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“Salvaging Some Of Their Power”: Why Republicans Won’t Even Try To Nominate The Next President At Their Convention

Let me be the first to say this: The 2016 Republican National Convention is not, and will not be, about whether the Republicans nominate a candidate who can win the presidency.

I’ll say it again: The GOP convention is not about selecting the next would-be, could-be president.

In normal years, of course. This year, it won’t be.

The question on which the convention will turn, most likely, assumes that the presidency is lost. It also assumes, for the sake of preserving their own sanity, that everything else isn’t — that there’s a chance that the GOP can still salvage some of their power.

So when Republicans ask, can we win in November if Donald Trump is our nominee, what they’re really asking is: Well, it may be too late to save the presidency, but can Republicans retain the Senate with Trump at the top of the ticket? Can they keep Democrats from whipping up enough anti-Trump sentiment in marginal House districts to make that chamber competitive?

If the answer is no, then they will nominate someone else.

Republicans will consider this question twice in July. The first time it will be debated internally is before the convention begins. The RNC’s rules committee will determine whether to expand the number of candidates who are eligible for the nomination. They can decide whether to scrap Rule 40, which requires presidential nominees to have won five contests, and replace it with something else. There will be no reason for either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz’s hand-chosen rules committee members to vote in favor of any change, so if the rest of the rules committee does, it means they think that the party’s control of everything is in serious jeopardy with either man as their nominee.

Then the delegates will decide. They’ll look at the polls: If both Trump and Cruz are not competitive with the likely Democratic nominee, they will nominate someone else — or nominate the person who is most likely to do the least amount of damage.

As a long-time watcher of how the cognoscenti makes up their collective mind, I get the feeling that a number of Beltway Republicans are resigned to the notion that running with Trump might actually help save their own candidates down the line. Most of them will have financial stakes in some of the races, and so they’re thinking now: Who’s easy to throw under the bus? And who is likely to gin up turnout in some of the places we care about? The answer to both of those questions is Donald Trump.

 

By: Marc Ambinder, The Week, April 20, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, GOP Presidential Nominee, Republican National Convention | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hardly Unprecedented”: On Immigration, Law Is On Obama’s Side

The legal controversy surrounding the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement policies will soon come to a head when the Supreme Court justices hear the case United States v. Texas on Monday. Texas claims that the president’s executive decisions lack legal sanction by Congress and have injured the state.

But whether or not you like President Obama’s actions, he has operated under longstanding provisions of law that give the executive branch discretion in enforcement. This presidential prerogative has been recognized explicitly by the Supreme Court. Moreover, the nature of immigration enforcement and the resources (or lack thereof) appropriated by Congress necessitate exactly the type of choices that the president has made.

Congress has repeatedly granted the executive branch broad power in enforcing immigration laws. The 2002 law creating the Department of Homeland Security explicitly said the executive should set “national immigration enforcement policies and priorities.” The Supreme Court has recognized the leeway Congress gives the executive branch in deportations. In a 2012 majority opinion written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the court noted that “a principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials,” including the decision “whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all.”

Setting enforcement priorities is vital to the effectiveness of our immigration laws. Congress can’t anticipate every situation. This is why the Supreme Court recognized in 1950 that immigration law is an area where “flexibility and the adaptation of the congressional policy to infinitely variable conditions constitute the essence of the program.”

The immense moral and legal consequences of a deportation campaign targeting up to 11 million undocumented immigrants are obvious. Even Americans whose frustration has overcome their compassion and led them to support the harshest immigration enforcement would be likely to reconsider if they actually saw such an operation in action.

A huge roundup like that would require an extraordinary expansion of federal law enforcement capabilities and resulting intrusions into American society. But in reality, there is no prospect for such a campaign because Congress has not made available more than a small fraction of the necessary money and manpower.

This is why, by its nature, immigration enforcement requires executive discretion.

The administration’s initiatives allow Homeland Security officials to forgo deportation, on a case-by-case basis, of undocumented residents who came here as children before June 15, 2007, and of certain undocumented parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents. Both are in keeping with similar programs put in place by both Republican and Democratic presidents dating from the Eisenhower administration.

In 1990, for example, under President George H.W. Bush, the immigration service, relying in part on authority dating from the Reagan administration, offered extended voluntary departure and work authorization to the spouses and children of aliens who had previously been granted legal status.

President Obama’s actions, therefore, are hardly unprecedented. There are two major differences. First, he gave speeches advocating for explicit programs with names, rather than relying on subtler agency direction.

Second, immigration policy has been caught up in today’s hyper-partisanship, where a strident anti-immigration tide within the Republican Party overwhelms all bipartisan compromise. All 26 state officials who have challenged the administration’s executive actions in the Supreme Court case are Republicans, and last month the G.O.P.-led House of Representatives voted to file an amicus brief on behalf of the entire House.

From these howls of outrage, you wouldn’t know that the Obama administration has vastly exceeded the deportations under President George W. Bush. And Mr. Bush vastly exceeded those of President Clinton. President Obama’s directives to focus enforcement efforts on those who have committed crimes in the United States and recent border crossers are a rational executive prioritization, given the resources and the realities.

These facts undercut Texas’s argument that it is unduly burdened by the president’s decisions. With deportations aimed at criminals and new border crossers, we would seem close to an optimal state-friendly federal immigration policy.

When the president took his executive action on immigration, he was not flouting the will of Congress; rather, he was using the discretion Congress gave him to fulfill his constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

 

By: Richard G. Lugar, Represented Indiana in the United States Senate from 1977-2013, President of the Lugar Center;  Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, April 18, 2016

April 19, 2016 Posted by | Congress, Immigration Reform, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bloodbath Alert”: Donald Trump Issues New Threat To Destroy The GOP

The big news of the morning is that the weak, doomed-in-advance efforts by Republican Party elders to hold off a crack-up of their party may be collapsing before our eyes: Donald Trump and his two rivals have now backed off their pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee.

Here’s Trump:

“No, I don’t anymore,” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, when asked if he remains committed to the pledge. Trump said that he would instead wait to see who emerges as the nominee before promising his support, recanting the pledge he previously signed with the Republican Party.

“I have been treated very unfairly,” Trump added.

It was always painfully obvious that Trump, in originally joining the Republican National Committee’s “loyalty pledge,” had carefully given himself an out, stating that he reserved the right to abandon the pledge if he were treated “unfairly.” Conveniently enough, Trump also knew he could define what constituted “unfair” treatment. Now he has done exactly this.

The crucial point here is not that this necessarily means Trump will run a third-party candidacy if the nomination goes to someone else at a contested convention. He may try to do that, but such an effort might depend on ballot logistics. Rather, what really matters here is that Trump is signaling his possible intention to do maximum damage to the party if he is denied the nomination, through whatever means he has at his disposal.

We simply don’t have any idea yet how much damage Trump can do to the Republican Party. It could go well beyond denying Republicans the White House. If a raging Trump, having lost the nomination at a contested convention, urges millions of his followers not to vote Republican, it could cause large numbers of GOP voters to sit out the election, potentially rupturing their plans for holding their Senate majority.

The significance of this spills over into the Supreme Court fight, too: GOP Senate leaders are explicitly refusing to consider Barack Obama’s nominee to keep the base energized, in hopes of holding that Senate majority. The idea: Republican voters might be fizzed up by the GOP leadership’s awesome willingness to do whatever it takes to prevent a liberal Court, and by the added benefit this strategy has of seeming to stick a thumb in the eye of Obama’s legitimacy as president. But Trump — by doing all he can to rupture the base — could roll a grenade into the center of all this.

Even if Trump wins the nomination with a minimum of convention drama, that, too, could do a lot of damage. If a lot of GOP voters alienated by Trump back the Democratic nominee or sit the election out, that could imperil GOP control of the Senate. It’s possible this could also begin to produce cracks in the GOP’s House majority. Paul Kane reports that political observers are suggesting it now looks possible that a Trump nomination could lead to major gains for Democrats in the House. Winning the 30 seats needed to take back the majority still looks like a major long shot. But some analysts think “double digit gains” for Dems are possible:

Such a big loss would leave Republicans holding the slimmest House majority either party has held in more than a decade. That could further destabilize the control of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan over a chamber in which his conservative flank has recently rebelled against his agenda.

If Republicans do lose the Senate, a much smaller House majority could matter a lot in determining whether the House can continue to function for Republicans as a kind of ideological island fortress, seemingly impregnable to the pressures of demographic and cultural change and evolving national public opinion.

This is why some Republicans may move to push a third-party challenger if Trump does win the nomination — to give Republicans a reason to go to the polls and vote for Senate and Congressional incumbents. But even in this scenario, they’d effectively be sacrificing the White House in order to do as much as possible to salvage their Senate (and House!!!) majority.

To be sure, it’s possible that Cruz could win the nomination at a contested convention and that Trump could support him. While this would also likely cost Republicans the White House, it could avert the most damaging down-ticket scenarios. But it’s also possible that we’ve only just begun to glimpse the damage Trump can do to the GOP.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, March 30, 2016

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Loyalty Pledge, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Albatross Around The Down-Ballot Races”: Could Donald Trump Deliver Congress To The Democrats?

With each preposterous new turn in the GOP presidential primary campaign, the chances of Hillary Clinton becoming president of the United States increase. The trouble is that a Clinton presidency has always promised to be largely an exercise in frustration. That’s not because she’s an incrementalist (true though that may be), but because she’ll likely be confronted with a Republican Congress—and one no more inclined toward compromise and pragmatism than the one Barack Obama faces.

But what if that weren’t true? Is there any chance Democrats might actually win back control of Capitol Hill and at least let a President Clinton (or a President Sanders, a possibility that remains real, if dwindling) do something that resembles governing?

The answer is yes, there is such a chance. And the reason is simple: Donald Trump.

We don’t yet know whether Trump will be the Republican nominee. But at the moment that’s the likeliest of all the possibilities for Republicans. And it also seems that having Trump as their leader will tear the party apart. Which could give Clinton not only the White House, but a chance for a presidency that accomplishes something.

Let’s start by considering the Senate, where Republicans currently enjoy a 54-46 majority. Because the senators running for re-election this year are the ones who got elected in the Republican sweep of 2010, they are defending many more seats—24, while Democrats are defending only 10. Most of those seats, however, are safely in Republican hands. They could nominate Martin Shkreli for president and they’d be unlikely to lose Senate races in Oklahoma or South Carolina. But they are vulnerable in other places like Illinois, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, where Democrats have fielded strong candidates in states already leaning left.

Most forecasters have predicted that Democrats would net a few seats, but winning the four they need to push the Senate to 50-50 is a tough proposition. Until now, that is.

With Trump poised to win the nomination, some races that hadn’t previously been seen as competitive are beginning to look that way. Consider Iowa, where the curmudgeonly Chuck Grassley is running for his seventh term. No one thought Grassley would face a serious challenge this year, but then came Trump, and the death of Antonin Scalia—which resulted in a wave of stories about how Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, refuses to hold confirmation hearings on anyone President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court. Last week, Democrats got their wish when Patty Judge, a former lieutenant governor and state agriculture secretary, announced that she’ll run for the seat. Grassley may still be reasonably popular, but if turnout is high in a state that voted for Barack Obama twice, Judge has a strong chance to win.

Something similar could happen in other states: What had looked like seats where Republicans had a clear advantage could be up for grabs, particularly if Democrats come out in force, moved to the polls by the ghastly prospect of Donald Trump becoming president. Combine that with a potentially dispirited Republican electorate, and Democrats could win more seats than anyone predicted. “We can’t have a nominee be an albatross around the down-ballot races,” Senator John Cornyn recently told CNN. “That’s a concern of mine.”

That brings us to the House. Democrats need a net gain of 30 seats to take it back, which has looked all but impossible until now. And it’s still extremely difficult. But could it happen? It’s hard to tell from our vantage point today. We don’t know what kind of general election candidate Donald Trump would make, but the key to the outcome in the House could be how his candidacy affects turnout. If the #NeverTrump movement doesn’t lose steam and lots of prominent Republicans distance themselves from their party’s nominee, it could mean Republican voters staying home in large numbers, which would make it possible for Democrats to win back the seats they need to take control.

If Democrats take back both bodies, a Democratic president could actually have the chance to govern, including through passing legislation—imagine that. But even if Democrats took only the Senate, it would make a huge difference.

Back in 2013, Democrats then controlling the Senate got so frustrated with Republican obstructionism that they changed the body’s rules on confirmation of executive branch appointments and those of judges serving on lower courts, allowing those nominations to be confirmed with a simple majority vote and disallowing filibusters. The rule change didn’t apply to legislation or to Supreme Court nominees, and senators are still allowed to do talking filibusters, where they hold the floor for as long as they can (so Ted Cruz will still have something to do when he returns to the Senate next year).

So a President Clinton could continue to transform the federal courts simply by virtue of filling openings as they come up. There’s a bottleneck right now as Republicans refuse to confirm more of Obama’s judicial nominees, but if that were broken, after 12 or even 16 years of Democratic appointments, the lower courts would be firmly in liberal hands.

And what about the Supreme Court? Not only is there the matter of Scalia’s seat to deal with, but it’s almost certain that more seats will become vacant in the next president’s first term. On Inauguration Day, Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 83, Anthony Kennedy will be 80, and Stephen Breyer will be 78. If and when Republicans decide to filibuster any Democratic nominee, you can bet that Senate Democrats will make another rule change to disallow filibusters of Supreme Court nominees. Republicans will decry it as a terrible power grab, but it will be exactly what they earned with their obstructionism.

This all may not sound like a recipe for an era of excellence in government. It will be terribly partisan, and if Republicans hold on to the House, it will mean almost no meaningful legislation outside of continuing resolutions funding the government to avoid shutdowns. But between the executive and judicial branches, you can accomplish quite a bit. Hillary Clinton would certainly hope for more, but it’s what she may have to settle for. And it could be a lot worse.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 7, 2016

March 12, 2016 Posted by | Congress, Donald Trump, GOP Obstructionism, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Time-Loop Party”: The ‘Foxification’ Of The GOP, Saying And Doing The Same Things Over And Over And Over Again

By now everyone who follows politics knows about Marco Rubio’s software-glitch performance in Saturday’s Republican debate. (I’d say broken-record performance, but that would be showing my age.) Not only did he respond to a challenge from Chris Christie about his lack of achievements by repeating, verbatim, the same line from his stump speech he had used a moment earlier; when Mr. Christie mocked his canned delivery, he repeated the same line yet again.

In other news, last week — on Groundhog Day, to be precise — Republicans in the House of Representatives cast what everyone knew was a purely symbolic, substance-free vote to repeal Obamacare. It was the 63rd time they’ve done so.

These are related stories.

Mr. Rubio’s inability to do anything besides repeat canned talking points was startling. Worse, it was funny, which means that it has gone viral. And it reinforced the narrative that he is nothing but an empty suit. But really, isn’t everyone in his party doing pretty much the same thing, if not so conspicuously?

The truth is that the whole G.O.P. seems stuck in a time loop, saying and doing the same things over and over. And unlike Bill Murray’s character in the movie “Groundhog Day,” Republicans show no sign of learning anything from experience.

Think about the doctrines every Republican politician now needs to endorse, on pain of excommunication.

First, there’s the ritual denunciation of Obamacare as a terrible, very bad, no good, job-killing law. Did I mention that it kills jobs? Strange to say, this line hasn’t changed at all despite the fact that we’ve gained 5.7 million private-sector jobs since January 2014, which is when the Affordable Care Act went into full effect.

Then there’s the assertion that taxing the rich has terrible effects on economic growth, and conversely that tax cuts at the top can be counted on to produce an economic miracle.

This doctrine was tested more than two decades ago, when Bill Clinton raised tax rates on high incomes; Republicans predicted disaster, but what we got was the economy’s best run since the 1960s. It was tested again when George W. Bush cut taxes on the wealthy; Republicans predicted a “Bush boom,” but actually got a lackluster expansion followed by the worst slump since the Great Depression. And it got tested a third time after President Obama won re-election, and tax rates at the top went up substantially; since then we’ve gained eight million private-sector jobs.

Oh, and there’s also the spectacular failure of the Kansas experiment, where huge tax cuts have created a budget crisis without delivering any hint of the promised economic miracle.

But Republican faith in tax cuts as a universal economic elixir has, if anything, grown stronger, with Mr. Rubio, in particular, going even further than the other candidates by promising to eliminate all taxes on capital gains.

Meanwhile, on foreign policy the required G.O.P. position has become one of utter confidence in the effectiveness of military force. How did that work in Iraq? Never mind: The only reason anybody in the world fails to do exactly what America wants must be because our leadership is lily-livered if not treasonous. And diplomacy, no matter how successful, is denounced as appeasement.

Not incidentally, the shared Republican stance on foreign policy is basically the same view Richard Hofstadter famously described in his essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”: Whenever America fails to impose its will on the rest of the world, it must be because it has been betrayed. The John Birch Society has won the war for the party’s soul.

But don’t all politicians spout canned answers that bear little relationship to reality? No.

Like her or not, Hillary Clinton is a genuine policy wonk, who can think on her feet and clearly knows what she is talking about on many issues. Bernie Sanders is much more of a one-note candidate, but at least his signature issue — rising inequality and the effects of money on politics — reflects real concerns. When you revisit Democratic debates after what went down Saturday, it doesn’t feel as if you’re watching a different party, it feels as if you’ve entered a different intellectual and moral universe.

So how did this happen to the G.O.P.? In a direct sense, I suspect that it has a lot to do with Foxification, the way Republican primary voters live in a media bubble into which awkward facts can’t penetrate. But there must be deeper causes behind the creation of that bubble.

Whatever the ultimate reason, however, the point is that while Mr. Rubio did indeed make a fool of himself on Saturday, he wasn’t the only person on that stage spouting canned talking points that are divorced from reality. They all were, even if the other candidates managed to avoid repeating themselves word for word.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 8, 2016

February 8, 2016 Posted by | GOP, GOP Primary Debates, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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