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“Who Can Resist Bernie Sanders’s Strange Allure?”: An Insurgent Candidate Whose Realistic Chance Of Becoming President Is Fractional

So Bernie Sanders is lighting it up in Iowa, reports the Times, knockin’ ’em dead, outdrawing Jeb Bush and all the Republicans.

The excitement is palpable. And yet, I will make a prediction to you now. Sanders will win one primary: Vermont. If I’m proven correct he will have done exactly as well as another Vermonter, Howard Dean, who entered the primaries in 2004 positioning himself to the left of the major candidates. He forgot about the importance of field organizing, got chewed up in Iowa over a scream (unfairly so, actually), and after being the favorite for about two weeks in December 2003 went on to enter 31 primaries and win just the one, in his home state.

What is it about Vermont? Is this just coincidence that Dean and now Sanders have emerged as the most prominent and credible left-flank candidates of recent times? Probably not.

Vermont’s demographic changes in recent years, the way counter-cultural types have flocked to places like Burlington, are unique; neighboring New Hampshire is a very different place, and even Massachusetts, while liberal, features a different kind of liberalism, at once more blue-collar (think Fall River and Lowell) and more pointy-headed (all those universities). In a sense, what Texas is to the GOP, Vermont is to the Democrats: the party’s ideological ground zero.

This is not of course to say that Sanders has anything in common with Ted Cruz beyond the fact that both are U.S. senators. For one thing, if Cruz is drawing crowds upwards of several hundred in Iowa, he’s keeping it a pretty good secret. And the fact that he’s not drawing such crowds reflects the most obvious difference between the two, namely that Cruz says lots of unpopular crazy extremist things, and Sanders is mostly just saying things that are probably a little out there in terms of the Washington conventional wisdom but are not in reality crazy at all, like reining in the power of big banks.

Sanders makes a great foil to Clinton because he is everything liberal activists believe (sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly) she is not. He’s blunt, she’s circumspect. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks, she’s uber-cautious. On a debate stage with her and Martin O’Malley, Sanders can just tee off and say exactly what the rank and file wants to hear in ways that neither Clinton nor the former Maryland governor can.

Liberals love this because they don’t get much of it in political life today. On the Republican side, the candidates fall over themselves to prove how conservative they are, and indeed the word “conservative” flies out of their mouths every 18 seconds. Democrats are usually terrified of speaking that bluntly, so when one does—and Sanders isn’t a Democrat, but let’s not get technical—liberals swoon. So he’ll generate crowds and enthusiasm and he’ll press Clinton on some issues. All to the good.

He probably won’t have the money or the field operation—hers, in Iowa, is already formidable—to challenge her in a serious way. But the great unanswered question here is not about him, but about Clinton, to wit: How deep is the dissatisfaction with her among liberal Democrats?

If you follow the political pronouncements of the liberal activist class closely, you might think it’s very deep indeed. The whole Draft Warren movement, led by, is (or do we now say was?) predicated on the conviction that Clinton is certain to sell the liberal base out to Wall Street. One hears this a lot among insiders, and if this is a conviction that is widely shared by rank-and-file Democrats, then Sanders can certainly exceed my expectations.

But I just don’t think the distrust runs that deep. I have before me here a Gallup poll from March showing that Clinton is rather popular among Democrats and the Democratic-leaners questioned in this surveyed. Her favorable-to-unfavorable rating was 79 to 13 percent, or a multiple of six. Sanders’s numbers were 21 to 8. (Interestingly, Elizabeth Warren’s were 37 to 9, a multiple of just four, and with a surprisingly high 53 percent having no opinion.)

Seventy-nine to 13 isn’t what I’d call dissatisfaction. The key fact is that the 13 are overrepresented in the chattering class and among the most committed party activists. It’s always been this way among the group we might call super-insiders, the people who blog and tweet and are willing to do things like drive 70 miles across the plains on a weeknight to go see an insurgent candidate whose realistic chance of becoming president is fractional.

The Clinton appeal to this set has always been limited. I can’t pinpoint exactly why it is. For starters, the Clintons never curried their favor or flattered them. In her case, of course, a lot of it has to do with her support for the Iraq war (which Bill backed too, to the extent that his position mattered). More broadly, the Clintonian issues palette has never jibed very closely with the special passions of this plugged-in activist class I’m talking about.

Take for example net neutrality under Title II, which is of great interest to this group. Clinton endorsed net neutrality after Barack Obama made his announcement, but she’s never been associated with the issue, and even in the act of endorsing Obama’s position, she sounded pretty meh about the whole thing: “As I understand it, it’s Title II with a lot of changes in it to avoid the worst of Title II regulation. It’s a foot in the door … but it’s not the end of the discussion.”

It’s easy to get the misimpression that there’s more rank-and-file resistance to Clinton among Democratic voters than there actually is. And the press of course doesn’t like her and wants a race. All this will work to Sanders’s benefit. A significant number of Democrats may want to send Clinton a warning shot, keep her pivoting leftward; but the idea that there’s a large bloc of Anybody But Hillary Democrats out there is just a fantasy.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 2, 2015

June 3, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Liberals | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“An Outdated Reference”: Millennials Don’t Really Remember Ronald Reagan, And That’s A Problem For The Reagan-Loving GOP

In the summer of 2004, when I was 16, Ronald Reagan died. Washington, D.C., was within driving distance of our home, so when my mom proposed we go see the former president lying in state in the Capitol, I was game.

But that experience is about the extent to which he features in my political consciousness. Since then, I’ve become more and more interested in politics and less and less interested in Ronald Reagan. It’s not that I’m anti-Gipper — though I have been known to make a few Zombie Reagan jokes with each passing election cycle. It’s just that fealty to Reagan is not the measuring stick I naturally reach for when evaluating a candidate.

I don’t think this Reagan apathy is unique to me. I’m a decade older than 2016’s first-time voters, who were born in — oh geez — 1998. When I was visiting the Capitol, they were getting ready to graduate from kindergarten. So if Ronald Reagan appears but dimly in my political consciousness, he’s almost on par with Millard Fillmore for them.

At best, Reagan might be a George Washington-type figure for some millennials: He’s got some good quotes and we may have vaguely positive feelings about him, but when it comes to concrete policy decisions, Reagan fades into the background, eclipsed by more recent figures and considerations.

This may be due to the way high school history is taught, with minimal attention given to everything post-Marshall Plan. (I left an Advanced Placement history class with no idea who or what an Iran-Contra was.) But I suspect a more significant factor is simply the passage of time: Reagan left the White House 10 years before this election’s new voters were born. At 18, that’s more than half a lifetime. Add to that the breakneck pace at which the modern news cycle moves and you have a perfect recipe for Reagan’s near irrelevance to the bulk of the younger generation.

No one at Republican headquarters seems to have really absorbed this fact yet, even though the voters who can remember Reagan are not the ones the GOP needs to worry about attracting.

Indeed, for Republican presidential candidates, appeals to Reagan’s legacy are de rigueur. Donald Trump, Bobby Jindal, and Ted Cruz are all eager to cite Reagan as the greatest president in recent history — even when that’s not the question they were asked. Carly Fiorina published an effusive blog post praising Reagan on his birthday during her 2010 Senate campaign; Rick Perry echoes his speeches; Rubio quotes Reagan quoting obscure quotes. Rand Paul mentions Reagan often on topics ranging from taxes to Iran, though he has been willing to call out Reagan’s intemperate fiscal policy.

Jeb Bush, to his credit, said in 2009 that Republicans should abandon the Reagan nostalgia for a more forward-thinking message. But so far his campaign isn’t living up to that hype — Bush has even hired numerous Reagan advisers to his own team. Similarly, Mike Huckabee argued in 2011 that Reagan would not be elected by the modern GOP, only to announce a “Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II Tour” tour for pastors from early primary states. And Rick Santorum pointed out last year that Reagan is an outdated reference, but just two months earlier he’d all but claimed the Reagan mantle for himself.

And that’s the heart of the problem: that there exists such an idea as the “Reagan mantle,” and that it’s desired even by Republicans who seem to get that Reagan may not be the best campaign icon in 2015.

This is bad marketing for an aging party that struggles to appeal to young people, but it’s even worse for policy innovation. As Jim Antle has ably argued at The American Conservative, appeals to the idealized Reagan of the Republican establishment’s memory have led to an excessively hawkish, unthoughtful GOP that values economic freedom while discounting civil liberties (a defining issue for millennials, who aren’t exactly on board with Reagan’s acceleration of the drug war, either).

Of course, political movements need motivational figures, and conservatives are particularly inclined to be inspired by and committed to the past.

But the invocation of Reagan in the Republican Party today is a malleable shorthand for “things we like,” as the real Reagan’s legacy is reduced to a myth of low taxes and aggressive foreign policy. As Richard Gamble writes, it is difficult to “point to any concrete evidence that the Reagan Revolution fundamentally altered the nation’s trajectory toward bloated, centralized, interventionist government,” and keeping Reagan around as a tired symbol of small government makes it similarly difficult to progress toward that goal — or capture the interest of the next generation.


By: Bonnie Kristian, The Week, June 2, 2015

June 3, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Millennnials, Ronald Reagan | , , , , | 1 Comment

“His Path To The Nomination”: The Graham Strategy; Chicken Little Winging It

Before the next presidential candidate announcement makes us forget about him for a while–maybe a good while–it’s worth a brief consideration of Lindsey Graham’s supposed “path to the nomination” beyond the obvious fact that he’d need to win in his home state of South Carolina, one of the four privileged “early states.” Jonathan Bernstein may have nailed it yesterday: Graham’s spent so much time hanging out with his amigo John McCain that he figures he can emulate the lightning the Arizonan caught in a bottle:

McCain in 2000 accidentally wound up finishing second. He was too moderate for the Republican Party, but his biggest hurdle was his push for campaign finance reform, which turned Republican-aligned groups, who felt targeted by it, against him.

Instead of waging a conventional campaign — spending a year glad-handing Iowans and big-shot national Republicans — McCain instead hung out in New Hampshire with political reporters. Normally, that would have produced a few nice feature stories and nothing more. But in 2000, George W. Bush quickly dispatched his serious Republican rivals before or in the Iowa caucuses. New Hampshire voters (who famously love upsetting the Iowa winner, from Walter Mondale in 1984 through Barack Obama in 2008) punished Bush for wrapping up the nomination early by voting for McCain, thereby making him the last man standing against W.

McCain’s 2008 adventure was, if anything, even more unlikely. McCain spent the beginning of Bush’s first term in open revolt against his former rival before returning to the ranks of loyal Republicans just in time for the 2004 election — and the beginning of the 2008 nomination fight. McCain then put together a typical Republican front-runner campaign, heavy on corporate-style bureaucracy, only to have the whole thing collapse halfway through the cycle.

But once again, McCain was lucky. No candidate emerged who combined normal qualifications for the presidency, positions well within the mainstream of the party and the ability to build a competent presidential campaign. McCain came close enough on each of those scores to wind up as the nominee.

That’s almost exactly my analysis of McCain’s presidential nominating campaigns, especially the successful one in 2008 which was something of a demolition derby with a flawed and weak field.

The odds of it happening again, especially with the vast size of the 2016 field, are vanishingly small. And as Bernstein points out, Graham doesn’t have the war hero thing going for him, which always put a relatively high floor on GOP attitudes towards him.

It’s possible, of course, that Graham has no strategy at all, other than the indulging in the twisted pleasure professional politicians get from the abattoir of a presidential campaign. When he drops out, he’ll have his Senate gig, his access to the Sunday shows, and four more years before he has to face voters again back home. And in the back of his mind (I will not make Rand Paul’s mistake and suggest it’s in the front of his mind) Graham may figure that if something bad happens on the homeland security front during the nomination campaign, having a well-established identity as Chicken Little could change things considerably.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 2, 2015

June 3, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, John McCain, Lindsey Graham | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Jeb Bush Raises Tons Of Money, Loses Credibility”: He’s Just “Actively Exploring”, A Phrase More Suitable To A Prostate Exam

The following words were actually spoken last week by Jeb Bush’s non-campaign spokesperson: “Gov. Bush is actively exploring a run. He has not made a final decision.”

Every grownup in America knows this is a lie.

The voters know Jeb has already decided to run for the White House in 2016. Campaign donors know he’s running. And the entire busload of other Republican presidential candidates knows he’s running.

Two campaign-finance watchdog organizations, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, want the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the “charade” of Bush’s non-campaign. They say it’s merely a weasel move that allows him to rake in unlimited, and mostly unregulated, donations.That’s absolutely true. It’s an epic weasel move, though probably legal.

By pretending he hasn’t made up his mind, Jeb can personally go out and raise many millions of dollars for his super political action committee, loftily named “Right to Rise.”

The funds taken will eventually be used for his TV and digital advertising, once the fake non-campaign becomes an acknowledged one.

Fittingly, the logo of the Right to Rise SuperPAC features an open hand reaching upward. This might as well be Jeb’s hand, waiting to be stuffed with money.

Right to Rise was on pace to raise $100 million by the end of May, an obscene sum that dwarfs what the SuperPACs of other GOP hopefuls have collected.

Several of the contenders have formally announced their candidacies, and others will soon.

The Politico website reports that Jeb is holding off until mid-June before making it official. Meanwhile, he has a campaign manager, press aides and a vast network of experienced fund raisers.

Think of the stressful jobs they’ve got, running a non-campaign at full speed.

Part of your time is spent telling the media that Jeb really truly hasn’t made a decision. Imagine trying to keep a straight face while you say that.

Then the rest of your day is spent reassuring billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson that Jeb is totally, deeply, profoundly committed to winning the presidency — so please don’t write any more checks to Marco Rubio.

The reason for maintaining the public lie about Jeb’s non-decision can be traced to federal campaign laws, which were written as a template for high-stakes political weaseling and then expanded into a free-for-all by the current Supreme Court.

As long as Jeb doesn’t declare himself a candidate for federal office, he can jet all over the country soliciting unlimited riches for Right to Rise.

Once he officially throws his golf cap in the ring, however, the donations he requests for the SuperPAC would be capped. He and his staff would also be banned (on paper) from strategizing with his pals who run Right to Rise, because SuperPACs are supposed to operate independently of individual campaign committees.

So, the longer Jeb postpones his announcement, the larger the war chest he can accumulate and the more control he can exert over the organization that will bankroll his inevitable candidacy.

Meanwhile, he’s free to behave like a legitimate candidate. He can swoop into primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, shake hands, pose for pictures, smooch babies, bash Obama, suck up to Fox News, and even pull a Romney-style flip-flop when asked about the Iraq war.

All this while insisting he’s not running for the White House — he’s just “actively exploring,” a phrase more suitable to a prostate exam.

Sometimes Jeb hasn’t made it easy for his non-campaign staff to keep up the act.

During a recent non-campaign stop in Nevada, he actually let slip the forbidden words: “I am running for president in 2016.”

Then, in a rather unsmooth way, he scrambled to say, “If I run….”

The fundraising benefits of perpetuating this farce will at some fast-approaching time be outweighed by the risks. Voters who aren’t yet sold on Jeb might start to feel that he’s insulting their intelligence.

Another danger is that he appears at ease in the role of wry deceiver. People prefer straight-talking candidates, or at least candidates who do a good impression of straight talking.

After stumbling so badly on the subject of Iraq, Jeb can’t afford to look either indecisive or evasive.

Nobody believed Hillary Clinton for all those months while she denied that she’d made up her mind to run. Nobody believes Jeb now.

He’s probably raised more money than all the other GOP candidates put together, but he might need every penny to buy back some credibility.


By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, June 2, 2015

June 3, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The 28 Pages Movement”: Rand Paul’s New Crusade; The Secret 9/11 Docs

Senator Rand Paul, the man of the hour when it comes to pushing back against government secrecy, is throwing his weight behind a fresh push to declassify 28 pages from a 2002 Senate inquiry into the causes of 9/11.

The Kentucky Republican is sponsoring legislation called the “Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Act,” which would force the release of the disputed pages. With his support, an important issue that has languished far too long may be finally gaining traction.

Paul is a big catch for the 28 pages movement, as advocates describe their effort. Former Florida senator Bob Graham, who has been banging the drum on the classified pages for years, will appear alongside Paul at a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday morning to lend his gravitas to the occasion.

Graham led the Senate inquiry and drafted the pages that have been kept under wraps. Without violating his oath of secrecy about specifics, the Democrat has been quite outspoken, saying the redacted pages “point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier” of the 9/11 attacks. He has also said the U.S. government’s protective stance toward the Saudis allows them to continue spreading the extreme Wahhabi version of Islam that has led to the rise of ISIS.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has long been on record supporting the disclosure, and he is co-sponsoring the legislation. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is described as “definitely interested,” and as the 9/11 family members continue to press for answers, they hope the moment is coming when this long-festering report will see the light of day, either by legislative action or by President Obama deciding enough is enough.

North Carolina Representative Walter Jones, an anti-war Republican who has worked tirelessly on behalf of the 9/11 families, said he started reaching out to members of the Senate after a House resolution he sponsored in two successive Congresses failed to gain enough momentum. Bringing Paul aboard at this time, when the nation is focused on issues of government overreach and secrecy, could generate the momentum that until now eluded him.

“This has never been about me, this is about the pain of the families,” Jones told The Daily Beast. He said he had been in contact with several senators, all Democrats, and their staffs. Then he noted, “Rand Paul is my choice for president, so I reached out to his daddy, who had me on his show to talk about it.”

Ron Paul has a radio show where he promotes his libertarian views, and father and son agree that you can always look for excuses not to release something, but absent clear harm to national security, government is not supposed to keep things secret because they’re embarrassing.

“I don’t know if it might be embarrassing to the Bush administration, how close they were to the Saudi family,” Jones said. “I just don’t know. I can’t put my fingers on it.”

Jones and Massachusetts Democratic Representative Stephen Lynch wrote a letter to Obama almost a year ago reminding him that on two separate occasions he told family members that he would declassify the pages. “And he hasn’t kept his word,” Jones said, despite numerous conversations he and Lynch have had in the interim with administration officials.

The introduction that precedes the redacted pages says that in the course of the Senate committee’s inquiry, it found pretty significant leads about the possible sources of support for the 9/11 attackers. But unable to reach firm conclusions within the time frame of the report, and with the resources at hand, the committee passed the information to the FBI. Whether the FBI followed up with sufficient zeal is left to the imagination, and listening to Senator Graham, the answer seems to be no.

Graham has pressed forward on his own to compel the FBI through a Freedom of Information request to turn over some 80,000 pages of evidence to a federal judge in Florida, who is reviewing the information about the agency’s investigation of possible terrorist ties by a Saudi family in Sarasota who fled the country just before the attacks, leaving a new car in the driveway and dinner on the table.

Members of Congress with a security clearance can read the 28 pages in a secure room in the basement of the U.S. Capitol after first writing to the chairman and the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee for permission. Members can’t take notes or bring a staffer, and only a small number of lawmakers have taken the opportunity. A House resolution introduced in the last Congress and the current Congress by Jones and Lynch to declassify the pages has 15 co-sponsors, almost all of whom signed on after reading the pages.

Kentucky Republican Representative Thomas Massie, one of the signers, said in a press conference last year that reading the 28 pages was “shocking” and that he had to stop every couple of pages to “try to rearrange my understanding of history.” A fellow libertarian and frequent sidekick of Senator Paul, Massie tweeted a photo of himself and Republican Representative Justin Amash with Paul in the aftermath of the legislative battle that raged over the weekend. “These are the people in John McCain’s nightmares,” the caption read.

Jack Quinn, a Washington lawyer acting on behalf of the 9/11 families, is part of the legal team bringing accusations against the Saudi government in a long-standing civil suit in the Southern District of New York.

With or without the 28 pages, Quinn says, evidence of Saudi involvement is “28 feet high, way more than ample evidence to bring everyone to trial.” He blames “dilatory tactics” of the Saudis and others to have the case dismissed and thrown out. They’re on their third judge; the case has dragged on for so long the first two judges passed away.

The pages’ potential release has implications far beyond Congress. “This isn’t going to go away,” says Quinn. “There’s too much here that points to the culpability of people who held positions in the Saudi government.”


By: Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast, June 2, 2015

June 3, 2015 Posted by | 911, Classified Documents, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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