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“The Emptiest Of Suits”: Florida Gov. Scott Clueless In Lake Crisis

As a devastating deluge of polluted water darkens two coasts of Florida and threatens their tourist economies, Gov. Rick Scott is once again a flaky phantom.

Billions of gallons spiked with agricultural waste is being pumped daily from Lake Okeechobee toward the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, browning the blue coastal waters, choking sea grass beds and crippling small businesses that depend on a healthy marine ecology.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the discharges are necessary because the water in Lake Okeechobee is too high and the old Hoover dike is too weak. Gov. Scott says it’s all President Obama’s fault for not rebuilding the dike, which is absurd.

Scott, who aspires to be a U.S. senator, either has no clue how the appropriations process works, or he’ll simply say any brainless thing to duck responsibility.

A brief civics lesson for Florida’s dim and furtive governor: The president cannot write a check for major capital projects. Congress is in charge of funding, and Congress happens to be controlled by the Republicans.

Being a Republican himself, Scott should fly straight to Washington and persuade his colleagues to rebuild the lake dike and fund a flow-way to the Everglades for the excess water.

Why hasn’t that happened? One reason is that Scott has even less clout with Congress than he does in Tallahassee.

Currently, the state Legislature is gutting or discarding basically all of the governor’s major budget proposals, including a goofball request for a $250 million honey pot to lure private companies to the state.

Scott is the emptiest of suits. He’ll pop up whenever a new business opens, count the jobs and take credit for them. In times of crisis, though, he’s a spectral presence.

Privately, the governor is busy muscling special interests to bankroll his Senate run in 2018. Some of his biggest donors are the worst polluters of Lake O and the Everglades, so you can understand why he’s been hard to find lately.

Scott’s pals in Big Sugar have been back-pumping dirty water from their cane fields into the lake, which through Friday was being emptied into the St. Lucie River at a rate exceeding 2 billion gallons a day. The Army Corps says it will soon drop the daily flow to 1.2 billion gallons.

So far this year, more than 72 billion gallons has been expelled toward the Treasure Coast, ruining the salinity of the St. Lucie Estuary, chasing sea life from the Indian River Lagoon and creating a foul brown plume miles into the Atlantic.

The visual is repelling tourists who might otherwise be interested in fishing, swimming or paddle-boarding. This is also happening along the Gulf coast, where Lake O discharges gush from the Caloosahatchee River.

Under pressure from exasperated business owners and officials, Scott last week declared a state of emergency for St. Lucie, Martin and Lee counties, citing “extensive environmental harm” and “severe economic losses.”

The governor used the opportunity to bash Obama, calling out the president six times in a five-paragraph press release from his feeble Department of Environmental Protection.

Never once did Scott mention the Republican leaders of Congress, who have the power but not the enthusiasm to allocate the $800 million needed to repair the Lake O dike. If they put that item in a budget, Obama would sign it in a heartbeat.

The same is true for Everglades restoration. Showing zero sense of urgency, Congress continues to lag far behind on its commitment to share the costs 50-50 with the state.

Every year when it rains hard, an algae-spawning tide from Lake O is flushed toward the coastal bays and beaches. No president yet has stepped in to stop corporate farms from using the lake as their toilet, or stopped the Army Corps from opening the pump valves.

If Obama tried that, Big Sugar (and Scott) would scream bloody murder.

As for the governor’s “state of emergency,” it’s barely just a piece of paper. The agencies in charge are officially in “observation mode.” I’m not kidding.

TC Palm newspapers reported that the head of the state Division of Emergency Management was attending a conference in New Orleans last week. What better place than Bourbon Street from which to ponder Florida’s coastal pollution crisis?

Scott himself would benefit from spending time at the marinas or waterfront motels in Stuart, meeting the working people whose dreams are drowning in a flood of silt.

But this governor prefers upbeat media opportunities where he can talk about new jobs — not dying jobs. He’d much rather cut a ribbon at a gas station than hear from a boat captain who can no longer find any fish.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 8, 2016

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Environment, Florida Legislature, Rick Scott, Water Pollution | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Electoral Gamble”: Why Working-Class Whites Can’t Propel Donald Trump To Ultimate Victory

If there’s one thing we know for sure about Donald Trump, it’s that he’s a candidate for white people.

This would seem to be an almost insurmountable problem in an increasingly diverse America, but some are beginning to suspect — either with hope or fear, depending on whom you ask — that Trump could win a general election by pulling in large numbers of working-class white voters who are responding to his message of alienation, anger, and resentment. As The Wall Street Journal recently put it, “Trump’s success in attracting white, working-class voters is raising the prospect that the Republican Party, in an electoral gamble, could attempt to take an unexpected path to the White House that would run through the largely white and slow-to-diversify upper Midwest.”

Indeed, if Trump were to win the White House, this would seem to be the only way. But it’s not going to happen.

The idea rests on a number of misconceptions, the first of which is that there are millions of blue-collar whites who would otherwise have voted Democratic, but who will vote for Donald Trump instead. As Chris Matthews said in January, “I think there’s a lot of Reagan Democrats waiting to vote for him.” The “Reagan Democrats” to which he refers were Democrats who crossed party lines to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The problem with this belief is that the Reagan Democrats are gone. Where did they go? They became Republicans. The phenomenon of Reagan Democrats was largely about race, the continuation of a process that began when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Those socially conservative whites who had voted Democratic in the past shifted their allegiance, and they didn’t go back.

You can argue, and many people have, that the alienation of the Democratic Party from the white working class is a serious problem for them, and it’s part of what produces off-year defeats in years like 2010 and 2014. But because of the country’s changing demographics, the white working class becomes a smaller and smaller portion of the voting public with each election, particularly in presidential election years when turnout is higher across the board. That’s why Barack Obama could lose the white working class in 2012 by a staggering 26 points (62-36), and still win the election comfortably. So if you’re going to argue that Donald Trump will ride these voters to victory, you’d have to believe that he’d do not just better than Mitt Romney did with them, but hugely better, so much so that it would overcome the advantages the Democratic nominee will have with other voters.

Consider, for instance, the Latino vote. Mitt Romney won only 27 percent of Latinos in 2012, an abysmal performance that convinced many Republicans that if they didn’t “reach out” to this fast-growing segment of the electorate, they might be unable to win the White House any time soon. Latinos will be an even larger portion of the electorate this year than they were four years ago. Now think what will happen if Donald Trump, the man who made venomous antipathy toward immigrants one of the cornerstones of his campaign, becomes the GOP nominee. Not only would it be shocking if he got 20 percent of their votes, his nomination will almost certainly spur higher turnout among Latinos than we’ve ever seen before.

That’s another problem with the blue-collar whites theory of a Trump victory: It rests on the idea that he’d bring out large numbers of those voters who don’t vote often, but also requires that people opposed to Trump won’t be similarly motivated to turn out. “I find it just so implausible that we could have this massive white nativist mobilization without also provoking a big mobilization among minority voters,” political scientist Ruy Teixeira recently told The New Yorker. “It is kind of magical thinking that you could do one thing and not have the other.”

Now let’s talk about that Rust Belt. Even if you believe that Trump would do better in those states than recent Republicans have, it wouldn’t be enough unless he was absolutely crushing the Democrat everywhere. The reason is that Democrats start in an excellent position in the Electoral College. In 2012, President Obama won reelection with 332 electoral votes, a cushion of 62 more than he needed. That means that if the Democratic nominee can hold most of the states Obama won — including swing states heavy with Latinos, like Florida, New Mexico, and Colorado — she could lose Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), Ohio (18 votes), and Michigan (16 votes) and still be elected president.

I suspect that many people have been led to believe that Trump could ride white working-class votes to victory in the fall because he has performed particularly well with such voters in the Republican primaries. It only takes a moment to realize the problem with this logic. The people voting in Republican primaries are overwhelmingly, guess what, Republicans. Yes, there are Republican-leaning independents voting in those primaries, too, but they’re mostly people who call themselves independent but consistently vote Republican. They’re already in the GOP’s camp; Trump would need them, plus a whole lot more.

That’s not even to mention the moderate Republicans who are repulsed by Trump and would either vote for the Democrat, vote for a third-party candidate, or just stay home. Donald Trump’s problem in the general would be that he has all kinds of voters who will oppose him, and be highly motivated to do so; he is easily the most unpopular candidate in either party. He might pick up a few extra votes from those who respond to his nativism and race-baiting, yet used to vote for Democrats. But there just aren’t enough of them, and it won’t be anything approaching what he’d need to win.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, March 8, 2016

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, GOP Voters, White Working Class | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“The GOP Vulgarians”: On Track To Be The Crudest, Most Vulgar And Most Disgusting Campaign In Our Nation’s History

It was William J. Bennett, education secretary in the Reagan years and the Republican Party’s premier moralist, who embedded a phrase in the American consciousness when he bemoaned the fact that “our elites presided over an unprecedented coarsening of our culture.”

Well, to borrow another famous phrase, it is Bennett’s party and two of its presidential candidates in particular, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, who are merrily defining our politics, our discourse and the American presidency down. The 2016 Republican primary campaign is now on track to be the crudest, most vulgar and most thoroughly disgusting in our nation’s history.

A policy wonk who has spent nearly two decades in politics was watching Thursday’s GOP debate with his two teenage daughters and was horrified when one turned to him and asked: “Is this what you do?” The dad didn’t want to be named because he didn’t want to embarrass his daughters.

And Republican voters in Saturday’s contests sent a signal they, too, were turned off. Both Trump and Rubio underperformed, particularly in Maine’s caucuses and among voters who cast ballots on primary day in Louisiana.

In the state that’s home to Mardi Gras, Trump’s unexpectedly narrow three-point margin over Ted Cruz was built by early voters immune from any debate revulsion.

Call me old-fashioned or even a prig, but I have a rather elevated view of what politics can be and what it can achieve. For decades, in good political moments and bad, I have repaired for inspiration and comfort to the political philosopher Michael Sandel’s description of politics at its best. “When politics goes well,” he wrote, “we can know a good in common that we cannot know alone.”

In the GOP right now, it’s not going well.

You can place a lot of the responsibility for all this on Trump and, yes, the media. As I was writing this, MSNBC (for which I’ve worked over the years) and CNN were simultaneously broadcasting live the same Trump speech. Welcome to Trump State Television. Broadcasters have reveled in the ratings to be gained from airing Trump’s stream-of-consciousness (if politically effective) rants, and the coarser the better.

We might let the blame settle there, except that Rubio got frustrated. The man the party’s leaders keep saying is the real challenger to Trump despite his early difficulties in winning actual contests decided that to beat Trump, he had to join him.

Thus began his own rants that reached a low point when he declared of Trump during a rally last month in Virginia: “I don’t understand why his hands are the size of someone who’s 5’2. Have you seen his hands? They’re like this.” Here, Rubio held his thumb and fingers closely together to depict something very small indeed. He added: “And you know what they say about men with small hands.”

My naivete extends to the fact that I did not know that small hands are often equated to diminutive endowments elsewhere. But Trump, obviously more worldly than I, went all defensive at the debate, held out his arms and declared: “Look at those hands, are they small hands? And he referred to my hands — ‘if they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

Now we know.

Then there was Trump’s response earlier in the day to the attack on him by Mitt Romney. Trump had a point that Romney was happy to seek his endorsement in 2012 (and to ignore Trump’s birtherism and his other racially and religiously tinged comments about President Obama). But here is how Trump put the matter: “He was begging for my endorsement. I could have said, ‘Mitt, drop to your knees,’ and he would’ve dropped to his knees.”

We expect Trump to be loutish. Worse is Rubio’s refusal to take responsibility for the course he has chosen. Explaining that he would truly prefer to be talking about issues, Rubio went for the-devil-made-me-do-it defense. “But let’s be honest too about all this,” he explained. “The media has given these personal attacks that Donald Trump has made an incredible amount of coverage.”

Sure, he’s right about the media, but courageous politicians don’t blame someone else for what comes out of their own mouths.

By comparison, John Kasich and Cruz are looking almost as issue-oriented and responsible as, well, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But the whole Republican race is now a moral and electoral wreck, a state of affairs that one conservative after another mourned during and after Thursday’s encounter.

Saturday’s voters quietly joined the chorus of dismay and rewarded Cruz and, to a lesser degree, Kasich.

Scattered primary results are almost always over-read, and Cruz’s Kansas victory was primarily a tribute to the influence of conservative evangelicals who delivered the state to Rick Santorum in 2012 and Mike Huckabee in 2008.

But the gap between early voters and the far more pro-Cruz primary day voters in Louisiana speaks to a shift in sentiments. And Kasich ran ahead of Rubio in Maine, which Cruz also won, and was behind in Kentucky by only two points, a surprisingly small deficit. Rubio’s attacks on Trump seem to have been a double-edged political sword: He wounded the front-runner but also hurt himself.

For decades, conservatives have done a great business assailing liberals for promoting cultural decay. Sorry, guys, but in this campaign, you have kicked away the franchise.

 

By: E. J. Dionne Jr, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 8, 2016

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Consequences Of Republican Obstruction”: We Need To Be Clear About Why Our Politics Is Broken Right Now

One of my favorite writers – Leonard Pitts – has weighed in on the topic du jour these days for pundits: what led to the rise of Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary. He starts off with a quote from former Republican Senator George Voinovich: “If he was for it, we had to be against it.” That was the beginning of the Republican strategy against the newly elected President back in 2009.

The popular storyline goes that voters are seeking political outsiders this year in their frustration over a government where the legislative gears are frozen and nothing gets done. What that storyline forgets is that this gridlock was by design, that GOP leaders held a meeting on the very evening of the president’s first inauguration and explicitly decided upon a policy of non-cooperation to deny him anything approaching a bipartisan triumph…

Republicans and their media accomplices buttressed that strategy with a campaign of insult and disrespect designed to delegitimize Obama. With their endless birther stupidity, their death panels idiocy, their constant budget brinksmanship and their cries of, “I want my country back!” they stoked in the public nothing less than hatred for the interloper in the White House who’d had the nerve to be elected president.

And the strategy worked, hobbling and frustrating Obama. But as a bullet doesn’t care who it hits and a fire doesn’t care who it burns, the forces of ignorance and unreason, grievance and fear the Republicans calculatedly unleashed have not only wounded the president. No, it becomes more apparent every day that those forces have gravely wounded politics itself, meaning the idea that we can — or even should — reason together, compromise, form consensus.

Of course I agree with Pitts because I wrote basically the same thing recently. Just as it is critical for a doctor to accurately diagnose a disease in order to effectively treat it, we need to be clear about why our politics is broken right now in order to craft effective solutions.

One way to test the diagnosis Pitts has articulated is to think about what happened prior to the 2010 midterm elections – when Democrats had control of both houses of Congress – and afterwards. In the first 2 years of the Obama presidency, he and the Democrats managed to pass:

1. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
2. The Affordable Care Act
3. The Dodd-Frank Act
4. Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
5. The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act
6. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
7. The Fair Sentencing Act
8. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act
9. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act
10. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act

That’s a pretty impressive list for just two years, isn’t it? When you compare it to how little has been accomplished in the last 5 1/2 years, the contrast is astounding. The comparison is even more stark when you look at what the two Parties have been doing over those years. While the Republicans have spent most of their time trying to repeal Obamacare and threatening to blow up the economy if they don’t get their way, President Obama and the Democrats have put forward a list of policy proposals that have been either ignored or actively obstructed by the Republicans.

1. Comprehensive immigration reform
2. The American Jobs Act
3. Universal pre-K
4. Raise the minimum wage
5. Paid family/sick leave
6. Free community college
7. Gun background checks
8. Criminal justice reform
9. Restoration of the Voting Rights Act

As a thought experiment, it’s interesting to contemplate what might have happened over these last few years if either the Democrats had maintained their majorities in Congress and/or if the Republicans had taken the advice of people like David Frum and actually attempted to negotiate solutions.

There are voices out there who diagnose our political situation differently than the analysis above from Leonard Pitts. Some in the media are particularly fond of the “both sides do it” mythology. As we’ve seen, Bernie Sanders comes close to embracing that idea with his analysis that the entire political process is rigged by big money – both Republicans and Democrats. While money in politics plays a role, it is clear that Democrats have an agenda to address the challenges we face and Republicans have cast their lot with fanning the flames of fear/anger in order to obstruct progress. The consequences of that decision by the GOP are that: progress has been halted, the stage was set for a Donald Trump candidacy and our political system has been gravely wounded.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 8, 2916

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Obstructionism, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Not A Single Senate Endorsement: Even Now, Senate Republicans Still Don’t Like Ted Cruz

When it comes to endorsements from Senate Republicans, the current tally has to sting a little for Ted Cruz. Aside from the two sitting GOP senators who are still in the race, there are 52 Republicans in the chamber – 14 of them have backed Marco Rubio, while Donald Trump and John Kasich have just one endorsement each.

Ted Cruz, who’s worked alongside his Republican colleagues for a few years, has zero.

Shortly before the Iowa caucuses, Trump made this dynamic a part of his message. “Think about it, not endorsed by one United States Senator and he works with them every day,” Trump said of Cruz. He added, “Not one Republican senator. How do you do that? How do you run a country that way? … The guy doesn’t have any endorsements.”

Yesterday, however, National Review published a report that captured quite a bit of attention, noting that the endorsement race would soon be jolted.

With the prospect of Donald Trump’s nomination looming over the GOP, Cruz is set to unveil endorsements from more than four senators this week, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

This, naturally, prompted quite a bit of chatter about which Senate Republicans would back Cruz and what effect it’d have on the race. Late yesterday, however, National Review updated its piece:

An earlier post stated that Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign was set to unveil a series of endorsements from Cruz’s fellow senators. The report was erroneous. As of this writing, the campaign has no pending Senate endorsements to announce.

As of this morning, National Review has revised the piece once again.

With the prospect of Donald Trump’s nomination looming over the GOP, Cruz is set to unveil a slew of endorsements – at least one from a Senate colleague – as early as this week, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Whether or not the piece will be updated again is anyone’s guess, but as of this minute, that’s what it says.

For what it’s worth, the actual answer to the question about Cruz’s Senate support is more than just trivia. It’s no secret that Senate Republicans detest their Texas colleague – Lindsey Graham recently joked, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you” – and they’ve directed their endorsements elsewhere for a reason.

If, however, GOP senators started to see Cruz as a credible, competitive rival to Donald Trump, and they started endorsing him at this key point in the race, it would send a powerful signal about the direction of the overall race and the steps the party might be willing to take to derail their own frontrunner.

As things stand, yesterday’s reporting about Cruz’s sudden popularity among his own colleagues was apparently wrong. Senate Republicans still hate Trump, but as it turns out, they still hate Cruz, too.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 8, 2016

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Presidential Candidates, Senate Republicans | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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