“GOP Leader ‘Offended’ By Establishment Label”: It’s Hard To Get More “Establishment” Than John Thune
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), after nearly two decades on Capitol Hill, has been called a lot of things, but Roll Call reported this week on the one label he considers “offensive.”
Real estate mogul Donald Trump has been the front-runner for months, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who touts himself as a political outsider even though he is a sitting lawmaker. Cruz regularly refers to congressional leadership and other politicians as “the Washington cartel.”
Thune said he resents that characterization. “Well, I’m personally very offended to be called the establishment,” he said.
Note, he’s not just offended; he’s very offended.
For those unfamiliar with Thune, let’s note some of the basic details of his c.v. He’s currently the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the #3 position in the GOP leadership. The South Dakota senator, in his 12th year in the chamber after three terms in the House, is also the chairman of the Commerce Committee and the former chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.
I hate to break this to the senator, but it’s hard to get more “establishment” than John Thune.
But the fact that the GOP lawmaker would make a point to distance himself from the “establishment’ ” he helps lead says a great deal about the state of Republican politics in 2016.
Traditionally, the party’s inside-the-Beltway power players reveled in their status, confident about the role they played in guiding the GOP’s direction and choosing its nominees.
The word “establishment” wasn’t used much – it was instead, simply, “the party” – and when it was used, the word certainly wasn’t an epithet to be avoided.
How much has the rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz influenced the state of the GOP? Enough to make prominent members of the Republican establishment pretend otherwise.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 16, 2016
Who says Donald Trump lacks subtlety? The way he’s raising “birther” questions about his chief rival for the nomination is worthy of Machiavelli.
“I’d hate to see something like that get in his way,” Trump said of the fact that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) was born in Canada. Trump referred to the Constitution’s provision that “No Person except a natural born Citizen” — whatever that means — is eligible to be president.
“But a lot of people are talking about it,” Trump continued, in an interview with Post reporters, “and I know that even some states are looking at it very strongly, the fact that he was born in Canada and he has had a double passport.”
Cruz flatly denied ever having a Canadian passport, telling CNN that this was just one of those “silly sideshows” the media love to engage in. But there is no question that he was born in Calgary, Alberta, to an American mother and a Cuban father. And there is no question that he had Canadian citizenship — before renouncing it in preparation for his presidential run.
Ah, what goes around comes around. For years, the Republican Party had nothing but patronizing nods and winks for the unhinged birthers — Trump included — who claimed, despite definitive proof to the contrary, that President Obama was born in some other country. Now, as party leaders desperately look for a way to deny Trump the nomination, the candidate with the best chance of doing so happens to have been born, without any doubt, in some other country.
Trump still leads the national Republican polls by a mile, while Cruz has pulled ahead of the rest of the field and now stands alone in second place. In first-to-vote Iowa, however, Cruz has taken a narrow lead over the bombastic billionaire and is favored to win. Hence Trump’s sudden concern over the birthplace of a man who perhaps should be nicknamed Calgary Ted.
“Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That’d be a big problem,” Trump told The Post. “It’d be a very precarious one for Republicans because he’d be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision.”
Most legal experts agree that Cruz is eligible to run; the fact that his mother was a U.S. citizen means he had citizenship from birth, which would appear to satisfy the “natural born” requirement. But the question of precisely what the Constitution means has never been fully explored by the courts.
The issue came up in 2008 because Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) the GOP nominee, was born in the Panama Canal Zone to parents who were U.S. citizens. The Senate went so far as to pass a nonbinding resolution “recognizing that John Sidney McCain, III, is a natural born citizen.”
You’d think McCain might be sympathetic to Cruz’s situation, but did I mention that what goes around comes around? Cruz has gone out of his way to alienate many of his Senate colleagues, and McCain has called him and his allies “wacko birds.” Perhaps that’s why McCain, when asked by a Phoenix television station to comment on Cruz’s eligibility, responded: “I think there is a question. I’m not a constitutional scholar on that, but I think it’s worth looking into.”
McCain noted that the Canal Zone was “a territory of the United States of America” when he was born. And there was a precedent, he argued, since 1964 Republican candidate Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona when it, too, was a U.S. territory.
Whereas Canada is a whole different country.
I confess that I find the whole flap absurd. Cruz should be deemed unsuitable for the presidency because of his wrongheaded ultra-right-wing views and his dangerous political ruthlessness, not because his American mother happened to be living in Canada when he was born.
But maybe Cruz will have to squirm a bit. A lawsuit has been filed in Vermont to keep him off the ballot there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if suits were filed in other states as well. Somehow I doubt he’ll get the same moral support from his fellow senators that McCain was given.
Has the party of Lincoln really come to this, Donald Trump or Ted Cruz? The two men still insist that they like each other, their campaign-long bromance not extinguished. I’m reminded of something Machiavelli didn’t say but should have: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 7, 2016
“Time For A Second Crusade”: A Fresh Revolt Against That Other Godless RINO Devil-Figure, Mitch McConnell
In the world of objective reality where most of us live, John Boehner’s resignation seems to have bought off just enough of the Crazy to keep the federal government functioning until after Thanksgiving. But over in the fever swamps where the Washington Times is published, veteran reporter Ralph Hallow (who’s been around so long I almost wonder if Halloween was named after him) discerns a fresh revolt against that other godless RINO devil-figure, Mitch McConnell. Seems the Louisiana State GOP Chairman wants him gone.
With John Boehner now departing as House speaker, an influential Republican Party official is now seeking the ouster of another GOP leader who has frustrated conservatives: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“McConnell needs to resign!!” Louisiana GOP Chairman Roger Villere wrote in a Facebook posting….
Mr. Villere was stumped when asked whom he preferred to take over as leader of the Senate Republican majority.
“Honestly, I haven really thought of a replacement,” he said. “We are being so beat up by the base. I just was frustrated.”
Mr. Villere did say what specifically about Mr. McConnell makes his state’s rank-and-file GOP voters so dyspeptic that they want him out as leader — his failure to challenge executive overreach by President Obama or fight to repeal Obamacare and other unpopular measures.
“Mr. McConnell could have suspended consideration of confirmations for all presidential appointees, except for those who are essential to national security, until the president rescinded his unconstitutional executive action on amnesty,” Mr. Villere said.
“This would have been a constitutionally appropriate response to the overreach of the executive branch,” he said. “It would have transformed the political environment, greatly encouraged Republican donors and grass-roots activists, and positioned us to refuse to confirm replacements for any Supreme Court openings that might occur during the remainder of the Obama administration.”
Yeah, right. And it would have been like a slow-moving but long-lasting government shutdown, too.
Villere is the rare Lousiana Republican who is publicly backing Bobby Jindal’s presidential candidacy. As you may have noticed, Bobby the career pol has gone all Outsidery of late, as part of his gambit to offer Republican voters Trumpism Without Trump. His latest tag phrase is that Republicans need to “burn Washington down.” Such a project probably encompasses McConnell losing his gavel, I’d think.
So I’m guessing we’ll soon hear Jindal competing with Ted Cruz in demonizing McConnell on the theory that thunderbolts from Baton Rouge are the equivalent of the Texan’s agitation on the Senate floor. I’m sure ol’ Mitch is just terrified.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 28, 2015
“For The Far-Right, It’s One Leader Down, One To Go”: Emblematic Of The Larger Story About GOP Radicalization
There may be 54 Republicans in the Senate, but only one has publicly expressed support for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). That endorsement came from none other than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Paul’s grudging home-state partner.
With this support in mind, it was curious to see Kentucky’s junior senator on Fox News this morning, confronted with a simple question: do you support McConnell’s position as majority leader? Three times the Fox host asked Rand Paul for an answer, and as TPM noted this morning, three times the senator dodged.
The furthest Paul was willing to go was this faint praise for his colleague: “Well, there is no election. There is no battle going on.” In other words, Paul supports McConnell insofar as he has no other choice right now.
But for many Capitol Hill conservatives, the fact that there is “no battle going on” is precisely the problem. Far-right members have helped force House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) out of Congress, and Politico reported late last week that many of these same lawmakers are equally eager – if not more so – to change Senate leaders, too.
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), a hardliner who frequently worked at odds with Boehner, was texting Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Friday morning to make a suggestion: “Next guy in the crosshairs is probably gonna be McConnell.” Lee, who chairs the conservative arm of McConnell’s GOP conference, texted back to doubt that conclusion.
But Salmon and many other House conservatives are unswayed.
“Mitch McConnell is infinitely worse as a leader than Boehner. He surrenders at the sight of battle every time,” Salmon said.
To the extent that reality matters, Mitch McConnell, perhaps more than any Republican in the nation, has been the embodiment of anti-Obama obstructionism. No GOP lawmaker of the Obama era has gone as far as McConnell to reject every White House proposal – regardless of merit, regardless of consequence, regardless of whether or not Republicans actually agreed with the administration.
The Kentucky senator has practically pioneered the art of mindless, knee-jerk obstructionism, relying on tactics with no precedent in the American tradition, undermining governance in ways that seemed impossible in the recent past.
But for far-right lawmakers, this record just isn’t good enough.
Boehner’s resignation “should be an absolute warning sign to McConnell,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) told Politico. He added that conservatives’ focus will now “invariably and should turn to McConnell in the Senate.”
Over the weekend, the chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana urged McConnell to resign.
The odds of McConnell stepping down anytime soon are roughly zero. Boehner faced growing pressure from a significant faction of his own caucus, but McConnell faces sporadic pressure from Ted Cruz – whom most Senate Republicans are generally inclined to ignore. The qualitative and quantitative differences between the two GOP leaders are striking: McConnell was elected unanimously by his members, for example, while Boehner was not.
The importance of these developments isn’t the practical threat McConnell faces. Rather, the fact that the anti-McConnell push exists at all is emblematic of the larger story about GOP radicalization. The rationale behind the far-right campaign against Boehner is that he failed to beat President Obama – as if that were a credible outcome – which put him at odds with Republican expectations. As the bulls eye shifts from one end of Capitol Hill to the other, McConnell faces the same foolish, misguided complaint, his record of confrontation with the White House notwithstanding.
The Majority Leader’s position is secure, at least for the foreseeable future, but as the GOP base continues to direct its ire at party leaders, it’ll be worth watching to see how many Senate Republicans dodge as clumsily as Rand Paul did this morning.
By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, September 28, 2015
“Shutdown Politics Divides GOP”: No Real Precedent For A Party Being Responsible For Two Government Shutdowns Over 24 Months
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is ready for an ugly showdown that may very well shut down the federal government at the end of the month, as are dozens of House Republicans. Meanwhile, GOP leaders in both chambers are pushing as hard as they can in the opposite direction.
But no one in Republican politics is more resistant to this strategy than vulnerable GOP incumbents worried about their re-election bids next year. Politico reported this week on one of these lawmakers:
In an interview, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said it’s “obvious” Cruz is only making this his latest cause to boost his visibility in a presidential campaign. And Ayotte, who withdrew her name from Lee’s 2013 letter on Obamacare, said she will “absolutely not” sign onto Cruz’s latest missive.
“There are not enough votes to even get (to) 60 in the Senate. But even if you could get by that (hurdle), the president is going to veto it and we certainly don’t have 67 votes,” Ayotte said. “So I guess I would ask: What’s the strategy for success?”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), another blue-state Republican incumbent facing a tough race next year, is also reportedly urging his colleagues to avoid a shutdown at all costs – for his sake, if not theirs.
All of which raises the question: are Ayotte and Johnson correct? Would another government shutdown hurt them and their party?
Reader B.G. emailed me last night to suggest the nervous senators’ concerns are misplaced. I’m reprinting the reader’s note with permission: “The GOP paid no political price in the 2014 election for shutting down the government in 2013. As much as I loathe Cruz, it is not irrational for him to think that shutting down the government will be a cost-free endeavor (from a GOP political perspective). I am sure he is betting, and not without evidence, that any government shutdown will be long forgotten by the time the 2016 election rolls around.”
After House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Fox News this morning that “the American people will punish you if you are just playing politics or making a point that can’t be achieved,” reader B.G. added in a follow-up email, “Well, no, not based on recent history…. In fact, if I were Ted Cruz, I would be making the point publicly that the 2013 shutdown worked. ‘Look, we did it, and the American people rewarded us.’”
As a practical matter, Cruz and his allies are doing exactly that. For all the hand-wringing among Republican leaders, the Texas senator and his allies routinely make the argument on Capitol Hill that the hype is wrong and the risk of an electoral backlash from shutdowns is vastly overstated. These are, Cruz & Co. insist, consequence-free gambits.
To which I say, maybe.
First, it’s worth remembering that there are qualitative differences between midterm cycles and presidential election years. In the latter, more people, especially Democrats, actually bother to show up. There’s no denying the fact that Republicans had a great year in 2014, despite shutting down the government in 2013, but the national electorate will look far different – larger, more diverse, etc. – in 2016.
Second, for some of these vulnerable incumbents, the national landscape isn’t nearly as relevant as the prevailing political winds in their own home states. And in a state like Wisconsin, where Johnson is an underdog anyway, there’s simply no upside to having the public get angry with his party all over again.
Third, don’t discount the possibility of a cumulative effect. Republicans faced no discernible punishment for the last shutdown, but there’s no real precedent for a party being responsible for two shutdowns over the course of 24 months, and it’s no surprise that GOP leaders don’t see value in pushing their luck.
Finally, there’s the broader context of the 2016 cycle to consider: Republicans are going to ask the American mainstream to give the GOP power over the House, the Senate, and the White House, simultaneously, for the first time in a decade. Democrats will respond that an unhinged, radicalized Republican Party with a right-wing agenda hasn’t earned, and cannot be trusted with, that much power over the federal government.
Will another shutdown make the Democrats’ argument easier or harder next year?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 11, 2015