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“McCain And Graham As Obama’s “Lapdogs”: Rand Paul’s Media-Bait Of The Highest Order

If Lindsey Graham is indeed entering the 2016 presidential race to make sure the military-industrial complex’s concerns about Rand Paul are fully and loudly and at every moment placed within sight and sound of media and voters alike, he’s getting a rise out of Paul, all right. Dig this rhetoric from the Kentuckian (per Nick Gass at Politico):

Lindsey Graham and John McCain are “lapdogs” for President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, Rand Paul said Tuesday, at once firing back at recent remarks from the hawkish Republicans and seeking to distinguish his defense credentials.

“This comes from a group of people wrong about every policy issue over the last two decades,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview with Fox News, touting his credentials as the “one standing up to President Obama….”

“They supported Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya; they supported President Obama’s bombing of Assad; they also support President Obama’s foreign aid to countries that hate us. So if there is anyone who is most opposed to President Obama’s foreign policy, it’s me. People who call loudest to criticize me are great proponents of President Obama’s foreign policy — they just want to do it ten times over,” he said.

Putting aside any analysis of the truth or error of what Paul is saying here about Obama, Graham/McCain, or himself, what’s interesting here is that he’s showing every sign of wanting a big debate within the GOP on foreign policy and national security; the “lapdog” line is media-bait of the highest order. I had figured up until now that his strategy would be to get close enough to the rest of the field on international issues so as to take them off the table as “differentiators”–or in other words neutralize them–and then change the subject to topics where his views are more congenial to Republican primary voters. But maybe that’s not it at all.

Whether or not you think it’s fair to call the views Paul articulated above as “isolationist,” they are definitely within the universe of views most Republicans have called “isolationist” since the Eisenhower administration. And Paul is talking this way at a time when the GOP rank-and-file’s support for lashing out at Muslims via military interventions–partly out of genuine if irrational fear of IS and of Iran as well–appears to be back to mid-2000s levels or even higher.

We’ll see if Paul keeps this up. Maybe he’d do better to conjure up a little of the old Cold War spirit by calling his opponents Obama’s “running dogs.”

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 21, 2015

April 22, 2015 Posted by | John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Battle Lines Drawn On Retirement Age”: There Will Be Some Big Political Arguments About Social Security

If New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) hoped to start a broader discussion on entitlements, it worked. The Republican governor delivered a speech a week ago announcing his support for major “reforms” to social-insurance programs, including a call to raise the retirement age to 69.

Within a few days, many of his national GOP rivals were on board with roughly the same idea: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are all now on record in support of raising the retirement age.

But in an interesting twist, some Republicans have been equally eager to take the opposite side. Take former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), for example:

“I don’t know why Republicans want to insult Americans by pretending they don’t understand what their Social Security program and Medicare program is,” Huckabee said in response to a question about Christie’s proposal to gradually raise the retirement age and implement a means test.

Huckabee said his response to such proposals is “not just no, it’s you-know-what no.”

Even Donald Trump, who’s apparently flirting with the possibility of a campaign, rejected the idea during a Fox News interview yesterday. “They’re attacking Social Security – the Republicans – they’re attacking Medicare and Medicaid, but they’re not saying how to make the country rich again,” the television personality said. He added, in reference to GOP plans, “Even Tea Party people don’t like it.”

And then, of course, there’s the likely Democratic nominee these Republicans hope to take on next year.

Alex Seitz-Wald reported yesterday on Hillary Clinton’s campaign swing through New Hampshire, where she gladly chided Republicans over Social Security.

She chastised Republicans – though not by name – as “just wrong” for wanting to change the retirement program. “What do we do to make sure it is there? We don’t mess with it, and we do not pretend that it is a luxury – because it is not a luxury. It is a necessity for the majority of people who draw from Social Security,” she said. […]

“[M]y only question to everybody who thinks we can privatize Social Security or undermine it in some way – and what is going to happen to all these people, like you, who worked 27 years at this other company? What’s going to happen? It’s just wrong.”

Clinton has not yet said whether she’s prepared to expand Social Security benefits – a key progressive priority – but it’s nevertheless clear that when it comes to seniors’ social-insurance programs, the battle lines are taking shape.

“I think there will be some big political arguments about Social Security,” Clinton said yesterday. I think she’s right.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 21, 2015

April 22, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, Social Security | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The GOP Primary Will Be Bloody As Hell”: GOP Fratricide; If You Turn The Other Cheek, You’ll Get Slapped From Both Sides

“There will be blood.” That’s not just the title of the Oscar-winning 2007 film starring Daniel Day Lewis that I have watched about 20 times on cable. (I’m sorta of obsessed with it.) It’s also what we can expect to see in the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination.  Same goes for the Democratic presidential race if a well-funded challenger to Hillary Clinton emerges.

Both Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush wants us to believe, though, that they are better than that and would not stoop to such tactics to win the GOP presidential nomination.  These two holier-than-thou guys (especially Huckabee) want to be seen as the living, breathing manifestation of Ronald Reagan’s  famous 11th Commandment: “thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”  (FYI Reagan didn’t actually coin that expression, it was first formulated by the chair of the Republican Party in California in 1965, by why let facts get in the way of canonizing Reagan, right?  )

First there was Bush, who last week promised that he would not attack his fellow Republicans during the GOP primaries, noting that, “tearing down other people won’t help at all.”

And then came Huckabee. While campaigning over the weekend in New Hampshire, the former pastor urged his fellow GOP candidates to not engage in a Cain versus Abel type “fratricide.” He then preached to his fellow GOPers to avoid a “free for all” and “demolition derby” among each other.

I have to give it up for both of them. Not for their sentiment. But given their own respective track records of ripping apart their Republican competitors in primaries that they were able to keep a straight face while making these statements.

Let’s look at the history of these two. Bush’s last contested GOP primary was in 1994 when he was running for governor of Florida as part of a crowded field of candidates.  Bush, along with the other top-tier Republicans entries, entered into a “Clean Campaign Pledge” promising no personal attacks, just policy-based ones.

So there’s Bush a month before the September 1994 primary with a sizable lead over the pack. But then Bush “stunned” his fellow Republicans, as The New York Times noted at the time, by unleashing negative campaign ads on his top two GOP rivals. These ads alleged in part that the two other Republicans wanted to raise taxes- a claim they both vehemently disputed.  (If you run an ad distorting the policy position of your opponents, you are in essence launching a personal attack—especially over taxes in a Southern GOP primary!)

And then in a sheer display of unabashed elitism, the Bush ad stated that his two opponents “are taking millions of your tax dollars to pay for their political campaigns.”  The ad bragged that Bush wasn’t.

Technically Bush was correct: His opponents were taking public financing, and he wasn’t. Why? Well, because Bush was wealthy enough to bankroll his own campaign unlike his rivals.

But these attacks pale in comparison to Huckabee, who is expected to announce his presidential run on May 5.  When Huckabee says a person should turn the other cheek, apparently it’s so he can slap both sides.

During Huckabee’s 2008 presidential run, he unloaded a barrage of attacks on his GOP rivals; I’m talking Old Testament, wrath of God stuff. For example a day before the 2008 New Hampshire primary, Huckabee mocked Mitt Romney for being wealthy, saying, “I can’t write a personal check for tens of millions of dollars to impress you with what a great guy I am.”  Huckabee then ridiculed Romney for not knowing how to clean a gun.

And in the days before the Iowa caucus, Huckabee, reminiscent of what he’s saying now, tried to remain above the fray by holding a press conference to announce he would not run a campaign ad that called Romney “dishonest.”  Of course, Huckabee knew by holding a press event it would still get the barb out there anyway.

But worse, the Huckabee campaign then aired that very ad at least 10 times in various Iowa TV markets after publicly promising not to. When Huckabee’s campaign was asked why, the response was, “the campaign gave their best effort to pull the ad.  Perhaps they held a prayer circle and asked God to keep the ads off the air because a simple phone call to the TV stations would have presumably done the trick.

And after John McCain beat Huckabee in the South Carolina primary, Huckabee stood next to his pal Chuck Norris as Norris alleged that McCain was too old to be president.  I may not be an expert on Jesus like Huckabee, but I’m pretty sure I know what Jesus would not do, and that’s let Chuck Norris do his dirty work for him.

Look, there’s no need for Bush and Huckabee to insult our intelligence by pretending to better than they are on the issue of negative campaigning.  We all know this will be a vicious, bare knuckles brawl to the GOP nomination.  And given Bush and Huckabees’ own history of attacking fellow Republicans, the question is not: Will there be blood? The only question is: How much Republican blood will they spill?

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Dailt Beast, April 21, 2015

April 22, 2015 Posted by | GOP Primaries, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Huckabee Is Ted Cruz’s Nightmare”: Playing Both Sides Of The Ball

The Upshot’’s Nate Cohn is making the contrarian case for Mike Huckabee. I give him credit for seeing things that others might not, but—despite the optimistic headline: “Mike Huckabee Would Be a More Important Candidate Than You Might Think,” he actually underestimates Huck’s potential as a disruptive factor in this campaign.

It’s unclear what’s in the water in Hope, Arkansas, but that Bill Clinton and Huck are both from the same hamlet is nothing short of miraculous. Put aside the snake oil salesman stuff, and the numerous ridiculous things Huckabee has said to get attention, and you’re left with a man who is essentially the love child of Clinton and Ronald Reagan. I recently argued that only the great politicians like The Gipper and Bubba can oscillate between indignation and compassion. Well, guess what: Huckabee can do both, too. This is a guy who’s so compelling he actually got Jon Stewart to question his own abortion stance.

“I’m a conservative; I’m just not mad about it,” he often quips. Except he can be mad about it—or feign anger, at least. So he can play the reasonable conservative or he can hurl red meat. As they say in football, he can play both sides of the ball. In 2008, Huckabee came out of nowhere to wow us in the debates. The competition will be stiffer this time around, but he can do it again.

The fact that Huckabee is a good communicator—and that he can appeal to evangelical Christians, a hugely important constituency in Iowa—is not exactly the most novel observation. But I think there are two additional things Huckabee has going for him that are not as widely appreciated.

The first is that he spent the last several years as a Fox News host. Now, let’s be honest: It’s unlikely that many people reading this have ever watched Huckabee’s Saturday night show—except to see if he was going to announce for president (or for purely ironic purposes). And I’m not even suggesting you were watching Girls instead. A lot of us who watch Fox shows like Special Report wouldn’t think to turn on Huckabee.

But millions of Americans did watch his show—and guess what? Many of these same Americans will vote in Republican primaries. I think we probably underestimate the impact of hosting a weekly show on Fox News.

Lastly, though, I think there is a huge underserved constituency in the GOP—and that constituency is what might best be termed populist conservatives. These folks tend to be white and working-class and who feel they’ve been left behind in America. They are culturally conservative—but they also want to keep government out of their Medicare.

Mitt Romney was arguably the worst candidate Republicans could have ever nominated to appeal to this constituency. But while candidates like Huckabee and Rick Santorum flirted with going full populist, something always seemed to keep them from really doubling down on it.

One can only assume this is because there is a ceiling on how much populist demagoguery one is permitted to dole out—and still remain a Republican in good standing. There’s a fine line between attacking the “fat cats” and engaging in class warfare, and one doesn’t want to get on the wrong side of that line. But having cashed in, and now finding himself in his post-radio, and possibly post-TV phase, Huckabee might well decide it’s time to throw caution to the wind.

Don’t get me wrong: As a free market conservative, this brand of populism isn’t my cup of tea. Nor do I think Huckabee can win the nomination. He’s always lacked money and organization, and that won’t change. But as a political observer, I can’t help but suspect that there is a huge opening for a conservative candidate willing to be the working man’s conservative.

The last time someone really tried this was when “Pitchfork” Pat Buchanan, and then Ross Perot, ran in 1992. It resonated then, but that was before the “giant sucking sound” really kicked in. Whether it’s globalization or immigration—or whatever “-ation” might have taken your job—it stands to reason that the same grassroots phenomenon that helped Buchanan and Perot tap into an underserved constituency might be even more potent today.

Already known as a tax-and-spender, Mike Huckabee isn’t soon going to win over Steve Forbes or Larry Kudlow or The Club for Growth, so why try? There are tons of Americans out there listening to country radio, clinging to God and guns…and government.

The other day, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie proposed some fairly modest reforms to save social security (means testing and raising the retirement age to 69), ostensibly conservative readers weighed in against it on the Facebook page of the Daily Caller, where I work.

“I’m entitled to social security because it’s MY money that I have given to the govt since I was 16 years old with the PROMISE I would get it back when I was older. FU Christie.” Yes, this is anecdotal—but this comment was also representative of a lot of comments on that particular post. A lot of conservatives appear to believe there is some lockbox where “their” money is being saved for their retirement.

A few days later came this headline from the Weekly Standard: “Huckabee Bashes Republican Plans to Reform Medicare and Social Security.” As Huckabee himself told The Daily Beast over the weekend, “I’m getting slammed by some in the GOP ruling class for thinking it wrong to involuntarily take money from people’s paychecks for 50 years and then not keep the promise government made.”

Some of the same underlying trends behind the excitement over Elizabeth Warren are present, if dormant, on the right. So how can Huckabee break away from the pack? Most free market conservatives I know agree that “crony capitalism” is a problem. This has become boilerplate language you can expect from everyone from Marco Rubio to Ted Cruz, and it’s a kind of flirting with populism.

But Huckabee appears poised to do what no other Republican will have the ability or the inclination to do—and that is to go full populist in a way that acknowledges the fact that a lot of folks need the government’s help, that resents the fact that the game has been rigged by the rich and the corporations, yet still embraces a culturally conservative lifestyle. This will provoke serious pushback from the libertarian and pro-business wings of the conservative coalition. But if he does it—if he sticks to it—out there in the hinterland, there’ll be a market for it.

Get your pitchforks ready.

 

By: Matt Lewis, The Daily Beast, April 21, 2015; Editor’s note: Matt Lewis’s wife previously consulted for Ted Cruz’s senate campaign, and currently consults for RickPAC, the leadership PAC affiliated with Rick Perry.

April 22, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Koch Brothers Eye 2016 Favorite”: David Koch Talked About The Wisconsin Governor As If His Primary Success Was Simply Assumed

Presidential candidates are always eager to earn support from voters, but with nine months remaining until anyone casts a primary ballot, White House hopefuls have a slightly different focus at this stage in the process. As the race gets underway in earnest, the goal isn’t just to get public backing, but rather, to get support from a specific group of mega-donors.

And in the world of national Republican politics, the Koch brothers have few rivals.

Charles G. and David H. Koch, the influential and big-spending conservative donors, appear to have a favorite in the race for the Republican presidential nomination: Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

On Monday, at a fund-raising event in Manhattan for the New York State Republican Party, David Koch told donors that he and his brother, who oversee one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, believed that Mr. Walker would be the Republican nominee.

According to the New York Times’ report, David Koch talked about the Wisconsin governor as if his primary success was simply assumed: “When the primaries are over and Scott Walker gets the nomination…” he joked.

The article noted two other attendees who said they heard Koch go further, describing the Republican Wisconsinite as the candidate who should get the GOP nomination.

It’s worth emphasizing that Koch, following the Times’ reporting, issued a written statement, describing Walker as “terrific,” but stressing, “I am not endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point in time.”

The statement doesn’t necessarily contradict the reporting. It’s entirely possible, for example,  that the Kochs will remain officially neutral during the nominating process, while also privately acknowledging their preference for Walker while talking to allies behind closed doors.

And if that’s the case, it’s a major advantage for the far-right governor over his rivals. The Kochs not only carry an enormous wallet, they oversee a large political operation and enjoy broad credibility among conservative activists and donors.

A Koch endorsement, even if private, matters, especially as candidates search for ways to stand out in a crowded field.

That said, if the reporting is accurate and the Kochs are partial towards Walker, that doesn’t necessarily mean the governor will have the same kind of relationship with his billionaire benefactors as other recent candidates.

We’ve grown accustomed to thinking about Republicans and their billionaires as a kind of dynamic duo – we see the candidate, but we know he has a partner that’s largely responsible for bankrolling his candidacy. In 2012, it was Sheldon Adelson backing Newt Gingrich, while Foster Friess supported Rick Santorum. This year, Robert Mercer has partnered with Ted Cruz, while Norman Braman helps bankroll Marco Rubio.

Don’t expect a comparable relationship between the Kochs and Walker, at least not at this stage. If the powerful billionaire brothers intend to stay officially neutral, then Walker may look forward to the Kochs’ backing in a general election, but he’ll need others to finance his primary fight.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 21, 2015

April 22, 2015 Posted by | GOP Campaign Donors, GOP Presidential Candidates, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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