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“Shredding Their Own Talking Points”: Senate Republicans Turn Their Principles Into A Punch Line

Before President Obama even introduced Merrick Garland as his Supreme Court nominee, Senate Republicans said they had little choice but to impose an impenetrable blockade. Their “principles,” GOP senators said, made any other course of action impossible.

First, for example, Republicans said their principles required them to honor the “tradition that both parties have lived by for over 80 years” about high-court vacancies that occur during a president’s eighth year. Soon after, Republicans sheepishly acknowledged that “tradition” doesn’t exist.

Republicans then said their principles about the Supreme Court have nothing do to with partisanship. Soon after, they quietly conceded that if a GOP president were in office, the blockade wouldn’t exist.

Republicans then said their opposition to Garland’s nomination has nothing to do with Garland specifically or his qualifications, but rather, the party’s principles about election-year confirmation votes. Soon after, the Republican National Committee released an oppo dump on Garland – a judge Republicans and conservatives have praised for years – which pointed in the opposite direction of their purported principles.

And finally, Republicans said their principles require them to keep this vacancy in place so that “the next president” can fill it, Garland’s merits notwithstanding. Except, many GOP senators have decided not to take this principle seriously, either.

Sen. Orrin Hatch on Thursday blasted the notion that the Senate would consider the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland before November – but suggested he would be open to confirming him if Hillary Clinton wins the general election and doesn’t announce her own choice. […]

Hatch remarked that it is possible that Garland could undergo a confirmation process during the lame-duck session following the Nov. 8 election, but that is largely contingent upon who the next president would be.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I honestly can’t remember the last time Republicans went so far to shred their own talking points in public. According to Orrin Hatch, the GOP’s blockade against Garland has nothing to do with partisanship or even the judge’s nomination on the merits, but rather, this is solely about principle.

Unless, of course, Hillary Clinton wins the presidential election, at which point the GOP will gladly throw their principles out the window. Hatch isn’t the only one, either.

We’re talking about elected senators who aren’t even trying to work in good faith. Some of these Republicans seem quite comfortable appearing nakedly partisan, abandoning any sense of propriety or responsibility, as if they simply don’t care whether or not they appear ridiculous.

In fairness, there are some exceptions. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) conceded yesterday, “We can’t have it both ways.” Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), a fellow member of the Judiciary Committee, agreed and said he intended to stick to the underlying principle.

But these positions are not guiding Republican tactics, at least not right now. The GOP game plan is as follows:

1.Impose an eight-month blockade on the Garland nomination, unlike anything ever seen in American history, including a prohibition on floor votes and confirmation hearings.

2.Wait for the election results in November.

3.If a Republican wins the presidency, do nothing.

4.If Hillary Clinton wins, revisit the blockade and consider confirming Garland during the lame-duck session between Election Day and the start of the new Congress in 2017.

The benefit to Republicans would be obvious: they’d confirm a 63-year-old moderate, rather than let Clinton nominate someone younger and more liberal. At that point, GOP senators appear craven and unprincipled, but by all appearances, Republicans just don’t care.

And while GOP senators may not be concerned about their reputations or their ability to take pride in their public service, they should be concerned with the details of the nominating process: if Clinton wins and Republicans decide to move forward on Garland, President Obama could always withdraw the nomination during the lame-duck session and empower his Democratic successor to start the process anew in the new year.

If Republicans aren’t prepared to take their own principles seriously, no one else will, either.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 17, 2016

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Merrick Garland, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Is GOP ‘Feeling The Bern’?”: Does The Republican Party Want Bernie Sanders To Win Democratic Nomination?

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has attracted unexpected support from millions of Americans, but one endorsement may be more surprising than any other. The Republican Party (yes, that one) seems to be “feeling the Bern,” if its press releases and publicly available “research” are any indication of the party leadership’s preferences.

While not openly admitting their purpose, party strategists apparently hope a Sanders ticket will galvanize their own voters to prevent his election and ensure Republican victory. With Hillary Clinton out of the race, a democratic socialist could also alienate conservative Democrats, who might either turn to the Republicans or simply stay home on Election Day.

The Republican National Committee has repeatedly, and quite surprisingly, propped up Bernie Sanders against both Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. In fact, recent noises from the RNC sound almost like dyed-in-the-wool-ultraliberal Democrats. “With only six sanctioned debates, the DNC is providing new opportunities for voters to get to know the candidates and see where they stand on the issues,” said a post by Team GOP in the run up to the second Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa.

Michael Short, the Rapid Response Director for the RNC, published an aggregated list claiming that Sanders performed better among focus groups and online polls than Hillary Clinton, who still remains the leading Democratic aspirant. “Hillary Clinton may be the stronger debater on stage — she was in 2008 too — but like Barack Obama in 2007 and 2008 it was Bernie Sanders that won the hearts and interest of Democrat voters,” wrote Short. Quite a glowing review for the candidate most likely to debate “the merits of socialism over capitalism.”

To the naive voters, Republican support for Sanders might seem contradictory. After all, most Republicans dislike any notion of wealth redistribution, public healthcare, and other socially progressive policies designed to help poorer voters, preferring “trickle-down economics” and tax cuts for the super-rich. So if Republican spokespersons are backing a democratic socialist against the “practical progressive” candidate, it’s because they hope moderate and conservative Democrats will so disagree with his platform that they will deprive their own party of a crucial voting bloc. Together self-identified moderates and conservatives still constitute just over half of all Democrats, although Democrats who identify with the liberal wing have grown to become the single largest voting bloc in the party.

The GOP clearly hopes to portray Democrats as led by a bunch of socialists and even communists (as Donald Trump puts it) who chose Sanders. Electing a socialist will mean “unending layovers of senseless government bureaucracy.” Or maybe it will mean “rich and decadent government spending.” (Some media intern probably got a pat on the back for that timely “The 5 flavors of Bernie Sanders” listicle.) Either way, Sanders’ election will result in bigger government, a cause the Republicans have vowed to fight in perpetuity.

Currently, however, there are reputable polls that show Sanders beating every leading Republican candidate in a general election. Trump loses. Cruz loses. Carson isn’t even competitive among Republican candidates, a decline that began soon after disclosing he believed the Pyramids were used for agriculture in the Egyptian desert. Sanders, on the other hand, has increased his support since launching his campaign in April.

Perhaps those clever Republican strategists should be careful what they wish for.


By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, January 19, 2016

January 20, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, GOP, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“But Is It Too Late?”: The GOP Is Finally Emerging From Trump Denialism

The contours of the outsider-as-favorite Republican primary began to take shape this summer, when the candidates without establishment support, led by Donald Trump, consolidated half of the vote in national polls.

The news for GOP elites has grown consistently worse since then. And only now, as those contours stretch far enough to squeeze the establishment entirely out of contention, are the party faithful emerging from their state of Trump denial. They’re beginning to reckon publicly with the calamity of this campaign, and are grasping to reassert control over the process. The only questions now are whether they’re too late, and whether they can defeat Trumpism without acknowledging and atoning for their complicity in his ascent.

A few months ago, Trump and his fellow outsiders were a clear threat to the party, but it took several of them—Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina—to amass 50 percent support, with Trump contributing the lion’s share.

Today, they eclipse it easily. In some early-state polls, Trump and Ted Cruz alone enjoy the support of more than half of all likely voters, while the outsiders combined enjoy the support of more than two thirds of all respondents.

This presents the GOP with a new nightmare scenario. Earlier in the year, Republicans could take solace in the likelihood that the field of elected officials would winnow and that the party would coalesce around a single alternative to the insurgents as it did in 2008 and 2012. They were sure it would come down to a frontrunner against two or three formidable conservative challengers who were splitting the activist vote among themselves.

That winnowing hasn’t happened. And now, if and when it does, it’s conceivable that the combined forces of the party will only be able to marshal about one-third or less of the overall vote—not enough to guarantee victory even if Trump and Cruz battle it out beyond Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. And even that assumes supporters of candidates like Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie don’t defect to Cruz or Trump instead of Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush.

Whether motivated by this particular analysis or not, party elites are snapping to attention. John Kasich’s SuperPAC is promising a multi-million-dollar anti-Trump blitz. A more concerted effort, spearheaded by GOP operative Liz Mair, is called Trump Card LLC, and operates on the premise that “unless something dramatic and unconventional is done, Trump will be the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton will become president.”

Prominent surrogates for leading candidates have embraced the notion, first propounded by liberals, that Trump is a “fascist.” But the principals they back won’t go near the term. Some, like Rubio and Cruz, won’t criticize Trump at all, and Cruz in particular is a Trump sycophant—“a big fan.” Which raises the question of whether a party that enables Trump and Trumpism can effectively root out either.

Michael Gerson, a former George W. Bush aide who now writes an opinion column for the Washington Post, acknowledged that “Trump has, so far, set the terms of the primary debate and dragged other candidates in the direction of ethnic and religious exclusion. One effect has been the legitimization of even more extreme views—signaling that it is okay to give voice to sentiments and attitudes that, in previous times, people would have been too embarrassed to share in public.”

With the denial fading, Gerson asks, “Is it possible, and morally permissible, for economic and foreign policy conservatives, and for Republicans motivated by their faith, to share a coalition with the advocates of an increasingly raw and repugnant nativism?”

The answer appears to be “yes.” As much as they want Trump vanquished, the problem for the other Republicans in the field is that they’ve all pledged to back the GOP nominee, no matter who wins. John McCain, a man of the party who nevertheless agreed to place Sarah Palin in line for the presidency, says he will support Trump if faced with a choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton.

That’s not the Breitbart crew talking. It’s the RNC, the entire primary field, and one of the party’s most recent presidential nominees. Which is why when writers like National Review’s Kevin Williamson lay the blame for Trump’s ascent at the feet of conservative movement jesters Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, and shrug that nothing can be done—“as a matter of culture, Trump is—unhappily—right where a great many conservatives are: angry, sputtering, lashing out. Trump may not last; Trumpism will.”—it rings hollow.

As much as they’ve awakened to the threat that Trumpism poses to their party, Republicans and the conservative intelligentsia lack the self-awareness—or perhaps the temerity—to acknowledge that though they now resent it, they’ve been courting it all along.


By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, November 25, 2015

November 30, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Benghazi Committee Chair Finds Himself In The Hot Seat (Again)”: The Stop Hillary PAC And Gowdy Appear To Be Close Allies

The Republicans’ Benghazi Committee has unraveled to an extraordinary degree in recent weeks, as the entire effort is reduced to a taxpayer-financed election scheme. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the beleaguered chairman of the controversial panel, told Politico the other day, “I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life.”

At least the controversies surrounding the committee couldn’t get much worse, right? Wrong.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank today flagged an overlooked angle that deserves to be added to the broader indictment against the Benghazi witch hunt.

As that mess was being cleaned up, Gowdy was dealing with another, courtesy of my Washington Post colleague Mike DeBonis. Gowdy has spoken piously about keeping his investigation above politics and about refusing to raise money from it. But DeBonis reported that Gowdy’s campaign had returned three donations after the Post inquired about the money’s ties to a political action committee that ran an incendiary ad during last week’s Democratic presidential debate. Three $2,000 contributions had been made to Gowdy by groups affiliated with the treasurer of Stop Hillary PAC. Stop Hillary PAC had spent $10,000 on robocalls last month to boost Gowdy in his district, and its treasurer had been involved with Gowdy’s former leadership PAC. […]

Could such a skilled prosecutor and his experienced staff really be so hapless? Or are the mistakes more purposeful?

The Stop Hillary PAC, which exists to “ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes president of the United States,” made headlines last week for running a rather disgusting attack ad during last week’s debate, prominently featuring Ambassador Chris Stevens’ grave, against his family’s wishes.

The Post reported, however, on the alliance between Gowdy’s political operation and the political action committee: the congressman’s leadership PAC and the Stop Hillary PAC shared a top official, an anti-Clinton operative named Dan Backer; the Stop Hillary PAC spent $10,000 on robocalls a month ago in support of Gowdy; and Gowdy received campaign contributions groups the Stop Hillary PAC’s treasurer helped run.

Gowdy, realizing that this doesn’t look good, quickly returned the contributions, but the damage – or more accurately, the additional damage – was already done.

TPM ran a related item yesterday, showing an image of its email inbox “when you search the StopHillaryPac email and Gowdy’s name.” The takeaway isn’t subtle: the Stop Hillary PAC and Gowdy appear to be close allies.

It’s against this backdrop that the Senate Democratic leadership sent a letter to the Republican National Committee yesterday, asking the RNC pick up the tab for the party’s Benghazi Committee, since it’s unfair to ask taxpayers to pay for “a political inquisition.”

The top four Senate Dems added, “Due to the political nature of the committee, we believe it is inappropriate that a reported 4.7 million taxpayer dollars were used to finance its operations and that the RNC subsequently orchestrated numerous fundraising opportunities in its wake.”

The RNC responded fairly quickly, declining the Democratic request.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 21, 2015

October 22, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Incessant Flailing”: GOP Peddles Hard The ‘Hillary Can’t Be Trusted’ Line

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is the runaway pick among voters when asked who among the presidential candidates is the most credible, honest and trustworthy, and even the most compassionate. Her rank on the voter trustworthy meter is far higher than that of Barack Obama and easily tops that of all other GOP presidential contenders. The problem with this is the AP-Ipsos poll that gave Hillary high marks on trustworthiness was taken in March, 2007.

The two big questions are: What happened in the eight years since that poll was taken and today to change voter’s attitudes on the trust issue toward Clinton? The other even bigger one is: Does this pose a real problem for Clinton’s campaign?

The trust issue and Hillary has been the sole fixation of the pollsters and they seem to crank out a new poll monthly hitting that theme. If one believes the barrage of polls, one comes away with the notion that voters, especially Democrats, simply don’t trust Hillary.

Playing up Clinton’s supposed free fall in integrity has been the one constant in the run-up to the 2016 presidential campaign. The Republican National Committee early on put Hillary dead in its hit sights to do everything possible to render her candidacy stillborn even before it officially became a candidacy. It not so subtly recycled the old trumped up scandals of the past from Whitewater to the Lewinsky scandal. It then cranked out a sneering “poor Hillary” video that touted Hillary’s quip that she and Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House. It then intimated that she shook down poor cash strapped universities for her alleged outrageous speaking fees.

There was little doubt that the first chance the GOP got it would seize on a real or manufactured Obama foreign policy flub and make Clinton their hard target. The Benghazi debacle seemed to be just the right flub. In August 2013, the Republican National Committee rammed the attack home with a half-minute clip of her Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony earlier that year on the Benghazi attack.

The aim as always was to embarrass and discredit her not because of her alleged missteps as Secretary of State, but as a 2016 presidential candidate. Republicans got what they wanted when their phony accusations against her of cover-up and incompetence got tons of media chatter and focus and raised the first shadow of public doubt. The GOP then tirelessly searched for something else that could ramp up more public doubt about Clinton’s honesty. It didn’t take long to find.

This time it got two for the price of one. Congressional Republicans jubilantly waved a fresh batch of Clinton emails to the media, claiming that it proved that she deliberately mislead Congressional investigators, and the public, on what she knew and how she handled or allegedly mishandled the Benghazi debacle. This ties in with the GOP’s and the media’s incessant flailing of Clinton for supposedly hiding, deleting or misusing her private emails for some sinister and nefarious reason during her stint as Secretary of State. There will be more to come on this rest assured.

Meanwhile, the GOP mockingly ridicules Clinton’s attempt to reimage her campaign and herself as a hands, on in the trenches with the people, caring, feeling candidate as just more of the Clinton con, and an ineffectual one to boot. The supposed proof of that is to finger point her plunging favorability numbers in the polls. Of course, what’s conveniently omitted from the Hillary smear is that every one of her GOP rivals is doing an even lousier job trying to convince voters that they are any more “trustworthy” than Clinton. In the case of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and especially Jeb Bush, their integrity meter score with the public fall somewhere between Watergate Richard Nixon and that of a used car salesman.

There’s more. A USA Poll and an ABC-Washington Post poll found that not only does Clinton have solid numbers in terms of approval with voters, but bags big time general favorability numbers from Democrats. This is even more impressive given the spirited, and populist issues run that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is making at Hillary.

It’s certainly true that voters do want a president that they can trust to say and do the right thing both on the issues and in their dealing with the public. But they also want a president who is experienced, well-versed, thoughtful, and firm on dealing with the inevitable crises that will confront the country, here and abroad. There’s absolutely no hint in the polls or anywhere else that the general public has shut down on Clinton in this vital area of public policy. But this won’t stop the GOP and those in the media obsessed with depicting Hillary as two-faced from peddling that line.


By: Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Associate Editor of New America Media; The Blog, The Huffington Post, July 19,2015

July 22, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Hillary Clinton, Media | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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