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“Good Old Conservative Days Fading?”: Regardless of Republican Obstruction, The Supreme Court Is Already Changing

If Republicans have their way, it might be a long time before another Supreme Court Justice joins the bench. But Dahlia Lithwick documents all the ways the Court is already changing in the short time since Antonin Scalia’s death in an article titled: The Conservative Era is Over.

* As she wrote previously, the women took over during oral arguments on an abortion case.

* A unanimous order affirming the right of same-sex partners to adopt children and the tossing of a death penalty conviction in Louisiana.

* “Friday’s unsigned order allowing several abortion clinics in Louisiana to reopen their doors, following an emergency decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that would have shuttered all but one clinic in that state.”

* Embattled Justices Thomas and Alito have formed an alliance of two as a bulwark against “the path set out by their six colleagues.”

* There’s also “a growing sense among conservative interest groups and litigation shops that the good times and rich bounty of the old Roberts court are no longer on offer and that it may be better to cut and run than stick around and lose.” That includes a recent settlement by Dow Chemical in their major anti-trust appeal and the fact that a key gun rights group opted to drop its challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE Act.

Lithwick draws this conclusion from what she’s seen so far:

Expect a lot more weirdness and subtle signaling from the court as the term rolls on. An institution that never wished to be an election issue has become one. What might have once been routine orders have now turned into a complex game of reputation management. Whether it’s the chief justice trying to appear apolitical, the conservative justices trying to fly the flag of ideology, or the liberals making hay while the sun briefly shines, nothing at the court these days is exactly what it appears to be, and it appears it will be that way for a while.

As public pressure on Republican Senators ramps up against their obstruction strategy and the prospect of Donald Trump as the party’s presidential nominee portends the potential loss of their Senate majority, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to justify their position. If the trends Lithwick identified continue, you can add to that the specter of an increasingly liberalized Supreme Court.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 9, 2016

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Obstructionism, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Tragedy Of Marco Rubio — And The Republican Party”: The Entire Story Of This Period In The History Of The GOP

Marco Rubio’s campaign for president isn’t dead yet, but it’s awfully close. In last night’s primaries he didn’t just do poorly — coming in a distant third place in Idaho and Hawaii, and an even worse fourth place in Michigan and Mississippi — he also failed to win a single delegate in any of the four states.

Today, Carly Fiorina endorsed Ted Cruz, making it sound as if there is no other alternative choice if Donald Trump is to be beaten. Rubio’s odds of becoming president in 2016 are now about the same as the odds I have of replacing Steph Curry in the Golden State Warriors’ starting lineup. Could it happen? Technically, yes; there’s certainly no law against it. But it’s unlikely.

Rubio’s fall is more than just the story of a promising politician who failed to do as well as he (and many others) hoped. In fact, it’s the entire story of this period in the history of the Republican Party, distilled down to a single politician.

It might be hard to remember now, at a time when so many of those in the Republican establishment support Rubio, but when he first got elected to the Senate in 2010, he was a rebel and a Tea Party darling. He took on then-governor Charlie Crist in the Republican primary for a Senate seat from Florida, moving so far ahead of him in the polls that Crist dropped out and became an independent. When he got to the Senate, that establishment embraced him — just as they embraced the Tea Party as a whole, choosing to feed the beast and make it even more vicious, not realizing that one day it would turn on them.

The GOP saw its future in Rubio. Young, smart, articulate, Hispanic, he was a new kind of Republican who could sell conservatism to a changing America. The buzz around Rubio intensified after the party lost another election behind another rich older white guy in 2012. At the beginning of 2013, Time magazine put him on its cover over the headline “The Republican Savior.” The accompanying article is extraordinary to read, given where Rubio is today. Here’s an excerpt:

Now, just two years after he arrived in Washington, the charismatic conservative often hailed as the Tea Party’s answer to Barack Obama has emerged as the most influential voice in the national debate over immigration reform. He’s also the key player in his party’s efforts to make up to Hispanic voters after a disastrous 2012 campaign featuring Republican candidates who proposed electric fences and alligators along the southern border, as well as Mitt Romney’s suggestion of “self-deportation” for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. GOP leaders know they have a demographic problem. They hope Rubio can help provide the solution, which is why they’ve chosen him to deliver the response to Obama’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12 — in English and Spanish.

Party leaders agreed that unless Congress passed comprehensive immigration reform, they could never convince Hispanics of their good faith. For Rubio, being part of the “Gang of 8″ was an opportunity to show he could be a real legislator and accomplish something important for the country and his party. That summer, the group passed its bill through the Senate, then sent it to the House, where it died.

And what was supposed to be a triumph for Rubio turned into a nightmare. Conservative talk radio declared him a traitor — both for advocating comprehensive reform that included a path to citizenship (albeit a long one) for undocumented immigrants, and for the very fact of working with Democrats on something, and he was all but excommunicated from the Tea Party. Both he and the GOP establishment realized that what was good for the party as a whole wasn’t necessarily what individual elected officials (particularly in the House) wanted or could tolerate. And they came to appreciate the full measure of the base’s anger at immigrants. It turned out that rank-and-file Republicans not only didn’t want comprehensive reform, they wanted just the opposite: build walls, crack down, throw the foreigners out. Forget about “reaching out” to minority groups — this party is whiter than ever.

So when Rubio decided to run for president, he made contempt for President Obama one of the themes of his campaign. Everywhere he went, he talked about Obama’s villainy. In every debate, Rubio would answer any question by immediately launching a blistering criticism of Obama, whether the question had anything to do with him or not. That “robotic” moment where he kept repeating himself even after Chris Christie mocked him for repeating himself? The message he was trying to communicate (“Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing”) was that Obama isn’t just a failure but is intentionally destroying the country.

Yet just mimicking the rhetoric of talk radio wasn’t enough — for Rubio, or for the party itself. He couldn’t escape his brief heresy on “amnesty.” No matter how he tried, he couldn’t be anti-establishment enough. And no argument about how good he looks on paper as a general election candidate would sway voters who want the primaries to be a primal scream of rage against not just Washington and not just Obama but against the Republican Party itself.

Whatever his talents, the party’s golden boy can’t be the vehicle for that rage. Rubio may have many more endorsements than any other candidate — 5 governors, 14 senators, and 48 members of the House — but that probably hurt him as much as helped him, by reinforcing the idea that he’s the one the party leaders want. In the end, the candidate who worked so hard to present himself as serious and knowledgeable was reduced to making fun of the size of another candidate’s hands. Like the party as a whole, he had no idea how to handle Donald Trump, and nothing he tried seemed to work.

To be clear, Republican voters don’t dislike Rubio. In fact, he still gets higher approval ratings than Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, both of whom are crushing him at the ballot box (see here or here). He’s just not what those voters want right now. He probably would be the most formidable general election candidate. But Republican voters don’t seem to care. If the price of expressing their anger is that the Republican nominee loses in November, they seem okay with that. So as the party gets torn to pieces, the young man in a hurry who was supposed to be its savior is just one more casualty.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 9, 2016

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Establishment Republicans, GOP, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“How The GOP Stupidly Enabled A Donald Trump ‘Comeback'”: GOP Anti-Trumpers Lack The Credibility To Make The Kill

Remember when Donald Trump was losing?

If you blinked, you might have missed it.

It started during last Thursday’s debate, continued through the muddled results of Saturday’s caucuses and primaries, and lasted until, oh, around the time that news outlets began calling Mississippi for Trump a few minutes after the polls closed in the state on Tuesday night.

Now that Trump’s march to the nomination appears to be back on track with decisive victories in Michigan, Mississippi, and Hawaii, it’s worth pausing for a moment to assess just what went wrong with the #NeverTrump movement. Why has it done so little to alter the shape of the race? How has Trump managed to stay on top through the unrelenting critical coverage of the past week?

A good part of the answer lies in the distinctive defects of the messengers. In just about every case, those leading the charge against Trump lack the credibility to make the kill.

Let’s begin with Trump’s opponents in the race for the GOP nomination.

For two endless, sordid hours last Thursday night, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz tag-teamed with the three Fox News debate moderators in laying into Trump. They were merciless. By the time it was over, Trump looked like an incompetent, vulgarian huckster whose renegade presidential campaign may well pose a dire threat to the republic.

Yet when Rubio and Cruz were asked at the conclusion of the debate if they would support Trump in the event that he secured the party’s nomination, both of them outed themselves as unprincipled Republican Party hacks by answering, astonishingly, yes.

In those 30 seconds, two hours of damage was undone. After all, how bad could Trump really be if both of his antagonists wouldn’t hesitate to rally to his side and work to see him prevail in a battle against Hillary Clinton?

A similar bit of self-sabotage was at work in Mitt Romney’s historic speech ripping Trump to shreds earlier that day. It was an extraordinarily powerful statement, and unlike anything we’ve ever seen before: The Republican standard-bearer from just four years ago excoriating the present-day frontrunner of his own party.

But the moment one’s attention drifted from the message — Trump is a fraud and a phony — to the messenger, the cognitive dissonance became too much to bear. As everyone knows, when Romney was governor of Massachusetts he signed into law the direct forerunner of the Affordable Care Act — and then ran a presidential campaign devoted to denouncing the federal version of the law as nothing less than the advent of tyranny in America.

Which seems like pretty compelling evidence that Romney himself must have been at least a little bit of a fraud and a phony at one of those past moments.

Then there are the sour memories of Romney’s ostentatiously oligarchic 2012 campaign — with its denigration of 47 percent of the country as moochers, obsequious praise of entrepreneurs, brittle defenses of Bain Capital’s role in sowing creative destruction, and talk of car elevators, dressage, and other perks of life among the richest of the rich.

How likely was it that Trump’s angry white working-class voters were going to be moved by an appeal made by such a man? No wonder it seems to have backfired.

Finally, Trump has also come in for severe criticism from “members of the Republican national security community,” several dozen of whom have signed a hotly worded “open letter” that culminates in the claim that Trump is singularly “unfitted” to serve as commander-in-chief.

They’re certainly right about that. The only problem is that nearly every one of the 117 people who have (so far) signed the letter supported the disastrous Iraq War, most of them favored the military intervention in Libya that has led to similarly ruinous consequences, and many have sharply criticized President Obama for failing to commit more forcefully to arming and defending so-called (and exceedingly difficult to detect) “moderate” rebel groups in the Syrian civil war.

These are the people judging Donald Trump unfit to serve as commander-in-chief of the armed forces?

Let’s just say that their opinions would carry somewhat more weight had they not repeatedly demonstrated over the past decade and half that they possess consistently poor judgment in matters of foreign affairs.

These were the anti-Trump messengers of the past week — the week when Trump started losing. And then started winning again.

The really surprising thing is that anyone was surprised.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, March 9, 2016

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Some Caveats Are In Order”: The Missing Details From Bernie Sanders’ General-Election Pitch

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Master Media Manipulator”: It’s The Donald Trump Show, And The Media Are Nothing More Than Players

I wrote earlier about the peculiar spectacle Tuesday night of Donald Trump giving a 45-minute infomercial for his product lines, but I think it’s also worth noting how his post-primary press conferences illustrate his genius for media manipulation.

Two things specifically stuck out at me watching these performances. The first was that he stacks the first few rows of these events with his friends and supporters. And being a friendly audience, they eat up his shtick – laughing at his jokes and cheering on cue. For the casual viewer who doesn’t know any better, it might seem like he’s giving a “press conference” to an adoring media (as opposed to, say, a victory speech in front of supporters where crowd enthusiasm would be more expected).

Combine that with the second thing that has stuck out to me: When he gets around to taking questions, only he is mic’d up – you cannot hear his interlocutors’ questions. This gives him a couple of advantages. First, he can, at minimum, answer the question he wants to rather than the one asked, or he can go further, and on a rolling basis, screen out or ignore questions he doesn’t like. So Tuesday night, an NBC reporter reportedly – of course, TV viewers couldn’t hear the question – asked Trump about his verbal vulgarity and how parents should explain his language to their children. Trump didn’t like the question, so he didn’t answer it. Instead (perhaps taking a page from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s bullying playbook) he derided the reporter: “Oh, you’re so politically correct, you’re so beautiful. Oh, look at you – aww, he’s so – oh I know you’ve never heard a little bad, a little off-language. I know, you’re so perfect. Aren’t you perfect? Aren’t you just a perfect young man. Give me a break. You know what? It’s stuff like that that people in this country are tired of. It’s stuff like that.”

What was the question? All viewers got was Trump the Dominant ridiculing a reporter while the rest of the audience at this “press conference” laughed along. It’s Trump’s show, and the reporters become muted bit players abetting him.

Of course that doesn’t even get at their bosses, the “cable news” execs who carry his every utterance as if he actually were the president. (And does any other politician get to phone in interviews as much as Trump, rather than having to get in front of a camera?) Look, I get that Trump has some entertainment value and that his unscripted nature means that you never know what is going to pop out of his mouth at any time. But there’s got to be some sense of balance and/or responsibility. Fox, CNN and MSNBC gave Trump 45 minutes in prime time. As Politico’s Hadas Gold noted Tuesday night, “Forty five minutes of uninterrupted TV time on the three cable news networks is the equivalent of millions of dollars in free media for a campaign – a stunning amount of TV time.”

And he gets it routinely, because he’s a master of manipulating the media.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report, March 9, 2016

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Media, Reporters | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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