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“A Regrettable Ignorance”: Don’t Know Much About History, Rick Perry Edition

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), still an unannounced presidential candidate, campaigned in New Hampshire last week and told a group of voters that he and Abraham Lincoln share an ideological bond.

“Lincoln read the Constitution, and he also read the Bill of Rights, and he got down to the Tenth Amendment, and he liked it,” Perry boasted. “That Tenth Amendment that talks about these states, these laboratories of democracy…. The Tenth Amendment that the federal government is limited, its powers are limited by the Constitution.”

It’s easy to understand how the Texan might be confused. Lincoln and Perry share a party label, so the former governor apparently assumes they share a political outlook, too. And given that Lincoln was arguably the nation’s greatest president, it stands to reason that the Texas Republican, like most candidates, would want to associate himself with the Lincoln legacy.

The problem, however, is that Perry has no idea what he’s talking about. Josh Zeitz, who taught American history and politics at Cambridge and Princeton, explained the other day that the former Texas governor “got Lincoln backwards” and Perry’s entire argument “betrays a regrettable ignorance of Lincoln’s political outlook.”

Before he reluctantly became a Republican, Abraham Lincoln was a lifelong Whig – a party founded in opposition to Andrew Jackson and in support of a strong and active central state…. A passionate supporter of Henry Clay’s “American System,” Lincoln believed that states should ultimately be subordinate to a strong federal government, and that Washington had a big role to play in matters as far and wide as internal improvements, currency, banking and taxation. […]

As president, Lincoln vastly expanded the federal government’s role…. Maybe Rick Perry spent too much time reading from those widely disputed history and government standards that the Texas Board of Education, in its infinite wisdom, foisted on textbook publishers. Whatever the cause, he’s confusing Abraham Lincoln – erstwhile Whig and promoter of a strong central government – for a strict Tenth Amendment devotee. That, he certainly was not.

As Jon Chait reminded me, Perry has also flirted openly with the idea of state secession, which probably wouldn’t have impressed the president who won the Civil War.

In 2009, the then-governor was so eager to show his contempt for President Obama that Perry denounced the United States government as “oppressive,” arguing that it was “time to draw the line in the sand and tell Washington that no longer are we going to accept their oppressive hand in the state of Texas.” Soon after, he said he doesn’t want to “dissolve” the union of the United States, “But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”

Around the same time, Perry said of Texas, “[W]hen we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want. So we’re kind of thinking about that again.”

I won’t pretend to be a Lincoln scholar, but I’m comfortable describing the iconic American president as someone who wasn’t comfortable with the idea of state secession.

All of this must be terribly inconvenient for Republicans. Lincoln believed in a strong federal government, a progressive income tax, and considerable infrastructure investments, making him sound an awful lot like a Democrat by 21st-century standards. Indeed, some conservatives who’ve read up on Lincoln see him as something of an enemy – Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) co-wrote a book with a neo-Confederate who boasted that he raises “a personal toast every May 10 to celebrate John Wilkes Booth’s birthday.”

Perry may want to take Lincoln back as some kind of conservative hero, but he’ll have to ignore literally every historical detail to make the case to unsuspecting voters.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 17, 2015

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Abraham Lincoln, Republicans, Rick Perry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Most Glaring Drawback Is He’s A Bush”: Jeb Bush Cannot Escape His Brother’s Undeniably Disastrous Presidency

Earlier this year, Mitt Romney had a Galadriel moment. He appeared to be briefly seized by a vision of himself as an all-powerful, world-striding President Romney, before turning away from temptation and settling for the plain old Mitt Romney he has always been. It was political theater at its most bizarre, a flack-driven frenzy that doubled as a flashback to the self-delusion that blinded the Romney 2012 campaign in its final days.

With Romney now out of the way, Jeb Bush has consolidated the support of the GOP’s moneyed class with surprising alacrity. As Politico noted last week, the contest for the Republican nomination was previously seen as a “free-for-all among a half-dozen or so viable candidates” but has since shifted to a game of catch-up, with a clear leader way out front who has a “bull’s-eye on his back.” He may soon be out of sight: The Washington Post reported that Bush is amassing so much money so quickly that his potential rivals “do not even claim they can compete at his level.”

The Republican primary process is a fearsome thing for any establishment candidate, but history shows that he (and it is always a he) will win in the end. None of this is good news for Bush’s would-be competitors, whether they be on the fringe (Rand Paul, Ted Cruz), slow starting out of the gates (Chris Christie), or Pawlenty-esque (Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal).

The problem for the GOP is that a Bush running in 2016 is almost as eye-rubbingly bizarre as another Romney campaign.

I’m not talking about Jeb Bush’s policies or his abilities as a campaigner (though for the most part he has been deft in avoiding the usual pitfalls and has handled the media well). I’m talking about his most glaring drawback: the fact that he’s a Bush. It seems too obvious to mention, but as Republican elites rally around his flag, it appears they need a reminder. Just a few years ago, the idea of another Bush running for president would have been laughable. Today, the party is so desperate for a winner that it is willing to entirely overlook eight disastrous years in the White House.

In early February, Jeb Bush said his brother was a “great president.” Maybe that’s just what a younger brother has to say to avoid seeming like a heartless backstabber. Then again: Really?

George W. Bush’s Iraq War was a horrible blunder — the worst foreign policy disaster since Vietnam. There was a brief moment at the dawn of the Arab Spring when conservatives were crediting Bush’s pro-democracy agenda for a wave of anti-authoritarian protests across the region, but you don’t hear them saying that anymore. Iraq was a really, really bad idea, and nothing has changed that.

Then there’s the economy. There are not many modern presidents who enjoy the dubious honor of overseeing a recession so bad that it compares only to the Great Depression. In fact, there is only one: George W. Bush. While it would be unfair to lay the entire economic collapse at his feet, it’s clear that the financial crisis stemmed from a stew of GOP policies, from deregulation to crony capitalism to overly prizing homeownership. Again, not great. Not even good.

Next up: the budget. Bush entered office with a budget surplus, then gave a huge chunk of it away to the rich. That’s not good. That’s very, very bad.

Then there’s all the rest of it: Katrina, Scooter Libby, torture, wiretapping, Dick Cheney, and on and on and on.

George W. Bush’s approval rating has improved since its 2008 nadir, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it will plummet once the Bush years are relitigated in the context of a hypercompetitive presidential race in which another Bush is on the ballot.

To win a general election, Jeb Bush would have to come up with a way to disown his brother’s legacy — and so far he has only embraced it. That means that, should Hillary Clinton be the Democratic nominee, the 2016 election could very well come down to a contest between the 1990s and the 2000s.

Americans have fond memories of the 1990s. The 2000s? Not so much.

 

By: Ryu Spaeth, The Week, February 17, 2015

February 19, 2015 Posted by | George W Bush, GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who Says Money In Politics Doesn’t Buy Influence?”: The Distorting Impact Of Money, Enabled By Supreme Court Rulings

One recent day, my newspaper had two front-page stories related to money and politics. One was about financial contributions made from the political action committees of prospective presidential candidates to Iowa office-seekers of the same party. Another reported that former Texas Governor Rick Perry has been appointed to the board of the corporation planning the controversial Bakken pipeline.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled money in politics is free “speech,” and doesn’t buy influence. But both of those stories offered small examples of how it might. In the first, potential presidential candidate Rand Paul wants Iowa operatives in his camp, so he donates some of his PAC funds — a thousand here or there — to their campaigns. They in turn may feel grateful enough to repay the favor by talking Paul up to their supporters.

In the second case, prospective presidential candidate Perry gets a direct financial stake in a controversial oil-pipeline proposal. The Bakken pipeline, which would stretch from North Dakota to Illinois, is widely opposed by environmental and other groups. But by investing in Perry and his campaign, the company could bank on having a friend in the White House to create a climate favorable for such projects. In 2012, the head of Energy Transfer Partners gave a quarter million dollars to a SuperPAC for Perry. And now Perry has a seat on its board.

A Perry spokesman said Perry won’t be publicly promoting the pipeline, but he doesn’t have to. His board presence is endorsement enough.

Traditional PACs are chicken feed compared with the filet mignon influence SuperPACs can buy. The first allow a group of people with a common goal — say, reducing environmental regulations — to donate up to $5,000 to a candidate in each round of an election campaign, and $15,000 a year to a national political party. But SuperPACs — authorized by the 2010 Supreme Court ruling, Speechnow vs. FEC — can raise and spend unlimited amounts of corporate, union or private dollars to promote or discredit a candidate in a federal election. They just can’t donate directly to the candidate or party.

The Center for Responsive Politics reports that in 2014 elections, 1,300 SuperPACs had raised more than $695 million. They ranged from the liberal Senate Majority PAC, which raised $67 million, to the conservative American Crossroads PAC, which raised $23 million. Ten billion dollars were spent in the 2012 election cycle — combining the presidential, local, state and regional races — according to national journalist/author John Nichols. But for all that spending, Nichols told a Des Moines audience, 2014 had the lowest turnout in midterm elections since 1942.

Nichols, the Washington correspondent for the progressive Nation magazine and co-author of Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America was brought to Iowa by the Quaker American Friends Service Committee to kick off a project provocatively titled “Governing Under the Influence.” It aims to focus attention in Iowa and New Hampshire, the leadoff presidential selection states, on the distorting impact of money in politics, enabled by Supreme Court rulings.

In a rousing speech in the basement of a United Methodist Church, Nichols said most Americans feel too overwhelmed to know what to do. Rather than motivate voters, the excess negativity of political ads causes many not to vote. But Nichols maintains that Iowans get more one-on-one time with presidential candidates than anyone else and should use that to grill them. “Iowans should be saying, ‘How much money have you taken from this interest?’” and how do they stay independent of it, he said. He suggested everyone ask the candidates if they agree with the Supreme Court that corporations are people, and if unlimited spending to influence elections is protected free speech.

Ultimately, those rulings can only be overridden by a constitutional amendment. But history, notes Nichols, was filled with people organizing in response to an injustice and getting the constitution changed — like the 19th amendment, ratified in 1920, granting women the right to vote, the 13th amendment (1865), abolishing slavery and the 15th amendment (1870) giving black people voting rights.

It takes either a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress or in two-thirds of state legislatures to amend the constitution. That must be ratified by three-quarters of the states. But some states have begun the process. Montana and Colorado voted differently for president in 2012, but both voted to amend the constitution to curb money in elections.

It’s a long and laborious process. The 27th amendment, on congressional pay, was submitted in 1789, but not ratified until 1992. On the other hand, the 26th amendment, giving 18-year-olds voting rights, took only three months to be ratified in 1971. Most Americans understood the absurdity of drafting young people who couldn’t even vote. I hope most Americans also understand the absurdity of politicians using their office to return a debt to the deep pockets that helped get them elected.

 

By: Rekha Basu, Columnist for the Des Moines Register; The National Memo, February 18, 2015

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Politics, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP To DHS; Governing Is Hard”: Republicans Are Edging Ever Closer To A Totally Predictable Shutdown

Weeks after winning the Senate, soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a nice thought:

“We will not be shutting the government down or threatening to default on the federal debt,” he said.

With less than two weeks before yet another government shutdown, chaos remains and dysfunction is still normal.

The latest manufactured drama is over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is scheduled to expire on February 27.

The scenario should sound familiar:

Much like the government shutdown over defunding Obamacare, House Republicans are refusing to pass any bill that funds DHS that doesn’t contain a provision overturning the Obama administration’s executive orders on undocumented immigrants and Senate Democrats are refusing to debate any DHS funding bill that has this language.

(Nevermind, the bill would be vetoed the minute it hit the president’s desk. This isn’t about the winning—it’s about the game.)

The result is a partisan stalemate in which neither side will blink.

And once again, this was all by design.

This showdown was set up at the end of 2014 with the debate over “the Cromnibus,” the controversial budget bill that funded the government for most of 2015.

Many conservative Republicans were loath to agree to any measure that funded the government didn’t overturn the executive orders.

Democrats refused to go along with anything other than a bill that funded DHS and omitted the executive order language.

The language would go beyond the controversial executive order that Obama issued in 2014 to allow 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States and also apply to the “DREAMers,” a subset of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States while they were underage and have clean criminal records. DREAMers were allowed to stay in the United States in an executive order that the administration issued in 2012.

To avoid another government shutdown, a compromise was reached before lawmakers went home for the holidays.

Most of the federal government would be funded for a year but the DHS would only receive sufficient appropriations to last through the end of February.

The idea was that conservatives could force their standoff on immigration then and surely, no one would want to let the government agency responsible for keeping the United States safe go dark.

But, of course, that is not the case.

To add more futility to their cause, the DHS will keep on running even without being funded. Workers in key agencies like the Border Patrol and the Transportation Safety Administration are considered “essential” and will report to work regardless—they just won’t be paid to do their jobs.

While many other DHS employees could be furloughed, this limitation prevents a shutdown from turning into an immediate crisis and reduces the cost.

On Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner seemed ready to embrace a potential shutdown and unwilling to consider a compromise.

He told Fox News, “The House has acted. We’ve done our job.” Boehner then said, “Senate Democrats are the ones putting us in this precarious position. It’s up to Senate Democrats to get their act together.”

But it’s not just Senate Democrats who think shutting down the DHS is a bad idea. Senate Republicans—John McCain, Jeff Flake and Mark Kirk, to name a few—also have expressed problems with using the DHS as a way to tweak the president.

The impasse is also handing Senate Democrats a powerful political weapon.

In a statement last week Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid said, “The Republican Congress is a mess, pure and simple. Democrats are happy to help our Republican colleagues resolve their problems but the first step is for Republican leaders to do the right thing and pass a clean bill to fund Homeland Security.”

The political dilemma for Republicans is that while a shutdown plays well with their base, it gives them relatively little leverage.

Most key functions of the DHS will be funded regardless and the result of past GOP brinkmanship is that Republicans are likely to bear the burden of the blame for any shutdown.

It also creates peculiar consequences in the 2016 presidential race as well.

It combines two delicate political issues of immigration reform and a government shutdown into one package and places more moderate GOP hopefuls in a bind.

Do they want to let what Republicans universally believe is an unconstitutional executive order by the Obama administration stand or do they want to be put in a position of cutting funding to the DHS in the aftermath of a wave of Islamist terror attacks against American allies and interests.

The result is a familiar dysfunction.

Democrats won’t yield on Obama’s executive orders—a move that would risk undermining one of the most important actions of the president’s second term and lead to the potential deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.

Republicans can’t alienate their conservative base yet again by compromising on what has become such a point of principle.

This latest episode might frustrating in the short term but, like the last shutdown, it has a predictable end:

It’s not a question of whether Republicans will cave and fund the DHS, but when.

 

By: Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast, February 17, 2015

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Dept of Homeland Security, GOP, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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