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“The GOP Cannot Be Saved, But The Country Still Can Be”: A Rare Convergence From Two Sides Of The Political Spectrum

This morning I read two articles that probably each deserve a post of their own…they’re both that good. But I’m going to write about them together because, in an interesting way, they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum but converge on the same place.

The first one comes from someone who now calls himself a “former Republican.” Robert Kagan says that Trump is the GOP’s Frankenstein Monster. He outlines much the same process I wrote about recently in: Post-Policy Republicans Gave us Donald Trump. Kagan describes the three things Republicans did to create this monster.

1. Obstruction

Was it not the party’s wild obstructionism — the repeated threats to shut down the government over policy and legislative disagreements; the persistent call for nullification of Supreme Court decisions; the insistence that compromise was betrayal; the internal coups against party leaders who refused to join the general demolition — that taught Republican voters that government, institutions, political traditions, party leadership and even parties themselves were things to be overthrown, evaded, ignored, insulted, laughed at?

2. Bigotry

No, the majority of Republicans are not bigots. But they have certainly been enablers. Who began the attack on immigrants — legal and illegal — long before Trump arrived on the scene and made it his premier issue? Who was it who frightened Mitt Romney into selling his soul in 2012, talking of “self-deportation” to get himself right with the party’s anti-immigrant forces?

3. Obama hatred

Then there was the Obama hatred, a racially tinged derangement syndrome that made any charge plausible and any opposition justified…

Thus Obama is not only wrong but also anti-American, un-American, non-American, and his policies — though barely distinguishable from those of previous liberal Democrats such as Michael Dukakis or Mario Cuomo — are somehow representative of something subversive.

Kagan’s conclusion to the prospect of Trump being the GOP nominee is something I’ve heard from a few other Republicans.

So what to do now? The Republicans’ creation will soon be let loose on the land, leaving to others the job the party failed to carry out. For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.

The other article I’d like to highlight comes from the other end of the political spectrum, so it might not be as surprising or monumental. But as President Obama’s former speechwriter (including during the 2008 primary), Jon Farveau admits that he was not always a fan of Hillary Clinton. He writes about how his view changed while he worked with her in the White House.

The most famous woman in the world would walk through the White House with no entourage, casually chatting up junior staffers along the way. She was by far the most prepared, impressive person at every Cabinet meeting. She worked harder and logged more miles than anyone in the administration, including the president. And she’d spend large amounts of time and energy on things that offered no discernible benefit to her political future—saving elephants from ivory poachers, listening to the plight of female coffee farmers in Timor-Leste, defending LGBT rights in places like Uganda.

He then walks us through the different side of this candidate that was brought to us by Ruby Cramer in her article titled: Hillary Clinton wants to talk with you about love and kindness. Favreau’s conclusion is that it is even more important to elect Hillary Clinton this year than it was to elect Barack Obama in 2008. That is a huge statement coming from someone like him. Here’s the kicker:

Every election is a competition between two stories about America. And Trump already knows his by heart: he is a celebrity strongman who will single-handedly save the country from an establishment that is too weak, stupid, corrupt, and politically correct to let us blame the real source of our problems—Muslims and Mexicans and Black Lives Matter protestors; the media, business, and political elites from both parties.

Trump’s eventual opponent will need to tell a story about America that offers a powerful rebuke to the demagogue’s dark vision for the future. I like Bernie Sanders. I like a lot of what he has to say, I love his idealism, and I believe deeply in his emphasis on grassroots change. My problem is not that his message is unrealistic—it’s that a campaign which is largely about Main St. vs. Wall St. economics is too narrow and divisive for the story we need to tell right now.

In her campaign against Sanders, Hillary has begun to tell that broader, more inclusive story about the future.

What we see is Kagan looking for a way to “save American” from the Frankenstein monster created by the GOP and Favreau suggesting that, in order to combat the monstrous story of America being sold by Trump in this election, we need an alternative to that “demagogue’s dark vision for the future.” Both of them see the answer to that in Hillary Clinton. It’s a rare convergence of two sides that is worth paying attention to.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 26, 2016

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, GOP Obstructionism, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Party Of ‘No Way!'”: G.O.P. Embraces The George Wallace Demagogues; Less Governing, More Gridlock

Perhaps the most important thing Washington will do this year is decide whether to approve President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. But Republicans have already announced their decision: “No way!”

It’s rich for Republicans to declare pre-emptively that they will not even hold hearings on an Obama nominee, considering that they used to denounce (while their party held the White House) the notion that judges’ nominations shouldn’t proceed in an election year.

“That’s just plain bunk,” Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said in 2008. “The reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president’s term.” His sense of reality has since changed.

Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said in 2008, “Just because it’s a presidential election year is no excuse for us to take a vacation.”

In fairness, Democrats have also been hypocritical. In 1992, when George Bush was president, then-Senator Joe Biden said an election-year vacancy should wait to be filled the next year.

A pox on all their houses!

Let’s tune out politicians’ rhetoric in both parties and look at the merits of the arguments. Supreme Court justices rarely die in office, and in recent decades they have mostly chosen to step down before election years. But despite what Republican senators would have you believe, there have been a number of Supreme Court vacancies filled in election years.

In the 20th century we had six:

■ In 1912, the Senate confirmed Mahlon Pitney, nominated by William Howard Taft.

■ In 1916, the Senate confirmed both Louis Brandeis and John Clarke, nominated by Woodrow Wilson.

■ In 1932, the Senate confirmed Benjamin Cardozo, nominated by Herbert Hoover.

■ In 1940, the Senate confirmed Frank Murphy, nominated by Franklin Roosevelt.

■ In 1988, the Senate confirmed Anthony Kennedy, who had been nominated by Ronald Reagan the previous November.

A counterexample is Abe Fortas, whose nomination to be elevated from associate justice to chief justice in the summer of 1968 was killed by a filibuster by Republicans and Southern Democrats. But that’s a horrifying bit of history for Republicans to rely upon, because the main reasons for opposition to Fortas were that he favored civil rights and was Jewish. His ethical lapses mostly emerged later.

Republicans suggest that it’s standard for a Supreme Court vacancy to be held over when it occurs during an election year. Since 1900, I can find only one example of something close to that happening: In the fall of 1956, after Congress had adjourned and Senate confirmation was impossible, William Brennan received a recess appointment, then in 1957 was nominated and confirmed.

It’s ironic that this tumult should bedevil a replacement for Antonin Scalia, who emphasized the constitutional text. The Constitution gives no hint that the Senate’s “advice and consent” for nominations should operate only in three out of four years.

If Republicans block Obama’s nomination, Scalia’s vacancy will last more than a year, compared with a historical average of resolving nominations in 25 days. To date, the longest Supreme Court nomination in American history lasted 125 days, and it looks as if we will easily break that record this year.

The larger issue here is obstructionism. When I was growing up, the G.O.P. was the serious, prudent, boring party, while the Democrats included a menagerie of populists, rascals and firebrands. Today it’s the G.O.P. that embraces the George Wallace demagogues, and its aim is less to govern than to cause gridlock. That’s not true of everyone — the House speaker, Paul Ryan, seems to have genuine aspirations to legislate. But to be a Republican lawmaker today is too often to seek to block appointments, obstruct programs and shut down government. Politics becomes less about building things up than about burning them down.

Both parties are open to expanding the earned-income tax credit, to early childhood programs, to better approaches to heroin addiction, to supporting women with obstetric fistula, to reducing violence against women worldwide. Yet practical measures to address these issues stall in Congress. The party of Lincoln is now the party of “No,” refusing even to invite the president’s budget director to testify on an Obama budget, as is customary. Congress is expected to accomplish next to nothing this year.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the apotheosis of this disregard for governing. Cruz’s entire congressional career has involved antagonizing colleagues and ensuring that nothing gets done. And Trump barely bothers with policies, just provocations.

All this is ineffably sad. I expect politicians to exaggerate and bluster. But I also expect them to govern, and that is what many in the Grand Old Party now refuse to do.

In that case, should they really be paid? Just as we have work requirements for some welfare recipients, maybe it’s time to consider work requirements for senators.

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 26, 2016

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Chuck Grassley, Obstructionism, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Trump-Led Party Is Unsupportable”: First Republican For Hillary Clinton Over Donald Trump Emerges

By this point, the vast majority of conservative intellectuals have publicly denounced Donald Trump. Most of them depict Trump as an ideologically alien force, more liberal than conservative, whose very affiliation with the GOP is to be dismissed as an inexplicable mistake. But Robert Kagan’s anti-Trump column today differs from those others in two important respects. First, he connects the rise of Trump to the Republican Party’s generalized anti-Obama hysteria. He calls Trump “the party’s creation, its Frankenstein monster,” attributing his rise to “the party’s wild obstructionism,” its “accommodation to and exploitation of the bigotry in its ranks,” and — most daringly — its “Obama hatred, a racially tinged derangement syndrome that made any charge plausible and any opposition justified.” Republicans have challenged the party’s failure to develop legislative alternatives, but none of them have attacked its strategy of massive uncompromising opposition to the entire Obama agenda. (Except David Frum, who was quickly fired from his think-tank post.)

More daringly, Kagan does not merely denounce Trump, or even swear he will never support him (as other conservatives have done). He states plainly he would vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump. And that, of course, is the only real statement that has force in this context. It is one thing to staunchly oppose a candidate in the primary, but however fierce your opposition, there is always room to come home to the party if you lose the primary. Kagan is connecting Trump to the GOP’s extremism and saying that a Trump-led party is unsupportable. That is the sort of opposition that could turn a Trump defeat into an opportunity for internal reform.

Now, Kagan is a bit atypical. A prominent neoconservative intellectual, he has moved closer to the center and defended aspects of the Obama record. It is also interesting that Kagan, like Frum, hails from the neoconservative tradition. The neoconservatives were originally moderate liberal critics of the Democratic Party, who objected to its leftward turn in the 1960s and 1970s and began their exodus from the broader Democratic Party around the McGovern campaign. Most of them are deeply enmeshed in the conservative movement now and have views about the role of government indistinguishable from those of other conservatives. But, eventually, some faction will break loose from the GOP and form the basis for a sane party that is capable of governing. Who knows? Maybe that faction will be the one that moved into the party a half-century ago.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 25, 2016

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Scalia’s Death Gets More Intriguing”: Scalia And The Company He Kept

Nothing makes people more suspicious than secret orders and secret societies. I remember reading a lot about how both George W. Bush and John Kerry had belonged to Skull & Bones at Yale. That was supposed to be proof that the game was rigged, as the Bonesmen were going to control the White House either way the 2004 election turned out. Going back a little further, I remember some people freaking out about how many Reaganites belonged to the secretive Bohemian Grove club in San Francisco.

Now, I had never heard of The International Order of St. Hubertus, which was apparently established at the 1966 summer retreat of the Bohemian Grove. Actually, that’s not quite right. The society’s U.S. chapter was launched in 1966, but the organization itself was founded in 1695 by the Habsburg Count, Franz Anton von Sporck.

Members of the worldwide, male-only society wear dark-green robes emblazoned with a large cross and the motto “Deum Diligite Animalia Diligentes,” which means “Honoring God by honoring His creatures,” according to the group’s website. Some hold titles, such as Grand Master, Prior and Knight Grand Officer. The Order’s name is in honor of Hubert, the patron saint of hunters and fishermen.

I’m not sure why a secret hunting society has a website, but what do I know?

In any case, Antonin Scalia was attending a retreat of this St. Hubertus society in Texas when he unexpectedly died in his sleep. As we know, the remoteness of the location combined with the fact that he died over the weekend meant that things were handled in an unorthodox way. His body wasn’t examined by a coroner or other professional before his death was certified as arising from natural causes. Because his family didn’t ask for one, no autopsy was performed. And now we find out that he traveled to this ranch with a member of this secret society.

Cibolo Creek Ranch owner John Poindexter and C. Allen Foster, a prominent Washington lawyer who traveled to the ranch with Scalia by private plane, hold leadership positions within the Order…

…From Houston, Scalia and Foster chartered a plane without the marshals to the Cibolo Creek Ranch airstrip. In a statement after Scalia died, the U.S. Marshals Service said that Scalia had declined a security detail while at the ranch…

…Two other private planes that landed at the ranch for the weekend are linked to two men who have held leadership positions with the Texas chapter of the Order, according to a review of state business filings and flight records from the airport.

And this C. Allen Foster guy? Who is he?

The friend, Louisiana-born Foster, is a lawyer with the Washington firm Whiteford, Taylor & Preston. He is also known for his passion for hunting and is a former spokesman for the hunting group Safari Club.

In 2006, Foster was featured in The Post when he celebrated his 65th birthday with a six-day celebration in the Czech Republic. He flew his family and 40 Washington friends there to stay in Moravia’s Zidlochovice, a baroque castle and hunting park. The birthday bash included “tours of the Czech countryside, wine tasting, wild boar and mouflon (wild sheep) hunts, classic dance instruction and a masked costume ball.”

A secretary at Foster’s law firm said he is traveling in Argentina. The firm’s director of marketing, Mindee L. Mosher, said Foster was traveling and she would try to contact him. A woman answering a phone associated with Foster hung up when asked for comment.

Here’s a link to that 2006 article in the Post about Foster’s lavish trip to the Czech Republic.

This story is pretty much tailor-made for the Alex Jones types. How could Scalia’s death not be suspicious under these circumstances?

Secret society, ancient European order, refused his security detail, no medical examination, no autopsy.

It’s all very intriguing, but it mainly interests me for what it says about Scalia and the company he kept.

He wasn’t exactly a man of the people, was he?

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 25, 2016

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Antonin Scalia, Czech Republic, International Order of St. Hubertus | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans Are Breaking The Senate”: Imposing A Blockade On The Constitutional Process Itself

As I was making the news rounds this morning, I noticed a tweet from Vox’s Ezra Klein that said, simply, “The Republican Party is broken.” The five-word headline gave me pause – not because it was wrong, but because it occurred to me Ezra could have been referring to a variety of concurrent problems.

As it turns out, Ezra’s piece was about Donald Trump’s relative dominance thus far in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but I’ll confess that when I first saw “The Republican Party is broken,” one of my first thoughts went to developments in the GOP-led Senate.

Consider this Des Moines Register report published overnight.

A White House invitation for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley to discuss the current U.S. Supreme Current vacancy with President Barack Obama has so far gone unanswered.

Turning down the meeting would represent a break in protocol from two previous high court vacancies during Obama’s presidency, when the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee as well as the Senate majority and minority leaders attended Oval Office meetings.

Remember, it was just last week when Rachel sat down with Vice President Biden, and they talked about the process of confirming Supreme Court justices. He reflected on an anecdote from 1987 in which President Ronald Reagan, following the failure of two Supreme Court nominees, met with then-Sen. Biden in the Oval Office, asking, “OK, Joe, who do you want?” The Republican president pulled out a list of potential names and they had a conversation about the prospective justices.

When Rachel asked if we should expect something similar now, the vice president quickly responded that President Obama would absolutely “reach out” to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), among others, as part of a traditional advise-and-consent process.

But that only works if senators are willing to have a conversation.

“Early this week, we extended an invitation to Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Leahy to join President Obama in the Oval Office for a consultative meeting of filling the Supreme Court vacancy,” a senior White House official told the Des Moines Register. “We have not heard back from Chairman Grassley.”

I suspect for the Iowa Republican, the calculus is pretty straightforward: Grassley has no intention of ever doing his duty, so there’s no real point in going to the Oval Office to discuss whether or not Grassley is going to take his responsibilities seriously. He’s already decided not to.

But let’s recognize this for what it is: a scandal. For the first time in American history, a Senate majority party not only intends to leave a Supreme Court vacancy in place for a year, Republicans are also imposing a blockade on the constitutional process itself. As of yesterday, Grassley won’t talk to the president about potential justices, and at least five GOP senators – including the Senate Republican leadership – said they won’t even talk to the president’s nominee if he or she showed up at their offices for a visit.

Nothing like this has ever happened in the American experience. That’s not hyperbole; it’s a demonstrable fact. As Republican politics reach new levels of radicalization, the intensity of their maximalist tactics has arrived at an unprecedented and scary point.

The Republican Party may very well be broken, but just as alarming is the fact that the GOP is tearing the Senate down with it.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 25, 2016

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Chuck Grassley, Senate Republicans, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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