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“You Want War? We’ll Give It To You”: Rand Paul Ready For ‘War’ Over 2016 Debates

When it comes to foreign policy, Rand Paul isn’t eager to launch any new wars. When it comes to 2016 debates, it’s a different story.

The next gathering for the Republican presidential field will be Thursday night, when candidates participate in their sixth debate. The Fox Business Network announced last night that seven of the remaining candidates have been invited to the prime-time event: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich. That leaves Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum, who have been relegated to the kids-table undercard debate.

The Kentucky senator, who has been on the main stage for each of the first five debates, had already vowed to skip this week’s event if he were blocked from the prime-time gathering, and as of late yesterday, Paul and his campaign team intend to follow through on that threat.

But Paul also talked to the Washington Post in more detail about his frustrations.

…Paul reiterated that the “arbitrary, capricious polling standard” had been a source of disgust for the grassroots, dubbing it a story of media political bias.

“It won’t take much for our supporters to understand why we’re doing this,” Paul said. “You want war? We’ll give it to you.”

What’s unclear is what in the world that means.

To be sure, the senator’s complaints have some merit. As Rachel noted on the show last night, when the Fox networks host these gatherings, “they’re notoriously woolly about their qualifying criteria for their debate…. They don’t get that specific about how they’re going to do it.”

It’s a little tough for Paul – or anyone else, for that matter – to lash out at Fox for being biased against Republican presidential campaigns, but the senator’s concerns about statistical methodology are harder to dismiss.

But when Paul says he and his supporters are prepared for “war,” it’s an open question as to what they have in mind. Protests? Angry tweets? Will Paul pull a page from Alan Keyes’ 1996 playbook and try to join a debate to which he hasn’t been invited?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 11, 2016

January 12, 2016 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bobby Jindal’s Public Humiliation”: Why There’s A Nasty Side To His Thirst For Power

Of the many rituals that accompany U.S. politics, one of the least-important but most-discussed is the spectacle of watching a hopeless, clueless and joyless presidential campaign falter on the runway before swiftly concluding in a fiery crash. Every four years, there’s at least one — and often more than one — such campaign. The candidate is usually already a figure of derision among the press, and it’s often not clear to outsiders whether even they truly believe they will, or even should, become the president. The whole quadrennial enterprise tends to be either a guilty pleasure or a cause for sorrow, depending on how idealistic (and sadistic) you are already.

Some recent examples: In 2004, Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich was the at least somewhat earnest candidate that the press preemptively dismissed, while Rev. Al Sharpton was the one whose sincerity was widely questioned. Kucinich reprised the role somewhat in 2008, but had competition from former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel; Sen. Joe Biden, meanwhile, was the guy the press didn’t take seriously enough to let voters decide for themselves. On the Republican side in 2008, Rep. Ron Paul ran a heartfelt campaign that the media deemed unserious, while one-time ambassador Alan Keyes provided comic relief. And in 2012, one of the media’s favorite punching bags, Rep. Michele Bachmann, was a kind of right-wing Kucinich, while pizza mogul Herman Cain left many wondering whether he was engaged in an elaborate form of performance art.

At this point, it’s too early to know for sure who will fill these designated roles in the 2016 presidential race. And if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nabs the Democratic nomination with little effort, as many expect, the potential cast of characters will be smaller than is the norm. Still, it’s starting to look like there will be at least one presidential candidate who will waste everyone’s time by pursuing the White House. I’m thinking, of course, about the nascent presidential campaign of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has begun flirting with some noxious forces in our society, and who is otherwise completely undeserving of anyone outside of Louisiana’s attention. Jindal will never be president — but whether his campaign is remembered as a routine failure, or a shameful disgrace, is far less certain.

Most of the worst stuff Jindal’s done lately has flown under the radar, so here’s a primer for those of you who haven’t paid much attention to the Louisiana pol since 2009, when he blew his State of the Union response by reminding everyone of “30 Rock’s” Kenneth. While Jindal still hasn’t formally announced his intention to run for president — and hasn’t even launched the pro forma exploratory committee, either — his desire to live at 1600 remains one of Louisiana’s “worst-kept” secrets. Yet ever since that embarrassing introduction to the television-watching public, Jindal’s had a problem: beyond his own ambition, a reason for him to run has been hard to find. And with each new iteration of a pre-campaign shtick, Jindal gets worse and worse.

Initially, Jindal wanted to be seen as a new kind of Republican, a GOPer for the Obama era. Needless to say, Jindal’s Indian ancestry was a component of this framing. But so was his allegedly fearsome intellect, which earned him degrees from Brown and Oxford and made him a Rhodes scholar. When his disastrous TV debut necessitated he shed that persona in favor of another, however, Jindal decided to go the other way, presenting himself as the ultimate anti-tax governor. He proposed Louisiana scrap income taxes altogether, but in part because his plan made up the revenue difference with sales taxes, which disproportionately hit the middle and working classes, the policy achieved little beyond sinking his approval rating. It remains low to this day.

After President Obama’s reelection in 2012, Jindal seemed to think he had another chance to claim the mantle of Sensible Republican. He charged out of the gate in 2013 with a call for the GOP to “stop being the stupid party,” which was, as you might imagine, not particularly well-received by the people who thought he was calling them stupid. Having seen his latest attempt fizzle out nearly as soon as it had started, Jindal proceeded to lay low for a while, but did little to change the perception that he still intended to run for president. Over the past few weeks, though, we’ve gotten a sense of what the latest version of Bobby Jindal might look like. And it isn’t pretty.

Lately, the man who urged his fellow Republicans to stop being stupid has grabbed headlines by pandering to the Islamophobic sentiment that’s widespread among the fundamentalist Christian bloc of the GOP base. The first sign was Jindal’s embrace of a paranoid fantasy that’s increasingly popular among far-right Christians, the supposed prevalence in the United Kingdom and Europe of “no-go” zones. These zones, according to the McCarthyite narrative, are neighborhoods or regions that have become so dominated by Muslim immigrants (and, of course, Shariah Law) that non-Muslims dare not enter them. The whole idea is a hysterical exaggeration, so much so that even Fox News has apologized for disseminating it. But Jindal has refused to downplay the no-go threat, despite being unable to point to any real examples.

If Jindal had left it there, you could have chalked it up as a momentary lapse in judgment, coupled with the typical arrogance of powerful men who are not accustomed to admitting they’re wrong. But he didn’t leave it there; he took it much further. He not only went on to flaunt his defiance on Fox News, promising he would never “tiptoe around the truth” when it came to “radical Islamic terrorism,” but also made clear that his turn to angry tribalism was no accident by grousing that he was “ready for us to stop calling ourselves hyphenated-Americans.” What connection there was between these two fearful mental spasms (it would be too charitable to call them thoughts) was unclear — until, that is, Jindal was able to get to what seemed to be his real message, which was little more than a nativist rant:

My parents came over here 40 years ago, they wanted their kids to be Americans, they love India, they love our heritage, if they wanted us to be Indians, they would have stayed in India. We also need to be teaching our kids in civics, in our schools about American Exceptionalism. We need to insist on English as our language in this country. I have nothing against anybody who wants to come here to be an American, but if people don’t want to come here to integrate and assimilate, what they’re really trying to do is set up their own culture, their communities, what they’re really trying to do is overturn our culture.

Unsurprisingly, the governor’s attempt to explicitly intertwine the conservative base’s dual fears of Muslims and immigrants was met with cheers from some of the more xenophobic and fear-stricken of conservatism’s leading lights. National Review’s Andrew McCarthy, for example, took a break from promoting torture to praise Jindal for his “Reaganesque” vision and willingness to call out the Islamic enemy within. But if Bobby Jindal wants his impending campaign for president to resonate outside the confines of National Review, his new persona is his most embarrassing miscalculation yet. Pretending to be a combination non-white Joe Arpaio and Christian Pamela Geller may do wonders for Jindal’s standing among the religious fundamentalists in the GOP, but to those of us who think America has more serious concerns than creeping Shariah, it makes him look like a fool. At best.


By: Elias Isquith, Salon, January 30, 2015


February 2, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Christian Conservatives, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Conservatism Is Too Big For Its Own Good”: The Right No Longer Understands The Difference Between The Movement And The Party

There’s a moment every year at the Conservative Political Action Conference when some eminence from the 1970s talks about the good old days at CPAC, hearkening back to the time when Ronald Reagan would show up and speak to a a small room of only about 500 activists. Things have changed. Now there are about 500 journalists who get registered to report on CPAC, which has bloated to some 10,000 participants in the fat years.

Maybe conservatism is just too big for its own good.

The conservative movement has grown large because it aspired to be something greater than a part of the Republican coalition. It wanted to become the entirety of the GOP. Instead of splitting into different interest groups, the conservative movement devises ad-hoc philosophies to integrate single-issue advocates into a larger coalition. You’re not just for low taxes or against abortion, you’re a conservative!

In this sense, the conservative movement has become a kind of parallel institution that drains resources, attention, talent, and energy from the GOP’s own electoral and governing efforts. Conservative Inc. is an enterprise with enough resources and power to be an attractive alternative to America’s official institutions of electoral power.

If you are a Republican politician and don’t have the wherewithal to become president of the United States, perhaps you have enough talent to become president of Conservatism. It’s an unofficial position, but has plenty of benefits. You won’t have the psychic pleasures of representing the electoral will of the American public, but you also won’t be burdened by any real responsibilities either.

Naturally, the idea of being a player without responsibility provides more attractions for charlatans, rabble-rousers, and opportunists.

Shades of this phenomena began in the 1990s presidential primaries. Whereas Pat Buchanan picked a principled fight with his party over issues like trade and foreign policy, candidates like Alan Keyes ran less for president than for publicity: mailing lists filled out, speaking fees increased, and radio shows picked up on more networks.

By the 2012 Republican primaries, it was obvious that there were in fact two competitions happening on the same debate stages. Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and even Newt Gingrich were not running for president in the same way that Mitt Romney and Rick Perry were.

This seems not to happen in the Democratic primaries. Sure, 2004 saw Howard Dean emerge as the leader of “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” But there is no parallel universe called Liberalism where he and Mike Gravel could become well-paid industries unto themselves as think leaders, book hawkers, and distinguished dinner guests. Dean became chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a political job with actual responsibilities and geared toward winning elections, not just flame wars.

The composition of the Democratic coalition seems stronger precisely because it is more splintered and more issue driven. No one is afraid that Planned Parenthood or the teachers’ unions are going to impose a broad-ranging ideological revolution on the nation. The public assumes that they will simply lobby for their particular, limited interests and that the party to which they belong will have a moderating effect on them.

But the conservative movement really is large enough to exert a destabilizing gravitational force on the entire political culture. Its opponents fear that its size and strength make the GOP immoderate. And they may be right.

In any GOP presidential primary, the candidates who are running to be unofficial head of the conservative movement can do a great deal of damage to the GOP’s eventual nominee. They can pressure the eventual candidate to over-commit to the right in the primary race, essentially handing them more baggage to carry in the general election. Or they can cripple the eventual primary winner by highlighting the nominee’s deviations from the movement, dispiriting the GOP’s base of voters.

When the attendees of CPAC gather in Washington early next month and conduct their presidential straw poll with the self importance of a warning shot, it might profit them to consider whether they intend to elect a new president of their ideological ghetto or one for their nation.


By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, February 26, 2014

February 27, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flirting With The Fringe: Stop Pretending Michele Bachmann Can Win The Iowa Caucuses

Ever since Michele Bachmann announced her intention to form a presidential exploratory committee, pundits, including Ed Kilgore at TNR, have been making the case that she has a good chance at winning Iowa—or if not winning, then doing well enough to hurt one or more of the stronger candidates. Republican caucus-goers in the state, they argue, are at least half-nuts, and therefore may well support Bachmann or some other candidate who doesn’t pass conventional standards of seriousness.

Certainly, Iowa Republicans are very socially conservative, more so than in some other states. But a closer look at Iowa caucus history shows that their history of supporting fringe candidates is not quite what it’s made out to be.

The case that “wacky Iowans will do anything” essentially comes down to interpreting a handful of episodes from recent decades. The first occurred in 1988 when Pat Robertson stunned everyone by finishing second with 25 percent of the vote, besting George H.W. Bush and Jack Kemp. But Pat Robertson was a social conservative—and no ordinary one at that—in a year in which the frontrunner (George H.W. Bush) was not. Moreover, that example is now over two decades old, and since then Iowa Republicans have had no trouble voting for mainstream candidates with conventional credentials, as long as those candidates—Lamar Alexander, George W. Bush—had solid records on social conservative issues.

That leaves us with three other supposed episodes of Iowan craziness: Pat Buchanan’s second place finish in 1996; the surprising showings of fringe candidates Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer in 2000; and Huckabee’s victory in 2008. Closer inspection of each of these episodes, however, reveals that none were quite as crazy as they appear.

Take Pat Buchannan in 1996. As odd as it might seem now, he was almost a serious candidate at the time: He had already run for president in 1992, and while he was never quite a plausible nominee, he did have some serious claim as a repeat candidate that Bachmann doesn’t have now. Nor was Buchannan’s success in Iowa especially unique. In fact, he proceeded to win the primary in New Hampshire, and wound up beating his Iowa percentage in sixteen states (several of those, to be sure, were after other candidates had dropped out, so the higher percentage was less impressive).

As for Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer in 2000, they certainly were fringe candidates—even more so than Bachmann—and their combined 25 percent was both impressive and anomalous; they combined for only 7 percent in New Hampshire, although Keyes did have some stronger showings in late states after the nomination was decided. However, it’s also the case that they didn’t have a whole lot of competition. John McCain campaigned in Iowa in 2000, but he did not fully commit to the state, and the only other candidate they beat was Orrin Hatch, who hardly ran any campaign at all. And even with their totals combined, Keyes and Bauer finished well back of Steve Forbes for second, and even further behind winner George W. Bush.

Finally, there’s Huckabee’s surprise victory in 2008; but the extent to which his candidacy was in any way similar to Bachmann’s has been vastly overstated. Yes, he won with the support of social issues voters. But Huckabee wasn’t some backbench member of the House; he was a recent former governor, and, in that sense, just as legitimate a candidate as Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton.

Compared to Huckabee, Michele Bachmann is an altogether different sort of candidate. Since 1972, no candidate in any way similar has run a competitive campaign. The only three members of the House who had plausible shots at winning—Mo Udall in 1976, Jack Kemp in 1988, and Dick Gephardt in 1988 and 2004—were all senior members with leadership positions, legislative accomplishments, or both. No, Bachmann belongs in a different category, with other sideshow acts who may attract attention but have no real chance to win the nomination. And even in allegedly crazy Iowa, those candidates rarely impress on caucus day.

By: Jonathan Bernstein, The New Republic, April 16, 2011

April 17, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Exploratory Presidential Committees, GOP, Governors, Ideology, Independents, Iowa Caucuses, Journalists, Media, Politics, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Swing Voters, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Driving Ms. Bachmann: The Most Embarrassing Republican Presidential Candidates Of The Modern Era

For respectable Republicans, the embarrassment potential may be at an all-time high. The party is a year away from picking its next presidential candidate and never in the modern era has it faced a vacuum like this.

Sure, the odds are still strong that the GOP will ultimately settle on a “harmless enough” general election candidate — someone sufficiently generic and inoffensive to ensure that the party doesn’t fall far below its natural level of support in the fall of 2012. But the road from here to the convention looks unusually — and, if you’re a Democrat, comically — rocky for Republicans.

The party’s base — which nominated several utterly unelectable candidates in several high-stakes Senate races last year — is in revolt, thirsting for purity and likely to accede to a Romney or Pawlenty nomination only with reluctance. Before then, it figures to be tempted by an atypically large collection of red meat-spouting long shots: Michele Bachman, Newt Gingrich, John Bolton, Rick Santorum, maybe even Sarah Palin or (why not?) Herman Cain — personally and politically polarizing extremists who validate a damaging stereotype of the Obama-era GOP. It’s not impossible that one of these ideologues will fare surprisingly well in one or more of the early nominating contests next year (most likely activist-dominated Iowa).

It is this possibility that makes 2012 potentially different from previous Republican contests, in which the party has generally — but not always — succeeded in keeping the embarrassments to a minimum. Here’s a look at the most embarrassing Republican candidates to be taken (at least somewhat) seriously by the media since 1980:

1. Rep. Phil Crane — 1980

The heir to Donald Rumsfeld’s old House seat, Crane came to Congress in 1969, a Goldwater campaign veteran made good. He spent the ’70s racking up one of the most conservative voting records in the House and, in the wake of Ronald Reagan’s unsuccessful 1976 White House bid, set out to run for the presidency himself in 1980. (His theory was that Reagan, because of age and his two failed bids for the GOP nod, would end up passing on ’80, leaving Crane to gobble up “New Right” support.)

Crane’s politics weren’t really more conservative than Reagan’s, but unlike the Gipper, he didn’t know how to mask his extremism with warmth and charm. Instead, he conformed to the popular image of a far-right whacko, purchasing (for instance) 30-minute blocks of time to air a speech in which he held up the Bible and quoted from it in an effort to establish America’s Christian roots. He also attracted unwanted attention when, at the height of the campaign, he was sued by Richard Viguerie, the direct mail pioneer, for unpaid bills.

More damaging, though, was the wrath of Bill Loeb, the notoriously vengeful publisher of New Hampshire’s largest (and most conservative) newspaper, the Union-Leader. Fearful that Crane’s presence in the race would hurt Reagan, Loeb skewered him in a series of front-page editorials, then commissioned a devastating story that used anonymous sources to portray Crane as a serial philanderer with a drinking problem. The story attracted national attention and helped Loeb achieve his goal: Crane finished a distant fifth in Iowa and won only 2 percent in New Hampshire. (Years later, he would publicly admit to a drinking problem and seek treatment.)

2. Pat Robertson — 1988

The pioneering televangelist’s candidacy was the logical consequence of the rise of the Christian right, which emerged as a force and embraced the Republican Party during Jimmy Carter’s presidency.

But Robertson, the founder and president of the Christian Broadcasting Network, was a particularly kooky frontman for this movement. By the time he announced his candidacy for the ’88 GOP nod, he already had one false Armageddon prediction under his belt (1982 would be the year, he’d forecasted in ’76) and had also taken credit for using prayer to steer Hurricane Gloria away from New York City in 1985. As a candidate, he sought to present himself as a businessman more than a religious leader, bristling at suggestions that he had “followers” and accusing Tom Brokaw of religious bigotry for calling him a “televangelist” during one debate.

You can imagine, then, the profound embarrassment — and fear — that mainstream Republicans felt on the night of February 8, 1988, when Robertson finished 6 points ahead of Vice President George H.W. Bush to claim a shocking second place in the Iowa caucuses. Robertson quickly ran out of momentum — he finished dead last in New Hampshire a week later, behind even Pierre S. du Pont IV — and was blown out in South Carolina. But the Christian Coalition that he founded in the wake of his campaign played an instrumental role in creating the Republican Party that we know today.

3. Pat Buchanan — 1992 and 1996

Less than two months before announcing his challenge to Bush for the ’92 GOP nomination, Buchanan wrote a column offering advice to his party on how to win in the future: “Take a hard look” at the “portfolio of winning issues” being championed by … David Duke, the ex-Klansman who, in the fall of 1991, had won a place in Louisiana’s gubernatorial runoff (in which he was thumped by Edwin Edwards).

This was par for the course for Buchanan, who had also used his media platform to opine that women were “less equipped psychologically” than men to handle the business world and to defend accused Nazi war criminals — most notably John Demjanjuk. In the 1980s, he had also ridiculed third-world nations pushing for sanctions against apartheid South Africa, arguing that they were motivated by “racism and the resentment that failure always feels for success.”

Buchanan went on to fare alarmingly well in the ’92 New Hampshire primary, powered by the GOP electorate’s frustration with the economy and Bush’s broken “no new taxes” pledge. It was the high-water mark for Buchanan’s ’92 campaign, although it also helped him earn a prime-time speaking slot at the ’92 convention — a speech best remembered for Buchanan’s divisive declaration of “culture war” and his long-windedness, which knocked Ronald Reagan’s speech out of prime time.

Four years later, Buchanan gave the GOP an even bigger headache when he finished a close second in Iowa and then won New Hampshire, although his momentum was quickly arrested as a panicked party establishment rallied around Bob Dole.

(Note: Duke himself also sought the ’92 GOP nod, although he’s not included in this list on the grounds that — unlike the others — he was thoroughly isolated and shunned by the party’s establishment. No one respectable would touch him, not even Buchanan.)

4. Rep. Robert Dornan — 1996

A few highlights of the political career that preceded “B-1 Bob’s” absurd 1996 White House bid:

* On the House floor in 1985, he attacked fellow Rep. Tom Downey as “a draft-dodging wimp,” then grabbed the New York Democrat by his collar. Downey claimed that Dornan threatened him physically; Dornan said he’d merely been trying to straighten his tie.

* In 1993, he took the House floor to accuse President Clinton of giving “aid and comfort to the enemy” during the Vietnam War. He also branded the president “a flawed human being” and “a draft-dodging adulterer not fit to lace the boots” of America’s troops.

* In 1994, he outed fellow Rep. Steve Gunderson on the House floor, making reference to the “revolving closet door” on the Wisconsin Republican’s closet.

* During his 1992 House campaign, he bragged that “every lesbian spear-chucker in this country is hoping I get defeated.” And when Dornan was confronted by AIDS activists at a public event, his wife snapped, “Shut up, fag!”

* Court records made public in 1994 indicated that Dornan had been convicted and ordered to jail in 1996 for physically attacking his wife (although there was no record he’d actually done time). Dornan and his wife denied that any abuse had occurred and blamed the case on a drug problem she had at the time.

Dornan ran on the slogan “Faith, Family and Freedom” but struggled to raise money and assembled a staff that consisted primarily of family members. One of his final acts as a candidate came at a New Hampshire party dinner the weekend before that state’s primary. He literally begged the audience for sympathy votes, so that he would avoid the indignity of finishing with 0 percent. He didn’t get his wish.

5. Alan Keyes — 1996 and 2000

Described in one of Al Franken’s books as a “Reagan administration functionary,” Keyes entered politics in 1988, waging a hopeless Senate campaign against Democratic incumbent Paul Sarbanes in Maryland. He was trounced, but tried again four years later against Barbara Mikulski. He was slaughtered again, but this time he made national news — for taking the unusual step of giving himself a salary of $8,500 per month with campaign funds. A few years later, he set out to run for president.

Keyes ran on a platform of Puritanical morality, lashing out at America’s “licentious, self-indulgent culture,” lashing out at the Clinton administration and its “condom czars” and focusing almost obsessively on abortion. He also had this exchange with a local right-wing radio host, as reported by the Chicago Tribune:

Muller says slavery has been misconstrued by many blacks. “This whole slavery thing has been bastardized into ‘Oh, we were oppressed. Now we don’t have to do anything because of what happened 300 years ago.'” Keyes, who is black, agrees, saying the devastation imposed on black families by liberal government programs, such as welfare, has been worse than slavery.

By: Steve Kornacki, News Editor, Salon, March 31, 2011

April 1, 2011 Posted by | Birthers, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Neo-Cons, Politics, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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