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“Worse Than Useless”: Emergencies Causing Problems For The Do-Nothing Speaker

At the New Republic David Dayen has an appropriately scathing appraisal of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s accomplishments this year. He famously cannot get a budget resolution passed. He’s done nothing on the list of priorities he announced when he took up the gavel. But beyond those failures, he can’t even deal with emergencies, including the Puerto Rico debt crisis, the Zika crisis, the Flint water-poisoning disaster, and the opioid epidemic.

To Dayen, that makes Ryan worse than useless, because “[t]he basic test of governance is the ability to respond to rapidly changing events.” This may be true in theory, but the entire premise of Ryan’s accession to the Speakership is that he’d place “governance” on hold until November, despite a Potemkin village semblance of “regular order” and other legislative activity. Here’s how I put it back in December:

What Boehner, McConnell, and Ryan in turn appear to have accomplished is to convince conservative activist groups and the members of Congress who listen to them to become satisfied with an apocalypse later rather than an apocalypse now. Ryan will get the lion’s share of praise as some sort of party-unifying genius, but it’s the promise of a postelection conservative ideological feeding frenzy that’s really done the trick. If Republicans pull off the POTUS/House/Senate trifecta next year, then the kind of policies now considered “divisive” when pushed against the resistance of Senate filibusters or presidential vetoes will then be noncontroversial.

And so, all the controversial stuff was dumped out of a continuing appropriation and tax extender package (the so-called “taxibus”) that ensured the federal government would continue to function until the end of the fiscal year (conveniently near Election Day), with the gamble being that divisions over what to do with a Democratic president might soon be moot.

But this do-nothing plan didn’t take emergencies into account, and thus emergencies are hanging fire for Ryan.

He will presumably muddle his way through, but the steadily darkening prospects for any sort of Republican mega-win in November is making all the signatories to this implicit deal uneasy. And if things go south on Election Day, so will Ryan’s reputation:

If, on the other hand, the GOP loses the presidency and/or the Senate, then the party could be back to where it was when Boehner was Speaker, and Paul Ryan won’t necessarily be any better at dealing with frustrated right-wingers.

The difference is that Ryan may be exposed as a fraud, which is not what he had in mind when he agreed to take the gavel.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 22, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | Emergency Resolutions, Federal Budget, Governing, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GOP Convention Chaos”: The Next Three Months Will Be Awful For Republicans — And Good For Democrats

Three months from now, on July 18, the Republican Party will open its convention in Cleveland, to be followed a week later by the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. A lot is going to happen in those three months.

But it’s not too early to predict that most of it is going to be good for the Democrats and bad for the Republicans.

At this point in the campaign, both parties have a straightforward, though by no means easy, set of tasks. They each want to get their nomination settled, unify and motivate their own voters, and start making their case to the broader electorate that will vote in the general election. Democrats will have an easier time on all counts.

While we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the upcoming primaries, at the moment we can say that Hillary Clinton will almost certainly have the Democratic nomination wrapped up by the end of the primaries in June. Donald Trump, on the other hand, may or may not have the Republican nomination in hand at that point. Right now FiveThirtyEight’s projections show Clinton running at 108 percent of what she needs to meet her target for the nomination, while they have Trump at 95 percent of what he needs, meaning he could well fall short.

The possibility that he won’t win 1,237 delegates, triggering a contested convention with multiple votes, is consuming the Republican Party (and the media) right now. That means that all of the discussion on the Republican side is about the process, with Trump complaining about unfairness, Ted Cruz supporters talking about their plan to snatch the nomination on the second or third vote, and everyone speculating madly about the drama that will ensue in Cleveland.

And what are the consequences of that discussion? The first is that it prevents Republicans from talking about issues. This came up earlier this week when Ted Cruz was being interviewed by Sean Hannity, who asked Cruz about his efforts to persuade delegates to shift their votes on a second or third ballot. Cruz responded: “Sean, with all respect, that’s not what people are concerned about,” and tried to shift the discussion back to issues. Hannity was having none of it: “I’m asking you more than a process question, it’s an integrity of the election question, and everybody is asking me this question.” That’s a microcosm of the entire Republican race at this point.

There’s some of that kind of talk on the Democratic side, but not nearly as much. Which means that while Clinton and Bernie Sanders are talking about issues — which can at least in theory win more voters to the Democratic cause — voters only see Republicans consumed by these process questions.

That’s not to mention the fact that the process argument serves to divide Republicans, stoking longstanding resentments and making Trump supporters dislike Cruz and Cruz supporters dislike Trump. The debate on the Democratic side, even if it highlights some differences between Clinton and Sanders, still reminds Democratic voters of what they all have in common and what differentiates them from Republicans, while the debate on the Republican side only deepens their internal divisions.

Don’t be surprised if in the coming days you hear Hillary Clinton talking much more like a general election candidate, reaching out to all voters and contrasting herself with Donald Trump. She’s already shifting to unifying rhetoric; in her victory speech last night, she said, “To all the people who supported Senator Sanders: I believe there is much more that unites us than divides us” (though she also repeated her now oft-used line about how identifying problems is not enough, you also have to propose solutions, which is a jab at Sanders).

So while Trump is complaining about being treated unfairly and predicting chaos in Cleveland, Clinton can talk to voters about raising the minimum wage, supporting clean energy, reforming immigration, and a whole range of other issues where the Democratic position is more popular than the Republican one.

And she’ll have help: Priorities USA, the most well-funded Democratic super PAC, is planning on spending $90 million on broadcast ads and another $35 million on online ads promoting Clinton in swing states over the summer. My guess is that they’ll spend a lot of that money reinforcing people’s negative opinions of Trump, to make it harder for him to pivot away from everything he’s said in the primaries in order to present a friendlier face for the general election.

Even little things, like the selection of a running mate, will probably work to Clinton’s advantage. Though that choice doesn’t have a profound effect on the final outcome of the race, Clinton will get a few days of positive news coverage out of her selection, with stories all about this person filled with admiring quotes from Democrats.

Republicans, on the other hand, may not even know who their vice presidential nominee is until the convention, if Trump hasn’t secured the nomination before then. The selection will then happen in the middle of all the convention’s chaos, so it won’t be the media’s sole focus for any length of time. And call me crazy, but I’m guessing Donald Trump isn’t going to pick a running mate whom everyone will agree is a terrific choice.

Nothing is guaranteed, of course. Trump could do better than he’s currently projected to and secure the nomination before the convention, and everyone in the GOP might quickly rally around him. There could be some unexpected event, in the world or on the campaign trail, that changes the race’s agenda in the Republicans’ favor. But from the perspective of today, it looks like the next few months are going to be a rough period for the Republicans, in ways that make winning the general election even harder than it already was.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, April 20, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | Democratic National Convention, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Trump’s Fabricated New Image”: The New Trump Took Less Than Two Weeks To Fabricate

If authenticity is your calling card, how do you become authentically inauthentic?

Welcome to the New Donald Trump, a marvel of the Twitter-Cable-Facebook Non-Industrial Complex and the age of minuscule attention spans.

It took Richard Nixon prodigious feats of hard work between 1962 and 1968 to create the New Nixon who got himself into the White House. But in an era when “brand” is both a noun and a verb and when “curating” is the thing to do, why should it surprise us that the New Trump took less than two weeks to fabricate?

After the wild, undisciplined and offensive period leading up to his April 5 loss in the Wisconsin primary to Ted Cruz, Trump decided he needed to curate his brand big time.

Shoved aside were key staffers, including his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who had reveled in the, shall we say, forceful approach to politics that was supposed to be part of Trump’s authenticity. Trump is trying to banish offensive talk about women, the gratuitous fights with television anchors, the uninformed comments about abortion.

Trump is going as establishment as he can. He’s even forgoing opportunities to hawk his product line, including Trump-blessed slabs of red meat, on primary nights. He bizarrely indulged in this in early March after his victories in Michigan and Mississippi.

Trump’s restrained victory speech Tuesday night after his New York primary blowout led Bloomberg News’s John Heilemann to offer an eloquent three-word obituary on “Morning Joe” for the Old Trump: “No Steaks Sold.”

But any doubts about The Donald deciding that being himself is overrated are erased by a visit to what has been sacred Trumpian space, his Twitter account. Consider this message that crossed my screen at 8:42 a.m. Wednesday: “Ted Cruz is mathematically out of winning the race. Now all he can do is be a spoiler, never a nice thing to do. I will beat Hillary!”

What’s shockingly extraordinary about this was how thoroughly ordinary it was. “Mathematically” is not an adverb we are accustomed to seeing from @realDonaldTrump. The Trump Show’s recurring villain, Lyin’ Ted, was gone, replaced by a boring guy named Ted Cruz.

So jarring was this cast change to many of the 7.7 million of us who faithfully follow Trump’s Twitter drama that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, senior campaign adviser, appeared on CNN’s “New Day” to offer comforting words. “I wouldn’t be too sure to erase that,” she said of “Lyin’ Ted,” using language suggesting that Trump is trying to “erase” a lot of other things. She added: “My guess is it’ll still pop up from time to time.” Happy day.

Her efforts to reassure the fans may have been the most significant post-New York pronouncement from Team Trump, which has simultaneously created a long-running, highly rated TV show — it might be called “Celebrity Candidate” — and manufactured a durable niche product.

The campaign must know that altering a story line abruptly in the middle of a television season unsettles viewers who hate to see their favorite themes ditched. Changing a well-known brand is risky business because customers start thinking that their preferences are being ignored.

Many devotees of “The Good Wife” never recovered from the murder of Will Gardner, the tough lawyer/love interest played by Josh Charles, who disappeared from the show. The New Trump may prove to be as problematic a commercial gambit as New Coke was three decades ago.

It’s true that the Trump product is lucky enough to be in a space where the competition is weak. Cruz may yet bump up his market share when the race moves to Indiana and California, but his negatives rival Trump’s. John Kasich can be appealing, but in a goofy way, and he is selling a moderate spirit to a GOP customer base whose dominant preference is ferociousness.

But there is another major brand to worry about, Hillary Clinton, who immensely strengthened her hand in the Democratic race with a 16-point victory over Bernie Sanders in New York.

It’s practically written into the news scripts that Clinton has an authenticity problem. The paradox, as one Clinton partisan argued to me recently, is that she has been unwilling to go full-bore in competing with Sanders’s visionary big offers because she just doesn’t believe that’s the way the world works. She can’t be anything but a practical pragmatist, this supporter insisted, and that’s how she’ll run.

It would be a lovely irony if the retooled, restrained, professionalized New Trump made the same-as-always Clinton into the true representative of authenticity.

 

By: E. J. Dionne Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 20, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“An Acknowledgment Of Where We’ve Been”: Tubman’s Twenty Moves Us Closer To A More Perfect Union

The journey toward a more perfect union was quickened with the announcement that Harriet Tubman, abolitionist, Union spy and activist for women’s suffrage, will grace the front of the $20 bill. The Tubman twenty will be unveiled in 2020, timed to honor the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

She will be the first woman on U.S. paper currency in more than a century and the first black American ever. That a black woman who was born a slave will be given such a prominent commemoration is a testament to American exceptionalism, a reminder of the nation’s slow and erratic but continuing march toward a more just version of itself.

Not all Americans see it that way, of course. Some are already grumbling about the demotion of Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, to the back of the bill. (Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren has called the change “stupid.”) Others insist that the Treasury has simply caved to an ill-conceived political correctness. (Donald Trump claims that’s the case.) A few will venture commentary that has no place in polite society.

Indeed, the announcement of a revamped and more-inclusive currency comes at a fascinating time in our politics, a time when a sizable portion of the electorate is roiled by anger, agitation and fear. While some of that anxiety has its roots in economic uncertainty, much of it — especially among the supporters of Trump’s presidential bid — has its foundation in a deep-seated resentment of the nation’s changing demographics.

It’s no accident that Trump — who is among the “birthers” who insist President Barack Obama is not an American — leads the Republican presidential field while denouncing Mexican immigrants and denigrating Muslims. There is a substantial minority of white American voters who are threatened by the loss of numerical advantage, furious over the election of a black president, and resentful of the growing racial and ethnic diversity in American life.

Trump and his supporters have dominated the political narrative in this election season and ignited a civil war inside the Republican Party. They have panicked the Republican establishment. They have set off alarm bells in faraway capitals.

Yet, the racially intolerant are losing the battle for primacy in the American story. They no longer dominate the nation’s culture or mythology, as the changes in the currency illustrate.

Last year, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew invited the public to comment on his decision to recast a paper bill to feature a woman. Of the 15 women suggested by the activist group Women on 20s, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks, Tubman received the most votes.

A genuine American hero, she deserves the honor. As a young woman, she escaped the Maryland plantation that had enslaved her, and then made several trips back to assist others. Over a little more than a decade, she helped around 70 enslaved men and women find their way to freedom, traveling by night, using ingenious disguises and employing the hideouts established by the Underground Railroad.

She became an outspoken advocate for abolition, and when the Civil War broke out, she worked first as a cook and a nurse, and later as a scout and spy for the Union Army. After the war ended, she moved to a home she had purchased in upstate New York and campaigned for women’s suffrage.

Giving her prominence on the $20 bill forces the nation to acknowledge its original sin, slavery, as does demoting Jackson, a slaveowner. An accurate history further notes that the seventh president was notorious for his brutal treatment of native Americans, whom he forcibly removed from their lands. From now on, it will be difficult for history texts to ignore Tubman or to venerate Jackson.

Lew plans other changes, as well. A depiction of a 1913 march for women’s suffrage will be added to the back of the $10 bill, as will portraits of leaders of that movement. Images of Marian Anderson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt will be added to the back of the $5 bill.

That’s as it should be. The journey toward a more perfect union demands an acknowledgment of where we’ve been.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; Featured Post, The National Memo, April 23, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | American Exceptionalism, Harriet Tubman, Women's Suffrage Movement | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Super Scapegoats”: Sorry Bernie Supporters, Superdelegates Aren’t The Reason Sanders Is Losing To Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders’ supporters seem to be getting their guy confused with Donald Trump.

It’s true that both are anti-establishment candidates and native New Yorkers; but despite what some Bern-ers seem to think, only one of them has a legitimate case to complain about the system potentially robbing them of the nomination or distorting the will of the people. Spoiler alert: It’s not Bernie Sanders.

Trump, the putative GOP front-runner, has been complaining for weeks about the intricate rules of the Republican Party nominating process, mostly because he apparently never gave them much thought and is now distraught to realize Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign not only did but is using them to maximum advantage. (Trump’s complaint about the unfairness of a rigged system is rich coming from someone who brags about “taking advantage” of bankruptcy laws and worked the system to get 9/11 recovery money intended for small businesses.)

As a result of the Trump campaign’s political malpractice, conventional wisdom for some weeks has held that a contested convention is plausible-to-likely (see Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell describing himself over the weekend as “increasingly optimistic” about the scenario coming to pass), with Trump seen as a dead candidate walking if he can’t secure the nomination on the first ballot. He will almost certainly go into Cleveland as the leader in delegates and (of symbolic importance) votes. So make what you will of Trump’s complaints – whether you think he was robbed or should have known the rules – he’ll have legitimate grounds to complain.

The same can’t be said for Team Sanders: As I noted last week, there’s simply no metric by which he is winning the race for the Democratic nomination. Here’s The Washington Post’s Philip Bump summarizing the state of play:

In fact, by every possible democratic measure, Clinton is winning. She’s winning in states (and territories) won … She’s winning in the popular vote by 2.4 million votes – more than a third more than Sanders has in total. In part that’s because Sanders is winning lower-turnout caucuses, but it’s mostly because he’s winning smaller states. And she’s winning with both types of delegates.

The types of delegates in question are pledged – those won in primaries – and superdelegates, the party’s official free agents who can support whomever they see fit. Setting aside the supers, Clinton holds a roughly 200-delegate lead over Sanders among delegates earned at the ballot box. That means, per NBC News, that Sanders must win 57 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to hold a majority of that group. Keep in mind that to date, he’s won roughly 46 percent of the pledged delegates (and that from only 42 percent of the raw votes), per FiveThirtyEight’s David Wasserman, so in order to pass her in pledged delegates, Sanders would have to start performing dramatically better than he has thus far. It’s true that Sanders has won seven of the last eight contests, but all states are not created equal, and because he’s been running up his win streak in small states he hasn’t been able to meaningfully close the gap in votes or (more important) pledged delegates.

To put it another way, if the Democratic National Committee passed a rule today eliminating superdelegates altogether … Clinton would still be overwhelmingly well-positioned to win the nomination because she’s won substantially more votes and thus more delegates.

And yet some Sanders partisans seem to think that – Trump-like – he is somehow being robbed of the nomination or that superdelegates are distorting the will of the people by handing Clinton the election, unearned.

Case in point is a piece that ran in Salon over the weekend under this rather lengthy headline: “Superdelegates have destroyed the will of the people: As a political activist and hopeful millennial, I won’t support a broken system by voting for Hillary.”

What follows is a bewildering argument asserting that a “broken, corrupt and unjust” system is foisting Clinton over (the barely acceptable despite being not quite liberal enough) Sanders because … well, superdelegates or something. The author cites the Vermont senator having won Wyoming by 12 percentage points but coming out behind Clinton in that contest because, per the allocation rules, they split the 14 pledge delegates and Clinton persuaded the state’s four superdelegates to support her. She goes on to quote MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski bemoaning the unfairness of such an outcome and for good measure throws in a lengthy comment from Trump about the injustice of the superdelegate system.

But if you want to indict “the system,” look at the system – don’t cherry-pick one result. As I noted earlier, Sanders has won 46 percent of pledged delegates while only winning 42 percent of raw votes – so if anything “the system” is overstating how well Sanders is doing. If anyone is positioned to complain about distortion, it’s the Clinton campaign, not the Sanders-ites.

(The Salon piece then starts to read like a parody of an earnestly self-involved millennial, with the author complaining that “voting no longer provides me the indulgence and satisfaction it once did” and analogizing her refusal to participate in the presidential political process to boycotting Walmart; the difference of course is that if enough people refuse to spend their money at Walmart it could hurt and ultimately shutter the store, while if enough progressive activists refuse to vote the system will endure and simply be run by conservatives.)

Here’s a kernel of an idea: MoveOn.org has started promoting a petition arguing that CNN should not include supers in its delegate tallies (why only CNN and not MSNBC, Fox News Channel, The New York Times and so on is unclear), because the practice is misleading since even supers who have declared for a candidate are free to switch their allegiance at any time and thus the tally overstates Clinton’s lead over Sanders. It’s important to note, by the way, the supers’ ability to switch since Sanders’ candidacy is now predicated on their doing just that – the idea being that regardless of whether he catches her in either pledged delegates or raw votes, superdelegates will flock to him on the basis of late-season momentum.

And in fairness, most news organizations do tend to break down the pledged-versus-super totals; but if media organizations discounting superdelegates will help bring greater clarity to the process then by all means they should do so. Because while including Clinton’s supers in her total may exaggerate her lead, Bern-er fixation with them covers up the scope of his pledged delegate deficit.

The bottom line is that Clinton isn’t poised to win the nomination because superdelegates are contravening the will of the voters, but because she’s simply winning more votes. Team Sanders needs to reconcile itself to that reality.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor, U. S. News and World Report, April 19, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Super Delegates | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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