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“The Rubio-Schumer Gang Of Eight Bill”: How Ted Cruz Will Try To Destroy Marco Rubio

Imagine you’re Ted Cruz. Things are proceeding according to plan — you’re in second place nationwide and ahead in some polls in Iowa, you’re consolidating the support of evangelicals, most of your opponents are falling behind or falling away, and, after treating you like a fringe figure for so long, the media is finally taking seriously the idea that you might be the party’s nominee. There are only two guys standing in your way. The first is Donald Trump, and who knows what he’s going to do or say. The second is Marco Rubio and, if you can take him out, it’ll be down to you and The Donald — at which point even the party establishment that so despises you will probably rally to your side.

So how can you sweep Rubio aside and make it a two-man race? The answer Cruz has seized upon is immigration, Rubio’s soft and vulnerable underbelly.

This tactic came out in Tuesday night’s debate, when Cruz said, “You know, there was a time for choosing, as Reagan put it. When there was a battle over amnesty and some chose, like Senator Rubio, to stand with Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer and support a massive amnesty plan.” He even called a bill that Rubio co-wrote the “Rubio-Schumer Gang of Eight bill,” which is pretty low.

This attack isn’t surprising; that Gang of Eight bill has been just waiting to be exploited. Back in 2013, Rubio joined with a bipartisan group of senators to write the comprehensive immigration reform bill, which passed the Senate and then died in the House. Even though the bill had a lot of what Republicans wanted, Rubio was immediately excoriated by the very Tea Partiers who had championed his election in 2010, called a traitor and an alien-coddler because the bill included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Rubio has since distanced himself from the effort, but it clings to him still.

Why is it such a big deal? Well, as Rubio knows, immigration is one of the main reasons so many white, older Republican voters feel out of place in a changing America. It was the subject of endless conflicts between the Obama administration and Republicans in Congress. Obama’s executive actions on immigration are the evidence conservatives hold up to support their assertion that the president is a tyrant who ignores the law. Those executive actions were the cause of one of our many government shutdown crises. And it has been one of the main sources of conflict between the party establishment, which believed that the GOP needs to support comprehensive reform in order to make an opening with Latino voters and thus have a chance at winning the White House, and the base voters and conservative members of Congress who say, “Hell no.” So, as complex as the issue is, it isn’t hard for Rubio’s opponents to say that there’s a right side and a wrong side on immigration, and the senator is (or at least was) on the wrong side.

Cruz himself has been moving steadily to the right on this issue over the course of the campaign, though his precise position on the question of undocumented immigrants has at times been hard to pin down. While he has always opposed a path to citizenship, at various points he has seemed to support work permits that would allow the undocumented to stay in the country legally. This is what Rubio is referring to when he says that Cruz supports “legalization.”

But Cruz is now backing away from that position, saying in the debate, “I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization.” Ask him about it now, and he’ll talk only about border walls and deportation. He has even come out in favor of repealing birthright citizenship, the constitutional principle that anyone born in the United States is a United States citizen.

When he gets asked about his work on the 2013 bill, Rubio has a long, detailed answer, one he’s repeated many times. It hits all the appropriate notes — slamming the Obama administration, talking about how border security must be accomplished first, noting that the E-Verify system has to be in place so employers don’t hire the undocumented, and explaining the lengthy process that would be required for an undocumented person to get citizenship, a process that could take as much as a couple of decades. His basic point is that once we do all the things Republicans want, then we can get around to thinking about a path to citizenship — but it’s so far down the road, it would be after he served even two terms as president.

But after Rubio gives that long, detailed answer, Cruz can just point to him and say, “Nope, he supports amnesty.” Which, depending on how you define it, is true.

Had the Gang of Eight bill managed to pass the House, Rubio would have been hailed in many quarters as a hero, someone who had broken the logjam, found a solution to a complex policy problem, and delivered the GOP something it desperately needed, a chance to win over one of the fastest-growing parts of the electorate. But as it is, that 2013 bill is a millstone around Rubio’s neck, one that someone like Ted Cruz is happy to pull on to make Rubio’s burden even heavier.

In the context of this primary campaign, it’s far better to have never tried to accomplish much of anything on policy, like Cruz. Rubio did try, and Cruz is going to make him pay. While the issue of terrorism may fade in the coming weeks and months, immigration will always be there in this campaign. And as long as they’re both in the race, Ted Cruz is going to pound Marco Rubio on it without mercy, until one of these two sons of immigrants leaves the race.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, December 17, 2015

December 19, 2015 Posted by | Immigration Reform, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Effects Could Be Lasting”: The Collateral Damage From The Iran Nuclear Deal

Often in war, attacks on intended targets can result in collateral damage. The Washington-Jerusalem clash over the Iran nuclear agreement is a case in point. The fallout is producing casualties among both supporters and opponents of the deal that can only gladden the hearts of mullahs in Tehran.

Congressional votes on the nuclear accord are still days away, but now is the time to focus on the damage that’s being done. Left unchecked, the effects could be lasting.

Witness evidence compiled by the New York Times:

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who opposes the deal, was lampooned on the Daily Kos Web site as a traitorous rodent.

Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), who also opposed the nuclear deal, said she has “been accused of being treacherous, treasonous, even disloyal to the United States.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who announced his support for the deal, was called, on his Facebook page, “a kapo: a Jew who collaborated with Nazis in the World War II death camps. One writer said Nadler had ‘blood on his hands.’ Another said he had ‘facilitated Obama’s holocaust,’ ” the Times’s Jonathan Weisman and Alexander Burns reported.

And it’s not just a matter of an apparent divide among American Jews or the gulf between major Jewish organizations opposing the Iran deal and the deal’s Jewish supporters. The collateral damage falls across religious and racial lines. As a deal supporter, I know.

In response to a recent column in which I cited senior House Democrat and Congressional Black Caucus member James E. Clyburn’s (S.C.) criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu taking an end-run around the White House to flay the nuclear deal before a Republican-led Congress, I received this e-mail from a reader using the pseudonym “visitingthisplace”: “Black Jewish relations have always been a two way street. The Jews gave money to black causes, marched and died for civil rights, and in return, the black [sic] looted and burned the Jewish businesses to the ground. . . . In spite of your education and your opportunities, you are still just another anti-Semitic street nigger.”

But it’s more than a case of ugly words and insults.

This public battle over the Iran deal is putting a strain on relationships not just among Israel’s supporters in the United States but also between the two governments.

And the discord comes at a time when what’s needed most is consensus, as President Obama said last week, on how to “enhance Israeli security in a very troubled neighborhood.”

Admittedly, it’s hard to make an effective pitch for an end to the acrimony, since, as the late comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “Folks are so touchy these days.” But reconciliation is essential. When the dust settles, there will be a nuclear accord.

That outcome was nailed down this week when the president secured enough votes in the Senate to sustain a veto of a Republican attempt to derail the agreement.

The question that needs pondering, especially in Israel, is “What’s next?” Netanyahu evidently missed Ralph Waldo Emerson’s admonition, “When you strike at a king, you must kill him.”

The prime minister took the undiplomatic step of going over the head of a sitting president to a Republican Congress with the intention of delivering a death blow to that president’s internationally negotiated nuclear accord — and missed.

Political offense of that scale is particularly open to penalty. But Obama is bigger than that.

The “what next” question has urgency. Blocking Iran’s path to nuclear weapons for at least 10 years will not halt its aggressive intentions in the Middle East. Iran will still support proxies to destabilize opposing regimes in the region. It will continue to pose a threat to Israel. “Death to America” remains the slogan of choice at Iranian rallies.

In recognition of that grim reality, this week in Philadelphia, Secretary of State John F. Kerry outlined steps the United States will take to bolster the security of Israel and the United States’ Gulf state allies: $3 billion for Israel’s missile defense programs; enhanced funding for next-generation missile defense systems; a $1.89 billion munitions supply package; tunnel detection and mapping technologies; and giving Israel first dibs on the U.S.-made next generation F-35 fighter aircraft coming off the line next year.

Kerry said there also would be increased arms shipments and new security deals with Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

But there are breaches to be repaired.

Israel can take a step toward that end by unhitching its fate to a Republican Party blinded by anti-Obama mania. Israel needs to be a bipartisan issue in Washington.

Another positive step Israel can take? Foster a rapprochement between opposing U.S. pro-Israel camps.

The collateral damage resulting from Israel’s kerfuffle with the Obama administration may have been unintended, but it was not incidental. Never is in a war of words.

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 7, 2015

 

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Iran Nuclear Agreement, Israel, United States of America | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“On The Crazy Train To 2016”: The Most Endangered U.S. Senator Going Into His 2016 Reelection Race

I know the air is filled with Republican hysteria about the Iran nuclear deal, but it’s still possible to distinguish honest disagreement on a complex topic with politically motivated or just plain crazy treatment of this highly contingent multilateral agreement as one of the worst moments in human history. I mean, it’s one thing to talk about acceptable and unacceptable risks, but some of these birds are acting as though the missiles aimed at Tel Aviv are being armed as we speak.

With that in mind, read this series of quotes served up by Buzzfeed‘s Andrew Kaczynski and see if you can figure out who might have uttered them:

“This agreement condemns the next generation to cleaning up a nuclear war in the Persian Gulf,” ____ said. “It condemns our Israel allies to further conflict with Iran.” ____ added that he thought the agreement will yield “more nukes, and more terrorists, and more irresponsibility by the Iranians,” saying he thought Iran will now increase their influence in Iraq and Yemen.

“This is the greatest appeasement since Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler,” ____ continued, saying he believed Obama only went through with the deal because he has a poor understanding of history and did not realize appeasement made war more likely. _____ said he thought the deal meant that Israel would now have to take “military action against Iran.”

“The president will make this a viciously partisan issue, leading most Democrats to standing with the Iranians and hopefully losing the next election on this point,” ____ said. “He will ask the Democrats all to stand with Iran and make sure that we can’t get two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate.”

Asked if any Democrats disagreed with the president, ____ pointed to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, who he believed “has just been indicted maybe on the crime of being against the Iran deal.”

____ said he believed the only reason the president supported legislation from Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, that allowed Congress to review the deal was because he “wants…to get nukes to Iran.”

Okay, time’s up. Who do you suspect? Frank Gaffney? Jennifer Rubin? James Inhofe? Ted Cruz? Lindsey Graham? Tom Cotton?

No, it’s the junior senator from Illinois, Mark Kirk, often described as a “centrist” or a “moderate,” and universally thought of as the most endangered U.S. Senator going into his 2016 reelection race.

I guess this could be some ploy to pursue Jewish voters, though there wouldn’t be this whole meme about Netanyahu’s war with American Jews if that sort of talk was widely popular with Jewish folk. Or maybe he’s making up for lost gabbing after his recovery from a stroke. But it’s weird to see a statewide elected official from the president’s home state–a blue state at that–basically accuse him of deliberate assistance to terrorists right before voters consider him for another term.

 

BY: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 15, 2015

July 16, 2015 Posted by | Iran Nuclear Agreement, Mark Kirk, Terrorists | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why They Are Dead, Horribly Wrong”: What Democrats Whine About When They Whine About ObamaCare

Democrats have reacted to crushing losses in November’s midterm elections in the usual manner: with a circular firing squad. And one of the targets has been the signature policy of the Obama administration, the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York took the lead earlier this month, arguing that it was a mistake for Democrats to pass comprehensive health care reform. Retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa) has come to the same conclusion for different reasons.

While it’s not surprising that this argument has intensified after the midterm bloodbath, it isn’t a new one. Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank was saying the same things in 2012, and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel urged Obama to abandon health care reform in 2010, after the election of Scott Brown to the Senate cost Democrats their brief filibuster-proof majority.

But whether made now or at the time, whether from the left, right, or center, whether driven by policy or pragmatism, all of these arguments have one thing in common: they’re dead wrong. Horribly wrong. Wrong about the ACA, wrong about what was possible in 2010, and wrong about American political history in general.

Before analyzing each variation of the claim that Democrats were wrong to pass the ACA, it’s important to start with this: the ACA has been a remarkable policy success. It has substantially reduced the number of Americans without health insurance, and in so doing has alleviated a great deal of needless suffering, anxiety, and financial stress. It has slowed the growth in health care costs. And its medley of wonky reforms has improved health outcomes.

Furthermore, had it been allowed to work as intended, rather than having its Medicaid expansion ineptly re-written by the Supreme Court and obstructed by Republican statehouses, the scope of the achievement would be even greater.

The ACA doesn’t represent optimal health care policy by any means — to find a better one you need only throw a dart at a map of Western Europe. But it’s a success that Democrats should be very proud of, one that can stand alongside the great achievements of the New Deal and the Great Society.

Arguments that Democrats should not have done health care face a very, very high burden of proof. And they don’t even come close.

Democrats should have focused on something else.
This is a recurring theme in the anti-ACA arguments being made by Democrats. Schumer says Democrats should have focused on the “middle class” rather than health care reform, while Frank argued that the Democrats should have emphasized financial reform instead.

The main problem with these arguments is that no alternative course of action would be remotely worth trading for the ACA. As Paul Krugman points out, “focusing” on the economy in and of itself has no value, and Schumer can’t point to any concrete policy that would have passed had the Democrats not pursued comprehensive health care reform. There was not going to be a second major round of stimulus no matter what. The Obama administration didn’t do nearly enough for underwater homeowners, but this failure was independent of the ACA.

The only alternative policy course that could have arguably been preferable to the ACA would have been legislation addressing climate change. But given the Senate’s heavy tilt towards conservative fossil-fuel states, cap-and-trade legislation was always going to be stillborn. The idea that two Democratic senators from North Dakota, two Democratic senators from Montana, Mary “I’m going to my political grave defending the Keystone pipeline” Landrieu, and other relatively conservative Democrats were all going to vote for major climate change legislation is fantastical. In addition, much of what cap-and-trade would have accomplished can be addressed through regulatory action, which is not the case with health care.

Democrats should have waited for a pony.
Harkin’s argument is somewhat different — and is superficially more appealing — than Schumer’s. Instead of arguing that health care reform was a misguided priority, Harkin argues that the ACA wasn’t good enough. “We should have either done it the correct way or not done anything at all,” he asserts. Democrats should have tried for “single-payer right from the get go or at least put a public option [which] would have simplified a lot.”

This is like saying that Democrats should have gotten “two weeks at the penthouse suite at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco…or at least a night at the Motel 6 in Tulsa.” It misleadingly conflates two very different policies with two different political possibilities. Single-payer would certainly have been a better policy than the ACA, but it would be hard to get 20 votes for it in the Senate, let alone 60. (It’s worth noting that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2009 single-payer bill had a grand total of zero co-sponsors.)

The question of the public option is more complicated. There are variants of the public option — most obviously a universally available Medicare buy-in — that would have been major reforms, representing a pathway to single-payer. But that is precisely why a robust public option was as DOA in Congress as single-payer itself. The public option in the House bill — which would not have been universally available or cheaper than private alternatives — was small potatoes that would not have made the ACA simpler, more popular, or significantly more progressive. And even so, there almost certainly weren’t the votes in the Senate to pass even the neutered version of the public option.

Should the Democrats have just given up then, as Harkin suggests?

No. Let’s put this in historical perspective. Harry Truman tried and failed to pass comprehensive health care reform. Lyndon Johnson, in extraordinarily favorable circumstances, failed to pass comprehensive health care reform. Ted Kennedy’s efforts under the Nixon administration failed. Bill Clinton’s efforts failed. The idea that Democrats will nationalize the health insurance industry the next chance they get is just the purest wishful thinking. And the idea that millions of people should be denied health insurance for such a long-odds gamble is not merely wrong but immoral.

Democrats would have avoided big losses in the midterms.
At the core of these arguments is the fact that the ACA is unpopular, which presumably played a major role in the Democratic Party losing big in the 2010 and 2014 midterms. This argument might be the least convincing of all.

Let’s set aside the fact that Democrats held on to the Senate in 2010 and 2012, despite the ACA’s unpopularity, as well as the presidency. The argument, at its core, is deeply problematic. It presumes that Democrats should maintain power as an end in itself. But it’s not an end in itself — the point of being elected is to do things that benefit your constituents. What’s the point of political capital if you don’t spend it?

Again, it’s worth putting things in historical perspective. The problem with waiting for the perfect, risk-free time to pass major reform legislation is that there’s never a perfect time. There have been three major periods of progressive reform legislation in Congress between the Civil War and 2008. (The fact that there have been only three should give pause to those who think that Obama, Reid, and Nancy Pelosi are worthless sellouts because they failed to completely transform the American political economy in Obama’s first two years.) In 1966, Great Society Democrats lost 47 seats in the House and three in the Senate, a preview of the crack-up of the Democratic coalition that would (with a detour created by Watergate) lead to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. In 1938, New Deal Democrats lost 72 seats in the House and seven in the Senate, and this tally doesn’t account for the failure of FDR’s efforts to defeat anti-New Deal Democrats in the primaries. In 1874, the Reconstruction-era Republicans lost 93 (out of 293) seats in the House and a net of seven seats in the Senate, effectively ending Reconstruction.

Does this mean that Lyndon Johnson shouldn’t have signed the Civil Rights Act? That FDR should have waited until he didn’t need Southern segregationists to pass New Deal legislation? That Republicans should have nominated Andrew Johnson rather than Ulysses S. Grant in 1868? Of course not.

The perfect response to these kind of arguments was made by Pelosi: “We come here to do a job, not keep a job. There are more than 14 million reasons why that’s wrong.” This is exactly right. The window for progressive reform in the United States is always narrow and treacherous — you get the best you can get when you have the chance. The unpopularity of the greatest progressive achievement passed by Congress in nearly five decades is unfortunate, but misguided Monday-morning quarterbacking isn’t the right response.

 

By: Scott Lemieux, Professor of Political Science at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y.; The Week, December 11, 2014

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Democrats, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Whose Civil War Is Worse?”: Personal Distrust Far More Intense Among Republicans. They Really Don’t Like One Another

For some reason that I should probably determine one day, I’ve always found internal disputes with the conservative movement/Republican party somewhat more interesting than internal disputes within the liberal movement/Democratic party. Perhaps it’s because, as a liberal, I get a little Nelson Muntzian charge out of watching the folks on the other side tear themselves apart. Or perhaps it’s because, immersed as I am in the liberal world, the disputes on the left make more sense to me and therefore plumbing their mysteries isn’t so compelling.

Regardless, it has often been the case that one side is unified as the other is engaged in intramural battles; for many years, it was the Republicans who were together while the Dems were in disarray, while in the last few years the Democrats have been more united while the GOP has been riven by infighting. But could both sides now be at their own compatriots’ throats? And if so, whose internal battle is more vicious? Charles Krauthammer insists that it’s the Democrats who are on the verge of all-out civil war:

I grant that there’s a lot of shouting today among Republicans. But it’s a ritual skirmish over whether a government shutdown would force the president to withdraw a signature measure—last time, Obamacare; this time, executive amnesty…

It’s a tempest in a teapot, and tactical at that. Meanwhile, on the other side, cannons are firing in every direction as the Democratic Party, dazed and disoriented, begins digging itself out of the shambles of six years of Barack Obama.

To summarize him, congressional Republicans may be repeating the battles that led to a government shutdown, but Chuck Schumer made a speech that some other Democrats disagreed with, so obviously it’s the Democrats who are practically on the verge of dissolution.

Now let’s take a look at what conservative journalist Byron York is reporting:

A headline by Breitbart News—”Boehner Crafts Surrender Plan on Obama Executive Amnesty”—echoes the idea that GOP leaders will back down even when they have full control of Congress. It’s a view that is shared by many conservatives, from Twitter devotees to radio talk-show hosts.

Underneath it all is a toxic distrust among Hill Republicans. In conversations and email exchanges in the past few days—none of it for attribution and some of it completely off the record—GOP aides on both sides of the issue have expressed deep suspicion of the other side’s motives.

“Conservative Republicans believe leadership will cave to Obama because conservative Republicans are not stupid,” said one GOP aide. “Leadership is bound and determined to never have a funding fight on executive amnesty.”

“Ask them what their backup plan is after the government shuts down,” said another GOP aide, referring to the forces who want action now. “They don’t have one. They know their plan is a dead-end strategy, but they don’t care. All they care about is making themselves look good to the Heritage Action/purity-for-profit crowd.”

In both cases, there’s wide agreement on policy. There really isn’t any significant policy that Ted Cruz supports but John Boehner doesn’t, and you could say the same of almost any two major Democratic figures. Everybody’s arguing about tactics. But the differences seem much more meaningful on the Republican side, where the question is whether they should engage in a kamikaze mission to shut down the government, not whether some new phrasing to describe longstanding ideological values might yield a few more votes. And the personal distrust and dislike York describes seem far more intense among Republicans. They really don’t like one another.

The other major difference is that the GOP is actually divided into organized factions in a way that Democrats aren’t. As Joel Gehrke reports, there could be as many as 50 to 60 House Republicans who will vote against John Boehner’s plan to fund the government, which would mean Boehner would once again need to go on his knees to Nancy Pelosi asking for her help to avoid a shutdown. There’s nothing remotely comparable on the Democratic side.

But if it makes people like Krauthammer feel better to say, “We’re not the ones in disarray, they are!”, then I guess they should go right ahead.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, December 5, 2014

December 8, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Democrats, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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