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“The Budget Blitz”: Boehner And McConnell Get A Move On To Approve A Deal Before Conservatives Can Counter-Mobilize

Well, you have to credit John Boehner and Mitch McConnell with some chutzpah. On the very eve of Paul Ryan’s planned accession to the House Speakership via a deal with House conservatives to treat their views with more respect and avoid deals with Democrats, the GOP leadership is unveiling the largest bipartisan budget deal since 2011, a measure that would preempt any debt default or government shutdown threat until well after the 2016 elections. Moreover, even as Ryan pledges renewed fealty to the Hastert Rule and promises not to behave imperiously towards other Republicans, this deal was negotiated semi-secretly and will be sprung on Congress for a quick vote, perhaps as early as tomorrow, and is projected to get through both chambers via a minority of Republicans voting with most Democrats. It would indeed make it easier for Ryan to keep his promises because it would take the most contentious issues right off the table.

A lot of the details of the deal are unknown or hazy at this point, but it’s clear the main objective was to set aside sequestration and give Democrats some domestic spending increases and Republicans more defense spending. In that and other respects it resembles the budget deal Ryan himself cut with Patty Murray in December of 2013, not long after the last government shutdown, which constitutes one of the grievances conservatives harbor against the Wisconsin Ayn Rand acolyte.

I suspect the air today will be filled with squawking about this deal, and it could also prove to be a big fat target for the GOP presidential candidates who are debating economic and fiscal policy in Colorado tomorrow night. So yeah, Boehner and McConnell had best get a move on to get the deal approved before conservatives can counter-mobilize, and Paul Ryan should probably remember some pressing appointments back home in his district.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 27, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Rubio Struggles In Senate, But Wants A Promotion”: A Career Politician With No Real Accomplishments To His Name

It’s not exactly a secret that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) doesn’t show up for work much anymore. Even among sitting senators running for president, the far-right Floridian just doesn’t make an effort to keep up appearances on Capitol Hill.

Part of this, of course, is the result of his campaign schedule, but part of it also relates to the fact that Rubio appears to dislike his job quite a bit. The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold has a terrific piece on this today.

Five years ago, Rubio arrived with a potential that thrilled Republicans. He was young, ambitious, charismatic, fluent in English and Spanish, and beloved by the establishment and the tea party.

But Rubio had arrived at one of the least ambitious moments in Senate history and saw many of his ideas fizzle. Democrats killed his debt-cutting plans. Republicans killed his immigration reform. The two parties actually came together to kill his AGREE Act, a small-bore, hands-across-the-aisle bill that Rubio had designed just to get a win on something.

Now, he’s done. “He hates it,” a longtime friend from Florida said, speaking anonymously to say what Rubio would not.

It’s entirely possible, of course, that Republican primary voters won’t care. If much of the GOP base is enthralled by a blowhard New York land developer and an unhinged retired neurosurgeon, there’s no reason to think they’d balk at a senator who’s had an unsuccessful, five-year tenure.

But for a mainstream audience, the fact that Rubio effectively wasted his Capitol Hill career, achieving practically nothing despite all the promise and hype, isn’t much of a selling point.

I suspect many Rubio supporters will naturally want to draw parallels between his record and President Obama’s Senate tenure. And at a certain level, they have a point – Obama was quickly frustrated by Congress’ pace. David Axelrod later admitted that the Illinois Democrat “was bored being a senator” and quickly grew “restless.”

It seems the same words could be applied to the junior senator from Florida.

The difference, though, is that Obama put in far more effort than Rubio, and as a result, he had more success. As a senator, Obama developed a reputation as a work horse, being well prepared for briefings and hearings, introducing a lot of bills, and developing an expertise on serious issues like counter-proliferation.

There’s a great story from 2005 in which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a day-long hearing on U.S. policy in Iraq, and then-Chairman Dick Lugar (R-Ill.) praised Obama for being the only other senator who was on hand for the entire thing, start to finish. As Simon Maloy noted, “It was minor stuff, but it gave Obama a reputation as someone who was willing to do the basic work needed to get things done.”

Rubio has never developed that kind of reputation among his colleagues. On the contrary, he’s seen as a senator who misses a lot of votes, skips a lot of hearings, and fails to show up for a lot of briefings.

To date, not one Republican senator has even endorsed Rubio’s presidential bid.

Eight years ago, there was a talking point that made the rounds in GOP circles when going after then-candidate Obama: he’d never run a city; he’d never run a state; and he’d never run a business. The trouble is, the exact same talking point can be applied to Rubio, and can even be made a little worse: he’s never built up a legislative record, either.

It’s not fair to say Rubio never passed a bill, but it’s awfully close. According to congress.gov, the far-right Floridian, over the course of five years, took the lead in sponsoring a measure that was signed into law. It’s called the “Girls Count Act,” and it encourages developing countries to register girls’ births. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the policy, but it was a largely symbolic measure that passed both chambers without so much as a vote.

He also helped name September as National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.

That’s about it.

Rubio hoped to succeed on comprehensive immigration reform, which could have been a signature issue for him, but his party ended up killing the bill he helped write. The senator himself has to now oppose his own policy to pander to the Republican base, which considers the Rubio bill “amnesty.”

The result is an unfortunate situation in which Rubio is burdened by the worst of both worlds: he’s a career politician with no real accomplishments to his name.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 26, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio, Republicans | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Yesterday’s Ideological Hero Is Suspect”: Remembering Paul Ryan Before He Became A RINO Squish

A lot of the conservative carping we are hearing about Paul Ryan as he ascends to the House Speakership is interesting, to say the least. As conservative commentator Matt Lewis notes at the Daily Beast today, a lot of the same people were praising him to high heaven when he emerged as the great crafter of right-wing budgets back in 2010 and again in 2012. Since most of the heresies people are now talking about occurred earlier in his congressional career, you have to figure the context has changed more than Ryan has.

Here’s Lewis’ guess:

Much of this boils down to Paul Ryan’s past support for immigration reform—and the fact that this has become the one and only litmus test for populist conservatives.

That could certainly help explain why everybody’s favorite nativist, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has been making negative noises about Ryan’s accession to the Speakership.

As it happens, the day after Mitt Romney announced Ryan as his running-mate in 2012, I was in Waukee, Iowa, at the FAMiLY Leadership Summit, one of the nation’s biggest and most influential Christian Right clambakes. Steve King keynoted the event, and expressed satisfaction with Romney’s choice of Ryan–as did, it seems, the entire assemblage, which erupted in cheers at the first mention of Ryan’s name. But at that point in history, conservatives were most focused on the fact that Ryan was a down-the-line antichoicer who had shown his “guts” by crafting a budget document (actually two of them by then) that messed with Medicare and took a claw hammer to the federal programs benefitting those people.

Nowadays if you are guilty of having ever supported “amnesty” your other heresies will be uncovered, however old they are. The other way to look at it, of course, is that the GOP continues to drift to the Right, making yesterday’s ideological heroes suspect. The message to Paul Ryan is: keep up.

 

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

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Benghazi Hearing Was A Self-Defeating Travesty”: Hillary Clinton Failed To Make A Case Against Herself

Hillary Clinton must have been mindful of the old adage that you never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake. She sat in the witness chair with the patience of Job, hour after endless hour, while the House Select Committee on Benghazi did all it could to make her our next president.

How much of a self-defeating travesty was last week’s hearing for the Republican Party? The answer is obvious from how quickly the GOP has sought to turn the page.

Had a glove been laid on the presumptive Democratic nominee, the Sunday talk shows would have been a jamboree of Clinton-bashing. As it was, chief inquisitor Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) could only grumble on “Meet the Press” that Clinton’s testimony lacked “wholeness and completeness,” by which he seemed to mean she failed to make a case against herself. Gowdy also said he regretted that the hearing was held publicly rather than behind closed doors.

Among the Republican presidential contenders, the most deliciously ironic reaction came from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who claimed Clinton was “unaccountable” because she left the Benghazi compound’s security arrangements to be handled by lower-ranking State Department professionals. As “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson pointed out, Christie gave a similar explanation to exonerate himself in the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Front-runner Donald Trump more wisely chose a pox-on-both-houses approach, observing in a CNN interview that the hearing was “very partisan” and “the level of hatred between Republicans and Democrats was unbelievable.” He used the occasion to paint himself as a “great unifier,” which will come as a surprise to the beleaguered GOP establishment.

Gowdy was chosen to head the Benghazi committee because of his experience as a prosecutor. Maybe he’s better at real trials than show trials. Presiding over Thursday’s marathon farce, he was a disaster.

His biggest mistake was failing to foresee the dynamics of the hearing: It was always likely that Clinton, not the committee, would dominate the room.

After all, this was hardly Clinton’s first rodeo. With all her experience at congressional hearings, both asking and answering questions, she knew it was the witness who had ultimate control over pace and tone. However aggressive the Republicans were in firing their questions, she answered calmly, slowly, almost sweetly. She was like a tennis player who just keeps lobbing the ball back across the net until her opponent becomes frustrated and makes a mistake.

Gowdy appeared to orchestrate the hearing so that his one tidbit of new information was revealed late in the day, when Clinton might be tired and more likely to stumble: a previously unreported e-mail to her daughter, Chelsea, blaming the Benghazi attacks on terrorists at a time when other administration officials were saying they began as spontaneous demonstrations.

But the committee member assigned to confront Clinton with the e-mail was Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and it was he, not the witness, who seemed cranky and out of sorts. Perhaps the pressure of heading the Freedom Caucus of rejectionist House Republicans is getting to him.

Clinton explained that she wrote the e-mail in question after the terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia reportedly claimed credit for the attacks — but before that same group denied responsibility. Jordan ignored Clinton’s response and went on sputtering about an allegedly “false narrative.”

Clinton had already won the narrative contest, however. Hours earlier, she told the riveting story of how, as a Benghazi diplomatic compound burned, State Department security personnel desperately searched through thick black smoke for diplomat Sean Smith and Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. They found Smith’s body but did not know for many hours that Libyans had taken Stevens to a hospital and tried, but failed, to revive him.

Gowdy’s committee couldn’t decide exactly what Clinton was supposed to have done wrong. At times, the Republican members suggested she was too detached; at other times, they accused her of micromanagement. The fact that a friend and former aide named Sidney Blumenthal sent Clinton a number of self-important e-mails is somehow unforgiveable, I gather, although committee members were at pains to explain why.

In a hearing that began at 10 a.m. and ended 11 hours later, hardly any time was spent on the one legitimate issue arising from Benghazi: the wisdom of U.S. policy in Libya. U.S. military support helped oust a brutal dictator. But we also helped create a failed state where terrorism quickly took root.

Does Clinton have any second thoughts? Maybe a serious committee will ask her someday.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 26, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“A Maureen Dowd Media Conflagration”: Dowdgate? Biden Insists Deathbed Scene With Son Beau Never Happened

Not every day does the Vice President of the United States accuse America’s most respected newspaper of publishing a falsehood about him and his family. Over the weekend that is what Joe Biden alleged, posing a difficult problem for The New York Times.

Appearing on CBS 60 Minutes, Biden denied that the affecting deathbed scene between him and his older son Beau, as famously recounted by Times Op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd, had ever occurred. Dowd’s sensational August 1 column sparked a media conflagration, fired up the “draft Biden” movement, and the scene, not incidentally, was reported on the paper’s front page that same Sunday.

According to Dowd, Beau Biden on his deathbed “had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.” But according to Joe Biden, it didn’t go down that way at all.

Asked by correspondent Norah O’Donnell about the conversations he had with Beau about running for president, he replied:

Well, first thing I’d like to do, and you’re being very polite the way you’re asking me the question because some people have written that, you know, Beau on his deathbed said, “Dad, you’ve got to run,” and, there was this sort of Hollywood moment that, you know, nothing like that ever, ever happened…Beau all along thought that I should run and that I could win…there was not what was sort of made out as kind of this Hollywood-esque thing that at the last minute Beau grabbed my hand and said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to run, like, win one for the Gipper.’ It wasn’t anything like that.

While the facts behind this bizarre drama remain mysterious, the motivations seem obvious. Certainly Dowd, whose corrosive hatred of Hillary Clinton is the stuff of soap opera, wanted to encourage the entry of Biden into the Democratic presidential primary (as did many of her colleagues in the Beltway press corps). As for Biden, the dramatic scene in Dowd’s column encouraged supporters and sympathizers to rally behind his possible campaign, which may explain why he failed to shoot down the story until now.

While the vice president allowed this anecdote to persist for two months — notably failing to deny it when he appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or when Politico reported that he was its source — he seems to have no compelling reason to prevaricate about the matter now.

That leaves a big dark cloud of doubt over Dowd and the Times editors. (In today’s edition, a story on an inside page about Biden’s 60 Minutes interview glancingly notes his denial of “news reports about conversations with his dying son,” while neglecting to mention the role of the newspaper and its star columnist.) Presumably the public editor, Margaret Sullivan, will inquire how this happened on behalf of perplexed readers. The explanations should be interesting.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, Ocetober 26, 2015

 

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Joe Biden, Maureen Dowd, The New York Times | , , , , | 2 Comments

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