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“Worse Than Useless”: Emergencies Causing Problems For The Do-Nothing Speaker

At the New Republic David Dayen has an appropriately scathing appraisal of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s accomplishments this year. He famously cannot get a budget resolution passed. He’s done nothing on the list of priorities he announced when he took up the gavel. But beyond those failures, he can’t even deal with emergencies, including the Puerto Rico debt crisis, the Zika crisis, the Flint water-poisoning disaster, and the opioid epidemic.

To Dayen, that makes Ryan worse than useless, because “[t]he basic test of governance is the ability to respond to rapidly changing events.” This may be true in theory, but the entire premise of Ryan’s accession to the Speakership is that he’d place “governance” on hold until November, despite a Potemkin village semblance of “regular order” and other legislative activity. Here’s how I put it back in December:

What Boehner, McConnell, and Ryan in turn appear to have accomplished is to convince conservative activist groups and the members of Congress who listen to them to become satisfied with an apocalypse later rather than an apocalypse now. Ryan will get the lion’s share of praise as some sort of party-unifying genius, but it’s the promise of a postelection conservative ideological feeding frenzy that’s really done the trick. If Republicans pull off the POTUS/House/Senate trifecta next year, then the kind of policies now considered “divisive” when pushed against the resistance of Senate filibusters or presidential vetoes will then be noncontroversial.

And so, all the controversial stuff was dumped out of a continuing appropriation and tax extender package (the so-called “taxibus”) that ensured the federal government would continue to function until the end of the fiscal year (conveniently near Election Day), with the gamble being that divisions over what to do with a Democratic president might soon be moot.

But this do-nothing plan didn’t take emergencies into account, and thus emergencies are hanging fire for Ryan.

He will presumably muddle his way through, but the steadily darkening prospects for any sort of Republican mega-win in November is making all the signatories to this implicit deal uneasy. And if things go south on Election Day, so will Ryan’s reputation:

If, on the other hand, the GOP loses the presidency and/or the Senate, then the party could be back to where it was when Boehner was Speaker, and Paul Ryan won’t necessarily be any better at dealing with frustrated right-wingers.

The difference is that Ryan may be exposed as a fraud, which is not what he had in mind when he agreed to take the gavel.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 22, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | Emergency Resolutions, Federal Budget, Governing, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Sanders Makes The Case For A Single-Issue Candidacy”: A Specific Message, Which He’s Eager To Connect To Any Issue

About a month ago, during the sixth debate for the Democratic presidential candidates, PBS’s Judy Woodruff asked Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders about U.S. race relations in the Obama era. Clinton responded by emphasizing some areas of improvement, while also describing “the dark side of the remaining systemic racism that we have to root out in our society.” Her efforts as president, she said, would focus on criminal justice reforms, education, jobs, and housing.

When the question about racial divisions went to Sanders, the Vermont senator immediately turned to “the disastrous and illegal behavior on Wall Street.” When the moderator asked if race relations would be better under a President Sanders, he responded, “Absolutely.” Why? Because if he’s elected, he’ll change tax policy to stop “giving tax breaks to billionaires.”

The exchange stood out for me because it was such a striking reminder about Sanders’ approach. He has a specific message, which he’s eager to connect to practically any issue. It’s easy to imagine Sanders going to lunch, getting asked what he’d like to order, and hearing him respond, “I’d like a turkey on rye, which reminds me of how the economy is rigged against working families.”

Last night, I believe for the first time, Sanders acknowledged that one of Clinton’s criticisms of his candidacy is probably correct.

“[L]et us be clear, one of the major issues Secretary Clinton says I’m a one-issue person, well, I guess so. My one issue is trying to rebuild a disappearing middle class. That’s my one issue.”

At another point in the debate, Sanders even connected the Flint water crisis to, of all things, Wall Street.

Keep in mind, it wasn’t long after Clinton raised concerns about Sanders being a “single-issue” candidate that he rejected the label out of hand. “I haven’t the vaguest idea what she’s talking about,” he said a couple of weeks ago, adding, “We’re talking about dozens of issues so I’m not quite sure where Secretary Clinton is coming from.”

But the answer in this latest debate was different, though it was probably more of a repackaging than a reversal. Sanders is still “talking about dozens of issues,” but as of last night, he’s effectively making the case that the issues that are most important to him – economic inequality, an unfair tax system, trade, Wall Street accountability, etc. – fall under the umbrella of a broader issue: rebuilding the middle class.

In other words, Sanders is willing to present himself as a single-issue candidate, so long as voters recognize the fact that his single issue is vast in scope.

This isn’t altogether expected. In recent weeks, Clinton’s principal criticism of Sanders is that his areas of interest are far too narrow. As of last night, Sanders has stopped denying the point and started presenting it as a positive.

And who knows, maybe it is. Democrats have been focused on the interests of the middle class for generations, and when Sanders made his “one-issue” declaration, the audience applauded.

But it’s not every day that a candidate announces during a debate that one of the central criticisms of his candidacy is broadly accurate.

During last night’s debate, Clinton let Sanders’ acknowledgement go without comment – she did not repeat the “single-issue candidate” criticism – but it creates an interesting dynamic in their race. Remember, as we discussed a month ago, Clinton wants voters to see Sanders as a well-intentioned protest candidate. The White House is about breadth and complexity, the argument goes, and even if you agree with Sanders, it’s hard to deny his principal focus on the one issue that drives and motivates him.

A president, Clinton wants Democratic voters to believe, doesn’t have the luxury of being “a one-issue person.” A president’s responsibilities are simply too broad to see every issue through narrowly focused lens.

Sanders is willing to gamble that progressive voters will back him anyway. It’s a risk that will likely make or break his candidacy in the coming weeks.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Yoga And Manhood”: The Debate That Made America Dumber

Thursday’s Republican presidential debate made us all dumber.

It was a disgrace. As people wake up in capitals around the world Friday morning, in London and Addis Ababa and Riyadh and Beijing and Seoul, newscasters will be forced to find a way to discuss, in their local euphemisms, Donald Trump’s dick size.

The exchanges on the stage at the Fox Theater in Motown centered around erstwhile reality television star Donald Trump, who found, as usual, a way to be even more outrageous than he has been in previous debates.

Sen. Marco Rubio—a 44-year-old U.S. senator! A grown man! With children!—had made fun of Trump’s hand size, implying that his manhood was not so large.

“I have to say this. He hit my hands. Nobody has ever hit my hands. I have never heard of this. Look at those hands. Are they small hands?” Trump responded, on a nationally televised debate to become leader of the free world.

“And he referred to my hands, if they are small, something else must be small,” Trump deadpanned. “I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee you.”

There was shouting inside the debate hall and out. As a light snow fell on Woodward Avenue across from Ford Field, progressive protesters growled about their issues of the day: their objections to “racist” Trump; their demand for a higher minimum wage; calls for an immediate solution for the lead-poisoned people of Flint.

But the shouting and chanting was statesmanlike compared to the childish theatrics indoors. You could practically hear your brain cells crying out in pain as they died out, answer after answer.

There were insults, and Donald Trump defending war crimes, and Cruz treating the businessman like a small child. Trump called Rubio “little Marco,” and Cruz “lyin’ Ted.”

It was beyond satire. The first question, to Trump, was about former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who had delivered a scathing speech challenging Trump’s fitness to become president.

“He challenged you to answer with substance, not insults. How do you answer Mitt Romney, sir?” asked Fox News moderator Chris Wallace.

“He was a failed candidate,” Trump shot back. “He failed miserably, and it was an embarrassment to everybody.”

When Rubio challenged Trump on whether he’d answer a policy question substantively, the businessman responded like an adolescent: “Don’t worry about it, little Marco.” Rubio fired back: “Let’s hear big Donald.”

It was like a kindergarten brawl: a lot of cheap insults, a lot of whining, culminating with the need for everyone to have a time out. Sen. Ted Cruz—a 45-year-old U.S. senator! A grown man! With children!—treated Trump much like he would his two young daughters.

When Trump tried to interrupt him during an answer, Cruz responded patronizingly, “Donald, learn not to interrupt. It’s not complicated—Count to 10. Count to 10.”

“Yelling and cursing people doesn’t make you a tough guy,” Cruz said, as if lecturing an infant on the playground.

Meanwhile Trump one-upped everyone by defending torture, and insisting that the military would follow through with illegal orders if he gave them. Trump had previously said that his national security policy would involve targeting the innocent family members of terrorists and the use of interrogation methods even more extreme than waterboarding.

“They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me,” Trump said. “We should go for waterboarding… and tougher than waterboarding… I’m a leader, I’ve always been a leader… if I say do it, they’re going to do it.”

And on targeting the family members of terrorists, a potential war crime? “I have no problem with it,” Trump said.

The businessman struggled to square these authoritarian instincts with one of his key selling points: that he’d be the man who could make a deal with Congress, with China, with Vladimir Putin. He has a “strong core” that is also “flexible,” he said.

“You can breathe,” Cruz told Trump, during yet another shouting match. “I know it’s hard.”

“When they’re done with the yoga, can I answer a question?” Rubio butted in.

“I really hope we don’t see yoga on this stage,” Cruz responded.

“Well he’s really flexible, so you never know,” Rubio quipped.

On a day that former governor Romney gave a speech in Utah decrying Trump’s excesses, the dumbest presidential debate of all time took place. It must have made much of the American public yearn for a less stupid time—when the biggest controversy of the day was Romney’s car elevator and awkward word choices. How quaint that all was.

 

By: Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, March 4, 2016

March 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Celebrating The Absurd”: Cruz Sees Border Wall As Solution To Drug Abuse

When Ted Cruz reflected this week on the crisis in Flint – which he inexplicably blamed on local Democratic officials who had no decision-making authority – he wrapped up his thoughts by reflecting on the road ahead for struggling cities like Flint. The solution, Cruz added, is to “go with the policies that work” – such as giving taxpayer money to private schools.

It was a bit jarring. A discussion about poisonous water led the Republican presidential hopeful to think about privatizing education – as if, on some unidentified level, the two unrelated topics were pieces of the same puzzle.

Yesterday, we saw something eerily similar happen at an event in New Hampshire. The Wall Street Journal reported:

Ted Cruz spent 18 minutes telling an emotional, gripping story of his family’s history of drug and alcohol abuse. His older half-sister and later his father, he told an addiction policy forum, got hooked and became addicted. His sister died, his father survived only after becoming religious, Mr. Cruz said in a Baptist church here.

So it was jarring to hear Mr. Cruz then pivot to his policy solution: building a wall along the nation’s southern border to stop illegal immigration and halt the flow of drugs from Mexico.

“If we want to turn around the drug crisis we have got to finally and permanently secure the border,” Mr. Cruz said. “We need to solve this problem; we need to build this wall.”

At a certain level, my expectations have fallen to such a low point, I’m inclined to give Cruz at least some credit for acknowledging an actual, real-world problem. There’s a drug epidemic; it’s destroying lives and families; and policymakers at every level desperately need to take it seriously. While some Republicans have dismissed the addiction crisis as meaningless, it seems like a small step in the right direction for Cruz to recognize, even briefly, that the problem exists.

If only his proposed solution were serious, we might be getting somewhere.

A Huffington Post report added:

After Cruz blamed the drug crisis on an insecure border, he blamed the insecure border on the Democrats, and some “cynical” Republicans, who favor immigration reform. He accused them of having base political motives for not doing more on the issue.

“As a political matter, the Democratic Party does not want to solve this problem. And as a political matter, far too many Republicans don’t either,” he said. “Sadly, stopping the drug traffic gets de-emphasized, because their policy view instead is to open the borders to illegal immigration.”

None of this reflects reality in any way. Border security is up and illegal immigration is down. The facts are not in dispute.

But when given a choice between reality and absurd campaign rhetoric, Cruz finds it easy to ignore the former and celebrate the latter.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 5, 2016

February 7, 2016 Posted by | Border Wall, Drug Addiction, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Desperate To Avoid Blame”: Michigan GOP Casts Obama Admin As Flint Villain

Ted Cruz this week reflected on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which the Republican presidential hopeful blamed, at least in part, on the city having been governed “with one-party government control of far-left Democrats for decades.”

The fact that the crisis was created by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) administration and his emergency manager in Flint – local Democratic officials had no decision-making authority – was a detail the Texas Republican appears to have missed.

But if Cruz exploiting a man-made disaster for partisan gain seemed crude, the Michigan Republican Party has him beat. The Huffington Post reported today:

The Michigan Republican Party would like you to know that Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has been busy trying to heal the city of Flint while the malevolent Obama administration has only stood in the way.

That’s the message of an infographic the state party started putting out on social media on Thursday. The light blue water droplets on the left represent actions Snyder has taken since October, when his administration admitted its own mistakes created a crisis in Flint, a city whose 100,000 residents still can’t drink the water because of high lead levels. The dark blue droplets supposedly show unhelpful actions taken by the Obama administration, such as the refusal to declare a federal disaster area in the state (it declared an emergency instead).

As of this minute, the image is still available on the Michigan Republican Party’s Facebook page. If it’s taken down, it appears that the fine folks at Eclectablog, a Michigan-based site, have published the same image.

We know, of course, what state Republicans were thinking when they created this absurd infographic. GOP officials, recognizing the severity of this catastrophe and scandal, are desperate to avoid blame. Taking responsibility for Republicans’ mistakes is hard; reflexively lashing out at the White House, even if it doesn’t make any sense, is easy.

The problem, which even the most knee-jerk partisans will find hard to overlook, is a story that is not in dispute: Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, working with powers given to him by Michigan’s Republican-led state legislature, stripped local Flint officials of their power and decision-making authority. Snyder put an “emergency manager” in place – someone who answered to the governor, not the people of Flint – who shifted the city’s water supply, a move that carried tragic consequences.

Snyder administration officials told local residents not to worry about the water’s safety, even when the city had every reason to worry about the water’s safety.

These details were apparently omitted from the Michigan Republican Party’s infographic.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 5, 2016

February 6, 2016 Posted by | Flint Michigan, Lead Poisoining, Rick Snyder | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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