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“No Experience Necessary”: A Cycle In Which ‘The Base’ Isn’t Buying Anti-Washington Rhetoric From Senators Or Governors

My editor at TPM asked me to take a look yesterday at the historical precedents for so many candidates with no experience in elected office managing to run non-trivial presidential campaigns at the same time. And indeed, I can’t immediately find any precedent for three such candidates in a single cycle. As noted in my column, Trump, Carson and Fiorina registered a total of 42% support in the post-debate Fox News national poll of the GOP presidential nomination contest. Add in Ted Cruz, whose brief service in the U.S. Senate has mostly been devoted to attacking his colleagues, and you’ve got a clear majority preferring as little experience as possible.

Past “non-politician” candidates for president mostly had an abundance of other forms of public service. The last president without a prior elected position was the epitome: Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was on the public payroll most of his life, and was noted among generals more for his political acumen than his military skills. 2008 candidate Wes Clark was from the same mold. 2000 candidate Liddy Dole had served in two Cabinet positions, and was married to the ultimate Congressional Insider.

Steve Forbes and Herman Cain were entirely innocent of public office, like today’s trio. But they didn’t appear in the same cycle.

In writing my column, I added up the elected experience of the other 14 candidates in the ’16 GOP field, and came up with 144 years. That’s a lot of experience. But the only candidate who seems to be putting a lot of emphasis on how much experience he has is Rick Santorum, who is going nowhere fast.

Of the three novices, Carly Fiorina is the most unique historically insofar as she really has no great successes to boast of in the private or public sectors. Yes, she was by some accounts the first woman to head up one of the world’s largest corporations, but by even more accounts she ran HP into the ground and then used her golden parachute to run a notably unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign. Other than that, she’s good at getting appointed to the advisory committees of Republican presidential nominees–both McCain and Romney–and has the kind of communications skills you’d expect from someone used to doing Power Point presentations at shareholder meetings.

As I’ve discussed here often, there’s a big reason Fiorina has been largely bullet-proof despite her dubious resume; her gender makes her a very valuable party asset in a cycle where it’s still largely assumed Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. But you’d have to say she’s also benefiting from the same strange climate that has made Trump the GOP front-runner (in the polls at least) and Carson a grassroots favorite. Decades of attacks on the public sector combined with decades of broken promises by Republican pols have produced a cycle in which “the base” isn’t buying anti-Washington rhetoric from senators (other than perhaps the systematically irresponsible Cruz) or even governors. Maybe one of the experienced candidates with Establishment backing–you know, those who together are pulling a small minority of the vote in the polls–will eventually be the nominee. But said Establishment and the pundits and political scientists who view it as all-powerful need to take a long look at the dynamics of this nominating contest.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 19, 2015

August 20, 2015 Posted by | Anti-Washington, GOP Base, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Tax Rates That Don’t Cause Bernie Sanders To ‘Flinch'”: About As Radical As Republican Plans To Slash Taxes On The Wealthy

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is many things, but subtle isn’t one of them. Take a look at these comments the Democratic presidential candidate made to CNBC about higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

“These people are so greedy, they’re so out of touch with reality,” he said. “They think they own the world…. I’m sorry to have to tell them, they live in the United States, they benefit from the United States, we have kids who are hungry in this country. We have people who are working two, three, four jobs, who can’t send their kids to college.

“Sorry, you’re all going to have to pay your fair share of taxes,” he asserted. “If my memory is correct, when radical socialist Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, the highest marginal tax rate was something like 90 percent.”

That last part is true, by the way. In the 1950s, when Republicans were far more interested in deficit reduction than tax breaks, Eisenhower was committed to helping pay off World War II-era debts. He kept Roosevelt’s 90% top marginal rate in place, and the post-war economy boomed anyway. (It wasn’t until JFK in 1961 that Washington approved a “peace dividend,” and even then, some Republicans of the era balked, still preferring to focus on the debt, not tax breaks.)

But Sanders’ support for similar rates is so far from mainstream norms that his comments strike much of the political world as somehow bizarre. The New York Times noted with incredulity that the Vermont senator “doesn’t flinch over returning to the 90 percent personal income tax rates of the 1950s for top earners.”

Over at Salon, it led Simon Maloy to raise a good point: “We’ve become so accustomed to historically low rates of taxation for the wealthy that when someone like Sanders comes along and says the rich can and should pay a far higher rate, people assume he’s out to lunch.”

The flip side to the dynamic is that while reporters and pundits raise their eyebrows at the notion of dramatically increasing the tax burden on the wealthy, absurd and irresponsible tax cuts for top earners are now just assumed to be a given when it comes to Republican policymaking. Several current Republican candidates for the presidency have laid out plans that would eliminate capital gains taxes and the estate tax while cutting the top income tax rate. […]

The thrust of GOP policymaking is to redirect an even greater share of the nation’s wealth to the already engorged few sitting at the top of the income ladder. Sanders is proposing instead that we funnel some of that wealth away from the rich and toward the middle class. And while we’re supposed to “flinch” at a high rate of taxation for income, a zero percent rate on investments is taken in stride.

I think that’s right. Sanders’ position is clearly far from the traditional menu of tax-policy options, so far that he practically sounds like a visitor from another country (if not another planet). We’re accustomed to hearing national figures talk about raising taxes on the rich a little; we’re not accustomed to hearing them talk about raising taxes on the rich a lot.

But what Sanders is proposing is about as radical as Republican plans to slash taxes on the wealthy by hundreds of billions of dollars. It just seems more extreme because our expectations have begun to adapt to a ridiculous GOP wish list that we’re confronted with all the time.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 28, 2015

May 29, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Marginal Tax Rates, Tax Rates | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The GOP Is Not Trying To Change”: The Direction The Republican Party Is Headed Is Destined For Political Ruin

John Harwood has an article in today’s New York Times with the headline: Shut Out of White House, G.O.P. Looks to Democrats of 1992. What’s not clear is whom the headline writer means by G.O.P. As best as I can tell, the subject here isn’t any of the likely candidates or any kind of consensus from the party base. It’s these people:

“A lot of work to do,” said Kate O’Beirne, a veteran conservative commentator. Pete Wehner, who was an aide to President George W. Bush, fears that Republican gains expected in the midterm elections this fall will offer another “false dawn,” as they did in 2010.

Kate O’Beirne and Peter Wehner are not representative of the Republican Party. They are Washington insiders who are well paid to spin the party’s message. But they aren’t so much spinning at the moment as hoping for a miracle.

A nominee’s power to recast the party’s image on high-profile issues offers a safety valve for Republicans in 2016, whatever they do now on immigration or other issues. At least, they hope so.

As Ms. O’Beirne, the conservative commentator, observed hopefully, “A talented politician can turn things around pretty handily, right?”

Mr. Wehner and Ms. O’Beirne are in no way representative of their party, but they are both savvy political observers who realize that the direction the Republican Party is headed is destined for political ruin. Their salvation idea is that a candidate will win the nomination and then turn sharply to the middle, thereby bringing the party faithful back to positions that have national viability.

A parallel is offered by Harwood:

But Mr. Clinton, then governor of Arkansas, used discretion in targeting Democratic constituencies such as labor unions. He embraced ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement, for instance — but not until he had secured the Democratic nomination.

So, what we are supposed to expect is a Republican nominee who embraces gay marriage and immigration reform, but not until they have secured the Republican nomination. The thing is, this is a seemingly impossible task. To pull it off, the GOP would need to find a candidate like Dwight D. Eisenhower who could be embraced for reasons entirely separated from political ideology. A consensus bipartisan national hero could conceivably win the Republican nomination and then feel free to forge a completely independent stance on the issues, resulting in a remolded party that isn’t wedded 100% to the conservative movement, particularly on social issues.

It’s a pleasant thought, even for Democrats, but there are no Eisenhowers in contemporary American culture. In 2012, we saw a version of what Wehner and O’Beirne are looking for in the candidacy of former Utah governor and ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman. In the end, Huntsman earned two delegates to the Republican National Convention and .04 percent of the primary vote.

So far, the only evidence that any entity that can be termed the “GOP” is looking to emulate the 1992 Democrats led by Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council is the autopsy report that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus solicited after the 2012 election. That report said that Republicans must pass comprehensive immigration reform and embrace gay equality or they’ll be unable to even get a hearing from young voters or Latinos. Assuming that analysis was valid, and I think it was, there has been little progress so far and there are no reasons to think that a nominee running on those issues would have snowball’s chance in hell of winning the Republican nomination.

The only sign of heterodoxy I can detect is Rand Paul’s uneven willingness to buck the status quo on foreign policy, privacy rights, and voting rights. But let’s not forget that Rand Paul is on the record as believing that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is unconstitutional because it forces private businessmen to serve blacks in their restaurants.

That’s not exactly a Sister Souljah moment. And I don’t think dissing Sister Souljah was key to Clinton’s success in any case.

 

By: Martin Longman, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 5, 2014

July 6, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP, Republicans | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Obama’s Leadership Is Right For Today”: Persuasion, Conciliation, Education And Patience

“Because of his unsure and indecisive leadership in the field of foreign policy, questions are being raised on all sides,” the writer declared, adding that the administration was “plagued by a Hamlet-like psychosis which seems to paralyze it every time decisive action is required.” Is the writer one of the many recent critics of Barack Obama’s foreign policy? Actually, it’s Richard Nixon, writing in 1961 about President John F. Kennedy. Criticizing presidents for weakness is a standard practice in Washington because the world is a messy place and, when bad things happen, Washington can be blamed for them. But to determine what the United States — and Obama — should be doing, we have to first understand the nature of the world and the dangers within it.

From 1947 until 1990, the United States faced a mortal threat, an enemy that was strategic, political, military and ideological. Washington had to keep together an alliance that faced up to the foe and persuaded countries in the middle not to give in. This meant that concerns about resolve and credibility were paramount. In this context, presidents had to continually reassure allies. This is why Dean Acheson is said to have remarked in exasperation about Europe’s persistent doubts about America’s resolve, “NATO is an alliance, not a psychiatrist’s couch!”

But the world today looks very different — far more peaceful and stable than at any point in decades and, by some measures, centuries. The United States faces no enemy anywhere on the scale of Soviet Russia. Its military spending is about that of the next 14 countries combined, most of which are treaty allies of Washington. The number of democracies around the world has grown by more than 50 percent in the past quarter-century. The countries that recently have been aggressive or acted as Washington’s adversaries are getting significant pushback. Russia has alienated Ukraine, Eastern Europe and Western Europe with its recent aggression, for which the short-term costs have grown and the long-term costs — energy diversification in Europe — have only begun to build. China has scared and angered almost all of its maritime neighbors, with each clamoring for greater U.S. involvement in Asia. Even a regional foe such as Iran has found that the costs of its aggressive foreign policy have mounted. In 2006, Iran’s favorability rating in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia was in the 75 percent to 85 percent range, according to Zogby Research. By 2012, it had fallen to about 30 percent.

In this context, what is needed from Washington is not a heroic exertion of American military power but rather a sustained effort to engage with allies, isolate enemies, support free markets and democratic values and push these positive trends forward. The Obama administration is, in fact, deeply internationalist — building on alliances in Europe and Asia, working with institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations, isolating adversaries and strengthening the global order that has proved so beneficial to the United States and the world since 1945.

The administration has fought al-Qaeda and its allies ferociously. But it has been disciplined about the use of force, and understandably so. An America that exaggerates threats, overreacts to problems and intervenes unilaterally would produce the very damage to its credibility that people are worried about. After all, just six years ago, the United States’ closest allies were distancing themselves from Washington because it was seen as aggressive, expansionist and militaristic. Iran was popular in the Middle East in 2006 because it was seen as standing up to an imperialist America that had invaded and occupied an Arab country. And nothing damaged U.S. credibility in the Cold War more than Vietnam.

Obama is battling a knee-jerk sentiment in Washington in which the only kind of international leadership that means anything is the use of military force. “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail,” he said in his speech Wednesday at West Point. A similar sentiment was expressed in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a strong leader who refused to intervene in the Suez crisis, the French collapse in Vietnam, two Taiwan Strait confrontations and the Hungarian uprising of 1956. At the time, many critics blasted the president for his passivity and wished that he would be more interventionist. A Democratic Advisory Council committee headed by Acheson called Eisenhower’s foreign policy “weak, vacillating, and tardy.” But Eisenhower kept his powder dry, confident that force was not the only way to show strength. “I’ll tell you what leadership is,” he told his speechwriter. “It’s persuasion — and conciliation — and education — and patience . It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know — or believe in — or will practice.”

Maybe that’s the Obama Doctrine.

 

By: Fareed Zakaria, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 29, 2014

June 2, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Pity The Poor Plutocrats”: Time’s Winged Chariot Draws Near, And There’s No Baggage Compartment

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt…a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

–President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a 1954 letter to his brother Edgar

Pity the poor plutocrats, victims of the envious mob. You can hardly open the Wall Street Journal these days without reading a self-pitying screed by some billionaire hungry for love.

A while back it was venture capitalist Tom Perkins, who equated criticism of the wealthy with the Holocaust.

“I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich,’” he opined in a letter to the newspaper.

Makes sense to me. One day they’re saying Wall Street bankers should pay the same tax rate as the guys who rotate their tires, next day they’re flinging them into concentration camps. Soon billionaires will be hiding in attic penthouses, quietly fondling stock certificates. Their limos will be disguised as UPS trucks, their yachts as humble tugboats.

In a subsequent San Francisco speaking engagement, Perkins suggested that the United States formally adopt a one-dollar, one-vote electoral system. Citizens, he said, should be like shareholders in a corporation.

“You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?”

The audience laughed, but Perkins claimed to be dead serious. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the investment firm he co-founded, called itself shocked, and emphasized its disagreement.

More recently, Charles Koch, the elder of the infamous Koch brothers of legend and song, contributed an op-ed to the Journal bitterly complaining that people targeted by TV attack ads he’s paid for are actually allowed to talk back. The brothers, you see, are pure idealists campaigning for liberty.

So that when their Tea Party front groups oppose a public transport system in Nashville, Tennessee, work to forbid Georgia Power from investing in solar technology, or spend big on a county referendum on open pit mining in Wisconsin, it has nothing whatsoever to do with Koch Industries’ oil, gas and mining profits. It’s all about freedom.

And when the same organizations spend millions on TV commercials featuring actresses reading prepared scripts, pretending to have been injured by the Affordable Care Act and attacking Democratic U.S. senators in Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska, that too is all about liberty.

However, wicked “collectivists” who “promise heaven but deliver hell,” — hell evidently being reliable health insurance not subject to cancellation on an employer’s whim — have called the Koch brothers out. One such is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who went so far as to call their secretive methods “un-American.”

“Instead of encouraging free and open debate,” Charles Koch whined, “collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.) This is the approach that…Saul Alinsky famously advocated in the 20th [century], and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society.”

“Despots,” mind you. Boo-hoo-hoo. Far from being abashed, Senator Reid must have been thrilled that his taunts lured Koch out of hiding. These boys normally prefer to hide the hundreds of millions they spend purchasing U.S. Senate seats behind benign-sounding outfits like “Americans for Prosperity.”

Because who’s against prosperity, right?

That said, I do think it’s wrong to call anybody “un-American.” To the contrary, the Koch brothers are every bit as American as John D. Rockefeller, H.L. Hunt or Scrooge McDuck, dabbling in his private bullion pool. The comic-heroic figure of the tycoon furiously stamping his little webbed feet because people are free to disagree with him has long been a staple of national life.

Like Charles and David Koch, who inherited hundreds of millions from their oilman father — a founding member of the John Birch Society, which famously held that President Eisenhower was a card-carrying member of the International Communist Conspiracy — their legacy often includes crackpot megalomania. Hence “collectivists,” a polite euphemism.

Koch’s Syndrome, you might call it: combining an obsessive-compulsive need to accumulate money — these boys are worth $100 billion, but they’re nevertheless bitter about paying taxes — along with a deep-seated fear of being found unworthy. Surrounded by obsequious underlings all their lives, they’ve no idea if they’ve ever really deserved it.

It may also be significant that Tom Perkins is 82, the Koch brothers 78 and 73, respectively.

Time’s winged chariot draws near, and there’s no baggage compartment.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, April 9, 2014

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Plutocrats | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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