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“Spin Wasn’t Invented Yesterday”: No, Clinton’s Late-Primary Struggles Don’t Portend November Defeat

With Bernie Sanders winning yet another primary (in West Virginia) well after most pundits have concluded Hillary Clinton has all but locked up the Democratic presidential nomination, it’s natural for there to be some speculation that her late-primary performance may portend a lack of momentum that could haunt or curse her in the general election. For one thing, the “Big Mo” argument is central to Bernie Sanders’s forlorn message to superdelegates. For another, Republicans are using Clinton’s primary fade along with some very dubious general-election polling to counter doom-and-gloom fears about their unlikely new nominee, Donald Trump. “Hillary Clinton is unraveling quickly,” chortles New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin.

Now, this is all obviously a bit absurd, since the general election is nearly six months away, with conventions, debates, and billions of dollars in paid media still ahead. It’s a bit like judging the postseason “momentum” of Major League Baseball teams based on their current early-season records. But for the record, there’s no particular correlation between late-primary performance in contested nomination contests and success in general elections.

Sure, most nominees win late primaries because their opponents have dropped out. But when they don’t, the ultimate winner doesn’t necessarily have a cake walk.

The obvious example is Barack Obama, who after May 1, 2008, lost primaries to Hillary Clinton in Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, and South Dakota. His loss in West Virginia was by 39 points, compared to Clinton’s 15-point loss in the same state this year. And he lost Kentucky by 36 points. Somehow he managed to recover by November.

There’s earlier precedent for a late-primary fade leading to a general-election win. In 1976 after May 1, Jimmy Carter lost to Jerry Brown in Maryland, Nevada, and California, and to Frank Church in Nebraska, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana. He somehow regained “momentum” and won the presidency.

Carter also, however, provided a counterexample in 1980, when Ted Kennedy beat him in five June primaries. He did indeed go on to lose in November, but a lack of late-primary “momentum” probably had less to do with the results than the fact that he was an incumbent president with terrible economic numbers dealing with a hostage crisis and the partisan realignment of his home region. And he was facing Ronald Reagan rather than Donald Trump.

Matter of fact, even Reagan wasn’t entirely immune to the late-primary swoon. In 1980, he lost a late-April Pennsylvania primary and a late-May Michigan primary to Poppy Bush. I don’t know if there were columns headlined “Reagan is unraveling quickly,” but spin wasn’t invented yesterday.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 11, 2016

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Utter Nastiness Of Ted Cruz”: What Sets Cruz Apart Is The Malice He Exudes

When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) last month mocked Donald Trump’s “New York values,” it wasn’t entirely clear what he was implying.

This week we got a clue: For Cruz, “New York” is another way of saying “Jewish.”

At an event in New Hampshire, Cruz, the Republican Iowa caucuses winner, was asked about campaign money he and his wife borrowed from Goldman Sachs. Cruz, asserting that Trump had “upward of $480 million of loans from giant Wall Street banks,” said: “For him to make this attack, to use a New York term, it’s the height of chutzpah.” Cruz, pausing for laughter after the phrase “New York term,” exaggerated the guttural “ch” to more laughter and applause.

But “chutzpah,” of course, is not a “New York” term. It’s a Yiddish — a Jewish — one. And using “New York” as a euphemism for “Jewish” has long been an anti-Semitic dog whistle.

I followed both Cruz and Trump this week at multiple campaign events across New Hampshire. It was, in a sense, a pleasure to see them use their prodigious skills of character assassination against each other. It was demagogue against demagogue: lie vs. lie. Both men riled their supporters with fantasies and straw men.

But there were discernible differences. Trump owned anger. Cruz, by contrast, had a lock on nastiness. Trump is belligerent and hyperbolic, with an authoritarian style. But while Trump fires up the masses with his nonstop epithets, Cruz has Joe McCarthy’s knack for false insinuation and underhandedness. What sets Cruz apart is the malice he exudes.

Cruz jokes that “the whole point of the campaign” is that “the Washington elites despise” him. But Cruz’s problem is that going back to his college days at Princeton, those who know him best seem to despise him most. Not a single Senate colleague has endorsed his candidacy, and Iowa’s Republican governor urged Cruz’s defeat, then called his campaign “unethical.”

Ben Carson, who rarely has a bad word to say about anybody in the GOP race, accused Cruz of “deceit and dirty tricks and lies” this week after the Texan’s campaign spread the false rumor during the Iowa caucuses that Carson was quitting the race. Two former rivals who also appeal to religious conservatives, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum (who endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida), have questioned Cruz’s truthfulness, too.

Sarah Palin, whose support for Cruz in 2012 helped get him elected to the Senate, this week denounced him after a Cruz surrogate accused her of accepting payment from Trump to back him. She, too, accused Cruz’s campaign of “lies,” a “dirty trick” and “typical Washington tactics.”

Cruz, in Nashua, slashed back at his onetime benefactor: “It seems if you spend too much time with Donald Trump, strange things happen to people.” Somebody in the crowd shouted “Fire Palin!” and the audience cheered.

The Iowa secretary of state, a Republican, issued a statement before the caucuses accusing Cruz’s campaign of “false representation” because of a mailing to voters charging them with a “voting violation” and assigning them and their neighbors phony grades.

After Cruz’s caucus-night skullduggery — a campaign email to supporters and a tweet by a Cruz national co-chairman suggesting Carson was quitting the race — his response continued the deception. Though he apologized to Carson, he said that “our political team forwarded a news story from CNN” and “all the rest of it is just silly noise.” But CNN said nothing about Carson dropping out.

After Trump, in his overblown way, accused Cruz of stealing the election, Cruz replied, righteously, that “I have no intention of insulting him or throwing mud.”

No? He accused Trump of “a Trumpertantrum.” He said Trump as president “would have nuked Denmark.” He said Trump “doesn’t have any core beliefs.” He mischaracterized several of Trump’s positions, saying “he wants to expand Obamacare,” that “for his entire life, 60 years, he has been advocating for full-on socialized medicine” and that Trump favors “amnesty” for illegal immigrants and “wants to deport people that are here illegally but then let them back in immediately and become citizens.” He speculated that Trump may have “billions” in loans and said the concept of repaying loans is “novel and unfamiliar to Donald.”

The misrepresentation isn’t limited to Trump. In a single speech in Nashua last week, he mischaracterized things said by, among others, Jimmy Carter, Chris Wallace, guests on Sean Hannity’s show, Atlanta’s mayor, Rubio and, of course, President Obama.

I asked the Cruz campaign Thursday evening to substantiate several of these claims. After this column was published online Friday afternoon, the campaign provided citations that didn’t back up what Cruz had alleged. Unsurprising: Cruz’s purpose is not to inform but to insinuate.

 

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 5, 2016

February 8, 2016 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, New York Values, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Michael Moore’s Casual Chauvinism”: To A Lot Of Men, The Woman-President Thing Just Isn’t Important

It isn’t exactly shocking that Michael Moore has endorsed Bernie Sanders, so normally I wouldn’t comment. But Moore’s letter announcing his reasons for backing the Bern is one of the most un-self-aware documents I’ve read in a long time, and it shines a light on one of the biggest obstacles Hillary Clinton faces now, even, apparently, from the left: the casual chauvinism of men for whom electing a woman president just doesn’t matter very much.

The whole conceit of the Moore letter is that “they” have always said this or that thing could never be done. Here’s a taste:

When I was a child, they said there was no way this majority-Protestant country of ours would ever elect a Catholic as president. And then John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected president.

The next decade, they said America would not elect a president from the Deep South. The last person to do that on his own (not as a v-p) was Zachary Taylor in 1849. And then we elected President Jimmy Carter.

In 1980, they said voters would never elect a president who had been divorced and remarried. Way too religious of a country for that, they said. Welcome, President Ronald Reagan, 1981-89.

Then he invokes Bill Clinton, who had never served in the military, and he winds up of course with Barack Obama, because obviously this country would never elect a Hawaiian. (Just kidding, he said black.) In all these cases, the naysayers were wrong.

If I didn’t know going in that this was a Sanders endorsement, I might have thought that he was setting us up for a Clinton nod. “And they said this country would never elect a woman…” But since I knew it was Sanders, I was thinking okay, first Jew. But no, wrong again! The pitch is: “And now, this year ‘they’ are claiming that there’s no way a ‘democratic socialist’ can get elected president of the United States. That is the main talking point coming now from the Hillary Clinton campaign office.

I’m not exactly sure that’s the Clinton camp’s “main talking point,” but let’s let that pass. Here’s what’s weird and gobsmacking about this endorsement. In a letter that is almost entirely about historical firsts—it goes on to discuss how “they” used to say we’d never have gay marriage and other changes—Moore doesn’t even take one sentence to acknowledge that Clinton’s elevation to the presidency would represent an important first.

I mean, picture yourself sitting down to write that. You’re a person of the left. You are writing specifically about the first Catholic president, the first black president, the first this, the first that. You want people to believe that if those things could happen, then a “democratic socialist” could win too. Fine, if that’s your view, that’s your view.

But it’s also the case the other candidate winning would make history in a way that is at least as historically important from a politically left point of view—I would say more so, but OK, that’s a subjective judgment—and it’s not even worth a sentence? I wouldn’t expect Moore to back Clinton or even say anything particularly nice about her. But he can’t even acknowledge to female readers that this great progressive sees that having a woman president would be on its own terms a salutary thing?

I obviously have no idea whether Moore contemplated such a sentence and rejected it or it just never occurred to him. Either way, it tells us something. To a lot of men, even men of the left, the woman-president thing just isn’t important.

Oh, no, Moore and some folks of his stripe will shoot back. I’d love to see a woman president. Just not that woman. Moore and other Sanders supporters would say, more precisely, not that corporate shill warmonger etc etc. They’d insist that they’d be perfectly content to back another woman. But then, somehow, the years pass and that other woman doesn’t come along. Or she comes along and it turns out, wouldn’t you know it, that there are certain particular reasons to be against her, too.

Others will say hey, look at Elizabeth Warren. She’s a woman and a genuine progressive, and she maybe could have been president. Well, maybe. I admire Warren a great deal, but the Democratic Party’s record in nominating Massachusetts liberals in recent history is 0-2, and throw on top of that her apparent complete lack of interest in foreign policy, and it seemed to me that she was going to be savaged in a general election campaign. Since she didn’t run, she may have thought so herself.

The fact is that Hillary Clinton is the woman who has a good chance of becoming president. And the further fact is that her flaws, from the left point of view, are inescapably commingled with the very reasons that she happens to be in a position to be elected president. Like it or not, a woman has to “prove” she’s tough on foreign policy in a way most men do not. A woman, especially one who was a senator from New York, has to reassure the financial elites, a world of certain attitudes toward women and of ceaseless and tasteless female-anatomy jokes, in a way that a man just doesn’t have to. And so on, and so on, and so on. Many of the very things that make Clinton anathema to the left are exactly the things that have enabled her to become a viable presidential contender as a woman.

I backed Barack Obama over her in 2008. I thought then that either first would be great, but that given this country’s uniquely revolting history on race, the nod in my mind went to first black president. Some prominent feminists I know reached the same conclusion. But now we’ve checked that box. I certainly wouldn’t say that anyone should back Clinton solely because she’s a woman. And I will refrain from making Moore’s error by stipulating that it would be a great thing to have a first Jewish president.

But I am saying that I’m surprised at how little people, mostly (but not wholly) people with my chromosomal structure, seem to care about maybe having a woman president. And not only how little people care, but—on the testimony of some pro-Clinton female writers I know—how hostile some people are to the idea that it’s even a factor that should matter. If you follow these things on Twitter, you know what I’m talking about.

Making history was a legitimate factor in 2008, and it’s one now. But it seems that for a lot of people, what was ennobling then is irrelevant or illegitimate or embarrassing today. There may be good reasons to oppose Clinton, but there is no good reason whatsoever for this first to be any less important than Obama’s.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February 4, 2016

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore, Women in Politics | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“They Love You When You’re Gone”: Jeb Broke The Cardinal Rule Of Well-Liked Ex-oliticians; He Came Out Of Retirement

Some people are already waxing nostalgic about Rep. John Boehner, who has resigned as the Speaker of the House and leaving Congress.

Testy and stiff, the hard-drinking Ohio Republican wasn’t exactly a beloved fixture on the national scene. Sniffling over the pope helped soften Boehner’s image, but the main thing that’s made him more likable is the fact he’ll be gone soon.

It’s a strange American phenomenon. No matter how low they get in the polls, politicians start becoming more popular the minute they leave office.

Blamed for high gas prices and the Iran hostage crisis, Jimmy Carter got booted from the White House after four years. Today he is cheered wherever he goes. This is partly because of the charitable work he’s done since leaving government, and partly because Americans have a soft spot for the politically departed.

Saddled with Ronald Reagan’s sputtering economy, George H.W. Bush also lost the presidency after one anemic term. He’s never been more popular than he is today.

Same for Bill Clinton who, despite his impeachment saga, draws crowds like a rock star. Even George W. Bush, the brains behind the disastrous U.S. occupation of Iraq, is more fondly regarded now than during his last few years in the Oval Office.

Which brings us to his younger brother, Jeb, whose popularity has been creeping in the wrong direction ever since he announced his candidacy for president.

A mind-bending new Quinnipiac University poll shows Jeb running fourth among Republicans in Florida, behind Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio.

For those of you too young, too old, or too new to the Sunshine State, John Ellis Bush doesn’t just happen to reside in Florida. He was the governor for eight years, elected and re-elected with the crossover support of conservative Democrats.

His entire presidential campaign has been crafted around his self-buffed legacy as Florida’s chief executive, touting it in every stump speech and in every debate. Yet now, only 13 months before Election Day, he’s mired in fourth place in the one state where it was supposed to be a slam dunk. How is this possible?

The explanation might be simpler than you think: Jeb broke the cardinal rule of well-liked ex-politicians. He came out of retirement.

Not so long ago, when he was still a private Coral Gables businessman, he was a venerated and unassailable figure among Florida Republicans.

Check out the latest numbers:

Trump leads the pack in Florida with 28 percent. Next comes Carson at 16 percent, followed by Rubio with 14 percent.

Jeb is hanging on at 12 percent.

It’s one thing to be trailing a silly character like Trump in places like Iowa or New Hampshire, but to be 16 points down in a critical swing state, your home state, is truly shocking.

Rubio’s a legit contender, but Carson is a loony bird who can’t go more than a week without babbling something that requires a hasty “clarification.” His recent comment suggesting that the victims of the Oregon college massacre were too passive during the shootings was particularly idiotic.

It’s astounding that Jeb is lagging behind even this guy in Florida.

Sure, the former governor didn’t show much fire during the two televised debates. He’s also had some stumbles of his own, including that appalling “stuff happens” remark about the Oregon killings.

But stacked up beside the insult-belching Trump and the spacey Carson, Jeb should be looking like Winston Churchill.

Imagine if you were one of the wealthy donors who wrote a six- or even a seven-figure check to the Bush Super PAC early this year, thinking you were betting on a sure winner. Now you’re looking at the headlines and lunging for the bourbon.

The situation is so serious that Jeb is considering taking his ex-president brother on the fundraising trail, a once-unthinkable strategy. He risks reminding voters about Iraq and the 2008 financial meltdown that left the country with a Bush hangover. A seven-year absence from the scene is what has boosted George W’s numbers.

It’s too early for Jeb’s supporters to panic, because the race is far from over. He has collected more money than any other Republican, and he’s finally starting to spend some on advertising.

Jeb hopes that the conservative infatuation with Donald Trump will fade, Ben Carson will go home to Mars and other long-shot candidates will go broke and drop out. That’s the only path back to the top of the polls.

Where he would probably still be, if only he’d stayed retired.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald: The National Memo, October 13, 2015

October 14, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush, Politicians | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Long, Long Battle For Health Care Reform”: The Single Defining Goal Of American Progressivism For More Than A Century

So in this week of epochal Supreme Court opinions, even health policy wonks would not claim that King v. Burwell can match Obergefell v. Hodges in terms of its historical significance. There’s a reason the latter is stimulating spontaneous outbreaks of happiness among people who aren’t political and don’t follow constitutional law.

But at Vox today, Dylan Matthews reminds us that of the incredibly long hard path this country has followed to reach even the Affordable Care Act’s first timorous steps towards universal health coverage. Those conservatives who talk as though no one has ever seriously considered such a socialist abomination until now really are betraying their ignorance about history:

National health insurance has been the single defining goal of American progressivism for more than a century. There have been other struggles, of course: for equality for women, African-Americans, and LGBT people; for environmental protection; against militarism in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. But ever since its inclusion in Teddy Roosevelt’s 1912 Bull Moose platform, a federally guaranteed right to health coverage has been the one economic and social policy demand that loomed over all others. It was the big gap between our welfare state and those of our peers in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

And for more than a century, efforts to achieve national health insurance failed. Roosevelt’s third-party run came up short. His Progressive allies, despite support from the American Medical Association, failed to pass a bill in the 1910s. FDR declined to include health insurance in the Social Security Act, fearing it would sink the whole program, and the Wagner Act, his second attempt, ended in failure too. Harry Truman included a single-payer plan open to all Americans in his Fair Deal set of proposals, but it went nowhere. LBJ got Medicare and Medicaid done after JFK utterly failed, but both programs targeted limited groups.

Richard Nixon proposed a universal health-care plan remarkably similar to Obamacare that was killed when then-Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) walked away from a deal to pass it, in what Kennedy would later call his greatest regret as a senator. Jimmy Carter endorsed single-payer on the campaign trail, but despite having a Democratic supermajority in Congress did nothing to pass it. And the failure of Bill Clinton’s health-care plan is the stuff of legend.

Yes, Obamacare haters may dismiss the experience of virtually every other wealthy country by intoning “American exceptionalism”, as though we have some long-cherished right to die young that’s as essential to the national character as unlimited possession of guns. But this has been a constant issue in our own country, too, and it’s a token of how far our political system has drifted to the right that redeeming the vision of Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Richard Nixon strikes so many people as a horrifying lurch into socialism.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, June 26, 2015

June 27, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Insurance, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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