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“Rubio Struggles In Senate, But Wants A Promotion”: A Career Politician With No Real Accomplishments To His Name

It’s not exactly a secret that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) doesn’t show up for work much anymore. Even among sitting senators running for president, the far-right Floridian just doesn’t make an effort to keep up appearances on Capitol Hill.

Part of this, of course, is the result of his campaign schedule, but part of it also relates to the fact that Rubio appears to dislike his job quite a bit. The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold has a terrific piece on this today.

Five years ago, Rubio arrived with a potential that thrilled Republicans. He was young, ambitious, charismatic, fluent in English and Spanish, and beloved by the establishment and the tea party.

But Rubio had arrived at one of the least ambitious moments in Senate history and saw many of his ideas fizzle. Democrats killed his debt-cutting plans. Republicans killed his immigration reform. The two parties actually came together to kill his AGREE Act, a small-bore, hands-across-the-aisle bill that Rubio had designed just to get a win on something.

Now, he’s done. “He hates it,” a longtime friend from Florida said, speaking anonymously to say what Rubio would not.

It’s entirely possible, of course, that Republican primary voters won’t care. If much of the GOP base is enthralled by a blowhard New York land developer and an unhinged retired neurosurgeon, there’s no reason to think they’d balk at a senator who’s had an unsuccessful, five-year tenure.

But for a mainstream audience, the fact that Rubio effectively wasted his Capitol Hill career, achieving practically nothing despite all the promise and hype, isn’t much of a selling point.

I suspect many Rubio supporters will naturally want to draw parallels between his record and President Obama’s Senate tenure. And at a certain level, they have a point – Obama was quickly frustrated by Congress’ pace. David Axelrod later admitted that the Illinois Democrat “was bored being a senator” and quickly grew “restless.”

It seems the same words could be applied to the junior senator from Florida.

The difference, though, is that Obama put in far more effort than Rubio, and as a result, he had more success. As a senator, Obama developed a reputation as a work horse, being well prepared for briefings and hearings, introducing a lot of bills, and developing an expertise on serious issues like counter-proliferation.

There’s a great story from 2005 in which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a day-long hearing on U.S. policy in Iraq, and then-Chairman Dick Lugar (R-Ill.) praised Obama for being the only other senator who was on hand for the entire thing, start to finish. As Simon Maloy noted, “It was minor stuff, but it gave Obama a reputation as someone who was willing to do the basic work needed to get things done.”

Rubio has never developed that kind of reputation among his colleagues. On the contrary, he’s seen as a senator who misses a lot of votes, skips a lot of hearings, and fails to show up for a lot of briefings.

To date, not one Republican senator has even endorsed Rubio’s presidential bid.

Eight years ago, there was a talking point that made the rounds in GOP circles when going after then-candidate Obama: he’d never run a city; he’d never run a state; and he’d never run a business. The trouble is, the exact same talking point can be applied to Rubio, and can even be made a little worse: he’s never built up a legislative record, either.

It’s not fair to say Rubio never passed a bill, but it’s awfully close. According to congress.gov, the far-right Floridian, over the course of five years, took the lead in sponsoring a measure that was signed into law. It’s called the “Girls Count Act,” and it encourages developing countries to register girls’ births. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the policy, but it was a largely symbolic measure that passed both chambers without so much as a vote.

He also helped name September as National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.

That’s about it.

Rubio hoped to succeed on comprehensive immigration reform, which could have been a signature issue for him, but his party ended up killing the bill he helped write. The senator himself has to now oppose his own policy to pander to the Republican base, which considers the Rubio bill “amnesty.”

The result is an unfortunate situation in which Rubio is burdened by the worst of both worlds: he’s a career politician with no real accomplishments to his name.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 26, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio, Republicans | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Openly Expressing Prejudice”: Carson’s Bias Against Muslims Breaks Unwritten Rule Of Using Veiled Language

When Republican Ben Carson declared Muslims unfit to be president, he crossed a line that historians say no major White House hopeful has breached since the 1940s — openly expressing prejudice.

Carson is not the first to appeal to voter bias, but he broke with a timeworn tradition of using coded language to avert political backlash.

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” Carson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sept. 20. “I absolutely would not agree with that.”

Carson’s disparagement of Muslims came after months of derogatory remarks about women and Mexicans by rival Donald Trump, who nonetheless has remained the front-runner for the party nomination. Carson is in second place, some polls show.

Some Republican leaders, already worried about Trump’s insults, fear that Carson’s denigration of Muslims will further damage the party’s efforts to expand its base beyond older, conservative white voters.

Civil rights groups and some of Carson’s Republican rivals denounced the retired neurosurgeon, but he stands little risk of harm in the primaries. A 2013 survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that nearly two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants — a key group for Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist — believe Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence.

Historian Thomas S. Kidd, author of “American Christians and Islam,” said Carson was capitalizing on fear of Muslim terrorists. “But then to turn it into a blanket statement that Muslims in general can’t be full participants in the life of the republic — I do think that’s significant, and it’s alarming,” Kidd said.

Carson campaign manager Barry Bennett said the comments were justified because Islam calls for killing gay people (Muslim clerics say that’s untrue), and that’s incompatible with the Constitution (the Constitution says “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”).

Bennett also said that Carson, as an African-American, “dramatically expands the appeal of the Republican Party.”

Carson later said on CNN that a Muslim would “have to reject the tenets of Islam” to be president.

Presidential candidates typically take pains to avoid showing religious bias. When Republican Mitt Romney, a Mormon, ran in 2008 and 2012, some evangelical Christians were hostile toward his faith. One of his 2008 opponents, Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister, apologized to Romney for asking a reporter, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”

In 1960, Democrat John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, had to reassure Protestants that he would not take orders from the pope. But his main opponents, Hubert Humphrey in the primaries and Republican Richard Nixon in the general election, avoided the topic.

“Humphrey certainly didn’t say anything like what Carson said,” Kennedy biographer Robert Dallek recalled. Nixon didn’t need to stoke doubts about Kennedy’s faith because “there were plenty of people who were doing it for him,” he said.

Since World War II, historians say, the most openly prejudiced presidential candidate was Strom Thurmond, whose racism was unvarnished when he ran in 1948 as an independent.

“There’s not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches,” the South Carolinian said.

Alabama Gov. George Wallace, then a Democrat, was nearly as direct in his 1963 inaugural speech, pledging “segregation today, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.” But in his 1964 campaign for president, he was more guarded in appealing to whites outside the South at a time when many were uneasy about a new housing discrimination ban that would enable blacks to move into their neighborhoods.

“You may want to sell your house to someone with blue eyes and green teeth, and that’s all right,” he told a Maryland audience. “I don’t object. But you should not be forced to do it.”

After Romney’s loss in 2012, Republicans vowed to work harder to attract minority voters. The Republican National Committee released a scathing postmortem saying that “many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country.”

But Trump and Carson are benefiting from the uneasiness of many working-class whites as the nation becomes more diverse.

Their statements alarm strategist Henry Barbour, a co-author of the RNC report.

“When you say a Muslim’s not fit to be president of the United States, you’re a whole lot more than off message,” he said. “We need to stand on principle, but we don’t need to try to run folks off because they have different backgrounds than some traditional Republicans.”

 

By: Michael Finnegan, Tribune News Service; The National Memo, October 5, 2015

October 6, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Discrimination, Donald Trump, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Obamacare After Obama”: The Next President Should Be Grateful To Have A Universal Health Care Program On Which To Build

The morning of the recent Republican debate, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the number of uninsured Americans in 2014 had dropped by about 9 million from the year before. This was thanks, of course, to the Affordable Care Act.

So it did cross one’s mind that at least one of the Republican presidential candidates might lend a kind word to Obamacare. After all, some of the largest gains in health coverage were among moderate-income families, a group including much of the Republican base.

A futile hope. Not even Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey — who, to their credit, had accepted the law’s expansion of Medicaid coverage in their states — offered a shred of praise. Instead we heard vows to basically blow it up, the main difference being the number of dynamite sticks to use.

Grudging appreciation for Obamacare has also extended to significant parts of the Democratic base. In the 2012 election, many Democratic candidates actually avoided discussing it. You see, a flood of anti-Obamacare propaganda — which Democrats had neglected to counter — caused support for the program to swoon in the polls.The new Census Bureau numbers show that African-Americans and Latinos have enjoyed an especially sharp rise in health coverage under Obamacare. And that makes it painful to contemplate these groups’ dismal turnout in the 2014 midterm elections.

Back then, the newly won guaranteed health coverage was under grave threat. Republicans had tried to repeal Obamacare dozens of times. Had a case before the U.S. Supreme Court gone badly, the program could well have been destroyed.

You’d think that low-income Americans would have marched to the polls waving Obamacare flags. Problem was their so-called advocates had moved on to immigration and income inequality and saw the elections as an occasion to blame Democrats for what they held was inadequate progress. They forgot there was something precious to defend — and that Obamacare was a huge advance against said inequality.

Nowadays, Hillary Clinton not only is waving the flag but has hired a brass brand to march behind it. We await the details of her proposals for improving the program. Same goes for Joe Biden, should he choose to run.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent seeking the Democratic nomination, gives Obamacare two cheers but not enough credit. In a recent CNN interview, he said he wants a “Medicare-for-all single-payer health care system.”

Expanding Medicare to everyone happens to be a super idea. But we must note that Medicare is not single payer. It is a multi-payer program combining government and private coverage. As such, Medicare is more like the top-ranked French and German health care systems than it is the good, but not-as-good, Canadian single-payer program.

Because Medicare has strong public support, Medicare for all can be imagined. It would be a very hard political sell, however. Recall that Democrats couldn’t even get the “public option” past Congress. That was to be a government-run health plan to compete on the new insurance exchanges with the private ones.

Sanders’ own Vermont tried but failed to put together a modified single-payer health plan. If Vermont can’t do single payer…

Suffice it to say, it would take a master politician to get a greatly expanded Medicare passed in this country. A master politician Sanders is not. But may his vision live on.

Happily, Obamacare now seems safe. Its imperfections well-documented, it remains a work in progress. But whoever is the next president should be grateful to have a universal health care program on which to build.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, September 22, 2015

September 23, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP Primary Debates, Obamacare | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Batten Down The Hatches!”: A Perilous Week Ahead For Our Republican Friends

There’s really only one way to say it: the week of September 21, 2015 could be unpleasant for a Republican Party struggling to find its way in the runup to a big, high-stakes election.

Its presidential field remains nearly as large and definitely as unwieldy as ever. Initial polling after last week’s second CNN debate shows that the long-awaited, fervently prayed-for decline in support for Donald Trump isn’t happening just yet. The main result of the debate was instead to consolidate the powerful position of three dubiously qualified “outsiders,” Trump, Ben Carson, and the star of the moment, Carly Fiorina. All three of them continue to say and do things that aren’t particularly troubling to the angry Republican “base” but are very problematic in a general election.

Over the weekend Trump batted away criticism over his silence in the face of a supporter who loudly insisted in the candidate’s presence that the president is a Muslim born outside the United States (an assertion an alarming percentage of Republicans believe against all evidence). Trump says it’s not his job to defend the hated Obama. Carson is in the spotlight for insisting against the rather explicit language of the U.S. Constitution that there should in fact be a “religious test” for the presidency, barring Muslims. Meanwhile, Fiorina is being besieged by the facts she ignored in her debate presentation–especially with respect to the Planned Parenthood videos she discussed to the delight of Christian Right voters–and by the long-overdue MSM scrutiny of her arguably catastrophic record as CEO of HP, her primary credential for high office (see Jeffrey Sonnenberg’s refutation of her debate remarks about him and her HP tenure).

But even as the three zero-experience front-runners lose friends and alienate people, it’s not like the rest of the field is moving on up. One early favorite, Scott Walker, is by all accounts in desperate condition, and having decided to drop everything else to go try to shore up his horrendous standing in Iowa, made a poor impression on his first post-CNN-debate public appearance there.

Off the campaign trail, congressional Republicans are snarled in separate yet equally dangerous internal disputes over the extent to which they will court a government shutdown to express unhappiness with the Iran Nuclear Deal–which they strangely consider a big political winner for themselves–and to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Budget wizard Stan Collender has now raised his estimate of the odds of a government shutdown to 75%. It’s a particularly bad sign that Republicans are already resorting to the tired and notably ineffective tactic of arguing that it’s Obama who would be shutting down the government by rejecting GOP demands.

If that’s not enough for you, keep in mind the Pope is coming to town this week, and whatever comfort conservatives take from his inevitable condemnation of legalized abortion, he is certain to bring a message on climate change and corporate greed that will make conservative Catholics go a little crazy.

And stimulating craziness will definitely be like bringing coals to Newcastle for the GOP right now. Batten down the hatches!

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 21, 2015

September 22, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | 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

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