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“The GOP Cannot Be Saved, But The Country Still Can Be”: A Rare Convergence From Two Sides Of The Political Spectrum

This morning I read two articles that probably each deserve a post of their own…they’re both that good. But I’m going to write about them together because, in an interesting way, they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum but converge on the same place.

The first one comes from someone who now calls himself a “former Republican.” Robert Kagan says that Trump is the GOP’s Frankenstein Monster. He outlines much the same process I wrote about recently in: Post-Policy Republicans Gave us Donald Trump. Kagan describes the three things Republicans did to create this monster.

1. Obstruction

Was it not the party’s wild obstructionism — the repeated threats to shut down the government over policy and legislative disagreements; the persistent call for nullification of Supreme Court decisions; the insistence that compromise was betrayal; the internal coups against party leaders who refused to join the general demolition — that taught Republican voters that government, institutions, political traditions, party leadership and even parties themselves were things to be overthrown, evaded, ignored, insulted, laughed at?

2. Bigotry

No, the majority of Republicans are not bigots. But they have certainly been enablers. Who began the attack on immigrants — legal and illegal — long before Trump arrived on the scene and made it his premier issue? Who was it who frightened Mitt Romney into selling his soul in 2012, talking of “self-deportation” to get himself right with the party’s anti-immigrant forces?

3. Obama hatred

Then there was the Obama hatred, a racially tinged derangement syndrome that made any charge plausible and any opposition justified…

Thus Obama is not only wrong but also anti-American, un-American, non-American, and his policies — though barely distinguishable from those of previous liberal Democrats such as Michael Dukakis or Mario Cuomo — are somehow representative of something subversive.

Kagan’s conclusion to the prospect of Trump being the GOP nominee is something I’ve heard from a few other Republicans.

So what to do now? The Republicans’ creation will soon be let loose on the land, leaving to others the job the party failed to carry out. For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.

The other article I’d like to highlight comes from the other end of the political spectrum, so it might not be as surprising or monumental. But as President Obama’s former speechwriter (including during the 2008 primary), Jon Farveau admits that he was not always a fan of Hillary Clinton. He writes about how his view changed while he worked with her in the White House.

The most famous woman in the world would walk through the White House with no entourage, casually chatting up junior staffers along the way. She was by far the most prepared, impressive person at every Cabinet meeting. She worked harder and logged more miles than anyone in the administration, including the president. And she’d spend large amounts of time and energy on things that offered no discernible benefit to her political future—saving elephants from ivory poachers, listening to the plight of female coffee farmers in Timor-Leste, defending LGBT rights in places like Uganda.

He then walks us through the different side of this candidate that was brought to us by Ruby Cramer in her article titled: Hillary Clinton wants to talk with you about love and kindness. Favreau’s conclusion is that it is even more important to elect Hillary Clinton this year than it was to elect Barack Obama in 2008. That is a huge statement coming from someone like him. Here’s the kicker:

Every election is a competition between two stories about America. And Trump already knows his by heart: he is a celebrity strongman who will single-handedly save the country from an establishment that is too weak, stupid, corrupt, and politically correct to let us blame the real source of our problems—Muslims and Mexicans and Black Lives Matter protestors; the media, business, and political elites from both parties.

Trump’s eventual opponent will need to tell a story about America that offers a powerful rebuke to the demagogue’s dark vision for the future. I like Bernie Sanders. I like a lot of what he has to say, I love his idealism, and I believe deeply in his emphasis on grassroots change. My problem is not that his message is unrealistic—it’s that a campaign which is largely about Main St. vs. Wall St. economics is too narrow and divisive for the story we need to tell right now.

In her campaign against Sanders, Hillary has begun to tell that broader, more inclusive story about the future.

What we see is Kagan looking for a way to “save American” from the Frankenstein monster created by the GOP and Favreau suggesting that, in order to combat the monstrous story of America being sold by Trump in this election, we need an alternative to that “demagogue’s dark vision for the future.” Both of them see the answer to that in Hillary Clinton. It’s a rare convergence of two sides that is worth paying attention to.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 26, 2016

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, GOP Obstructionism, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Trump-Led Party Is Unsupportable”: First Republican For Hillary Clinton Over Donald Trump Emerges

By this point, the vast majority of conservative intellectuals have publicly denounced Donald Trump. Most of them depict Trump as an ideologically alien force, more liberal than conservative, whose very affiliation with the GOP is to be dismissed as an inexplicable mistake. But Robert Kagan’s anti-Trump column today differs from those others in two important respects. First, he connects the rise of Trump to the Republican Party’s generalized anti-Obama hysteria. He calls Trump “the party’s creation, its Frankenstein monster,” attributing his rise to “the party’s wild obstructionism,” its “accommodation to and exploitation of the bigotry in its ranks,” and — most daringly — its “Obama hatred, a racially tinged derangement syndrome that made any charge plausible and any opposition justified.” Republicans have challenged the party’s failure to develop legislative alternatives, but none of them have attacked its strategy of massive uncompromising opposition to the entire Obama agenda. (Except David Frum, who was quickly fired from his think-tank post.)

More daringly, Kagan does not merely denounce Trump, or even swear he will never support him (as other conservatives have done). He states plainly he would vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump. And that, of course, is the only real statement that has force in this context. It is one thing to staunchly oppose a candidate in the primary, but however fierce your opposition, there is always room to come home to the party if you lose the primary. Kagan is connecting Trump to the GOP’s extremism and saying that a Trump-led party is unsupportable. That is the sort of opposition that could turn a Trump defeat into an opportunity for internal reform.

Now, Kagan is a bit atypical. A prominent neoconservative intellectual, he has moved closer to the center and defended aspects of the Obama record. It is also interesting that Kagan, like Frum, hails from the neoconservative tradition. The neoconservatives were originally moderate liberal critics of the Democratic Party, who objected to its leftward turn in the 1960s and 1970s and began their exodus from the broader Democratic Party around the McGovern campaign. Most of them are deeply enmeshed in the conservative movement now and have views about the role of government indistinguishable from those of other conservatives. But, eventually, some faction will break loose from the GOP and form the basis for a sane party that is capable of governing. Who knows? Maybe that faction will be the one that moved into the party a half-century ago.


By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 25, 2016

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“They Have Earned The Right Not To Be Listened To”: All They’re Doing Is Embarrassing Themselves And Annoying The Rest Of Us

In mid-January 2002, the Weekly Standard published a piece from Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol on the need for a U.S. invasion to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. The headline read, “What to do about Iraq.”

Yesterday, the exact same publication published a piece from the exact same authors with a headline that was almost exactly the same: “What to do in Iraq.”

James Fallows mocked the discredited conservatives, highlighting their consistency “in attitude as well as typography and headline writing and page layout,” before lowering the boom.

Am I sounding a little testy here? You bet. We all make mistakes. But we are talking about people in public life – writers, politicians, academics – who got the biggest strategic call in many decades completely wrong. Wrong as a matter of analysis, wrong as a matter of planning, wrong as a matter of execution, wrong in conceiving American interests in the broadest sense.

None of these people did that intentionally, and many of them have honestly reflected and learned. But we now live with (and many, many people have died because of) the consequences of their gross misjudgments a dozen years ago. In the circumstances, they might have the decency to shut the hell up on this particular topic for a while. They helped create the disaster Iraqis and others are now dealing with. They have earned the right not to be listened to.

And yet, listening to them has become harder than avoiding them. As Rachel noted on the show last night, the very same people who were “disastrously wrong about what it would mean for the United States to toss a match into the tinderbox of the Middle East by toppling Saddam, all those guys who were so wrong, they either never went away in the first place or they have recently been dug back up over the last few weeks, simply for the purpose of arguing that we ought to invade Iraq again.”

I’ve seen some suggest that those who got U.S. policy in Iraq completely wrong in 2002 and 2003 need not wear a permanent scar. It’s not an entirely unreasonable point – some sensible people fell for a con job. They know better now and want to contribute to a constructive conversation about U.S. foreign policy more than a decade later. It’s hardly ridiculous to think some of them should have a voice in the discussion.

But that’s not quite what’s happening here.

When we see Kristol, Kagan, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Paul Bremer, Ken Pollack and their cohorts all over the print and broadcast media, their chosen task is not to be the target of rotten vegetables. Rather, these men still choose to present themselves as experts whose advice has merit.

It would be challenging in its own right if, say, Paul Wolfowitz showed up on a Sunday show to declare, “Look, my buddies and I may have flubbed U.S. policy in Iraq the last time around, but we’re totally right this time.” But neither he nor his pals are saying anything of the kind – the usual suspects still think they were right in 2002 and 2003, and can’t imagine why their words of wisdom would be ignored now.

Accountability may seem like a quaint, almost antiquated, concept in today’s political discourse, but that’s a shame. When life and death decisions are being made, here’s hoping accountability can still make a comeback, forcing the discredited voices among us towards obscurity.

I’m not arguing that everyone who was wrong about Iraq 11 years ago must remain silent now. I am saying that those who were wrong then but remain convinced of their own self-righteous credibility now, certain that the 2003 invasion was wise and that Iraq’s deterioration should be blamed on that rascally President Obama, all they are doing is embarrassing themselves – and annoying the rest of us.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 17, 2014

June 19, 2014 Posted by | Iraq, Iraq War, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Former Cheney Aide Married To A Romney Adviser”: Meet The Woman At The Center Of The Benghazi Controversy

After ABC News released emails detailing the evolution of the Obama administration’s talking points on the Benghazi terror attack, much of the right’s ire has focused on Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokesperson who asked for the removal of references to al-Qaida and the CIA’s warnings about the dangers to U.S. diplomats in Libya.

With her name splashed all over the emails and her very public role in Hillary Clinton’s State Department, Nuland serves the useful dual role of scapegoat and proxy for the potential 2016 presidential candidate, who may be the real target of conservative uproar over Benghazi. Naturally, critics ascribe political motives to Nuland’s actions in the Benghazi aftermath. “It’s very clear today that lib Victoria Nuland was not honest with reporters,” conservative blogger Jim Hoft wrote.

But Nuland may prove to be a poor choice of left-wing villain for the right considering that her record suggests she’s anything but a Saul Alinskyite. In fact, she came under attack from the left when Clinton chose her as spokesperson because she had previously served as a senior adviser to Dick Cheney. Yes, that Dick Cheney, leading antiwar blogger Marcy Wheeler to call her a “former Cheney hack.”

Meanwhile, Nuland is married to Washington Post columnist and neoconservative historian Robert Kagan, who helped sell the case for the Iraq War, advised both Mitt Romney and John McCain’s presidential campaigns, and co-founded the Project for a New American Century think tank with Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. Obama has spoken fondly of some of Kagan’s work as well, but his credentials in the conservative foreign policy establishment are unimpeachable.

This is not to say that Nuland is some kind of neoconservative plant as some liberals have claimed. Nuland has a distinguished career in the Foreign Service going back almost 30 years, holding senior positions under presidents of both parties. If she has any political views, she’s kept them to herself, refraining from making any donations to political campaigns or speaking publicly about domestic elections.

In an interview with the Brown Alumni Magazine, Nuland compared the Foreign Service to the military, suggesting she views the role apolitically. And while she praised Clinton, she said she expected to leave the job after John Kerry took over. “Like all good foreign service officers,” she said, “I go back in the pool, and see what they might want me to do.”

Nuland may, however, be a closet hipster, with an affinity for Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, May 13, 2013

May 14, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marco Rubio’s Foreign Policy: Blind, Irrational, And Dangerous

In a speech at the University of Louisville this week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) warned against U.S. “retreat” from the world, which he claimed would result in a vacuum filled by “chaos” and “tyranny.”

These remarks have been interpreted as a rebuke to the foreign policy views of Rubio’s colleague and possible 2016 rival, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). But they are more important than an example of intra-party feuding. These statements reflect the seriously flawed assumptions of Rubio and other hawkish interventionists about what American engagement in the world requires, and they reveal just how alarmist and outdated Rubio’s worldview is. And it is because Rubio’s worldview continues to be the one that prevails among Republican leaders that it merits closer inspection.

“This is what will replace us on the global stage: chaos and tyranny,” Rubio warned. On one level, this is rather crude fear-mongering, but there is more to Rubio’s argument than that. When he warned that “chaos” and “tyrannical governments” will fill a void left by U.S. “retreat,” Rubio was showing his continued reliance on the arguments of Robert Kagan, whose book, The World America Made, Rubio referred to frequently in his foreign policy address at the Brookings Institution last year.

It has become a common hawkish refrain that the U.S. cannot withdraw from any conflict or reduce its commitments anywhere in the world without inviting either chaos or risking the increased influence of authoritarian major powers or both. Kagan has been one of the strongest proponents of this view, and Rubio appears to have adopted most of Kagan’s arguments. This view both overstates the importance of an extremely activist U.S. foreign policy for international stability and underestimates the ability of rising democratic powers to assume regional responsibilities.

The idea that U.S. preeminence in the world must necessarily be “replaced” by the global dominance of authoritarian governments hasn’t made any sense in over 20 years. Today, major authoritarian powers are significantly less powerful and less ambitious in their foreign policy goals than America’s 20th century rivals. Today, many of the world’s rising powers are democratic and have no interest in falling in line behind Chinese or Russian “leadership.” So the implication in Rubio’s speech that there is a danger of another state becoming the world’s predominant military power is sheer alarmism designed to justify an exorbitant military budget that is larger in real terms than it was at the height of the Reagan-era build-up. The fear of being surpassed militarily by another major power has rarely been more unfounded, and the danger to the U.S. from pursuing a less activist role abroad has rarely been smaller. Rubio’s vision of America’s role takes none of this into account.

Another flaw in Rubio’s thinking: His definition of what constitutes engagement with and “retreat” from the world is heavily skewed by his apparent conviction that the U.S. should regularly entangle itself in the internal conflicts of other countries. According to that definition, failing to intervene or to become more involved in the conflict in Syria, for example, is viewed as equivalent to “disengagement.” Rubio wanted a larger, faster intervention in Libya, and he wants greater U.S. involvement in Syria as well. While he said that that the U.S. shouldn’t be involved in “every civil war and every conflict,” Rubio’s record to date shows that he has yet to see a high-profile foreign conflict in which he didn’t want the U.S. heavily involved.

There is no danger that the U.S. will cease to engage with the rest of the world. But there are very real dangers that U.S. foreign policy will remain overly militarized and excessively confrontational toward other states. Rubio’s foreign policy would require more of both. The greatest damage to international peace and stability that the U.S. can do is if it keeps resorting to force to handle crises and disputes as often in this decade as it did in the last. Support for “retreat” is the last thing that Americans need to worry about from their policymakers and political leaders, many of whom remain only too eager to find reasons to sound the attack.


By: Daniel Larison, Contributing Editor at The American Conservative, The Week, March 29, 2013

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Foreign Policy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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