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“Why Are The GOP Presidential Candidates Afraid Of Donald Trump?”: Living In Abject Fear Of The Biting Family Dog

Donald Trump now seems to be leading the GOP presidential field, and even if no one expects that situation to be permanent, most sentient Republicans agree that it’s terrible for the party. Apart from making the party look bad with his enthusiastic buffoonery, Trump finds new ways to alienate Latinos almost every day, and there is simply no way for Republicans to win the White House if they don’t improve their performance among Latino voters.

Yet the other GOP candidates can’t seem to bring themselves to utter a word of criticism toward Trump. Not only that, they’re barely criticizing each other. What’s going on here?

Let’s deal with Trump first. You might think a candidate spewing bile at the minority group the party needs most would produce some strong push-back from his opponents, but no. “I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration,” said Ted Cruz after Trump went on his diatribe about Mexican rapists and drug dealers. While Trump has attacked Marco Rubio directly, saying he’s weak on immigration, Rubio’s response has been mostly that the media is focusing on Trump to distract from the real issues. When Scott Walker got asked this week what he thinks about Trump’s inflammatory comments, he replied, “While he might have some appeal because he’s speaking out boldly on issues, I think what they really want is people who can get things done.” Settle down there, governor.

The one candidate who has criticized Trump with any sincerity is Jeb Bush. “On our side, there are people that prey on people’s fears and their angst,” he said Tuesday in Iowa. “And whether it’s Donald Trump or Barack Obama, their rhetoric of divisiveness is wrong. A Republican will never win by striking fear in people’s hearts.” OK, so lumping someone in with Barack Obama is as mean as a Republican can get, but what’s most notable about Bush’s criticism is that in a field of 17 candidates, he’s the only one making it.

So what are they all afraid of? It’s true that Trump’s popularity has spiked among Republicans since he started making his beliefs about immigrants clear: in the Post’s latest poll, 57 percent of Republicans say they have a favorable view of him, a dramatic change from a poll in late may when 65 percent of Republicans had a negative view. But would a Republican candidate who engaged in some standard campaign criticism really forever forfeit any chance of winning over a voter who likes Trump today? It’s hard to imagine he would.

I think there’s something going on here that goes beyond Trump, and beyond the issue of immigration (on which all the Republican candidates have essentially the same position). It’s been said before that Democrats hate their base while Republicans fear their base, and the second part seems to be more true now than ever. The Tea Party experience of the last six years, which helped them win off-year elections and also produced rebellions against incumbent Republicans, has left them living in abject terror of their own voters.

It’s as though the GOP got itself a vicious dog because it was having an argument with its neighbor, only to find that the dog kept biting members of its own family. And now it finds itself tiptoeing around the house, paralyzed by the fear that it might startle the dog and get a set of jaws clamped around its ankle.

While I haven’t yet seen any detailed analysis of who’s supporting Trump, it’s probably safe to assume that the typical Trump supporter is a tea partier — not just extremely conservative, but extremely angry as well, not to mention contemptuous of elected Republicans who are too timid to really tell it like it is. Kevin Williamson of the National Review recently described these voters as “captive of the populist Right’s master narrative, which is the tragic tale of the holy, holy base, the victory of which would be entirely assured if not for the machinations of the perfidious Establishment.” Like the People’s Front of Judea, they know that the real enemy is the one on their own side. It’s somewhat ironic that the response of Republican politicians to these voters’ disgust with timidity is to be inordinately timid about offending them.

It’s possible that also has something to do with why the race has been so generally well-mannered. The candidates aren’t just worried about offending Trump’s supporters, they’re worried about offending anybody on their side of the aisle. Far be it from me to demand that the race get more negative, but by now you’d think there would be barbs flying back and forth in all directions. Most of those 17 candidates (once John Kasich and Jim Gilmore formally enter) are separated by just a few points in the polls. The debates will be starting in a couple of weeks, and if only 10 candidates are allowed in each one, all but the top few candidates are in serious danger of being shut out, which could be disastrous for them. That should give them a strong incentive to do something dramatic. And yet, the race could hardly be more civil.

It’s still early, and one has to assume that once the actual voting begins (or even before), the knives will come out. But for now, things are unusually quiet. When that does change, it will only be because the candidates have found something else that scares them more than their own voters. Like losing.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, July 15, 2015

July 16, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“On The Crazy Train To 2016”: The Most Endangered U.S. Senator Going Into His 2016 Reelection Race

I know the air is filled with Republican hysteria about the Iran nuclear deal, but it’s still possible to distinguish honest disagreement on a complex topic with politically motivated or just plain crazy treatment of this highly contingent multilateral agreement as one of the worst moments in human history. I mean, it’s one thing to talk about acceptable and unacceptable risks, but some of these birds are acting as though the missiles aimed at Tel Aviv are being armed as we speak.

With that in mind, read this series of quotes served up by Buzzfeed‘s Andrew Kaczynski and see if you can figure out who might have uttered them:

“This agreement condemns the next generation to cleaning up a nuclear war in the Persian Gulf,” ____ said. “It condemns our Israel allies to further conflict with Iran.” ____ added that he thought the agreement will yield “more nukes, and more terrorists, and more irresponsibility by the Iranians,” saying he thought Iran will now increase their influence in Iraq and Yemen.

“This is the greatest appeasement since Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler,” ____ continued, saying he believed Obama only went through with the deal because he has a poor understanding of history and did not realize appeasement made war more likely. _____ said he thought the deal meant that Israel would now have to take “military action against Iran.”

“The president will make this a viciously partisan issue, leading most Democrats to standing with the Iranians and hopefully losing the next election on this point,” ____ said. “He will ask the Democrats all to stand with Iran and make sure that we can’t get two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate.”

Asked if any Democrats disagreed with the president, ____ pointed to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, who he believed “has just been indicted maybe on the crime of being against the Iran deal.”

____ said he believed the only reason the president supported legislation from Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, that allowed Congress to review the deal was because he “wants…to get nukes to Iran.”

Okay, time’s up. Who do you suspect? Frank Gaffney? Jennifer Rubin? James Inhofe? Ted Cruz? Lindsey Graham? Tom Cotton?

No, it’s the junior senator from Illinois, Mark Kirk, often described as a “centrist” or a “moderate,” and universally thought of as the most endangered U.S. Senator going into his 2016 reelection race.

I guess this could be some ploy to pursue Jewish voters, though there wouldn’t be this whole meme about Netanyahu’s war with American Jews if that sort of talk was widely popular with Jewish folk. Or maybe he’s making up for lost gabbing after his recovery from a stroke. But it’s weird to see a statewide elected official from the president’s home state–a blue state at that–basically accuse him of deliberate assistance to terrorists right before voters consider him for another term.

 

BY: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 15, 2015

July 16, 2015 Posted by | Iran Nuclear Agreement, Mark Kirk, Terrorists | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Jeb And His Vassals Lose Sight Of The Serfs”: It’s The Lash, Always The Lash

“In the feudal system,” The Oxford English Dictionary says, a vassal is “one holding lands from a superior on conditions of homage and allegiance.”

The system lives on in modern American politics, forsooth in changed form. No longer is it local lords providing military support to a king in return for grants of land. Nowadays, the vassals show their loyalty in the form of large campaign checks. In return, they are promised various economic privileges, among them protection from taxation.

The ritual in all its pageantry has been on display at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. There former president George Herbert Walker Bush, his wife, Barbara, and other members of the Bush dynasty hold court to advance Jeb Bush’s quest for the presidency. The object is to make Jeb the second son of H.W.’s, after George W., to capture the White House.

Picture the Bush clan treating CEOs, sports-team owners, and other modern-day vassals to lobster rolls and consenting to pose in the courtiers’ selfies. Imagine the splendor: the many houses, including a new one for Jeb, perched on the rocks of Walker’s Point, the Atlantic crashing at their feet.

Such invites are “the prize for members of the vaunted Bush fund-raising operation,” writes political reporter Nicholas Confessore. They are why Jeb has raised as much money for his campaign as the other Republican presidential candidates and their SuperPACs combined.

Spending so much time in this closed society may also help explain Jeb’s politically awkward remark that Americans “need to work longer hours.”

In olden times, the serfs were regarded as beasts of burden, to be whipped into higher productivity. Conditions are much improved, but one can assume the conversations at the Bush compound do not linger long on the common folk’s economic interests.

A big reason Donald Trump is matching or passing Jeb in the polls is that he is talking to the serfs. He may be saying stupid things, but at least he recognizes their existence.

Bush complained that his views are being taken out of context and elaborated. He really said that sustained growth requires that “people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours.” That way, they have more money and can “decide how they want to spend it rather than getting in line and being dependent on government.”

Another way of stimulating growth would be to have Americans work the same hours but get paid more. That, too, would put more money in their pockets, prompting more spending and saving. This solution might require employers to share more of the profits with their laborers as they used to do. Such scenarios don’t cross the royal mindset, the key to growth always being to crank up the serfs’ stress level.

The reality is that lots of Americans would love a 40-hour job but are instead stuck working two 30-hour jobs, neither offering such luxuries as health coverage and vacation time. That’s the sad reality of today’s job market and one reason the Affordable Care Act was so necessary. It subsidizes health coverage for workers who can’t get it through their employment.

But economic security in some eyes is dependency in others’. One conservative argument goes that repealing Obamacare would force workers into the 40-hour jobs they’re alleged to be turning up their noses at. It’s the lash, always the lash.

Over at Walker’s Point, donors are meeting a new set of Bushes, known as “P’s crowd.” That would be George P. Bush, a son of Jeb’s apparently looking to claim the family political inheritance. Some of P’s followers have parents who back P’s parent.

Me thinks the show goes on.

 

By: Froma Harrop, Featured Post, The National Memo, July 16, 2015

July 16, 2015 Posted by | Bush Family, Economic Inequality, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“One Screwup After Another”: Shell’s Arctic Drilling Adventure Is A Disaster Waiting To Happen

This month may mark the end of a decade-long saga that’s highlighted the lengths to which oil companies will go to drill in the Arctic—and the huge risks such endeavors entail.

If everything goes according to plan, Royal Dutch Shell will soon bury its first drill bit into the Arctic seabed since 2012. The exploration project, which began in 2005, has faced numerous setbacks—logistical issues, expensive equipment repairs, regulatory hurdles, environmental challenges. To date, Shell has sunk more than $7 billion into this hunt for oil and natural gas, and even if successful, it won’t see anything resembling financial success for more than a decade. But if it hits the substantial deposit of oil it believes to be under the Chukchi Sea, the payoff could be enormous.

That’s because, in the next few decades, companies expect it will become harder to extract oil and gas from existing wells, and even the fracking boom may begin to deplete. The race is on to find untapped resources, with companies pushing further and further into harder-to-reach areas.

As the warming ocean and atmosphere has melted Arctic ice, companies have particularly eyed the Chukchi sea for its fossil fuels. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the wider region contains 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13 percent of its oil. Shell purchased its first leases here nearly a decade ago, and it is determined to see a return on its investment.

Shell reached this stage once before, drilling two wells in 2012. But the trip was plagued with problems. At the time, Shell underestimated Arctic dangers and overestimated how much time it had before heavy ice and storms made travel dangerous. The New York Times chronicled the mishaps in a lengthy and dramatic article: One rig, the Noble Discoverer, appeared to ground before reaching the Chukchi that July. Shell’s voluntary spill containment was crushed. A rig caught fire. From there, it got worse: The lines attaching the old rig Shell used, the Kulluk, to towing boats broke, the rig ran aground, and the Coast Guard had to rescue the 18 men trapped aboard it. These setbacks have helped bolster environmentalists’ case that the Arctic is too dangerous to drill.

This time around, Shell has planned to drill two more wells. Two oil rigs, 29 ships and seven aircraft are currently making their way north—an even bigger fleet than the one the company assembled for its previous trip to the Chukchi. Shell says it has never been better prepared, insisting to the Wall Street Journal that the risks today are “negligible.”

Environmentalists certainly don’t feel that way. Before one of the two rigs even left its Seattle port in mid-June, about two-dozen activists took to the water in kayaks, in an attempt to block the rig from leaving port.

There have been other hurdles. Shell’s original plan was to use the two rigs to drill for oil simultaneously, nine miles apart. A backup rig is already required in the aftermath of BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and Shell figured it would put it to good multitasking. The rigs would double the efficiency of the drilling operations and meet federal requirements in case of a blowout. In a win for environmentalists, however, federal regulators decided in June against Shell’s plans to speed things along, citing the harm simultaneous drilling could cause walruses.

And then, just last week, Shell found a 39-inch gash in its vessel, called the Fennica, which contains a crucial piece to cap a well in the case of a blowout. Shell has taken it to Portland for repairs, and says there’s no reason it will delay the start date for drilling in late July. “We do not anticipate any impact on our season, as we don’t expect to require the vessel until August,” a spokesperson for Shell told Joel Connelly. Greenpeace USA spokesperson Travis Nichols disagreed, saying the company can’t possibly begin work on schedule without the essential equipment.

Shell is still waiting for a final permit from the Department of Interior before it can begin drilling. Department spokesperson Jessica Kershaw said they are watching the situation closely. “We continue to review Shell’s proposal for drilling activity in the Chukchi Sea this summer,” Kershaw said. “As we’ve said from day one, Shell will be held to highest safety and environmental standards. This includes having on hand the required emergency response systems necessary for each phase of its drilling program.”

Even as a long-term prospect, Shell is years behind schedule as the problems add up. And it can’t afford another slow season this year. The company faces pressure to prove to investors it can deliver on its $7 billion bet. By 2017, the Times reported, Shell’s first leases will expire if it doesn’t begin producing oil a decade after it first acquired them.

“Everybody’s watching to see if we’re going to fail or succeed out there,” Ann Pickard, Shell’s Executive Vice President running its Arctic division, told the Wall Street Journal. “If we fail for whatever reason … I think the U.S. is another 25 years” away from developing Arctic resources.

So even minor delays this year—like an incident akin to 2012’s—could be devastating to Shell. Above all else, it faces natural challenges. The weather is fickle, sea ice doesn’t always melt on schedule, and there’s a limited window of a few months a year when the Arctic is calm enough to drill. Interior has given Shell a hard stop to drilling in late September.

Environmentalists say that this pressure is exactly what makes Shell prone to risky decisions. “The Fennica could have easily travelled along a much safer route instead of going over a shallow, rocky shoal in an area that to begin with is not well charted,” said Chris Krenz, Arctic campaign manager and senior scientist for Oceana, an ocean advocacy organization campaigning against Shell’s oil development, in a statement.

If Shell continues, environmentalists warn it’s only a matter of time before the next big disaster strikes. “I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to have a ‘perfect season’ in the Arctic,” Nichols said. “The margin of error is so slim. Things that fly in the Gulf [of Mexico], even though they shouldn’t,” won’t in the Arctic “because conditions are so hard.”

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, July 15, 2015

July 16, 2015 Posted by | Big Oil, Environment, Royal Dutch Shell | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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