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“An Unlikely Opportunity?”: It Could Come Down To Kansas, Where GOP Trails Badly

The news for Democrats in the latest round of Senate polling is sobering: Republicans have +4 point leads in enough states to give them a 50 Senate seats. That’s just one short of what they need to win control of the Senate.

Four other seats are also up for grabs, placing Democrats in danger of losing the majority in Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado and Kansas. Even so, while polling shows the first three of these races as tossups, Democrats have been showing remarkable resilience maintaining slim edges or even odds.

If Democrats do hold their ground in Iowa, North Carolina and Colorado, control of the Senate would come down to Kansas. Not exactly fertile ground for Democrats under normal circumstances, but the rank incompetence of the GOP combined with the distant hubris of Senator Roberts has allowed independent Greg Orman to open up a blistering 10-point lead.

That’s a big deficit to make up before the first mail-in voters get their ballots less than two weeks from today, and there’s little indication that Greg Orman would caucus with the Republicans should he be elected.

Kansas is a strange place for Democrats to pin their hopes, but it does provide hope that even in the reddest of red states, Republican overreach and self-destructive policies may open up unlikely opportunities for unexpected gains.

 

By: David Atkins, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 5, 2014

October 6, 2014 Posted by | Kansas, Pat Roberts, Senate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dole, Nazis, And Desperation In Kansas”: Pat Roberts’ Oblique-But-Clear Hitler Comparison

Weren’t politicians supposed to agree that invoking Hitler is usually a bad idea? Somebody better remind Pat Roberts, the Kansas senator on whom the GOP’s hopes of taking over the Senate increasingly depend, that that’s the general bargain. Because lately, the evermore desperate incumbent is going around the Jayhawk State saying things like this:

“There’s a palpable fear among Kansans all across the state that the America that we love and cherish will not be the same America for our kids and grandkids, and that’s wrong. One of the reasons that I’m running is to change that. There’s an easy way to do it. I’ll let you figure it out. But at any rate, we have to change course because our country is headed for national socialism. That’s not right. It’s changing our culture. It’s changing what we’re all about.”

All right, no explicit Hitler mention. But…national socialism? We’ve all heard Obama equals socialism until it’s coming out our ears. But national socialism? That’s Nazism. The National Socialist Democratic Workers’ Party, in case you’d forgotten. And there was only one. Benito Mussolini came out of the more straightforwardly named National Fascist Party. Japan had something called the Imperial Rule Assistance Association.

But only Hitler’s Germany had a national socialist party (well, also certain successor offshoots, as in Hungary). So it’s pretty clear what Roberts is saying here. He would deny it, of course, if Kansas reporters tried to ask him. But denying it would be like giving a speech that makes reference to gruesome murders by repeated stabbing and using victims’ blood to write “Helter Skelter” on the walls and then saying goodness no, whatever gave you the idea that I was referring to Charles Manson?

This is not okay. But I would suspect Roberts is going to get away with it, because Greg Orman, the independent challenger who is lately running ahead of him, is not going to stand up in the state of Kansas a few weeks before Election Day and defend Barack Obama on anything, even an oblique-but-clear Hitler comparison.

The more one studies Roberts, the more one concludes that he is the kind of fellow that former Nebraska Senator Roman Hruska had in mind when he famously quipped that mediocre people are entitled to a little representation, too. Mediocre at best, malevolent at worst. It interests me that he’s lately trotted out old Bob Dole to campaign with him. Dole, coming as he does from an earlier time and now a defanged nonagenarian, represents a degree of old-school moderation at this point in his life, so by appearing with Dole while making references to national socialism, Roberts can cleverly have it both ways. But I hope enough Kansans remember what Roberts did to Dole when the latter was counting on him most.

Dole, who suffered a crippling injury in the Big War, had been one of the leading sponsors of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990. He always called it a proud moment. Fast-forward to late 2012, when the Senate was considering approval of an international treaty designed to spur other nations to emulate the United States’ groundbreaking law. Dole was its most famous spokesman. On December 4, 2012, the now-wheelchair-bound ex-senator rolled himself onto the floor of the old chamber to pigeonhole his former colleagues. A heart-rending scene. How could he lose?

Well, one way he could lose was for his old friend Roberts, who was in the House while Dole was in the Senate, to vote against him, which Roberts did. In fact both Kansas senators did—Jerry Moran’s betrayal was even worse, since Moran had committed to the measure publicly, which Roberts hadn’t. The right-wing lobbying machinery got cranked up and warned God-fearing Americans that approval of this treaty would give the United Nations the power to end home-schooling, or something like that. And so the world’s greatest deliberative body voted down a treaty inspired by our own good example because, you know, one-worldism, Obama, national socialism, and so on. And Roberts and Moran were the prime profiles in cowardice.

The only other time in his career that Washington took much notice of Roberts came during the Iraq War, when he walked point for the Bushies in bottling up for more than two years a report on how the administration misused pre-war intelligence. If you followed such things at the time, perhaps the phrase “Phase II report” will snap a synapse or two. Roberts made repeated promises early on that he would release the report, that there was nothing to fear and that he certainly wanted the truth. Then the weasel words crept in and he started to say things like: “I’m perfectly willing to do it, and that’s what we agreed to do, and that door is still open. And I don’t want to quarrel with Jay [Rockefeller], because we both agreed that we would get it done.” He reversed himself and danced all over the floor. The report was eventually released, but long after it would have had any dramatic political impact, which was of course why Roberts delayed in the first place.

So this is the career Roberts is seeking to salvage by dragooning the man he once betrayed into last-minute service and by raising the specter of America’s Nazi future. Roberts is behind right now, and GOP Governor Sam Brownback looks like he’s going to lose, meaning perhaps the top two Republicans in deep-red Kansas might go down in flames. And it would be nice to think that the right-wing extremism of the Obama era would come back to bite them in, of all places, the Koch brothers’ backyard.

UPDATE: I see from Greg Sargent that Roberts was asked about this quote by a reporter yesterday. He said: “I believe that the direction he is heading the country is more like a European socialistic state, yes. You can’t tell me anything that he has not tried to nationalize.” Great. So a United States senator has no idea what “national socialism” means. I guess in this case that qualifies as reassuring.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 26, 2014

September 28, 2014 Posted by | Kansas, Pat Roberts, Senate | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Feed The Base’s Worst Fears”: When In Doubt, Run Against The Kenyan Muslim Socialist

Yesterday, Senator Pat Roberts — who has emerged as one of the most closely watched incumbents in the country, now that independent Greg Orman’s challenge to him could dictate who controls the Senate — raised a lot of eyebrows when he said this:

“We have to change course because our country is heading for national socialism. That’s not right. It’s changing our culture. It’s changing what we’re all about.”

National socialism? Philip Rucker, in a great piece on the Kansas race, asks Senator Roberts what he meant, and gets this:

When a reporter asked whether he truly thinks the president is a socialist, Roberts replied, “I believe that the direction he is heading the country is more like a European socialistic state, yes. You can’t tell me anything that he has not tried to nationalize.”

Interestingly, the Orman campaign is criticizing Roberts’ rhetoric. In a statement, the campaign said:

“This is exactly the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that dominates the partisan debate in Washington and that Kansans are tired of. Washington is broken because politicians like Senator Roberts are too busy using scare tactics and calling each other names instead of getting things done. Kansans know we’ve got to do things differently, and that’s why they’re supporting businessman Greg Orman’s independent campaign for Senate.”

This is noteworthy, given that you’d think calling Obama a socialist could not possibly be problematic in any way in deep red Kansas.

By the way, the claim that Obama is moving the country towards socialism has long been echoed by many leading Republicans. It’s a way to feed the base’s worst fears about Obama while not quite coming out and calling him a socialist, which sounds crazy. In accusing Obama of wanting to “nationalize,” well, the entire private sector, Senator Roberts has dispensed with such restraint.

This gets to something interesting about this race. Roberts and his allies in the national GOP, panicked about the Orman challenge and its implications for Senate control, are quickly gearing up an All-About-Obummer campaign. Roberts is up with an ad ripping Orman for donating to Obama and national Democrats, and for saying repeal of Obamacare is unrealistic. A GOP Super PAC is airing a similarly themed spot. (Republicans are also tarring Orman as a shady businessman, but tying him to Obama and national Democrats will figure heavily.)

But, judging by the Orman statement above, his camp is gambling that this approach won’t work and could even end up reinforcing the frame for the race they prefer. The premise of the Orman campaign is that voters are sick of both parties and of Washington, allowing them to cast any efforts to tie him to Obama and national Democrats as more of the same old partisan food fighting, all designed to distract from Roberts’ failure to produce concrete achievements despite all his time in the Capitol.

The backdrop for all of this is the abject failure of the experiment in conservative governance undertaken by Kansas governor Sam Brownback, which has alienated many moderate Republicans. But it seems unlikely that Orman will directly engage on that front. I’d expect him to seek to capitalize on the generalized unpopularity of the GOP that has resulted, to campaign against both parties — and against Roberts’ lack of accomplishments — in making the case for trying something new in the form of an independent businessman.

Even Republicans are worried about this prospect, as one Republican rather colorfully put it to Rucker:

“He’s basically furniture in the Senate, and the people in Kansas know that,” said national GOP strategist John Weaver, a former McCain adviser. “You could give the average Kansan 24 hours to come up with something Pat Roberts has done in the Senate, and after 24 hours, even the crickets would be standing there befuddled.”

Well, okay, that does sound pretty problematic, but there’s still a way out: Run against the Kenyan Muslim Socialist!

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, September 24, 2014

September 25, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Kansas, Pat Roberts | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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