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“Rubio Recycles Romney’s Risible Rubbish”: Shockingly “Uninformed” About International Affairs And Security Issues

Marco Rubio used to consider immigration his signature issue. When that didn’t turn out well, the Florida senator decided national security would be his new area of expertise.

Maybe he should keep looking. Consider this line from last night’s debate.

“Today, we are on pace to have the smallest Army since the end of World War II, the smallest Navy in 100 years, the smallest Air Force in our history. You cannot destroy ISIS with a military that’s being diminished.”

It’s amazing to me that Rubio, for all of his purported interest in the subject, still doesn’t understand the basics.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said his party’s national candidates “don’t know what they’re talking about” and maintain a “level of dialogue on national security issues would embarrass a middle schooler.” Why Rubio is so eager to prove Gates right is a mystery.

As we discussed over the summer, when the senator first started pushing this line, this was actually one of Mitt Romney’s more embarrassing talking points.

Indeed, this was the basis for arguably the biggest takedown of the 2012 presidential campaign. In the third debate between President Obama and Romney, the Republican complained, “Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917…. Our Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since it was founded in 1947.”

Romney had used the same argument many times on the stump, and the prepared president pounced. “Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed,” Obama explained. “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships. It’s what are our capabilities?”

It was a rough moment for the Republican, whose canned talking points were made to look ridiculous. And yet, Rubio insists on repeating them.

Bloomberg Politics had a good piece on this a while back, noting that the GOP senator’s arguments “don’t add up.”

[T]he numbers of ships and planes don’t define U.S. military capabilities. Modern warships, notably aircraft carriers and submarines, are far more effective and lethal than their World War II predecessors.

The Air Force is preparing to field the costliest jet fighter ever built, Lockheed Martin’s F-35, and already has the second generation F-22 with stealth characteristics. Advances in precision guidance and intelligence collection make even older aircraft such as the F-15 and F-16 far more capable than the jets that preceded them.

Romney at least had a decent excuse – he had no foreign policy experience, no national security experience, no working understanding of how the military operates, and he hadn’t even held public office for the six years leading up to the 2012 campaign.

But Rubio claims to be his party’s most impressive expert on matters of national security – the Republican authority on keeping Americans safe. So why is he relying on discredited talking points from a candidate who failed four years ago?

Of course, this was just one example from last night’s debate. Slate’s Fred Kaplan described the entire Republican field as “clueless” and “shockingly uninformed” about international affairs and security issues.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 29, 2016

January 31, 2016 Posted by | Immigration Reform, International Affairs, Marco Rubio, National Security | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Sound And Fury Signifying Nothing”: Republicans; “Do What I Say, Not What I Don’t Do”

Think for a minute about the agenda that is being articulated by Republicans these days. And then, given the fact that they now control both houses of Congress, think about what they aren’t doing about it. For example:

* They say that we need to fight ISIS more aggressively (whatever that means). But President Obama has been asking Congress to pass an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against ISIS for months now. Nada.

* They say that we need to secure our borders. Most of them think we should build an impenetrable wall on our border with Mexico. Some of them even say that we should deport all 10 million undocumented immigrants. Have we seen a bill on any of that in Congress? No.

* They say that they want to repeal Obamacare. OK, they actually passed a bill to do that. But they’ve also said that they want to replace it. Anyone seen that plan floating around anywhere? Not so much.

* They say that the problem with gun violence is that we don’t do enough to provide mental health treatment. Congress could do something about that. Have they? No.

* We’ve heard a lot about criminal justice reform. And some bills even passed out of committees. But so far – nothing has actually come up for a vote.

* I don’t know about you, but I haven’t even heard any rumblings from Congress on anything we can do about jobs or wages.

* Of course, most Republicans deny that climate change even exists, so they’re not interested in doing anything about that.

That is the backdrop on which President Obama has stepped forward to take executive actions where he can. Here’s how Ed Kilgore described it:

If you look back at Obama’s record on big executive actions — on guns, climate change, and immigration — you see the same situation. It’s not that he’s fought for “liberal” as opposed to “conservative” policies in these areas. It’s that congressional Republicans, pressured by conservative opinion-leaders and interest groups, have refused to do anything at all…So there’s literally no one to hold bipartisan negotiations with on these issues, and no way to reach common ground.

Even if we simply look at the issues Republicans themselves have identified, none of them are stagnant. There is no such thing as a neutral position. Choosing to do nothing has consequences.

Republicans can shout all they want about how President Obama is by-passing Congress with his executive actions. But until they quit shouting and actually demonstrate that they can do something, it’s all sound and fury signifying nothing.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 21, 2016

January 25, 2016 Posted by | Congress, GOP, Republican Obstructionalism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Recipe For Addressing Economic Inequality”: The Republican Candidates Can’t Say How Obama Wrecked The Economy

One of the most striking and mystifying aspects of the Republican presidential primary has been the candidates’ inability—or unwillingness—to offer up any kind of coherent economic prescription for the country. That didn’t change on Thursday night. On the Fox Business debate stage in South Carolina, the remaining GOP field had the floor to rebut President Barack Obama’s rosy picture of the American economy during this week’s State of the Union.

Instead, they pivoted to fear-mongering on foreign policy.

The tone was set with the debate’s very first question, posed to Senator Ted Cruz. Fox Business moderator Maria Bartiromo asked him to respond to Obama’s declaration earlier this week: “Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.”

That should have been a softball, ready for the surging candidate to hit out of the park. Instead, Cruz launched into a prepared digression on the American soldiers captured and released by Iran before addressing the actual question—with another digression. “The president tried to paint a rosy picture of jobs,” he said. “And you know, he’s right. If you’re a Washington lobbyist, if you make your money in and around Washington, things are doing great. The millionaires and billionaires are doing great under Obama.”

Cruz played on Obama’s own words on the sources of inequality in his State of the Union. “Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did,” Obama said on Tuesday. “Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts.”

Cruz turned that around, pinning the blame exclusively on the president for rising inequality—not on the wealthy. “Median wages have stagnated. And the Obama-Clinton economy has left behind the working men and women of this country,” he said.

It was like that all night: The candidates never took the bait Obama set up for them, to disprove they are doing anything but “peddling fiction” that his agenda—addressing economic inequality, immigration reform, and energy regulations—has left Americans worse off. Instead, the Republicans beat the drum on fear of ISIS and terrorism abroad, but never provided a counter to Obama’s economic claims.

If the GOP debate revealed one thing about these candidates’ views of rising inequality—a hot topic in the Democratic primary—it’s that they can’t quite bring themselves to cast the wealthy in a bad light.

Ohio Governor John Kasich said that Americans shouldn’t hate the rich—that’s just not American. People are “very concerned about” the economy, he said. “And they wonder whether somebody is getting something to—keeping them from getting it. That’s not the America that I’ve ever known. My father used to say, “Johnny, we never—we don’t hate the rich. We just want to be the rich.”’

Ben Carson shot back at Bernie Sanders and Clinton, who he claimed “would say it’s those evil rich people” who are to blame for inequality. Carson said they’re the wrong target; it’s “the evil government that’s putting all these regulations on us.”

Throughout the night, Republicans proved more comfortable playing to their base’s fear of terrorism than directly rebutting the president’s economic victory lap. Maybe that’s because they can’t muster the same strong descriptive language for how Obama has set fire to the economic world as they have for his foreign policy. So much easier to berate the president on his approach to ISIS all night, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did: “If you’re worried about the world being on fire, you’re worried about how we’re going to use our military, you’re worried about strengthening our military and you’re worried most of all about keeping your homes and your families safe and secure, you cannot give Hillary Clinton a third term of Barack Obama’s leadership,” he said.

But what about Obama’s leadership on the economy? The answers were more timid—with the exception, not surprisingly, of Donald Trump, who in his usual style promised he’d “make America rich again and make America great again.”

Why were the candidates so quiet about the economy on Thursday night? Simple. The Republicans don’t have a recipe for addressing economic inequality, instead focusing exclusively on tax breaks or highly regressive flat taxes that help the top earners. As my colleague Suzy Khimm has explained, “Bush, Marco Rubio, and Trump have all released tax plans that they are trying to sell as a boon for ordinary families.” That’s a hard sell, to say the least. A conservative estimate of Trump’s plan, for example, would lower the middle 40 to 50 percent of American wage earners’ taxes by 5.3 percent, but the wealthiest would see almost a 22 percent decrease. Carson and Cruz have called for flat taxes—a highly regressive policy.

Because they have such shallow policies to draw on, the GOP finds it easier to play on fears of an uncertain international landscape. That works just fine when they’re pitching themselves to an anxious, unhappy Republican base. But when one of these candidates faces Clinton or Sanders in the general election, the Democratic nominee will easily poke holes through his paper-thin economic message.


By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, January 15, 2015

January 15, 2016 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Economic Recovery, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“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

“Making America More Bigoted And More Racist Again”: Trump Takes His Racially Charged Message To The Airwaves

Ordinarily, a presidential candidate releasing a new television commercial wouldn’t be especially newsworthy, but the new ad from Donald Trump is a little different than most – both in circumstances and in content.

Consider the message itself, first reported by the Washington Post. Viewers hear a voice-over say:

“The politicians can pretend it’s something else, but Donald Trump calls it ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ That’s why he’s calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out what’s going on. He’ll quickly cut the head off ISIS and take their oil. And he’ll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our Southern border that Mexico will pay for.”

The ad then cuts to Trump himself speaking at a campaign rally, vowing, “We will make America great again.”

The imagery, of course, matters. When the commercial references terrorism, the ad shows the San Bernardino shooters. When it touts Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, viewers are shown masked terrorists. And when the spot references immigration, there’s grainy video of people running at a border.

So, why is this important? For one thing, it’s Trump’s first television ad of the entire election cycle. While some of his rivals have already invested millions – Jeb Bush and his allies spent about $38 million on campaign commercials in 2015 – Trump has spent just $217,000 on some radio advertising. Now, however, his campaign is spending $1.1  million to air this spot in Iowa and nearly $1 million for airtime in New Hampshire.

The New York developer is the first modern presidential candidate to excel by relying exclusively on free media and campaign rallies, and it’s hard to say with confidence whether his first foray into television advertising will help, hurt, or make no difference.

But let’s not brush past the nature of Trump’s pitch too quickly.

In recent months, as Trump has maintained a sizable lead over the rest of the GOP field, there’s been ample discussion about what’s driving his success. One of the more common explanations is the economic anxieties felt by working-class white voters, with whom Trump’s version of conservative populism resonates.

Putting aside whether or not the thesis has merit, what this ad helps demonstrate is something far simpler and more straightforward: the Republican frontrunner recognizes the power of his racially charged appeals; he understands the degree to which his support is dependent on racially divisive rhetoric; and so his campaign ads are sticking with what works.

How do we “make America great again”? It’s not by weakening the influence of special interests, or creating more jobs, or even applying lessons from Trump’s successes in the private sector.

No, according to the GOP frontrunner, to make America great we simply need to elect a president who’ll focus on Muslims and Mexicans.

The Post’s report added, “The first ad, titled ‘Great Again,’ makes clear that Trump’s closing pitch to voters will be as visceral and arresting as the one he delivers at raucous rallies. It is a full embrace of the most incendiary of his proposals, as opposed to the more biographical spots that some other candidates favor.”

Anyone who’s heard Trump’s stump speech knows this isn’t exactly new rhetorical territory for the candidate, but it matters that when putting together the campaign’s first television ad, Team Trump came to an important conclusion: bigotry works.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 4, 2016

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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