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“The Party That Couldn’t Kabuki Straight”: Prone To Fights To The Death Over Strategy, Tactics And Above All, Symbolism

If you have been following the intra-GOP brouhaha in the U.S. House semi-carefully, you probably realize that much of the conflict between Freedom Caucus bravos and the other Republicans has been over how much hysteria to expend on efforts to force presidential vetoes of prized legislation instead of letting their bills succumb to Senate filibusters. Perhaps some of these birds actually do believe Obama would allow them to kill funding for Planned Parenthood or revoke his executive actions on immigration or mess up Obamacare in the face of a government shutdown or a debt limit default. But for the most part they seem to think there’s vast electoral or psychological or moral gold to be mined from showing exactly what they would do if one of their hirelings was in the White House.

Presumably that’s why the Kabuki Theater exercise of sending Obama a budget reconciliation bill–which cannot be filibustered–that “defunds” Planned Parenthood and repeals key parts of Obamacare has run afoul of right-wing opposition, per a report from Politico‘s Seung Min Kim:

[T]hree conservative members of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s conference — Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah — have already vowed to vote against the current reconciliation package that repeals major parts of Obamacare, arguing it doesn’t go far enough. If those votes don’t budge, McConnell can’t afford to lose any more votes from his 54-member ranks.

Meanwhile, a provision in the reconciliation bill that defunds Planned Parenthood for one year could cause some heartburn for moderates who don’t support stripping money from the women’s health group.

A draft bill did pass the House on Friday, but over the opposition of Heritage Action, which will make another effort to blow it up in the Senate unless the Obamacare repeal language is broader. But that could make the bill vulnerable to a parliamentarian’s ruling that it violates the Byrd Rule limiting reconciliation bills to provisions germane to the federal budget.

You will note that Marco Rubio, the smart-money favorite to become the Republican Establishment’s darling and win the GOP presidential nomination, is right there with Ted Cruz on obstructing any bill that leaves any significant element of Obamacare standing–on paper, of course. This is presumably a gesture by Rubio to reassure ideologues he would make the executive branch an instrument of their will should they allow his name to grace the top of the ballot next year.

This is the congressional party Paul Ryan will apparently try to lead as Speaker–one prone to fights to the death over strategy, tactics and above all symbolism.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 26, 2015


October 26, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, House Republicans, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Racial Profiling Is Still An Issue”: The Issue Is Real And We Need To Pay Attention

Back in the early 1980’s, I remember having heard the term “racial profiling.” But it didn’t mean much to me because, given that I’m white, it never happened to me or anyone I knew. One of my good friends at the time happened to be Native Hawaiian (often mistaken for being Mexican) and started telling me stories about how he couldn’t walk across the courtyard at his apartment complex without being stopped by security and escorted to his door to verify that he actually lived there. That’s when I started paying attention to the issue.

I suspect that my experience is probably not that different from a lot of other white people in this country. It’s easy to dismiss the issues around racial profiling if it doesn’t happen to you or anyone else you know. And so, this week when President Obama hosted a panel discussion at the White House on criminal justice reform, he took a few extra minutes at the end to say that, when it comes to the Black Lives Matter Movement, the issue is real and we need to pay attention.

I thought of that ongoing need to convince white people that racial profiling is real when I saw that the New York Times published a front-page above-the-fold story by Sharon LaFraniere and Andrew Lehren on the reality of “driving while black.” To be honest, I had mixed feelings when I saw that. On the one hand, it is an excellent piece and I am thrilled to see such an important topic tackled in a way that puts it all front and center. But I also get discouraged. How long do people need to keep pointing this out before we finally get the message and do something about it? I can only imagine the reaction of African Americans who have lived with this issue for decades. This is not something that started in Ferguson. Eight months before the shooting of Michael Brown in August 2014, the Washington Monthly published an article that reached the very same conclusions we find in the NYT article today.

I don’t take a lot of pride in the fact that it took a friend of mine experiencing racial profiling for me to wake up to the fact that it is a real issue that we need to address. It reminds me of a column Leonard Pitts wrote years ago when Dick Cheney had a change of heart about marriage equality because his daughter is lesbian.

In such circumstances, injustice ceases to be an abstract concept faced by abstract people, but a real threat faced by someone who is known and loved. Makes all the difference in the world, I guess…

Unfortunately for Cheney, conservativism has no place for him on this issue. It does not strive to be thoughtful or even noticeably principled where gay rights are concerned.

To the contrary, being persuadable is seen as weakness and being persuaded proof of moral failure. In Cheney’s world, people do not seek to put themselves inside other lives or to see the world as it appears through other eyes. Particularly the lives and eyes of society’s others, those people who, because of some innate difference, have been marginalized and left out.

Then someone you love turns up gay, turns up among those others.

One imagines that it changes everything, forces a moment of truth that mere reasoning never could. And maybe you find yourself doing what Dick Cheney does, championing a cause people like you just don’t champion. Doing the right thing for imperfect reasons.

As Pitts goes on to say, getting to freedom is going to take a very long time if it requires every conservative home to have a lesbian daughter. And if every white person needs to have a best friend who experienced racial profiling in order for us to finally take the issue seriously, justice comes too slowly.

So in the end, I’ll celebrate that the NYT is highlighting this problem once again and that President Obama continues to tell us that the concerns of the Black Lives Matter Movement are real. I just hope that more of us are listening and perhaps even persuadable.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 25, 2015

October 26, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Minorities, Racial Profiling | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“News From Iowa’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner”: It Was The Crowd That Actually Made The Biggest News

I watched the Democratic presidential candidates give their speeches last night at Iowa’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. And I have to say that not much news was made. They all gave pretty familiar stump speeches.

The one thing some pundits are talking about is that Bernie Sanders “attacked” Hillary Clinton. But when it comes to these kinds of things, too few people note the difference between going after someone’s record vs going after them personally. Last night Sanders did what any candidate in his position would do – highlighted the distinctions between himself and the front-runner. I don’t consider that “negative” campaigning. It’s exactly what Sanders needs to be doing right now. Otherwise, why be in the race at all.

O’Malley was…well…O’Malley. Nothing new and therefore it probably doesn’t matter much.

Clinton gave a speech that anyone who has followed her campaign has mostly heard before. As the front-runner, she didn’t focus on her competitors. Instead, she’s paving the way for the general election by highlighting the difference between Democrats and Republicans. The one smart move Clinton made last night that neither of the other candidates bothered with was to give a shout-out to Vice President Joe Biden. Of course that was her way of inviting any of his supporters who had been holding out to caucus for her.

In some ways it was the crowd that actually made the biggest news last night. Clinton was the last to speak. And as she came to the stage, reporters who were in the arena noted that the Sanders section emptied out. That was not a good look for them at a Democratic Party event. I doubt very much that the Sanders campaign organized the walk-out. But this is exactly the kind of thing that gets him in trouble with the Democratic base he needs to appeal to in a state like Iowa.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 25, 2015

October 26, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Jefferson-Jackson Dinner | , , , , | 3 Comments

“A Tonic For Progressive Economics”: Why Trudeau Matters More Than Gowdy

Which major event last week should have an important impact on the 2016 presidential election?

No, it’s not Hillary Clinton’s nine hours of testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. She walked away with a smile, and for good reason.

Republicans on the committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), succeeded brilliantly in confirming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (Calif.) burst of honesty: that the whole exercise always had bringing down Clinton’s poll numbers as one of its central purposes. Only right-wingers already convinced of her perfidy thought otherwise. She emerged stronger than she started by staying calm, cool and confident in the face of repeated provocations.

The consequential event occurred three days earlier. The Liberal Party landslide and the triumph of Justin Trudeau in Canada’s election last Monday was a tonic for progressive economics and a cautionary tale for parties on the center-left lacking the courage of their convictions. Trudeau proved that voters understand the difference between profligacy and necessary public investment.

The outcome also carried a warning for conservative politicians in diverse societies who court a backlash against religious and ethnic minorities. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper played this card (around the issue of whether Muslim women could wear the niqab veil at their swearing-in as citizens), and it backfired badly.

Trudeau is the rare politician who came right out and promised to run deficits. They will be relatively modest — about 10 billion Canadian dollars (about $7.6 billion) annually over three years — with the goal of rebuilding Canada’s infrastructure. The Liberals popularized the term “infrastructure deficit,” and voters — particularly in rapidly growing urban areas — agreed that a time of low interest rates was exactly the moment to invest in the future. The hefty swing the Liberals’ way in Canada’s metropolitan areas helped power their sweep.

Already, conservatives in the United States are making the case that Trudeau will regret abandoning the fiscally cautious policies of the earlier Liberal governments headed by Jean Chrétien and then by Paul Martin. The Chretien-Martin Liberals were a middle-of-the-road lot who dominated Canadian politics from 1993 until 2006. Their budgetary prudence gave Canada nine straight surpluses.

But there’s a problem with this argument: None other than the fiscally responsible Martin himself endorsed the emphasis on investment. “You should be investing to pay for the kinds of things that are going to give your children a better life,” Martin said in defense of Trudeau. “And that’s what infrastructure is, what education is, it’s what research and development is.”

After the election, I spoke with Chrystia Freeland, a Liberal who won overwhelmingly in her Toronto district (and with whom I recently served on a think tank project on economic policy). She made the essential point: “It’s really important that people not approach economic policy as ideology or with quasi-religious convictions,” Freeland said. “Economic policy is about the facts and the circumstances.” A weakening Canadian economy strengthened the case for Trudeau’s approach.

In breaking the ideology of austerity, the Liberals, a traditionally centrist party, boxed in their main competitors for the anti-Harper vote. The New Democrats, known as the NDP, are usually to the Liberals’ left. But like the British Labour Party and social democratic parties elsewhere, the NDP under its leader, Tom Mulcair, felt that abandoning fiscal prudence would make the party look irresponsible to swing voters.

It was the wrong call, and Trudeau, who started the 11-week campaign running third, behind Harper and Mulcair, turned himself into the candidate of “real change,” which the Liberals embraced as their slogan. For good measure, Trudeau was unabashed in offering other proposals to push against growing inequality: a tax plan that would pay for a middle-class tax cut by raising taxes on those earning more than 200,000 Canadian dollars (about $152,000) a year, and a substantial increase in the child benefit for the poorest Canadians.

Paul Wells, one of Canada’s premier political journalists, observed in his post-election wrap-up in Maclean’s magazine that Trudeau “had to go big, or the Canadian voter would send him home.” By going big, Trudeau’s new home will soon be 24 Sussex Drive, the Canadian White House, where he lived when his dad, Pierre, was prime minister.

It’s true that the political and fiscal situations of Canada and the United States are different. But progressive politicians in the United States and elsewhere would do well to learn that if they let orthodoxies paralyze them, they will have little to say to voters who, as Trudeau declared on election night, are tired of the twin ideas that they “should be satisfied with less” and that “better just isn’t possible.”


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 25, 2015

October 26, 2015 Posted by | Austerity, Canada, Justin Trudeau | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Carson Thrives Because Of, Not In Spite Of, Bizarre Rhetoric”: Comments About Muslims, Hitler And Slavery Attractive To Likely Republican Caucusgoers

For much of the summer, Donald Trump dominated Republican presidential polls everywhere, and Iowa was no different. The New York developer may not seem like a natural fit for Hawkeye State conservatives, but statewide surveys consistently showed Trump leading the GOP field.

This week, however, he’s been replaced. A Quinnipiac poll in Iowa, released yesterday, showed retired right-wing neurosurgeon Ben Carson leading Trump, 28% to 20%, a big swing from early September, when Quinnipiac showed Trump ahead in Iowa by six points.

Today, a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll offers very similar results, with Carson leading Trump in the Hawkeye State, 28% to 19%. In August, the same poll showed Trump up by five.

But this line in the DMR’s report on the poll results stood out for me:

Even Carson’s most controversial comments – about Muslims, Hitler and slavery – are attractive to likely Republican caucusgoers.

This isn’t a conclusion drawn through inference; the poll actually asked Iowa Republicans for their thoughts on some of Carson’s … shall we say … eccentricities.

The poll told GOP respondents, “I’m going to mention some things people have said about Ben Carson. Regardless of whether you support him for president, please tell me for each if this is something that you find very attractive about him, mostly attractive, mostly unattractive, or very unattractive.”

If we combine “very attractive” and “mostly attractive” responses, these are Iowa Republicans’ positive feelings about Ben Carson:

1.“He is not a career politician”: 85%

2.“He has no experience in foreign policy”: 42%

3.“He was highly successful as a neurosurgeon”: 88%

4.“He has said the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is the worst thing since slavery”: 81%

 5.”He has an inspirational personal story”: 85%

 6.“He has raised questions about whether a Muslim should ever be president of the United States”: 73%

 7.“He has said he would be guided by his faith in God”: 89%

 8.“He has said that Hitler might not have been as successful if the people had been armed”: 77%

 9.“He approaches issues with common sense”: 96%

 10.“He has conducted research on tissue from aborted fetuses”: 31%

In case it’s not obvious, pay particular attention to numbers 4, 6, and 8.

For many political observers, one of the questions surrounding Carson’s candidacy for months has been how he intends to overcome some of the ridiculous rhetoric about his off-the-wall beliefs. But this badly misses the point – Iowa Republicans like and agree with Carson’s ridiculous rhetoric about his off-the-wall beliefs.


By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, October 23, 2015

October 26, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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