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“An Unpredictable Slow-Motion Riot”: Republicans Who Want To Be President Just Can’t Behave

Despite the supposed lessons of 2012, and the palpable desire of the donor class, and “reforms” initiated from on high to make the nominating process shorter and less messy, it’s increasingly obvious the 2016 Republican presidential contest could be an unpredictable slow-motion riot. As Politico‘s Haberman and Sherman report today, GOP elites are watching the field form with a sense of horror, but don’t know what to do about it:

The message from Republican officials has been crystal clear for two years: The 2016 Republican primary cannot be another prolonged pummeling of the eventual nominee. Only one person ultimately benefited from that last time — Barack Obama — and Republicans know they can’t afford to send a hobbled nominee up against Hillary Clinton.

Yet interviews with more than a dozen party strategists, elected officials and potential candidates a month out from the unofficial start of the 2016 election lay bare a stark reality: Despite the national party’s best efforts, the likelihood of a bloody primary process remains as strong as ever.

The absence of any front-runner increases the incentives for others to at least give it a try. “Reforms” like the (probable) elimination of the Ames Straw Poll mean less opportunity for winnowing the field before the real contests begin, and the shorter track of the contests themselves makes the sort of serial disposal of unelectable rivals Mitt Romney conducted in 2012 will be harder. Meanwhile, even if the elites used to a disproportionate role in the process can reach agreement on a champion (Jebbie or Mitt), it’s unclear he’ll run, or that the rank-and-file will go along.

There’s a lot of pious talk in the Politico piece about the 2016 candidates agreeing not to attack each other, and to save their fire for the dreaded Hillary, but nobody is likely to forget from 2012 how easy it was for the candidates to remain relatively sunny while their Super-PACs ran ads attacking rivals as instruments of Satan.

If Republicans have as good a midterm election as they expect, the temptation to think of 2016 as the year the conservative-movement-dominated GOP finally consolidates power will be very strong. Which potential candidates will want to pass up the opportunity to get in on that, particularly if a failed run sets ’em up for the future? I don’t know, but I do know this could be the cycle when the cliches about the Republican Party being “disciplined” and “hierarchical” finally get retired once and for all.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Editor, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 7, 2014

October 8, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Is This The Return Of Back Alley Abortions?”: The “Republican War On Women” Is A Fact, One That Voters Are Certainly Aware Of

Sometimes, women have sex. Sometimes, that sex is unprotected. Sometimes, women get pregnant. And sometimes, they chose to terminate their pregnancies by having abortions. In fact, one in three American women will have an abortion by the age of 45. These are all basic and undeniable facts of life, facts just like evolution and climate change and the economic benefits of raising the minimum wage that both universal truth and voter opinion plainly endorse. And then there’s the Republican Party, determined to face these facts in the same way it faces its inevitable substantive and demographic irrelevance — in other words, not at all.

According to a recent poll conducted by NARAL Pro-Choice America, almost 7 in 10 Americans “believe having an abortion is morally acceptable and should be legal” or are “personally against abortion” but “don’t believe government should prevent a woman from making that decision for herself.” Included in that number are fully 53 percent of Republicans who say they don’t support government limits on abortion.

The Republican Party has a major — and growing — problem not only wooing women voters but also male voters who support women’s reproductive freedom, let alone economic equality. And yet confronted with facts, including that Republicans in Texas are forcing the closure of the majority of the state’s abortion clinics, what does Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican Party, do? Distract from the facts.

On Meet The Press this past Sunday, Chuck Todd asked Priebus about last week’s ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court to allow Texas’ restrictive anti-abortion law to take immediate effect. Here’s their exchange via RH Reality Check’s Jodi Jacobson, who has characterized Priebus’ response as a downright lie:

TODD: A court upheld a new law in Texas. One of the things about the Republican Party is you don’t like a lot of regulation on businesses, except if the business is [an] abortion clinic. Eighty percent of these abortion clinics in Texas are going to be basically out of business because of this new law. Too much regulation, is that fair? Why regulate on the abortion issue now until maybe the law is—and maybe wait until you win a fight in the Supreme Court where you outlaw abortion altogether. Why restrict a business now in the state of Texas?

REINCE PRIEBUS: Well, you obviously have to talk to someone in Texas. But the fact of the matter is that we believe that any woman that’s faced with an unplanned pregnancy deserves compassion, respect, counseling, whatever it is that we can offer to be—

CHUCK TODD: But 80 percent of those clinics are gone. So that they have to drive 200 or 300 miles for that compassion?

REINCE PRIEBUS: No, look, listen, Chuck. The issue for us is only one thing. And that’s whether you ought to use taxpayer money to fund abortion. That’s the one issue that I think separates this conversation that we’re having.

Wait a second! The Texas law has absolutely nothing to do with taxpayer dollars — after all, Texas banned public support for reproductive health a long time ago. No, the Texas law merely places extremely onerous and unnecessary requirements on abortion providers for the sole purpose of forcing those providers to stop performing abortions. Which, by the way, is working — as a result of the Fifth Circuit ruling, seven or eight additional clinics in Texas will close, forcing women in many parts of the state to drive 300 miles or more to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion. The Texas policy, after all, is the manifestation of GOP-led attacks on abortion across the country, which have gone to such an extreme that 87 percent of counties in America do not have abortion providers and medical training on abortion care has been so undermined that, as The Daily Beast reported, a new online course is trying to fill the gap.

Maybe Priebus was confused. Republicans also oppose government funding for contraception — or even, in the case of Obamacare, government requiring private insurers to cover contraception — despite the obvious fact that affordable access to contraception lowers the rate of unintended pregnancies and thus the need for abortions. Then again, I give Priebus more credit than that — and assume that his words weren’t accidentally misspoken but deliberately misleading.

Again and again, as I have written, it seems to boil down to Republicans being offended that women — especially poor women — even want to have sex. How dare they! Soon they’ll be wanting equal pay. “You could argue that money is more important for men,” Republican congressional candidate Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin once said, explaining his opposition to equal pay laws. Birth control is for women who “cannot control their libido,” said former Arkansas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

These attitudes, along with backwards policy stances, paint a picture of a GOP not only out of touch with women’s reproductive and economic freedom but downright opposed to it. Is it any wonder that women, especially young liberated women, are fleeing from a party that is so profoundly and anachronistically condescending to more than half of the population?

Rank-and-file conservatives by and large do not share these extreme anti-equality, anti-abortion, anti-women attitudes. But such views are becoming dangerously prevalent among Republican leaders and candidates — and being translated into policy at a record pace, with results so frightening that Republican leaders realize they can’t even be honest with voters about the effects. In other words, the “Republican War on Women” isn’t a politically convenient construction of the Democrats, it’s a fact — one that voters are certainly aware of.


By: Sally Kohn, The Daily Beast, October 7, 2014

October 8, 2014 Posted by | Reince Priebus, Reproductive Choice, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Et Tu, Leon?”: Continuing The Tradition Of Those Who Feel Ungrateful Besmirching Of A Presidency Is A Mere Patriotic Duty

So let’s say you’re a former congressman, CIA director and Secretary of Defense. You (and probably a ghost or two) have been noodling with a memoir for a long time. You’re finally out of office and want to make some dough and remind people you’re still a big deal. You know that in the heat of a midterm election that’s supposed to be a “referendum” on your former boss, and with much of the world focused on U.S. airstrikes in the Middle East, you can get a lot of attention and sell a lot of books by biting the hand that fed you and criticizing the president. Do you hold back for a while until said president is out of office, as Vice President Joe Biden suggested everyone should do? Or do you cash right in?

Well, we know Leon Panetta decided to cash right in. He didn’t go far out of his way to advertise his book as a devastating expose of a weak and America-endangering president, but he’s doing interviews that lend themselves to the impression that he thinks Obama erred grieveously by failing to leave combat troops in Iraq and fight for higher defense spending. And thus, as WaPo’s Dana Milbank points out in a column that excoriates Panetta for “stunning disloyalty” to Obama, his book was seized upon immediately by Republicans–notably Bobby Jindal, who was doing a big Let’s Give the Pentagon A Lot More Money speech the day before the book came out–as evidence of their national security case against the 44th president.

Now as Milbank admits, Panetta (like Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton before him) probably thinks of his service to the current administration as just the capstone of a career that was in full flower when Barack Obama was still in middle school. As it happens, Panetta is treated like a living deity out here on the Central Coast, which he used to represent in Congress. But his current work revolves around the Leon Panetta Institute for Public Policy, which mainly hosts lectures and seminars featuring big-name has-been Beltway Movers and Shakers who engage in Bipartisan Discussions of the Issues of the Day. I suppose a little extra street cred from Republicans owing to book tour interviews that sadly dismiss Barack Obama as out of his league doesn’t hurt this post-political legacy-building.

I doubt I’ll actually read Panetta’s book, but those who do can perhaps check my impression that Leon went deeply native at the Pentagon and continued the deplorable tradition of Secretaries of Defense who just can’t stop rattling the cup for more money for the ravening beast. If so, I suppose his current carping is in the bipartisan tradition of those who feel ungrateful besmirching of a presidency is a mere patriotic duty to ensure no occupant of that office forgets his extraconstitutional duty to the Empire.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, The Maddow Blog, October 7, 2014

October 8, 2014 Posted by | Defense Budget, Dept of Defense, Leon Panetta | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cruz’s ‘Tragic And Indefensible’ Reasoning”: Leave It To Ted Cruz To Render The Phrase ‘Judicial Activism’ Utterly Meaningless

By mid-day yesterday, hours after the Supreme Court had tacitly expanded marriage equality to several states, only one Republican U.S. senator, Utah’s Mike Lee, had issued a press statement. In the midst of an extraordinary societal shift on civil rights, Republicans – from Capitol Hill to the RNC – had effectively decided to take a pass on saying much of anything.

But it wasn’t long after that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) decided to weigh in. The fact that the far-right senator wasn’t pleased didn’t come as a surprise, but take a moment to soak in the Texas Republican’s incredible reasoning.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to let rulings by lower court judges stand that redefine marriage is both tragic and indefensible,” said Sen. Cruz. “By refusing to rule if the States can define marriage, the Supreme Court is abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution. The fact that the Supreme Court Justices, without providing any explanation whatsoever, have permitted lower courts to strike down so many state marriage laws is astonishing.

“This is judicial activism at its worst.”

It wasn’t too long ago that “judicial activism” was a phrase that actually meant something. Folks on the left and right who were outraged when judges made up new legal rationales to justify controversial decisions could credibly use the words as part of a reasonable complaint.

In time, the phrase became diluted. Soon, every judge a partisan disagreed with became a “judicial activist,” whether the label made sense or not. Every ruling a partisan objected to became an example of “judicial activism,” even if it wasn’t.

But leave it to Ted Cruz to render the phrase utterly meaningless in a new and creative way: the Supreme Court, the senator now believes, can be guilty of “judicial activism” even when the justices literally haven’t done anything. Yesterday’s news was a breakthrough moment for equal-marriage rights, but in a practical sense, all the justices did was announce they wouldn’t hear some cases – something they do all the time, on all kinds of issues and areas of the law.

But that’s not all: Cruz then told everyone what he intends to do about this outrage.

The senator’s statement went on to say: “Marriage is a question for the States. That is why I have introduced legislation, S. 2024, to protect the authority of state legislatures to define marriage. And that is why, when Congress returns to session, I will be introducing a constitutional amendment to prevent the federal government or the courts from attacking or striking down state marriage laws.”

And what is S. 2024? It’s a proposal to empower states to discriminate against same-sex couples and ignore marriages performed in other states. Luke Brinker explained, “Gay rights advocates have dubbed the bill the ‘You’re Not Married Anymore’ Bill,’ noting that it would sanction a patchwork of state laws pertaining to same-sex marriage and jeopardize couples’ rights as they travel from state to state.”

Cruz, of course, is also reportedly eyeing a national campaign in the near future. The right-wing Texan may very well be taking early steps to lock up the anti-gay vote now.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 7, 2014

October 8, 2014 Posted by | Marriage Equality, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Bomb In The Middle Of The Presidential Campaign”: How Gay Marriage Could Cause The GOP Major Headaches In 2016

After yesterday’s dramatic ruling from the Supreme Court effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in 11 more states (that now makes 30, plus DC), you would have thought conservatives would be expressing their outrage to anyone who would listen. But their reaction was remarkably muted. “None of the top House GOP leaders (Speaker John Boehner or Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy) issued statements. Ditto the RNC,” reported NBC News. “And most strikingly, we didn’t hear a peep about the Supreme Court’s (non)-decision on the 2014 campaign trail, including in the red-state battlegrounds.” The only one who issued a thundering denunciation was Ted Cruz.

Even though the GOP’s discomfort with this issue has been evident for a while, with the unofficial start of the 2016 presidential campaign just a month away (after the midterm elections are done), the issue of marriage equality is going to become positively excruciating for them. Many people saw the Court’s denial of cert in the five cases they confronted yesterday as a prelude to the case they’ll eventually take, the one that will probably strike down all the state bans on same-sex marriage and make marriage equality the law of the land. That could happen in the Court’s current term, which runs from now until next summer. But it’s even more likely that it would come in their next term, the one going between October 2015 and the summer of 2016. If that happened, it would land like a bomb in the middle of the presidential campaign.

In a certain way, the GOP’s current dilemma is reminiscent of where Democratic presidential candidates were during the 2004 race, when the marriage issue burst into national attention after the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared in November 2003 that the state had to allow gay people to marry. Most of the candidates were unsure of what their position was or should be, trapped between the primary and general electorates. Howard Dean had been considered by many a wild-eyed liberal in no small part because as governor of Vermont he had signed a civil unions bill, even though he opposed full marriage rights. Before long, most of the Democrats running settled on that as their position too — civil unions yes, marriage no (the exceptions were Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, and Carol Moseley Braun, all of whom supported marriage equality). None of them seemed to want to talk about it, and they were pulled one way by the general electorate, and another by the principle involved, and a party base that was moving to the left.

There’s a different quandary for today’s Republican presidential contenders. You have a general electorate supporting change, and a Republican base committed to the rapidly eroding status quo. And consider that the first three Republican contests are in Iowa, relatively moderate New Hampshire, and extremely conservative South Carolina, which happens to be one of the states affected by yesterday’s ruling. Ed Kilgore suggests that Iowa in particular is going to pose a challenge:

But the Iowa problem is real for Republicans: it became, because of a relatively early state judicial ruling allowing same-sex marriage, Ground Zero for conservative resistance to marriage equality. As recently as two years ago, I attended an Iowa political event, along with four or five former (and possibly future) presidential candidates, that was heavily focused on removing the judges responsible. I don’t think the majordomo of that event, Bob Vander Plaats (often called a “kingmaker” thanks to his timely support for the last two Iowa Caucus winners), is about to cave anytime soon. And so long as there is an opportunist or two in the presidential field who’s frantic for right-wing support (I’m looking at you, Bobby Jindal!), the odds of this issue being “off the table” in Iowa are very low.

Ed’s last point is critical. If all the candidates had a tacit agreement not to make too much of it, the issue might not be that big a deal. But all it takes is one who won’t go along to force all the other candidates to talk about it. And we already know that Ted Cruz, who will be bidding to be the choice of social conservatives, isn’t going to let it go.

Now put that in the context of the long-running conflict within the GOP between the Tea Party base and the more practical-minded establishment. When the party bigwigs are saying, “We really need to talk about something else,” the base is going to conclude that they are once again being betrayed by a bunch of elite Washington Republicans who are perfectly happy consorting with the sodomites who inhabit their metropolis of depravity.

Which, to a certain degree, is true. Many of those elite Washington Republicans may still write columns in support of “traditional marriage,” but they also regularly interact with gay people. They’ll come around before long, which will only make the base angrier.

The 2016 Republican primary was already shaping up to be a hugely entertaining bloodbath. This only makes it more exciting.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, October 7, 2014

October 8, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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