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“Republican Race Is Being Led By A Buffoon”: The GOP Primary Is A Mess. Can Anyone Unite This Party?

Jeb Bush is starting to remind me of someone. Tall guy, former governor, worshipped his politician dad? That’s right, I’m talking about Mitt Romney.

It isn’t just the part about their fathers, or the fact that like Romney, Bush is the representative of the “establishment” and doesn’t get a lot of love from the Tea Party base, or even that he seems to share Romney’s propensity for reinforcing his most glaring electoral weaknesses. (Jeb spent much of the last week explaining how the Iraq War was actually a tremendous success and we just need to bring back the Bush Doctrine, which is a great way to win over the many voters pining for a rerun of George W.’s term in office.)

It’s also that Bush’s only path to his party’s nomination may be to duplicate what Romney did successfully in 2012: use his money (and dogged persistence) to hang around while one ridiculous clown of a candidate after another has their momentary flight then crashes ignominiously to the ground, at the end of which primary voters run out of other options and say, “Oh all right, I guess we’ll go with you.”

All things considered, it isn’t such a bad strategy. And given the sourness of the Republican electorate, there may be no other way to win.

If we look beyond the bizarre candidacy of Donald Trump, the 2016 primary race is looking a lot like the 2012 race. While there were some serious people in that one, just as there are in the GOP campaign today, the overall picture voters got was of a chaotic mess in which a bunch of people you couldn’t imagine being president got an undue amount of attention. Just like now, you had candidates who had been elected to Congress but who had no business running for president. You had amateurs whom voters found attractive because they were different than all those blow-dried politicians. And for a long time, no one was able to move into a clear lead.

At this time four years ago, the only candidates in double digits were Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann. Many of that race’s most amusing developments—Bachmann’s demise, the steep rise then fall of Herman Cain, the same for Newt Gingrich—had yet to occur. Today, there are so many GOP candidates, and other than Trump most of them have the support of so few voters, that it looks even fuzzier. Look at the latest Fox News poll, which shows Trump at 25 percent, Ben Carson at 12 percent, Ted Cruz at 10 percent, and Jeb limping in at 9 percent. Three of those four people are never, ever going to be president. A Reuters/Ipsos poll has Trump at 21 percent, Bush at 12 percent, and nobody else over 8 percent.

The GOP race is being led by a buffoon who, despite his appeal to a certain kind of voter, is widely loathed by the public as a whole, barely pretends to understand the first thing about public policy, and still believes that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Meanwhile, the guys who are supposed to represent the future of the party, like Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, are struggling to hold on to the support of one out of every 15 Republicans or so. To call the race a mess would be too generous.

If the party knew what it wanted, it might be able to settle on a candidate who could give it to them. The problem is that it’s made up of people who want different things. There are sober people who just want to find the candidate who can win them back the White House. But there are many more who know a lot more about what they don’t like than whom they might support. For years now, the Republican Party’s leaders (both politicians and media figures) and its voters have been dancing a manic pas de deux of extremism, where the leaders tell the voters to constantly increase their demands and punish anyone who strays from ideological purity, and the voters respond.

No Republican politician could possibly satisfy everyone in the roiling cauldron of anger, suspicion, and disappointment that is today’s GOP. How do you unite a party when the prevalent theme of their internal debate in recent years has been how disgusted they all are with their own side?

You can’t. But someone is going to be this party’s nominee, and it’s likely to be the one who can keep a steady pace while the others flame out. Jeb Bush recently said, “I’m the tortoise in the race—but I’m a joyful tortoise.” It isn’t much of a plan, but it may be the best anyone has. And there sure isn’t a lot of joy going around among Republicans these days.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, August 16, 2015


August 19, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Who Made Benghazi ‘Political’?”: Funny, Everyone Seems To Have Forgotten What Really Happened In 2012

If you’re outside that furious little circle of humans who believe Benghazi Is Worse Than Watergate, you may not fully understand why that circle is so furious. I didn’t for a long time, but I think I’ve cracked it. See, it’s not just that allegedly awful decisions were made on the ground. And it’s not even just that the administration supposedly lied in the aftermath to cover up its incompetence. No, the anger has a political end point, which is that this supposed cover-up sealed Barack Obama’s reelection over Mitt Romney and kept the rightful occupant from moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Summaries of the events on the right almost never fail to include language like this from a recent Wall Street Journal editorial: “The reasons Benghazi is important do not have to be rehearsed here. An American outpost, virtually undefended, was attacked by armed and organized al Qaeda-associated militants on the anniversary of 9/11 and four were left dead, including the U.S. ambassador. It happened eight weeks before the 2012 presidential election. From day one White House management and leadership focused on spin and an apparent fiction. Did they deliberately mislead and misdirect? Why was there no military response? Who is responsible?”

These questions are worth exploring. (Even I agree with that—and they have been, eight times by eight separate bodies.) But they have no real political punch without that one sentence in the middle there. Conservatives seem absolutely convinced that if not for the Obama “cover-up” on Benghazi, Romney would have won the election.

There’s one problem with that view: It’s ridiculous. Totally ahistorical. In fact, if you look back closely at how things unfolded in September and October 2012—and everyone seems to have forgotten—it was Romney, not Obama, who bungled Benghazi. It was clear at the time to a broad range of observers, not just liberals, that Romney really screwed the pooch on Benghazi, both when it first happened and then later in a debate.

Any memory of Romney’s initial reaction? He was in such a hurry to blame Ambassador Chris Stevens’s death on Obama that he rushed out a statement blaming the Obama administration for sympathizing “with those who waged the attacks” rather than the “American consulate worker” who died in Benghazi. You read that right—worker, singular. Romney was in such a hurry to get out a statement feeding right-wing paranoia about Obama’s anti-Americanism that it went out even before it was known that four Americans had died.

Romney was referring to a statement released by the American Embassy in Cairo, where the region’s rioting started that night, that criticized the now-famous video for fanning the flames. The statement wasn’t vetted in Washington, and so didn’t represent administration policy, but Romney jumped into the deep end and used it.

The next day, he was torn to pieces. In the old United States—yes, even during a presidential election—a tragedy like Benghazi would have halted campaigning for a day, and certainly, certainly everyone would have agreed that it would have been terribly unseemly for the challenger to politicize the event. But here came Romney: He didn’t even know how many bodies there were before he started trying to score political points off the deaths.

And most every news outlet took him to task. Read here for yourself a roundup of how his statement was playing in real time on September 13, 2012. Here’s the opening of a Bloomberg piece headlined “Romney Criticized for Handling of Libya Protests, Death”: “The attacks that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya became a flashpoint in the American presidential race, as Republican nominee Mitt Romney drew criticism from Democrats and Republicans for chastising President Barack Obama and his administration on their response.” Democrats and Republicans.

Romney policy director Lahnee Chen didn’t make things any better for his boss by saying the campaign went with the criticism because it fit the “narrative”: “We’ve had this consistent critique and narrative on Obama’s foreign policy, and we felt this was a situation that met our critique, that Obama really has been pretty weak in a number of ways on foreign policy.” A situation that met our critique. Before they really knew much of anything. Priceless.

At that point, Romney started backtracking a bit. But on the right the issue kept a-boiling, through Susan Rice’s appearance on the chat shows, until the second presidential debate, the foreign-policy debate. Romney was presented with a chance to re-handle Benghazi, and he screwed it up even worse. That was when Obama said, accurately, that he called the attack “an act of terror” the day after in the Rose Garden, and Romney countered, “I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.” The transcript showed that Obama was right and Romney was wrong.

So Romney had a second shot at winning the Benghazi argument in real time, but all he managed to do was make it worse. It was crystal clear at the time that of all the issues of the campaign, he mishandled Benghazi the worst. (I’m not counting the 47 percent business here because that was a different kind of thing. It wasn’t a public policy “issue” that arose during the race.)

So let’s review. A tragic attack occurs. Before it’s even known how many people died or what on the earth are the reasons for the attack, the Republican standard-bearer breaks with all standards of decency and precedent and turns it into a political attack on the president—a presumptive and false one, just based on the paranoid right-wing idea that Obama is weak and somehow wants to cripple America. Then as now, most Americans weren’t buying it, and so Benghazi’s effect on the election, if any, was merely to show voters in the middle that the right was rabid about trying to “prove” that Obama refused to defend America, and it turned them off.

And now here we are, two years and eight investigations later, with Republicans acting shocked, shocked that there might have been anything political in the way the administration dealt with the attack and still carrying on in the same rabid vein. I obviously don’t know to a certainty that the new hearing won’t turn up something genuinely damaging, but unless it does, most Americans will react as they did then: Oh, Republicans doing more crazy shit.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 14, 2014

May 15, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, Conspiracy Theories, Mitt Romney | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paul Ryan Is A Whiny Sore Loser”: Why He’s Still Mad At Candy Crowley For 2012 Loss

Wow. Rep. Paul Ryan is still complaining about CNN’s Candy Crowley’s 2012 debate moderation. Specifically, about the fact that she corrected Mitt Romney for saying President Obama took 14 days to call the 9/11 attack on the Benghazi compound “an act of terror,” when Obama said those words in the Rose Garden the very day after the killings of four Americans.

Talking to Hugh Hewitt Wednesday night, Ryan rehashed the Crowley moment, agreeing with Hewitt that it was “perhaps the most significant intervention by a member of the media in a presidential campaign ever.” While Ryan wouldn’t speculate about whether Crowley would do anything different if she knew what we know now (more on what we know now, later) he alleged that Crowley “violated the rules of the debate.”

There’s so much to unpack in Ryan’s complaint, but it underscores why Benghazi fever is so rampant in the GOP. There’s a strain of the fever for every type of Republican. Ryan’s not a crazy birther (though he’s got some racial issues) or a bomb-thrower; he likes to play the statesman. He’s not a fact-averse “prosecutor” like newly minted Benghazi investigator Trey Gowdy, getting the details of the story wrong every time he opens his mouth.

No, Ryan’s particular strain of Benghazi fever lets him use the faux-scandal to rewrite the results of the 2012 election: If the White House had told the truth, as soon as it was known, Obama wouldn’t have been able to boast about his national security record, and Romney-Ryan would have won the election. It’s an updated version of the “unskewed” polls movement that blinded Republicans, including Ryan and his running mate, to the ticket’s impending loss 18 months ago.

There’s so much wrong with even this relatively moderate strain of Benghazi fever, it’s hard to know where to start. First of all, despite all the ongoing noise about the composition of Susan Rice’s infamous Sunday show “talking points,” there is no evidence the White House hid the unfolding truth about what had happened at the compound (the CIA’s role is more murky). And like it or not, there is also no evidence that Americans cared very much about the issue when they cast their votes that November.

It also helps to remember that Romney himself set the stage for the way the Benghazi story unfolded, with reporters and with voters, with his witless and craven attempt to jump in front of the facts and accuse Obama of “sympathizing” with the attackers. Here’s the statement his campaign released the same night as the killings of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans:

I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

Romney’s charge was based on a statement from the U.S. embassy in Cairo attacking the anti-Islam video that was inspiring protests across the Middle East (and that was first believed to have sparked the Benghazi attack). The statement came from embassy officials, not from the White House, and it was issued before the Benghazi killings. Reporters challenged Romney on his charge the day after he made it. But Ryan’s running mate doubled down: “When our grounds are being attacked and being breached, the first response should be outrage,” he told reporters. “Apology for America’s values will never be the right course. We express immediately when we feel that the President and his administration have done something which is inconsistent with the principles of America.”

So let’s be clear: Given a chance to focus Americans on the valid questions about what had happened in Benghazi, the Romney-Ryan ticket went for dishonesty and cheap shots. That pattern set the context in which Crowley gently corrected Romney for insisting the president hadn’t called the attacks an “act of terror.” Ironically, Romney himself was accusing Obama of lying when the president said he’d used those very words to describe the attack the day after it happened in his Rose Garden statement. “Get the transcript,” Obama shot back, and that’s when Crowley gently interjected: “He did, in fact, sir.”

That’s what Hewitt calls “perhaps the most significant intervention by a member of the media in a presidential campaign ever.” Ryan and other Republicans would have you believe that’s when they lost the election. By the way, Ryan’s wrong that Crowley “violated” the debate rules. She was honest about never signing off on them in the first place.

This is why Republicans can’t get over Benghazi fever. It’s a symptom of a more deadly disease: the party’s determination to deny Obama legitimacy. If he lied to get reelected, he didn’t really win at all. They don’t have to reckon with the truth that voters rejected the soulless Romney, who would say anything to get elected, and his running mate, the allegedly principled and wonky Ryan. In the end, he had to hide his unpopular budget ideas to face the voters, turning out to be as craven as Romney.  It’s not really a surprise that he’s blaming Crowley for his troubles, but it’s disturbing nonetheless.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, May 8, 2014

May 9, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Fire In Mitt’s Belly”: New Book Reports That Romney Didn’t Want To Run For President In 2012

On an episode of The Office from a few years ago, the desperately insecure character of Andy Bernard (played by Ed Helms) hits upon a strategy to ingratiate himself with people, called “personality mirroring.” He begins not only repeating what people say to him, but adopting the precise manner and mood of whoever he’s talking to. This is pretty much how Mitt Romney went about running for president. A man deeply unsuited to the gladhanding required of a politician made himself into one, through a titanic act of will. And just like when Andy Bernard did it, it was incredibly awkward and off-putting. As the old saying has it, sincerity is the most important thing—if you can fake that, you’ve got it made. Trouble was, Mitt just couldn’t, hard though he might have tried.

And it turns out, Mitt didn’t even want to run for president a second time. Veteran reporter Dan Balz is coming out with a book about the 2012 campaign, and he learned of the internal Romney family deliberations. They took a vote, and ten out of twelve Romneys, including Mitt himself, said he shouldn’t run. Here’s an excerpt:

Mitt Romney had other reasons to think that not running might be the wiser choice. Winning as a moderate from Massachusetts who happened to be Mormon was always going to be difficult. “A lot of the thinking on the part of my brothers and dad was, ‘I’m not sure I can win a primary given those dynamics.'” Tagg Romney said. The prospective candidate also knew the sheer physical and family toll another campaign would take. “He’s a private person and, push comes to shove, he wants to spend time with his family and enjoy his time with them,” his son said. “Even up until the day before he made the announcement, he was looking for excuses to get out of it. If there had been someone who he thought would have made a better president than he, he would gladly have stepped aside.”

I guess the gentle voice of America, whispering to him on the wind that it needed his square jaw and concern for the ruling class, was enough to change Mitt’s mind. But I wonder what he thinks now? We all tend to absolve ourselves of guilt in situations like this, and I’m guessing Mitt now believes there’s nothing he could have done to win. What with Obama showering government goodies on a population of greedy takers, some strategic tinkering wouldn’t have made a difference. But if thinks that now, that would mean that he was wrong when he decided that he couldn’t leave the Republican nomination to the collection of clowns he ended up beating. It’s something of a conundrum. Perhaps late at night, when everyone else is asleep, he rides his car elevator up and down, up and down, replaying the whole campaign in his head.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 2, 2013

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Hostage Takers”: Blame Eric Cantor And Paul Ryan For The Sequester

John Boehner’s laughably weak leadership as House Majority Leader surely must be seen as being partly to blame for the sequester — the Tea Party caucus in Congress clearly has a tight leash on the Speaker.

But at least Boehner tried for a “Grand Bargain” with President Obama in 2011, only to be reined in by Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan, according to a recent interview Cantor conducted with The New Yorker‘s Washington correspondent, Ryan Lizza. Cantor admitted that there was a final meeting with Boehner, Ryan and himself where Boehner wanted to accept the president’s $1.2 trillion offer, but was talked out of it by Cantor and Ryan.

“The reason why we said no in that meeting, ‘don’t do this deal,’ was because what that deal was, was basically going along with this sense that you had to increase taxes, you had to give on the question of middle-class tax cuts prior to the election,” said Cantor. “And you knew that they had said they weren’t giving in on health care.”

So basically, this was about the 2012 election. Cantor and Ryan wanted to let the voters decide on taxes and health care instead of preempting it with the Obama-Boehner Grand Bargain. Then in November, the American public overwhelmingly voted for President Obama and his balanced approach to deficit reduction and growing the economy through a mix of spending cuts, tax revenues and closing corporate loopholes — a result that has been confirmed in repeated polls. The American people also doubled down on Obamacare by re-electing the president.

Cantor concluded the interview with Lizza with this telling remark: “That’s why we said, ‘Let’s just get what we can now, abide by our commitment of dollar-for-dollar, and we’ll have it out, as the president said, on these two issues in the election”.

The failure of the Grand Bargain resulted in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which included the automatic budget sequestration.

So it is now clear that Cantor and Ryan killed the Grand Bargain, leading to the sequester and the onset of European-style austerity and possibly another recession, and their basis for that was their supreme confidence that they would win the election. What is unclear is why, after their ideas were thoroughly rejected, they are defying the will of the American people and a popular president by refusing to compromise.

Could it be that they wanted this all along? Here is what Ryan said after the law putting the sequester in place was passed in August, 2011:

“What conservatives like me have been fighting for, for years, are statutory caps on spending, legal caps in law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money. And if they breach that amount across the board, sequester comes in to cut that spending, and you can’t turn that off without a supermajority vote. We got that in law. That is here.”

By: Josh Marks, March 1, 2013, The National Memo

March 2, 2013 Posted by | Sequester | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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