to the Democratic Party in November 2016 is worth it to the GOP. And if that doesn't work, the Planned Parenthood fatwa is certainly a unity builder for the party, which desperately needs one.

So expect McCarthy to be a supposed establishmentarian who gives a lot of leeway to the loons.


UPDATE: Dave Weigel writes this up or The Washington Post and makes it seem as if McCarthy made all these rightward gestures because he was browbeaten:
Sean Hannity was pushing hard, asking House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to name some promises his Republicans had actually delivered on. He scoffed when McCarthy said the party would start undoing the Affordable Care Act -- "you have the power of the purse!" He talked over McCarthy when the leader and candidate for Speaker of the House suggested that the party did not need to cut funds for President Obama's "amnesty," because courts had taken care of it. Only halfway into the interview did McCarthy finally catch a break.

"Everybody though Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?" McCarthy asked. "But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought."

"I give you credit for that," said Hannity. "I'll give you credit where credit is due."
Watch the clip -- yes, Hannity was pressing the uncompromising-zealot party line, but McCarthy seemed awfully eager to demonstrate his loon bona fides.


UPDATE: Regarding McCarthy's admission, I agree 100% with Martin Longman (BooMan): This was no blunder.
Now, I know that in certain Beltway circles telling the truth is considered one of the worst possible gaffes, but McCarthy bragged about the effectiveness of this smear campaign precisely because he wanted to remind people that the Republicans deserve credit for finding ways to effectively fight back against the Democrats. In other words, he was reminding the Republican base voter that there actually are examples where the Republican leadership did something extraordinarily partisan and obnoxious and that it worked. The reaction will probably be exactly what he hoped for. He gets a pat on the head and a couple of “Atta Boys.”

The idea that Republican members of Congress will clutch their pearls in horror that McCarthy defended their performance is a big reach, in my opinion.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


A few days ago, John Boehner fell on his sword to avoid the wrath of angry House wingnuts. A day from now, another full month will have elapsed with immigrant-bashing, enemy-insulting Donald Trump still unchallenged at the top of the Republican presidential field.

All this must deeply trouble The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza. Under these circumstances, how can he, a charter member of the media's Both Sides Do It club, possibly persuade his readers that polarization is the fault of the two major parties equally, an assertion that's axiomatic to him?

So of course it delights Cillizza that today he can post this:
Democrats are WAY angrier than Republicans about the political system

Guess which party is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore?

You'd think it'd be the party who has propelled three candidates who have never run for office before -- including one named Donald Trump -- to the top of its 2016 presidential field. And, according to new numbers from NBC and the Wall Street Journal, you'd be wrong.

A majority -- 56 percent -- of likely Democratic primary voters said that they "feel angry because our political system seems to only be working for the insiders with money and power, like those on Wall Street or in Washington, rather than it working to help everyday people get ahead." By contrast, just 37 percent of Republican primary voters express that same anger....
Chris, you idiot, this doesn't prove that Democrats are angrier than Republicans. This proves that Democrats are angrier than Republicans about the power and disproportionate wealth of rich elites.

This was the question:
Now, here are two statements that might describe how you feel. Please listen to both and then tell me which ONE best describes how you feel. (ROTATE :1 and :2)

I feel angry because our political system seems to only be working for the insiders with money and power, like those on Wall Street or in Washington, rather than it working to help everyday people get ahead.

I feel anxious and uncertain because the economy still feels rocky and unpredictable so I worry about paying my bills, day to day living costs, and whether I can count on my own situation being stable.

Or, if neither one is right for you, just say so.
Ask about anger a different way and you get very different answers. A CBS poll conducted in late July and early August included this question:
Which comes closest to your feelings about the way things are going in Washington --enthusiastic, satisfied but not enthusiastic, dissatisfied but not angry, or angry?
In that poll, 42% of Republican primary voters said they were angry, and only 24% of Democratic primary voters. (The angry Republican voters had a strong preference for Donald Trump, needless to say.)

And Republicans were angrier than Democrats in a 2010 CBS poll, in response to the same question (20% of Republicans were angry, as opposed to 7% of Democrats; also, 22% of Republicans were angry at the Obama administration, as opposed to, unsurprisingly, only 2% of Democrats).

Cillizza does more or less grasp the obvious:
My guess is that the populist strain runs more powerfully at the moment in the Democratic party than in the GOP. Democratic base voters ... see economic inequality as the issue of our times and are mad as hell that politicians in both parties aren't doing enough about it.
And yet he regards this one polling result as evidence that Democrats are angrier than Republicans overall:
... it's still a fascinating finding that forces a second look at assumptions that the GOP electorate is being driven by anger while Democrats are resigned to choosing Clinton. This poll suggests both of those assumptions might miss the mark. By a lot.
Um, Chris? Hillary Clinton is still winning among Democrats. And if you throw in Joe Biden, Democratic Establishment candidates are outpolling Bernie Sanders by more than two to one. Whereas outsiders are crushing insiders in the Republican field -- a majority of the GOP electorate is backing candidates who've never held office.

Oh, never mind. You need to believe that the conventional wisdom regarding GOP rage is wrong. If that's what comforts you, I can't help you.


The president of Planned Parenthood appeared before a House panel this morning, but she clearly wasn't expected to answer questions:
GOP Chair Repeatedly Interrupts Planned Parenthood Head At Hearing

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) repeatedly interrupted Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards as she tried to answer his questions Tuesday in front of the House Oversight Committee....

Chaffetz, who chairs the committee, started off by asking Richards about funds that were sent overseas.

"Do any of these funds go to the Democratic Republic of the Congo?" Chaffetz said early in the back-and-forth.

"Congressman, let me tell you --" Richards said before Chaffetz interrupted her.

"No, no, no. We don't have time for a big narrative," Chaffetz said.

"I'm not going to give you a narrative --" Richards said.

"Yes or no," Chaffetz replied, before Richards gave a more lengthy response.

A few moments later, Chaffetz asked Richards, "In your 2013 tax return, it lists $3.3 million marked as 'investment' in Central America and the Caribbean. I'm just asking you if that investment was an actual investment."

"We don't own anything in those countries. What --" Richards said as she was interrupted by Chaffetz.

"OK," he said. "I have to keep going." ...
Well, why would she be offered a chance to speak at adequate length in her own defense? Conservative ideology divides all people into two categories, the Purely Good and the Purely Evil. All conservatives are certain that Richards falls unambiguously into the latter category. Therefore there is nothing she can possibly say that could possibly be of value to good people.

If everyone is either Purely Good or Purely Evil, then the American system of government makes no sense, because compromise with political opponents is literally compromise with agents of Satan. That's why the government in D.C. doesn't work (although governments in pure red states such as North Carolina often seems to work with brutal efficiency).

We see right-wing Manichaeism everywhere. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are blocking a Manichaean shutdown of Planned Parenthood now, but we'll almost certainly have a shutdown later in the year, when Boehner is gone and the new House Speaker is compelled to appease the zealots. Meanwhile, in a new Public Policy Polling survey of North Carolina, we see that many Republican voters in that state just can't conceive of peacefully coexisting with either Muslims or believers in secular government:
44% of Carson voters think Islam should be illegal in the United States, to only 38% who think it should be legal. And with Trump voters the numbers are even more extreme- 52% think Islam should be illegal to just 31% that believe it should be allowed. Republican voters in the state as a whole are evenly divided with 40% thinking the practice of Islam should be legal and 40% thinking it should not.

Given those numbers it's not surprising that on the more narrow issue of whether a Muslim should be allowed to serve as President, only 16% of Republicans say yes to 72% who say no. And this all feeds into a broader concern that President Obama is waging a war on Christianity- 72% express that sentiment to only 20% who disagree with it.
(North Carolina Republicans are actually more only marginally less tolerant of Islam than Iowa Republicans -- As I noted last week, a PPP survey of that state Iowa found that 49% 30% of Republicans there believe Islam should be illegal in America, while only 30% 49% believe it should be legal.)

We can't be one nation if many of us think making concessions to our opponents is cooperating with the evil. But that's where we stand.


UPDATE: Garbled statistic corrected.


Newsflash: The Republican front-runner's tax plan is a Republican tax plan.
Trump Plan Is Tax Cut for the Rich, Even Hedge Fund Managers

Donald Trump’s tax plan, released Monday, does not live up to the populist language he has offered on taxes all summer.

When talking about taxes in this campaign, Donald Trump has often sounded like a different kind of Republican. He says he will take on “the hedge fund guys” and their carried interest loophole. He thinks it’s “outrageous” how little tax some multimillionaires pay. But his plan calls for major tax cuts not just for the middle class but also for the richest Americans -- even the hedge fund managers. And despite his campaign’s assurances that the plan is “fiscally responsible,” it would grow budget deficits by trillions of dollars over a decade.

You could call Mr. Trump’s plan a higher-energy version of the tax plan Jeb Bush announced earlier this month: similar in structure, but with lower rates and wider tax brackets, meaning individual taxpayers would pay even less than under Mr. Bush, and the government would lose even more tax revenue.
At Politico, Danny Vinik writes an analysis titled "On Taxes? Not So Populist" ("Analysis: Trump's plan would benefit the rich, and cost $2-3 trillion"). The liberal-leaning Citizens for Tax Justice concludes that the top 1% get 34% of the tax breaks in the plan, while the bottom 20% get only 1% of the breaks. By contrast, Grover Norquist praises the plan.

As it turns out, Norquist was given an early look at the plan:
Shortly after Donald Trump unveiled his tax plan on Monday anti-tax activist Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax reform group pushed out a statement backing the plan. To the casual observer, it might have looked like ATR was just getting on board.

But Norquist's group -- a major arbiter of conservative tax orthodoxy -- had seen the details of the plan coming, and had actually been in touch with Trump's campaign for weeks.

ATR, which favors slashing tax rates, works privately with most campaigns on their tax plans, and Trump's operation is no exception -- the campaign had first reached out to the group in late August, according to tax policy director Ryan Ellis.

Trump's people, according to Ellis, told him, "Look, this campaign's real. We have to put some policy meat on the bones here. We're starting to staff that up. We're going to start thinking in the next couple of weeks here in a serious way of what we want our tax policy to look like and we would love to have you as a resource to bounce that off."
When Trump shot to the lead in polls this summer, many pundits and wonks were dismissive. They told us that a candidate like Trump can't really win, because party insiders are the ones who really choose the victors in nomination contests. The fact that Trump is still in first place in the fall has led some pundits and wonks, such as Ezra Klein, to conclude that the conventional wisdom might be wrong:
... the Party Decides theory of presidential primaries ... argued, persuasively, that political parties quietly dominated presidential primaries, and so the best way to predict the eventual winner is to watch early endorsements. But as Andrew Prokop wrote in his critique of the idea, after correctly predicting nine out of 11 contested presidential primaries between 1976 and 2000, the only primary the theory has correctly predicted since 2000 was Mitt Romney's 2012 win.

Perhaps it's just been a bad few years for the theory. Or perhaps parties are systematically losing their ability to decide.
Klein thinks a changed media landscape helps candidates who are compelling on TV at the expense of those who are good at courting insiders. That plus the abundance of billionaire cash gives the party insiders less clout.

Trump seems to be the guy who's proving that the old rules no longer apply -- yet here he is putting together an utterly conventional tax plan by Republican standards, and submitting it for pre-approval to the pope of conservative tax policy, Grover Norquist. Trump sought Norquist's imprimatur the way any mainstream Republican candidate would.

And as Joe Nocera notes, Trump has also issued a gun plan that's utterly conventional:
[Trump's] second position paper, which hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves, is a no-holds-barred defense of the Second Amendment that the National Rifle Association could have written. Among other things, Trump says that we don’t need expanded background checks, and that concealed carry permits ... should be valid in all 50 states, just like a driver’s license.
Nocera seems shocked by this, but these are very mainstream positions in the GOP. Nearly every candidate in the field would sign legislation instituting national concealed carry reciprocity.

At first, Trump seemed like a wild man and an unconventional Republican. But he's becoming more and more conventional -- and he seems increasingly interested in winning the approval, if not of party insiders, then at least of the most influential Republican-linked interest groups.

Is Trump now just another Republican pol? By the time of the Iowa caucuses, will his personality be the only thing that distinguishes him from everybody else in the race? I'd say that's the way we're heading.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Rush Limbaugh has some theories about NASA's latest announcement:
Flowing water on Mars? That’s just part of the liberal agenda, Rush Limbaugh says.

The conservative radio talk show host addressed NASA’s announcement on Monday that it had found evidence of flowing water on present-day Mars, and -- spoiler alert -- he doesn’t believe it.
Limbaugh thinks NASA climate data is deceitful -- of course he would -- and therefore this news must be as well:
"...I said 'look at the temperature data, that has been reported by NASA, has been made up, it's fraudulent for however many years, there isn't any warming, there hasn't been for 18.5 years. And yet, they're lying about it. They're just making up the amount of ice in the North and South Poles, they're making up the temperatures, they're lying and making up false charts and so forth. So what's to stop them from making up something that happened on Mars that will help advance their left-wing agenda on this planet?'"
NASA's going to use this announcement to advance liberalism, Limbaugh says:
" ...NASA has been corrupted by the current regime. I want to find out what they're going to tell us. OK, flowing water on Mars. If we're even to believe that, what are they going to tell us that means? That's what I'm going to wait for. Because I guarantee, let's just wait and see, this is September 28, let's just wait and see. Don't know how long it's going to take, but this news that there is flowing water on Mars is somehow going to find its way into a technique to advance the leftist agenda. I don't know what it is, I would assume it would be something to do with global warming...."
But Limbaugh's not the only person who thinks the NASA announcement is a huge conspiracy. So does this guy, who sounds like Limbaugh's conspiratorial twin (although not quite as crazy):
NASA’s dramatic September 28 announcement that it has found "the strongest evidence yet" of flowing water on Mars was momentous. But according to one Russian lawmaker, it had a more nefarious purpose.

Vyacheslav Nikonov, a Kremlin-loyal member of Russia’s lower house of parliament, has alleged that the U.S. space agency decided to time the announcement to distract the world’s attention from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech to the United Nations the same day.

"Putin's speech was certainly the central element of the UN General Assembly session," Nikonov was quoted by the state-run TASS news agency as saying on September 28." ... It is not surprising that the United States held a NASA news conference devoted to water found on Mars at the time when Putin was addressing the UN General Assembly.”

... "Putin's speech was tough and concise. He formulated the basic principles of international relations without matching the United States and its allies. He offered concrete steps for resolving major international problems," said Nikonov, a member of the Kremlin-backed United Russia political party and a grandson of Vyacheslav Molotov, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s foreign minister.

"This means that they had to interrupt Putin’s speech with something very serious,” he added.
So there you go. Rush Limbaugh thinks the announcement is connected to a sinister leftist agenda, and Vyacheslav Nikonov thinks it's connected to a sinister anti-Putin agenda. Maybe the two of them should argue about this at great length, while we'll ignore them.


Meanwhile, there's a third conspiracy theory: that the announcement was timed to coincide with this Friday's release of the film The Martian. I learned this from Entertainment Weekly:
Within moments of the announcement, Twitter began lighting up with cynicism and sarcasm suggesting that the news was timed to generate more attention for both the film, which opens Friday, and NASA’s own explorations. On Monday, The Martian director Ridley Scott did nothing to dispel the notion that the space agency was waiting for the most opportune time to present its findings about water on Mars.

“I knew that months ago,” Scott told Yahoo Movies.

... According to Scott, the topic of H2O on Mars came up during his discussions with the agency.

... Scott specified to the New York Times that he ... learned about Martian water after the film went into production....
This conspiracy theory I actually believe. The announcement's timing had nothing to do with Putin or liberalism. This is America. It was probably all about cross-marketing.


Donald Trump made openly racist statements about Mexican immigrants in his campaign kickoff speech -- and he shot to the top of the polls. Ben Carson subsequently made bigoted statements about Muslims -- and he's now solidly in second place, and threatening the front-runner.

Carly Fiorina is in third place in most polls, but she's well behind Trump and Carson. What can she say that's both shockingly taboo and catnip to the GOP base?

She may have found the answer:
Positioning herself as a steely advocate of aggressive counterterrorism programs, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina offered a vigorous defense of CIA waterboarding as a tactic that helped “keep our nation safe” in the aftermath of 9/11.

“I believe that all of the evidence is very clear -- that waterboarding was used in a very small handful of cases [and] was supervised by medical personnel in every one of those cases,” Fiorina told Yahoo News. “And I also believe that waterboarding was used when there was no other way to get information that was necessary.”
You might think that she'd have a lot of company, but on this subject, many of her fellow candidates are hedging or opposed (at least nominally):
[Jeb Bush] told a group of Iowa Republicans that he wasn’t sure whether he’d repeal an executive order banning certain interrogation techniques signed by President Obama....

In June, [Senator Lindsey Graham] ... voted against a measure that would categorically ban torture. The hawkish Graham said he opposed torture, of course, but was against publicly telling America’s enemies what they would face if caught....

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio ... missed that vote on torture but later said he would have cast his ballot against it. “I do not support telegraphing to the enemy what interrogation techniques we will or won’t use, and denying future commanders in chief and intelligence officials important tools for protecting the American people and the U.S. homeland,” he said in a statement at the time.

And during [the August] debate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson won applause for this answer to a question about waterboarding: “You know, what we do in order to get the information that we need is our business, and I wouldn’t necessarily be broadcasting what we’re going to do.”

... Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas both voted for the torture ban earlier this summer. “Torture is wrong, unambiguously,” Cruz said at the time.
So Fiorina wins the ¿Quien es mas macho? contest again, just as she did by forcefully taking on Donald Trump in the CNN debate earlier this month.

I noted last week that 80% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of George W. Bush, and that a plurality of Republicans would vote for him if he could run for a third term, according to a Huffington Post/YouGov poll. I said that Jeb Bush would move up in the polls if he embraced his brother and the supposed pariahs of W's administration.

Fiorina seems to be grasping that notion. If she really wants the nomination, I think she should do something I recommended for Jeb -- make campaign appearances with Dick Cheney. (According to an Economist/YouGov poll conducted last year, 58% of Republicans have a "very favorable" or "somewhat favorable" view of Cheney.)

Fiorina has an opening here to distinguish herself as the full-service wingnut -- she's already the loudest voice on the Planned Parenthood videos, and with this embrace of Bush-era foreign policy lawlessness she need only add a staggeringly regressive tax plan (I mean more staggeringly regressive than her competitors' plans) to have all the legs of the three-legged stool of wingnuttery.

Oh, and did I also mention that in that Yahoo story Fiorina also boasted of her cooperation with NSA surveillance excesses?
Fiorina’s relationship with the U.S. intelligence community dates back to the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, when she got an urgent phone call from then NSA director Michael Hayden asking her to quickly provide his agency with HP computer servers for expanded surveillance.

While he did not tell Fiorina the details, Hayden confirmed to Yahoo News last week that he needed the HP servers so the NSA could implement “Stellar Wind” -- the controversial warrantless wiretapping program, including the bulk collection of American citizens’ phone records and emails, that had been secretly ordered by the Bush White House. “Carly, I need stuff and I need it now,” Hayden recalled telling Fiorina.

Fiorina acknowledged she complied with Hayden’s request, redirecting trucks of HP computer servers that were on their way to retail stores from a warehouse in Tennessee to the Washington Beltway, where they were escorted by NSA security to the gates of agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md.

“I felt it was my duty to help, and so we did,” Fiorina said. “They were ramping up a whole set of programs and needed a lot of data crunching capability to try and monitor a whole set of threats. …What I knew at the time was our nation had been attacked.”
I had my doubts about Fiorina, but she's looking like a stronger and stronger competitor to me. So go for it, Carly. Embrace the Cheney family. Call for a massive ground war in Iraq (or Iran or Syria or...). Say you'll pay for it with billionaire tax cuts. The rubes will just love the political incorrectness of it all.


Here are David Herszenhorn and Jonathan Martin writing in The New York Times about John Boehner's resignation and the ongoing anger of GOP zealots:
Even as conservatives rage against not having 60 votes in the Senate to overcome Democratic filibusters, or the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto, their fiery language is almost certain to diminish the party’s chances of expanding its majorities. That would require winning seats in swing states and districts, where voters often prefer more centrist views.

“A lurch to the right is suicidal,” said Gregory Slayton, a Republican fund-raiser who backed Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin in the presidential race before he dropped out a week ago.
Nahhh. Right-wing extremism never really seems to hurt the GOP very much. The government shutdown of 2013 was followed by a Republican takeover of the Senate, in which Democrats lost seats in Colorado and Iowa, states that twice voted for Barack Obama as president; in a pair of other two-time Obama states, New Hampshire and Virginia, Democratic incumbents barely won tough races. And after retirements, Democrats also lost seats they'd previously held in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

Oh, and of course Republicans gained 16 seats in the House in 2014, to give the GOP its largest House majority since 1928. And don't get me started on the big Republican gains in state legislatures.

I'd love to believe that things will be different in 2016, but from what I've seen, Democratic voters (and potential Democratic swing voters) don't remember anything that happened more than a month or two ago, whereas Republican voters cast their ballots based on grievances that dates back months, years, or decades. I realize that more Democrats will turn out in a presidential year than in an off year, but have you seen the polling of head-to-head matchups? Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, is struggling to beat her possible Republican opponents, including Donald Trump; in one poll, she's losing to the utterly unqualified Ben Carson by 7 points. A recent poll of Florida, a state Obama lost won twice, shows Clinton not only losing badly to Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio but losing to Carson by double digits.

I'd love to think a shutdown will change all this. I don't see it.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


I spotted this on Twitter a little while ago:

Fox's Greta Van Susteren spotted it, too:

Yes, it is very kind of the Pope. It's also very curious that, of the many developmentally disabled children in Pennsylvania, one who was blessed by the Pope just so happened to be the daughter of a well-connected former U.S. senator, a guy who's running for president, and who made excellent use of that developmentally disabled daughter in a presidential campaign four years ago.

Bella Santorum has a genetic disorder called Trisomy 18. Santorum shot to the top tier of 2012 GOP presidential candidates after he made Bella's condition the subject of an online campaign 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 like so many who are targeted in abortions.

"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."
Santorum regularly worked mentions of Bella into his 2012 campaign speeches -- to great effect, as The New York Times reported:
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.
And yes, Santorum and his wife published a book about Bella earlier this year -- just in time for this campaign.

Now, this isn't the first time Santorum injected the story of one of his children into a political campaign. In 2005, when he was gearing up for what would ultimately be an unsuccessful bid to retain his Senate seat, Santorum managed to get the story of another child, one who died shortly after birth, into the opening paragraphs of a Washington Post profile:
In his Senate office, on a shelf next to an autographed baseball, Sen. Rick Santorum keeps a framed photo of his son Gabriel Michael, the fourth of his seven children. Named for two archangels, Gabriel Michael was born prematurely, at 20 weeks, on Oct. 11, 1996, and lived two hours outside the womb.

Upon their son's death, Rick and Karen Santorum opted not to bring his body to a funeral home. Instead, they bundled him in a blanket and drove him to Karen's parents' home in Pittsburgh. There, they spent several hours kissing and cuddling Gabriel with his three siblings, ages 6, 4 and 1 1/2. They took photos, sang lullabies in his ear and held a private Mass.

"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....

Karen Santorum, a former nurse, wrote letters to her son during and after her pregnancy. She compiled them into a book, "Letters to Gabriel," a collection of prayers, Bible passages and a chronicle of the prenatal complications that led to Gabriel's premature delivery. At one point, her doctor raised the prospect of an abortion, an "option" Karen ridicules. "Letters to Gabriel" also derides "pro-abortion activists" and decries the "infanticide" of "partial-birth abortion," the legality of which Rick Santorum was then debating in the Senate. The book reads, in places, like a call to action.

"When the partial-birth abortion vote comes to the floor of the U.S. Senate for the third time," Karen writes to Gabriel, "your daddy needs to proclaim God's message for life with even more strength and devotion to the cause."
In 2013, Santorum politicized the health of yet another relative, in a sppech to a right-wing group:
Former Sen. Rick Santorum delivered a solemn but forceful rallying cry when speaking about the death of a close family member Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

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 from his speech, which he hand-wrote an hour beforehand, an adviser told CNN. 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.

"The left can always promise more stuff and make it sound like they care more, because they make it easier for Americans by providing the stuff for them through government programs paid for by somebody else's money," he said.
So, am I wrong to suspect that Santorum pulled strings to get his daughter in position for the Pope's blessing? And am I wrong to think that he arranged all this for the most selfish of motives?

I know Santorum's campaign is going nowhere this year. But as long as there's still a ray of hope, I guess he's going to work all the angles.


UPDATE: The story is now being worked by Fox Nation, The Right Scoop, and (scroll down) The Washington Post. Nice work, Rick.


UPDATE, WEDNESDAY, 9/30: Still working it, I see.


Welcome to the real America, Frank Bruni. Where have you been all this time?
One of our two major political parties is hostage to an extreme subgroup that won’t brook compromise, values theatrical protests over actual governing and is adolescent in its ideological vanity.

... Republicans ... have become the party of brinkmanship, the party of imminent credit defaults, the party of threatened shutdowns, the party that won’t pass a proper transportation bill, the party that is suddenly demonizing the Export-Import Bank, the party of “no,” the party of ire, the party that casts even someone as unquestionably conservative as John Boehner in the role of apostate, simply because he knows the difference between fights that can be won and those that can’t, between standing on principle and shooting yourself in the foot.
Bravo, Frank -- although I'm not sure this makes up for the many, many times Bruni told us that toxic partisanship is a two-way street in America and Both Sides Do It.

Bruni, May 20, 2012:
And while there was slander aplenty in our politics past, it wasn’t amplified quite as loudly or spread quite as ferociously as it is by the fight club of today’s hyped-up news outlets, many of which run on the adrenaline of insults and recruit partisan voices to beckon partisan audiences. Turning to Fox News or the Daily Caller, unshakable conservatives can marinate in their contempt for liberals. Turning to MSNBC or the Daily Kos, unshakable liberals can repay the favor.
Bruni, February 10, 2013:
And of course extreme campaign spending has contributed to extreme partisanship, the left seeing little merit or valor in just about anyone on the right, the right seeing the whole world with a tunnel vision that’s extremely eerie. The deficit of comity has led to the imminent spending cuts known as sequestration, which is an extreme answer to Congress’s failure to agree on a course of moderation.
Bruni, June 17, 2012:
We have a financial arms race, which leads to a barrage of negative attack ads, which turn an already incendiary partisanship positively sulfurous.
Bruni, November 4, 2012:
There’s a lot of that all-good, all-bad, Manichaean thinking out there, abetted by the altered news-media landscape, in which the id of Twitter eclipses the superego of traditional journalism; subjective riffs outnumber objective reports; and the blogosphere and cable-news landscape are more heavily forested on the right and the left than in the middle, so sadly denuded.
Even today, Bruni can't quite drop this line of argument:
I’m not saying that the Republican Party alone has wing nuts, disrupters, brats. Too often that’s the impression left by journalists ruing the G.O.P.’s unruly ways.

But Democrats over recent years haven’t been bedeviled by internal dissent and rendered dysfunctional to the extent that Republicans have. They’ve kept something of a lid on things and maintained a semblance of order.
Yeah, Bruni clearly isn't quite ready to give up on the notion that excessive partisanship is the fault of Democrats as much as Republicans. So I assume it won't be long before he's back to telling us that Hillary Clinton is the real villain, "a symbol of intense partisan warfare," or that defenders of President Obama are the real dividers:
President Obama stumbles or falls and is pardoned by all-or-nothing partisans on the grounds that he’s not George W. Bush. Those same partisans wave off any naysaying about his foreign policy by bringing up the invasion of Iraq. And the bungled rollout of Obamacare? A mere wisp of inconvenience in comparison with the botched response to Hurricane Katrina. Everything’s relative.
Yeah, that Frank Bruni will be back before we know it. But John Boehner has been compelled to fall on his sword, Donald Trump is leading the GOP field, and the fact that one party is doing more harm to our politics than the other is something Bruni recognizes -- at least for one day.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


Fox Nation is retransmitting a Hot Air post by Jazz Shaw with the ridiculous title "The Democrats Are Winning the War of Planting Questioners at Town Halls." Shaw considers it likely that noteworthy questioners at recent Jeb Bush and Donald Trump rallies were sent by Democratic Party operatives.

I discuss the Trump questioner below. With regard to the Jeb questioner -- who asked about attracting African-American voters to the GOP -- Shaw's evidence of Democratic skulduggery is (surprise!) extremely flimsy:
I’m willing to stick my neck out right now and predict that if anyone does any serious checking this weekend you’re going to find that this guy was a plant for the Democrats. It’s not that the question of expanding the tent and finding a way for the GOP to carry a larger share of the minority vote isn’t a valid one. It absolutely is. But when I hear the way the question was phrased... look around the room and count the black faces... that’s not how somebody concerned about winning the next election would phrase it. It’s also an invitation for somebody from the establishment wing to mouth an answer which the Left can quickly light up like a torch. Almost as if following a script, Bush stuck his foot in his mouth.
Hunh? Why was this clearly an invitation for Jeb to start ranting about black people being seduced by Democrats and their "free stuff"? And why wouldn't a real Republican -- at least a Republican of an establishmentarian bent -- say "count the black faces"?

Here's a passage from the Republican Party "autopsy" after Mitt Romney's 2012 loss. This is the gospel according to the Republican Establishment -- and, well, it's about counting non-white Republicans:
America is changing demographically, and unless Republicans are able to grow our appeal the way
GOP governors have done, the changes tilt the playing field even more in the Democratic direction.

In 1980, exit polls tell us that the electorate was 88 percent white. In 2012, it was 72 percent white....

If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them and show
our sincerity.
There's an entire section of this report dedicated to black outreach, with recommendations such as "The RNC should develop a nationwide database of African American leaders." Nowhere does the phase "free stuff" appear.

This was a perfectly valid question from a mainstream-GOP point of view. It was exactly the opposite of the famous question posed to Trump: Trump said nothing substantial in response to a question that was meant to be offensive and insulting, whereas Jeb, in response to a question that was meant to be polite and inclusive, stupidly read from the talking points Republicans use among themselves, rather than the ones the GOP Establishment wants used in public. But nothing about this question compelled Jeb to say what he said.


But Shaw goes completely off the rails with regard to the famous Trump questioner:
The now infamous “Muslim Question Guy” at Trump’s rally earlier in the month turned out to be a dedicated Democrat supporter. It’s a pretty good tactic if you think about it, but having seen it rolled out multiple times the GOP candidates need to be prepped and ready for these tricks.
Really? It's been proven that that guy was sent by the Democrats?

Hardly. Shaw's link directs us to a Fox Nation thread titled "Was Trump's 'Muslim Question' Guy A Liberal Plant?," which in turn directs us to a Breitbart post titled "EXCLUSIVE: LIBERAL GROUP PUBLICIZED TRUMP ‘MUSLIM QUESTION’ GUY YEARS AGO." So now, working backwards in this game of Wingnut Telephone, we've gone from "questioner was definitely a Democratic plant!" to "was questioner a Democratic plant?" to "liberals made note of questioner in the past."

And even that last claim turns out to be shaky -- Democrats made note ofsomeboy in the past, but it's not at all clear that it's the same guy, or that the previous attention is at all relevant to the Trump incident. Here's the complete text of the Breitbart post:
A man who looks exactly like the notorious “Muslim question” guy from last week’s Donald Trump rally was previously the star of a liberal anti-Tea Party campaign, Breitbart News has learned.

The man, whom some suspect to have been a liberal or Democratic plant in Trump’s audience, was featured in a meme in the spring of 2013 that was credited to, the website of the group Americans Against The Tea Party.

The man was depicted participating in a rally holding a sign that read “Impeach the Muslim Marxist.” The photo spread on left-wing message boards.

“Glenn Beck Is My Hero,” the man’s shirt read.

The photo has been used as a stock image by liberal sites including The Daily Banter and Forward Progressives.

We know now that the left-wing media and activists were aware of this man more than two years before last week’s Trump rally, where he stated that President Obama was a Muslim and sparked mainstream-media controversy. Trump was criticized for not repudiating the man for his comments.

Anti-Trump blogger Nolan Dolla even featured the photo in a recent blog post about the Trump controversy.
So all Breitbart is telling us is that Muslim Question Guy "looks exactly like" someone whose photo has appeared frequently on liberal sites. The fact that someone's photo appears on lefty Web pages tells us exactly nothing about that person's ties to liberalism.

So what photo are we talking about? It's this:

What do we know about this photo? We know that it's photo #4 in a slideshow accompanying a Huffington Post/AP story on the 2009 rally by Glenn Beck's "9/12" movement. Despite an erroneous dateline on the HuffPo story, we can date the photo to September 12, 2009. (Here it is being linked on a message board that day; here it is being posted on another message board the following day.)

So this is a straight news photo of an anti-Obama demonstrator at a rally that took place six years ago. And if you think there's something hyperbolic or fake about him, check out this collection of photos from various 9/12/09 anti-Obama rallies. Muslim Marxist Guy seems quite typical. (Sample slogans on some of the other signs: "OUST THE MARXISTS USURPERS! ... HIS CZARS AND THUGS!"; "It's 1939 Germany all over again"; "OBAMACARE IT'S ABOUT POWER! When we smell the burning flesh from the ovens it will be too late for us all.")

Now, does Muslim Marxist Guy look "exactly like" Trump's Muslim Question Guy? Here's Muslim Question Guy (in a still from this video clip):

Is it the same guy? I can't tell. It's a white guy with a long face. I think there are a lot of those in America. And if it's the same guy, he actually seems to have gotten younger in the past six years.

But if it really is the same guy, he's a sincere wingnut. He's not a Democratic plant -- he wasn't one in 2009 and he isn't one now.

And yet as this Breitbart post percolates through the right-o-sphere, it will become common "knowledge" on the right that Muslim Question Guy was "unmasked" as a Democratic plant. Right-wingers really do feel entitled to not just their own opinions, but their own facts.

Friday, September 25, 2015


As I imagine you've heard, John Boehner is resigning:
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), faced with a constant conservative rebellion, told Republicans Friday morning that he will resign at the end of October.

... Boehner’s hold on the speaker’s gavel had grown increasingly unsteady amid threats from more than 30 Republicans that they would force a no-confidence vote in his speaker’s position, which would have forced him to rely on Democratic votes in order to remain in charge....
Boehner would have resigned the speakership earlier if not for a successful conservative assault on another member of the House GOP leadership:
Boehner, 65, planned to leave Congress at the end of 2014, one of his aides said Friday morning, but returned because of the unexpected defeat of Eric Cantor.
Cantor, of course, lost a primary to Tea Party insurgent Dave Brat, who went on to win his seat.

I'm sure you've seen the video of Values Voter Summit attendees cheering at the announcement of Boehner's resignation:

Other right-wingers are also exulting:
The conservative Heritage Foundation's political arm on Friday applauded the speaker's decision, noting that Boehner "stood in the way" of conservatives....

In an op-ed for the Independent Journal Review, Red State's Erick Erickson said that Boehner had "increasingly marginalized conservatives."

... Conservative groups like Gun Owners of America and FreedomWorks applauded their supporters' efforts to oppose Boehner....

"I am really excited and ecstatic about this," [Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL)] told The Gainesville Sun. "It couldn't be a better day politically for us."
And, of course:

So when does the demise of Boehner -- and of Cantor before him -- start being described in terms generally reserved for brutal dictatorships?

I'm thinking back to 2006, when Democratic voters defeated one (1) sitting Democratic senator in a primary. You'd have thought Markos Moulitsas had personally ordered tanks into the streets of Hartford, Connecticut, after Ned Lamont beat Joe Lieberman in that primary:
... Lieberman pal and DC corporate lobbyist Lanny Davis [trolled] online through liberal comment sections in search of random anti-Semitic slurs in order to prove thoughtful progressives opposed to Lieberman were really filled with “scary hatred.” Davis also trembled theatrically for a liberal Connecticut buddy who confided that he might not return to the state to vote on primary day “out of fear for his safety.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times‘s David Brooks lashed out at the “liberal inquisition” unfolding in Connecticut, the type of phenomenon that could be understood “only [by] experts in moral manias and mob psychology.”

... [ABC's] Jake Tapper labeled Lieberman’s challenge as a “a party purge of a moderate Democrat”; a cliché repeated constantly among the talking heads. Los Angeles Times columnist Jonathan Chait ridiculed grassroots Lamont activists by suggesting “their technique of victory-via-purge is on display in Connecticut.” Martin Peretz, editor in chief of The New Republic, ... denounced the “thought-enforcers of the left” supporting Lamont....
And The Washington Post's Kathleen Parker wrote:
... what happened in Connecticut allowed the rest of the country a close glimpse of what the Democratic Party has become -- a ruthless machine of the far left....

Their triumph in bringing down Lieberman may prove to be their undoing in November, as well as in the 2008 presidential election. Here's why: Americans may not like the war, or the deficit, or the Bush administration's immigration stance, or pick-your-grievance. We enjoy a surfeit of issues to divide us. But Americans also share a reflexive resistance to Stalinist tactics.
In fact, Democrats won back the Senate (and the House) in November. The senator who put Democrats over the top was a centrist former Republican, Jim Webb. Also caucusing with the Democrats would be Joe Lieberman -- who, it turned out, wasn't strung up in the town square and left to hang as a lesson to would-be traitors, but was returned to the Senate by voters in the general election, and who agreed to caucus with his old party, after being endorsed by, among others, the party's next presidential nominee, Barack Obama.

That was called "Stalinist" and a "purge." So why aren't those terms being used for the defenestrations of Cantor and Boehner, which actually resemble a Stalinist purge? Will any political insider use that sort of language? And if not, why not?


Yes, the GOP really should direct its efforts to destroying all the outsider candidates so it can nominate this guy for president:
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. -- Jeb Bush said here Thursday night that Republicans can win more African American voters by emphasizing a positive message that does not involve promising "free stuff" ...

"Look around this room," a man told Bush, who spoke to a mostly white crowd. "How many black faces do you see? How are you going to include them and get them to vote for you?" asked the man, who was white....

"Our message is one of hope and aspiration," he said at the East Cooper Republican Women’s Club annual Shrimp Dinner. "It isn't one of division and get in line and we'll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting -- that says you can achieve earned success."
Establishment Republicans are afraid that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are alienating large percentages of an increasingly diverse American public? They think Jeb is the ticket to winning enough non-white voters to get the GOP back into the White House? Please proceed, folks.

Savor the many ways that this is insulting to black people. It isn't just portraying blacks as parasites out to get "free stuff" -- it's asserting that those who acknowledge ongoing racial troubles in America are themselves the cause of "division"; it's portraying blacks as sheep who "get in line" when goodies are dangled before their eyes; and it's charging anyone who recognizes the necessity of a social safety net with rejecting the possibility of "achiev[ing] earned success" (because, apparently, if you believe that anyone needs help in America, by definition you believe that everyone is incapable of "earned success").

There's nothing extraordinary about this statement, of course. This is how every Republican in America talks about race. In fact, while I expect Jeb to walk this back, I suspect that his best move, if he wants to win the Republican nomination, would be to own it and double down. GOP voters will definitely give him second look if he reaffirms his belief that blacks on public assistance are leeches who've had the initiative knocked out of them by evil liberalism.

And, of course:


Yeah, those guys do get a lot of taxpayer-funded free stuff, don't they?

And all this comes as Bush, in an interview with CNBC's John Harwood, defends a budget plan in which, as Jonathan Chait notes, "53 percent of the benefit of Bush’s tax cuts would accrue to the richest one percent, who earn about 21 percent of the national income." Bush's campaign slogan is "Right to Rise" -- and as Chait notes, Bush can't answer Harwood's question about how one particular Bush tax cut squares with that:
Harwood also asks, “How does eliminating the estate tax help anybody's right to rise? That tax only applies to people who have made it big time -- they've risen.” Bush’s reply is pretty amazing:
Well, they're dead. If they've lived a good life, outside the money they've made, they're up in heaven looking down on us ...

What we've suggested is that a family asset doesn't get taken away. When someone does sell the asset -- the next generation -- they're paying on the full amount of the appreciation. That's the compromise position. And that allows for second-generation businesses to continue to flourish. People have earned this through good fortune and a lot of hard work and taking risks. I don't think you should take that away from families.
... And there is your most honest Bush answer of the interview. Giving a huge tax break to people who have inherited an estate exceeding $10 million (the current tax-free exemption level) has so little to do with the “Right to Rise” that Bush can’t even come up with a rationale. He just explains that he thinks they should be able to keep their entire inheritance tax-free because that is his idea of fairness.
Maybe it's the rich donors to Bush's campaign who are lining up for "free stuff" -- or at least a big return on investment.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Republican primary voters seem to be lukewarm toward Jeb Bush, and you probably think it's at least in part because he's George W.'s brother. But maybe that's wrong:
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's debate-night defense of his brother George W. Bush's presidential legacy -- "He kept us safe" -- drew a round of applause from the audience last week, followed by waves of derision from Democrats pointing to the 9/11 terror attacks.

Most GOP voters, like the debate audience, are on the Bushes' side, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll.

Eighty percent of Republican voters surveyed say they approve of George W. Bush's tenure as president.
Yes, "just 29 percent 'strongly approve,' while 51 percent approve only somewhat." Still, 80 percent have a favorable opinion of his presidency -- and "85 percent say that Bush did a 'good' or "excellent' job of keeping the nation safe."

Wait, it gets worse:
GOP voters also say by a 4-point margin, 43 percent to 39 percent, that they'd vote for George W. Bush again in 2016 if he were eligible for a third term.
So maybe Bush has been dealing with his family all wrong. Maybe, if he wants to win the Republican nomination, he should appear with W. as much as humanly possible. Maybe he should campaign with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Maybe he shouldn't have answered that question about whether he would have authorized the Iraq invasion with a defensive "I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody" -- maybe he should have said "Hell yeah I would have!"

Now admittedly, this might not put him in a very good position for the general election. But if he pursues his current course, he's not going to win the damn nomination, so what does he have to lose?

Embrace your idiot brother, Jeb. It's the most "politically incorrect" thing you could do. Do it, and the insane Republican base will probably give you a serious second look.


Snark from a Fox commentator, spotted in a roundup of grumbly right-wing reactions to the Pope's speech:

Well, in fact:
In light of the massive refugee crisis in Europe, Pope Francis announced Sunday [September 6] that he will give temporary housing in the Vatican to at least two refugee families and asked that every European parish, monastery, and shrine do the same.

The pontiff said the two parish churches contained within the walls of the Vatican city-state, St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Anne’s, will welcome at least one refugee family each.
The papal Almoner’s Office, which responds to individual requests for assistance and helps coordinate Pope Francis’ direct requests for assisting the homeless in Rome, announced on September 18 that a refugee family was being cared for by St Anne’s parish inside Vatican City.

The family -- a mother, father and two children -- belong to the Melkite Catholic Church, one of the Byzantine-rite churches in full union with Rome.

The family arrived in Italy on September 6, the day the Pope made his appeal, the Vatican said; they have been offered a Vatican apartment near St Peter’s Square, as requested by Pope Francis.

Their request for asylum had been filed with Italian authorities, the Vatican said, and in accordance with Italian law, family members are not allowed to seek employment for the next six months. St Anne’s parish was providing all needed assistance and care in the meantime.

The Vatican said St Peter’s Basilica was still in the process finalising details for taking in a refugee family.
The Almoner’s Office said that for years it has made financial contributions to Jesuit Refugee Service’s Astalli Centre in Rome to help cover the costs of permits that allow refugees to stay in Italy.

The office also provides funding and aid in the pope’s name for many refugees who receive services at a variety of other centers in Rome.

In addition, Pope Francis recently made available a mobile medical unit for refugees in Rome.

The medical unit had been donated to the Pope a few years ago, the Almoner’s Office said, and had been used only during papal events.

“For a few days now,” the unit has been brought out “a few times a week to assist refugees” in the outskirts of Rome.
You can argue that the Vatican could do more. But it's keeping its word.

It took me about thirty seconds to find this, Andrea. Try Googling next time.


It's embarrassing to watch the slapfight taking place on the right at this moment. Donald Trump, as you know, is boycotting Fox News again. In response, National Review's Rich Lowry -- yeah, the guy who experienced "starbursts" on first glimpsing Sarah Palin -- took to Megyn Kelly's show last night and tried to issue a dominance challenge to Trump:
Rich Lowry told Megyn Kelly that the reason Trump is going after Carly Fiorina is that ‘she cut his balls off with the precision of a surgeon‘ in the last debate and thus she has become a much bigger target for Trump to take aim at.
Via Mediaite, here's the video (originally posted by Trumpite Jim Hoft):

A Twitter fight ensued, in which Trump urged government action against Lowry:

Right-wingers mocked Trump for advocating big government and for misunderstanding the FCC's powers:

(I wonder how many of these conservatives were silent when, under their then-hero George W. Bush, the FCC went to war against broadcasters whose programming included "fleeting expletives." Under pressure from social conservatives, the commission threatened large fines for single instances of four-letter words on the air. But that was the era of post-9/11 Bush, so I guess it was cool.)

Lowry continued to needle Trump:

Lowry also labored mightily to make the moment go viral, retweeting a series of anti-Trump posts and promoting the hashtag #NoBallsTrump, which as I write this, is not trending.

This is what conservatism is right now. It's primarily about feeling insulted, disrespected, and emasculated. It's a turf battle. The immigration issue, for the right, is less about abstract disgust with people of other ethnicities than it is about outrage that people of other ethnicities are venturing onto our turf. Right-wingers are angry about Islamicist terrorism, but they also hate peaceful Muslims because peaceful Muslims are trying to take the practices of a different religion onto our turf. Gun laws? Not on our turf.

Trump has distilled modern conservatism to its essence, and that's why he's been leading in the polls for months: conservatism isn't about issues, it's about anger at anyone who even fleetingly sets foot on your lawn. It's about being enough of a man to tell people you don't like that they need to get the hell off your lawn -- whether or not you'd actually do anything if they didn't, and whether or not you even have any idea what would be an appropriate response to a lawn violation. The anger is all. The supposed manliness is all.

So now Trump and Lowry are having a swordfight. Am I wrong to hope that we never have a winner?