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“Long On Facade, Short On Bricks And Mortar”: Will The Ted Cruz Presidential Campaign Be All Hat, No Cattle?

A presidential campaign often poses the largest, toughest management challenge of a candidate’s life to date, and fairly or not, is often considered a proxy for whether a politician has what it takes to lead a country.

In order to be the first 2016 candidate to officially launch, Texas senator Ted Cruz skimped on a few hallmarks of a fully prepared, well-run campaign. He used stock footage of American landmarks in a midnight announcement video. He announced in a prefabricated setting before an attendance-required crowd at Liberty University. And his post-announcement tour was actually a media blitz that included Fox News, NBC, CBS, The Laura Ingraham Show and The Glenn Beck Radio Program.

Kentucky senator Rand Paul, by contrast, plans to enter the race April 7 in Louisville and spend the next four days at rallies and other events in the crucial early voting states of New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa and Nevada. Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are laying even more extensive groundwork.

Cruz’s choice of an evangelical Christian university for his Monday announcement certainly reinforced his identity as a religious conservative. But it also raised inauspicious questions. Start with the fact that had he not slated his event for that day in that place, the 12,000 students Cruz described as “on fire” would have been listening (albeit perhaps less enthusiastically) to Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe. A leading Democrat and Clinton family ally, he was the speaker originally scheduled for that slot.

Could Cruz have gotten his own crowd, one that did not show up under threat of university penalties, and that did not feature people wearing Rand Paul T-shirts? Does Cruz have infrastructure in early primary states? Can he raise sufficient money? In short, will the campaign be real? Or will it be an extension of Cruz’s Senate persona as a champion talker, more interested in making a point than moving the ball?

There have been many candidates who say they are running for president and even are included in primary-season debates. But their campaigns are Potemkin villages — long on facade, short on bricks and mortar.

Cruz would argue that he is all about substance. He bristled during several interviews when it was noted that both he and Obama chose to run for president at the same early point in their Senate careers. Cruz rightly pointed out that he spent more than five years as solicitor general of Texas and won big victories before the Supreme Court. “Unlike Barack Obama, I wasn’t a community organizer,” he said.

Obama was indeed a community organizer — after college for three years, two of them as director of the program. He then went to Harvard Law School, practiced law, taught law, and spent eight years in the Illinois Senate, where he was a leader in improving ethics and transparency, health and tax programs for the poor, and police practices affecting minorities.

As for the U.S. Senate, Cruz repeatedly called Obama an inconsequential backbencher. By contrast, Cruz said, he has personally led fights to uphold conservative principles “on issue after issue after issue,” including stopping Obamacare and stopping “amnesty” for immigrants in the country illegally.

Obama might well have made fewer headlines than Cruz in the U.S. Senate. He did, however, play a key role in the passage of laws and sections of laws on ethics, transparency, green energy, protecting veterans, securing nuclear materials, and prohibiting no-bid contracting in the aftermath of disasters. The fights Cruz led against Obama’s health and immigration policies, meanwhile, produced one government shutdown, one near-shutdown, and sinking GOP approval ratings. The policies he fought are still in effect.

Clearly, leading a fight is not the same as winning a fight. Winning in Congress often means laboring and sometimes compromising in obscurity — all to get your bill or provision or amendment wrapped into a huge piece of legislation with someone else’s name on it.

In his focus on battles as opposed to results, Cruz recalls former Rep. Michele Bachmann. Voters want “a fighter against the political establishment of Washington, D.C., and I have credentials there,” the Minnesota Republican said four years ago on Fox News, as she was gearing up for a 2012 presidential bid. She did express a lot of fighting views. But when she retired from Congress, her legislative record was characterized as thin.

Cruz raised a half-million dollars on his first official day as a candidate, a good start. Among his tests is whether he can sustain that pace and build a full-fledged campaign. To call on a cowboy cliché, Cruz has a lot of ground to make up if he wants to show he is not all hat, no cattle.


By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, March 26, 2015

March 28, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Devil Came Down To Georgia And Paid Off Judas”: Republicans Want Their Own Tidy Little Jim Crow Zone Of Discrimination

In some startling, if preliminary, good news from Georgia, members of a state House committee, including three Republicans, “gutted” a religious liberty bill by adding language foreswearing any preemption of anti-discrimination laws. Proponents of the bill quickly moved to table it for the session, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Aaron Gould Sheinin:

The stunning move to table Senate Bill 129 came after Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, succeeded in amending it to make clear that the bill would protect against “discrimination on any ground prohibited by federal, state or local law.”

“I take at face value the statements of proponents that they do not intend discrimination with this bill,” Jacobs said. “I also believe that if this is the case, we as the General Assembly should state that expressly in the bill itself.”

Ha ha! Good one!

But “religious liberty” fans are not amused by having their own words quoted back to them. Erick Erickson, who often treats Georgia politics like his own personal dominion, pitched a hissy fit that’s extreme even by his porous standards, focusing on two Republicans who appeared to switch sides by voting with Jacobs, and a third who didn’t vote on the amendment.

Yesterday, I encouraged everyone to call Beth Beskin, Jay Powell, and Wendell Willard to tell them thank you. They had stood with Chick-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, and people of faith. They fought off attempts to gut the religious liberty legislation in Georgia.

After you had taken the time to call them, Beth Beskin, Jay Powell, and Wendell Willard stabbed you in the back.

A week before we remember the anniversary of Judas selling out our Lord for 30 pieces of silver, Beth Beskin, Jay Powell, and Wendell Willard have sold out people of faith.

The very amendments they stopped that would have gutted the religious liberty bill, they put back in yesterday. They saved RFRA in a subcommittee only to kill it in full committee. And they did it after you had thanked them for sparing the legislation.

This is a serious betrayal. They stabbed you in the back as you were thanking them for defending your faith.

Whoa, Erick, remember you’re supposed to be the fearful, persecuted victim here, not a raging vengeful homophobe. Start tossing around references to Judas and you might find yourself tempted to lead one of those medieval-style Good Friday pogroms if you are not careful (as the AJC pointed out this morning, the prime mover in “gutting” the bill, Mark Jacobs, is Jewish).

What the incident makes clear, of course, is that the whole point of “religious liberty” legislation is to sanction discrimination. These people fully intend to discriminate, and demand the right to do so, because they’ve convinced themselves (by conflating traditional secular culture with Christianity, and then finding a few lifted-out-of-context references in Scripture that seem to back it up) that God wants them to discriminate against gay people as unclean. They want their own tidy little Jim Crow zone of discrimination where they benefit from the laws and policies they approve of but are allowed to disregard the others.

But as Erickson demonstrates, the really hard thing for them is to reconcile the appropriate appearance of Christ-like suffering at their terrible victimization with the fury they clearly feel at losing control of the political and legal system, if only for a moment.

One other reason the Freedom to Discriminate coalition is angry is that it is being “betrayed” not just by RINO legislators, but by the business community, which in Georgia and elsewhere, doesn’t want to sacrifice convention business in order to let people defy anti-discrimination laws.

These in Erick’s analogy are the equivalents to the Jewish priests who paid off Judas to turn over Christ to Roman soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane. But the conspiracy apparently is even wider: Erickson points to Gov. Nathan Deal–a hard-core Christian Right pol–for allegedly being on the brink of appointing the chief betrayer of the faithful, Mark Jacobs, to a judgeship.

Having repeatedly appropriated to himself the right to determine who is and is not a “Christian,” ol’ Erick clearly needs to do some more purging of the Republican ranks to make the GOP safe for people who want to appropriate the right to determine which laws to obey.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 27, 2015

March 28, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Georgia, Religious Liberty | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Is It With Some Cops And Girls?”: When Police Officers Are The Sexual Predators

D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department has asked members of the public to call its Youth Investigations Division if they have information on Darrell Best, the 45-year-old police officer accused this week of sexually abusing two teenage girls. Best, who lives in Upper Marlboro, was held without bond after a court hearing Thursday. The MPD, I kindly suggest, may wish to direct the plea for information to officers within its own ranks. Apparently, Best’s worst side may have been displayed well before December, when he allegedly assaulted a then-17-year-old at police headquarters and a 16-year-old who attended his church. Yes, you read correctly, his church.

Best, who has been on administrative leave since his arrest Monday, is also a pastor who preaches at God-A Second Chance Ministry in Southeast.

Officer Best was once Sgt. Best. He held that rank until 2009, according to both a retired and a currently senior MPD official. They say he was demoted following a department Disciplinary Review Board decision sustaining a sexual harassment complaint filed by a 5th District officer. Additionally, in 2007, prosecutors said during Thursday’s hearing, a 20-year-old female cadet reported that Best inappropriately touched and kissed her at the police academy, where Best was assigned at the time.

What is it with some cops and girls?

Last July, another veteran D.C. officer, 46-year-old Wendel Palmer, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for repeatedly sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl from 2004 to 2006. She sang in the youth choir at the Southeast church where Palmer served as the choir director.

Then there’s Linwood Barnhill Jr. , the 24-year D.C. cop who pleaded guilty last year to forcing underage girls to work as prostitutes out of his Southeast apartment. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

And let’s not forget Marc Washington, the 7th District officer found dead in the Washington Channel from an apparent suicide after he was arrested in a child sex case in 2013. Washington stood accused of taking partially nude pictures of a 15-year-old girl, allegedly while wearing his police uniform and saying he was following police “procedure.”

There isn’t much worse than police officers who use their badges to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable citizens whom they are recruited, trained and sworn to protect.

But the damage they cause extends beyond their immediate victims.

Consider the impact in the community, and particularly on children, when police officers don’t follow the law. Officers who are unfit to wear the badge not only affect the reputation and morale of their fellow department members but also undermine public confidence in the entire force.

That’s a confidence, I might add, that was shaken all the more by the disturbing story last week in The Post about an 11-year-old girl whose reports of being raped in her Northwest neighborhood were met with only “sporadic” police attention and ended with her being charged with filing a false report — despite medical evidence that she was, in fact, ­assaulted.

This part of the story jumped off the page and grabbed me by the throat: “But after Danielle reported the rapes, the police interviewed her in a manner that violated guidelines for handling child sexual assault cases, records and interviews show. They delayed analyzing evidence — and then analyzed only some of it. An officer misled her to get her to contradict her account, and then had her charged with lying, according to police reports. And many officers treated her with extreme skepticism; in one internal e-mail, a lieutenant called her ‘promiscuous’ and the ‘sex’ consensual.

“Yet Danielle was just 11 years old, well under the age of consent, which is 16 in the District.”

Now it pays to keep stories such as these in context. The D.C. police department has about 4,000 members. These bad-news stories shouldn’t trigger charges of widespread corruption. But neither should they simply get dismissed as isolated incidents and no cause for alarm. Sexual violence against adolescent and teenage girls by perpetrators who turn out to be cops is outrageous and intolerable.

Exploitation of an underage girl in, of all places, the police headquarters?

Any officer who would do that deserves a special place in hell. If Best is guilty, that’s where the chief and the city should send him.


By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 20, 2015

March 28, 2015 Posted by | Law Enforcement, Police Abuse, Sexual Asault | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Iraq And A Hard Place”: Jeb And The Neocon Trap

Are the neoconservatives turning on Jeb Bush? It would be ironic, considering the men his brother turned to for foreign policy advice. It would also be highly problematic—since foreign policy establishment hawks should represent one of Bush’s few natural constituencies on the right. But it’s hard to observe recent developments and not suspect something is afoot.

I’ve often observed that Sen. Rand Paul has to walk a fine line in order to keep all the disparate elements of his coalition together, but it’s increasingly looking like Jeb Bush is having to do the same thing. He has the legacies of his father and brother to contend with. And while these legacies aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, they aren’t necessarily complementary, either. And therein lies the trap for Jeb: Does he alienate the GOP’s main cadre of foreign policy activists and thinkers, or does he saddle up with them and risk being seen as the second coming of his brother?

The foreign policy “realist” community hopes Jeb will be the “smart” son and follow the “prudent” footsteps of his father. Bush 41 oversaw the collapse of the Soviet Union and liberated Kuwait without toppling Saddam, a move that—depending on where you stand—was either an example of prudence or cowardice. But neoconservatives prefer George W. Bush’s more aggressive foreign policy, and want the GOP to nominate a hawk in 2016. Now Jeb Bush’s campaign needs to figure out what kind of President Bush he would be, and he likely won’t be able to assuage the concerns of both camps.

The conundrum, presumably, began when Jeb announced his foreign policy team. Much was made of the fact that many of his advisers had served in previous Bush administrations. This was much ado about nothing. Any Republican who gained senior foreign policy experience in the last quarter of a century would likely have worked for a Bush administration.

More interesting was the amount of daylight between the foreign policy advisers who served his father and his brother—a cleavage that is especially noteworthy in the context of the larger discussion taking place right now, regarding Iran and Israel. There’s a lot of range between the neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz and an old-school GOP realist like James Baker, yet both are on the list of Jeb advisers.

Speaking of Baker, the Washington Free Beacon, which is widely thought of as a neoconservative outlet, recently noted: “Jeb Bush’s selection of Baker as a foreign policy adviser has sparked concern among conservatives and in the Jewish and pro-Israel communities. Baker is infamous for his hostility to Israel, having said during his tenure as secretary of state in the George H.W. Bush administration, ‘F–k the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway.’ Baker is also a supporter of President Obama’s Iran negotiations.”

As the Free Beacon expected, Baker—who served as Secretary of State during George H.W. Bush’s administration—did not go easy on Israel when he addressed the liberal J Street conference. And this has led to some think that Jeb Bush might seek to follow his father’s foreign policy—not his brother’s.

In a world where Republicans are trying to out-hawk one another, this might sound absurd. But presidents have been known to govern differently from the way they campaign—remember in 2000 when Bush ran as the anti-“nation building” candidate? “The older Bush circle seems confident that Jeb sided with his father and Brent Scowcroft on the folly of letting the neocons push America into diverting from Osama to Saddam,” wrote Maureen Dowd. (It should be noted that Scowcroft penned a 2002 Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Don’t Attack Saddam,” which was eerily prescient in many regards.)

Some are clearly worried that Dowd is right—that Jeb is a chip off the old block. “Whether Jeb disavows James Baker, & how quickly & strongly, could be an oddly important early moment in GOP race,” Bill Kristol tweeted (linking to a Politico story about Baker blasting Bibi). This isn’t an anomaly. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin writes that a source at a Jewish organization told her: “Jim Baker’s bitterly critical comments of Israel and Netanyahu conjured up the worst memories of the H. W. Bush administration’s confrontation with the Jewish state. Any 2016 campaign that takes advice and counsel from him will raise serious questions and concerns from the pro-Israel community.”

The comparatively moderate, intellectually inclined Jeb Bush would seem like a natural candidate for neoconservatives to rally behind. But Baker speaking at J Street while working for the campaign in some capacity is cause for concern. This is dangerous if prominent hawks start to suspect that Jeb might not be as friendly to their cause as the Ted Cruzes of the world. Kristol and Rubin would seem to be sending a message to Bush that he can’t take their support for granted. They need him to prove that he’s a lot more like Dubya than his dad. Given Jeb’s vulnerabilities with so much of the rest of the conservative coalition, they’re in a good position to make demands. And he’s not in a good position to deny them.

Politico is already reporting that Jeb Bush is distancing himself from Baker, noting that he “disagrees” with him on Israel. And writing at National Review Wednesday morning, Jeb made his pro-Israel position clear. Let’s see if that’s enough for the critics. If Jeb really wants to win the nomination, he might have to drop Jim Baker like a bad habit.


By: Matt Lewis, The Daily Beast, March 26, 2015

March 28, 2015 Posted by | Israel, Jeb Bush, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Leading Around The Campfire”: Walker Points To Boy Scouts As Preparation For The White House

Just a month ago, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was asked how he’d confront terrorist threats as president. The Republican governor quickly turned to his political fights against union members in his home state. “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” Walker said.

The governor took some heat for seemingly comparing union members to ISIS, which missed the point, and wasn’t even true. What mattered about the response is that, in Walker’s mind, union-busting in Wisconsin was preparation for combating ISIS and global terrorism.

The ridiculousness of the governor’s answer raised concerns among powerful Republican players – if this is his response to an obvious question in the midst of crises abroad, Walker may not have a mature understanding of what international leadership requires.

His answer to a similar question this week won’t help matters. The Capital Times in Madison reports today:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout as a teen, has taken that motto seriously. His Eagle Scout status has him so prepared, he indicated this week, he’s ready to serve as commander in chief of the U.S. military.

Uh oh.

The issue came up at a Chamber of Commerce event in Arizona this week, where Hugh Hewitt asked the governor, “Does the prospect of being commander in chief daunt you? Because the world that you describe when you’re talking about safety is going to require a commitment to American men and women abroad, obviously at some point. How do you think about that?”

Walker replied, “That’s an appropriate question.” And things went downhill from there.

The video is online here, and I’d encourage folks to check it out to fully appreciate the tone and context, but asked about the challenge of the presidency and national security, Walker didn’t talk about union-busting, but he did draw a parallel between the responsibilities of the Commander in Chief and being an Eagle Scout. From the Capital Times report:

“As a kid, I was in Scouts. And one of the things I’m proudest of when I was in Scouts is I earned the rank of Eagle,” Walker said. “Being an Eagle Scout is one of the few things you get as a kid that, you are not the past, it’s something you are.”

The governor said whenever he attends an Eagle Scout ceremony, he tells the young man being honored that he’s not there to congratulate him, but to issue a charge – that once a Scout obtains the Eagle ranking, he is responsible for living up to that calling for the rest of his life.

He then drew from his Eagle Scout experience discussing his military philosophy. “America is an exceptional country,” Walker said. “And I think, unfortunately, sometimes there are many in Washington who think those of us who believe we are exceptional means we are superior, that we’re better than others in the world.

“And to me, much like my thought process of being an Eagle Scout is, no, being an exceptional country means we have a higher responsibility … not just to care for ourselves and our own interests, but to lead in the world, to ensure that all freedom-loving people have the capacity, who yearn for that freedom, to have that freedom.”

On a structural level, governors running for president have built-in advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, they’ve (hopefully) demonstrated an ability to competently oversee an executive branch, which should be excellent preparation for the White House. On the other hand, governors generally have very little experience with federal, international, and military policymaking, which can be a disadvantage.

This isn’t unique to Walker or anyone else; it’s just the nature of the office and its duties. It’s up to governors, in general, to make the case that their state-based leadership and good judgment prepares them for national office. The public has frequently been receptive to the message – of the six most recent U.S. presidents, four have been governors (two Democrats, two Republicans).

None of them ever suggested union-busting and the Boy Scouts were preparation for the White House.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 27, 2015

March 28, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, National Security, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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