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“Why The GOP Should Tank The Midterms”: The “Party Of No” GOP Does Not Want To Actually Govern

Several statistical models used to forecast the midterm elections give the Republican Party a better-than-even shot at seizing the Senate.

This should terrify Republicans.

Look into Speaker John Boehner’s exasperated eyes and think about how much he has suffered the last two years trying to contain his tea–crazy Republican caucus. Now double it. Then add an extra dose of Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. And then take away the ability to blame Harry Reid for the failure to get any Republican bills passed in the Senate.

Add it all up, and what you get is not a glorious triumph of a unified army on an unstoppable march to the White House, but an expansion of the GOP civil war into a two-front bicameral battle.

Recently asked by Politico to explain what he would pursue with a GOP Senate, Boehner said, “Nobody’s given it that much thought.” Probably because thinking about it would give him a panic attack no amount of merlot could cure. What can he and his Senate counterpart possibly propose to position the party for a general election in 2016 that won’t be mocked and blocked by the Tea Party?

Consider Boehner’s most recent humiliation over legislation to address the child migrant influx.

While the politically rational Boehner tried to keep the immediate crisis separate from the messy politics of immigration reform, Sen. Cruz whipped up the House rank and file to refuse support for any bill that did not terminate the president’s executive order providing waivers to some undocumented immigrants already in America who arrived as children. Lacking the votes, Boehner junked his narrow proposal and bowed to the anti-immigration forces.

As a result, just one month after Boehner had decided that Republicans were better off avoiding any immigration reform votes, he had to schedule an incredibly controversial one. Now nearly every House Republican is on record in favor of deporting people who grew up in America and who have no significant connection to their birth country, further worsening Republican efforts to reach out to the Latino community in advance of the next presidential election.

If the Tea Party gets its mitts on the Senate too, the humiliations will only become more frequent and more public.

Now obviously, under normal circumstances, taking over the Senate while retaining the House would be a good thing. Republicans would control the national agenda, deny Obama a free hand in further shaping the judiciary, and be one step away from fully controlling Washington after the 2016 presidential election. They could pass whatever legislation they wanted, and put Obama in the unpleasant position of, having spent years complaining of GOP obstructionism, now having to constantly veto things himself, or swallow what Republicans feed him.

But this is not a normal circumstance.

There is a fundamental breakdown of trust between the party leadership and the conservative rank and file. Attempts by the leadership to tone down rhetoric, calibrate policy positions away from the ideological fringes, and avoid all-or-nothing legislative battles are irrationally decried as surrender. Such pragmatism would be crucial at the moment Republicans are in full control of Congress and carry a heightened responsibility to help govern, but they will be in no position to deliver. If the past few years have taught us anything, it is that the “party of no” GOP does not want to actually govern.

Republicans may want to take solace in the fact that Boehner has been able to contain the worst impulses of the party’s right flank. He was able to ram through bills to provide hurricane disaster relief, expand domestic violence protections to LBGT survivors, stave off cuts to Medicare reimbursements for doctors, and avoid the insolvency of the highway trust fund, all over the objections of conservative ideologues. And while he let Cruz’s followers shut down the government in 2013, he made sure it didn’t last long and that there would not be a repeat performance in an election year (though perhaps one shouldn’t be overconfident until Congress actually passes legislation to fund the government by the next Sept. 30 deadline).

That track record suggests a Republican-controlled House and Senate wouldn’t completely jump the rails. But even when Boehner wins, he wins ugly. And if the GOP wins the Senate, these fissures will constantly be laid bare in the upper chamber too, preventing the leadership from presenting a consistent and welcoming face to the general electorate, and putting Republican presidential contenders in one awkward position after another.

A titanic budget battle, with the usual mix of unreasonable demands and threat of government shutdown, will be irresistible to the Tea Party once Republicans run all of Congress. But an outside-the-Beltway candidate like Jeb Bush or Chris Christie, inclined to run as someone who can end the federal government’s chronic dysfunction, will be hard-pressed to choose between criticizing Washington or praising the priorities of the Washington Republicans. If another natural disaster hits — especially in a key primary state or swing state — and conservatives again fight against emergency aid, presidential candidates who have a vote in Congress will be forced to choose between the compassion of the average voter and frugality of the debt-obsessed right-winger.

Those are the sorts of headaches that await Republicans if they win the Senate. And what exactly would they gain? Yes, they would be better able to stop Obama from further shaping the judiciary. But so long as they keep the House, they don’t need the Senate to bottle up Obama’s legislative agenda. Nor do they need to win the Senate outright in 2014 to win both the White House and the Senate in 2016. The few benefits do not outweigh the costs stemming from expanded governing responsibilities.

Republicans who want to win big in 2016 should ask themselves: Do we really want to export the House circus to the Senate next year? Or do we want to take a little extra time to sort out our own issues, and give our next presidential nominee more latitude to define the party’s agenda for the future?


By: Bill Scher, The Week, August 11, 2014

August 12, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, GOP, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What Matters Most Is What We Do”: If Having a Foreign Policy Doctrine Is So Important, Why Won’t Hillary Clinton Spell Hers Out?

Jeffrey Golberg has an interview with Hillary Clinton which is being billed as a rebuke of, or maybe a distancing from, her old boss, Barack Obama. While you’ll probably think that an overstatement when you read the transcript, she does express a desire for a foreign policy “doctrine” of her own, even if she doesn’t actually deliver it. While there are a few unsettling things in the interview (her comments on Israel could have come from Bibi Netanyahu himself), the doctrine question is worth paying attention to.

As I’ve argued before , President Obama doesn’t have a foreign policy doctrine, and that’s by design. He explicitly rejected the idea that it was necessary to have some kind of bumper-sticker-ready idea guiding all his foreign policy decisions, a single phrase or sentence that sums up everything he’d be doing in foreign affairs. Even though doctrines don’t have a particularly good track record of late, in this interview, Clinton says that a doctrine is necessary (though she doesn’t use that word). The trouble is, she won’t actually say what hers would be, other than to say she’d have one:

But she also suggested that she finds his approach to foreign policy overly cautious, and she made the case that America needs a leader who believes that the country, despite its various missteps, is an indispensable force for good. At one point, I mentioned the slogan President Obama recently coined to describe his foreign-policy doctrine: “Don’t do stupid shit” (an expression often rendered as “Don’t do stupid stuff” in less-than-private encounters).

This is what Clinton said about Obama’s slogan: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

She softened the blow by noting that Obama was “trying to communicate to the American people that he’s not going to do something crazy,” but she repeatedly suggested that the U.S. sometimes appears to be withdrawing from the world stage.

During a discussion about the dangers of jihadism (a topic that has her “hepped-up,” she told me moments after she greeted me at her office in New York) and of the sort of resurgent nationalism seen in Russia today, I noted that Americans are quite wary right now of international commitment-making. She responded by arguing that there is a happy medium between bellicose posturing (of the sort she associated with the George W. Bush administration) and its opposite, a focus on withdrawal.

“You know, when you’re down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you’re not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward,” she said. “One issue is that we don’t even tell our own story very well these days.”…

She said that the resilience, and expansion, of Islamist terrorism means that the U.S. must develop an “overarching” strategy to confront it, and she equated this struggle to the one the U.S. waged against Soviet-led communism.

Why, precisely, do “great nations need organizing principles”? Is it because during the next crisis, no one in the White House or the State Department will know what to do if they don’t have that organizing principle tacked up to their bulletin board, perhaps on a poster? I’m all for having an overarching strategy to confront Islamist terrorism, but we’ve been thinking about that for 13 years (or more, depending on how far back you want to go), and terrorism still exists. If Clinton has figured it out, she ought to share what she knows with the rest of us.

This isn’t strategizing, it’s meta-strategizing, strategizing about whether and why to have a strategy, rather than formulating the strategy itself. Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy doctrine might be the very soul of wisdom or it might be the height of foolishness, but we won’t be able to judge until she tells us what it is. And it’s worth noting that Bill Clinton had no discernable foreign policy doctrine (almost any president would agree with what passed for one during his term).

The appeal and the danger of doctrines is that they simplify decision-making, assuring you that there’s only one reasonable choice in complex situations and unintended consequences aren’t something to worry your head over. What would the Bush doctrine tell us to do right now about the Islamic State? Go git ’em! But that would mean pulling the United States back into Iraq at a large scale all over again, with all kinds of negative results sure to follow. On the other hand, if we don’t do enough the result could be a victory for IS, which would be a horrific outcome for the people who will find themselves under its boot. On the other hand, the more we fight them (as opposed to helping others do so), the more interested they’re likely to become in striking at the United States. On the other hand…well, you get the idea. Whatever doctrine you applied to this situation, chances are it would obscure important considerations and give you unwarranted confidence that everything will turn out fine.

When asked pointedly what her “organizing principle” is, Clinton responded, “Peace, progress, and prosperity,” then elaborated as though the question were about domestic policy. The particular views she expresses in the interview are more hawkish than the Obama administration, but people whose memories go back more than a few years will recall that Clinton has always been a hawk on military and foreign affairs. If she decides to distance herself from Obama, it will almost certainly be in that direction, because that’s who she is and what she’s always believed.

If you’re going to criticize her for that, it shouldn’t be because of any alleged lack of loyalty. Having served in a president’s administration doesn’t make you obliged to defend everything he did forevermore, particularly if you held a different view at the time. The question is whether she’s right on the merits of whatever question is at hand.

Finally, on a relatively minor note, the “we don’t tell our own story very well” is something people have been saying for years, and it’s hooey. What matters most isn’t the “story” our government tells the world—”Hey, did you know America stands for freedom? Well it does!”—what matters most is what we do. You know who’s pleased right now with the story America is telling? The Yazidis and the Kurds in Iraq, because we’re helping them. There are some other peoples who aren’t too psyched about America’s story. I hope that by now Hillary Clinton understands that success in foreign affairs isn’t about storytelling.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 11, 2014

August 12, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, Syria | , , , | Leave a comment

“The Speaker In Wonderland”: Boehner Sees Basic Current Events In The Reflection Of A Fun-House Mirror

The headline, at first blush, doesn’t seem amusing. House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) latest op-ed – a 700-word piece for Politico – begins, “Do Your Job, Mr. President.”

It gets funnier, though, once the piece gets going. Boehner (or whoever writes these pieces for him) falsely claims, for example, to have “sent more than 40 jobs bills to the U.S. Senate.” He also claims the president “rewrote the law” by helping Dream Act kids, which isn’t at all what happened.

But the crux of the piece is about tax policy. “Our tax code, like our immigration system, is badly broken,” Boehner argues. “Because we have the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world, American companies have an incentive to relocate their headquarters overseas to lower their tax bill.”

That’s not quite right. We have a relatively high corporate tax rate, which corporations don’t actually pay thanks to holes in the tax code. President Obama has proposed cutting the rate while closing existing loopholes as part of a broader tax-reform package.

Republicans have refused, which made this part of Boehner’s op-ed plainly ridiculous, even for him.

…President Obama is hinting that he may act unilaterally in an attempt to supposedly reduce or prevent these so-called “tax inversions.” Such a move sounds politically appealing, but anything truly effective would exceed his executive authority. The president cannot simply re-write the tax code himself.

The right choice is harder. President Obama must get his allies on Capitol Hill to do their job. Senate Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, pay lip service to tax reform, but they have utterly failed to act.

It sometimes seems as if Boehner lives in an entirely different reality – one in which the Speaker sees basic current events in the reflection of a fun-house mirror.

Let’s briefly review reality in the hopes of refreshing Boehner’s memory.

As we last discussed in February, House Republicans originally gave tax reform the special H.R. 1 designation – a symbolic bill number intended to convey its significance – with the intention of unveiling House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp’s (R-Mich.) plan in the fall of 2013. Camp had spent three years of his life on a tax-reform overhaul, and House GOP leaders saw it as an important priority.

And then they changed their minds. In November 2013, Republicans no longer wanted to tackle the difficult task of overhauling the tax code, choosing instead to complain about “Obamacare” full-time. Shifting their attention to policy work, the party decided, would have been an unwelcome distraction.

By March 2014, House GOP leaders decided to give up on the idea altogether. Sure, GOP lawmakers could try to accomplish something on the issue, but the effort would almost certainly divide Republicans, and there was no guarantee they’d get a bill done, anyway. Worse, if they succeeded, it might offer an election-year win for President Obama, the very idea of which was a non-starter.

Asked in the spring about the substance of a tax-reform bill, Boehner said, quite literally, “Blah, blah, blah, blah.”

And now the House Speaker, who hasn’t even considered bringing the issue to the House floor, is whining in an op-ed that Democrats “pay lip service to tax reform, but they have utterly failed to act.”

This kind of chutzpah is kind of scary. Boehner seems to think we’re fools, unable to remember what he said and did just a few months ago, and unable to access Google long enough to check.

I can appreciate the Speaker’s frustration – he’s proven himself incapable of governing, and when he tries, his own members betray him – but that’s no excuse for shameless dishonesty.

“Do Your Job, Mr. President”? This from the Speaker who wants tax reform but won’t even try to pass it through his own Republican-led chamber? Which of these two leaders is failing to do his “job”?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 11, 2014

August 12, 2014 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Tax Loopholes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Need To Blow More Stuff Up”: Republican Fear-Mongering On Iraq Isn’t Going To Work

Now that the United States is engaging militarily in Iraq, both the Obama administration and its Republican critics are trying to convince the public that their preferred response to the situation there is the most appropriate one. That has produced a stark rhetorical divergence. To simplify a bit, the administration is arguing that this conflict has very little to do with us, but if we do the wrong thing, lots of other people could suffer. Republicans, on the other hand, are arguing that it’s all about us, and if we do the wrong thing lots and lots of Americans are going to die.

When the President has talked about Iraq in the last couple of weeks, his remarks have been a combination of moral justifications for helping the Yazidis and Kurds (he even used the word “genocide”), assurances to Americans that we won’t be pulled back into a ground war there, and discussions of how the ultimate solution to this problem has to involve political stabilization in Iraq. The message that comes through is: This is very important, but it isn’t really about America and Americans. Take, for instance, this interview he did with Thomas Friedman:

The president said that what he is telling every faction in Iraq is: “We will be your partners, but we are not going to do it for you. We’re not sending a bunch of U.S. troops back on the ground to keep a lid on things. You’re going to have to show us that you are willing and ready to try and maintain a unified Iraqi government that is based on compromise. That you are willing to continue to build a nonsectarian, functional security force that is answerable to a civilian government….We do have a strategic interest in pushing back ISIL. We’re not going to let them create some caliphate through Syria and Iraq, but we can only do that if we know that we’ve got partners on the ground who are capable of filling the void. So if we’re going to reach out to Sunni tribes, if we’re going to reach out to local governors and leaders, they’ve got to have some sense that they’re fighting for something.”

Otherwise, Obama said, “We can run [ISIL] off for a certain period of time, but as soon as our planes are gone, they’re coming right back in.”

One thing Obama plainly won’t be doing is trying to make us afraid. Not so his Republican critics, however. In any foreign crisis or conflict, their position is always that whatever Obama is doing is insufficiently aggressive. Now that we’re launching air strikes in Iraq, that means they have to argue for more substantial military involvement, which after a while could begin to sound like advocacy for another war. And so unlike Obama, they’re arguing that if we don’t step up our military involvement, Americans are going to be killed in large numbers. Appearing yesterday on Meet the Press, Rep. Peter King said this:

“Well first of all, David, this is not just Iraq. ISIS is a direct threat to the United States of America. What Dick Durbin just said and what President Obama has said, is really a shameful abdication of American leadership. This isn’t Iraq we’re talking about. And we can’t wait until Maliki and the Iraqi parliament to fight ISIS.

“Every day that goes by, ISIS builds up this caliphate, and it becomes a direct threat to the United States. They are more powerful now than al-Qaeda was on 9-11. So Dick Durbin says we’re not going to do this, we’re not going to do that. I want to hear what he says when they attack us in the United States.”

Strictly speaking, it’s true that ISIS is more powerful than Al Qaeda was on September 11. But it’s also irrelevant to what kind of threat they might pose to us. Al Qaeda didn’t need to be powerful in order to carry out the September 11 attacks; that was the whole point. They killed nearly 3,000 Americans using nothing but box cutters.

But King isn’t the only one saying ISIS is coming to get us. Here’s Lindsey Graham on Fox News Sunday:

“His responsibility as president is to defend this nation. If he does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL, whatever you want to call these guys, they are coming here. This is not just about Baghdad. This is not just about Syria. It is about our homeland.”

When Chris Wallace asked Graham if America really wanted to get deeply involved in two ongoing civil wars, Graham shot back, “Do you really want to let America be attacked?” He then followed up with, “Mr. President, if you don’t adjust your strategy, these people are coming here.”

The Republicans’ presumption is that with sufficiently aggressive American military action, ISIS can be dissuaded from taking an interest in terrorist attacks within the United States. Which is possible. It’s also possible that such action is precisely what would get them interested in such attacks.

As usual, what we’re hearing from Barack Obama is that this is a complex situation in which every course of action presents the danger of unintended consequences, while what we’re hearing from Republicans is that everything is actually very simple and it will all work out fine if we just blow enough stuff up. What Republicans don’t argue is that the future of Iraq and its people is reason enough in itself to determine what course we should take; our actions have to be dictated by the danger that ISIS is going to start setting off bombs in Shreveport and Dubuque. That may be because they genuinely believe that’s a possibility, or because they think that fear is a necessary ingredient in persuading Americans to go along with a large-scale American military action.

It may take a while to know for sure, but I’m skeptical that all too many people are going to be persuaded by this argument. After 13 years of taking our shoes off in airports, buying plastic sheeting and duct tape, and hearing the terror alerts go up and down — and more importantly, after the last Iraq war, also sold on the basis that if we didn’t invade Americans were going to die in huge numbers — the fear card isn’t so easily played. That isn’t to say that ISIS might not one day try to attack targets in the U.S. They might. But it’s going to be hard to convince the public that the way to eliminate that possibility is with a large military campaign in Iraq.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, August 11, 2014

August 12, 2014 Posted by | Iraq, Middle East | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Facing A Demographic Reality”: The So-Called ‘War On Whites’ Is A Fight The GOP Can’t Win

At this point, you really have to wonder: Is it still news when a Republican says something asinine?

On the off chance it is, let us spend a few moments pondering the strange case of Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, who said last week that the Democratic Party is waging a “War on Whites.”

Yeah, he actually said that. You can look it up if you want.

Brooks was responding to radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, who had asked him to comment on a remark from National Journal columnist Ron Fournier to the effect that the GOP cannot continue to be competitive in national elections if it continues to alienate voters of color. This is a truth so self-evident as to have been adopted by the GOP itself in its “autopsy” report after the 2012 election.

Yet here is what Brooks said in response: “This is a part of the war on whites that is being launched by the Democratic Party. And the way in which they’re launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else. It’s a part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, greed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things.”

“A War on Whites.” Yet it’s President Obama who is guilty of racially inflammatory rhetoric?

Brooks’ words so alarmed Ingraham that she suggested his rhetoric was “a little out there.” This woman belches fire on all things conservative; for her to suggest you’ve gone too far is like Charlie Sheen telling you to cut back on hookers and cigarettes.

But Brooks doubled down, repeating the claim in an interview with a website, “What the Democrats are doing with their dividing America by race is they are waging a war on whites and I find that repugnant.”

OK, so let’s say the obvious first. There’s something surreal and absurd about this lecture, coming as it does from a member of the party that invented the Southern strategy and birtherism and whose voters were last seen standing at the border screaming at terrified Guatemalan kids.

But it’s not the ridiculousness of Brooks’ words that should be of greatest concern. You see, Fournier is right. If something does not arrest its present trajectory, the GOP seems destined to shrink into a regional party with appeal only to older white voters. It will be irrelevant in a nation where white voters will soon cease to be a majority — no group will be a majority — and appeals to racial and cultural resentments have less power to sway elections.

That should concern the GOP brain trust. It should concern us all. As a practical matter, this country has only two political parties; if one ceases to be competitive, we become a de facto single party system. That is not democracy. No ideology has a monopoly on good ideas. So America needs a healthy Republican Party.

Yet for every Rand Paul trying — albeit in a fumbling and deeply flawed manner — to reach constituencies the party has written off and driven off, or to engage on issues it has disregarded, there seem to be five Mo Brookses doubling down on the politics of resentment and fear.

His party needs to realize once and for all that that day is done. It is critical for the GOP to wean itself from the cowardly belief that simply to discuss race and culture, to acknowledge disparity in treatment and outcomes, to put forward ways of addressing those things, constitutes “playing the race card” or “race baiting” or fighting a “war on whites.”

That idea was always wrongheaded and dumb. Very soon it will become electorally untenable as well. So the GOP must learn to speak a language it has shunned to people it has ignored.

Because its biggest threat is not the Democratic Party but demographic reality. And right now, that reality is winning, hands down.


By: Leonard Pitts. Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, August 11, 2014


August 12, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republicans, War on Whites | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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