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“Walker Eyes Border Wall … For The Other Border”: A Nutty Idea, Even By The Standards Of GOP Presidential Candidates

When far-right politicians endorse the construction of a massive border wall, they rarely specify which border, because it’s simply assumed they’re not overly concerned about Canadians.

When it comes to border security, it’s only natural to wonder why Republicans seem vastly more energized about our neighbors to the south than those to the north. I was delighted to see NBC’s Chuck Todd ask Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) about this yesterday.

One issue he plans to fix if elected is the terrorist threat posed by the nation’s porous borders, and he said while he’s most concerned about the southern U.S. border, he’d be open to building a wall to secure the northern border as well.

 “Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire. They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at,” he said.

And I’ll be eager to hear what the far-right candidate comes up with after he “looks at” building a northern border wall – because the idea is a little nutty, even by the standards of GOP presidential candidates.

For now, let’s put aside the issues – the costs, the needs, etc. – related to a building a giant wall along the U.S/Mexico border. Let’s instead consider Walker’s apparent concerns about Canada.

As the Republican governor may know – his home state is roughly along the northern border – the United States and Canada don’t simply share a lengthy land mass. There are these things known as the “Great Lakes,” which the two countries share. Even trying to build a giant wall through them would be … how do I put this gently … impractical.

The alternative, of course, is building a water-front wall along U.S. states that border the lakes. Some folks might not like the view, but we’re either going to take border security seriously or we’re not, right?

There’s also the not-so-small matter of Alaska. Even if a Walker administration takes up a plan to build a wall from Seattle to Maine, let’s not forget that the United States actually has two borders with Canada: one along Canada’s southern border, and then another along Canada’s northwestern border. Indeed, the border Alaska shares with British Columbia and Yukon Territory (about 1,500 miles) is almost as long as the border the continental United States shares with Mexico (about 1,900 miles).

Depending on how serious the Wisconsinite is about this, we’ll probably have to talk about some maritime borders, too, since we run the risks of terrorists and undocumented immigrants showing up along American shorelines in boats.

Given the Republican Party’s general hostility towards investing in American infrastructure, it’s important to note that these border walls would likely carry an enormous price tag. Nevertheless, Scott Walker considers this “a legitimate issue for us to look at,” so let the debate begin.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 1, 2015

September 1, 2015 Posted by | Border Security, Canada, GOP Presidential Candidates, Scott Walker | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Openly Contemplating Possibility He Could Win”: Republicans Come To Terms With Their Worst Trump Nightmare

The tenor of Republican Party rhetoric has darkened. Until recently, most Republican candidates and strategists regarded Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as something ephemeral—a flash in the pan; a storm to be waited out. Now they are openly contemplating the possibility that he could win, or at least ride his steady support all the way to the Republican nominating convention next summer, leaving havoc in his wake.

Consider:

  • On Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham said, “If Donald Trump is the nominee, that’s the end of the Republican Party.”
  • Also on Tuesday, Graham’s home state of South Carolina—the first southern state to hold a primary—announced that it would require candidates to sign a pledge promising to support the Republican presidential nominee in the general election, and not launch an independent candidacy. Trump has thus far refused to make such a promise.
  • After a Monday focus group brought Trump’s appeal to the Republican grassroots into sharp relief, GOP pollster Frank Luntz had a mini anxiety attack. “You guys understand how significant this is?” Luntz asked reporters. “This is real. I’m having trouble processing it. Like, my legs are shaking.”

As much as Trump himself is an outgrowth of the reckless way conservatives have stoked the resentment of the Republican Party base, his durability is also an outgrowth of an electoral process conservatives have shaped aggressively. Even if Trump’s ceiling of support is around 30 percent, it’s enough to ride out the primary process—and retain the lead—in a fractured field where almost every candidate has a wealthy patron or two.

In a better-controlled environment, Trump would be a less potent force. As the frontrunner, though, he’s steering the policy debate in ways that have Republican donors and strategists deeply spooked. As Greg Sargent writes at the Washington Post, “his willingness to say what other Republicans won’t has forced out into the open genuine policy debates among Republicans that had previously been shrouded in vagueness or imprisoned within party orthodoxy.”

Right now, Trump has his hand on the third rail of Republican politics. He’s arguing that wealthy people shouldn’t get a pass on paying regular federal income taxes. “The middle class is getting clobbered in this country. You know the middle class built this country, not the hedge fund guys, but I know people in hedge funds that pay almost nothing, and it’s ridiculous, okay?”

For almost any candidate, promising to reduce taxes on rich people is the price of admission into the Republican primary. Trump, by contrast, is poised not only to survive this apostasy, but to singe any of the more orthodox rivals who challenge him.

Senator Marco Rubio’s tax plan represents the most pointed contrast to Trump’s middle-class populism. Rubio proposes not just to lower the top marginal income tax rate, but to completely zero out capital gains taxes. To escape scrutiny for offering such a huge sop to the wealthy, Rubio plans to fall back on his origin story—as the son of a bartender who worked at a hotel financed by investors, Rubio can elide the typical criticisms of trickle-down economics, by claiming to be a direct beneficiary of it. This might be an effective diversion against a Democratic politician promising to increase people’s taxes, but against a rapacious developer like Trump, it falls completely flat. Trump would love nothing more than for a career elected official like Rubio to lecture him about the impact tax rates have on investment and growth. Trump has managed to survive in the business world at a number of different capital gains tax rates, whereas Rubio has struggled to stay afloat, and racked up high levels of credit card debt, in the working world.

If Trump were running an insurgent candidacy against Rubio and one other viable Republican, a supply-side platform would fare pretty well. Republican base voters aren’t as doctrinaire about taxes as Republican elites are, but they still support cutting taxes by a significant margin. In a smaller field, Rubio might be the standard bearer. Instead, the standard bearer claims to want to raise taxes on the rich. And much to the dismay of just about everyone else in the Republican Party, he isn’t going anywhere.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, August 28, 2015

September 1, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Tax Cuts | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Iran And The Case For Realism”: The Choices We Face Are ‘Often Between Greater And Lesser Evils’

Foreign policy debates rarely get away from being reflections of domestic political conflicts, but they are also usually based on unstated assumptions and unacknowledged theories.

That’s true of the struggle over the Iran nuclear agreement, even if raw politics is playing an exceptionally large role. There are many indications that Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Susan Collins (Maine) might in other circumstances be willing to back the accord. But they have to calculate the very high costs of breaking with their colleagues on an issue that has become a test of party loyalty.

There is also the unfortunate way in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen to frame Congress’s vote as a pro- or anti-Israel proposition. Many staunch supporters of Israel may have specific criticisms of the inspection regime, but they also believe that the restraints on Iran’s nuclear program are real. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), for example, has said that U.S. negotiators “got an awful lot, particularly on the nuclear front.” And the “nuclear front,” after all, is the main point.

But the pressures on Cardin, who is still undecided, and several other Democrats to vote no anyway are enormous. A yes vote from Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, would be a true profiles-in-courage moment — and have a real influence on his wavering colleagues.

President Obama and his allies are right to say that the dangers of having the agreement blocked by Congress are much higher than the risks of trying to make it work. The notion that the United States could go back and renegotiate for something even tougher is laughable, because this is not simply a U.S.-Iran deal. It also involves allies who strongly back what’s on the table. Suggesting that the old sanctions on Iran could be restored is absurd for the same reason: Our partners would bridle if the United States disowned what it has agreed to already.

The administration’s core challenge to its critics is: “What is the alternative?” It is not a rhetorical question.

The counts at the moment suggest that Obama will win by getting at least enough votes to sustain a veto of legislation to scuttle the pact. He has a shot (Cardin’s decision could be key) of getting 41 senators to prevent a vote on an anti-deal measure altogether.

But once this episode is past us, the president, his congressional opponents and the regiment of presidential candidates owe the country a bigger discussion on how they see the United States’ role in the world. Obama in particular could profit from finally explaining what the elusive “Obama Doctrine” is and responding, at least indirectly, to criticisms of the sort that came his way Friday from Republican hopefuls Scott Walker and Marco Rubio.

There are many (I’m among them) who see Obama primarily as a foreign policy realist. Especially after our adventures in Iraq, realism looks a whole lot better than it once did. I say this as someone who still thinks that the United States needs to stand up for democratic values and human rights but who also sees military overreach as a grave danger to our interests and long-term strength. The principal defense of Obama’s stewardship rests on the idea that, despite some miscues, his realism about what military power can and can’t achieve has recalibrated the United States’ approach, moving it in the right direction.

A useful place to start this discussion is “The Realist Persuasion,” Richard K. Betts’s article in the 30th anniversary issue of the National Interest, realism’s premier intellectual outpost. Betts, a Columbia University scholar, argues that realists “focus more on results than on motives and are more attuned to how often good motives can produce tragic results.” While idealistic liberals and conservatives alike are often eager to “support the righteous and fight the villainous,” realists insist that the choices we face are “often between greater and lesser evils.”

“At the risk of overgeneralizing,” he writes, “one can say that idealists worry most about courage, realists about constraints; idealists focus on the benefits of resisting evil with force, realists on the costs.” On the whole, “realists recommend humility rather than hubris.”

For those of us whose heads are increasingly realist but whose hearts are still idealist, realism seems cold and morally inadequate. Yet the realists’ moral trump card is to ask whether squandering lives, treasure and power on impractical undertakings has anything to do with morality. Critics of realism confront the same question that opponents of the Iran deal face: “What is the alternative?”

 

By: E. J. Dionne Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 31, 2015

September 1, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Republicans Aim For Their Own Feet”: An Unerring Genius For Alienating Exactly The Demographics It Needs

What do women want? Republicans are trying to answer that question and, as usual, they are getting it wrong.

The party has an unerring genius for alienating exactly the demographics it needs to win the White House. Republicans have made it harder for students, urbanites, and minorities to vote. Many of their presidential candidates are competing over who can deport the most immigrants and build the best border wall. Why should the GOP approach to women be any different?

Donald Trump, who has been flamboyantly insulting to immigrants, isn’t helping Republicans with women, either. His history of crude insults about female appearances led NBC’s Chuck Todd to ask him, “Why do looks matter to you so much?” He still talks in weird generalizations and 1950s stereotypes about women (see: “I cherish women” or “women love me” or “I understand the importance of women”).

You’d think Carly Fiorina, another presidential contender from the business world, and the only woman in the GOP field, would have a better handle on this. But she has become a lightning rod because she opposes a requirement that businesses offer paid leave to new parents. She wants it to be a perk companies offer to attract workers.

The United States is the only advanced country that doesn’t give employees paid parental leave, as President Obama has noted repeatedly. But Fiorina says requiring paid parental leave discourages the hiring and promotion of women. Besides, she asks, who would pay for it?

Fiorina’s position, however, carries its own health and monetary costs. Mothers who don’t take leave are less likely to breastfeed or bring a baby to doctor appointments. And low-income workers who take unpaid leave to care for an infant often rely on government help. “When a low-wage worker cannot even have a sick day or a paid leave day after the birth of an infant, she is far more likely to go on assistance, public assistance,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) sponsor of a bill requiring paid leave, told Fortune magazine. The upshot is that taxpayers foot the bill, she added.

As for the politics of paid leave, Fiorina’s stand is a loser. Polls show 60 to 80 percent of Americans support requiring paid leave for new parents. That 80 percent figure, from a CBS/New York Times poll in May, includes 71 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of women.

Now abortion is preoccupying the GOP, thrust there by conservatives who secretly filmed Planned Parenthood executives talking casually and graphically about the mechanics and costs of donating tissue from aborted fetuses for research. Republican candidates have grabbed at the chance to demonstrate their credentials as cultural conservatives — emphasizing their opposition to abortion and demanding an end to federal funding of Planned Parenthood, even if that leads to a government shutdown. Some 50 advocacy groups are co-sponsoring protests in nearly 300 cities this weekend to highlight what the Family Research Council calls “Planned Parenthood’s harvesting and selling of aborted baby parts.”

Ohio governor John Kasich explained the rising prominence of the abortion issue this way recently on CNN: “Now that the issue of gay marriage is kind of off the table, we’re kind of down to one social issue.”

The nature of the GOP primary electorate requires that Republican candidates take as hard a line as they can against abortion and explain in great detail their positions on exceptions, restrictions, and any shifts in thinking they may have undergone. They may be convinced that this won’t hurt them with women or moderates in a general election. Gallup found in May that 21 percent of Americans would only vote for a candidate who shared their view on abortion. That’s an all-time high in the 19 years the question has been asked, but they were about equally divided on both sides of the issue.

So does that make it a wash? Probably not. For one thing, the tide seems to be turning in the other direction. Half of Americans told Gallup in May that they were “pro-choice” on abortion compared with 44 percent who said they were “pro-life.” Analyst Lydia Saad wrote that was the first statistically significant lead for the “pro-choice” position in seven years. In addition, polls show pluralities of Americans have positive views of Planned Parenthood and oppose cutting off its federal money.

That hasn’t stopped various Republican hopefuls from calling for a Justice Department investigation into Planned Parenthood. Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor, has even vowed to sic the IRS on the group. The crusade is a classic example of overreach that could backfire in a general election. Republicans are their own worst enemy on this, but here’s the real problem: They are jeopardizing health care for low-income women who need birth control, cancer screening, or — yes — an abortion. The potential political bonanza for the Democratic nominee is not worth that price.

 

By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, August 20, 2015

September 1, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Paid Leave, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“President Trump? Not Just A Joke, A Bad Joke”: American Voters Will Catch On Eventually

I am getting hit on Twitter for forecasting Donald Trump’s demise a couple months ago in this space. As he has risen in the polls and dominated the news media since the Fox News debate, I have been told what an idiot I am to have underestimated The Donald. Even my wonderful cousins, who have lived in Italy for over 40 years, warn me that if former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi can do it over there, Trump may be able to get elected over here.

First of all, it is important to point out that Trump has galvanized support from a disaffected electorate for his blunt talk, in-your-face attitude and refusal to talk and act like a traditional politician. That is enough to scare the pants off Republicans, especially the country club set. “Could he really get the nomination?” they ask. Second, his supporters are getting increasingly passionate and involved and attending his speaking events in ever larger numbers. And third, he is dominating the news cycle. One reporter told me that they turned off the cameras when he started to speak to the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier in the year; now, they are carrying his press conferences live.

My colleague Bill Press made the point about the news media in a column: “As long as he brings them top ratings, they’ll give him all the time he wants. CNN’s Brian Stelter compared coverage given GOP candidates by CBS, NBC and ABC between Aug. 7 and Aug. 21. On the evening news, Trump talk consumed 36 minutes, 30 seconds. Jeb Bush came in a distant second with 9 minutes and 22 seconds. Marco Rubio, 1 minute, 35 seconds. And poor Lindsey Graham, only one second.”

Now, there is no doubt that outrageous talk, bluster and playing P.T. Barnum result in serious ink. But, as many columnists have pointed out, that does not make him a serious candidate. Nevertheless, it may not matter in the short term.

He may win a large number of primary and caucus states. Could he get the nomination? I doubt it. It’s not impossible, though. But, after all, when practically all the candidates drop out, and we are left with Donald Trump, any member of the Republican Party would jump at the opportunity to be the Trump-alternative.

There is one interesting question, however. If Trump can draw 24 million people to watch a debate in the summer on Fox News, what does that say about his ability to bring people into the system who are not traditional participants in the early stages of nominating a president? Could he flood the states in the winter and spring with new voters? Unclear.

But, at the end of the day, the American people will get the joke: Donald Trump is not emotionally or substantively fit to be president of the United States. He may run a company, but he can’t run the country. He may be appealing as a protest figure, as the “I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this any more” character, Peter Finch, in the film “Network.” But, ultimately, we are electing a president, we are not participating in a game show or dealing in reality TV or watching “Entertainment Tonight.”

Issues matter, plans for the country matter, ability to govern matters – and none of those things are strengths of Donald Trump. He is first and foremost a man with a tremendous ego that needs to be fed, not a man of serious ideas or well thought out positions that go beyond sound bites. His bluster and unvarnished rhetoric have gotten him farther than I would have thought but, at the end of the day, the American people will not buy what he is selling.

The scary thing for the Republican Party is whether its voters will get the joke. Will he ruin the party’s chances in 2016? Will he be their nominee or decide to run as a third party candidate? Regardless, Donald Trump is not good news for the Republican Party or the country, for that matter.

 

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, August 31, 2015

September 1, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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