Assuming Ben Domenech knows his right-wingers, which I would guess is the one thing he does infallibly know, he’s solved a big mystery for us in a column yesterday. A few weeks ago the whole hep conservative world was aflame with promises and threats about defunding Planned Parenthood, even if it took a government shutdown. Erick Erickson was hyperventilating nearly hourly about how the GOP needed to lay down and die if it did not follow this course of action to the bitter end. Presidential candidates were climbing on board in due order.
Then–well, Mitch McConnell allowed as how it wasn’t going to happen, the presidential candidates and conservative media stopped talking about it, and even ol’ Pope Erick seemed to back off. What’s up with that?
According to Domenech, it was actually the big antichoice groups that called off the dogs:
For the time being, Capitol Hill Republican leaders are on the same page as the national pro-life groups – a shutdown strategy is not their preference, because it makes it more likely Democrats will win in 2016, and that means you miss probably your best opportunity in a generation to get rid of Roe v. Wade. Capitol Hill Republicans are looking to the pro-life groups to provide them cover by not scoring a Planned Parenthood-funding continuing resolution, and most of the big groups are expected to go along with this strategy.
Wow. If the National Right to Life Committee doesn’t support dragging the whole country to the bottom of hell in order to kill off its bitter enemies at Planned Parenthood, then why should anyone else? Domenech seems to think Ted Cruz may be tempted to outlank not only McConnell and the other presidentials but the National Right to Life Committee, yet probably won’t in the end. Domenech thinks that jawing about a Planned Parenthood-free continuing resolution for weeks may be a superior strategy, mainly because he shares the common antichoice delusion that women will give up their reproductive rights–or perhaps enough men can be convinced to just take them away from women–if they can all be forced to spend a few weeks watching the PP sting videos (it’s an article of faith among these birds that people like me or you have never even once discussed the issue). If Republicans make that choice, then they may actually learn that a sizable majority of the American people still favor legal abortion and know enough about Planned Parenthood’s services to know a smear when they see one. The last such teaching moment for the GOP, the Terri Schiavo affair, didn’t seem to do the trick, did it?
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 2, 2015
You frequently find fortune cookie aphorisms, yes, but it’s not often that you find searing insight within Twitter’s 140-character confines. Which is why a June tweet from one Dan Hodges — his profile describes him as a British political commentator — stood out.
“In retrospect,” wrote Hodges, “Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”
You may cringe to hear the nation’s response to the December 2012 massacre of 20 young children — six adults also died — at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, described in that fashion, but you can’t deny the brutal truth of the observation.
After Sandy Hook, President Obama called for new legislative initiatives, saying, “Surely we can do better than this.” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said, “We need action.” Rep. John Larson said, “Politics be damned.” Parents of one victim walked the halls of Congress carrying pictures of their dead son and beseeching lawmakers to look, even as polls showed nearly 60 percent of Americans wanted stronger gun laws.
And nothing happened. In deciding between its children and its guns, America had decided the loss of the former was, in Hodges’ chilling word, “bearable.”
The memory of it haunts a Sunday interview CNN did with Andy Parker, the father of Roanoke, Virginia, TV reporter Alison Parker, who was murdered live on camera last week by a hateful and deranged man named Vester Flanagan. In vowing to commit his life to achieving sensible gun control, Parker said a number of striking things.
“I’m telling you,” he said, “they messed with the wrong family.”
“I’m going to be working on this for a long time,” he said. “I know that this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
He acknowledged that we have seen many “tipping points” where guns are concerned: the shooting of a congresswoman and her constituents at a supermarket, a mass murder at a movie theater, the Christmas season butchery of schoolchildren in Newtown. “But,” he said, sounding like nothing so much as a father who very much loved his daughter, “I think people recognizing who the victim was and what she represented and how kind and sweet and innocent she was, I think this time it’s going to be different.”
It’s always going to be different. But it never is.
With all due deference to a father’s incalculable sorrow, the likeliest outcome here is that the murder of Alison Parker and her colleague Adam Ward and the wounding of local official Vicki Gardner will join the long line of tipping points that didn’t tip and turning points that didn’t turn. Which is why Parker’s words inspire no great hope, but only break your heart.
The sad thing is, there is no — repeat: no — inherent or insoluble conflict between the desire of some of us to have access to guns for sport and self-defense and the desire of others of us to keep dangerous people from possessing those weapons. Decent, moderate people, working from both sides of the question, could probably hammer out ideas to safeguard both imperatives in an afternoon.
Problem is, gun owners’ interests are represented not by decent, moderate people, but by the NRA, an extremist gang for whom even the most modest regulation is a brick in the road to tyranny. So long as the NRA has such an outsized voice in this debate, so long as politicians, unencumbered by conscience or vertebrae, tremble to its call, and so long as many of us are silent and supine in the face of that obscenity, Hodges is correct. And we are doomed to a future of frequent, predictable and preventable tragedies some of us will mistake for freedom.
It makes you wonder. If that kind of thing is really “bearable” then what, pray tell, is not?
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo
“The Outcome On The Democratic Side Is Notable”: In An Unusual Development, Congressional Dems Display Admirable Backbone
This morning, Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced that she will be voting in favor of the Iran nuclear deal, making her the 34th supporter. That means that a move to override any veto of the bill opposing the deal will fail. In fact, it may not even get to an override vote; there are 10 Democrats remaining who have not made their position clear, and if seven of them side with the administration, the bill won’t get the 60 votes it needs to overcome a filibuster.
While you might explain this outcome in purely partisan terms — the Republicans all oppose the deal because it’s Barack Obama’s, and nearly all the Democrats stand behind their party’s leader — the outcome on the Democratic side is still notable, because it represents a triumph over the kind of attack before which Democrats have so often run frightened in the past.
If you’re too young to remember the time before the Iraq War turned into a disaster, you may not realize the state of constant fear Democrats used to live in when it came to national security. Particularly since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, Republicans were always ready to ridicule them as being “soft” — soft on defense, soft on the communists, soft on anything involving foreign threats. After 9/11, this attack went into a higher gear, as did Democrats’ fear that any show of softness would instantly be met with, “Why are you on the terrorists’ side?” and “Why don’t you support our troops?”
That’s why it was widely understood among Democrats in 2002 that no one with any national ambitions could vote against the Iraq War when the drums were beating so loudly. With only one exception (Florida’s Bob Graham), all the Senate Democrats who would run for president in 2004 or 2008 voted Yea, including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Kerry. Everyone assumed that was the only safe vote to take. And when Kerry became the party’s nominee in 2004, he centered his entire campaign on the story of his service in Vietnam, on the theory that a couple of chicken hawks like George Bush and Dick Cheney would never attack the patriotism of a war hero (that theory proved to be mistaken).
The failure of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars enabled Democrats to feel that they didn’t have to constantly bend over backward to show that they’re tough, when toughness is what cost the country so much in recent years. But the Iran debate put that belief to the test. That’s because for Democrats, there really is some risk in supporting this deal.
If the agreement proves to be a failure — let’s say that Iran manages to conduct a nuclear weapons program in secret, then announces to the world that they have a nuclear weapon — it will indeed be front-page news, and the Democrats who supported the deal might suffer grave political consequences. So in order to vote yes, they had to look seriously at the deal and its alternatives, and accept some long term political peril.
By contrast, there probably is less long term risk for Republicans in opposing the deal.
It’s true that if the deal does achieve its goals, it will be added to a list of things on which Republicans were spectacularly wrong, but which led them to change their opinions not a whit. The Iraq War didn’t have an appreciable impact on their views about the wisdom of starting new military engagements in the Middle East. Nor did their failed predictions about Bill Clinton’s tax-increasing 1993 budget (they all said it would cause a “job-killing recession” and every one of them voted against it) and George Bush’s tax cuts (they said the cuts would lead to an explosion of economic growth) alter their views on what effect tax increases have on the economy.
But if the deal works as intended, what will be the outcome be? Iran without nuclear weapons, of course, but that is a state of being rather than an event. There will be no blaring headlines saying, “Iran Still Has No Nukes — Dems Proven Right!” Five or ten years from now, Republicans will continue to argue that the deal was dreadful, even if Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been contained.
My guess is that now that the practical fight over this deal is essentially over, Republicans won’t bother to keep arguing about it too much. In the primaries, the presidential candidates will throw in a perfunctory line or two in their speeches about how awful it is, how they’ll tear it up on their first day in office, and how it shows that Democrats are weak. But with the deal now facing the lengthy task of implementation and no substantive victory possible for them, they won’t see much to be gained in harping on it. But they’ll probably continue to believe that calling Democrats weak on national security is tremendously effective, even if the Democrats themselves aren’t as afraid of that attack as they used to be.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, September 2, 2015
“Because Hillary Clinton Is Hillary Clinton, Running For President”: Why Nothing Can Quell The Media’s Addiction To Clinton Scandals
If there’s any constant in presidential campaigns, it’s that at the first sign of difficulty, everyone who wants one particular candidate to win has an iron-clad critique of the candidate’s decisions thus far, which goes something like, “If only they’d get their heads out of the sand and listen to what I have to tell them, they wouldn’t be having these problems.” You only have to get two or three partisans in a room (or an exchange on email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to quickly learn that the answers to what the candidate should have done before and ought to do now are as clear as a bright spring morning; it’s just that the candidate and his or her advisers can’t see the wisdom of the true path to victory.
The fact that this complaint is as predictable as the sunrise doesn’t mean it’s always wrong; candidates do screw up, and sometimes there was a better alternative to something they did, an alternative that really would have produced dramatically different results. And the ability to be an armchair strategist is part of what keeps campaigns interesting, just as the ability to second-guess coaches and players helps keep sports interesting.
Right now, Hillary Clinton is the target of lots of this advice, apparently because, 13 months before the actual voting will occur, she hasn’t yet put this election to bed. Anxiety is creeping among the legions of politicians, advisers, insiders, and in-the-knowers (anonymous and otherwise) who will happily share their opinions with journalists looking to populate their “What’s Wrong With the Clinton Campaign???” stories with the thoughts of worried Democrats, an amply populated species. And most of it revolves around the story of her State Department emails, a story that “won’t go away,” as everyone is saying.
“Clinton’s standing has been eroded both by her own shaky handling of the e-mail controversy and by the populist energy fueling the challenge of Sen. Bernie Sanders,” says The Washington Post. “Democratic leaders are increasingly frustrated by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s failure to put to rest questions about her State Department email practices,” says The New York Times, in an article for which they spoke to “more than 75 Democratic governors, lawmakers, candidates and party members.” I’ve heard similar things from any number of liberals and Democrats myself.
But here’s a piece of advice: If you find yourself starting a sentence on this topic with “If only she had…”, stop and take a breath.
I say that not because Clinton didn’t do anything wrong. It was plainly a mistake to set up her private email account in the first place, and if she used emails for communication that should have been confined to official cables, then we can criticize her for that. The most informative recent piece I’ve seen on this topic comes from David Ignatius, who notes that the fact that her server was private isn’t actually relevant to the question of classified information passing through it, since employees aren’t allowed to send such information through state.gov emails either. More importantly, multiple officials tell him that classified information passes through non-classified channels all the time; it shouldn’t happen, but it does.
Nevertheless, the important thing to understand about the politics of what’s happening now is this: There is nothing—nothing—that Hillary Clinton could have said or done differently since this became a public issue that could have made this go away, or that she could do now to “put it to rest.”
That’s not because it’s such a dreadfully serious issue, or because the American people care so deeply about the question of State Department email security that they’d never elect anyone to the White House who exercised anything less than the greatest of care with their communications, adhering to not just the spirit but the letter of every regulation. If you asked most voters what this is all about, they’d probably say “Um … something about emails?” No, it’s because Hillary Clinton is Hillary Clinton, and because she’s running for president.
That means that Republicans will never be satisfied with any answer she gives on this topic, or any other for that matter. She could read Trey Gowdy every email she ever wrote while giving him a foot massage, and it wouldn’t change their conviction that there was still something nefarious hidden somewhere in something they hadn’t seen. She could have personally delivered her server to Roger Ailes’s office on the day the story broke, and it wouldn’t change their determination to figure out what she’s hiding.
Nor will the news media ever be satisfied. Bill and Hillary Clinton have always been treated by a different set of rules than other politicians, one that says that any allegation about them, no matter how little evidence there may be for it, must be presented as the leading edge of what will surely turn out to be a devastating scandal. The New York Times, which despite its reputation as a liberal newspaper has what can only be described as an unquenchable desire to find Clinton scandals whether they actually exist or not, can be counted on to run blaring front-page articles about alleged Clinton scandals without the barest hint of skepticism, no matter how many times their reporting turns out to be based on false tips or bogus interpretations of mundane facts (the phantom “criminal referral” of a month ago was only the latest).
Then once the Times puts out its story, the rest of the media are off to the races, and conservatives just about lose their minds with glee, because this time they’ve really got her. Then inevitably, the alleged wrongdoing turns out to be either nothing at all or too little to care much about. But we only figure that out after Republicans in Congress have launched investigation after investigation, each one the engine for story after story about the scandal that won’t go away.
If you think that how Hillary Clinton responds to all this (Did she say she just “regrets” what she did, or did she actually apologize? Did she seem dismissive? Could she have used different words? Could she have framed the whole thing with this clever argument I just thought of?) would make any difference at all, then you must not have been around in the 1990s.
To repeat, I’m not defending everything Clinton did with regard to her emails, but that’s just the point: This cycle will spin whether she did anything wrong or not, and no matter how she conducts herself once the story breaks.
Eventually, all the facts do come in, and it’s at that point that we can really judge. For instance, multiple investigations of what occurred in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, have shown that it was a terrible tragedy, but there was no “stand-down order,” there was no criminal negligence, and there was no impeachment-worthy malfeasance, no matter how fervently Republicans might wish it. Yet their investigations go on. In fact, at this point it’s impossible to see how anything other than Clinton losing the 2016 election will ever stop them. If she becomes president, they’ll go on investigating it for the length of her time in the Oval Office.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer The American Prospect, August 31, 2015
“From Deep Inside The Fold”: Donald Trump Isn’t A Republican Traitor; He’s Giving Primary Voters Exactly What They Want
As panic sets in among Republicans at the prospect of Donald Trump either winning the GOP nomination, dividing the right by bolting the party to run as an independent, or merely trashing the rest of the field without restraint for the next six months before imploding, a narrative is taking hold among conservatives that’s equal parts self-protective and self-pitying. Trump, in this telling, isn’t really a Republican at all. He’s some extra-partisan saboteur who’s looking to blow up the GOP for his own purposes.
It’s true that Trump’s issue matrix (very far right on immigration, more centrist or pragmatic on entitlements and taxes, hawkish on foreign policy while denouncing the Iraq debacle without hedging) is not one that’s typically embraced by Republican presidential contenders. Yet conservatives are being too easy on themselves when they treat Trump as some force of nature that came out of nowhere or an anti-Republican conspiracy hatched in cahoots with the Clintons.
Trump may not precisely endorse the constellation of policies favored by either the GOP establishment or its reformist wing. But he’s not an ideological apostate arbitrarily endorsing idiosyncratic positions with no plausible connection to the conservative movement. On the contrary, he’s pushing a program that amounts to a distinctively Republican heresy.
Let’s start with immigration. It’s easy for members of the Republican establishment to see Trump’s position as anathema on this issue because they tend to oppose immigration restrictions — because they’re cosmopolitan elites, because they think the party desperately needs Hispanic votes to remain competitive, and because they’re beholden to a donor class that overwhelmingly favors allowing low-wage workers into the country.
But a party is nothing without voters, and the GOP’s overwhelmingly white and disproportionately rural voters — the actual foot soldiers of the party — take a polar opposite view on the issue. It was their revolt that sank immigration reform after the 2012 election, and it’s their support that is buoying Trump’s campaign. The establishment might not like it, but the fact is that Trump is never more in line with Republican voters than when he rails against undocumented immigrants and their ”anchor babies.”
Trump is exploiting another tension between the GOP elite and the grassroots on issues of tax cuts and government spending on entitlements. The Republican establishment is relatively consistent in its hostility to big government, preferring to cut taxes along with spending, with the latter ideally accomplished by such reforms as partial privatization of Social Security and the transformation of Medicaid into a program that hands out block grants.
The Republican base is far less consistent. It wants to cut taxes, and it likes speeches that rail against government spending. But when it comes to making real-world spending cuts, GOP voters (who tend to be older than Democrats and therefore more dependent on government programs that aid the elderly) agree with the person who famously (and absurdly) declared, ”Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” The grassroots want a free lunch, in other words, which is one important reason why the federal budget deficit has soared under every Republican president since Ronald Reagan.
Add in a growing willingness on the right to see the rich pay more in taxes, and Trump’s seemingly off-sides positioning begins to make sense in Republican terms. Yes, the mix of support for tax cuts and hikes, spending cuts and entitlement protections that one finds in the GOP base is contradictory, even incoherent. But it’s where conservative voters are, and Trump is the one candidate promising to give them exactly what they want.
Then there’s Trump’s blustery approach to foreign policy and trade relations: ”Elect me,” he seems to be saying, ”and I’ll be the toughest negotiator you’ve ever seen. I’ll get my way by sheer force of indefatigable will.” But of course, the Republican toughness fetish set in a long time before Trump. Ever since the Sept. 11 attacks and George W. Bush’s cowboy swagger and “Dead or Alive” threats to Osama bin Laden, the GOP has been obsessed with projecting strength — and assuming that the U.S. is bound to get its way if only the president unapologetically drives the hardest bargain at every moment. Trump is merely proving to be marginally more convincing than his rivals on this score because he’s been cultivating an omniconfident image in the public eye for decades.
Finally, we have Trump’s campaign slogan: ”Make America Great Again!” Calling the country ”great” is as American as apple pie, of course, but it was given new force in the late 1990s by the second-generation neocons, who championed an ideology they called National Greatness Conservatism. By now, nothing could be more commonplace than for a Republican to praise America’s super-duper, better-than-everyone-else exceptionalism.
Trump’s only modest innovation is to add the word ”again,” which grows out of the discontent with Barack Obama that’s laced through every speech Ted Cruz has ever given. Turn on right-wing talk radio any day of the year and you’ll hear hosts railing against American decline, which (as Charles Krauthammer put it during Obama’s first term) is a deliberate ”choice” that the current president is actively, even enthusiastically, pursuing. The amazing thing is that no one else thought to grab (and trademark) this GOP cliché for a campaign slogan before now.
Donald Trump might scramble the pieces of the Republican coalition and emphasize different policies than the party’s leadership would prefer, but he’s not a traitor to the GOP. He’s a heretic — one whose heterodoxy comes from deep inside the Republican fold.
By: Damon Linker, The Week, September 1, 2015