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“Trump Flunks Supreme Court Arithmetic”: Counting To Five Should Be Pretty Easy, Unless You’re Donald Trump

For the typical adult, counting to five should be pretty easy. It makes Donald Trump’s trouble with Supreme Court arithmetic that much more puzzling.

On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down arguably the most important abortion-rights ruling in a generation, prompting the Republican presidential hopeful to say … literally nothing. To the consternation of some of his social-conservative allies, Trump acted as if the court’s decision didn’t exist, offering no response in speeches, interviews, or social media.

It took a few days, but this morning the presumptive GOP nominee broke his unexpected silence in an interview with conservative radio host Mike Gallagher.

“Now if we had Scalia was living, or if Scalia was replaced by me, you wouldn’t have had that, OK? It would’ve been the opposite.”

Actually, no, it wouldn’t have. This week’s ruling was actually a 5-3 decision. Yes, Antonin Scalia’s passing meant the Supreme Court was down one justice, but it doesn’t take a mathematician to know 3 +1 does not equal 5.

Remember, the decision was on Monday, and today’s Thursday. Trump and his team had three days to come up with the candidate’s response to a major court ruling, and this is what they came up with.

In the same interview, the New York Republican complained about Chief Justice John Roberts, telling the host, “He could’ve killed [the Affordable Care Act] twice and he didn’t. That was terrible. And that was a Bush appointment. That was so bad, what happened. And you know, to me, you know, almost not recoverable from his standpoint. Very, very sad situation.”

Actually, the second time the justices considered the constitutionality of “Obamacare,” the law was upheld in a 6-3 ruling. When Trump said today Roberts “could’ve killed” the ACA, his math is still wrong – because 6 – 1 does not equal four.

Do you ever get the impression that Trump hasn’t really thought this issue through? Ever wonder if there’s an issue he has thought through?

Postscript: Trump’s math troubles notwithstanding, the GOP candidate, who used to describe himself as pro-choice, continues to talk about how eager he is to restrict reproductive rights. In this morning’s interview, the host added, “So just to confirm, under a Donald, a President Donald Trump-appointed Supreme Court, you wouldn’t see a majority ruling like the one we had with the Texas abortion law this week.”

The candidate replied, “No, you wouldn’t see that.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 30, 2016

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, John Roberts, Reproductive Choice, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump And The Power Of Denial”: Wake Up GOP, The National Leader Of Your Party Is Donald Trump

I hate Donald Trump and much of what he represents. But do you know what I hate even more?

Denial.

The right has been deep in denial for years. Honed under the last Republican president into a sure-fire method of inspiring confident resolve in the face of adversity, denial of reality has by now become almost second nature to many party apparatchiks and their intellectual compatriots in the right-wing media. Of course we’ll find weapons of mass destruction! The occupation is going just fine! It’s not Bush’s fault that New Orleans got caught with a bull’s eye on its back when Hurricane Katrina blew by! You can’t expect the president who’s been in office for seven and a half years to take responsibility for the worst financial crisis in seven decades!

Coulda happened to anyone.

And now, after seven more years of denial — this time about Barack Obama’s popularity, the Affordable Care Act, and much else — the instinct to close eyes and cover ears in the face of what most people would consider very bad news has settled into the slow-motion car wreck of the GOP primaries.

Donald Trump has now won 26 states. (His nearest competitor for the nomination, Ted Cruz, has won 11.) Trump prevailed in all five northeastern states that voted on Tuesday, all five of them with over 50 percent of the vote, and some with over 60 percent. (Cruz appears to have finished in third place in four of the five states.) Trump is now on track to reach or come extremely close to the magic number of 1,237 delegates by the end of primary season. (Cruz will be nearly 400 delegates behind him after Tuesday’s totals are sorted out.) If Trump falls a little short — because, say, his 17-point lead in California shrinks a bit — he is extremely likely to lock up the remaining delegates in the weeks between the last primaries on June 7 and the start of the Republican convention on July 18.

Barring some unforeseen event that completely upends the race over the next six weeks, Donald Trump is going to be the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2016.

How do I know this? Because it’s been painfully obvious for a long time now that the Republican electorate prefers Trump to any of the alternatives running for the White House.

Yes, it really is that simple.

Was it obvious from the start of the primary season? No. But it was a lot less impossible to imagine than a dismayingly large number of conservative pundits seemed to think. Trump bounded to the front of the pack very quickly after announcing his candidacy last summer, and his polling lead has never seriously wavered in the intervening 10 months. While columnists and commentators spent the fall gaming out the caucuses and primaries to come, convincing themselves that Rubio or Bush or Christie was the real frontrunner, Trump stayed firmly in the polling lead.

And you know what? That meant Trump was winning.

Of course I realize that no votes had yet been cast. And that no modern party has ever elected a candidate like Trump. But the numbers weren’t lying. We learned that for sure once the voting began and it became clear that people weren’t simply threatening to vote for the man: They were actually going through with it. That meant the polls were measuring something real.

And that something hasn’t gone away.

It was there when Trump faced a dozen opponents. It was still there when he was competing against six. And it’s been there since the field narrowed to three.

It was there when Marco Rubio tried to strike a deal with Cruz and Kasich to deny Trump wins in Florida, Ohio, and Missouri, and Trump ended up winning all of them except Ohio (which, of course, was won by the sitting governor of the state — a candidate incapable of winning anywhere else).

And it’s there now, with Cruz and Kasich working desperately to find some way, somehow to keep Trump from reaching 1,237 delegates.

Oh, have I mentioned that on Tuesday morning Trump reached 50 percent for the first time in NBC News’ national weekly tracking poll? (Cruz languishes at 26 percent.)

I get the importance of resolution in practical endeavors. I understand the psychological necessity of driving doubts from one’s mind in order to lift morale and keep focused on achieving a goal. If you’re a committed Republican or movement conservative who hates the thought of the party nominating Trump, you may find it necessary (or at least helpful) to convince yourself that he’s bound to lose, that someone else can surely prevail against him, even if it requires banishing evidence to the contrary from your mind. In such a situation, the belief that victory is possible can make victory far more likely.

But there comes a time when all the pep talks and desperate rationalizations (like calling Trump’s wins a “hostile takeover” of the party) start to sound ridiculous. That’s when even those who’ve become addicted to denial should be able to recognize that it’s doing far more harm than good.

That time has now arrived.

By all means, help Cruz prevail in Indiana next Tuesday. Do what you can to keep Trump’s delegate total down. But please, Republicans, wake up from your self-induced slumber and begin to confront what reality has wrought.

The national leader of your party is Donald Trump.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, April 27, 2016

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Must Vow To Never, Ever, Betray The Conservative Cause”: GOP Candidates Will Now Have To Promise Supreme Court Litmus Tests

With two dramatic and far-reaching liberal decisions in as many days at the end of last week, the Supreme Court laid Republicans low, dashed their hopes and spat on their dreams, made them beat their breasts and shake their fists at the heavens. And in both cases, it was a conservative justice (or two) who joined with the liberals to do it. So while there will be a lot of discussion among Republicans about where they should go from this point forward on the issues of health care and gay rights, you can be sure that they’re also going to spend a great deal of time talking about how they can make sure this kind of thing never happens again. Conservatives already hated Anthony Kennedy, and now some have decided that John Roberts is a traitor as well. If you’re a Republican presidential candidate, you’d better have a strong argument for why whoever you’ll appoint to the Supreme Court will never, ever, ever betray the conservative cause.

In the first couple of days, the candidates reacted much as you think they might, with varying degrees of displeasure built on time-tested conservative cliches about judicial restraint and judges not legislating from the bench. Which was a little odd, since in one of two decisions (King v. Burwell), what they were hoping for was a little more judicial activism. Nevertheless, they’ve been saying those things for so long that it may be understandable. So when Hugh Hewitt asked Jeb Bush how he would avoid future betrayals like these, he said only, “You focus on people to be Supreme Court justices who have a proven record of judicial restraint.” Rick Perry said much the same, that he would “appoint strict Constitutional conservatives who will apply the law as written.” Marco Rubio reached farther back, arguing that “As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood.” Scott Walker issued a statement on his Facebook page about “five unelected judges” but passed on an opportunity to rail about them the next day. If you wanted a real denunciation of the Supreme Court that went beyond an objection to the substance of their decisions, you’d have to go to second-tier candidates like Ted Cruz, who proposed recall elections for Supreme Court justices, or Mike Huckabee, who loaded up his rhetorical musket to march at the Supreme Court redcoats. “I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch,” he said. “We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”

But guess what? That’s not going to be good enough for Republican voters anymore. Here’s what’s going to happen: At one town hall meeting after another, a Republican primary voter will stand up to the candidate before them and say, “What are you going to do about the Supreme Court?” Then everyone else will lean in to listen.

As well they should. Given the ages of the justices (four are over 76 years old) and the fact that the next president will probably have the chance to appoint a liberal to replace a conservative or vice versa for the first time since Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall in 1991, there may be no single issue in the 2016 campaign of greater importance than the Supreme Court. If Hillary Clinton replaces a conservative justice, the court would swing to a liberal majority; if a Republican replaces a liberal justice, there would be a solid conservative majority with Anthony Kennedy no longer holding the swing vote.

Right now, conservatives are feeling like they’ve been betrayed. As conservative writer Matt Lewis noted on Thursday, “conservatives thought they had figured it out. The right created an impressive infrastructure and network to identify and promote conservative lawyers, clerks, and would-be judges,” and it was designed to keep these kinds of defections from happening. And Chief Justice Roberts was supposed to be the model for how it would work: a young, accomplished lawyer who did his apprenticeship in the Reagan Justice Department, where, like his colleague Samuel Alito, he imbibed the foundations of conservative legal thinking.

As it happens, the John Roberts whom Republicans are now denouncing as a traitor for his ruling in King v. Burwell is also the justice who engineered the unshackling of billionaires’ money in politics, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, and the Court’s first declaration of an individual right to own guns — along with dozens of other extremely important and extremely conservative rulings in recent years. If anything, he’s an ideologue but not a partisan, meaning he sometimes does what’s in conservatives’ long-term interests, even if it isn’t what the Republican Party wants at the moment.

But the old Republican cry of “No more Souters!” may now be replaced by “No more Kennedys and Robertses!” Republican candidates are going to have make it very clear to primary voters that they have a whole list of litmus tests, and any lawyer or lower-court judge who fails to satisfy each and every one won’t be getting nominated to the Supreme Court. Vague words about judicial restraint and respecting the Constitution aren’t going to cut it.

I’ve argued before that litmus tests for Supreme Court appointments aren’t a bad thing — instead of having candidates pretend that they’re only interested in finding wise and humble jurists, and having the Court nominees themselves pretend that they have no opinions on any legal questions, we should just get everything out in the open so we can all know what we’re in for. In the past, Democrats have been more willing to discuss the litmus tests they have (particularly on abortion), while Republicans have insisted that they only want judges who will respect the Founders and interpret law, not make law. Of course, that isn’t really what they want — when the circumstances are right, they’re only too happy to have judges make laws (or overturn them) if it produces the outcome they prefer.

So if nothing else, the Republican candidates will have to be a more honest now. But they can’t be too honest. Tell everyone that you will tolerate only Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, strike down the Affordable Care Act, restrict workers’ rights, roll back environmental regulations and get even more big money into politics, and you coulan, d run into trouble with general election voters. That makes it a tricky balance to strike, which is pretty much the story of the entire 2016 campaign for Republican candidates: Appealing too strongly to primary voters means potentially alienating the broader electorate, on almost every issue that comes up. As dramatic as the past week was, other issues will eventually push the ACA and gay marriage out of the headlines, at least for a while here and there. But in the short run, the candidates are going to face a lot of pointed questions about whom they plan to put on the Supreme Court.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, June 29, 2015

June 30, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Presidential Candidates, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ben Carson Is In Danger Of Losing All Respect”: He Can Only Lose In This Campaign, And More Than Just The Republican Primary

Over decades of a brilliant career as a brain surgeon, Dr. Ben Carson attracted legions of admirers — black, white and brown; liberal, moderate and conservative; fundamentalist Christian and agnostic. His story is the stuff of legend, the awe-inspiring tale of a poor black boy in Detroit who overcame daunting obstacles and vaulted to the very top of his profession.

Given that his profession was pediatric neurosurgery, black Americans were particularly proud. Carson, who was the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins attached at the head, stood as stark repudiation of invidious stereotypes about black intellectual capacity. His memoir, Gifted Hands, has been passed through countless black households.

But the good doctor’s foray into Republican presidential politics threatens to become his epitaph, to overshadow — perhaps even to overwhelm — his academic and surgical accomplishments. He will likely be remembered as the GOP’s latest black mascot, a court jester, a minstrel show. He’ll be the Herman Cain of 2016.

Clearly, Carson’s chances of winning the Republican nomination for president stand at less than zero. No matter how many cheers he attracts at conservative gabfests, no matter how many of his bumperstickers appear on the vehicles of true believers, no matter how many Fox News pundits suggest he’s a viable candidate, he won’t come close to becoming the GOP standard bearer.

Nor should he. He is dangerously unqualified for the presidency — a political novice who is happily ignorant of policy, both foreign and domestic, and contemptuous of religious pluralism and personal liberties.

Carson catapulted to stardom in the ultraconservative firmament in 2013, when he addressed the National Prayer Breakfast with a speech in which he lashed out at the Affordable Care Act as President Obama sat nearby. Though the breakfast has a long history of nonpartisanship, Carson chose to criticize many of the policies that the president supports, including progressive taxation.

That was enough to cause conservatives to swoon. Since Obama’s election, Republicans have been sensitive to charges that their small tent of aging voters has become a bastion of white resentment, a cauldron of bigotry, nativism and fear of the other. They want to show that their fierce resistance to all things Obama has nothing to do with race.

That promotes a special affection for black conservatives who are willing to viciously criticize the president. As with Cain before him, Carson garners the most enthusiastic cheers from conservative audiences when he’s excoriating Obama, the most rapturous applause when he seems to absolve them of charges of bigotry. Why would Carson trade on his reputation to become their token?

I’ve little doubt that his conservative impulses are genuine. He grew up Seventh-Day Adventist, a conservative religious tradition. Moreover, he has adopted a view popular among white conservatives: that black Democrats give short shrift to traditional values such as thrift, hard work and sacrifice. (Hasn’t Carson ever heard any of Obama’s riffs excoriating deadbeat dads and promoting discipline, scholarship and parental involvement in their children’s lives?)

But Carson hardly represents the long and honorable tradition of black conservatism in America. Starting with the father of that movement, Booker T. Washington, its adherents have had a healthy appreciation for the reality of racism in America. Carson, however, thinks Obamacare “really (is) the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And … it is slavery in a way.” Washington and his peers, who knew better, would never have countenanced such nonsense.

Moreover, black conservatism has promoted self-reliance, but it hasn’t been a font of right-wing intolerance and know-nothingism. Carson, for his part, has dismissed evolution (giving his former colleagues at Johns Hopkins heartburn); he has compared homosexuality to bestiality; and he has spurned the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.

Given the ultraconservative politics of GOP primary voters, those extreme positions may help Carson in the early campaign season. But those views also guarantee that mainstream Republican leaders and their donors will flock elsewhere, seeking to find an experienced, broadly appealing and electable candidate.

Carson can only lose in this campaign — and more than just the Republican primary. He also stands to lose his place as one of the nation’s most admired men.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, a Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, May 9, 2015

May 10, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Conservatives, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Zombies Of 2016”: As Far As Issues Go, 2016 Is Already Set Up To Be The Election Of The Living Dead

Last week, a zombie went to New Hampshire and staked its claim to the Republican presidential nomination. Well, O.K., it was actually Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. But it’s pretty much the same thing.

You see, Mr. Christie gave a speech in which he tried to position himself as a tough-minded fiscal realist. In fact, however, his supposedly tough-minded policy idea was a classic zombie — an idea that should have died long ago in the face of evidence that undermines its basic premise, but somehow just keeps shambling along.

But let us not be too harsh on Mr. Christie. A deep attachment to long-refuted ideas seems to be required of all prominent Republicans. Whoever finally gets the nomination for 2016 will have multiple zombies as his running mates.

Start with Mr. Christie, who thought he was being smart and brave by proposing that we raise the age of eligibility for both Social Security and Medicare to 69. Doesn’t this make sense now that Americans are living longer?

No, it doesn’t. This whole line of argument should have died in 2007, when the Social Security Administration issued a report showing that almost all the rise in life expectancy has taken place among the affluent. The bottom half of workers, who are precisely the Americans who rely on Social Security most, have seen their life expectancy at age 65 rise only a bit more than a year since the 1970s. Furthermore, while lawyers and politicians may consider working into their late 60s no hardship, things look somewhat different to ordinary workers, many of whom still have to perform manual labor.

And while raising the retirement age would impose a great deal of hardship, it would save remarkably little money. In fact, a 2013 report from the Congressional Budget Office found that raising the Medicare age would save almost no money at all.

But Mr. Christie — like Jeb Bush, who quickly echoed his proposal — evidently knows none of this. The zombie ideas have eaten his brain.

And there are plenty of other zombies out there. Consider, for example, the zombification of the debate over health reform.

Before the Affordable Care Act went fully into effect, conservatives made a series of dire predictions about what would happen when it did. It would actually reduce the number of Americans with health insurance; it would lead to “rate shock,” as premiums soared; it would cost the government far more than projected, and blow up the deficit; it would be a huge job-destroyer.

In reality, the act has produced a dramatic drop in the number of uninsured adults; premiums have grown much more slowly than in the years before reform; the law’s cost is coming in well below projections; and 2014, the first year of full implementation, also had the best job growth since 1999.

So how has this changed the discourse? On the right, not at all. As far as I can tell, every prominent Republican talks about Obamacare as if all the predicted disasters have, in fact, come to pass.

Finally, one of the interesting political developments of this election cycle has been the triumphant return of voodoo economics, the “supply-side” claim that tax cuts for the rich stimulate the economy so much that they pay for themselves.

In the real world, this doctrine has an unblemished record of failure. Despite confident right-wing predictions of doom, neither the Clinton tax increase of 1993 nor the Obama tax increase of 2013 killed the economy (far from it), while the “Bush boom” that followed the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 was unimpressive even before it ended in financial crisis. Kansas, whose governor promised a “real live experiment” that would prove supply-side doctrine right, has failed even to match the growth of neighboring states.

In the world of Republican politics, however, voodoo’s grip has never been stronger. Would-be presidential candidates must audition in front of prominent supply-siders to prove their fealty to failed doctrine. Tax proposals like Marco Rubio’s would create a giant hole in the budget, then claim that this hole would be filled by a miraculous economic upsurge. Supply-side economics, it’s now clear, is the ultimate zombie: no amount of evidence or logic can kill it.

So why has the Republican Party experienced a zombie apocalypse? One reason, surely, is the fact that most Republican politicians represent states or districts that will never, ever vote for a Democrat, so the only thing they fear is a challenge from the far right. Another is the need to tell Big Money what it wants to hear: a candidate saying anything realistic about Obamacare or tax cuts won’t survive the Sheldon Adelson/Koch brothers primary.

Whatever the reasons, the result is clear. Pundits will try to pretend that we’re having a serious policy debate, but, as far as issues go, 2016 is already set up to be the election of the living dead.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 24, 2015

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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