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“The Right Problem, The Wrong Solution”: GOP Policymakers May Not Have Thought This One Through

Almost immediately after President Obama unveiled his plan to resolve the border crisis, congressional Republicans balked. There were, House Speaker John Boehner complained, no provisions in the plan about sending National Guard troops to the border.

A week later, the president was in Texas, where he met with a variety of state officials, including Gov. Rick Perry (R). The Republican governor emphasized one point above all others: he wants Obama to deploy National Guard troops to the border.

GOP policymakers may not have thought this one through. In fact, Greg Sargent talked to the head of the National Guard under the Bush/Cheney administration, who offered a valuable perspective.

[I]n an interview today, the head of the National Guard under George W. Bush said he had not yet heard a clear rationale for sending in the Guard and suggested it might not be the appropriate response to the problems at the core of the current crisis, though he did say he could envision the Guard playing some sort of part in a broader solution.

“Until mission requirements are clearly defined, it can’t be determined whether this is an appropriate use of the Guard in this particular case,” H. Steven Blum, who was the Chief of the National Guard Bureau from 2003 to 2009 and has been a career military man for decades, told me. “There may be many other organizations that might more appropriately be called upon. If you’re talking about search and rescue, maintaining the rule of law or restoring conditions back to normal after a natural disaster or a catastrophe, the Guard is superbly suited to that. I’m not so sure that what we’re dealing with in scope and causation right now would make it the ideal choice.”

That seems to be an exceedingly polite way of saying, “Republican demands don’t seem to make any sense.”

Some of this seems to be the result of GOP confusion about the nature of the story itself. Many Republicans seem to believe this is a border-security crisis, which the National Guard can help address directly.

But that’s not consistent with the facts on the ground.

In many instances, unaccompanied children are simply turning themselves in once they find border patrol agents. That’s not a border-security crisis; that’s largely the opposite.

Indeed, Fox News’ Brit Hume, hardly a progressive media voice, asked Perry to explain over the weekend what the National Guard would actually do if deployed to the border. The Texas governor struggled to explain his own position, saying only that Guard troops would send a “message that gets sent back very quickly to Central America.”

Hume reminded Perry “[I]f these children who’ve undergone these harrowing journeys, to escape the most desperate conditions in their home countries, have gotten this far, are they really going to be deterred by the presence of troops along the border who won’t shoot them and can’t arrest them?”

At this point, Perry changed the subject.

This is not to just pick on the Texas governor; Republican confusion about the border seems fairly common. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said last week, “Let’s remember, this administration went around for years saying the border has never been more secure than it is now. I think that’s been exposed as a fallacy over the last three weeks.”

But again, this is plainly at odds with reality. It’s not a “fallacy”; the Obama administration really has strengthened border security to new heights in recent years. The humanitarian crisis doesn’t undermine this fact at all. For Rubio to make such a comment suggests he doesn’t fully understand the underlying challenge.

If it seems like policymakers are having a debate in which two sides are talking past each other, it’s because that’s largely what’s happening. The GOP wants Guard troops, but they’re not sure why, and they’re convinced there’s a border-security crisis, which doesn’t really exist.

For his part, Obama has said he’s willing to deploy the National Guard, basically to make Republicans feel better in the short term, if it’s part of a larger response to the crisis. At least for now, GOP leaders have said this isn’t good enough.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 16, 2014

July 17, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, GOP, Immigrants | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Moderate Revolution In Kansas”: The Center Is Fighting Back And The Right Wing Is Getting Pretty Nervous

A surprising political revolt is now brewing in Kansas, one that could provide a model for breaking the stranglehold of the hard right on the Republican Party — if enough people join in.

Moderates and Tea Partiers have jousted for several years in Kansas, just as they have elsewhere, and the right wing has largely won, ousting moderates from school boards, county commissions, and the Capitol. But now the center is fighting back, summoning an aggressiveness that like-minded Republicans have rarely employed at the national level or in other states.

On Monday, 104 moderates did something unthinkable, banding into a group called Republicans for Kansas Values in order to endorse a Democrat, Paul Davis, in his campaign to oust Gov. Sam Brownback from office. The main reason was Mr. Brownback’s ruinous tax cuts, which, as The Times editorial board noted on Monday, have severely reduced the state’s revenues, leading to a credit-rating reduction and less money available for schools and roads.

“Kansas has not had that kind of tradition,” said Dick Bond, a Republican and former president of the Kansas Senate. “We value higher education. We value K-12. And we’re abandoning that in the name of some kind of extreme policy.”

But the group’s bill of particulars against Mr. Brownback — a mini-Declaration of Independence for moderates — goes far beyond what it calls a “reckless tax experiment” that actually raised middle-class taxes and pushing the state’s economy below all of its neighbors. It points out that the governor’s refusal to expand Medicaid had hurt Kansas hospitals and driven people out of rural counties. It accuses him of trying to end the state’s merit selection process for judges so that he could install his own appointees.

And most powerfully, it says he damaged the Republican party by purging those who disagreed with him — exactly the method favored by Tea Party leaders across the country.

“Brownback shrunk President Reagan’s ‘Big Tent’ Republican Party by joining with special interests to campaign against and beat Republicans who disagreed with his policies,” the group’s statement says. “Brownback’s extreme agenda makes Kansas appear intolerant and backward. Brownback’s hand-picked legislators have spent two straight legislative sessions focusing on social issues that sparked national negative press and embarrassed Kansas. Brownback’s Washington D.C.-style approach downgrades Kansas’ character and brings embarrassing headlines.”

This is tough stuff in a conservative state, and the far right is regrouping fast. One state legislator, noting the many former politicians in the group, said it had “raided the nursing home” for its members. Rick Santorum flew in this week to campaign for Mr. Brownback, and actually said “the future of the free world is at stake” in the governor’s re-election, because liberals — whom he compared to the “eye of Mordor” — were trying to destroy true patriots.

“The New York Times has no idea where Kansas is,” he said, according to the Wichita Eagle, “but they’ve written several articles hammering Sam Brownback, because Sam is a descendant of the American Revolution.”

When the hyperbole reaches the level of Tolkien, you know the right wing is getting nervous. Moderate Republicans have been silenced in state after state, too afraid of a vicious backlash to speak their minds. But now, coming from a very unexpected place, there is an example of courage to follow.


By: David Firestone, Taking Note, The Editorial Page Editors Blog, The New York Times, July 16, 2014

July 17, 2014 Posted by | Kansas, Right Wing, Sam Brownback | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Snowden, Go Home”: His Unfinished Business Is In A U. S. Courtroom, Not A Moscow Suburb

Edward Snowden, leaker extraordinaire of classified NSA documents, is said to be seeking an extension of his political asylum in Russia, where he has resided, beyond the reach of US jurisdiction and under legal protection granted by Vladimir Putin personally, for a little over one year. Snowden seems to be settling in for the long haul as a fugitive expatriate.

He is making a mistake. At some point Snowden must return to the US and face the criminal charges pending against him. By postponing this reckoning, he adds to skepticism about his motives. More important, he diminishes his legitimacy as a whistleblower who broke the law to expose government overreaching, change official policy, and vindicate principles of government transparency and individual privacy.

Snowden has portrayed his accessing, copying and distribution (to selected journalists) of NSA records as acts of conscience-and so they may have been. Civil disobedience is a time-honored form of protest, particularly in a democracy. But civil disobedience is not painless; it is not a get-out-of-jail free card.

Civil disobedience assumes-in fact, requires-submission to legal processes: to trial and possible punishment. This, the painful part of civil disobedience, is what distinguishes morally-just protest, on one hand, from mere law-breaking, on the other. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Think also of James Risen, a New York Times reporter who faces sanctions, including jail, for his civil disobedience in defying a court order. Risen has been waging a legal battle to protect his confidential sources for a book revealing classified information on US intelligence operations in Iran. Having appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, to no avail, Risen has run out of legal options (although the Justice Department has hinted that it might back off of enforcing its subpoena demanding Risen’s testimony about confidential sources).

Snowden’s situation and Risen’s are very similar. Both Snowden and Risen are in trouble for disclosing classified information. Snowden has been indicted, while Risen is subject to a court order (that remains intact after multiple appeals). Snowden has fled the country, escaping (at least for now) any legal consequences for his actions. The morally equivalent choice for Risen would be to renege on his promise of confidentiality and to provide sworn testimony to government prosecutors.

The likelihood of Risen, a principled and professional journalist, betraying his source to avoid jail–is zero. For Snowden, too, the moral choice is clear. To legitimize his violations of federal law as acts of conscience, he needs to face the consequences, not run away from them.

If Snowden, instead of going public with his information, had decided to leak his NSA documents on a confidential basis to journalists at The Guardian and the Washington Post, those journalists would today be in the same boat as the New York Times’ Risen-under subpoena and facing prison or other serious sanctions for refusing to comply. Why, then, should the expectations be so different for Snowden?

Snowden no doubt fears going to prison. Who wouldn’t? But Snowden, if he returned to the US, would receive a trial that is not only fair, but a model of due process. Media interest would be off the charts. That would maximize transparency in all court proceedings–which, in turn, would pressure prosecutors to exercise restraint.

Snowden would have the very best criminal defense lawyers in the country (regardless of his ability to pay them). And those lawyers would make the most of the government’s dilemma: having to prove harm to national security, but without revealing sensitive information that could cause still more harm to national security.

Snowden’s lawyers will also insist that he cease all public comments. No more press conferences via Skype, no Twitter or email, no calls with reporters. Total silence, giving his lawyers control over his message and image. For Snowden, who clearly loves the sound of his own voice and delights in dealings with the media, such muzzling may be hard to abide. Still, it’s not a reason for staying on the lam.

Snowden’s unfinished business is in a US courtroom, not a Moscow suburb.


By: Peter Scheer, Executive Director, First Amendment Coalition, The Huffington Post Blog, July 16, 2014

July 17, 2014 Posted by | Edward Snowden, National Security Agency | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In Full Swoon Mode”: Rick Perry And How The Press Loves To Treat GOP Campaign Losers Like Winners

Thirty months after flaming out on the Republican primary campaign trail, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose aborted 2012 run logged a fifth-place finish in Iowa and a sixth-place showing in New Hampshire before being suspended, is suddenly enjoying a Beltway media resurgence. With the issue of America’s border security and the influx of unaccompanied children generating headlines, Perry has been out front criticizing President Obama, and the governor’s performance is earning raves.

“People love his ass” is what “one Republican operative close to Perry” told Buzzfeed (anonymously). On The McLaughlin Group this weekend, so many panelists sang Perry’s praise (“shrewd,” “winning,” “absolutely terrific”) that host John McLaughlin announced, “a star is born.”

Time has been in full swoon mode lately, touting Perry as “swaggering,” “handsome and folksy,” and insisting he’s “refreshed his message, retooled his workout routine and retrained his sights toward the national stage.” Meanwhile CNN’s Peter Hamby claimed Perry is “completely underrated” as a 2016 contender. Why? Because “other than Chris Christie, it’s hard to think of another Republican candidate with the kind of charm and personal affability, and frankly just good political skills, that Rick Perry has.”

Keep in mind, Perry recently compared gays to alcoholics (and then acknowledged he “stepped right in it”), and suggested that the Obama White House might somehow be “in on” the wave of immigrant refugees crossing the U.S. border. He also became something of a punch line last week when a sourpuss photo of his meeting with Obama lit up Twitter.

As for the issue of border security, Fox News’ own Brit Hume noted on Sunday, Perry’s demand that the National Guard be sent to patrol the border doesn’t make much sense since, by law, Guardsmen aren’t allowed to apprehend any of the refugee children coming into the country. (Children who are turning themselves over to Border Patrol agents.)

Apparently none of that matters when the press coalesces around a preferred narrative: Perry is hot and perfectly positioned for 2016. (He won the week!)

Perry’s soft press shouldn’t surprise close observers of the Beltway press corps. It’s part of a larger media double standard where Republican campaign trail losers now routinely get treated like winners. (Think: John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney.) The trend also extends to Republican policy failures, like the discredited architects of the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq, who have been welcomed back onto the airwaves to pontificate about Iraq, despite the fact they got almost everything wrong about the invasion eleven years ago.

And no, the same courtesy is not extended to Democrats. John Kerry did not camp out on the Sunday talk shows after losing to President Bush in 2004 and become a sort of permanent, television White House critic, the way McCain did after getting trounced by Obama in 2008.

But wait, Hillary Clinton lost in 2008 and she’s treated as a serious contender, so why shouldn’t Perry be? First, Clinton collected nearly 2,000 primary delegates during her run, whereas Perry earned exactly zero. Second, Clinton enjoys an enormous lead in Democratic nomination polling if she chooses to run. Perry barely even registers among GOP voters.

Last month the Texas Republican Party held a straw vote and among possible 2016 hopefuls, the Texas governor finished a distant fourth, among Texas Republicans. Outside of Texas, his support remains even thinner. A recent WMUR Granite State poll from New Hampshire had Perry winning a barely-there two percent of Republican support for the 2016 GOP primary.

How bad of a candidate was Perry during the 2012 push? Really, really bad. Not only did he suffer a famous brain freeze when he couldn’t remember which three government agencies he boldly promised to dismantle if he became president (“oops”), but he also called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” and dined with birther Donald Trump.

Less than three years ago, Rick Perry showed himself to be an extraordinarily bad campaigner with a tin ear for retail politics (i.e. an absent-minded quasi-birther). Yet today, the same Rick Perry is touted by the Beltway press as a “handsome” and “underrated” campaigner who stands poised for greatness in the next presidential campaign.

Somewhere Al Gore must be shaking his head.

After he lost the 2008 election to a Supreme Court ruling, Gore was not treated to pleasing, Rick Perry-like press coverage. Rather than treating Gore as a “swaggering” star of American politics, the Beltway press basically told Gore to get lost. (The caustic coverage continued the endless media slights Gore had suffered during the campaign season.)

When the former vice president grew a beard, the catty D.C. press corps erupted in mockery:

Gore “look[s] more like an accountant on the lam from the IRS than a White House-compatible action figure” (Time); it’s “scrawny and grey-patched” (the New York Post); it “might cover up some of the added chin heft” of his rumored post-election weight gain (the Boston Herald).

And when the former vice president stepped forward in 2002 to offer a prescient warning about against with in Iraq? On CNN’s Reliable Sources, The New Republic’s Michelle Cottle described her colleagues’ reaction to Gore’s speech: “[T]he vast majority of the staff believes this was the bitter rantings of a guy who is being politically motivated and disingenuous in his arguments.”

Note that after losing an electoral landslide in 2008, Republican McCain was showered with the exact opposite type of coverage. As Media Matters noted five year ago, “[T]he media treated McCain as though his loss last November endowed him with even greater moral authority and quickly took up his crusade as their own.”

In fact, despite a wildly unsuccessful presidential campaign and his lack of senior standing inside the U.S. Senate, McCain made at least 15 Sunday talk show appearances in 2009. (By contrast, after he lost his White House run in 2004, Sen. John Kerry appeared on just three Sunday talk shows during the first eight months of President Bush’s second term.) In 2013, the New York Times reported McCain had appeared on more than 60 Sunday talk shows in less than four years.

He wasn’t the only candidate to have their reputation weirdly burnished by losing badly to Obama in 2008. Sarah Palin was catapulted into media superstardom after she helped lead the GOP to magnanimous defeat. In 2009, as she readied her book release, the obedient Beltway press treated her like a political “phenomena.” (“It’s as if she’s like a senator or something,” marveled NBC’s David Gregory.) On the day her book arrived in stores, the Washington Post commemorated the event by publishing no less than four articles and two columns. That week, the paper also hosted nine online Palin-related Q&A sessions.

What did most of the awestruck commentary often politely ignore at the time of the media’s Palin “phenomena”? The fact that the vast majority of American voters were united in their conviction that Palin should not run for president. That included a majority of Republicans.

While Palin likely became the first losing vice presidential candidate exulted into D.C. media celebrity status, Republican Dick Cheney probably also made history by becoming not only the least-liked vice president in modern American history, but the first veep from an utterly failed administration to be treated by the press as a sage upon leaving office.

Cheney’s media return in recent weeks, where he continually blames Obama for the troubles in Iraq that Cheney and President Bush first uncorked with their misguided war and faulty planning, was telegraphed five years ago when the D.C. press, just weeks after Cheney left office, hyped his anti-Obama utterances as news events. Keep in mind, at the time Cheney’s approval stood at a not-to-be-believed 13 percent.

But for some reason, Republican losers get treated as winners by the press.


By: Eric Boehlert, Senior Fellow, Media Matters for America, July 15, 2014

July 17, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Media, Press, Rick Perry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP Is Still Dick Cheney’s Party”: Unintended Consequences Are Never Anything To Worry About

A new survey from the Pew Global Attitudes Project shows that the kind of personalized fear that drove so much of our politics and policy on foreign affairs through the Bush years is almost completely gone. While there are lots of interesting results in the survey, which was conducted in 20 countries, I want to focus on the answers Americans gave to this question: “What countries or groups pose the greatest threat to the United States in the future?”

The answers suggest a powerful shift in the way Americans are thinking about the world — and show why some Republicans are so unsettled by Rand Paul’s arguments against interventionism abroad. As though the GOP didn’t have enough internal disputes to worry about already, this is one more serious divide within the party, and it shows why Dick Cheney’s reemergence hasn’t exactly been greeted with open arms.

Here are the top eight responses people gave when asked what was the greatest threat to the United States:

Russia: 23%

China: 19%

Iran: 16%

North Korea: 7%

Pakistan: 6%

United States: 2%

Japan: 2%

Al Qaeda: 2%

Answers to a question like this one are going to be affected by what’s been in the news lately. But the most extraordinary number there is undoubtedly Al Qaeda coming in at 2 percent. Only one in 50 Americans considers it the top threat to the country.

One of the defining features of Bush-era rhetoric around terrorism was that it was very personal. Al Qaeda didn’t just pose a threat to the country, it posed a threat to you and your family. You had to take off your shoes at the airport. You were enlisted to be on the lookout for bombs (“If you see something, say something”). You were told by the government to go out and buy plastic sheeting and duct tape so you’d be able to protect your home against a chemical weapon attack.

But the threats people are seeing now are broader and more long term. They’re concerned about what Russia will do to its neighbors, but I doubt too many Americans think Vladimir Putin is going to launch a nuclear missile at their home town. The threat from China is primarily economic. Even the idea of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon is a threat mostly to Middle East stability and Israel — but not to us here. Which may explain why there’s sufficient political space for the Obama administration to seek a deal to restrain Iran’s nuclear program.

If this is the world Americans see — one of complexity, with threats of various kinds and some problems that are serious but affect us only indirectly — then the argument Republicans have been making about foreign policy for the last twelve years doesn’t sound quite as persuasive. That argument is, essentially, that the world is still a terrifying place and the only way to handle it is with an unfailingly aggressive posture. In this view there’s barely any such thing as an international conflict that can’t be resolved with the application of American military force in some form (even if it’s not an outright invasion); unintended consequences are never anything to worry about; and the only real danger comes from inaction. This is the Bush-Cheney foreign policy perspective, and it still rules the GOP.

The problem is that the more bellicose faces of that foreign policy, like Dick Cheney himself, make much of the country recoil. Which is why Cheney’s reemergence as a pundit hasn’t exactly had Republicans jumping for joy. It isn’t that too many of them disagree with him on substance, but given his role in the spectacularly deceptive propaganda campaign to sell the public on the Iraq War and the spectacularly destructive war itself, he’s not exactly the messenger they were waiting for.

Meanwhile, the one prominent Republican who questions the party’s foreign policy bellicosity — Rand Paul — is finding himself the target of an awful lot of fire from within his party. Here’s Dick and Liz Cheney going after Paul (“I think isolationism is crazy,” says Dick). Here’s Rick Perry writing an op-ed going after Paul. Here’s John McCain criticizing Paul for wanting “a withdrawal to fortress America.” For his part, Paul says that he isn’t an isolationist, he just wants to set a higher bar for US involvement in foreign conflicts.

Jennifer Rubin argues that Paul is alone in the GOP and the party is actually unified on foreign policy, which might be accurate if you’re talking about prominent elected officials. But the electorate is another story. Assuming Paul runs for president in 2016, this debate is likely to feature prominently in the primaries. And we could discover that there are quite a few Republican voters whose views on foreign affairs go beyond the Bush-era perspective centered around the threat of terrorism and the terror we’re all supposed to feel.


By: Paul Waldman, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, July 15, 2014

July 17, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Foreign Policy, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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