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“Hillary Clinton’s First Step Forward”: Connecting Her Unique Experience Of The Past To Future Excellence

The first snow fell here as Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump for president. Thinking over Hillary Clinton’s chances in Iowa and New Hampshire, I found the winter landscape gave me a clearer picture.

Palin’s sass makes a useful foil for Clinton’s class. The wild-eyed woman has not aged well since shaking up the 2008 race on the losing side. But don’t count out her “peasant cunning.”

A strategy responding to Palin might go like this. The river between Clinton and Palin is wide as the mighty Mississippi, showing starkly what the parties actually think of women. That’s a jumping off point for the Republican war on constitutional choice, waged in Congress and in many of the 50 states, Ted Cruz’s Texas worst of all.

Looming over the Clinton camp are dark musings, fears of the historic “first” woman contender finishing second in the presidential primary. Again. The Iowa caucuses were unkind to Clinton in 2008. Senator Bernie Sanders is now making Iowa a horse race. Can’t you just hear Trump crow if she loses?

The magnitude of the moment, running to be the first woman president, deserves more spin, oxygen and energy than it’s getting from the Clinton campaign. It’s something to be excited about — for mothers and daughters, wives, friends, sisters and brothers, even for the old Founding Fathers in July in Philadelphia, where the Democratic convention will be held.

Yes, the stars are all there for Clinton to take the bright shining mantle of history. She notably failed to do so in 2008, when she lost narrowly to young Barack Obama. He became the “first,” the African-American president that thrilled much of the body politic.

Clinton spoke of the “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” once the battle was lost, in a spirited concession. Changing the social paradigm is not yet part of the larger cultural conversation; it’s an undercurrent at best.

It’s a shame to make the same mistake twice. The national polls give her a soft lead, but people won’t be excited unless Clinton engages lukewarm voters and plays that point home to fire them up. Trump and Sanders supporters are raring to go, and we know galvinized voters will decide this election.

Clinton must message a sense of destiny for “first,” that her unique experience has molded her for the Madam President page of our shared national life. She is ready and we are ready.

Countless people — of all colors and ages — were euphoric at Obama’s inauguration eight years ago. Tens of thousands braved the frigid space to witness the first black president’s swearing-in. Wonder warmed the air.

That’s the message I’m talking about.

Free advice on how to tell her riveting life story: Simply put, everything Clinton has done, she has done well. Voters need a line that connects that past to future excellence.

From a daring commencement speech at her Seven Sisters college in 1969 to entering the gates of mostly male Yale Law School to working for the House Watergate committee, Clinton was born to the “first” generation to reap the gains of the women’s movement.

Early on, Hillary Rodham was singled out as a front-runner of the baby boomers — and young Bill Clinton knew it. He worried about missing her manifest destiny down in Arkansas. Yet in later life, his wife has real roots all over: She grew up in the Midwest, and has lived in the South and the East. That matters.

Skipping to the White House, Clinton became a revolutionary first lady, breaking the domestic mode (while attending to flowers and dinners) and taking on policy. She impressed Senator Ted Kennedy with her command of health care reform, but it failed. She went through a devastating personal betrayal and impressed even enemies with how she weathered the storm. Whereupon she ran for the Senate herself and won. As secretary of state, she visited 100 nations, mending fences in the wake of the disastrous Bush wars.

For heaven’s sake, don’t forget to let the rays of light and fun in. Have you seen the 2012 tape of Clinton dancing in South Africa? The top diplomat represents the United States beautifully in the moment, with a winning smile that lights her face and an enchanting spontaneity seldom seen. People like to like their presidents.

Let’s meet the woman who will rock our world.


By: Jamie Stiehm, The National Memo, January 22, 2016

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Sense In Which That Description Is True”: Being Less Crazy Than Donald Trump Does Not Make Marco Rubio ‘Moderate’

Marco Rubio built his presidential campaign upon a strategy that has succeeded many times in the past, and (if betting markets are correct) stands a strong chance of succeeding again. He is running a campaign that is more or less optimized for the general election rather than the primary — a tactic that holds him back from viscerally channeling conservative anger, but which, by maximizing his electability, makes his nomination more attractive to party elites. But because Rubio has found himself principally challenged by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who are running campaigns based purely on gratifying Republican base instincts, his strategy has magnified the contrast to the point where Rubio’s principal ideological identifier is now “moderate.” The term has been employed everywhere — by Rubio’s rivals, by his friends, and by neutral reporters. There is no sense in which that description is true — not in relation to modern Republican politics, and perhaps not even in relation to his allegedly more extreme opponents.

Rubio burst onto the national scene in 2010 as a self-described “movement conservative” who managed to draw backing from important Establishment Republicans, like the Bush family, and tea party groups. On foreign policy, he has embraced full-scale neoconservatism, winning enthusiastic plaudits from figures in the right-wing intelligentsia, like William Kristol. While much of the Republican Party has recoiled from the excesses of the Bush administration’s wild-eyed response to the 9/11 attacks, Rubio has not. He was one of 32 senators to oppose the USA Freedom Act, which restrained the federal government’s ability to conduct surveillance. He was one of just 21 senators opposing a prohibition on torture, insisting, “I do not support telegraphing to the enemy what interrogation techniques we will or won’t use.” Indeed, Rubio now delights his audiences by promising to torture suspected terrorists, who will “get a one-way ticket to Guantánamo, where we’re going to find out everything they know.”

On social issues, Rubio has endorsed a complete ban on abortions, even in cases of rape and incest (a stance locating Rubio to the right of George W. Bush). He has promised to reverse executive orders protecting LGBT citizens from discrimination and to appoint justices who would reverse same-sex marriage. The centerpiece of Rubio’s domestic policy is a massive tax cut — more than three times the size of the Bush tax cut, and nearly half of which would go to the highest-earning 5 percent of taxpayers. By reducing federal revenue by more than a quarter, Rubio’s plan would dominate all facets of his domestic program, which is otherwise a mix of conventional Republican proposals to eliminate Obamacare, jack up defense spending, and protect retirement benefits for everybody 55 and up. Rubio has voted for the Paul Ryan budget (“by and large, it’s exactly the direction we should be headed”). He has proposed to deregulate the financial system, thrilling Wall Street. (Richard Bove, author of Guardians of Prosperity: Why America Needs Big Banks, wrote a grateful op-ed headlined, “Thank you, Marco Rubio.”)

What, then, accounts for Rubio’s moderate image? One reason is the issues Rubio has chosen to emphasize. His conventionally conservative domestic policies would, if enacted, bring about an epochal shift in the role of government and the distribution of wealth in the American economy. (And given his party’s entrenched majorities in Congress, Rubio would be able to enact those policies.) But Rubio has not emphasized these ideas publicly. He has given far more attention to his plan to increase college affordability. As Rubio has said, “You’ll hear me spend a tremendous amount of time talking about higher-education reform.” This formulation perhaps gives away more than Rubio intends. Rubio’s higher-education reform plan, while largely innocuous, is also minuscule in scale — a third-tier throwaway line in a State of the Union speech. Its importance is trivial in comparison to his radical domestic-policy commitments. Rubio spends a tremendous amount of time talking about it because doing so allows him to position his platform as new and different from those of a generic Republican without any of the risk of actual heterodoxy.

A second reason is Rubio’s ill-fated 2013 attempt to shepherd bipartisan immigration reform through Congress. Because of the prominence of his role in that episode, which consumed a large share of his brief tenure in national politics, Rubio’s support for reform has disproportionately colored his public image. But his history provides no reason to believe the issue sits close to Rubio’s heart. As a Senate candidate in 2010, Rubio forcefully opposed any path to citizenship as “amnesty.” In the wake of the 2012 election, after the Republican Party wrote a post-mortem calling for the passage of immigration reform and efforts to reach out to young people and minorities, Rubio loyally reversed his position and led the pro-reform charge, and initially he drew support from important figures in the party. But when restrictionists revolted against the bill, Rubio abandoned his own proposal and has promised never to support comprehensive reform again. The fairest conclusion to draw from his two reversals is that Rubio does not hold especially strong beliefs on the issue at all, taking whichever position seems to be the most effective means of advancing traditional Republican policies (for which he has displayed consistent support). Republican donors naturally adore Rubio.

While Rubio’s willingness to sponsor immigration reform tells us very little about his convictions, though, it reveals a great deal about his political strategy. Rubio is a political pragmatist. And pragmatism is the fundamental divide inside the GOP. While split on foreign policy between neo-conservatism and neo-isolationism, Republicans have near-unanimity on economic and social policy. A domestic Rubio presidency would look very much like a Cruz presidency or a Bush or a Walker presidency. Any Republican would sign the bills passed by Paul Ryan’s House and Mitch McConnell’s Senate.

What Republicans disagree about is how to handle a situation where the president does not sign those bills. Cruz’s response to whip up conservative suspicions that the Republican failure to enact its agenda over President Obama’s objections represents a secret betrayal. Trump’s response is to break the stalemate through unique force of personality. Both of them signal their solidarity with the base through demonstrations of anger and cultural resentment. But, while making themselves attractive to their base, Trump and Cruz harden a cultural polarization that seems to leave their party at a disadvantage in the general election. He avoids statements that make him appear ostentatiously deranged, like Cruz visually comparing Obama to a Nazi, or Trump … doing just about everything Trump has done. The third cause of Rubio’s moderate image is that he declines to indulge right-wing paranoia on such topics as whether Obama is a Marxist, or the looming threat of Sharia law in the United States, trading the opportunity to indicate solidarity with the base for general election viability. He husbands his potential electoral weakness for matters of policy, not symbolism.

Rubio’s value to the party is that he approaches its predicament realistically. He will reach out to Democratic-leaning constituencies with personal appeal without compromising on core agenda items Republicans care about. Everything Rubio says — his message of generational change, a “new American century,” his frequent invocations of his parents — ties into his youth and heritage as the son of immigrants. If Democrats attack his policies, he will change the subject to his biography. “If I’m our nominee, how is Hillary Clinton gonna lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck?” he boasted at a Republican debate. “I was raised paycheck to paycheck.” Rubio is the embodiment of the Republican donor class’s conviction that it needs to alter nothing more than its face.


By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 6, 2016

January 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Kind Of Like His Decision To Change Banks”: Franklin Graham Tries To Vote With His Feet (Again)

The last time evangelist Franklin Graham tried to vote with his feet, it didn’t go very well. The story of Graham’s choice of banks gained national attention over the summer when he was so outraged by a Wells Fargo television commercial featuring a couple adopting a deaf child that he took action: Graham moved his ministry’s considerable assets out of Wells Fargo altogether, as part of Graham’s effort to fight “moral decay.”

The funny part came when we learned the evangelist moved his money to BB&T, overlooking its sponsorship of gay-pride events and its 80% score in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

Six months later, Graham is voting with his feet again, this time he’s marching out of the Republican Party. Alabama Media Group reported today (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up):

Evangelist Franklin Graham announced Monday that he left the Republican Party and is now an independent over the GOP’s failure to defund Planned Parenthood in last week’s omnibus spending bill.

Graham, the son of legendary preacher Billy Graham, compared the controversy over Planned Parenthood allegedly discussing selling fetal tissue to the Nazis in a Facebook post explaining why he quit the Republican Party.

“There’s no question – taxpayers should not be paying for abortions!” Graham said by way of an explanation. “Abortion is murder in God’s eyes. Seeing and hearing Planned Parenthood talk nonchalantly about selling baby parts from aborted fetuses with utter disregard for human life is reminiscent of Joseph Mengele and the Nazi concentration camps! That should’ve been all that was needed to turn off the faucet for their funding.”

For the record, whether Graham realizes this or not, taxpayer funding of abortion is already prohibited under federal law. What’s more, there is no evidence, video or otherwise, of Planned Parenthood ever “selling baby parts.”

Or put another way, the evangelist appears to have walked away from the Republican Party for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense – kind of like his decision to change banks.

Postscript: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 22, 2015

December 23, 2015 Posted by | Franklin Graham, GOP, Planned Parenthood | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Your Family Has Delighted Us Long Enough”: Bush League; Jeb Has Become A 2016 Nonentity, For Good Reason

It’s universally acknowledged that Jeb Bush has fallen the furthest and fastest of any Republican in the primary race for president. It’s sad the former frontrunner has come to this: calling frontrunner Donald Trump “a jerk.”

How pedestrian.

Then again, the Bush men – Jeb, his brother George W. and their father George H.W. – can be famously inept with words. That is not the least of their sins and one reason Jeb is a room-emptier of a candidate. (He says he will “campaign my heart out.”) He has not made news in a good way – I mean, with something original, witty, smart or sparkling. Not one laugh has crossed state lines. Perhaps his best riposte came in the last debate, stating Trump can’t “insult his way to the presidency.” We’ll see.

The petulant preppie’s charm deficit has thrust his harsh substance into sharper relief for critics like me. As we know by now, Jeb Bush strongly opposes women’s reproductive rights; that as governor of Florida he dismissed large swathes of state employees; and that he has almost the same list of foreign policy “experts” as his brother, President George W. Bush. He rashly declared early on, “My brother kept us safe,” which gave Trump his first stinging salvo.

The fact is, 9/11 happened on his brother’s watch and defined his stay in the White House as a “war president.” America is still trying to awaken from the nightmare of Bush’s misbegotten wars, especially the Iraq invasion which took a serpentine trail to the birth of the Islamic State group. But Bushes are loyal team players and Jeb would never undermine George’s judgment. That cuts to the core of the Bushes: Winning is in the end about them, not us. It’s like a giant game of horseshoes in Kennebunkport, Maine, site of the waterfront family compound.

Jeb did one surprising thing, though. He made me freshly appreciate his brother George’s political talent, a long time coming. Suddenly, I saw the twinkle in his eye, his carriage, his presence, his range of expression. He is much more compelling as a leader than his brother, never mind (for a moment) his ruinous war record abroad. and on the Katrina front at home.

Ironically, the younger George’s time in office did much the same. I appreciated his father “Poppy’s” presidency so much more than I ever did during the son’s presidency. The elder George, who I thought of as a tonedeaf elitist with a mean streak, suddenly appeared as a wise statesman with the so-called “vision thing.” He had the vision not to start a “kill Saddam in Iraq” campaign after winning the war in Kuwait with a truly multinational coalition. How great was that? He did not cross that line in the sand.

The older Bush also handled German reunification and the end of the Cold War like an old foreign policy hand, which he actually was. Not a shot was fired in anger. The recession happening at home was his undoing in running for re-election in 1992, as he sensed it would be. The governor of Arkansas with the golden tongue, young enough to be his son, proved the man of the people.

But two Bush presidents are plenty, thanks, Jeb. As Jane Austen would say, your family has delighted us long enough.


By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, December 21, 2015

December 22, 2015 Posted by | George H. W. Bush, George W Bush, GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Lindsey Graham’s Untimely Truth”: The GOP Battle Over Identity Politics Has Already Been Won

It would be easy to dismiss Lindsey Graham as a sore loser even before the contest has been decided. In the Republican presidential campaign, his support has hovered between the negligible and the nonexistent. “I’m at 1 percent,” Graham quite honestly admitted to the Republican Jewish Coalition last Thursday. “The election is still long away. Help me stay in the race.” But it is precisely because Graham is doing so poorly that he offers some valuable insights on the outcome of a battle within the GOP that began with Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012.

When not begging for a lifeline from the audience, Graham went on the offensive against the three candidates who have the clearest path to winning the nomination: Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. All three, Graham argued, were waging campaigns that threatened to alienate constituencies that the GOP could ill-afford to lose, Hispanics (in the case of Trump) and young women (in the case of Rubio and Cruz). Both were identified by the Republican National Committee as voting blocs that were key to the GOP’s rehabilitation.

Given the fact that the three targets of Graham’s wrath have all been doing well in recent polls, it’s tempting to wave away his speech as mere sour grapes. Yet as a rock-bottom candidate, Graham also has the freedom that comes with not having any real supporters to alienate. His speech was remarkably blunt, and articulated the very real issues around ethnicity and gender that the GOP is facing in national politics.

Graham pitched his speech as a direct response to Cruz, who was the previous speaker. During the question-and-answer period of his speech, Cruz was asked how he, as a pro-lifer, would make his pitch to “staunchly pro-choice voters” who are otherwise conservative. He argued that in order to win the next presidential election, the GOP had to tack to the right, not the center. “In Washington, there are political consultants who tell us over and over and over again that the way you win is you run to the middle,” Cruz said. “Every time we follow that advice we get clobbered. It doesn’t work. And the reason it doesn’t work is very simple. If you compare 2004, the last race we won nationally, to 2008 and 2012, the biggest difference is the millions upon millions of conservative voters who showed up in ‘04 and stayed home in ‘08 and stayed home in bigger numbers in ‘12. And I believe if we are going to win, the central question in this general election is how do you motivate and inspire and bring back to the polls the 54 million evangelical Christians who stayed home in 2012.”

Speaking immediately after Cruz, Graham dropped the prepared talk he had been planning on giving, which focused on ISIS and the Middle East. Instead, Graham said, he wanted to “take issue” with Cruz’s analysis. “Why do we lose?” Graham asked. “How many of you believe that we’re losing elections because we’re not hardass enough on immigration?” There was a smattering of applause, as some in the audience seemed to agree with this premise. “Well, I don’t agree with you,” Graham went on, with a tightly pursed smile. “I believe we’re losing the Hispanic vote because they think we don’t like them.

“I believe that it’s not about turning out evangelical Christians,” he added. “It’s about repairing the damage done by incredibly hateful rhetoric driving a wall between us and the fastest-growing demographic in America, who should be Republicans. I believe Donald Trump is destroying the Republican Party’s chance to win an election that we can’t afford to lose.”

Graham went on to note that Republicans aren’t just turning off Hispanics, but also young women. “How many of you believe we have a problem with young women as Republicans?” Graham asked, before zeroing in on both Cruz and Rubio’s opposition to abortion even in cases of rape.

As a critique of how Republican identity politics are alienating key demographics, Graham’s speech would be hard to top. The only problem is that Graham’s own way of finessing divisive social issues was hardly better than those he criticized. “How do you get a pro-choice person to vote for you?” Graham asked. “Let me tell you what I will do: I am pro-life, you are pro-choice, ISIL is neither.” This bizarre non sequitur was no more a response to the problem than Cruz’s fantasy about 54 million missing evangelical voters.

Graham seemed angry for most of his speech and when he walked away from the podium he stumbled and nearly fell. His flustered behavior seems to mirror the frustrations of sidelined Republicans, like John Kasich and Jeb Bush, who have gotten nowhere with their appeals to voters outside the conservative hard core.

Graham spoke like a prophet crying in the wilderness. Given the fact that Trump has not just dominated the polls, but also set the terms of the Republican political debate, there is no real audience for the message Graham was preaching. With the contest narrowing down to a battle between Trump and Trump-lite figures like Cruz and Rubio, Graham’s arguments that the GOP needs to be more inclusive and reach out to voters it has alienated in earlier elections is an untimely truth—accurate enough as analysis, but with no bearing on who the Republican nominee will be.


By: Jeet Heer, The New Republic, December 7, 2015

December 8, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Lindsey Graham | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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