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“The Time-Loop Party”: The ‘Foxification’ Of The GOP, Saying And Doing The Same Things Over And Over And Over Again

By now everyone who follows politics knows about Marco Rubio’s software-glitch performance in Saturday’s Republican debate. (I’d say broken-record performance, but that would be showing my age.) Not only did he respond to a challenge from Chris Christie about his lack of achievements by repeating, verbatim, the same line from his stump speech he had used a moment earlier; when Mr. Christie mocked his canned delivery, he repeated the same line yet again.

In other news, last week — on Groundhog Day, to be precise — Republicans in the House of Representatives cast what everyone knew was a purely symbolic, substance-free vote to repeal Obamacare. It was the 63rd time they’ve done so.

These are related stories.

Mr. Rubio’s inability to do anything besides repeat canned talking points was startling. Worse, it was funny, which means that it has gone viral. And it reinforced the narrative that he is nothing but an empty suit. But really, isn’t everyone in his party doing pretty much the same thing, if not so conspicuously?

The truth is that the whole G.O.P. seems stuck in a time loop, saying and doing the same things over and over. And unlike Bill Murray’s character in the movie “Groundhog Day,” Republicans show no sign of learning anything from experience.

Think about the doctrines every Republican politician now needs to endorse, on pain of excommunication.

First, there’s the ritual denunciation of Obamacare as a terrible, very bad, no good, job-killing law. Did I mention that it kills jobs? Strange to say, this line hasn’t changed at all despite the fact that we’ve gained 5.7 million private-sector jobs since January 2014, which is when the Affordable Care Act went into full effect.

Then there’s the assertion that taxing the rich has terrible effects on economic growth, and conversely that tax cuts at the top can be counted on to produce an economic miracle.

This doctrine was tested more than two decades ago, when Bill Clinton raised tax rates on high incomes; Republicans predicted disaster, but what we got was the economy’s best run since the 1960s. It was tested again when George W. Bush cut taxes on the wealthy; Republicans predicted a “Bush boom,” but actually got a lackluster expansion followed by the worst slump since the Great Depression. And it got tested a third time after President Obama won re-election, and tax rates at the top went up substantially; since then we’ve gained eight million private-sector jobs.

Oh, and there’s also the spectacular failure of the Kansas experiment, where huge tax cuts have created a budget crisis without delivering any hint of the promised economic miracle.

But Republican faith in tax cuts as a universal economic elixir has, if anything, grown stronger, with Mr. Rubio, in particular, going even further than the other candidates by promising to eliminate all taxes on capital gains.

Meanwhile, on foreign policy the required G.O.P. position has become one of utter confidence in the effectiveness of military force. How did that work in Iraq? Never mind: The only reason anybody in the world fails to do exactly what America wants must be because our leadership is lily-livered if not treasonous. And diplomacy, no matter how successful, is denounced as appeasement.

Not incidentally, the shared Republican stance on foreign policy is basically the same view Richard Hofstadter famously described in his essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”: Whenever America fails to impose its will on the rest of the world, it must be because it has been betrayed. The John Birch Society has won the war for the party’s soul.

But don’t all politicians spout canned answers that bear little relationship to reality? No.

Like her or not, Hillary Clinton is a genuine policy wonk, who can think on her feet and clearly knows what she is talking about on many issues. Bernie Sanders is much more of a one-note candidate, but at least his signature issue — rising inequality and the effects of money on politics — reflects real concerns. When you revisit Democratic debates after what went down Saturday, it doesn’t feel as if you’re watching a different party, it feels as if you’ve entered a different intellectual and moral universe.

So how did this happen to the G.O.P.? In a direct sense, I suspect that it has a lot to do with Foxification, the way Republican primary voters live in a media bubble into which awkward facts can’t penetrate. But there must be deeper causes behind the creation of that bubble.

Whatever the ultimate reason, however, the point is that while Mr. Rubio did indeed make a fool of himself on Saturday, he wasn’t the only person on that stage spouting canned talking points that are divorced from reality. They all were, even if the other candidates managed to avoid repeating themselves word for word.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 8, 2016

February 8, 2016 Posted by | GOP, GOP Primary Debates, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Waterboy”: The Rick Snyder Vision, The Republican Vision, If You Don’t Have Money, You’re Not Really A Citizen

May I suggest the ideal Republican vice-presidential candidate for whichever wingnut secures the GOP nomination this year: Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

Is there any doubt that America’s worst governor would be the perfect partner for the 2016 Republican nominee? Snyder’s handling of the Flint water crisis succinctly symbolizes the GOP’s vision of government: penny-pinching, cold, scornful of the weak and vulnerable, operating with reckless disregard for future generations. The Republican base wants a truly conservative ticket: a Trump-Snyder or Cruz-Snyder pairing would deliver that dream.

Ever notice that Snyder doesn’t seem to have any real remorse or sorrow for his actions towards Flint’s residents? His “apology” in his January 19 State of the State address was a pathetic joke, one that failed to convince any sentient from America. Snyder never gave a damn about the residents of Flint, and still doesn’t. The Snyder vision–the Republican vision–is that if you don’t have money, you’re not really a citizen.

Eight years ago, in an interview with Thomas Frank about President George W. Bush’s failures, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow observed:

[T]his is a problem of conservatism. This is a problem of letting people run government when they believe that government can’t work and ought not work.

No wonder Maddow has been so outraged by Snyder’s human-rights abuses, as we all should be. Maddow understands that Snyder is conservatism. He is continuing the dark tradition Ronald Reagan gave birth to 35 years ago when he declared, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Yet government is not the problem per se. Government run by people who hate government is the problem. Government run by people who regard certain citizens as worthless moochers undeserving of the basic necessities of life is the problem.

We hear so much about the compassion so many Americans feel for the victimized residents of Flint. Yet we must acknowledge the sad reality that there are far too many Americans who simply don’t give a damn about the residents of Flint…who couldn’t care less that they’re drinking contaminated water…who turn a blind eye, a deaf ear and a cold heart to those whose health has been damaged for life as a result of Snyder’s deranged decision-making.

Those are the very same Americans who are embracing the hate-filled messages of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Those are the very same Americans who probably think Snyder is the real victim in the Flint crisis–the victim, of course, of “political correctness,” “race hustlers” and the “liberal media.”

Recall the repulsive running mates Republicans have selected over the decades. Richard Nixon in 1952. Spiro Agnew in 1968. Dan Quayle in 1988. Dick Cheney in 2000. Sarah Palin in 2008. Paul Ryan in 2012. Considering this track record, would Snyder really be that far-fetched of a choice?

Think about what animates the right today: Contempt for the mainstream media. Contempt for racial minorities. Contempt for government. Contempt for those outside of the right-wing tribe. Snyder would appeal to all of the right’s darkest impulses: selecting him as VP would be the ultimate bleep-you to progressives, the “political establishment” and the Fourth Estate. I wouldn’t put the selection of Snyder past this radicalized and reckless Republican Party. Would you?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 6, 2016

February 8, 2016 Posted by | Flint Water Crisis, Republicans, Rick Snyder | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Agent Of (Message) Change”: Hillary Clinton Went After Bernie Sanders’ Strengths In New Hampshire

Would it be impolitic (this being a Democratic debate and all) to say that Hillary Clinton came out with guns blazing? She may be on course to a Granite State thrashing, but she showed up at the University of New Hampshire loaded for Bern.

She tempered a broad hug of Sanders’ liberalism (“We have a vigorous agreement here,” she said at one point when discussing financial reform) with the assertion that she is better positioned to advance that agenda.

Beyond that, go through the issues that have animated the Democratic race recently or are central to the Sanders case: Is he running a more inspiring campaign? Only because it’s a more fantastical one: “Let’s go down a path where we can actually tell people what we will do,” she said. “A progressive is someone who makes progress.” (That’s better phraseology, by the way, than the “progressive with results” formulation she had been using, which sounded like a rip-off of George W. Bush’s “reformer with results” message from 2000.)

And is she indeed a real progressive? She had a whole soliloquy prepared in answer: “I have heard Senator Sanders’ comments, and it’s really caused me to wonder who is left in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party,” Clinton said. “Under his definition, President Obama is not progressive because he took donations from Wall Street.” Ditto Joe Biden (Keystone XL) and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota (Defense of Marriage Act). Then a pivot to Sanders’ progressive weak underbelly: “I don’t think it was particularly progressive to vote against the Brady [gun control] bill five times.”

Bonus points to moderator Chuck Todd for pressing Sanders on whether President Barack Obama is a progressive; the Vermonter’s answer seemed to be that Obama is progressive despite failing some litmus tests because he’s actually made progress. (Which is rather like the argument that Clinton is making.)

Is she in the establishment? Hell no – she’s a woman running for president which by definition means she’s not establishment. This answer was glib if, as Ezra Klein noted, nonsensical:

If Clinton is not part of the establishment than there is no such thing as the establishment. And there is such a thing as the establishment

— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) February 5, 2016

Is she part of the corporate-money-corruption problem that is central to Sanders’ political message? That’s a “very artful smear,” an “insinuation unworthy” of the Vermont progressive, she fumed.

Did she vote for the Iraq War while he voted against it? “We did differ,” she said. “A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat [the Islamic State group].”

Indeed foreign policy was easily Sanders’ weakest portion of the evening. A question about Afghanistan sent him on a verbal tour through Syria, Iraq, Jordan and the battle with the Islamic State group, prompting Todd to follow up: “Can you address a question on Afghanistan?”

Saying we need allies is not foreign policy. Example: We can’t get Sunni allies w/o taking on Iran. What does Sanders suggest?

— Walter Russell Mead (@wrmead) February 5, 2016

I hated the Iraq War as much as anyone, but “I made the right call on a vote 13 years ago” is really not a foreign policy vision for now.

— Paul Waldman (@paulwaldman1) February 5, 2016

If there’s one takeaway from this debate it is that Sanders is woefully unprepared, on foreign policy, to be president

— Michael Cohen (@speechboy71) February 5, 2016

For his part Sanders was standard-operating-Bernie. It’s a compelling message but it’s limited and he did little to address the arguments against it. Take the entirety of his agenda: How will he get something passed? “No, you just can’t negotiate with [Senate Republican Leader] Mitch McConnell,” Sanders said. “Mitch is gonna have to look out the window and see a whole lot of people saying, ‘Mitch, stop representing the billionaire class. Start listening to working families.'” The revolution will come and Mitch McConnell will cave.

Sanders believes a sufficiently large crowd outside McConnell’s window would make him support campaign finance reform. I do not.

— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) February 5, 2016

Chait’s right; Sanders is basing his would-be presidency on the kind of tea party thinking that informed Ted Cruz and the shutdown crew. And it won’t work any better for the left than it did the right.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report, February 5, 2016

February 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Governors Exact Their Revenge On Marco Rubio”: Governors Against Callow And Outrageous Candidates

There was a time when Republican governors were not all that different from Democratic governors.

The politicians from both parties who ran the states tended to be a pragmatic lot. They were pro-business because they wanted their people to have jobs, but they championed government spending in the areas that contribute to economic development, starting with education and transportation.

Democratic governors still largely behave that way, but many of their Republican peers have followed their national party to the right and now run far more ideological administrations. North Carolina, Kansas and Wisconsin are prime examples of this break from a longer GOP tradition.

But in a pivotal debate here on Saturday night, the old solidarity among Republicans in charge of statehouses made a comeback of convenience. Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich of Ohio and former Florida governor Jeb Bush are competitors, but they had no qualms about creating an ad hoc alliance that might be called Governors Against Callow and Outrageous Candidates.

They took on both Donald Trump and, indirectly, Sen. Ted Cruz. But their central target was Sen. Marco Rubio, who had a chance to put all three governors away with a strong performance. Instead, thanks to the pugilistic Christie, Rubio wilted.

In nearly every season, there is a media favorite whose standing with journalists relates not to ideology but to what reporters think a good candidate should look and sound like. For some time, Rubio has been that guy. Fresh and fluent, Rubio seems to bridge the party’s divides. He was nominated for the Senate as a tea party favorite, but was really an insider. You don’t get to be speaker of the Florida House of Representatives by being a mavericky rogue.

On paper at least, he’s the potential GOP nominee who scares Democrats the most. A young Cuban American (age: 44) would presumably have a nice edge on either of the Democratic candidates (ages: 68 and 74), and Rubio loves playing the generational card.

In practice, trying to be all things to all Republicans has often thrown Rubio off balance. His multiple positions on immigration reform make him both a target of the GOP’s anti-immigration hard-liners and the object of (mostly private) scorn from Republicans who were struggling to get an immigration bill passed.

All along, the question about Rubio has been whether he’s too good to be true. After Christie’s clinical takedown during their encounter at Saint Anselm College, this suspicion is now front and center.

“Marco, the thing is this,” Christie thundered. “When you’re president of the United States, when you’re a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it doesn’t solve one problem for one person. They expect you to plow the snow. They expect you to get the schools open. And when the worst natural disaster in your state’s history hits you, they expect you to rebuild their state, which is what I’ve done. None of that stuff happens on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Ah, yes, governing is about running a government, even if Republicans aren’t supposed to like government.

The real shock was that Rubio played right into Christie’s hands by repeating a canned attack on President Obama four times. Christie couldn’t believe his good fortune. “There it is. There it is,” Christie declared, basking in his eureka moment, and chopping five seconds off the prefabricated Rubio sound bite. “The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.”

Of course, none of the three governors is like the moderate (let alone liberal) GOP executives of old. Kasich came closest when he insisted that conservatism should mean that “everybody has a chance to rise regardless of who they are so they can live their God-given purpose.” Bush had by far his best debate, for once taking on Trump without backing off, and he has looked comfortable, even happy, in his final town halls around the state. But over and over, Bush made clear just how conservative he was as governor, and how conservative he’d be as president.

Nonetheless, for one night, positioning, ideology and Obama-bashing wrapped in an attractive new package were not enough for Rubio. It’s not clear what Christie did for his own candidacy, but he performed a service by reminding his party that running a government is serious work and ought to be respected. That this was revelatory shows how far contemporary conservatism has strayed from the essential tasks of politics.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 7, 2016

February 8, 2016 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Primary Debates, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Utter Nastiness Of Ted Cruz”: What Sets Cruz Apart Is The Malice He Exudes

When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) last month mocked Donald Trump’s “New York values,” it wasn’t entirely clear what he was implying.

This week we got a clue: For Cruz, “New York” is another way of saying “Jewish.”

At an event in New Hampshire, Cruz, the Republican Iowa caucuses winner, was asked about campaign money he and his wife borrowed from Goldman Sachs. Cruz, asserting that Trump had “upward of $480 million of loans from giant Wall Street banks,” said: “For him to make this attack, to use a New York term, it’s the height of chutzpah.” Cruz, pausing for laughter after the phrase “New York term,” exaggerated the guttural “ch” to more laughter and applause.

But “chutzpah,” of course, is not a “New York” term. It’s a Yiddish — a Jewish — one. And using “New York” as a euphemism for “Jewish” has long been an anti-Semitic dog whistle.

I followed both Cruz and Trump this week at multiple campaign events across New Hampshire. It was, in a sense, a pleasure to see them use their prodigious skills of character assassination against each other. It was demagogue against demagogue: lie vs. lie. Both men riled their supporters with fantasies and straw men.

But there were discernible differences. Trump owned anger. Cruz, by contrast, had a lock on nastiness. Trump is belligerent and hyperbolic, with an authoritarian style. But while Trump fires up the masses with his nonstop epithets, Cruz has Joe McCarthy’s knack for false insinuation and underhandedness. What sets Cruz apart is the malice he exudes.

Cruz jokes that “the whole point of the campaign” is that “the Washington elites despise” him. But Cruz’s problem is that going back to his college days at Princeton, those who know him best seem to despise him most. Not a single Senate colleague has endorsed his candidacy, and Iowa’s Republican governor urged Cruz’s defeat, then called his campaign “unethical.”

Ben Carson, who rarely has a bad word to say about anybody in the GOP race, accused Cruz of “deceit and dirty tricks and lies” this week after the Texan’s campaign spread the false rumor during the Iowa caucuses that Carson was quitting the race. Two former rivals who also appeal to religious conservatives, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum (who endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida), have questioned Cruz’s truthfulness, too.

Sarah Palin, whose support for Cruz in 2012 helped get him elected to the Senate, this week denounced him after a Cruz surrogate accused her of accepting payment from Trump to back him. She, too, accused Cruz’s campaign of “lies,” a “dirty trick” and “typical Washington tactics.”

Cruz, in Nashua, slashed back at his onetime benefactor: “It seems if you spend too much time with Donald Trump, strange things happen to people.” Somebody in the crowd shouted “Fire Palin!” and the audience cheered.

The Iowa secretary of state, a Republican, issued a statement before the caucuses accusing Cruz’s campaign of “false representation” because of a mailing to voters charging them with a “voting violation” and assigning them and their neighbors phony grades.

After Cruz’s caucus-night skullduggery — a campaign email to supporters and a tweet by a Cruz national co-chairman suggesting Carson was quitting the race — his response continued the deception. Though he apologized to Carson, he said that “our political team forwarded a news story from CNN” and “all the rest of it is just silly noise.” But CNN said nothing about Carson dropping out.

After Trump, in his overblown way, accused Cruz of stealing the election, Cruz replied, righteously, that “I have no intention of insulting him or throwing mud.”

No? He accused Trump of “a Trumpertantrum.” He said Trump as president “would have nuked Denmark.” He said Trump “doesn’t have any core beliefs.” He mischaracterized several of Trump’s positions, saying “he wants to expand Obamacare,” that “for his entire life, 60 years, he has been advocating for full-on socialized medicine” and that Trump favors “amnesty” for illegal immigrants and “wants to deport people that are here illegally but then let them back in immediately and become citizens.” He speculated that Trump may have “billions” in loans and said the concept of repaying loans is “novel and unfamiliar to Donald.”

The misrepresentation isn’t limited to Trump. In a single speech in Nashua last week, he mischaracterized things said by, among others, Jimmy Carter, Chris Wallace, guests on Sean Hannity’s show, Atlanta’s mayor, Rubio and, of course, President Obama.

I asked the Cruz campaign Thursday evening to substantiate several of these claims. After this column was published online Friday afternoon, the campaign provided citations that didn’t back up what Cruz had alleged. Unsurprising: Cruz’s purpose is not to inform but to insinuate.

 

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 5, 2016

February 8, 2016 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, New York Values, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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