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“The Ultimate ‘Blame Obama’ Column”: The Myth Of Obama The Tyrant Will Live On In The Conservative Imagination

Michael Barone is a colossal hack (not a total insult in my vocabulary), but not a big conservative ideologue. He rarely strays from the comfortable conventions of Beltway Republicanism. So when he comes up with something astounding, you have to figure it may be in tomorrow’s talking points all over the GOP Establishment.

His astounding idea is that Barack Obama is responsible for the signs of hatred towards said Establishment–including, of course, people like his own self–among the party faithful. For that matter, Obama is responsible for Hillary Clinton’s troubles, too.

In this presidential cycle, voters in both parties, to the surprise of the punditocracy, are rejecting experienced political leaders. They’re willfully suspending disbelief in challengers who would have been considered laughable in earlier years.

Polls show more Republicans preferring three candidates who have never held elective office over 14 candidates who have served a combined total of 150 years as governors or in Congress. Most Democrats are declining to favor a candidate who spent eight years in the White House and the Senate and four as secretary of state.

Never mind that on the Democratic side the supposed beneficiary of this hatred of experience is a guy who’s been in public office for 32 years, or perhaps (if he runs) Obama’s own vice president, who’s been in high office in Washington for 42 years. But don’t let me distract you from Barone’s line of argument:

Psephologists of varying stripes attribute this discontent to varying causes. Conservatives blame insufficiently aggressive Republican congressional leaders. Liberals blame Hillary Clinton’s closeness to plutocrats and her home email system.

But in our system the widespread rejection of experienced leaders ultimately comes from dismay at the leader in the White House.

Watch in awe as he plants that axiom deeply in the column and then races past the gates of delirium!

Republican voters are frustrated and angry because for six years they have believed they have public opinion on their side, but their congressional leaders have failed to prevail on high visibility issues. Their successes (clamping down on domestic discretionary spending) have been invisible. They haven’t made gains through compromise because Obama, unlike his two predecessors, lacks both the inclination and ability to make deals.

Where was Barone in 2011? Or for that matter, in 2009 when Mitch McConnell announced his conference’s goal would be to make Obama a one-term president?

[A] president who came to office with relatively little experience has managed to tarnish experience, incumbency and institutions: a fundamental transformation indeed.

Now I can understand why Republicans psychologically would prefer to disclaim any responsibility for the apparent madness that has overtaken big elements of their own party. But blaming Obama for, say, Donald Trump is so laughable that I’m amazed Barone could bring himself to suggest it. Wouldn’t you say the decades that conservatives have devoted to delegitimizing government and demonizing compromise might have a little more to do with this year’s revolt than Obama’s refusal to go along with the repeal of his major accomplishments and betray everybody who voted for him?

There is one thing Barone does convince me of, it’s this: if you thought the GOP habit of blaming Jimmy Carter for every bad thing that happened for many years after he left office was bizarre, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The myth of Obama the Tyrant will live on in the conservative imagination for many years to come.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 16, 2015

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Establishment, Republicans | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Hillary Clinton Is Still The Candidate To Beat”: Her Biggest Task Is Clear; Get Out Of Her Own Way

She keeps putting obstacles in her own path, but Hillary Clinton remains the odds-on favorite to become our next president.

The headlines screaming “Clinton’s Support Erodes” are true, but only in a relative sense. In the contest for the Democratic nomination, according to the polls, she has slid all the way from “prohibitive favorite” to something like “strong favorite” — not bad, given the way she has hobbled herself with the e-mail scandal.

A new Post-ABC News poll gives a clear view of Clinton’s status. Among registered voters who are Democrats or lean toward that party, Clinton is at 42 percent while Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is at 24 percent and Vice President Joe Biden at 21 percent. Since July, according to the poll, Clinton’s support has fallen 21 points. So yes, her campaign has reason to be concerned. But not alarmed.

The saving grace for Clinton is that only half of that lost support has gone to Sanders, who is running a smart and effective campaign, especially in Iowa and New Hampshire. The other half has gone to Biden, who is not running a campaign at all — and may never do so.

In his recent media appearances, Biden has revealed his profound grief over the death of his son Beau. No one who watched him last week on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” could come away thinking that Biden is eager to run.

“I don’t think any man or woman should run for president unless, number one, they know exactly why they would want to be president and, two, they can look at folks out there and say, ‘I promise you, you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy and my passion to do this,’ ” he told Colbert. “And I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there.”

If you take Biden at his word and leave him out of the equation, Clinton’s support leaps to 56 percent, according to the Post-ABC News poll, while Sanders’s increases only slightly to 28 percent.

The challenge for Sanders is that while he is hugely popular with young voters and progressives, he has not connected with other key segments of the Democratic Party coalition. In August, a Gallup survey found that Clinton had a favorable rating of 80 percent among African Americans compared to just 23 percent for Sanders. This doesn’t reflect any particular antipathy toward the Vermont senator. Rather, it’s because just 33 percent of African Americans told Gallup they were familiar with him.

Am I ignoring the big picture? Have I somehow missed the fact that the major themes of the campaign thus far have been disgust with politics as usual and rejection of establishment candidates?

No, it’s just that I believe the internal dynamics of the two parties are quite different. Clinton fatigue among Democrats is one thing, but the total anarchy in the Republican Party is quite another.

Back to the Post-ABC News poll: A full 33 percent of Republican or GOP-leaning registered voters support billionaire Donald Trump for their party’s nomination and another 20 percent support retired surgeon Ben Carson. That’s more than half the party rejecting not only the establishment’s favored choices but any contender who has held political office.

Indeed, when asked what kind of person they would like to see as the next president, more than 70 percent of Democratic-leaning voters said they want “someone with experience in how the political system works.” But more than half of GOP-leaning voters, and a stunning 64 percent of self-described “conservative” Republicans, want “someone from outside the existing political establishment.”

This is terrible news for Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz and the other current or former officeholders in the GOP race. It’s good news for Clinton, because if she gets the nomination she will likely face either a novice whose qualifications and temperament are in question or a veteran politician struggling to consolidate his own fractious party’s support.

All of this assumes that Clinton doesn’t find a way to defeat herself. And yes, I realize this is a dangerous year for making assumptions.

I’m hard-pressed to imagine how Clinton and her team could have done a worse job of handling the controversy over her State Department e-mails. Instead of getting the whole truth out at once, they have let it emerge ever so slowly — and kept a damaging story alive.

Clinton’s biggest task is clear: Get out of her own way.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 16, 2015

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Ringing The Alarm Over Voting-Machine Troubles”: The Threat Of A Catastrophic Meltdown In Next Year’s Presidential Election

For those involved in voting rights, concerns about voting machines are hardly new. But a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice rings the alarm in new and noteworthy ways. MSNBC’s Zack Roth reported yesterday:

America’s voting machines are reaching the end of their lifespans, and many states appear unwilling to spend the money to replace them, a detailed new report warns. The impasse raises the threat of a catastrophic meltdown in next year’s presidential election.

The report, released Tuesday by the Brennan Center for Justice, paints an alarming picture. Experts say today’s machines have an expected lifespan of 10 to 20 years – closer to 10. But in most states, a majority of jurisdictions have at least some machines that were bought in 2006 or earlier, while in 11 states – including presidential battlegrounds like Nevada and New Hampshire – every jurisdiction uses such machines. Fourteen states will use some machines that were bought over 15 years ago.

When the subject of voting machines comes up, we generally hear concerns about hacking and the possibility of rigging the technology deliberately to dictate the outcome of elections.

Whether you take those threats seriously or not, the Brennan Center’s research points to a different kind of systemic problem: a 21st-century democracy using outdated and unreliable election technology in ways that may lead to a disaster.

Consider this excerpt from the report:

As systems age, the commercially produced parts that support them, like memory storage devices, printer ribbons, and modems for transmitting election results, go out of production. Several election officials told us they have used eBay to find these parts. Mark Earley, voting systems manager in Leon County, Florida, told us his old voting system used an analog modem that he could only find on eBay. “The biggest problem was finding modems for our old machines. I had to buy a modem model called the Zoom Pocket Modem on eBay because they weren’t available elsewhere.” Earley told us that the Zoom Pocket Modem can transmit data at just kilobytes per second, making it utterly obsolete by today’s standards.

Ken Terry, from Allen County, Ohio, told us that he feels like he is living in a technological time warp. When he ordered “Zip Disks” for his central tabulator, the package included literature that was more than a decade old. “When we purchased new Zip Disks in 2012, they had a coupon in the package that expired in 1999.”

Remember, we’re supposed to be a global superpower, home to a vibrant democracy that serves a beacon of hope to people around the globe.

Of course, if these out-of-date machines are so common, why don’t states simply replace them? Because as MSNBC’s report explained, municipalities simply don’t have the money to buy new ones.

“We heard from more than one election official that what they’re hearing [from state legislatures] is basically, come back to me when there’s a real problem. In other words, come back to me after the catastrophe,” said Lawrence Norden, the deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, and the report’s lead author.

“We don’t ask the fire department to wait until the truck breaks down before they can ask for a new vehicle,” Edgardo Cortes, Virginia’s director of elections, told the report’s authors.

This problem won’t simply go away. If policymakers invested half as much energy in election technology as they do in voter-suppression tactics, the electoral system would be vastly better off.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 16, 2015

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Electoral Process, Voting Rights | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Good, The Bad, And The Donald”: Just Beneath The Spectacle Is A Very Ugly Message

Donald Trump’s political rallies are, if nothing else, an event. While you wait for the Donald to appear—and even during his off-kilter and meandering talk—you can buy snacks. On Monday evening, American Airlines Center wasn’t just a venue for Trump’s next speech: It was open for business, and attendees could grab popcorn, peanuts, nachos, and plenty of beer. This was a spectacle, and the assembled embraced it. People dressed in Trump memorabilia—including one woman in a Trump-branded dress—took selfies in front of Trump signs, and cheered in anticipation of the billionaire’s arrival.

“This is actually my first rally I’ve ever been to, period,” said George Lanier, a well-built personal trainer from nearby Carrollton, Texas. “I was like—what better way to start it off than by seeing Donald Trump, you know? He’s very exciting, it’ll be very entertaining.” Lanier liked Trump’s ideas, but he was much more drawn to the candidate’s affect and style. “I love that he’s talking in everybody else’s language. He’s not trying to be politically correct—he’s just speaking to us like how we’re talking here, or how you talk to your friends.”

We associate Trump with the Republican right wing, but this wasn’t a Tea Party rally. The crowd was diverse, or at least more diverse than you might assume. Chris Nieves was a transplant from New York City who studied at Texas Christian University and came as an undecided voter, interested in Trump as a businessman who could bring jobs and opportunity to minority communities. “He’s not a politician, and I think that’s huge for us minorities, because a lot of politicians like to exploit us,” said Nieves. “I think that he’s an independent voice, and I think that would be especially good for minorities who are in need of that, because of the establishment that has failed us.”

“I wanted to see what this was all about,” explained Lawrence Badih, a real estate agent who lives in Fort Worth but was born in Sierra Leone and immigrated to the United States. “I’ve been registered Republican for a long time, and we need a change. I see Trump is rising in the polls—he’s No. 1. He’s saying things that no one else wants to say—they’re being politically correct.”

For all the Trump-curious voters, however, there were just as many Trump supporters, who were clear-eyed and enthusiastic about their candidate. “We absolutely love Donald Trump, and we are supporting him 1,000 percent,” said Marilu Rumfolo, a retired investment banker who came all the way from Spring, near Houston. Rumfolo thinks Trump will be a strong conservative on immigration. “He hit a home run with immigration,” she said. “People who just walk in and take our country by force, they really don’t have the same values. We want immigrants, but we have to make sure the law is followed.”

She also thinks Trump will be a less divisive leader than President Obama. “I don’t feel like he’s going to create that kind of animosity that we see with Black Lives Matter,” she explained. “Because honest to God, all lives matter, and it’s really an insult to see a person working 40 to 60 hours a week and be told, even if they’ve struggled their whole life, that if they’re white, ‘Your struggle doesn’t count because your skin color isn’t a certain way.’ ”

At 30 minutes after its scheduled time, the event began. An estimated 16,000 people were packed in the center waving American flags and signs for Trump. First onstage: A megachurch pastor who thanked God for Trump’s “selfless public service.” Then, a local Tea Party activist who railed against Republican leaders—citing the Mississippi Senate primary where incumbent Thad Cochran worked with Democrats to beat his challenger, Chris McDaniel—and declared her belief that, with Trump on the ballot, “2016 may be more historic than the election of Barack Obama.” (At that, the crowd went wild.) Finally, Trump sauntered on stage to whoops, hollers, and cheers.

Trump gave the usual. He gestured toward policies and issues (the Iran Deal, China, Mexico); attacked his opponents (“Jeb Bush,” he said to boos, before mentioning Hillary Clinton to even louder ones); praised himself (he was leading the polls, unlike everyone else, he didn’t need the “blood money” of rich people, and if elected president, he was going to win so much “your head will spin”); and leaned in to his anti-immigrant rhetoric. “Many of these gang members are illegal immigrants,” he said to huge cheers. “They’re rough dudes.” He complained about trade with Japan—“They send us millions of cars. Millions. We send them beef. They don’t even want it.”—and promised to make a deal that will force Mexico to “build that wall.” After more than an hour of speaking, he concluded with his slogan: “You’re going to say to your children, and you’re going to say to anybody else, that we were part of a movement to take back our country. … And we will make America great again.”

At this point, the speakers blared with “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and the crowd filed outside in the glow of Trump’s unabashed nationalism. There, in the plaza outside the center, they were met by demonstrators from the League of United Latin American Citizens. Carrying Mexican and American flags, they protested Trump’s presence and his message. “No more Trump,” chanted a group of activists wearing shirts that said “Latinos Stand Up” on the front and “Fuck Donald Trump” on the back. “We want them to know we’re united,” said Maira Medina, a manager at a local restaurant who was holding an anti-Trump sign. “If this state is going to be united, we have to unite with everybody and put the hatred and derogatory terms aside.”

Most of the Trump rally’s attendees walked by without incident. But some couldn’t resist a confrontation. “Deport illegals! No more illegals!” yelled one older woman who got into a shouting match with a group of protesters. A bald, bearded young man—wearing a T-shirt with the words “Commies aren’t cool”—almost got into a fight with one of the demonstrators before police officers separated the two. And another young man—this one wearing a navy blazer, a pink patterned bow tie, and a pair of gray dress pants—was surrounded by media and bystanders as he argued with a young Mexican American man about “illegals.”

Trump is a sideshow, and in the presence of his personality, it’s easy to overlook the ugliness behind his campaign. But it’s there, a debased successor to the nationalist white resentment of Pat Buchanan and George Wallace. And although spectators may miss it, it’s more than clear for the targets of his xenophobia, and the people who hate them.


By: Jamelle Bouie, Slate, September 15, 2015

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Minorities, Trumpeteers | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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