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“He’s Not Paying Close Enough Attention”: McConnell Boasts, ‘There Is No Dysfunction In The Senate Anymore’

Good news, America, the United States Senate, after years of exasperating impairment, is finally a healthy, functioning institution – according to the man whose job it is to lead it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sat down with Charlie Rose this week and made a boast that was literally unbelievable.

MCCONNELL: We have done a lot more than you think we have. And the reason for that is everybody is angry about their own situation in life. They’re blaming the government which is understandable. But there is no dysfunction in the Senate anymore. And I’ve just given you a whole list…

ROSE: Because Harry Reid is now the minority leader and you are the majority leader.

MCCONNELL: That’s right.

No, it’s not.

Look, I can appreciate why McConnell, who’s arguably done more than anyone in modern history to disrupt how the upper chamber functions, wants the public to see the Senate in a positive light. The state of the institution is obviously a reflection on McConnell’s own leadership, and if voters believe the chamber is governing effectively, perhaps the electorate would be more inclined to leave the Senate in the hands of his Republican majority.

But to declare that Senate dysfunction is a thing of the past is pretty silly.

Consider the judicial confirmation process, for example. McConnell and his GOP brethren have imposed the first-ever blockade on any Supreme Court nominee regardless of merit. Pressed for a defense, the Majority Leader and other Senate Republicans have presented a series of weak talking points burdened by varying degrees of incoherence.

And it’s not just the high court, either: district and appellate court vacancies languish as the GOP majority generally refuses to consider one of its most basic governmental responsibilities.

And it’s not just judges. It took the Senate 11 months to confirm an uncontroversial U.S. Ambassador to Mexico nominee. An uncontroversial Army Secretary nominee faced an unnecessary wait that was nearly as long as part of an unrelated partisan tantrum.

In the meantime, the Senate can’t pass its own bipartisan criminal-justice reform bill, hasn’t passed a budget, is taking its sweet time in addressing the Zika virus threat, still requires supermajorities on practically every vote of any consequence, and is on track to give itself more time off this year than any Senate in six decades.

If McConnell is proud of what the chamber has become, perhaps he’s not paying close enough attention.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 3, 2016

June 3, 2016 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Republicans, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Donald Trump Has Enough Fingers To Handle A Pen”: That’s Good Enough For Paul Ryan

In 2012, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist argued that the only thing the GOP needed in its next president was “enough working digits to handle a pen.” More specifically, Norquist wanted a president who would use those digits to sign Paul Ryan’s austerity budget. On Thursday, the Speaker of the House endorsed Norquist’s argument — by (belatedly) endorsing Donald Trump.

In an op-ed for his hometown newspaper, Ryan announced that the House GOP caucus would spend the next month “introducing a series of policy proposals that address the American people’s top priorities.” The Speaker does not detail the proposals, but from his thumbnail sketches they appear to entail cutting taxes on the rich and benefits for the poor, repealing Obamacare and most environmental regulations, and repeating the words radical Islamic terrorism until ISIS spontaneously combusts. Anyhow, after touting his party’s innovative policy vision, Ryan asks himself what kind of president would be most likely to sign off on his wish list.

“One person who we know won’t support it is Hillary Clinton,” Ryan concludes. “To enact these ideas, we need a Republican president willing to sign them into law.”

Enter Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump and I have talked at great length about things such as the proper role of the executive and fundamental principles such as the protection of life … But the House policy agenda has been the main focus of our dialogue,” Ryan writes. “Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall.”

Trump’s digits might be short (and he might be an authoritarian demagogue with transparent contempt for the norms of liberal democracy), but those stubby fingers can handle a pen. For Paul Ryan, that’s enough.

 

By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 2, 2016

June 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Grover Norquist, Paul Ryan | , , , | 1 Comment

“Donald Trump And The Courts”: Represents Everything GOP Claimed To Be Against When It Comes To The Court System

Usually when the judicial branch of government comes up during presidential campaigns, the discussion focuses on what kind of judges the candidate would nominate to the Supreme Court. For Donald Trump – his list of potential nominees is cause for concern. But that doesn’t even begin to capture the problem.

We’re hearing a lot lately about the lawsuit brought against him by former students of Trump University. His response hasn’t just been racist. It is downright disturbing.

“I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater,” Trump said at a campaign rally in San Diego, adding that he believed the Indiana-born judge was “Mexican.”

He also suggested taking action against the judge after the election: “They ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace. Okay? But we will come back in November. Wouldn’t that be wild if I am president and come back and do a civil case? Where everybody likes it. Okay. This is called life, folks.”

Legal experts are right when they suggest that this kind of personal vendetta undermines our courts.

On the other hand, Trump has “suggested” that he wants to exploit the judiciary in an attempt to bully his critics.

During a rally in Fort Worth, Texas, Trump began his usual tirade against newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, saying they’re “losing money” and are “dishonest.” The Republican presidential candidate then took a different turn, suggesting that when he’s president they’ll “have problems.”

“One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected,” Trump said.

Out goes the First Amendment and it’s protections of a free press. Think he’s kidding? Nick Penzenstadler and Susan Page provide history and data to demonstrate Trump’s pattern.

An exclusive USA TODAY analysis of legal filings across the United States finds that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and his businesses have been involved in at least 3,500 legal actions in federal and state courts during the past three decades. They range from skirmishes with casino patrons to million-dollar real estate suits to personal defamation lawsuits.

OK, so that’s 3,500 cases over 3 decades. How does it look in the present?

Just since he announced his candidacy a year ago, at least 70 new cases have been filed, about evenly divided between lawsuits filed by him and his companies and those filed against them. And the records review found at least 50 civil lawsuits remain open even as he moves toward claiming the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in seven weeks.

Trump likes to dismiss this kind of thing as simply the cost of doing business. But Penzenstadler and Page compared this record to the legal involvement for five top real-estate business executives and found that “Trump has been involved in more legal skirmishes than all five of the others — combined.”

Trump’s abuse of the court system is simply another example of the way he exposes himself as a narcissistic bully.

He sometimes responds to even small disputes with overwhelming legal force. He doesn’t hesitate to deploy his wealth and legal firepower against adversaries with limited resources, such as homeowners. He sometimes refuses to pay real estate brokers, lawyers and other vendors.

In other words, Trump represents everything the Republicans have claimed to be against when it comes to exploiting the court system. As a friend of mine used to say…”Now run and tell that.”

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 2, 2016

June 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Judicial System | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Just Aren’t Large Enough Of A Group”: The Bad News For Trump About Under-Engaged White Voters

A big part of the hope and fear partisans have about Donald Trump’s general election prospects is that his atavistic message of resentment toward elites and uppity women and minorities will not only win a big majority of white voters, but will boost white turnout as well. Sean Trende’s famous “missing white voters” hypothesis for one of Mitt Romney’s fatal defects suggests that marginal white voters tend to be the kind of people who voted for Ross Perot in 1992 — a peak year in white turnout. Trende has subsequently confirmed that the same kind of white voters have been turning out for Trump in the GOP primaries. But are there enough of them to make a difference, particularly given Trump’s big problems with minority voters?

At FiveThirtyEight, David Wasserman takes a close look at this question and arrives at an ambivalent conclusion:

The good news for Trump is that nationally, there’s plenty of room for white turnout to improve. If non-Hispanic whites had turned out at the same rate in 2012 that they did in 1992, there would have been 8.8 million additional white voters — far more than Obama’s 5 million-vote margin of victory. But before Democrats panic, here’s the catch, and it’s a doozy for Trump: These “missing” white voters disproportionately live in states that won’t matter in a close presidential race.

Between 1992 and 2012, white turnout dropped from 71 percent to 63 percent in the 38 non-Electoral College battleground states. There were huge double-digit declines in relatively Perot-friendly places such as Alaska, upstate New York and Utah. But in the 12 key battleground states, white turnout dropped more modestly, from 69 percent to 66 percent. There was virtually no white drop-off in Pennsylvania, and white turnout increased in New Hampshire and Virginia.

This makes sense if you think about it for a minute. If the “missing white voters” are basically marginal voters, they’re less likely to bother to vote in states where their votes “don’t count” in the sense of affecting the outcome. Meanwhile, the same voters are more likely to show up at the polls in highly competitive states where their votes do count, and where, moreover, they are the object of all the dark arts of base mobilization.

The bigger problem for Trump, as Wasserman notes, is that it’s by no means clear Trump’s going to win all the votes cast for Mitt Romney, much less add on many millions of marginal white voters in the right places.  He’s got a real problem with college-educated white women, and in some polls isn’t doing all that well with college-educated white men. And that’s aside from the strong possibility that he’s going to do even worse than Romney with minority voters, who in any case are likely to continue to become a larger percentage of the electorate this November.

It all goes to reinforce the most important single insight I can offer to those all caught up in slicing and dicing the electorate: a vote is a vote, and running up the score in one demographic doesn’t mean squat if it’s offset by losses in another, especially in battleground states. And it’s another sign that Trump’s angry non-college-educated white men just aren’t large enough of a group to win the election for him, particularly if turning them out requires the kind of over-the-top borderline-racist-and-sexist histrionics that tend to mobilize the opposition as well.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 3, 2016

June 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, White Male Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Clinton Is Defining Trump”: In A Way His Republican Rivals During The Primary Couldn’t

In our soundbite culture, memes develop about politicians that become almost impossible to break. We’ve seen that over the last few years with regards to Paul Ryan. Much of the media defines him as a “wonk,” no matter how unserious his policy proposals actually turn out to be. In the 2000 election, George Bush was the affable guy people wanted to have a beer with, while Dick Cheney was the adult with gravitas.

This is likely why Hillary Clinton is spending so much of her time talking about Donald Trump lately. She is defining him for the public and the press in a way that his Republican rivals during the primary couldn’t. It’s not just that they were afraid of offending his supporters (although I’m sure that was a big part of it). But it’s also because challenging him meant taking on things that also made them vulnerable. When Trump became so extreme about Mexican immigrants and Muslims, it was all based on policies and rhetoric that Republicans had been relying on themselves. The case they were left with was to suggest that they would simply be either a little bit more or less extreme than Trump. None of them could successfully challenge the very basis of his extremism.

Hillary Clinton and Democrats face no such limits. Over the last couple of weeks, she and her surrogates have mounted blistering attacks on the presumptive Republican nominee. It is almost as if you can hear a collective sigh of relief from those who kept silent during the Republican slugfest of a primary. The challenges to Trump are not unfounded in the way attacks can sometimes be in elections. They are all things we’ve been noticing for a while now, but haven’t seen articulated very well.

It is also interesting to observe Trump’s response to all of this. He is doing the only thing he knows how to do – dive into the gutter and lash out. For example, after Clinton’s speech yesterday in which she challenged Trump’s fitness to be commander-in-chief, he said that she should go to jail over the email issue. That kind of thing will play very well with his rabid supporters – but when it comes to addressing his fitness for office, it simply reinforces Clinton’s message about him. This tweet sums it up pretty well:

@HillaryClinton pulling off what no GOP Trump challenger could: Taking him on in a way that makes her seem bigger, not smaller, than he

— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 2, 2016

I’ve heard some people suggest that Clinton is spending too much time talking about Trump and not enough on her own vision and proposals. My response to that would be that there are still five months left in this campaign. She has plenty of time to do that. But at the outset, she is setting the meme in place that will define Donald Trump throughout the election season.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 3, 2016

June 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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