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“Unlike Anything Ever Tried In American History”: The ‘GOP Gamble’: Voters Won’t Care About Court Blockade

As far as Senate Republicans are concerned, the fight over the Supreme Court vacancy is now officially over. They’ve declared themselves the winner.

Every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel responsible for evaluating judicial nominees in detail, met in private this morning with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Soon after, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a longtime committee member, told the Associated Press the GOP group came to an agreement: there would be no hearing, no vote, and no confirmation of any nominee, regardless of merit or qualifications.

A partisan blockade, unlike anything ever tried in American history, is the only course the Republican majority is willing to consider. Period. Full stop.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), another member of the Judiciary Committee, said today he wouldn’t even speak to a Supreme Court nominee if he or she showed up at his office. Soon after, McConnell and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the same thing.

So, is the fight over an unchosen, unknown nominee finished before it begins? Well, maybe.

President Obama and his team are no doubt aware of the developments on Capitol Hill, though it’s unlikely West Wing officials are going to simply quit, telling each other, “Well, we tried.”

What’s probably going to happen is that the president will nominate a qualified official for the high court; he’ll encourage senators to do their job while honoring the constitutional process; and then Democrats hope for the pressure to change the politics.

The next question, of course, is whether such pressure is going to exist.

Last week, a Fox News poll found a clear majority of Americans agreeing that the Supreme Court’s vacancy should be filled this year, not next. This week, a Pew Research Center survey found similar results.

In the high-stakes battle over replacing Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a majority of Americans (56%) say the Senate should hold hearings and vote on President Obama’s choice to fill the vacancy. About four-in-ten (38%) say the Senate should not hold hearings until the next president selects a court nominee.

Of course, while independent and Democratic voters agree on senators doing their duty, the same poll found that 66% of GOP voters want the blockade to continue – and those are very likely the only voters Senate Republicans care about right now.

It sounds cynical and undemocratic, but by all appearances, GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill just don’t buy into the notion that there will ever be a public backlash against them – on practically anything. Cycle after cycle, their antics are rewarded, even after a government shutdown, a debt-ceiling crisis, and a complete unwillingness to govern on practically any issue.

Periodically, someone will say, “The public won’t stand for this,” to which Republicans respond, “Of course they will. Voters don’t pay much attention anyway.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 23, 2016

February 24, 2016 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Republicans, U. S. Constitution, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Shall We Choose Poison?”: A Choice Between Being Shot Or Poisoned To Death

The National Review has just come out with an entire issue dedicated to convincing Republicans not to nominate Donald Trump to be their presidential candidate. It wasn’t a painless decision. It cost them the right to cohost (along with Salem Radio and Telemundo) a Republican debate with CNN.

The magazine is more conflicted about Ted Cruz. Writing for The Corner, for example, David French accuses the Republican establishment of being petulant in their refusal to contemplate serving under a Cruz presidency.

What’s remarkable about Mr. French’s position is that he places absolutely no weight on the idea that a person who belongs to a 100-person organization and manages to make about 98 of the members detest and despise them, probably is not the kind of person you want to make the leader of anything.

French was responding to a report at CNN in which Senator Dan Coats of Indiana said that the wounds Cruz has created with the Republican caucus are so deep that they’d find it nearly impossible to work with him. And Coats was hardly alone in expressing that opinion. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina likened a choice between Trump and Cruz to a choice between being shot and poisoned to death. Most strikingly, Texas’s other senator, John Cornyn, refused to defend his partner after Bob Dole said that a Cruz candidacy would be “cataclysmic” for the party.

But French dismisses this as letting petty personal differences get in the way of the good of the party.

…this is sheer crazy talk. Look, I get that senators are people — they have feelings and pride and don’t like to be called names. But talk through the hurt with your spouse or pastor, and then man up, get out there, and make it clear that you’re going to campaign your heart out for the GOP nominee. After years of tough election campaigns, food fights on cable television, and withering attacks on social media, Ted Cruz is the one who broke your spirits?

I don’t think Ted Cruz broke their spirits. They know him. They know him and they don’t like him. They don’t like him and they don’t trust him. They don’t trust him and they don’t want to serve under him. They don’t think he should be our president.

Maybe their collective wisdom should count for something.

The fact that it doesn’t seem to among a lot of fairly well-educated conservatives is another indicator of just how little credibility the GOP establishment has with anyone.

But another indicator of how much Cruz is hated is that folks outside of the Senate are beginning to make sounds about Trump being more acceptable.

“If it came down to Trump or Cruz, there is no question I’d vote for Trump,” said former New York mayor and 2008 presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has not endorsed a candidate. “As a party, we’d have a better chance of winning with him, and I think a lot of Republicans look at it that way.”

So, this is where we are. The conservatives at the National Review, Weekly Standard, Red State and other like publications are doing a full-court press to stop Trump because they think he’s a flim-flam artist and a confidence man, while the elected officials (current and former) are telling anyone who will listen that Cruz is completely unacceptable.

For once, I agree with a lot of conservatives. I think they’re all right.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 22, 2016

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“McCain’s Loyalty To Palin Goes Unrewarded”: The Loyalty And Respect Appears To Be A One-Way Street

After Sarah Palin announced her support for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign late yesterday, it was hard not to wonder: what does John McCain have to say about this? The answer, apparently, is not much.

The man who first gave Sarah Palin a starring national role in August 2008 will try to avoid getting involved in the Trump endorsement storyline – for now, at least.

“Senator McCain has great respect and appreciation for Governor Palin,” a senior aide told NBC News. “As he has said since Senator [Lindsey] Graham exited the race, he will not be taking sides and endorsing a primary candidate at this point in the race.”

This level of restraint really can’t be easy.

In case it’s not obvious, Palin’s new pal is on record publicly mocking John McCain’s war record. Indeed, at a forum in Iowa in July, Trump said McCain is “not a war hero,” adding, “I like people that weren’t captured, okay?” Pressed to apologize, Trump refused.

Six months later, this same candidate picked up an endorsement from McCain’s former running mate – the person responsible for putting Palin on the national stage – and the senator still maintains the line about “great respect and appreciation” for the former governor.

I guess the alternative is a statement in which McCain asks, “Good lord, what have I done?”

Keep in mind, as Rachel noted on the show last night, the Arizona Republican, even after the 2008 fiasco, has been steadfastly loyal to Palin, praising her repeatedly, and emphasizing how “proud” he is to have chosen her for the GOP ticket. At one point, McCain said, “I love Sarah. I think she is still the best decision that I have ever made.”

And he did not appear to be kidding.

But after yesterday, it’s hard to escape the fact that the loyalty and respect appears to be a one-way street

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 20, 2016

January 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, John McCain, Sarah Palin | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Bane Of Many Politicians’ Existence”: Senate GOP Solution To Super PAC Rivals; More Money In Politics

This may sound odd, but it rings true amongst Republicans and Democrats alike: The only people who loathe Super PACs more than voters forced to sit through an onslaught of their bullshit ads, are politicians themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, at first many Republicans loved the new, post-Citizen United world of PACs (a.k.a. Political Action Committees who act any way they want). But those powerful outside groups have become the bane of many politicians’ existence—even GOP lawmakers who oppose overturning the Supreme Court ruling.

“We’re at a point where the outside groups have so much more flexibility than the parties do that there’s nothing wrong with giving both political parties a little more flexibility in how they work with candidates,” said Roy Blunt (R-MO), a member of the GOP leadership team in the Senate.

As Congress scrambles to avoid a year end government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is quietly trying to include a provision to dismantle any limitations remaining on what the parties in Washington can spend coordinating with their candidates. Both parties bemoan that their candidates have lost control of their own campaigns.

Currently GOP and Democratic leaders can only spend about $50,000 to assist House candidates and around $3 million working with Senate campaigns. But for Super PACs the sky is the limit on what they can raise and spend, thus neutering the parties and politicians alike.

“You notice that the political parties are now being shunted aside, because he who pays the pipers calls the tune,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) who doesn’t think McConnell’s latest attempt is all that significant. “It’s the outside money, particularly in the Republican sphere, that is funding elections. And it’s all this undisclosed, unlimited money uncontrolled by the campaign finance law. So until we can stop the outside money you can tinker here and tinker there, and it doesn’t make any difference.”

PACs have complicated everything for today’s political class. Yes, candidates are still the central component of any campaign, but all the campaign cash has eclipsed many candidates’ messages in recent elections. That’s because it’s easier for PACs to rake in millions than it is for candidates and their party to take in similar rolls of dollar bills. Candidates and parties also have to play by different rules.

“The candidates we have to disclose everything and I have to put my name on it,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) told The Daily Beast. She’s facing a bruising reelection battle and thinks the Citizens United ruling has unleashed a double standard.

“The parties also, they have to say ‘from the party’ and be able to do that, but you know there are a lot of outside groups, they have different names and it’s tough to know where they’re coming from.”

While candidates want to exert more control over their own campaigns, so do party leaders. In recent years Tea Party challengers have embarrassed themselves and the Republican Party in Senate races from Delaware to Nevada. That made the GOP establishment bristle, and seems to be behind McConnell’s latest move to strengthen the parties.

“McConnell is a party man,” said Kyle Kondik, a campaign analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “He probably believes that if the parties are stronger they can exert more control over who gets the nomination. You make the party stronger the individual candidates get weaker.”

That’s why the Tea Party wing of the GOP is opposed to McConnell’s latest move.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the head of the House Freedom Caucus, said the changes on coordination should also be extended to Super PACs who currently are forbidden from coordinating with campaigns.

“What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander,” Jordan told The Daily Beast. “So if it’s good for the parties, it should be good for outside groups who are involved in politics and have a big influence on politics as well. I mean free speech is free speech. So either don’t do it at all, or if you’re going to do it, do it in an equal fashion.”

This isn’t the first time McConnell has stealthily tried to unwind election law. As the legislative clock wound down at the end of last year, he worked with then Speaker John Boehner to lift the cap on what party committees could solicit from donors. The provision hiked the rate from just under $100,000 to nearly $800,000. It was barely noticed, but critics argue the new provision will be felt.

“It will basically turn the parties into another apparatus that’s owned by the big money crowd,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), an advocate for public financing of campaigns. “In a sense it would allow big donors to become benefactors of specific candidates, using the parties to do it. They would kind of go through the parties to become the sugar daddy of this candidate or that candidate. So the parties lose all independence; they just become the tool of the big money crowd.”

Then there’s the whole presidential scramble going on. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has proven to be a lackluster fundraiser in his #YOLOrace for the White House, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been carefully watching his opponents and their Super PACs. He predicts something will give when the new Congress convenes at the start of 2017.

“I think there is going to be a scandal about money coming in the 2016 cycle from unsavory sources,” Graham to The Daily Beast. “That’s what it’s going to take to spur discussion. So I don’t really care about moving the caps as long as it’s transparent.”

 

By; Matt Laslo, The Daily Beast, December 14, 2015

December 15, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Citizens United, Mitch Mc Connell, Super PAC's | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Profound Test Of Their Principles”: Republican Candidates’ Despicably Lukewarm Criticism Of Donald Trump

You may remember that a year ago, Jeb Bush was musing on the Republican primary when he said that a winning GOP candidate would have “to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to… lose the primary to win the general [election] without violating your principles.” While the assumption at the time was that Bush was thinking mostly about immigration, it turns out that what we might call Bush’s Paradox applies to a whole range of issues.

Right now, the candidates are facing that paradox, in a profound test of their principles. And they’re failing.

The proximate cause is Donald Trump, who has moved from being a comical if repellent figure to being truly ghastly and sinister. As Trump has taken his xenophobia and outright hate-mongering to ever-increasing heights, the most stinging rebuke most of his opponents can offer in response is, “Well, I wouldn’t go that far.”

You might think I’m misrepresenting their statements, downplaying the degree to which they’ve condemned Trump for his ugly Islamophobic remarks. But if we look closely at what they’ve said, it’s clear that they’re being careful not to criticize him too harshly, lest they offend the voters who seem to be flocking to him precisely because he’s the one giving fullest expression to their hatred and fear.

But before we get to that, a brief review. Trump’s latest bit of demagoguery is a proposal (though I use the term loosely) to prohibit any Muslim from entering the United States — as an immigrant, as a businessperson, even as a tourist. Trump would even apply that to American citizens who had traveled out of the country and want to return. This follows on his extended insistence that “thousands and thousands” of American Muslims celebrated the fall of the World Trade Center, which was notable not just for the fact that it’s false, but for its purpose. In harping on this myth, Trump was trying to convince people that other Americans are untrustworthy, suspect, each one a terrorist sympathizer if not an outright terrorist. Add that to his assertion that mosques should be under surveillance and his toying with the idea of the government keeping a list of all Muslims for regular monitoring.

And it isn’t like Trump’s Islamophobia is unique to him. After the Paris attacks, all the Republican candidates seized on the issue of Syrian refugees to stoke fear of terrorism in the hearts of voters (even though going through the lengthy process of obtaining refugee status is about the most cumbersome and time-consuming way to reach the United States; if the attackers in Paris had wanted to come here, all they would have had to do is buy a plane ticket). Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz both said that we should accept Christian refugees, but not Muslim ones. Ben Carson said that no Muslim should be allowed to be president unless they disavowed their religion.

And how have Trump’s opponents reacted to the river of hate that gushes forth every time he steps up to a microphone? With the utmost care. “I disagree with that proposal,” Ted Cruz said about excluding Muslims from the United States. “Donald Trump is unhinged. His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious,” said Jeb Bush. “I disagree with Donald Trump’s latest proposal,” said Marco Rubio. “His habit of making offensive and outlandish statements will not bring Americans together.” Chris Christie said that the remarks showed that Trump didn’t have enough experience to deal with terrorism. “Unfortunately I think Donald Trump’s over reaction is as dangerous as Obama’s under reaction,” said Carly Fiorina. John Kasich called it “outrageous divisiveness,” mustering the strongest condemnation.

What we have there are varying degrees of disagreement, but about the worst any of them can bring themselves to say is that Trump’s ideas are nutty. Not that he’s a bigot, not that he’s using the politics of hate, not that he’s falling in line with a sordid history of racism. And certainly none of them are speaking directly to American Muslims — just imagine if they pandered to that community the way they pander to a dozen others whose votes they want.

There is one exception, who should be given all the credit he deserves: Lindsey Graham. Trump, Graham said in a recent appearance on CNN, is “a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.”

Perhaps it’s because Graham barely registers in the polls that he feels free to speak plainly about Trump, because those polls also show that there’s a substantial audience for what Trump is offering. Republicans give Muslims lower favorability ratings than any other group. One recent poll found that only 49 percent of Iowa Republicans thought Islam should be legal. And ugly anti-Muslim incidents, ranging from harassment to outright hate-crimes, are cropping up all over.

While Trump may not have much support for his specific ideas from other Republicans, the conservative media reinforces the mindset that produces them each and every day. Josh Marshall recently described the discussion of these issues on Fox News as “a whole tapestry of falsehoods, that combined with incitement and hysteria create a mental world in which Donald Trump’s mounting volume of racist incitement is just not at all surprising.” Fox regularly gives airtime to bigots and xenophobes to spout off about the threat not only from abroad but from American Muslims (though a lot of that shows up on other cable networks as well), rhetoric that is echoed on one conservative talk radio show after another. And don’t think Republican politicians don’t know who’s watching and listening.

So is anyone going to be surprised if next week some heavily armed right-wing terrorist walks into a mosque or a Muslim community center and starts killing as many innocent men, women, and children as he can? After all, he keeps hearing about how they’re terrorist sympathizers, how they need to be watched, how they need to be kept out, how they need to suspected and feared and hated.

I don’t know how long this ugly period will last, but I do know that history is going to judge those who created it harshly. And those who stepped carefully around a demagogue like Trump, always worried that they might offend his followers? Their cowardice will be remembered too.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, December 9, 2015

December 14, 2015 Posted by | Conservative Media, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Islamophobia | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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