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“The Johnson-Weld Ticket”: An Opportunity For #NeverTrump Republicans To Save Face

Let’s face it: the #NeverTrump movement is an admission of embarrassment on the part of veteran Republicans, an acknowledgment that the Southern Strategy was suicidal, a concession that as a result of fifty years of playing to ignorant fears, the GOP base is largely comprised of people who think the term “animal husbandry” refers to bestiality. You can’t blame these veteran Republicans for wanting to wash their hands of their creation–and you can’t blame them for seeking alternate political routes:

For some Massachusetts Republicans, the return of Bill Weld — the law-and-order Yankee who charmed his way into two terms as governor of a liberal state — is nothing short of face-saving.

Finally, they have a reason to show up on Election Day.

“I think for a lot of Republicans, especially in a state like Massachusetts, it gives us an option,” said Virginia Buckingham, a Republican who once worked as Weld’s chief of staff, and will vote for him this fall. “We were kind of in a difficult position facing voting for Donald Trump.”

Weld’s reemergence as a vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian ticket with former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has been viewed largely as another curiosity in a crazy election cycle in which, it seems, anything might happen…

Although the #NeverTrump movement isn’t beating down their door, Johnson and Weld are reaching for voters disenchanted with Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In a Web ad launched last week, Johnson and Weld presented themselves as a “credible alternative to ClinTrump.”

I have previously suggested that it is not beyond possibility for the Johnson-Weld ticket to perform strongly enough in national polls to warrant inclusion in the presidential debates. If so, the symbolism will be powerful. Think about it:  Clinton, Johnson and Trump–a Democrat demonized for decades by the demagogues who dote on the Donald, an ex-Republican who was regarded as a RINO by the same twits who think Trump is terrific, and the Orange Goblin himself, the single most unqualified individual to ever secure a major American party’s nomination, the single most irrational figure in modern politics, a hero to haters, a Jesus to jerks.

I give Johnson credit for defying both Republican and Libertarian taboos in his July 1 appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher (relevant segment runs from 3:02-5:15):

Other than former Cato Institute fellow Jerry Taylor, I have never heard anyone associated with libertarianism acknowledge that human-caused climate change is real. That’s progress. If Clinton and Johnson appear on the debate stage next to Trump and affirm that mainstream climate science is legitimate, and Trump reiterates his belief that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese government, climate hawks will be able to declare a moral victory, because the optics will not work in Trump’s favor.

The Johnson-Weld ticket is an option, and an opportunity, for veteran Republicans to save face. It will be interesting to see how many Republicans avail themselves of this option and this opportunity. Having said that, I hope Republicans who support this ticket at least have the decency to admit that men like Johnson and Weld were effectively forced out of the GOP because they were not blind ideologues, because they understood that some issues are not left or right, because they recognized that we’re all Americans first…because they were too nice, too civil, too human for the Trumpublican Party.

Clinton will be able to hold her own in a three-way debate with Johnson and Trump. She will also not hesitate to remind viewers that if the GOP had not gone grotesque, a man like Johnson–flawed but not foul, mistaken but not malicious, incorrect but not insane–would be the Republican nominee, and not a deacon of derangement like the Donald.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 10, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Johnson-Weld Ticket, Never Trump Movement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“May Have Peaked Too Early In Iowa”: Ted Cruz Is Losing His Mojo At The Worst Possible Moment

When Ted Cruz became the first Republican presidential aspirant to formally announce his candidacy in a March 2015 speech at Liberty University, he was generally considered a very long shot (oddsmakers initially rated him the sixth-most-likely nomination winner, with 16-1 odds). He was too young and too inexperienced (with the same Senate tenure as Barack Obama had in 2008, which Republicans had never stopped citing as disqualifying), had made too many enemies among his colleagues, and was pursuing too narrow a constituency in a very crowded field. He was mostly bumping along in the single digits in polls of his primary target, Evangelical-rich Iowa, until well into the fall of last year. And he had to overcome a very formidable assortment of rivals for Evangelical and movement-conservative votes.

In retrospect, Cruz’s accomplishment in getting to the eve of the caucuses as the putative second-place — or possibly first-place — finisher has been pretty remarkable. Two rivals for the Evangelical vote had deep roots and a record of victory in Iowa: 2008 winner Mike Huckabee and 2012 winner Rick Santorum. Cruz outorganized both of them and snagged the Christian-right endorsements that helped them forge their winning coalitions. The longtime governor of his own state, Rick Perry, had major Christian-right street cred of his own, and experience in Iowa. Cruz outlasted Perry, who later endorsed him. Scott Walker was an early favorite to win Iowa, in part because of an alleged deep affinity with Evangelicals. Cruz outlasted him, too, and also outlasted Bobby Jindal, the smartest guy in every room, who made Evangelicals his obsessive target. And Cruz endured a brief but massive boom of Evangelical support, in Iowa and nationally, for Dr. Ben Carson. He’s also become the de facto second choice of libertarian-leaning Republicans pending the likely early demise of Rand Paul’s once-promising campaign. Like every other candidate, Cruz has been intermittently challenged and marginalized by Donald Trump, but through most of the invisible primary Cruz has handled that better than anyone else.

The Cruz campaign is in fine financial shape and has a very clear path to the nomination with the big breakthrough planned for the so-called “SEC primary” on March 1.

But it’s possible he’s losing his mojo at the worst possible moment.

Even before Thursday night’s Fox News debate, there was talk that Cruz might have “peaked too early” in Iowa. Cruz narrowly led the Donald in the typically very accurate and influential Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll released on January 13. But since then the polling has shown slippage for Cruz, generally attributed to a combo attack from Trump on Cruz’s Canadian birth and from the Branstad family (Terry, the six-term governor, and son Eric, the ethanol lobbyist) on his opposition to special treatment of the corn-based alternative fuel by the federal government. Even more ominously, third-place candidate Marco Rubio, the favorite of both the Republican Establishment and of many conservative Evangelical leaders, was beginning to creep up on Cruz in Iowa polls amid a major spending spree on TV ads by the Floridian.

Then came Thursday night’s debates, where Cruz was almost universally deemed the worst performer and perhaps (depending on your assessment of the impact of Trump’s absence) the big loser. Two particularly damaging moments were his trapped look when confronted with videos of his past statements seeming to support legalization of undocumented immigrants, and a shot of Terry Branstad chortling as Cruz struggled to explain his position on ethanol. And it didn’t help the nerves of Team Cruz that Frank Luntz’s post-debate focus-group report for Fox News was practically a Rubio rally.

If the debate does move caucusgoers, it may not be reflected in late polls (e.g., the final RegisterBloomberg poll that will be released Saturday night) that were in the field before the event. More likely, the caucuses will remain a test of the turnout strategies of Trump, with his effort to expand participation deep into marginal voting segments, and Cruz, with his state-of-the-art organization focused on the most likely caucusgoers.

If Cruz wins, the debate stumble will be forgotten instantly. If he finishes second, and particularly a weak second, chins will be stroked and lost opportunities will be weighed. And if he somehow finishes behind Rubio, his candidacy is in very big trouble. Any way you look at it, it’s been a long, strange trip for a freshman U.S. senator who would finish dead last in a poll of his colleagues.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 29, 2016

January 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Iowa Caucuses, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Right Question To Ask About Government”: What Steps Does Government Take To Empower Citizens And Expand Their Rights?

Many conservatives and most libertarians argue that every new law or regulation means that government is adding to the sum total of oppression and reducing the freedom of individuals.

This way of looking at things greatly simplifies the political debate. Domestic issues are boiled down to the question of whether someone is “pro-government” or “anti-government.”

Alas for the over-simplifiers, it’s an approach that misreads the nature of the choices that regulators, politicians and citizens regularly face. It ignores that the market system itself could not exist without the rules that government establishes, beginning with statutes protecting private property and also the various measures against the use of force and fraud in business and individual transactions.

More important, it overlooks the ways in which the steps government takes often empower citizens and expand their rights. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the realm of work.

The run-up to Labor Day this year brought a spate of news articles and commentaries on the actions of the National Labor Relations Board and other government agencies to strengthen the rights of workers and enhance their bargaining power relative to employers.

Last week, Noam Scheiber offered an important account in the New York Times of how the Obama administration has been “pursuing an aggressive campaign to restore protections for workers that have been eroded by business activism, conservative governance and the evolution of the economy in recent decades.”

Among the milestones Scheiber cited was a recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision upholding an Obama-era rule providing minimum-wage and overtime protections to nearly 2 million home health-care workers. They certainly felt empowered by government, not oppressed. So did the employees of contractors and franchises who were granted collective bargaining rights by the National Labor Relations Board.

Fast-food chains provide the obvious example of how loopholes related to new work arrangements and franchise agreements can let employers out of their traditional obligations. In the case of purveyors of hamburgers and chicken tenders, the parent companies set all sorts of detailed requirements for how these businesses should operate — and then turn around and claim that when it comes to workers’ rights, their franchises are utterly independent.

One of the most fascinating struggles, still ongoing, is over new regulations that the Labor Department is trying to establish to ensure that those who give investment advice to people with 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts base their judgments on the best interests of their clients. Along with defined-contribution retirement plans, they involve some $13 trillion in investments.

The Labor Department proposal would require investment advisers to abide by a “fiduciary” standard — meaning that the best-interest-of-the-client yardstick should be their sole criterion in offering counsel to clients. If this seems obvious, that’s not what the current law requires. As Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in an interview, the standard now is only that an investment be suitable. “What the hell is ‘suitable’?” Perez asked, noting that he would hope for more than just “suitable” advice from his doctor.

The issue is whether some investment advisers might offer conflicted guidance influenced by “backdoor payments and hidden fees often buried in fine print,” as the Labor Department put it in a document explaining why change is needed.

“I don’t believe that folks who provide advice wake up with malice in their hearts,” Perez said. But he added that it is only natural that advisers might lean toward investments from which they can also benefit. “Surprise, surprise, if you have four or five products that are suitable and one gives you a commission, guess where you will go?” The new rules, which are being heavily contested by parts of the financial industry, are an attempt to realign the incentives, Perez argued.

The investment-rule battle is a near-perfect example of how the government is plainly promoting free markets — what’s more market-oriented than building an investment portfolio? — but is also trying to make sure that the rules regulating the investments tilt toward the interests of the individual putting money at risk.

As long as there are markets, government will have to establish rules determining how they operate. These necessarily affect the interests of market participants. Many of the choices are not between more or less government. They are about whether what government does provides greater benefit to workers or employers, management or unions, individual investors or investment firms.

“Which side are you on?” This question from the old union song is the right question to ask about government.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 6, 2015

September 7, 2015 Posted by | Government, Labor Day, Workers Rights | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Shock Endorsement”: How Desperate Is Rand Paul? He’s Calling In Daddy For Help

Look at all of you, thinking Rand Paul’s presidential campaign was going nowhere but downward, in both polling support and money. Quite a feint that Rand Paul put out there, getting you all clucking. But the last laugh will be his. Because on Friday, Rand Paul trotted out a shock endorsement that threatens to upend the state of the race, the future of the country, the alignment of the planets, the mysteries of God.

Ron Paul has endorsed Rand Paul.

The two have some connections, so perhaps we should have seen this coming. Ron Paul served in Congress for years, just as Rand Paul has. Each are Republicans but gravitate towards libertarianism. Each has run for president. It’s also the case that Rand Paul’s mother is literally married to Ron Paul and they have a son and that son is Rand Paul. Still: pretty big endorsement here.

“Endorsement” is at least how Reason magazine is putting it, which is an effective framing job although perhaps not the most accurate. Ron Paul has always supported his son’s campaign, because he is his son. He was there with Rand at the campaign launch, in a mostly silent role. His role has been nearly totally silent as the campaign has progressed, though. As the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel writes, it’s more accurate to call this Ron Paul’s first pitch on Rand’s behalf for donations, over four months into the process.

Here’s a sampling of some of the slick #content within this email:

Rand is the ONLY one in the race who is standing up for your Liberty, across the board….he is our best hope to restore liberty, limited government and the Bill of Rights and finally end the big spending status quo in Washington, D.C….

Remember, truth is treason in the empire of lies. And nowhere is that more true than when it comes to Washington, D.C. and their media mouthpieces.

Even where Rand and I do have minor differences of opinion, I would take Rand’s position over any of his opponents’ in both parties every time…

Rand must be heartened to have his father’s full-throated public support and fundraising prowess at his back. But it’s the best symbol yet of how Paul’s political career has come full-circle: from niche politician to breakout GOP star and back to niche politician — and one who has little hope of growing his support for the nomination much further.

Leading up to the presidential cycle, much of the chatter about Rand Paul surrounded how he would utilize his “wild card” father, if at all. It was Ron Paul’s noisy base of supporters who raised him an awful lot of money for his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, and who boosted Rand Paul to his surprising Senate primary victory in 2010. As Rand’s ambitions went higher though — he wanted to run for president with a chance to win, and not as a niche candidate in the style of his father — he had to move towards the party mainstream without abandoning his libertarian base.

That didn’t work very well. The rise of ISIS closed off whatever interest Republicans might have had in a slightly less military interventionist foreign policy. Rand sensed the winds changing and has tried several times to appease the party’s hawks, who do not and will not ever trust him, in the meantime turning some of his libertarian base against them. He has tried to walk the narrow line between mainstream acceptability and libertarian fire and failed.

And now he doesn’t have much money, or anything to lose, so he might as well trot out his father despite all the risks that entails.

It will be something when Rand Paul fares much, much worse in the early states this time than his father did in the early states in 2012. That’s not the way it was supposed to be.

 

By: Jim Newell, Salon, August 17, 2015

 

August 18, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Rand Paul, Ron Paul | , , , , , | 8 Comments

“Rand 2015 Runs From Rand 2007 On Iran”: Changed His Tune To Match The Rest Of The Republican Field

In 2007, Rand Paul gave his first interview to Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist radio host and founder of Infowars.com.

Paul was helping his father, then-Congressman Ron Paul, campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and, Jones said, the entirety of his audience helped to make up the elder Paul’s base of fervent supporters.

Jones was struck by the younger Paul’s similarity to his father. “You know, talking to you, you sound so much like your dad,” Jones said. “This is great! We have, like, a Ron Paul clone!”

When Jones noted that the elder Paul was the only anti-war candidate, Rand replied, “I tell people in speeches, I say you know, we’re against the Iraq war, we have been since the beginning, but we’re also against the Iran war—you know, the one that hasn’t started yet. You know, the thing is I think people want to paint my father into some corner, but if you look at it, intellectually, look at the evidence that Iran is not a threat.”

As evidence of this, he said, you needn’t look further than the fact that “Iran cannot even refine their own gasoline.”

And further, Paul said, “even our own intelligence community consensus opinion now is that they’re not a threat. My dad says, they don’t have an air force! They don’t have a navy! You know, it’s ridiculous to think that they’re a threat to our national security. It’s not even that viable to say they’re a threat to Israel. Most people say Israel has 100 nuclear weapons.”

Eight years later, Paul’s beliefs are very different.

In response to the agreement reached Tuesday between Iran, the United States, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany to diminish Iran’s nuclear program, Paul, now the junior Senator from Kentucky and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, released a statement outlining his opposition.

“The proposed agreement with Iran is unacceptable for the following reasons:

1) sanctions relief precedes evidence of compliance

2) Iran is left with significant nuclear capacity

3) it lifts the ban on selling advanced weapons to Iran

I will, therefore, vote against the agreement. While I continue to believe negotiations are preferable to war, I would prefer to keep the interim agreement in place instead of accepting a bad deal.”

Asked how Paul’s position had shifted so dramatically since he was campaigning for his father, Doug Stafford, his senior campaign adviser, said, “Foreign policy should reflect events and events change. Senator Paul has always thought Iran getting a nuclear weapon was a bad idea and dangerous. But over the last eight years, as Iran has made progress in their nuclear enrichment program, it’s become more of a threat. Not allowing your opinions to reflect changing threats would be foolish.”

But it’s just frankly not true, as the Alex Jones interview demonstrates.

What is true is that the Iran deal places Paul in an impossible bind. Paul’s positions are usually so nuanced that they escape criticism of flip-flopping, but his shift on Iran is unusually clear—even if it was gradual.

Whether compromise is a wise strategy for Paul in the primary is uncertain. Paul is currently polling at 6.6 percent—behind Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee. Paul is not going to vault back into the top tier by siphoning off votes from more establishment candidates, whose supporters will never buy him as one of their own. And he won’t mobilize his libertarian base by taking them for granted.

In April, reporter David Weigel, outlined in detail Paul’s transformation for Bloomberg Politics. In 2011, while in the Senate, Paul was still vocally opposed to war, telling reporter Zaid Jilani he wanted to “influence” Iran instead. In 2012, while again campaigning for his father, he reiterated their anti-war position while clarifying that Ron Paul “doesn’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons…But should they get nuclear weapons, he thinks that there are some choices.” A few weeks later, Paul explained to CNN that when it came to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, “I did finally come down to the conclusion that doing something was better than doing nothing.”

By 2013, Paul was saying that “the most pressing issue of the day” was how to contend with Iran’s nuclear program, and said that although he still did not want war, if he were in the White House while a deal collapsed, “I would say all options are on the table, and that would include military.”

Back in March, Paul was faced with a choice: sign the open letter penned by his Senate colleague, Tom Cotton, which Cotton explicitly said was designed to halt negotiations, or be the only presidential contender in the Senate to not sign it, and risk losing support in the fallout.

Despite the fact that Paul had maintained—and continues to maintain—that he favors negotiations, he compromised and opted for the first choice, contorting himself uncomfortably in his effort to explain his decision and irking some of the longtime libertarian supporters he inherited from his father in the process.

He has pursued a similar strategy with the deal.

The Atlantic’s David Frum made what on its face felt like a reckless prediction on Tuesday: “The Rand Paul Candidacy for the Republican Nomination Is Over.” Frum’s case was that throughout the course of his short Senate career, Paul has been able to carve out space for himself within his party by mostly focusing on the issue of domestic surveillance, which comfortably placed him in opposition to the hawks he bemoans and to President Obama. The deal presented for Paul a no-win: Were he to support the deal, however, Frum argued, he would “find himself isolated with the old Ron Paul constituency,” but were he to oppose it, he would vanish amid a sea of similar voices in the primary field.

The best explanation for Paul’s new position may come from Paul himself.

In an interview with The Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie in April, the same day two attack ads were released tying him to Obama on the issue, Paul said, “2007 was a long time ago and events do change over long periods of time. We’re talking about a time when I wasn’t running for office, when I was helping someone else run for office.”

So when the facts change—be they the facts of the issue at hand or the facts of Paul’s personal political objectives—Paul changes his mind.

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, July 15, 20116

July 19, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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