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“Heading To The Hall Of Shame?”: Jeb Goes South, Perhaps In More Ways Than One

So after a meh performance in the CNN debate, and with Matt Bai telling the whole world the Establishment’s on the edge of dumping him, the Great White Hope of the donor class and the political science community (just teasing you, just teasing you!) heads South, where he hopes to compete in some key primaries unless he finishes fifth in New Hampshire and has to join Phil Gramm in the Hall of Shame for presidential candidates with a whole lot more money than votes.

Today Jeb’s joining nine other candidates (overshadowed once again by Donald Trump, who canceled his appearance supposedly because he needs to go close a deal somewhere, though some suspect he wants to avoid questioning on the little Islamaphobia event that occurred at one of his rallies yesterday) in South Carolina this afternoon at a forum hosted by Heritage Action, the influential right-wing enforcer and adjunct to the Heritage Foundation. I’m assuming the event is in the Palmetto State partially because it’s an early primary state but mostly as a tribute to Heritage president Jim DeMint, who is co-hosting the forum with Nikki Haley. Since he didn’t get around to it on Wednesday night, you’d guess Scott Walker will finally talk about his new Power to the People union-busting initiative in the world’s most congenial venue maybe this side of Beijing.

Tomorrow Jeb traverses the 95 miles from Greenville, SC to Athens, GA to take in the Georgia-South Carolina football game–a game I was once planning to attend in person, but now that I’m not, I’m happy I won’t have to deal with the extra traffic his security detail will create.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Greg Bluestein offers Team Jeb some advice on getting through this game without offending too many people, a process that’s made trickier by the fact that he was Governor of Florida for some of the many years that current South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was tormenting the Georgia Bulldogs from his perch at the University of Florida.

Jeb Bush will have to walk a thin line when he heads to Athens on Saturday to campaign before the annual gridiron matchup between Georgia and South Carolina. And just who the former Florida governor will root for may be one of the tougher questions he gets.

Will he don the red and black of the Georgia faithful? Will he sport a shiny visor, the favored headgear of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier? Or will he fall somewhere in between, perhaps favoring a nice neutral shade of gray?

South Carolina is an early-voting state that Bush has crisscrossed trying to curry favor. But he’s also visited Georgia a half-dozen or so times in the past year — downing a Frosted Orange at the Varsity and hanging out with Ludacris under the Gold Dome — ahead of this state’s March 1 primary.

Local Republicans gave Bush some more advice:

Bush, a University of Texas graduate, will most likely try to appeal to both sides. If he goes that route, Republican strategist Brian Robinson came up with a handy list of how he can appeal to UGA’s Republicans without offending fans of South Carolina or his home base of Florida.

Among them: Point out that UGA has a tight end named Jeb, highlight the power of the Southeastern Conference and offer Georgia standout Nick Chubb a chance to be his Polk County campaign chairman.

As to what not to say, Robinson also had some ideas:

* I used to golf with Steve Spurrier when he was coach at Florida. Great guy.

* There’s too much inbreeding in the Uga line.”

* Sir, I think you’ve had enough to drink.”

Yuk Yuk.

I don’t know if Bush is going to be introduced to the 92,000 fans attending the game, but even in Georgia, I doubt he’ll get the reception gained by a political celebrity at a game I witnessed way back in the day. It was Prince Charles (before his marriage to Diana), who came out on the field at half-time, with the Georgia faithful dutifully chanting: “Damn Good Prince! Damn Good Prince!”

Good times.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 18, 2015

September 20, 2015 Posted by | Georgia, GOP Primaries, Jeb Bush, South Carolina | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Complete Crackpot”: For Tom Cotton, Letter To Iran Is Anything But A ‘Fiasco’

There are a lot of people, including some Republicans, who by now have concluded that Tom Cotton’s Iran gambit was a truly terrible idea. I’d hazard a guess that at least some of the 46 other Republican senators who signed on to Cotton’s letter to the government of Iran essentially trying to sabotage negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program didn’t think through all the ramifications, and now wish they had. The move has been lambasted not only by the White House and liberals like me, but by centrist analysts, foreign policy experts who say that it helps Iranian hardliners, and even some conservatives who worry that, as Greg observed yesterday, it makes it easier for hawkish Democrats to side with President Obama on the underlying issue.

All told, it looks like quite the fiasco. But Tom Cotton himself is probably saying, “That worked out great!”

That’s partly because the name “Tom Cotton” is now on so many lips, and he surely has more requests for television interviews than he could ever wish for. More than that, he’s shown what even a Senator who’s been in office just a few months can accomplish with a little initiative and creativity. It may be a black eye for his party, but to the tea party base from which Cotton sprang, he’s now a hero. The more criticism he gets, the more convinced they become of his heroism.

Indeed, a legislator in his home state of Arkansas has just introduced a bill that would allow Cotton to run for both re-election to his Senate seat and for president in 2020.

On paper, Cotton looks like a dream politician with nowhere to go but up — Iraq veteran, Harvard Law School graduate, the youngest senator at 37. It’s only when you listen to him talk and hear what he believes that you come to realize he’s a complete crackpot. During the 2014 campaign he told voters that the Islamic State was working with Mexican drug cartels and would soon be coming to attack Arkansas. When he was still in the Army he wrote a letter to the New York Times saying that its editors should be “behind bars” because the paper published stories on the Bush administration’s program to disrupt terrorist groups’ finances (which George W. Bush himself had bragged about, but that’s another story).

While in the House in 2013, Cotton introduced an amendment to prosecute the relatives of those who violated sanctions on Iran, saying that his proposed penalties of up to 20 years in prison would “include a spouse and any relative to the third degree,” including “parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids.” Forget about the fact that the Constitution expressly prohibits “corruption of blood” penalties — just consider that Cotton wanted to take someone who had violated sanctions and imprison their grandchildren. Needless to say, this deranged piece of legislation was too much even for Republicans to stomach, and it went nowhere.

And now, Tom Cotton stands ready to become the next Jim DeMint. You may remember that the South Carolina senator used his time on Capitol Hill to become the leader of the GOP’s right flank, which often meant undermining or even directly opposing his party’s leadership, including endorsing tea partiers trying to unseat his Republican colleagues in primary races. When he left Congress, DeMint became the head of the Heritage Foundation, quickly turning the think tank into an outpost of undisguised far-right hackishness.

If Cotton is to emulate DeMint and not, say, Michele Bachmann, he’s off to a good start. There’s always a market for a politician willing to express the nuttiest beliefs, but if you have real ambition you need to make a real impact. Cotton’s letter managed to pull most of his colleagues along on his misguided mission, and for him it was a victory, whatever the fallout to Republicans more generally and the headaches it generates for the party. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s already planning his next move. And there may be other Republican senators thinking of doing something similar.

Mitch McConnell must be thrilled.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, March 11, 2015

March 13, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Tea Party, Tom Cotton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Next Jim DeMint”: Tom Cotton’s Harsh, Unyielding, Judgmental Political Philosophy

At The Atlantic, Molly Ball has penned a long profile of Arkansas Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, and it confirms pretty much all my negative instincts about the dude. Here’s her summary of the real meaning of his famously dazzling resume:

From the time he was a teenager, Cotton has been nurtured and groomed by conservative institutions—scholars, think tanks, media, and advocacy groups—to be the face of their political crusade. Pure, upright, and ideologically correct, he is their seemingly flawless mascot. (Conservatives would surely argue that a potent network consisting of regular academia and the mainstream media nurtures left-wing candidates.) And now he is finally on the cusp of achieving the platform consummate to his talents, a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Cotton’s special status as the not-so-secret superstar of the GOP’s future isn’t just attributable to the resume or to his intellectual or political talents (the latter, in fact, are suspect when it comes to actual voters). A lot of it is about the way in which he manages to be a True Believer in the most important tenets of all the crucial Republican factions. He’s adored by Neocons, the Republican Establishment, the Tea Folk, the Christian Right, and most of all by the Con-Con cognoscenti that draw from both these last two categories. He will immediately be a national leader if he’s elected to the Senate, perhaps succeeding Jim DeMint as the guy who is in charge of keeping the pressure on the party to move steadily right on every front. (One might think Ted Cruz performs that function, but he’s a bit too clearly self-serving).

Ball puts a lot of emphasis on what we can learn about Cotton from his college thesis, which she gained access to in an exclusive. I’d say it mostly confirms what we already know: the man believes America has drifted from an inflexibly perfect ideology down the road to serfdom and conquest via the willingness of politicians to follow rather than lead the greedy masses who look to government to compensate for their moral weaknesses.

[The thesis] is in keeping with the rigidly idealistic persona, and the starkly moralistic worldview, he has exhibited since he was an undergraduate. It is a harsh, unyielding, judgmental political philosophy, one that makes little allowance for compassion or human weakness.

It’s especially revealing that this Man of Principle is campaigning in Arkansas as a generic Republican, counting on the partisan leanings of the state and midterm turnout patterns to give him a Senate seat that a more candid presentation of his views might endanger, even in such a conservative state. I don’t know that it would matter to most Arkansans that they have the power to make or break Cotton’s career as a smarter version of Jim DeMint, but they do.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 18, 2014

September 19, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Senate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Jim DeMint, Constitutional Revisionist”: Deliberate Conflation Of The Declaration Of Independence With The Constitution

RightWingWatch’s Brian Tashman runs across an interview with Jim DeMint in which the Heritage Foundation president and avatar of “constitutional conservatism” utters gibberish about slavery, and charitably suggests he is “confused:”

Heritage Foundation head Jim DeMint appeared on Vocal Point with Jerry Newcombe of Truth In Action Ministries last week, where he insisted that “no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves.”

DeMint, a former US senator from South Carolina, told Newcombe that “the conscience of the American people” and not the federal government was responsible for the end of slavery.

In the interview, DeMint seemed to confuse the US Constitution with the Declaration of Independence and implied that William Wilberforce, a British politician who died almost thirty years before the Civil War, did more to end American slavery than the federal government.

Here’s the relevant portion of the transcript:

Newcombe: What if somebody, let’s say you’re talking with a liberal person and they were to turn around and say, “that Founding Fathers thing worked out really well, look at that Civil War we had eighty years later.”

DeMint: Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.

Jim’s not being “confused” here. His rap is based on a series of palpable falsehoods that are extraordinarily common in the exotic world of “constitutional conservatism:” the deliberate conflation of the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution (this is how they sneak God and “natural rights”–meaning property and fetal rights–into the latter); the idea that the Civil War was about everything other than slavery; and the claim of Lincoln’s legacy, even though the Great Emancipator was in almost every respect a “big government liberal” as compared to the states rights Democrats–DeMint’s ideological and geographical forebears who touted the Constitution even more regularly (and certainly more consistently) than today’s states rights Republicans.

For dessert, DeMint mentions Dred Scott, a hoary dog whistle to the antichoicers who like to compare that decision to Roe v. Wade.

What’s most interesting about hearing DeMint say all this stuff in one big mouthful is that it makes it so abundantly clear the man is engaging in all sorts of revisionism about well-known aspects of American–and constitutional–history. What makes it amusing is that he claims to be an “originalist.” Only if he gets to rewrite history.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 9, 2014

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Constitution, Declaration Of Independence | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Conflicts Here”: How Lawmakers Skirt The Law To Keep Their Next Jobs Secret

When then-Sen. Jim DeMint said he would leave Congress to head the Heritage Foundation 13 months ago, he waited until just 24 hours before the announcement to file an official notice with the Senate that he was negotiating for the new job.

But at least DeMint gave some public notice before accepting the post.

On the day Rep. Dennis Cardoza’s midterm resignation took effect in 2012, Washington law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips announced it had already hired him—and the job negotiations were never made public. Nor were any official disclosures regarding job negotiations released prior to the announcement that Rep. Health Shuler accepted a job at Duke Energy when his term expired, or when Rep. Mike Ross was hired by the Southwest Power Pool.

That is not how it was supposed to work. A law designed to prevent conflicts of interest and shed light on lawmakers who negotiate for post-Capitol Hill work while still in office has failed, worn thin by a series of administrative rulings and narrow interpretations.

The result is that lawmakers themselves now determine when a potential conflict exists and when disclosures should be released publicly. Moreover, because the law has yielded almost none of the public information it was designed to provide, it remains largely unknown whom lawmakers negotiate with—and whether their official duties present any conflicts with those employers.

The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act required lawmakers to file public disclosures when they negotiate for work and when conflicts arise. Yet only seven disclosures have been made public in the House since the law was passed in 2007—even though more than 200 lawmakers during that time have resigned, were defeated in a primary, or announced their retirement. Only six disclosures have been made public in the Senate, despite 39 lawmakers leaving between 2008 and 2012.

In this midterm-election year, many more lawmakers will be making decisions about jobs and disclosure in coming months. It is still early, but no public filings have been made by any of the 16 sitting House members who have announced they are leaving Congress at the end of 2014.

In addition to those 16, three other House members have already resigned this session, and all three had outside jobs waiting. But only one of them filed a notice of job negotiations before leaving. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Missouri Republican, officially resigned on Jan. 22 of last year to become CEO and president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Her disclosure of her job talks is dated Nov. 23, 2012, and reports that negotiations for that job commenced four days earlier.

The two other lawmakers were not required to make their employment negotiations public because of yet another wrinkle in the law that exempts those seeking new jobs in the public sector. Former Rep. Jo Bonner left Congress to take a job in the University of Alabama system, and former Rep. Rodney Alexander left to accept an appointment as secretary of the Louisiana Veterans Affairs Department.

Ethics Issues

There is nothing illegal or unethical about departing lawmakers looking for work while they serve out their terms. But the law was put in place as a transparency measure after former Rep. Billy Tauzin caused a stir by leaving the House in 2003 to take a $2-million-a-year job in the pharmaceutical industry, just months after playing a lead role in drafting legislation to introduce a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.

But the law’s rules apply differently today than they did when was it was passed. For example, in the House, the government panel in charge of the filings was changed from the Clerk’s Office to the Ethics Committee, which is extremely selective about what it makes public. In the Senate, the secretary of the Senate, rather than the Ethics Committee, handles most of these filings, with far different results. A higher percentage of lawmakers there have filed disclosures, and those forms were swiftly made public.

Staffers and lawmakers with direct knowledge of how the House Ethics Committee oversees the law say it is being interpreted so narrowly by officials and lawmakers as to render it ineffective.

They say lawmakers are essentially told they must file notices only when they have an actual job offer and compensation is discussed. And those notices do not have to be made public—they can be kept private by the Ethics Committee—unless lawmakers themselves determine there is a specific conflict and decide they must file a follow-up disclosure or notice recusing themselves.

The upshot is that when lawmakers do file disclosures, those filings often do not go beyond the Ethics Committee. Such apparently was the case for Cardoza, Shuler, and Ross, whose disclosures have never been released. Even the committee itself is sometimes taken by surprise by word that a lawmaker has landed a job.

“I saw a newspaper account that a lawmaker had taken a job—and my jaw dropped, and I wondered, ‘How is it that even I did not know that?’ ” said one former House Ethics official, speaking on the condition of not being identified by name.

Former Rep. John Shadegg took a job as a partner with Steptoe & Johnson in March 2011 but says he had some preliminary contact with the firm before he officially left office. Shadegg said he never filed a notice of negotiations, because the guidance he received from the Ethics Committee did not indicate he had to do so until he was on the verge of being hired, talking details about salary.

Another former lawmaker, who asked not to be identified by name, explained the Ethics Committee guidance he received this way: “I was told that, for instance, if IBM wants to hire you for $1 million, you are not required to report that legally. But the minute I say, ‘I want $1 million and one dollar,’ the law kicks in.”

Asked if he thought it odd that so few disclosures of subsequent potential conflicts have been made public, Cardoza said, “The rules are in place. I am sure there are people who have violated them; and I am sure there are people who have complied with them, and I am one.”

But he also said that there are good reasons that talks that do not result in a job should be kept private. “If you do not take an offer, it hurts your political career—it telegraphs to people you are leaving,” Cardoza said.

Questions of Conflict

Still, the current system can leave lingering questions. Take, for instance, Ross, the Arkansas Democrat who announced in July 2011 that he would not seek reelection in 2012. Ross later announced he would take a job after Congress as Senior Vice President for Government Affairs and Public Relations for the Southwest Power Pool, a non-profit which represented several coal-driven power companies.

That announcement prompted at least one publication, the nonprofit Republic Report, to raise questions about Ross’s earlier cosponsorship of an amendment to delay the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the Cross State Air Pollution rule, a rule the Power Pool had pushed to have relaxed.

Republic Report wrote that the situation “raises the possibility that Ross’s legislative activity had been unduly influenced by the prospect of a high-paying job.”

In response, a Ross spokesman told the publication that the lawmaker had begun job negotiations months after his EPA rule-delaying legislation passed the House, and that he would be recusing himself on any issues that provide targeted benefits to his future employer.

The spokesman went on to tell Republic Report, “He properly filed all forms required by the House Ethics Committee. And while the Ethics Committee does not make the form available to the public, in an effort to be transparent, Congressman Ross went above and beyond in announcing who he would be working for when his term in Congress ends.”

Today, Ross is running for governor of Arkansas—and his disclosures still remain unavailable for public viewing.

Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, says the ethics law is being interpreted so narrowly that “it is simply not meaningful.”

“Swiss cheese,” is how McGehee described the current system, while Craig Holman, a legislative representative for the government watchdog group Public Citizen, said the intent of the law was to “let the public know.”

“That was the entire intent,” Holman said.


By: Billy House, The National Journal, January 21, 2014

January 24, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Lawmakers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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