mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“A Line-Up Of Cranks”: From Trump On Down, The Republicans Can’t Be Serious

This was, according to many commentators, going to be the election cycle Republicans got to show off their “deep bench.” The race for the nomination would include experienced governors like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, fresh thinkers like Rand Paul, and attractive new players like Marco Rubio. Instead, however, Donald Trump leads the field by a wide margin. What happened?

The answer, according to many of those who didn’t see it coming, is gullibility: People can’t tell the difference between someone who sounds as if he knows what he’s talking about and someone who is actually serious about the issues. And for sure there’s a lot of gullibility out there. But if you ask me, the pundits have been at least as gullible as the public, and still are.

For while it’s true that Mr. Trump is, fundamentally, an absurd figure, so are his rivals. If you pay attention to what any one of them is actually saying, as opposed to how he says it, you discover incoherence and extremism every bit as bad as anything Mr. Trump has to offer. And that’s not an accident: Talking nonsense is what you have to do to get anywhere in today’s Republican Party.

For example, Mr. Trump’s economic views, a sort of mishmash of standard conservative talking points and protectionism, are definitely confused. But is that any worse than Jeb Bush’s deep voodoo, his claim that he could double the underlying growth rate of the American economy? And Mr. Bush’s credibility isn’t helped by his evidence for that claim: the relatively rapid growth Florida experienced during the immense housing bubble that coincided with his time as governor.

Mr. Trump, famously, is a “birther” — someone who has questioned whether President Obama was born in the United States. But is that any worse than Scott Walker’s declaration that he isn’t sure whether the president is a Christian?

Mr. Trump’s declared intention to deport all illegal immigrants is definitely extreme, and would require deep violations of civil liberties. But are there any defenders of civil liberties in the modern G.O.P.? Notice how eagerly Rand Paul, self-described libertarian, has joined in the witch hunt against Planned Parenthood.

And while Mr. Trump is definitely appealing to know-nothingism, Marco Rubio, climate change denier, has made “I’m not a scientist” his signature line. (Memo to Mr. Rubio: Presidents don’t have to be experts on everything, but they do need to listen to experts, and decide which ones to believe.)

The point is that while media puff pieces have portrayed Mr. Trump’s rivals as serious men — Jeb the moderate, Rand the original thinker, Marco the face of a new generation — their supposed seriousness is all surface. Judge them by positions as opposed to image, and what you have is a lineup of cranks. And as I said, this is no accident.

It has long been obvious that the conventions of political reporting and political commentary make it almost impossible to say the obvious — namely, that one of our two major parties has gone off the deep end. Or as the political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein put it in their book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” the G.O.P. has become an “insurgent outlier … unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science.” It’s a party that has no room for rational positions on many major issues.

Or to put it another way, modern Republican politicians can’t be serious — not if they want to win primaries and have any future within the party. Crank economics, crank science, crank foreign policy are all necessary parts of a candidate’s resume.

Until now, however, leading Republicans have generally tried to preserve a facade of respectability, helping the news media to maintain the pretense that it was dealing with a normal political party. What distinguishes Mr. Trump is not so much his positions as it is his lack of interest in maintaining appearances. And it turns out that the party’s base, which demands extremist positions, also prefers those positions delivered straight. Why is anyone surprised?

Remember how Mr. Trump was supposed to implode after his attack on John McCain? Mr. McCain epitomizes the strategy of sounding moderate while taking extreme positions, and is much loved by the press corps, which puts him on TV all the time. But Republican voters, it turns out, couldn’t care less about him.

Can Mr. Trump actually win the nomination? I have no idea. But even if he is eventually pushed aside, pay no attention to all the analyses you will read declaring a return to normal politics. That’s not going to happen; normal politics left the G.O.P. a long time ago. At most, we’ll see a return to normal hypocrisy, the kind that cloaks radical policies and contempt for evidence in conventional-sounding rhetoric. And that won’t be an improvement.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 7, 2015

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tithes And Offerings”: A Well-Established Fad Among The Glenn Beckish, Conspiracy-Theory Oriented Christian Right Types

As long as we are talking about flaky but popular-among-conservatives tax plans, Ben Carson’s allegedly Bible-based “tithe” tax, which he got to tout in last night’s debate, is among the flakiest. It’s really just an unusually low flat tax, which means (a) it wouldn’t come even close to paying for anything like the government we have, and (b) it represents an incredibly huge windfall for the rich along with significantly higher taxes for the poor (plus loss of refundable tax credits).

What it is, however, is a well-established fad among the Glenn Beckish, conspiracy-theory oriented Christian Right types that represent Carson’s real ideological home. Here’s RightWingNews’ Peter Montgomery on flat taxes and “biblical values:”

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has declared, “God believes in a flat tax.” On his radio show last year, Fischer said, “That’s what a tithe is, it’s a tax.”

Of course, that kind of flat tax would amount to a massive tax cut for the richest Americans and a tax hike on the poorest. So it’s not terribly surprising the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity has teamed up with the Religious Right to promote the idea that progressive taxation is an un-Christian idea. AFP joined Religious Right groups to create the Freedom Federation, one of the right-wing coalitions that sprung up in opposition to Barack Obama’s election as president. The coalition’s founding “Declaration of American Values” declares its allegiance to a system of taxes that is “not progressive in nature.”

David Barton, the pseudo-historian, GOP activist, and Glenn Beck ally, is a major promoter of the idea that the Bible opposes progressive taxes, capital gains taxes, and minimum wage. Barton’s views are grounded in the philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism, a movement whose thinking has infused both the Religious Right and Tea Party movements with its notion that God gave the family, not the government, responsibility for education — and the church, not the government, responsibility for taking care of the poor.

That’s how we have Republican members of Congress supporting cuts in food stamps by appealing to the Bible. And how we get Samuel Rodriguez, the most prominent conservative Hispanic evangelical leader, saying that a desire to “punish success” — i.e. progressive taxes — “is anti-Christian and anti-American.”

A lot of people still think of the conservative movement as a combo platter of “conservative Christians” who don’t care about economic issues, and “economic conservatives” who are indifferent or even hostile towards “social issues,” and then Tea Party People who only care about fiscal probity and constitutional issues. It’s actually all a stew. And in particular, the Christian Right is composed in large part of people who have divinized private property and think the Constitution permanently addressed social and family policy along with taxation and government structure. That’s part and parcel of Ben Carson’s strange gospel of American unity: it was all resolved by the Founders, and we’ll all get along if “politically correct” people weren’t causing trouble with their secular socialist schemes.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 7, 2015

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Conservatives, Religious Right | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Republican Party Can’t Escape Its Past”: Trapped At The Center Of A Tug-Of-War Between Its Own Ego And The Conservative Id

A lot can happen through three hours of political debate, enough to carry multiple headlines and just as many different analytical perspectives. Even before the main-stage debate Thursday night, a consensus gelled that Carly Florina had distinguished herself among the also-rans, that Rick Perry continues to struggle to communicate extemporaneously, and that most of the seven candidates who didn’t make the top 10 didn’t make it for a reason.

But nothing that any individual candidate—including Donald Trump—said or did tonight stuck out as more significant than the thematic fact that Republicans are still tripping over the long tail of the 2012 election.

Part of what makes this process so awkward for them is that the GOP never really reached consensus about what it needed to do differently in 2016 to avoid the result it achieved four years ago. Some of them think the biggest error Republicans committed in the last election was racing to a rightmost position on immigration at the beck and call of xenophobes. Others think it was Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s breezy willingness to disparage “takers”—and Romney’s statements about the 47 percent specifically. Still more thought the party’s only error was nominating a candidate whom conservatives didn’t instinctively trust.

Every single opposing viewpoint in this dispute is represented in the current primary—and among the Fox News moderators and other conservative journalists who have the greatest access to the candidates—and the result is deeply unstable equilibrium between factions. The Republican Party is trapped at the center of a tug-of-war between its own ego and the conservative id.

Donald Trump personifies this dynamic more than any other candidate. Surrounded by Republicans who vowed not to run independent candidacies, he refused to take the same pledge, making explicit reference to the leverage his threat gives him against a cowering GOP establishment. He swatted away questions about his crude sexism by attacking political correctness and reiterated his view that the government of Mexico is sending rapists and murderers to the United States. And nobody was willing (or able) to take issue with any of the substantive claims he made, except insofar as he represented himself as a true Republican.

This isn’t the issue that most Republican Party leaders wanted center stage in the first 2016 primary debate. And it’s arguably only there because the party retreated from its tepid commitment to pass an immigration bill in 2013, and chose instead to pander to the same nativists, while surrendering their power to influence policy.

During the undercard debate, one moderator structured a question about labor market weakness in America around the premise that too many people are choosing to idle about on the dole rather than work for a living. She clearly believed everything Romney said in the 47 percent video and wanted the dark horse candidates to vouchsafe all of it. To their modest credit, none of them took the bait, exactly. They framed the issue instead as a problem with government spending fostering dependency—a slightly less dismissive, slightly more infantilizing way of describing the same, mostly imagined phenomenon. Certainly many of them still see the issue exactly the same way they did four years ago. And though nobody used the most damaging possible language in this instance, the 47 percent idea, and the fierce certainty many Republicans have that Romney was exactly right about it, litters the conservative mindshare like unexploded ordnance.

What you saw tonight—and the vastness of the field made this tension more vivid—are several candidates who want to hew to a new line of some kind, only to be pulled back, like the Godfather, into a morass they were trying to escape.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, August 6, 2015

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Immigration Reform | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Ted Cruz Loves Freedom, Liberty, And Dictators”: Loving Freedom While Applauding Ruthless Dictatorship

Republican presidential candidate and coloring book star Ted Cruz loves Egyptian dictatorship almost as much as he loves freedom and Candy Crush.

At Thursday night’s WWE-style Republican debate, the junior senator from Texas took a moment to praise the leadership skills and “courage” of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

“We need a president that shows the courage that Egypt’s President al-Sisi, a Muslim, when he called out the radical Islamic terrorists who are threatening the world,” Cruz said to an applauding audience.

It’s not the first time he’s praised Sisi—it’s is a common conservative meme to compare President Obama’s alleged weakness to the supposed manliness of strongmen abroad. And Cruz is far from the only Republican lawmaker to join the Sisi fan club. (Fellow 2016 contenders Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush are pretty much on the same page.) But for all of Cruz’s talk about liberty and democratic freedoms at home, he is giving Our Man In Cairo a hell of a pass abroad.

Sisi—a strongman ruler practically minted in the U.S.A.—came to power in a 2013 coup that ousted the democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, a leading member in the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi’s armed forces then began a trigger-happy crackdown on Brotherhood members and supporters, and commenced the typical authoritarian kick of going after the press and imprisoning the opposition. (Morsi himself is waiting to see if his execution is imminent.)

Additionally, in an apparent effort to prove that his regime is even more “Islamic” than the Islamists he deposed, Sisi has presided over a campaign of persecution, prosecution and public shaming of LGBT Egyptians. It’s yet another brutal crackdown that has made Sisi’s Egypt a worse environment for gays than Morsi’s Egypt ever was.

And for all the repression and human-rights violations, his government has not managed to make the Egyptian republic any safer. “Sisi came to power on a platform of security and stability and clearly he’s failing—by any measurable standard, Egypt is more vulnerable to insurgency today than it was two years ago,” Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Daily Beast last month.

So what’s not to love, Senator Cruz?

The Cruz campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding how the senator squares loving freedom with applauding ruthless dictatorship.

 

By: Asawin Suebsaeng, The Daiyl Beast, August 7, 2015

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Dictators, Human Rights, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Republicans In Need Of A Reagan Refresher”: Pointing To Reagan As Some Kind Of Platonic Ideal Is Ridiculous

A couple of weeks ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) presidential campaign launched a new television ad, condemning the international nuclear agreement. The funny part, however, was Christie’s argument that Obama should have followed the example set by … Ronald Reagan.

The subject came up again last night, when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was asked whether he’s prepared to abandon the U.S. commitment to the diplomatic deal on the first day of his imaginary presidency. The senator replied:

“I oppose the Iranian deal, and will vote against it. I don’t think that the president negotiated from a position of strength, but I don’t immediately discount negotiations. I’m a Reagan conservative.”

Paul went on to note that Reagan negotiated with the USSR, which is proof that the United States can engage in talks with our foes, though Paul opposes the Iran deal anyway for reasons he didn’t specify.

A little later in the debate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also added a dash of Ronaldus Magnus and Iran. Responding to a question on cyber-security, the Republican senator said, “It is worth emphasizing that Iran released our hostages in 1981 the day Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.”

It’s worth emphasizing that Cruz’s story is based on a GOP fairy tale.

Regardless, the underlying point remains the same: when it comes to U.S. policy towards Iran, the current crop of Republican presidential candidates keep pointing to Reagan as the model for contemporary leaders to follow. Perhaps they haven’t thought this through.

Let’s again set the record straight: the Reagan White House illegally tried to sell weapons to Iran in order to help finance an illegal war in Central America. It was one of the biggest scandals in American history. Much of Reagan’s national-security team ended up under criminal indictment.

At one point in 1986, Reagan delivered a nationally televised address in which he looked at the camera and promised Americans the scandal wasn’t true. Four months later, he was forced to deliver another televised address, conceding the fact that his claims in the first one weren’t true.

I can appreciate why Republicans find all of this quite inconvenient now, and why the right may prefer to wipe the scandal from the party’s collective memories, but when the subject of U.S. policy towards Iran comes up, pointing to Reagan as some kind of Platonic ideal is ridiculous.

 

By: Steven Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 7, 2015

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Primary Debates, Rand Paul, Ronald Reagan | , , , , , | 2 Comments

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: