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“Marco Rubio, Angry Young Man”: In Order To Get Real Attention, He Has To Become A Little More Trumpian

With the Iowa caucuses just 27 days away, the Republican race for president is getting more intense by the day. You can see it in the way the candidates are all shifting their focus to whatever they think is going to make voters more fearful, as Matea Gold documents in today’s Post. My favorite quote comes from Chris Christie, who says that the world “is a dark and dangerous place right now. In every corner that we look.”

That’s the optimistic spirit that Americans are yearning for! It’s also coming through in the candidates’ ads, which are filled with grainy images of terrorist hordes and immigrant hordes and anything else that looks sufficiently frightening.

There’s a tone of desperation to it all, as though the candidates are saying, “Not sure about voting for me? Well what if I told you that you and your children are all gonna die — how about now?” And nobody is sounding more desperate than Marco Rubio, who’s adopting a newly angry and personal tone that seems decidedly out of character.

Yesterday, Rubio gave a speech on foreign policy that was brimming over with contempt, as though he’s not just afraid of what’s happening in the world, he’s disgusted with both Democrats and Republicans for not seeing things his way. Let’s begin here:

It’s now abundantly clear: Barack Obama has deliberately weakened America. He has made an intentional effort to humble us back to size. As if to say: We no longer need to be so powerful because our power has done more harm than good.

This idea — that Barack Obama is intentionally harming America as part of his diabolical plan to exact revenge for the sins of the past — is nothing new. It’s been the topic of a hundred rants from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. But it’s usually the province of those media figures who spew their hateful bile out over the airwaves every day in an attempt to keep their audiences in a state of perpetual rage, not people who want to be president of the United States.

But that’s not all. Here are some more excerpts from Rubio’s speech:

We saw this clearly with [Obama’s] despicable speech after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino. When America needed a bold plan of action from our Commander-in-Chief, we instead got a lecture on love, tolerance, and gun control designed to please the talking heads at MSNBC.

The result of all of this is that people are afraid. And they have every right to be. To make matters worse, candidates for president in both parties cling to the same plan of weakness and retreat…

Not only is Hillary Clinton incompetent, she’s also a liar… She lied to our faces. No one in the mainstream media has the courage to call her out for it. If I am our nominee, voters will be reminded of it time and time again.

On the other side of this election is the party of Reagan, the party of strong national defense and moral clarity, yet we have Republican candidates who propose that rulers like Assad and Putin should be partners of the United States, and who have voted with Barack Obama and Harry Reid rather than with our men and women in uniform. We have isolationist candidates who are apparently more passionate about weakening our military and intelligence capabilities than about destroying our enemies. They talk tough, yet they would strip us of the ability to keep our people safe.

Rubio then went on to attack Ted Cruz, while describing the American military as a weak, degraded, pathetic force utterly incapable of defeating ISIS. Really:

Words and political stunts cannot ensure our security. ISIS cannot be filibustered.  While some claim they would destroy ISIS, that they would make the sands of the Middle East “glow in the dark,” my question is: with what? Because they certainly can’t do it with the oldest and smallest Air Force in the history of this country, or with the smallest Army we’ve had since World War II, or with the smallest and oldest Navy we’ve had since 1915. Yet these are what we will have thanks to the cuts these candidates have supported and even tried to deepen.

One might argue that if Rubio thinks the reason defeating the Islamic State is a difficult challenge is that we don’t have enough planes, soldiers, and ships, then maybe he doesn’t understand quite as much about the military as he claims. As for the jab about ISIS being filibustered, Ted Cruz does indeed describe his filibusters as an achievement of the highest order. But Rubio, who  has been a legislator since he was 29 years old, now seems to have nothing but disdain for the very idea of legislating. Asked today why he has lately missed more votes than any other senator, he said:

“I have missed votes this year. You know why? Because while as a senator I can help shape the agenda, only a president can set the agenda. We’re not going to fix America with senators and congressmen.”

Yeah, to hell with those guys. I guess if you’re worried that voters won’t like a candidate like you who serves in Congress, the way to handle it is to say that you think Congress is even more useless than they do.

What’s the explanation for Rubio’s newly sour rhetoric? The logical place to look is the frontrunner, Donald Trump. It’s usually the case that the really personal, nasty language is left to surrogates, who can get down and dirty while the candidate himself finds more subtle ways to reinforce the attacks without sounding bitter and mean. But Trump has no surrogates, and gets as means as he pleases — and of course it has worked. Perhaps with the clock ticking down to the first votes being cast, Rubio concluded that he had no choice but to do the same, that in order to get real attention for what he’s saying he has to become a little more Trumpian.

He might be partly right — but only partly. It’s always been true that going negative attracts attention, and the more personal and strident the attack is, the more attention it gets. The trouble is that this kind of rhetoric doesn’t fit with the rationale for his candidacy that Rubio has presented until now. He has argued that he’s the candidate of a new generation, with fresh ideas and a hopeful vision of the future. Yet despite all the smart people saying Rubio ought to be the party’s nominee, the idea has yet to catch on with enough actual Republican voters. With time growing short, he’s willing to try something else. But it’s hard to see how this will be all that much more appealing.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 5, 2016

January 6, 2016 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primaries, GOP Voters, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The New Willie Horton?”: This Particular Story Is A Microcosm Of The Republican Challenge On Immigration

Is Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez the new Willie Horton?

There are some people who would obviously like him to be. The story, which is about an undocumented immigrant who allegedly murdered a young woman in San Francisco named Kathryn Steinle after having been released from jail, has gone national. And it’s working its way into the presidential campaign. The way the candidates deal with it (or not) will tell us a lot about the state of immigration politics today.

It’s important to understand that there’s no consensus even on the right about how much attention to give to Lopez-Sanchez’s case. Most of the Republican candidates are treading carefully so far. While they oppose the “sanctuary city” policies that meant that Lopez-Sanchez wasn’t turned over to immigration authorities when he had been arrested for lesser crimes, they haven’t yet tried to use this case as a bludgeon to attack Democrats. (The unsurprising exception to this is Donald Trump; meanwhile, for the record, many Democrats have said that a sanctuary city policy should still have allowed someone like Lopez-Sanchez to be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)

Yet at the same time, conservative talk radio and Fox News are practically vibrating with delight over this story. When I checked in to the network’s web site this morning, it was the subject not only of the main screaming headline, but five other written stories and four videos, with more coming all the time.

What does this one case tell us about crime in America and our immigration policies? The real answer is not much, because one case is always just one case. According to the latest FBI crime statistics, around 38 Americans are murdered each and every day; every one is a tragedy. We know that as a group, immigrants are actually much less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. And though it illustrates an extreme negative consequence that can come from a sanctuary city policy, police in cities with sanctuary policies often argue that they help fight crime by allowing residents of immigrant communities to work with law enforcement without the fear that they’ll be turned over to immigration authorities.

Nevertheless, we’re always looking for individual stories through which we can understand larger issues, and those stories can be used for good or ill. For instance, the case of Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who contracted HIV in 1984, taught the country that AIDS wasn’t just a disease of people who (at the time) were on the fringes of society; after his death in 1990, Congress passed a bill expanding funding for AIDS research and treatment in his name. Then there are stories like Horton’s, which was supposedly about criminal justice policies but was actually just a way for George H.W. Bush to stir up racist fears among white voters in the 1988 election.

If Republican candidates are treading more carefully with regard to this story, it isn’t just because the two cases are different — it’s because there’s serious political danger in trying to make Lopez-Sanchez a reason why people should vote against Democrats. Don’t forget that Bush’s use of Willie Horton worked. Laden with the theme of dangerous and hyper-sexualized black men terrorizing white women while their emasculated husbands looked on helplessly, it resonated with white voters and didn’t produce any noticeable backlash, at least not enough to overcome the benefit Bush got from repeating the story.

But if someone like Scott Walker or Jeb Bush tried to make Lopez-Sanchez the new Horton — a symbol of fear meant to get whites to pull the lever for the GOP — he would undermine all the party’s efforts to convince Hispanic voters that whatever the party’s history on immigration reform, it isn’t blatantly hostile to them. As Michael Gerson advised yesterday: “As the old Southern strategy fades, it would be a terrible mistake to replace it with a different form of fear and exclusion.”

So we’re left with a situation where most of the candidates will criticize sanctuary city policies and make a case for tougher border enforcement, but they’ll be doing it within a context created by their side’s media, the media the primary voters they’re trying to win over are watching and listening to every day. And the Lopez-Sanchez story is exactly the kind of tale that the conservative media feast on: personal, vivid, tragic, just waiting to have all the outrage and anger they can muster poured into it. While the candidates say, “Yes, this is terrible,” behind them will be the media figures Republican voters trust, screaming at the top of their lungs that everyone should be enraged.

In that way, this particular story is a microcosm of the Republican challenge on immigration. Caught between a base eagerly eating up the red meat conservative media are feeding them and a general electorate they can’t afford to alienate, they still haven’t quite figured out how to chart a path that avoids those dangers and gets them to the White House.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 8, 2015

July 9, 2015 Posted by | Conservative Media, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who’s Really Laughing About The Invasion Of Texas?”: Just Getting The Larger Idea Into The Mainstream Media Is A Victory

All week long we’ve been having a good laugh over Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordering the Texas state guard to monitor Jade Helm 15, a military exercise planned by the Pentagon to simulate “covert military operations” in Texas and seven other western states. The conspiracy theory on the right is that the operation is designed to “take over” Texas, which is funny because the state is actually already part of the US. The speculation that abandoned Walmart stores are being prepped to hold gun-lovers and patriots makes it only more hilarious because, well, don’t Walmarts already do that?

We on the left can laugh all we want at the rightwing nut-jobs, but don’t think for a moment that liberals are the only ones enjoying the comedy. A lot of Republicans who know better are laughing up their sleeves about the hysteria the media coverage is generating. Texas Representative Louie Gohmert feeds the alarm, warning that “patriotic Americans have reason to be concerned” about the exercise. “I have a great deal of faith and confidence in Governor Abbott,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz says, letting the fantasy fly. “You know, I understand a lot of the concerns raised by a lot of citizens about Jade Helm. It’s a question I’m getting a lot.”

But as Jon Stewart points out, these military exercises have been going on in Texas for years, and the Lone Star state has always welcomed them. Hmmm, what’s different now, he wonders, under a photo of our black president.

This is how ginning up the base works. If there’s a near-time analog, it would be the 24/7 coverage before the 2014 midterm elections about Ebola and the crazies’ theory that the feds were encouraging an epidemic in America by not quarantining anyone who set foot in West Africa. That was a bad joke, too, since, after all, nobody who had not been in West Africa or treated someone with Ebola had ever caught the disease. And the media coverage stopped on a dime when the election was over.

But, boy, did that coverage help drive racially biased voters to the polls.

Whether or not rank-and-file Texans really believe that US generals are threatening to put them under martial law, there’s a sense of pleasure in punking the national media and forcing them to discuss black helicopters. Check out this video, from the Austin Statesman and played this week on Hardball, that shows a US Army spokesman trying to calm fears at a town hall in Bastrop County, Texas. After the 4:30 mark, you can see a young woman smiling and hooting in delight as the spokesman tries to make his point, only to be confronted by folks shouting that they don’t believe a word he says.

The Texas takeover is like Obamacare death panels, or Sharia law coming to a court near you, or fluoride in the water supply. It doesn’t matter if the particular charge is proven to be completely false. Just getting the larger idea (don’t trust Obama’s feds, they want to un-cling you from your guns and religion) into the mainstream media is a victory. It validates the paranoia.

And just because Clive Bundy is paranoid does not mean the federal government isn’t actually out to get him. The right perceives their power waning and so proactively taunts the powers that be to expend resources and convince them they’re wrong. Many conservatives are sane enough to know that these conspiracy theories are a crock. But they see that Mitt Romney tried to win the presidency two years ago with a supermajority of white voters and lost convincingly. They want conservatives to win elections, and it is increasingly apparent that their ability to do so in national contests is diminishing rapidly. Defying or degrading the institutions that enforce the will of popular majorities is actually a logical way to delay their expression.

We’re going to have a long hot summer of this sad joke: Jade Helm 15 lasts from July 15 through September 15. There’ll be lots of laughs, but it’s not clear who’ll get the last one.


By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, May 8, 2015

May 9, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Jade Helm 15, Mainstream Media | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Vote Republican Or Else”: GOP Campaign Slogan; Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

Republican presidential candidates want to win your votes by scaring you.

Thanks to the national security lapses of the Obama administration, “we will pay a terrible price one day,” says Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

“The next 20 months will be a dangerous time,” warns Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, but he offers this hint of hope: “January 2017 is coming.”

And so on. Republicans think fears of terrorist attacks are a major issue, and a major political motivator.

“Republicans are looking for some issue where they have a clear advantage,” said Ann Selzer, a Des Moines-based pollster who conducts Iowa and national surveys.

Selzer’s April 6-8 national poll found the percentage of people who name terrorism or the Islamic State as the 2016 campaign’s most important issue had nearly doubled since December.

Among Republicans, one-fourth said terrorism was their top concern. Democrats still listed unemployment as their first worry, with climate change next. Terrorism tied for fourth among Democrats.

Republicans see another big reason to keep pounding away on terrorism. If Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton wins her party’s nomination, they can conveniently brand her as a key architect of President Barack Obama’s national security policy. Clinton was secretary of state in Obama’s first term.

Republicans can also keep talking about the 2012 terrorist attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. The House of Representatives has a special committee investigating the incident, and Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said he’ll call Clinton to testify. He also wants her to testify separately on conducting government business using email from a private computer server.

This campaign is all part of a narrative that’s become highly popular among the Republican candidates in stump speeches and media appearances.

They tend to start with zingers aimed what they label the Obama administration’s ineptness. “Barack Obama has never run a lemonade stand,” says Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush maintains that Obama is the first post-World War II president who “does not believe that America’s presence in the world as a leader and America’s power in the world is a force for good.”

That’s why, says Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, “We need a commander in chief in this country who, once and for all, will identify that radical Islamic terrorism is a threat to us all.”

Their narrative usually continues with dire warnings.

“There are thousands of people around the world who are plotting to kill Americans here and abroad,” Rubio said recently in New Hampshire. “This risk is real. This is not hyperbole. It needs to be confronted.”

He didn’t mention how the White House has tried to do just that. In February, the president hosted a summit on violent extremism, and cited U.S. involvement in a 60-nation fight against terrorism.

Republicans won’t relent.

Sometimes, tough guy talk backfires, as when Walker said in February that he was equipped to fight terrorists because he fought labor union protesters in his state.

Finally, in the Republican pitch comes the message of hope. “There is a pessimism in the world, but it does not have to be that way,” says former Texas Gov. Rick Perry
Sometimes Republicans are at war with one another. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., labeled U.S. involvement in Libya a mistake and criticized U.S. policy toward Syria and the rebels. He called Graham and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., “lapdogs for President Obama.”

McCain fired back, saying, “The record is very clear that he simply does not have an understanding about the needs and the threats of United States national security.”

Democrats’ response is that of course they want to combat terrorism. If Republicans are so intent on doing so, they ask, why did they stall Loretta Lynch’s nomination as attorney general for months?

“With all that this country is facing from terrorism,” asked Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent, “How at this vital time can anyone elected to the Senate play partisan politics with something as sensitive as the head of the Justice Department?” On Thursday, Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Whether the Republican assault on national security policy becomes a winning strategy depends largely on events. President George W. Bush was able to use the war in Iraq — and the votes of dozens of congressional Democrats for the war — to help himself win re-election in 2004, but war weariness hurt Republicans in 2008 and 2012.

This time, Republicans see the public as weary of Democratic policies, and that’s a big potential plus. “Republicans have always been trusted more on national security,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres, “and Obama has been a weaker leader than people expected.”


By: David Lightman, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS); The National Memo, May 2, 2015

May 4, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, National Security | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Myths That Feed White Supremacy”: We Need To Let Go Of The Lie Of Scarcity And Replace It With A Sense Of Sufficiency

Adrien Schless-Meier has written a thought-provoking article about the ties that bind everything from Nellie Andreeva’s questions about whether or not people of color are currently taking up too much space on television to the shooting of unarmed black men by law enforcement. Her analysis finds that the one thing all of these reactions have in common is that they are based on a “zero sum game” when it comes to the relationship of white people to people of color.

While it’s easy to cast off discussions of pop culture as trivial or inane, Andreeva’s article draws on and reinforces a logic with deep, pervasive implications. It is the axiom according to which white folks organize our histories, our lives, our relationships: In a world based on whiteness, there is only room for one winner-and it had better be us…

The irony of this fear shouldn’t be lost on us – white people simply wouldn’t exist as we do today, embedded within and sitting atop a racial hierarchy, if it weren’t for systematic violence against Native people and African slaves in the early years of colonialism. We have learned, over the course of generations, that the path to power runs through the graveyard…

When we ask whether we’ve gone “too far” in creating spaces for people of color to explore and articulate nuanced, intricate life experiences, we are reinforcing the idea that only one narrative – that people of color represent a threat to white people – can or should endure. Left unchecked, this belief is the bedrock for the justification of everything from forced deportations to police killings. We cannot do the hard work of reshaping both the limits of our own empathy and the structures of our institutions if we continue to buy into the logic of the zero-sum game.

The sustained assault on people of color in the U.S. demands, at the very least, the dignity of better questions. Rather than wonder what white people might lose if people of color win, we should start by asking why we continue to tolerate, even condone, a world where the cost of protecting whiteness is measured in real, valuable lives lost.

What Schless-Meier has tapped into is the win/lose aspect of what Riane Eisler calls the domination model of human relationships. In this instance, it assumes that in order for white people to win, people of color must lose. One must dominate. That myth is what underscores our fears – which leads to a defensiveness to change.

The entire edifice on which that myth is based needs to be challenged if we are ever going to get past our fears. It is a sad commentary on our religious life in the 21st century that so many of our institutions fail to address this deep anxiety (and in some cases, even reinforce it).

The questions Schless-Meier suggests that we ask ourselves as white people about why we tolerate such a world were at least partially answered for me by Lynne Twist in her book The Soul of Money. In it she suggests that the zero sum game is based on the myth of scarcity.

Whether we live in resource-poor circumstances or resource-rich ones, even if we’re loaded with more money or goods or everything you could possibly dream of wanting or needing, we live with scarcity as an underlying assumption. It is an unquestioned, sometimes even unspoken, defining condition of life. It is not even that we necessarily experience a lack of something, but that scarcity as a chronic sense of inadequacy about life becomes the very place from which we think and act and live in the world. It shapes our deepest sense of ourselves, and becomes the lens through which we experience life…

This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life, and it is deeply embedded in our relationship with money.

A world-view based on scarcity means not only that I am not enough (the bedrock of fear), but also the belief that there is not enough for everyone. And so, one of us wins and one loses. In such a world, I am going to fight to make sure that I’m not the loser.

Twist says that we need to let go of the lie of scarcity and replace it with a sense of sufficiency.

We each have the choice in any setting to step back and let go of the mind-set of scarcity. Once we let go of scarcity, we discover the surprising truth of sufficiency. By sufficiency, I don’t mean a quantity of anything. Sufficiency isn’t two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn’t a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, and a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough

When we live in the context of sufficiency, we find a natural freedom and integrity. We engage in life from a sense of our own wholeness rather than a desperate longing to be complete.

As long as we tell ourselves a story of scarcity, we will be trapped in our fears and the zero sum game. Knowing that “there is enough, and that we are enough” releases us from all that and opens up the possibility for empathy…and perhaps the ability to let go of the need to defend “whiteness” at the expense of others.


By: Nancy Le Tourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 26, 2015

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Minorities, White Supremacy, Whites | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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