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“The Incredible Weakness Of The National Republican Party”: The GOP Is Now The Political Arm Of Fox News

One of the more interesting things about the GOP debate wasn’t even what happened at the debate, but the meta-narrative of how it happened. It’s also interesting how weak and helpless the Republican Party appeared as events unfolded.

First, the GOP was supposed to have its strongest field in decades. This should, in theory, have allowed for real contentions over major issues and a seesaw effect as governors and senators probed each other’s weaknesses and tested new ideas with the GOP primary electorate. But that hasn’t happened. Instead each of the major candidates has shrunk under the bright lights rather than grown. The field that appeared so strong on paper has turned out to look incredibly weak and slate.

As the major candidates were unable to seize control, an increasing number of also-rans became tempted to join the fray, producing an overcrowded clown car effect. During all of this the national Republican Party was entirely powerless to stop them and clear the field.

Then, of course, came Donald Trump. The Republican Party has never looked weaker than it has in dealing with the enormous black eye that is Donald Trump. Reince Priebus has looked variously baffled, snarky, pouty and kowtowing addressing the Trump problem. At every turn Donald Trump continues to thumb his nose at the establishment Republican Party, insulting its leaders and openly mocking any efforts it might make to reach out to women and minorities in order to solve its demographic problems.

And then comes Fox News. Fox News is often described as the media arm of the GOP. But over the years it has seemed more like the GOP is the political arm of Fox News. It was Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch who decided which candidates would appear on stage. It was Fox News’ Megyn Kelly who determined the lines of attack each candidate would face, and which ones would face an easier road than others. It was Fox News that controlled the post-debate spin. In all of this, the actual Republican Party seems to be an utter bystander at its own event.

Of course, there’s the spectacle the Koch Brothers and Shelden Adelson have made of their willingness to buy candidates outright and set up their own shadow field and campaign arms separate from the GOP.

And now comes the RedState forum. Erick Erickson has taken it upon himself to disinvite Donald Trump from the RedState forum. At first glance this might seem to be a boon to the GOP: national leaders desperately want to see the Trump “bubble” burst, and want to take the spotlight away from him in any way possible. But it’s still remarkable that in an election year when national Democratic leaders and the Clinton campaign made a decision to keep frontrunner Hillary Clinton away from the liberal Netroots Nation convention, it is the RedState forum itself that is disinviting the current Republican frontrunner. Once again, the national GOP seems to be utterly helpless.

The Republican Party is a total mess, and it has never looked weaker.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 8, 2015

August 10, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fox News, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Two Leaders, Two Countries, Two International Standings”: Are Republicans Ready To Admit Their Putin Adulation Was Misplaced?

For many Republicans, there are some basic truths about international perceptions. President Obama, they assume, is not well respected abroad, while Russia’s Vladimir Putin is seen as tough and impressive.

Last year, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson wrote a column on how impressed he is with Putin, and argued, “Russians seem to be gaining prestige and influence throughout the world as we are losing ours.”

With this in mind, the Pew Research Center has published a couple of helpful reports of late. In June, Pew’s “Global Attitudes & Trends” study found that impressions of the United States are up around the world – much improved over the findings from the Bush/Cheney era – and President Obama is an especially popular figure across much of the globe.

And this week, the Pew Research Center released related findings on Russia and Putin. Ben Carson may want to pay particular attention to the results.

Outside its own borders, neither Russia nor its president, Vladimir Putin, receives much respect or support, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. A median of only 30% see Russia favorably in the nations outside of Russia. Its image trails that of the United States in nearly every region of the world.

At the same time, a median of only 24% in the countries surveyed have confidence in Putin to do the right thing in world affairs, and there is far less faith in the Russian leader than there is in U.S. President Barack Obama.

If this makes it sound as if Republicans have described the entire dynamic backwards, that’s because they have.

Remember, it was just last year when American conservatives effectively adopted Putin as one of their own. Rudy Giuliani said of the Russian autocrat, “That’s what you call a leader.” Mitt Romney proclaimed, “I think Putin has outperformed our president time and time again on the world stage.” A Fox News personality went so far as to say she wanted Putin to temporarily serve as “head of the United States.”

But by international standards, the GOP rhetoric seems quite foolish.

In all regions of the world, Putin’s image fares quite poorly compared with public perception of U.S. President Barack Obama. Three-quarters of Europeans have confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs. Only 15% have such faith in Putin. By more than two-to-one, publics in Africa, Asia and Latin America trust Obama more than Putin.

So, what do you say, conservatives? Ready to admit your Putin adulation was misplaced?

 

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

August 10, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Russia, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“What It Says About The Republican Base”: There Is No Liberal Donald Trump Because Liberals Don’t Need A Donald Trump

Talking about Donald Trump can be an exhausting and pointless exercise: no sooner does he say or do one outrageous thing than he follows it up with another (the latest being an appalling and viciously misogynist menstruation-based jab at Megyn Kelly, giving Erick Erickson the excuse he wanted to disinvite Trump from the RedState gathering.)

But Trump isn’t really that interesting for his own sake. Trump’s candidacy is of interest because of what it says about the Republican base and about American conservatism itself. I’ve been hammering lately on the theme that conservatives are in such a cultural defensive crouch that they’re not seeking a policy leader so much as insurgent cultural one.

But the focus on Trump has also helped hide a fundamental lack of seriousness in the entire Republican firmament, a point effectively noted by Paul Krugman:

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….

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.

Pundits keep pretending that Donald Trump is a media creation–a charlatan and entertainer who is crashing the otherwise serious political party to generate headlines. But he wouldn’t make those headlines without having an enormously popular appeal to the Republican base, which pundits attribute to general frustration with the political system on both sides of the aisle.

But that’s just not true. If it were true, then the Democratic Party would be just as susceptible to a liberal version of Trump. But it’s not. It’s hard to even imagine what that would look like.

The reality is that mainstream Democratic positions also happen to be broadly popular positions already without the need for demagogic bluster. Left-of-center positions tend to be based on science and a more complex, nuanced understanding of social problems. Even more importantly, liberals in the United States promote solutions that have already been shown to work elsewhere in the world. In terms of party divisions Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders simply present a more rhetorically forceful version of those positions, and where their opinions differ from centrist Democrats (especially on, say, Wall Street), their takes tend to be backed up by history and economics, and to have the support of the majority of Americans.

Once again, it’s important to note that both sides don’t, in fact, do it when it comes to political extremism. American conservatism has gone far, far off the rails. Donald Trump’s successful candidacy is only the latest–but far from the only–proof of that.

Liberals don’t have a Donald Trump because we don’t need one. Even liberal populism is a doggedly rational, evidence-based, internally consistent and broadly popular affair. Populist conservatism is anything but.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 8, 2015

August 10, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Democrats, Donald Trump | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Tragic History Of Race Wars”: 70 Years After A Flash Of Soundless Light Blasted Away 60,000 Lives

He wanted to start a race war.

That, you will recall, was what authorities say white supremacist Dylann Roof had in mind when he shot up a storied African-American church in June. It might have surprised him to learn that we’ve already had a race war.

No, that’s not how one typically thinks of World War II, but it takes only a cursory consideration of that war’s causes and effects to make the case. Germany killed 6 million Jews and rampaged through Poland and the Soviet Union because it considered Jews and Slavs subhuman. The Japanese stormed through China and other Asian outposts in the conviction that they were a superior people and that Americans, as a decadent and mongrel people, could do nothing about it.

Meantime, this country was busy imprisoning 120,000 of its citizens of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps and plunging into a war against racial hatred with a Jim Crow military. The American war effort was undermined repeatedly by race riots — whites attacking blacks at a shipyard in Mobile, white servicemen beating up Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles, to name two examples.

So no, it is not a stretch to call that war a race war.

It ended on August 15, 1945. V-J — Victory over Japan — Day was when the surrender was announced, the day of blissfully drunken revelry from Times Square in New York to Market Street in San Francisco. But for all practical purposes, the war had actually ended nine days before — 70 years ago Thursday — in a noiseless flash of light over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. One person who survived — as at least 60,000 people would not — described it as a “sheet of sun.”

The destruction of Hiroshima by an atomic bomb — Nagasaki followed three days later — did not just end the war. It also ushered in a new era: the nuclear age. To those of us who were children then, nuclear power was what turned Peter Parker into a human spider and that lizard into Godzilla.

It was also what air-raid sirens were screaming about when the teacher told you to get down under your desk, hands clasped behind your neck. We called them “drop drills.” No one ever explained to us how putting an inch of laminated particle board between you and a nuclear explosion might save you. None of us ever thought to ask. We simply accepted it, went to school alongside this most terrifying legacy of the great race war, and thought nothing of it.

The world has seen plenty of race wars — meaning tribalistic violence — before and since 1945. Ask the Armenians, the Tutsis, the Darfurians. Ask the Congolese, the Cambodians, the Herero. Ask the Cherokee. The childish urge of the human species to divide itself and destroy itself has splashed oceans of blood across the history of the world.

The difference 70 years ago was the scope of the thing — and that spectacular ending. For the first time, our species now had the ability to destroy itself. We were still driven by the same childish urge. Only now, we were children playing with matches.

This is the fearsome reality that has shadowed my generation down seven decades, from schoolchildren doing drop drills to grandparents watching grandchildren play in the park. And the idea that we might someday forge peace among the warring factions of the planet, find a way to help our kind overcome tribal hatred before it’s too late, has perhaps come to seem idealistic, visionary, naïve, a tired ’60s holdover, a song John Lennon once sang that’s nice to listen to but not at all realistic.

Maybe it’s all those things.

Though 70 years after a flash of soundless light blasted away 60,000 lives, you have to wonder what better options we’ve got. But then, I’m biased.

You see, I have grandchildren playing in the park.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald, August 3, 2015

August 10, 2015 Posted by | Race War, White Supremacy, World War II | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“New Evidence Contradicts Key Walker Claims”: What He Said And What Is True Will Require Some Explanation

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) team was part of an ugly controversy a few years ago, which the Republican presidential candidate probably thought was behind him. New evidence suggests otherwise.

At issue is a 2010 scandal – not to be confused with his 2012 campaign-finance scandal – stemming from Walker’s tenure as Milwaukee County executive. The story gets a little convoluted, but the gist of the story is that some Walker aides actually went to jail after, among other things, using public resources for partisan political purposes.

The far-right governor insisted, publicly and repeatedly, that the criminal investigation had nothing to do with him. Asked in 2012 whether he personally was a target of the probe, Walker said at the time, “Absolutely not. One hundred percent wrong. Could not be more wrong. It’s just more of the liberal scare tactics out there.”

It now appears those claims weren’t true. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Walker “was under criminal investigation in 2011 for misconduct in office – even as he insisted he wasn’t.”

Wednesday’s filing shows the governor was at the center of the probe, contradicting Walker’s repeated claims at the time that he was not a target of the investigation.

“I submit that there is probable cause to believe that Scott Walker, John Hiller and Andrew Jensen, in concert together, committed a felony, i.e., Misconduct in Public Office…” investigator Robert Stetler wrote in his 2011 request for a search warrant. 

Well, that’s not at all what Walker himself told the public.

To be sure, the GOP candidate was never indicted, and both this criminal investigation and the probe of his campaign-finance scandal are officially over. The new revelations do not change the underlying detail that his campaign aides will likely emphasize: Walker wasn’t charged with a crime.

But in advance of his recall campaign and his re-election campaign, Walker told Wisconsin voters that he was never a target of the criminal investigation. The contradiction between what Walker said and what is true will require some explanation.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 6, 2015

August 10, 2015 Posted by | Milwaukee County, Public Corruption, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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