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“Sanders Is Exploiting The Trade Issue”: Mirroring The Republican Approach To Obamacare

Some people are suggesting that Bernie Sanders‘ win in Michigan was a result of his opposition to trade deals like NAFTA and TPP and that this will serve him well with white working class voters in the so-called “rust belt” states. Just prior to the debate in Flint, Michigan, Sanders tweeted this:

Both Danielle Krutzleben at NPR and Steve Chapman at the Chicago Tribune did some fact-checking on the role of trade deals in the challenges faced by cities like Detroit and Flint. Krutzleban begins with a chart showing that the migration out of Detroit started around 1950 and that since then, it has lost more than 60% of its residents. That started long before the trade deals Sanders suggested as the cause of all those abandoned buildings.

Chapman identifies several factors that are not accounted for if we simply look at things like NAFTA to blame. He points out that Michael Moore’s documentary “Roger & Me” about the shut-down of the General Motors plant in Flint came out four years before NAFTA took effect and that the challenge to the auto industry back then was coming from Japan (not China or Mexico), where they were producing more reliable and fuel-efficient cars.

The other issue that hurt Detroit was the migration of auto plants – not overseas – but to states (mostly in the South) who adopted so-called “right to work” laws that undermined unions. Another factor was automation – which reduced the number of workers required to produce cars by a third. Finally, Chapman makes this observation:

Breaking down trade barriers would actually help the American auto industry and those on the assembly lines. One major attraction of building cars in Mexico is that it has free trade agreements with 45 countries — while the U.S. has free trade deals with just 20. Exporting to most of the world is easier there than here.

Bernard Swiecki, an analyst at the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research, told Business Alabama why Audi recently decided to put a factory in Mexico instead of the U.S.: “If they export it, they save $4,500 per vehicle in tariffs they don’t have to pay.”

These are just some of the complicating factors that affected a state like Michigan. But they are paralleled by a look at history that informs us of what drove the manufacturing boom in the United States as well as what is challenging its survival today. To sum up: it is not as simple as blaming trade deals.

What I find troubling about Sanders’ approach to all of this is not simply his avoidance of even a cursory mention of these complex issues. It is more about the fact that he is obviously tapping into the anger and despair that is felt by those who are affected (much like Donald Trump is doing) and then locating a singular culprit on which to focus their blame.

But beyond even that, the one thing many of us have spent the last seven years criticizing about Republicans is their use of anger/fear mongering to foster obstruction. What is totally lacking from Sanders is any articulation of what his own approach to trade would be. In that way, he is mirroring the Republican approach to Obamacare: suggesting that trade deals need to be repealed without offering a replacement. For those of us who think that it is important to get beyond the anger/fear and talk about actual policy that works, that is not good enough.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 10, 2016

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, NAFTA, Trade Agreements | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Tricky Dick All Over Again”: Donald Trump Is Running For Richard Nixon’s Third Term

Conservative candidates usually beg for comparisons with Ronald Reagan, but Donald Trump’s political spirit animal is Dick Nixon.

And in true Trump fashion, he hasn’t been subtle about wearing his unfashionable influence on his sleeve. The signs are everywhere.

Travel through the primary states and you’ll see the placards plastered at events and scattered by the roadside: “The Silent Majority Stands With Trump.” That is, of course, a direct lift from Nixon’s oft-resuscitated slogan, which was meant to resonate with the “non-shouters, non-demonstrators” during the Vietnam War.

It’s no small irony that the children of these “forgotten Americans” now are being asked to rally around the ultimate shouter in American politics, a billionaire who avoided military service during the draft. The economic and cultural resentments of the white working class Nixon courted have only grown more intense in the wake of the Great Recession amid a fundamentally more diverse America led by a black president.

But lifting Nixon’s Silent Majority slogan barely scratches the surface of the debt Trump owes Tricky Dick.

In 1968, Vietnam was raging and Nixon campaigned on a “secret plan to end the war.” Now we’re embroiled in a multi-front war with ISIS and—you guessed it—Trump has offered up a secret plan to end the war against ISIS.

Days after kicking off his campaign, he told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren: “I do know what to do and I would know how to bring ISIS to the table, or beyond that, defeat ISIS very quickly… and I’m not gonna tell you what it is… I don’t want the enemy to know what I’m doing.”

Trump’s love of bluster balanced with a complete lack of policy detail doesn’t stop with war.

Take health care: Trump is running on a platform of “repeal and replace with something terrific.” When pressed for detail by George Stephanopoulos, The Donald replied, “Nobody knows health care better than Donald Trump”—retreating to Nixon’s favored third-person self-reference. “We’re going to work with our hospitals. We’re going to work with our doctors. We’ve got to do something… We’ll work something out. That doesn’t mean single-payer.”

In Trump’s world, it doesn’t matter that he once backed single-payer in a book that bears his name. And of course it doesn’t matter that Nixon’s own health care reform plan was considerably to the left of Obamacare. Our debates have been unburdened by fact for some time now, and that suits candidates like Trump just fine.

Nixon’s enemies list is another dark legacy Trump enthusiastically apes. Trump is quick to attack critics by name on the campaign trail—from mocking a disabled New York Times reporter to going after everyone from Megyn Kelly to George Will to The Daily Beast. For a candidate who loves to engage in rough-and-tumble verbal combat, his thin skin is a bit of a mystery. But Trump’s enemies list is so notorious that Vanity Fair lampooned it back in 2011 during his birther-backed flirtation with the presidency.

While Nixon’s enemies list can seem quaint almost a half-century later, they were far from simple partisan score-settling. We now know that Nixon’s lackeys looked at planting evidence on investigative journalist Jack Anderson, spreading damaging rumors about his sex life and even plotting to kill him, with the methods varying from putting poison in his medications to smearing massive doses of LSD on his steering wheel.

This is chilling stuff that smacks more of Vladimir Putin than an American president. But it’s a reminder of how much character matters in a commander in chief, because tone comes from the top. In an era of social media mobs and hardcore partisan news sites, pushback could turn to private citizen-directed opposition research and something uglier.

The deepest irony in the Trump-Nixon overlap has surfaced only in the past few weeks, as The Donald tries to appear more presidential. “Bring Us Together” was a signature Nixon 1968 campaign line, allegedly inspired by a sign held by a little girl at a rally and eagerly adopted by speechwriters like William Safire. Now Trump is punctuating his interviews and debate performances with the same line, promising to unite the nation if elected, despite all campaign tactics to the contrary.

Trump’s use of the line has already led to some surreal exchanges, as when Stephanopoulos asked him to explain how his opposition to marriage equality after the Supreme Court decision would lead to a more united nation. “It’s very simple,” he replied. “We’re going to bring our country together. We’re going to unify our country. We’re going to do whatever we have to do. I’m going to put the absolute best judges in position. If their views—we’re going to see what their views are. I will make the determination at that time.”

Such rhetorical tap-dancing means less than nothing and offers false comfort to some increasingly resigned establishment Republicans desperately looking for a silver lining if Trump is their party’s nominee. They hope the candidate doesn’t mean half of what he says, that he’s just pandering to get conservative populist votes. It’s a strained domestic extension of Nixon’s self-described “madman theory” in foreign policy, a belief that negotiating leverage is increased if your opponent believes that you might go nuclear. Extreme statements are all part of the art of the deal.

Perhaps not coincidentally, some prominent remaining Nixon aides have been backing or advising The Donald.

Trump’s sometime adviser Roger Stone, master of the dirty trick and artful smear, boasts a Nixon tattoo on his upper back. Former Nixon speechwriter and paleo-conservative populist Pat Buchanan, who innovated many of the anti-immigrant and anti-trade policies Trump now advances, declared him “The Future of the Republican Party.”

And while Trump’s once-close relationship with Fox News chairman Roger Ailes has been publicly strained with the recent Iowa debate boycott, Ailes basically innovated the cozy relationship between politics and television while working for Nixon in 1968.

Perhaps Trump is a secret political nerd who internalized all the divide-and-conquer strategies Nixon innovated at the time. Or perhaps he’s been getting advice on the dark arts of politics from acolytes of the former master.

Trump shares with Nixon a tough-guy pragmatism, a ruthless and occasionally unhinged determination to win driven by deep insecurity. Nixon also believed people vote out of fear more than hope. But whatever Nixon’s many failings, he was a policy wonk who loved the mechanics of politics. Trump is a blunt force instrument in politics, a born marketer with bluster a mile wide and an inch deep.

As he aims for the nomination, Trump might be taking Nixon’s cynical advice to “run right in the primary election, then run to the center in the general election” to heart. But as Nixon and the nation found out, character is destiny. And Trump’s exploitation of our worse impulses for political gain will also end in tears.

 

By: John Avlon, The Daily Beast, February 15, 2016

February 16, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Richard Nixon | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Race-Baiting Rants, Xenophobic Fear-Mongering”: Maine’s Racist Gov. Paul LePage Is A Preview Of President Trump

If you want a vision of the Donald Trump presidential future, look no further than Maine’s tantrum-throwing, race-baiting, loves-to-be-hated Gov. Paul LePage.

Since being elected in 2010, LePage has repeatedly made use of rants designed to rally white middle-class resentment and garner media attention for his pet causes. The New York Times calls him “combative,” Politico says he’s “crazy,” and the Huffington Post brands him a “racist.”

For those following the Republican presidential race, this all sounds quite familiar.

In the span of just seven months, frontrunner Trump has dispensed with any sense of decorum or restraint—whether it’s calling John McCain a “loser” who, despite surviving a Vietnamese prisoner camp, is no war hero; branding Mexicans “rapists”; making sexist remarks about rival candidate Carly Fiorina and Fox News host Megyn Kelly; demanding an outright ban on all Muslim immigration; or gleefully repeating a fan calling Ted Cruz a “pussy.”

LePage, too, relishes in “tellin’ it like it is” brutishness.

For instance, the governor has blamed the spread of infectious diseases on undocumented immigrants. “I have been trying to get the president to pay attention to the illegals in our country because there’s been a spike in hepatitis C, tuberculosis, and HIV, but it’s going on deaf ears,” he lamented, while failing to provide evidence for his claims.

While on the campaign trail in 2010, he proclaimed that he’d tell President Obama to “go to hell.” And within weeks of taking office, the businessman-turned-governor declined invitations from the NAACP to attend Martin Luther King Jr. Day events, adding that the civil rights organization—a “special interest” who will not hold him “hostage”—should “kiss my butt” if they feel slighted.

It’s not hard to envision President Trump, leaning back in his solid-gold Oval Office chair, telling a Muslim-American activist group they can “kiss my ass” after he declines to visit a mosque or entertain religious leaders.

As Maine’s executive, LePage frequently makes uncouth remarks to bash his legislative rivals. “Sen. [Troy Dale] Jackson claims to be for the people,” he said during a budget dispute, “but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.”

One could easily imagine POTUS Trump making anal sex references to pressure Senate Democrats during tense negotiations.

And just like Trump has lobbed personal insults and veiled threats at media outlets he perceives as unfair, LePage, while at the controls of a flight simulator, publicly joked, “I want to find the Portland Press Herald building and blow it up.” A few months after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, the Maine governor said he’d “like to shoot” a Bangor Daily News political cartoonist.

All of this seems to be part of LePage’s plan to thump his chest and offend or embarrass everyone until he gets his way. Just like The Donald.

The uber-conservative governor made national headlines last month when he suggested “we ought to bring the guillotine back” as punishment for drug traffickers. Before that, he went on a screed about “guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” coming from other states to “sell their heroin” and ditch, but not before “they impregnate a young, white girl.”

LePage’s communications director, Peter Steele, denied the governor’s comments had anything to do with race. But then a month later, mini-Trump admitted the racial connotations, and noted it was all part of his tantrum to get the state’s legislature to do as he wanted.

“I had to go scream at the top of my lungs about black dealers coming in and doing the things that they’re doing to our state,” he told a WVOM radio show on Tuesday. “I had to scream about guillotines and those types of things before [state lawmakers] were embarrassed into giving us a handful of DEA agents. That is what it takes with this 127th [Legislature]. It takes outrageous comments and outrageous actions to get them off the dime. They just simply don’t move.”

Interestingly, as the Bangor Daily News noted, lawmakers from both parties agreed to LePage’s drug-fighting plans before he ever threw a hissy fit. And when it came up for a vote, all but one legislator voted yes.

So his racist stand was all for show. Sounds familiar.

Oddly enough, when asked for his thoughts on the likely Republican nominee, LePage, who had endorsed Chris Christie in the primary, said, “I’m not a big fan of Donald Trump, although he should give me a stipend… for starting this whole thing about being outspoken.”

 

By: Andrew Kirell, The Daily Beast, February 11, 2016

February 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Maine Legislature, Paul LePage, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why The Republican Field Is Incapable Of Challenging Trump”: No Candidate Is Grounded In Authenticity And Truth

Tying in to what Martin just wrote about the Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy, I’ve long felt that, even though the GOP has put up a large number of candidates this time around, the quantity doesn’t make up for the lack of quality.

A general consensus seems to be forming after last night’s debate that Republicans are in the phase of resigning themselves to a Trump candidacy. I’m seeing that noted in a variety of places. For example, Jonathan Chait, Greg Sargent and Steve Benen all have pretty good round-ups on that sentiment. While I was watching the debate last night, I had a growing sense of how the lack of quality in the field has enabled the ongoing dominance of Trump.

For all of his faults (there are too many to name, so don’t get me started), one of the things that Donald Trump is pretty good at is having a nose for hypocrisy as well as the ability to locate and exploit the weaknesses of others. One of the reasons his attacks work is that they usually contain a twisted sense of truth. The example that springs to mind from last night is that he outright called Jeb Bush “weak.” In a field where bullying is assumed to demonstrate strength, that’s pretty spot on.

Part of the reason why none of the current candidates can effectively challenge Trump is that there is not one of them who is grounded in authenticity and truth. For example, one of the things Jeb has become known for in this campaign is saying something and then having to call it back or revise it 3 or 4 times before he’s done. Everyone knows that Rubio is simply spouting lines that he has practiced and rehearsed. As we saw last night, Christie can hardly speak without lying. These days all Carson seems capable of is rambling incoherently. And Cruz is the closest thing we have to a sociopath in this race (with Carly Fiorina running a close second) – twisting his agenda to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The one candidate who exudes even a hint of authenticity is John Kasich. But all he seems to be able to do is flail his arms around, talk about his record, and extol the virtues of trickle-down economics.

In order to take on a bully like Trump you have to look him in the eye and stand your ground confidently – without prevaricating or attempting to out-bully the bully. In order to do that, you have to know what you believe and be able to articulate it authentically. Short of that, Trump will find the opening and exploit the hell out of it.

None of these candidates can do that because what the Republican Party is about right now is all a farce based on fear-mongering and out-dated policies that have proven themselves to be a disaster. They’re putting on a show and Donald Trump is making that obvious to everyone by simply putting on a bigger show.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 15, 2015

January 18, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Dystopian Nightmare That Only Republicans Can See”: Incoming! Quick, Everybody Hide Under The Table

It was unexpectedly convenient to have the State of the Union address and a Republican presidential debate occur in the same week, scheduled just 48 hours apart. The bookends offered the public an opportunity, not just to hear two competing visions, but also to confront two entirely different versions of reality.

Because anyone who listened to President Obama on Tuesday night, and then the GOP presidential candidates on Thursday night, might find it hard to believe they all live in the same country at the same time.

The president made an impassioned case that Americans have reason to stand tall. We have the strongest economy on the planet, the strongest military in the history of the planet, and an unrivaled position as a global superpower. Job growth is strong, our enemies are on the run, our civil rights are a model for the world, and our insured rate is the best it’s ever been.

Obama has heard the naysayers, but he believes we’d be wise to ignore their campaign to exploit anxiety to advance their own partisan or ideological goals. We can aim higher – we can even cure cancer! – and make the future our own.

That was Tuesday night. Just two days later, the Republican Party’s national candidates were simply flabbergasted, baffled by the president’s optimism. Jeb Bush, apparently unaware of the state of the nation when his brother left the White House, insisted, “[T]he idea that somehow we’re better off today than the day that Barack Obama was inaugurated president of the United States is totally an alternative universe.”

And in a way, there’s some truth to that: the president and the Republican presidential field don’t seem to occupy the same place on the space-time continuum. Obama thinks the American dream is alive and well; the GOP thinks it’s dead. The president wants the public to feel hopeful; Republicans want Americans to feel existential dread. “Alternative universes” isn’t a bad summary, all things considered.

The trouble is, Obama’s the one who seems to live in the same reality as the rest of the public.

Mother JonesKevin Drum noted this morning that it’s “remarkable just how apocalyptic Republicans are this year.” As a public service, he collected the “most ominous” statements from each of the GOP candidates from last night’s debate. The list is worth checking out in its entirety, but some of my personal favorites:

Donald Trump: Our military is a disaster. Our healthcare is a horror show…. We have no borders. Our vets are being treated horribly. Illegal immigration is beyond belief. Our country is being run by incompetent people.

Marco Rubio: This president is undermining the constitutional basis of this government. This president is undermining our military. He is undermining our standing in the world…. The damage he has done to America is extraordinary. Let me tell you, if we don’t get this election right, there may be no turning back for America.

Chris Christie: When I think about the folks who are out there at home tonight watching….They know that this country is not respected around the world anymore. They know that this country is pushing the middle class, the hardworking taxpayers, backwards, and they saw a president who doesn’t understand their pain, and doesn’t have any plan for getting away from it.

Can’t you just feel the sunny, Reagan-esque optimism?

It’s worth emphasizing that nearly every word of these assessments is plainly wrong, and that matters, but the broader point is that Americans saw seven candidates last night who were effectively encouraging us to hide under a table.

I suppose the natural response is to highlight the underlying circumstances: we’re talking about the GOP field running to replace a Democratic president in his eighth year. Of course they’re going to spend time making the case that the status quo is unacceptable. It’s not like they have an electoral incentive to promise more of the same.

The point, however, is how they choose to make this case. Eight years ago at this time, Barack Obama was facing the same situation in reverse – a Democratic candidate running to replace a Republican president in his eighth year – but his message was rooted entirely in optimism. Obama’s entire campaign message was ultimately summarized in one, four-letter word: Hope.

It’s not because Democratic voters were satisfied about the state of the nation in 2008 – they really weren’t – but rather, it was because Obama saw value in being a positive, hopeful, confident candidate.

Eight years later, Republicans’ collectively are pushing a message that also can ultimately be summarized in one, four-letter word: Doom.

Politico’s Michael Grunwald wrote last week, “America is already great, and it’s getting greater. Not everything is awesome, but in general, things are even more awesome than they were a year ago. The rest of the world can only wish it had our problems.”

It’s the kind of uplifting, can-do message that would have been roundly booed in Charleston last night.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 15, 2016

January 16, 2016 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, State of the Union | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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