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

“Career Politicians Need Not Apply”: Scott Walker’s 2016 Bid Floundered Because He’s Done Little In Life But Run For Office

A Google news search for Scott Walker this week scoops up endless pundit theories about why he didn’t quite make it as a presidential candidate – from his “boring” personality to his various gaffes or lack of foreign policy expertise. Each theory misses the larger point: Scott Walker is a career politician. And Republican voters’ job description for presidential candidates is pretty clear at this point: Career politicians need not apply.

Walker first ran for public office when he was 22 years old. He first won a race for the state legislature at the age of 25; he has held elective office ever since.

The political establishment sees this type of professional history as a good resume. Regular people see it as a little weird.

It reminds me of something my father used to say when he was a state legislator (in the Vermont House, for two, two-year terms) – he always derisively called his legislative paycheck “my welfare check.” As a bedrock conservative, he was fairly uncomfortable being paid by Vermont’s taxpayers. After all, one of the reasons he ran for office in the first place was his desire to lower taxes and reduce the size of government. Being part of the government made him a little squirmy. I think that’s a good thing.

I recall my father easing his discomfort during the legislative session by refusing to draw a paycheck from the small business he owned and operated, even though he was almost certainly putting 40 hours (or more) a week into his business (at night and on the weekends) while he served the people of his district during the week.

This approach is what’s known as being a citizen legislator. It’s what the founders envisioned and it’s what many voters are so ready to return to in 2016.

The near-entirety of Walker’s adult income has been courtesy of the taxpayers of Wisconsin. There is something inherently not-very-conservative about that. Similarly, making a case for limited government is less believable when a candidate also lists one of his greatest accomplishments as getting re-elected.

In last week’s debate, when describing why professional politicians don’t seem to grasp the voters’ anger and frustration with the ongoing dysfunction of government and politics, Carly Fiorina pointedly said: “A fish swims in water; it doesn’t know it’s water.” This season’s anti-establishment voters love that kind of talk. Walker is a fish, and a critical mass of Republican voters knew it and/or sensed it. (His poll-tested, focus-grouped, GOP-talking-points style of rhetoric was a pretty good indication that the guy hadn’t spent much time out of the water.)

Walker’s more dynamic, bright peer on the presidential stage has also been a bit of a fish: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. I like Rubio very much, but worry that his time swimming in government water will also hold him back in this early Republican season of anti-professional-politician sentiment. Watch for critiques from the professional political class about Rubio’s age. For frustrated Republican voters right now, age isn’t the issue. It’s the raw percentage of one’s adult life that has been spent in the waters of politics and government.

Poor Jeb Bush has it the worst, as his heritage means he’s been in politics since he first drew breath. This is at the core of why Jeb is struggling in Republican contest polls.

Even on the Democratic side, there is a similar anti-professional-politician sentiment, which helps explain Hillary Clinton’s sagging poll numbers; people are just tired of the same old, same old from the Clinton political machine.

The job of the pundit class is to dissect political failure and accomplishment, but at some point this cycle, they will have to dissect their own perspective and get in closer touch with what so many voters are thinking and feeling at this pivotal moment in our history. Let’s start with this fact, made crystal clear by Walker’s failed bid: A net worth made of taxpayer dollars is not a qualification, but instead may be a black mark on a presidential job application. Fish need not apply.


By: Jean Care, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, Septemer 24, 2015

September 25, 2015 Posted by | Career Politicians, GOP Presidential Candidates, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Human Society Has Begun To Work Against Itself”: If Republicans Cared About Families, They’d Stop Blocking Paid Leave

Several participants at the Republican debate last week spoke fervently about putting Rosa Parks’ image on the $10 bill. They also spoke fervently in support of a decision by Congress to defund Planned Parenthood—an organization that counted Rosa Parks among the members of its national board.

The contradiction would have been obvious and painful to Ms. Parks. Like many of us, she’d have been bewildered by the priorities of candidates who have held vote after vote on shutting down vital health services for women, but won’t even schedule a hearing on the FAMILY Act, a bill to provide affordable family and medical leave. It’s impossible to care about families and leave communities bereft of services for contraception, mammograms and other cancer screenings, and dozens more critical health services for women. It’s also impossible to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose a badly-needed, common sense program to make family and medical leave affordable to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member.

In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act passed Congress with bipartisan support. The FMLA provided up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for care of a new child or a serious personal illness or that of a child, spouse or parent. Republicans as well as Democrats saw that valuing family meant making sure people could care for family members without losing their jobs or health insurance. Many of the state and local campaigns within Family Values @ Work’s national network have leaders from both parties—including the numerous Republicans leading the charge for the Family Care Act in Georgia.

So what’s the problem in the nation’s capital today?

The FMLA is now 22 years old. While it constituted a major breakthrough and established the principle that having a family shouldn’t cost you your job, the leave remains out of reach for millions—some because they’re not covered by its protections (two-fifths of the nation’s workforce), and many who are eligible because they cannot afford to take unpaid leave. According to a study done for the Department of Labor (DOL), nearly one in four employed mothers who are pregnant go back to work within two weeks of giving birth—with disastrous results for maternal and infant health. Others who take the time they need to heal and bond with a child often face financial hardship.

A new report from the DOL highlights the high cost of doing nothing—lost family income, lower earnings and weaker job security for women, more stress and worse health, worse outcomes for children and seniors, and fewer men taking leave. Businesses also sustain losses in replacing experienced and skilled staff. Our nation suffers in comparison to all our economic competitors.

The lack of paid leave adds to the growing inequality in our nation. A mere 5 percent of low-wage and part-time workers have any pay during leave. And, as the report points out, there are costs harder to calculate: “We are compromising the needs of our children and our parents. We are sacrificing the fundamental value of spending time with one’s family.”

Pope Francis called the family “a great test bench” for how we organize work. “When the organization of work holds it hostage or, in fact, places obstacles in its way, then we are certain that the human society has begun to work against itself!”

If elected officials are serious about promoting family values, they need to stop wasting time on frivolous bills that are a detriment to women and their families and pass the FAMILY Act, a bill that actually helps families everywhere.


By: Ellen Bravo, Director of Family Values @ Work; The New Republic, September 24, 2015

September 25, 2015 Posted by | Family and Medical Leave Act, Family Values, Planned Parenthood, Women's Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What Does The Orange Man Want?”: A Shutdown Is Almost Certain To Happen If Boehner Concludes It Will Be Good For Him Personally

As usual, it’s extremely useful to consult Stan Collender on how the fiscal end-game may work out this week or (if the can is kicked down the road) soon enough. His latest take discusses the roles that Ted Cruz, the House Freedom Caucus, and even House Democrats might play in making a government shutdown happen or not happen. But most interestingly, he notes there is one player in the saga who can most definitely cause a shutdown pretty much on his own if he so wishes: yes, that presumed shutdown opponent John Boehner:

This is the alternative that so far has gotten no attention, but there is a real possibility a government shutdown will be just what Boehner needs to survive as speaker and get a clean CR through the House.

The shutdown would appease the Freedom Caucus and defuse its effort to replace the speaker because Boehner would be doing what the caucus wants by refusing to bring a CR to the floor that maintains funds for Planned Parenthood. A few days or a week later when the appetite for a shutdown has changed, Boehner would be able to do what he’s done on several past budget-related bills: say they fought the good fight, that the fight will continue in other ways and get permission from the GOP caucus to work with Democrats to pass the CR.

A shutdown is almost certain to happen if Boehner concludes it will be good for him personally.

Don’t be shocked if that’s exactly how the deal goes down. Thinking of Boehner’s motives, I’m reminded of an ancient National Lampoon cartoon of a judge glaring angrily at an insolent-looking young man in the dock and saying: “You better show some respect, sonny. I had to kiss a lot of ass to get this job.” Boehner may not be as ready to give up his gavel as some observers think.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 24, 2015

September 25, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, Government Shut Down, John Boehner | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Carly Fiorina’s Puffed Up Putin Showdown”: Hailed Putin As A Harbinger Of Change In Russia

When presidential candidate Carly Fiorina warns about Vladimir Putin’s charm, and wit, she’s speaking from experience. In the early days of the Russian leader’s presidency, Fiorina hailed him as an agent of positive change after meeting with him briefly at a conference of global business leaders—a far departure from the tough-on-Putin image she has presented on the campaign trail.

The businesswoman is soaring in the polls, in no small part because she spoke firmly on complex foreign policy issues during last week’s presidential debate. Fiorina has repeatedly boasted of meeting Putin—using their meeting to bolster her foreign policy bona fides and to provide a contrast between herself and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“I have sat across a table from Vladimir Putin, just he and I, and I can tell you having met this man, it is pretty clear to me that a gimmicky red reset button will not thwart his ambition,” Fiorina said in a recent stump speech, at the South Carolina Freedom Summit.

But her encounter with Putin is an odd credential for her to burnish, when all indications are that Fiorina was initially misled about the Russian leader’s ultimate intentions.

Fiorina met Putin for 45 minutes in a green room-type setting, during the 2001 APEC CEO Summit in Beijing, where they were both scheduled to deliver speeches. Fiorina, at the time the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was slated to speak before Putin—and when addressing the audience she was effusive about how Putin had led a change more dramatic than anything her own company had accomplished.

“I keep wondering how it is that I got positioned to speak in the slot before the president of the Russian Federation—on the subject of change, no less,” Fiorina told the crowd. “Hewlett-Packard has been at the center of a lot of change in our 62-year history. But President Putin was elected president in the first democratic transition in Russia in 1,000 years.”

“Talk about giving new meaning to the word ‘invent,’” she added, a nod to HP’s slogan.

The Fiorina campaign pushed back against this interpretation of her 2001 speech. A spokeswoman said that Fiorina was merely making a “fairly banal statement of fact” and that it was “a stretch to see much more there.”

Far from ushering in a democratic Russia, Putin has in intervening years circumvented presidential term limits, jailed dissidents, and engaged in election fraud.

But Fiorina was far from the only corporate leader to hail Putin as a harbinger of change in Russia. At the time, many felt that the Russian leader would bring in a new era of reform.

Bill Browder, the founder of Hermitage Capital Management, specialized in Russian markets, also was impressed by Putin. He is now one of the Russian leader’s foremost critics.

“We all got Putin wrong in his first term. One of the main factors was that he’s always had a completely emotionless face and everyone always projects onto him their hopes and dreams of how he is, as opposed to who he really is,” Browder told The Daily Beast. “He didn’t correct anybody when they made these assumptions that he was a liberal, and a democrat, and an honest man… I’ve seen CEO after CEO go there and make a bunch of bland supportive statements to improve their business prospects in Russia.”

Fiorina has made confronting Putin and Russia a major plank in her campaign for the White House. She spoke at a conservative conference panel on Putin, describing him as “very intelligent. Very charming… a disarming sense of humor.”

And when she speaks about foreign policy, it is virtually certain that her meeting with Putin—and her plans to counter him—is bound to come up. Fiorina has said that she would expand the number of American naval assets, rebuild the missile defense program in Poland, increase the number of U.S. troops in Germany, and conduct military exercises in the Baltic states.

“Vladimir Putin is someone we should not talk to, because the only way he will stop is to sense strength and resolve on the other side, and we have all of that within our control,” Fiorina said at the most recent Republican presidential debate.

It set up a stark contrast with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s vision for U.S.-Russia relations. “I will get along, I think, with Putin, and I will get along with others, and we will have a much more stable world,” he said.

But between the two of them, Fiorina is apparently the only one who has gotten along with Putin the past.


By: Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, September 24, 2015

September 25, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Foreign Policy, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pope Francis Will Not Help Your Political Cause”: Even The Pope Can’t Change The Fundamental Calculus Of Congress

“Pope Francis gets political in remarks at White House,” read the headline at The Hill.

“Pope Francis brings political agenda to Washington,” said Politico.

“Pope Francis wades into U.S. politics,” read The Washington Post.

Seeing all that, you might think that the pontiff had said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, and also, call your representatives and tell them to vote yes on H.R. 2451…”

Meanwhile, countless interest groups are sending out press releases saying the pope agrees with them on their issue of concern (the dumbest I’ve seen has to be the 30-page report from a Democratic group charging that the Koch brothers are “on the wrong side of the Holy Father”). But I have some bad news if you were hoping the pope would aid your particular partisan cause, whatever it is: The pope’s visit is not going to matter much.

I suppose you can’t blame the political press for interpreting the pope’s trip through the lens of politics, since it’s their job to view everything through the lens of politics. And it’s true that the pope is visiting the White House and giving an address before a joint session of Congress while he’s here. But is he really going to change the nature of any of the serious partisan arguments we have?

It’s not too likely, because no matter how popular Francis might be, nobody here is just going to do what he says on any issue just because he’s the pope. It’s strange now to look back at the 1960 campaign and see that people were genuinely concerned that John F. Kennedy would be taking orders from the Vatican instead of doing whatever he thought was best. We’d never accuse a Catholic presidential candidate of that today, less because it would sound intolerant than because it would sound ridiculous. When ordinary Catholics don’t take orders from the pope, why would a Catholic president?

Catholics have a lot of practice at picking the Church edicts they want to obey and those they don’t — and that applies to both liberals and conservatives. The conservatives take all that stuff about helping the poor with a grain of salt, while the liberals have decided to agree to disagree with the Church on matters like same-sex marriage. And most everybody disagrees with the Church on birth control; in this Pew poll, three-quarters of Catholics said the Church should permit contraception, and the overwhelming majority of Catholic women of childbearing age use it.

Of course, this isn’t just about obedience, it’s also about the pope’s ability to add his voice and moral authority to political questions. You could argue that when the pope talks about climate change, he makes concern about it seem like a mainstream position and not the province of lefties and liberals. Which is true as far as it goes, but in the U.S. today, that isn’t that far. In the intensely polarized environment in which we live, even a highly popular religious figure can’t change the fundamental calculus of Congress.

One of our two great parties has committed itself to fight any moves that might address climate change, a commitment that is unlikely to change any time soon. That’s true despite the fact that most of their own constituents believe we ought to do something about it. The dynamics of party politics mean that the Republicans who actually get elected are going to be the ones who are most doctrinaire, on this as on most issues. That means that as long as they control Congress, there will be enough of them to stop any climate legislation, which in turn means that action will only come through the kind of regulatory changes that the Obama administration has instituted. The only thing that will produce meaningful climate legislation is huge Democratic majorities in Congress of the kind they had briefly at the start of Barack Obama’s first term. Might there be a Republican member of Congress somewhere who wishes she could publicly advocate reductions in greenhouse gases, and will finally have the courage to do so now that she can claim Pope Francis as an ally? I suppose it’s possible, but I wouldn’t bet on it — let alone there being some significant number of Republicans who would join her.

The same is true of other issues: the more something matters to us politically, the less the pope is able to change anyone’s mind here in the United States, whether he’s talking about abortion or refugees or tax policy.

Even if some conservative media outlets are now going after Francis like he was Hillary Clinton because of what he’s said about climate and capitalism, they needn’t worry so much. While everyone is parsing the pope’s words to see if he supports their position on something or other — he said he’s an immigrant, so he must be criticizing Donald Trump! He said we need religious liberty, so he must be backing Kim Davis in Kentucky! — what will come out of this visit is a lot of selfies, a lot of media puff pieces, and probably a jump in the pope’s popularity. But politically, everything will stay just the same.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, September 24, 2015

September 25, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Partisan Politics, Pope Francis | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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