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“Acrobatic Mispositioning”: Jeb Bush’s Latest Bold Or Bold-Faced Gambit

You have to admire, in a sick sort of way, any politician that gets caught mispositioning him- or herself on a major issue and then just quickly flip-flops and denies it. Mitt Romney, to the surprise of many of us, managed this maneuver (denouncing Obamacare and then denying any contradiction with his own authorship of the state health reform initiative it was based upon) for two solid years.

Can Jeb Bush do the same with the immigration issue? He’s sure trying, as explained by TPM’s Benjy Sarlin:

Jeb Bush completed a whirlwind one-week journey on immigration on Sunday, praising a Senate proposal to grant eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants after attacking the idea in a newly released book he co-authored that was itself a reversal of his past position.

To make a long story short, Bush’s new book (written near the savage end of the period of nativist domination of the GOP that began in reaction to his brother’s comprehensive reform initiative and extended throughout the 2012 presidential nominating process) flatly eschewed a “path to citizenship” for those who had earlier entered the country illegally in favor of a vast “guest worker” program that would legitimize most of the undocumented without granting them citizenship, thus avoiding the twin perils of “amnesty” and of cattle cars transporting millions of women and children to the border. Now Jeb’s claiming this carefully calibrated positioning was just a psychological ploy to lure angry wingnuts onto the paths of righteousness:

On CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Bush downplays the inconsistency between his book’s tough criticism of a path to citizenship and his apparent support for a Senate plan that includes exactly that.

“Well first of all, I haven’t changed,” Bush says. “The book was written to try to create a blueprint for conservatives that were reluctant to embrace comprehensive reform, to give them perhaps a set of views that they could embrace. I support a path to legalization or citizenship so long as the path for people that have been waiting patiently is easier and costs less — the legal entrance to our country — than illegal entrance.”

Yes, that’s right: Bush is not only (a) denying he changed his position, and (b) suggesting he was just acting as a shepherd to the wayward nativist sheep, but is (c) trying to take credit for the recent reemergence of comprehensive immigration reform as an acceptable conservative policy goal. That’s some serious chutzpah, folks.

The Romney analogy is apropos in another sense: before it became ideologically toxic, Romneycare was Mitt’s calling card, his example of successful conservative policymaking on an issue that had long been “owned” by Democrats. Much of Jeb Bush’s appeal (beyond the general belief that he was the most genuinely conservative pol in his family) as a potential presidential candidacy came from his theoretical appeal to Latino voters as someone married to a Mexican-American (his kids were the ones famously referred to by his father as the “little brown ones”) who also had close ties to Florida’s Cuban-American community. His brother, after all, had championed a “path to citizenship,” and he was generally regarded as Marco Rubio’s political patron. By choosing to publish an entire book on immigration reform at the very beginning of a new presidential cycle, Jeb drew a great deal of attention to his background on the issue, and thus had nowhere to hide when it turned out he had guessed wrong on where his party was headed on this subject.

So like Romney before him, he seems to have decided to just brazen it out, hoping his acrobatic changes of position become yesterday’s news if he decides to run for president. It more or less worked for Mitt–at least in securing the GOP nomination–but if Jeb does want to run, he cannot be so assured that he will face the kind of clownish intra-party competition that was so crucial to Romney’s nomination campaign. It would be particularly ironic if Jeb were to be pushed aside by his former protege Rubio as someone with greater credibility in both Tea Party and “pragmatic conservative” circles. But that could happen. George W. Bush’s “smarter brother” may have just out-smarted himself.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 11, 2013

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Immigrants, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Lobbyist By Any Other Name”: Scott Brown Makes It Official With Wall Street

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown announced today that he’s joining the government affairs department of a giant multinational law firm with major Wall Street clients.

“Brown will focus his practice on business and governmental affairs as they relate to the financial services industry as well as on commercial real estate matters,” the firm, Nixon Peabody LLC, said in a press release. Brown will not be a lobbyist, the firm said, but whether he meets the specific legal requirements to be a registered lobbyist or not, it’s clear that he will draw on his contacts and status to help advance clients’ agenda in government. “He can offer many types of legal services to his broad network of contacts,” the firm said.

The head of the Nixon Peabody’s Government Relations practice is ex-New York congressman Tom Reynolds, who now lobbies for Goldman Sachs on “[f]inancial services regulatory and tax issues.” According to the firm, Brown will also work with fellow Massachusettsian Jim Vallee, who abruptly left his job as majority leader of the state House of Representatives last year after getting hired by the firm.

Nixon Peabody contributed $2,500 to a PAC associated with Brown’s reelection campaign last year, the most it gave to any candidate in the country (tied only with a Democratic House member).

Brown was a reliable ally of the financial services industry in the Senate, where he helped water down the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law and influence other bills of interest to banks. It was no surprise, considering how much money they threw at his campaigns. The Securities and Investment sector was the top industry donor to Brown’s 2012 campaign, giving him $3.2 million, on top of the millions he received from the insurance, real estate and finance industries, according to Open Secrets.

The move, however, is a blow to Massachusetts Republicans, who see Brown as their best — and possibly only — hope of retaking a Senate seat or winning the governor’s mansion. Perhaps Brown didn’t think he could win or perhaps he was more interested in cashing in.

It’s notable that Massachusetts voters have replaced Brown, who is now almost literally a Wall Street lobbyist, with Elizabeth Warren, one of the most outspoken critics of the finance industry in the country.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, March 11, 2013

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What’s It Going To Be?”: The GOP Needs To Make Up Its Mind On Immigration Reform

Yet another member of the Bush family has demonstrated an uncanny ability to flinch on immigration.

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, has long advocated a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, roughly in line with current thinking of a bipartisan group in Congress. Yet in a new book he has written with Clint Bolick, Immigration Wars, Bush has flip-flopped on the question of the path to citizenship.

“Those who violated the law can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship,” Bush and Bolick wrote.

That’s disappointing, much like the failure of Jeb’s brother George W. to push the bipartisan immigration reform bill his administration favored through Congress in 2007.

In interviews since the book’s release, Jeb Bush has retraced and gone back to supporting avenues to citizenship.

To CNN, he had this to say: “Today the only path to come to this country other than family reunification is to come illegally. We need to create another category of legal immigration where there is actually a line. So if you could create that through a path to citizenship, I would support that.”

Well, what’s it going to be? It’s important to know; Bush might be the next Republican nominee for president.

With Congress set to take up comprehensive immigration reform, there simply isn’t time to waste on waffling. The Republican Party and its leading figures must decide: Are they going to join the movement for reform or are they going to keep up their long-standing campaign to demean undocumented immigrants?

For the last couple of decades, the conservative demagogues opposed to sensible immigration reform have worked hard to brand this issue as one of law and order. They have made an epithet out of an adjective — “illegals” — as a way to characterize undocumented immigrants as by nature criminal and, as such, unfit for U.S. citizenship.

Most Americans know better. Bush knows better too. A good portion of the book shows how deeply he understands the nuances of immigration law and policy. He discusses the fact that it is nearly impossible for many of the people who wind up illegally in the country to arrive legally.

He advocates clearing up the backlogs on visa requests based on family relationships by changing those systems and creating new avenues for legal immigration. He knows that many immigrants are seeking work and calls for doubling the number of work-based visas for both highly skilled and guest workers.

Let’s recognize that most undocumented immigrants live among us to work; let’s also acknowledge that American employers and consumers have benefitted greatly from the low-wage labor these people provide.

OK, now we can talk about legal status.

Some Americans worry about the message it would send if we were to extend the possibility of citizenship to people who have broken the law to live in our country. One way to allay these fears is to reserve this chance for those immigrants with no criminal convictions, who don’t have problems with domestic abuse or substance abuse, who have a work record, who are able and willing to support themselves and their families.

In recent days, Bush has stressed that he doesn’t want to create incentives that might cause more people to come to this country illegally. But this too reveals a sleight of hand about what he clearly understands about the current immigration system.

If the U.S. truly wanted to eliminate the possibility of too many people illegally in the country it would fix the system, making it responsive to the needs of the economy. Allow those workers a legal way in.

The vast majority of people who are illegally in the country didn’t chose that route because criminality is their natural disposition. They end up in that category because there wasn’t a viable way for them to arrive legally. Congress can address this by reordering how and why visas are granted and holding businesses accountable for monitoring the immigrants they hire.

If there were a better route, a legal way, most people would have taken it. Bush admits this throughout his book. And endless individual stories of immigrants underscore that truth.

It’s ridiculous and self-defeating that the policy debate about immigration is sidetracked by the question of who among the “illegal” people is worthy of citizenship.

Congress needs to act wisely, and sidestep this silly argument once and for all.


By: Mary Sanchez, The National Memo, March 11, 2013

March 12, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Grounded In Even Less Reality”: Paul Ryan’s Make-Believe Budget

If Rep. Paul Ryan wants people to take his budget manifestos seriously, he should be honest about his ambition: not so much to make the federal government fiscally sustainable as to make it smaller.

You will recall that the Ryan Budget was a big Republican selling point in last year’s election. Most famously, Ryan proposed turning Medicare into a voucher program. He offered the usual GOP recipe of tax cuts — to be offset by closing certain loopholes, which he would not specify — along with drastic reductions in non-defense “discretionary” spending.

If the plan Ryan offered had been enacted, the federal budget would not come into balance until 2040. For some reason, Republicans forgot to mention this detail in their stump speeches and campaign ads.

Voters were supposed to believe that Ryan was an apostle of fiscal rectitude. But his real aim wasn’t to balance the budget. It was to starve the federal government of revenue. Big government, in his worldview, is inherently bad — never mind that we live in an awfully big country.

Ryan and Mitt Romney offered their vision, President Obama offered his, and Americans made their choice. Rather emphatically.

Now Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, is coming back with an ostensibly new and improved version of the framework that voters rejected in November. Judging by the preview he offered Sunday, the new plan is even less grounded in reality than was the old one.

Voters might not have focused on the fact that Ryan’s original plan wouldn’t have produced a balanced budget until today’s high school students reached middle age, but the true deficit hawks in the House Republican caucus certainly noticed. They demanded a budget that reached balance much sooner. Hence Ryan’s revised plan, which claims to accomplish this feat of equilibrium within a decade.

It will, in fact, do nothing of the sort, because it appears to depend on at least one ridiculous assumption and two glaring contradictions. That’s for starters; I’m confident we’ll see more absurdities when the full proposal is released soon.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Ryan said his plan assumes that the far-reaching reforms known as Obamacare will be repealed. Host Chris Wallace reacted with open disbelief: “That’s not going to happen.”

Indeed, to take Ryan seriously is to believe that legislation repealing the landmark Affordable Care Act would be approved by the Senate, with its Democratic majority, and signed by Obama. What are the odds? That’s a clown question, bro.

As he did in the campaign, Ryan attacked Obama’s health reforms for cutting about $700 billion from Medicare over a decade, not by slashing benefits but by reducing payments to providers. Ryan neglected to mention that his own budget — the one he convinced the party to run on in 2012 — would cut Medicare by the same amount. Actually, by a little more.

This was hypocrisy raised to high art. How could anyone who claimed to be so very worried about the crushing federal debt blithely renounce $700 billion in savings? Ryan suggested Sunday that once Obamacare is repealed, this money can be plowed back into Medicare. Which, as you recall, will never happen.

While Ryan’s new budget assumes that Obamacare goes away, it also assumes that the tax increase on high earners approved in the “fiscal cliff” deal remains in place. “That’s current law,” he said, as if Obamacare were not.

Ryan’s sudden respect for a tax increase that had to be — metaphorically — crammed down Republicans’ throats is easily explained. He needs the $600 billion in revenue it produces to make his new fantasyland budget appear to reach balance.

Ryan is likely to reprise — and even augment — the hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts he proposed last year for social programs. He indicated that he still believes Medicare should be voucherized, although he objects to the word and insists that what he advocates is “premium support.” And he asserted that Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor, is “reckless” — even as tea party-approved Republican governors such as Rick Scott of Florida announce their states’ participation.

From the evidence, Ryan cares less about deficits or tax rates than about finding some way to dramatically reduce the size of the federal government. He has every right to hold that view. But it’s hard to take him seriously as long as he refuses to come clean about his intentions.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 11, 2013

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Budget, Medicare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Repeating Bad Ideas”: The Competitive Advantage Of Deficit Hacks

As I mentioned earlier, economist and blogger Duncan Black has written that Social Security should be expanded, instead of cut. He has written this multiple times, making essentially the same argument in consecutive USA Today opinion columns. That is a good thing, because it is an argument that is frequently absent from discussions of “entitlements” on cable news and in the political press.

But Black will have to write the exact same column hundreds and hundreds more times in order to have made this argument anywhere near as often as deficit fear-mongers make their arguments.

Paul Krugman today blogged about various “zombie ideas” that he thought he had debunked years ago still being repeated. And, duh, “no one listens to Paul Krugman” is basically the history of the United States since Y2K. Since the Bush era, Krugman has really just written the same five or six columns, over and over again. But they are good, useful, correct columns! And still, the rest of the media lavish praise on “deficit hawks” and beg for “entitlement cuts” Americans do not actually want, at all.

I think a lot about contemporary political debates makes a great deal more sense when you realize that hacks, especially hacks shilling for awful ideas, have a competitive advantage over non-hacks: They do not care if they constantly repeat themselves, even if what they are constantly repeating is wrong.

For a writer or pundit who actually feels some sort of responsibility to inform and/or entertain his or her readers, writing the same damn thing over and over again seems wrong (it is also boring). But bad ideas are constantly being repeated by people who feel absolutely no shame about saying the same things over and over and over again. Indeed, “shamelessness” is in general a defining characteristic of hacks. Also, frequently, people are being paid to repeat the same awful ideas over and over again, and unfortunately usually there’s more money to be made repeating bad ideas than good ones. (Hence: Lanny Davis.)

Arguably, American conservatives are better at sticking to their pet causes in general, as liberals move from fight to fight. Look at how contraception “suddenly” became a matter of national public debate last year, years after liberals thought it a well-settled question. Or look at how long the movement spent trying to roll back the majority of the New Deal, a project that continues to this day!

And on the question of the deficit and the “grand bargain,” Pete Peterson and a few others have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and decades of their lives making the exact same argument, and setting up organizations that pay others to make the exact same argument, until a majority of Beltway centrists internalized the argument and began making it themselves, over and over again. When it comes to centrist pundits, the unsophisticated brainwashing technique that has utterly failed to move the public at large over the last 25 years has worked perfectly. (Because centrist pundits are simple, credulous people, by and large, and also because they will not rely on “entitlements” to survive, when they retire from their very well-compensated jobs.)

So liberal and left-wing thinkers should probably strive to be more Krugman-esque, and hammer home the same causes and arguments no matter how boring it gets, because that is what Joe Scarborough is doing every morning.

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, March 11, 2013

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Media, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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