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“Most Republicans Still Haven’t Learned Anything”: Jeb Bush And The Republican Party’s Bizarre 9/11 Blind Spot

Donald Trump is more of a reality show contestant engaged in the simulacrum of a presidential candidacy than an actual candidate for president. But this comes with an advantage: He can tell the truths that are inconvenient to Republican dogma.

This was evident many times during the Republican debate earlier this week. Showing both a talent for getting under the skin of Jeb Bush and a firmer grasp of the fundamentals crucial to winning elections, Trump observed in an exchange with Bush that his brother’s presidency had been such a “disaster” that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have won on the Republican ticket in 2008. Bush rose to his brother’s defense in a highly revealing way. “You know what? As it relates to my brother there’s one thing I know for sure,” Bush asserted. “He kept us safe. You remember the — the rubble? You remember the fire fighter with his arms around him? He sent a clear signal that the United States would be strong and fight Islamic terrorism, and he did keep us safe.”

Bush’s defense of his brother is so obviously self-refuting it would be funny if the subject wasn’t so serious. Bush’s invocation of the ruins of the World Trade Center while claiming that his brother “kept us safe” is reminiscent of Alan Greenspan’s legendary argument that “with notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global ‘invisible hand’ has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates.” With the notably rare exception of the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil, George W. Bush kept us safe!

In the GOP’s warped view of its national security record, you would think that the Supreme Court had allowed a fair recount to proceed in Florida, Al Gore had assumed the White House, then was replaced by the manly action hero George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks. It’s not even true that there were no further terrorist attacks after 9/11 — in fact, there were anthrax attacks after 9/11 that helped contribute to a climate of fear in which too many civil liberties were dissolved.

Nor is it true that the 9/11 attacks were a simple matter of force majeure, beyond the responsibility of the White House. When Bush assumed office, he and his foreign policy team were convinced that the Clinton administration placed too much emphasis on al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Most of Bush’s foreign policy team believed that rogue states, not stateless terrorists, were the biggest threat to American security. Presented with a memo titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” during a month-long vacation a little more than a month before 9/11, Bush dismissively responded, “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.”

To be clear, I’m not arguing that Bush could easily have prevented the 9/11 attacks by taking Islamic terrorism more seriously. The attacks may well have happened with Al Gore in the White House. But he wasn’t merely a helpless bystander. His choices made stopping the 9/11 attacks less likely — and they happened. He cannot escape some measure of responsibility for them.

Worse, the Bush administration’s fallacy that states, not stateless terrorists, were the fundamental threat to global security persisted after 9/11, leading to the disastrous decision to invade Iraq. Some of the Republican candidates — not only Trump but Rand Paul, Ben Carson, and John Kasich — have argued that the decision to invade Iraq, so immensely costly in human lives and resources, was a horrible mistake.

However, none of these critics of the war are going to be the Republican nominee. And most Republicans, as we could see at the debates, still haven’t learned anything. “We lost friends [on 9/11.] We went to the funerals,” blustered Christ Christie. “And I will tell you that what those people wanted and what they deserved was for America to answer back against what had been done to them.” The answer, apparently, was to attack a random country that had nothing whatsoever to do with the attacks, because this would accomplish…well, it never made any sense.

The invasion of Iraq, as Paul attempted to explain, was counterproductive, creating anarchic contexts in which brutal terrorists have flourished. The defenders of Bush’s foreign policy — particularly Marco Rubio — attempted to blame this on that meddling Barack Obama for pulling troops out of Iraq. War cannot fail for mainstream Republicans — it can only be failed by not becoming perpetual. This isn’t so much a policy doctrine as a mediocre 80s action movie. And Republicans will go to any length to defend it, even if it means wiping 9/11 from Bush’s record.

Did Bush “keep us safe?” Absolutely not. Indeed, one would have to go back to James Buchanan, if not James Madison, to find a president with a worse record for protecting American civilians. What’s scary is that the most plausible candidates to head the Republican ticket in 2016 think that Bush’s security policies were a smashing success.


By: Scott Lemieux, The Week, September 18, 2015

September 19, 2015 Posted by | 911, Jeb Bush, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Another Wasted Day”: With Time Running Out, House GOP Passes Pointless Abortion Bills

In just 12 days, current funding for the federal government will run out, raising the very real prospect of another Republican shutdown. With so little time remaining, one is tempted to assume that lawmakers are scrambling to find a constructive solution.

Those assumptions would be wrong. MSNBC’s Irin Carmon reported on how the GOP-led House spent its morning.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed on Friday the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, 248-177. The bill strips the women’s health provider of its funding for contraception, pap smears, and testing for sexually-transmitted infections, unless it stops performing abortions.

 President Barack Obama has vowed to veto the bill, setting the stage for a possible government shutdown. Some congressional Republicans have vowed not to vote for any budget that includes funding for the organization.

The final roll call on the bill to defund Planned Parenthood is online here. Note, the vote largely fell along partisan lines, but not completely – three Republicans voted with the Democratic minority, while two Dems voted with the majority. The vote on the measure was immediately followed by another vote on a related bill, which would “impose criminal penalties on doctors who do not try to save a baby who ‘survives an abortion,’” which passed by a similar margin.

So, what happens now? I’m glad you asked.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House GOP leaders saw these votes as a way to placate their own far-right members. It was the leadership’s way of saying, in effect, “You want to defund Planned Parenthood? Fine. Here’s a bill on which you can express your intention to do exactly that.”

As a practical matter, it was a gambit to help conservative lawmakers get this out of their system before the real work begins.

The bills will now go to the Senate, where they are all but certain to die. In the unlikely event that the bills clear the upper chamber, they’d then go to the White House, where President Obama has already said he will veto them.

If it sounds as if the House, facing a looming shutdown deadline, wasted a day of work passing two anti-abortion bills that will inevitably fail, that’s because it did. House Republican leaders knew this all along, of course, but scheduled the votes anyway to make GOP members feel better.

The next step is the more serious one. Republican leaders in both chambers are going to ask their members to pass a temporary, stop-gap spending bill – called a “continuing resolution” – that maintains Planned Parenthood funding, but prevents a shutdown.

And quite a few GOP members are going to say, “No.” Today’s attempt at pacifying those House Republicans will not work, because they don’t want to say they voted to cut off funds for Planned Parenthood, they want to actually cut off funds for Planned Parenthood – and they’ll accept nothing short of their demands.

All of which leaves us with an unfortunate truth: today’s theatrics, intended to please everyone, satisfied no one, and brought us one step closer to a shutdown that appears increasingly unavoidable.

Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 18, 2015

September 19, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, Government Shut Down, Planned Parenthood | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It’s A Republican Politician Problem”: Trump Is Far From The Only Republican To Let Supporters Spout Crazy

At a big, classy town hall event in Rochester, New Hampshire, on Thursday evening, Donald Trump fielded a question from an unidentified man, who announced, “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. You know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American. … Anyway we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question: When can we get rid of them?”

Without specifying which part of the man’s diatribe he meant to address, Trump responded “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things. You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We’re going to be looking at that and many other things.”

Trump is being rightly pilloried for not dressing down the questioner, including by Republican operatives, who are happily forwarding along the unflattering news clips that followed.

There’s no sense in giving Trump a pass on this, but it’s worth keeping in mind that this isn’t a Trump problem. It’s a politician problem, and in particular it’s a Republican politician problem. The Republican interest in Trump’s dishonorable conduct is deeply selective.

Anyone who’s watched C-SPAN call-in shows can sympathize with people put into Trump’s predicament. Campaigns, and especially campaigns, draw out the most agitated voters in the country, in the same way a political call-in line self-selects for people with things they need to get off their chests.

But these outbursts spill over into racist conspiracy theories frequently enough that the politicians really ought to have pat reprimands at the ready. They can’t really get a pass for placating racists and xenophobes. And Trump isn’t even close to the only politician who fails this test, though he may be the first politician who posed it to other candidates.

Just this past March, former Senator Rick Santorum, who has since joined the presidential race, spoke at the South Carolina National Security Action Summit, and fielded a question from a woman who was alarmed that President Obama’s plan to destroy the city of Charleston with a nuclear weapon had to be thwarted by a military officer.

Why is the Congress rolling over and letting this communist dictator destroy my country? Y’all know what he is, and I know what he is. I want him out of the White House. He’s not a citizen. He could have been removed a long time ago. Larry Klayman’s got the judge to say that the executive amnesty is illegal. Everything he does is illegal. He’s trying to destroy the United States. The Congress knows this. What kind of games is the Congress of the United States playing with the citizens of the United States? Y’all need to work for us, not the lobbyists that pay your salaries. Get on board, let’s stop all of this, let’s save America. What’s going to stop—Senator Santorum, where do we go from here? Ted told me I’ve got to wait until the next election. I don’t think the country will be around for the next election. Obama tried to blow up a nuke in Charleston a few months ago, and the three admirals and generals—he’s totally destroyed our military, he’s fired all the generals and all the admirals who said they wouldn’t fire on the American people.

To the extent that Santorum took offense at all it was at the implication that, as a former Senator, he bore any responsibility for Obama’s communist takeover.

Literally two days ago, Donald Trump played the part of conspiracy-minded provocateur on the CNN debate stage, when Jake Tapper raised the issue of his anti-vaccine activism.

Autism has become an epidemic. Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control. I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time… . Same exact amount, but you take this little beautiful baby, and you pump—I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child. And we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me. Just the other day, two years old, two-and-a-half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.

Among the 10 other candidates on the stage were two doctors—Ben Carson and Rand Paul—both of whom had an opportunity to condemn Trump and call his remarks dangerous. Both declined.

In October 2008, Senator John McCain, who was then the Republican party’s presidential nominee, famously quieted a woman at a rally who had read all about how Obama is “an Arab” (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

“No, ma’am,” McCain said after reclaiming the mic. “He’s a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].”

The crowd booed and McCain went on to lose the election. The only reason anyone remembers the altercation is because we expect Republican politicians to behave the way Trump did.


By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic; September 18, 2015

September 19, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Race and Ethnicity, Racism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Dems Won’t Be Boehner’s Cavalry”: Unlikely To Save House Speaker John Boehner From A Conservative Revolt

House Speaker John Boehner could face a leadership challenge this fall, especially if he cuts a deal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats to circumvent or end a government shutdown. So would Democrats ride to his rescue – vote to keep him in the speakership if enough Republicans deserted him that he was denied a majority of votes in a speaker’s race?

He shouldn’t count on a strange bedfellows twist to save his job, one key Democratic lawmaker said this morning. “I cannot say that he can count on the support of Democrats,” Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee said at a press breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “My view is that the Republican caucus is going to have to make its own decisions. I would have to think long and hard about [voting for Boehner], but my view is that the Republican caucus should find its leader. … I really think that those decisions should be ultimately left to the Republican caucus.”

It’s an interesting dilemma: Go with the ultimately pragmatic devil you know or let chaos reign and see if the GOP ends up giving a firebrand the speaker’s gavel – which, maybe, could help Democrats retake the House. The fact that Van Hollen said he would even consider voting for Boehner shows how weird the situation is getting.Boehner’s problem is that there are enough hard-liners in his caucus to grind everything to a halt every time they have a temper tantrum. Conservative hard-liners have rounded up signatures of more than 40 GOP House members who have vowed not to vote for any government funding that includes money for Planned Parenthood, which has recently been the subject of some deceptively edited sting videos. Either Boehner can accede to them and pass a spending bill which won’t get enacted or he can spurn them and face a challenge to his speakership. Or, arguably most likely, he can let the government shut down for a couple of days before cutting a deal with Democrats, which would still put him in the crosshairs for conservatives.

Ultimately, as Bloomberg Politics wrote yesterday, if Boehner is serious about avoiding a government shutdown (and it seems reasonable to assume that he is), he’s going to need help from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats. It’s a fair point – it was Democrats with a few score Republicans, for example, who voted to end the 2013 shutdown (which, Van Hollen noted, incurred “$24 billion in economic loss [and] 120,000 jobs not created because of the lack of additional economic activity”). That calculus is unlikely to change.

Where do things stand? Boehner and Pelosi huddled Thursday night to talk about how to avoid a shutdown. But if any progress was made, no one has told Van Hollen. “You have a speaker who … to my knowledge has not reached out to Democrats in any way to resolve this issue,” he said, adding that “it’s unfortunate that we seem to be on a rerun of a very bad movie” in terms of repeating the shutdown that occurred two years ago.

Van Hollen speculated that Boehner “is much more worried about his own speakership than he is about shutting down the government at least as of today. … We hope that will change.”


By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report, September 18,2015





September 19, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Government Shut Down, House Republican Caucus, John Boehner | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“So Sad, Too Bad”: Sorry, Republicans; It’s Still Donald Trump’s World

Sorry, Republicans, but it’s still Donald Trump’s world. And sorry, Donald, but now you have to share it with Ben Carson.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that Carly Fiorina won herself a big patch of political territory in Wednesday night’s marathon 11-candidate debate on CNN. But the conventionally wise have been consistently wrong about this campaign, and I wonder if voters were equally impressed with her performance.

There’s no question that Trump, the clear front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, had an off night. The blustery mogul is at his best when he can feed on the energy of a fired-up crowd, but the audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was small and consisted mostly of party insiders. They showed him very little love.

His worst moment came when he claimed, without elaboration, that if he were president he would “get along with” Vladimir Putin and somehow convince the Russian leader to support U.S. foreign policy goals. Sure, and maybe Putin will give him a pony, too. You had to wonder if Trump has given more than five minutes’ thought to relations with Moscow.

But he stuck to his guns on the issue that propelled his rise: immigration. Trump’s claim that he can somehow deport 11 million undocumented men, women and children is absurd, ridiculous, unthinkable, cruel, dishonest — pick your adjective. But it has electrified much of the Republican Party base, and I’m betting that his supporters heard him loud and clear.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush’s attempts to go after Trump reminded me of the time when British politician Denis Healey said that being attacked by his patrician rival, Geoffrey Howe, was “like being savaged by a dead sheep.”

Bush tried gamely to land a punch, at one point demanding that Trump apologize to his wife, Columba, for the ugly things he has said about Mexican immigrants. Trump refused, and that was that. Bush is taller than Trump but for some reason could not contrive to loom over him. Mano a mano , the billionaire still seemed large and in charge.

Carson has zoomed to second place in most polls, and I think his debate performance will give him another boost. His soft-spoken, low-key approach might annoy the political cognoscenti, but voters apparently like it, perhaps because he doesn’t seem as needy or desperate as the others.

I thought his best moment was when he was talking about border security and related his recent trip to Arizona, describing simple measures in one county that had reduced illegal crossings almost to zero. Sometimes practical solutions have more impact than high-blown rhetoric.

If Fiorina wanted to convince everyone of her toughness, she succeeded. She barged in whenever she wanted, no matter who was speaking, and she icily backhanded Trump over his piggish remarks about her face. I thought she overdid the Iron Lady routine when she declared she “wouldn’t talk to [Putin] at all,” but any woman running for high office faces unfair pressure to project strength. She made this factual error: A constitutional amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the states, not two-thirds.

Did she do enough to vault into the top tier of candidates alongside Trump and Carson? Maybe, but she’s starting from the low single digits. And while she nailed Trump for his sexism, I thought the extended back-and-forth over their accomplishments in business was the one exchange in which he was a clear winner. If Fiorina gets tarred as a mediocre chief executive, what qualifications does she have to run on?

As for the rest:

John Kasich was upbeat and reasonable, qualities that would definitely help him in the general election — but maybe not in the primaries.

Chris Christie was sharp and funny. His campaign probably isn’t going anywhere, but after Wednesday it still has a pulse.

Marco Rubio was stridently, alarmingly hawkish. Where doesn’t he want to use military force? And did his youth make him seem vigorous or callow? You decide.

Mike Huckabee was so apocalyptic on Iran that he must have frightened any children who happened to be watching.

Rand Paul seems to have become a libertarian again, sticking up for individual rights. And unlike the others on the stage, he spoke out for peace rather than war.

Scott Walker looked, once again, out of his depth. The party establishment once thought this guy was its savior? I expect his slide to continue.

And finally, the unctuous Ted Cruz looked and sounded as if he were trying to sell me a reverse mortgage. No thanks, senator.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 17, 2015

September 19, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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