“Win The War Over Time”: The Koch Brothers Play The Long Game, Making Them Smarter Than The Average Republican
The biggest political news this weekend is coming in two separate stories from the from the Koch brothers. Most important is that the Kochs are staying out of the nomination fight completely now that it has functionally come down to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz:
Charles Koch says he won’t “put a penny” into trying to stop Donald Trump, that there are “terrible role models” among the remaining Republican presidential candidates, and that his massive political network may decide to sit out of the presidential race entirely.
“These personal attacks and pitting one person against the other — that’s the message you’re sending the country,” Koch said in an exclusive interview with ABC News that aired Sunday. “You’re role models and you’re terrible role models. So how — I don’t know how we could support ’em.”
The billionaire CEO of Koch Industries and one of the most powerful and controversial figures in politics said he and his brother David Koch have also turned down pleas to join the “Never Trump” movement, which aims to deny the real estate mogul the nomination.
Instead Koch said he and his brother plan to stay out of the party’s nomination fight.
The other not totally unrelated news from the same ABC interview is that the Kochs are so disgusted with their Republican candidates that they even believe it’s possible that Hillary Clinton would make a better president–which is predictably being used against her by many Sanders supporters.
The great advantage the Koch brothers have over most people in politics is that they really believe in their ideology so deeply that they are willing to hand over the presidency–and its concomitant power to select Supreme Court justices–to their ideological enemies for four years in the service of longer-term goals lasting decades. The Koch brothers do not depend on winning elected office to advance their careers, and they (admirably and rightly, in my view) see politics not as a series of pitched electoral battles to implement various legislative aims, but rather as a grand battle of ideologies in which the entire longitudinal direction of a country is determined. If some Republican careers are damaged in the process, so be it. If some (to them) odious regulations are implemented in the meantime, so be it. They intend to win the war over time, even if it means losing the occasional battle. And that makes them a far more terrifying and effective opponent than the likes of Reince Priebus or Charles Krauthammer, whose vision goes no farther than the next election they can, donor they can please, or war they can start.
In this case, the Kochs know that even if Trump or Cruz were to win the general election–and even if they therefore had the power to appoint Supreme Court justices!–it would actually be more damaging to their long-term economic libertarian interests than if they were to win. They know that putting Hillary Clinton into office gives them potentially four years to run oppositional politics and ramp up their Hispanic outreach initiative.
They can deal with one or two more liberal justices on the court, because they know that if they can engineer a counter-revolution in the next decade and unseat Democrats in 2020, they can lock down Congress for yet another decade and ultimately have a near permanent Supreme Court majority by 2030 or 2035. Charles and David Koch themselves may not live that long, but that’s not their concern: their concern is to win the war. That makes them far more ambitious and frankly smarter than the average operative.
The question is whether their bet is correct. It could be that letting Clinton into the presidency in 2016 does what they believe it will. It’s also possible that 2016 will be the last chance for a Republican running on Reaganomics to win the presidency at all, and that by 2024 the Koch brothers’ Objectivist vision for the Republican Party will be all but irrelevant. But in either case, the Koch brothers are absolutely correct that neither Trump nor Cruz will adequately serve their decades-long interest.
By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 24, 2016
In a moment of sanity, George HW Bush once called Ronald Reagan’s proposal for tax cuts “voodoo economics.” The idea was that tax cuts for the wealthy would somehow “trickle down” to the rest of us and grow the economy. Bush eventually had to embrace the idea as Reagan’s vice president, but later as president himself, he paid the price when he had to abandon his “no new taxes” pledge because the tax cuts accomplished nothing more than to blow up the federal budget deficit.
Along came President Clinton, who raised taxes on the wealthy (something that seems to have been forgotten in this presidential primary) and we witnessed the first budget surplus in generations. Next came George W. Bush, who cut taxes with the same result – a huge budget deficit compounded by wars and the Great Recession. At that point we were treated to the “wisdom” of VP Dick Cheney who quipped that “deficits don’t matter.” Of course that only lasted until Barack Obama became president and all of a sudden it became a national crisis. Eventually President Obama raised taxes on the wealthy once again, and cut the deficit by two thirds.
At some point, one has to wonder how long Republicans can continue their love affair with trickle-down economics. And yet all three presidential candidates continue to espouse the idea that tax cuts for the wealthy will make the economy grow.
The failure of trickle-down has been demonstrated in states as well as at the national level. We’ve all watched as the Republican governors of Kansas, Louisiana and Wisconsin failed to grow their economies by providing massive tax cuts to the wealthy. The most extreme case for years now has been Gov. Brownback in Kansas.
Brownback took office on a pledge to make Kansas friendlier to business and successfully sought to cut the top personal income tax rate by 29 percent and exempt more than 330,000 farmers and business owners from income taxes. The moves were popular in a Legislature where the GOP holds three-quarters of the seats.
Rather than grow the economy, that resulted in things like the following:
Last month, Brownback ordered $17 million in immediate reductions to universities and earlier this month delayed $93 million in contributions to pensions for school teachers and community college employees. The state has also siphoned off more than $750 million from highway projects to other parts of the budget over the past two years.
With the 2016 election on the horizon and the state budget still in crisis, it looks like some Republicans may be questioning their commitment to voodoo economics.
Now many of the same Republicans who helped pass Brownback’s plan are in open revolt, refusing to help the governor cut spending so he can avoid rolling back any of his signature tax measures.
If Brownback won’t reconsider any of the tax cuts, they say, he will have to figure out for himself how to balance the budget in the face of disappointing revenue.
“Let him own it,” Republican Rep. Mark Hutton said. “It’s his policy that put us there.”
While Rep. Hutton’s remarks won’t win him a “profile in courage” award, the Republican proposal at this point – which Brownback rejected – is to repeal the personal income tax break for farmers and business owners to raise an additional $200 million to $250 million a year.
George HW Bush knew that trickle-down was just another name for voodoo economics. Now it sounds like a few Republicans in Kansas are figuring that out. But I don’t hold out a lot of hope that this kind of awareness will be contagious in the GOP. After all, acquaintance with facts and reality is clearly not their strong suit these days.
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 19, 2016
The Republican battle to make Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland go away, and the efforts to pin down GOP presidential candidates on pre-vetted lists of potential Supremes, have all led to increased speculation about the next justice. At present, there’s a major boom among conservatives for Senator Mike Lee of Utah.
Today the Washington Post‘s James Hohmann offers a rundown on all the reasons Lee is enjoying this attention. For one thing, the Utah senator has long been considered Ted Cruz’s best friend in the upper chamber, so if Cruz is elected, it’s a bit of a no-brainer if Lee wants a robe. For another, Lee would probably have an easier time getting confirmed by his colleagues in the clubby Senate than some law professor or circuit-court judge, and might even avoid a Democratic filibuster (assuming Republicans haven’t already killed the SCOTUS filibuster via the “nuclear option”).
But one of the two most important reasons for the Lee boom is buried pretty far down in the story:
Lee is just 44. That means he could squeeze four or more decades out of a lifetime appointment.
Yep. If nominated next year for the Scalia seat, Lee would be the youngest nominee since Clarence Thomas, who has now been on the Court for nearly a quarter of a century, with many years of extremism probably still ahead of him. Before Thomas, you have to go all the way back to Bill Richardson’s favorite justice, Whizzer White, in 1962, to find a nominee as young as Lee would be. As you may have noticed, life expectancy has been going up for Americans in recent decades. For conservatives seeking a permanent grip on the Court and on constitutional law, someone Lee’s age is money.
But the second reason Lee would be significant is only hinted at by Hohmann in the praise lavished on the solon by the Heritage Foundation and longtime right-wing legal thinker Senator Jeff Sessions (the two most likely sources for SCOTUS advice for Donald Trump, as it happens). Lee’s not just any old “constitutional conservative”; he’s a leading exponent of what is called the Lochner school of constitutional theory, named after the early-twentieth-century decision that was the basis for SCOTUS invalidation of New Deal legislation until the threat of court-packing and a strategic flip-flop resolved what had become a major constitutional crisis.
Lee has, on occasion, suggested that child labor laws, Social Security, and Medicare are unconstitutional, because they breach the eternal limits on federal power sketched out by the Founders. Like most Lochnerians, he views the constitution and the courts as designed to keep democratic majorities from stepping on the God-given personal and property rights of individuals and corporations alike. So it’s no surprise he’s been a bitter critic of the deferential view towards Congress expressed by Chief Justice Roberts in the decision that saved Obamacare.
In effect, Mike Lee could become a more influential successor to Clarence Thomas — after overlapping with Thomas on the Court for a decade or two. If Democratic senators have a problem with that possibility, they might want to begin making noises about it so that at least the supposition that Lee is pretty easily confirmable may be called into question.
By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 7, 2016
“Republicans Could Not Have Done Anything Wrong”: Rubio Inexplicably Applauds Snyder’s Handling Of Flint Scandal
In recent months, the Republican presidential field hasn’t paid a whole of attention to the crisis in Flint, Michigan. In mid-January, with the national spotlight shining on the man-made disaster, Marco Rubio was asked for his perspective – and he had no idea what the reporter was talking about.
Six weeks later, the topic came up in last night’s debate, held in Detroit, where Fox News’ Bret Baier reminded the GOP candidates that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton “have both been to Flint. They are both running ads in this state focusing on that, focusing on supporting Flint and fixing the problems, showing images of people in Flint thankful that they’re there.”
The co-moderator asked Rubio, “Without getting into the political blame game here, where are the national Republicans’ plans on infrastructure and solving problems like this? If you talk to people in this state, they are really concerned about Flint on both sides of the aisle. So why haven’t GOP candidates done more or talked more about this?”
The Florida senator’s response was one of the evening’s more unsettling answers. Here’s his answer in its entirety.
“Well, I know I’ve talked about it, and others in our campaign have talked about it, and other candidates have talked about it, as well. What happened in Flint was a terrible thing. It was systemic breakdown at every level of government, at both the federal and partially the – both the state and partially at the federal level, as well.
“And by the way, the politicizing of it I think is unfair, because I don’t think that someone woke up one morning and said, ‘Let’s figure out how to poison the water system to hurt someone.’
“But accountability is important. I will say, I give the governor credit. He took responsibility for what happened. And he’s talked about people being held accountable and the need for change, with Governor Snyder.
“But here’s the point: This should not be a partisan issue. The way the Democrats have tried to turn this into a partisan issue, that somehow Republicans woke up in the morning and decided, ‘Oh, it’s a good idea to poison some kids with lead.’ It’s absurd. It’s outrageous. It isn’t true. All of us are outraged by what happened. And we should work together to solve it. And there is a proper role for the government to play at the federal level, in helping local communities to respond to a catastrophe of this kind, not just to deal with the people that have been impacted by it, but to ensure that something like this never happens again.”
Hmm. So, Flint was an accident; Rick Snyder deserves credit for his handling of the crisis; let’s be sure to blame the feds; and Democratic rhetoric is even more upsetting than the disaster itself. Got it.
New York’s Jon Chait wrote an important rejoinder: “Asked to avoid the blame game and offer specific solutions to urban-infrastructure problems, Rubio is unable. He conceives of the question entirely in partisan terms. He attacks the notion that Republicans consciously decided to poison children, thereby ruling out any possibility of government negligence as self-evidently preposterous. He has nothing resembling a specific idea on the issue, only the firm conviction that Republicans could not have done anything wrong.”
As unsettling as the debate exchange was, it offered real insights into how Rubio sees the world. Six weeks ago, the senator couldn’t be bothered to know what the Flint scandal was. Last night, he recognized the crisis, but only through an electoral prism. Rubio starts with the premise he finds ideologically satisfying – Republicans are correct and free of wrongdoing – and then works backwards … until he can find a way to condemn Democrats.
Rubio simply cannot stop thinking in partisan political terms. By all appearance, he doesn’t even know how. For all of the media’s assurances about Rubio being “whip smart,” the young senator simply lacks the wherewithal to consider policy questions in substantive ways.
The Republican was asked, “[W]here are the national Republicans’ plans on infrastructure and solving problems like this?” This prompts Rubio to reference the agreed-upon talking points; (1) Flint, sad; (2) Snyder, good; (3) Democrats, bad. The growing evidence of neglect, incompetence, and possibly criminal misdeeds surrounding the governor’s office? For Rubio, none of this matters.
The assembled audience applauded, but given the reality, they should have cringed.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 4, 2016
President Obama hosted a press conference at the U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in California yesterday, which comes against a backdrop in which the future of the Supreme Court is dominating much of the domestic political conversation. The president is obviously aware of Senate Republicans’ plans for a total blockade against nominee, regardless of merit, so Obama took some time to remind GOP lawmakers about the constitutional process.
“The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now. When there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the President of the United States is to nominate someone. The Senate is to consider that nomination, and either they disapprove of that nominee or that nominee is elevated to the Supreme Court.
“Historically, this has not been viewed as a question. There’s no unwritten law that says that it can only be done on off years – that’s not in the constitutional text. I’m amused when I hear people who claim to be strict interpreters of the Constitution suddenly reading into it a whole series of provisions that are not there. There is more than enough time for the Senate to consider in a thoughtful way the record of a nominee that I present and to make a decision.”
Unfortunately for the right, all of this has the benefit of being true. The Constitution has established a process; Obama intends to follow the process; and there’s plenty of time for senators to do their jobs. It’s all surprisingly simple, and to date, Republicans haven’t come up with any coherent defense for rejecting any White House nominee, sight unseen.
Reflecting on the broader political circumstances surrounding judicial nominees, the president added, “The fact that it’s that hard, that we’re even discussing this, is I think a measure of how, unfortunately, the venom and rancor in Washington has prevented us from getting basic work done. This would be a good moment for us to rise above that.”
You can almost hear GOP senators laughing at a distance.
Looking ahead, the president reminding Republican lawmakers, “This is the Supreme Court. The highest court in the land. It’s the one court where we would expect elected officials to rise above day-to-day politics. And this will be the opportunity for senators to do their job. Your job doesn’t stop until you’re voted out or until your term expires. I intend to do my job between now and January 20th of 2017. I expect them to do their job as well.”
Of course, the high court vacancy isn’t the only subject on the political world’s mind. There’s also the matter of the election to choose President Obama’s successor.
As NBC News reported, Obama has taken note of the Republican frontrunner.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday reiterated that he doesn’t believe New York businessman Donald Trump will ever be president, saying the American people realize the highest office in the nation “is not a reality show.”
“I continue to believe Mr. Trump will not be president,” Obama said…. “And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people. And I think they recognize that being president is a serious job.”
“It’s not hosting a talk show or a reality show. It’s not promotion, it’s not marketing. It’s hard. And a lot of people count on us getting it right.”
My suspicion is the leading Republican candidate and his team were delighted to hear this – with just a few days remaining before the South Carolina primary, Obama criticizing Trump is probably the best thing Trump can hope for.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 17, 2016