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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Underwater Christie

Chris Christie is running for president.  He is not likely to win.  From a June 16 release by Public Policy Polling:
Christie continues to be largely reviled by GOP voters- only 26% have a favorable
opinion of him to 49% with an unfavorable one and he's even polling now behind Carly
Fiorina. In addition to Christie and Bush, 3 other GOP hopefuls are under water even
with their own party's voters- Donald Trump at 38/43, George Pataki at 10/30, and
Lindsey Graham at 16/39. Although Graham is unpopular it's not clear that his being
single has much to do with the problem- 76% of GOP voters say it makes no difference
to them whether a candidate is married with 15% saying they're less likely to vote for one who isn't and 4% more likely.
That finding confirms a March Gallup poll:
Of 11 potential candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush are the most well-known and have the highest net favorable ratings among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. While Chris Christie is one of the most familiar Republican figures among the party base, he has the lowest net favorable rating.
Potential 2016 Republican Presidential Candidates: Familiarity and Favorability, March 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

America Rising, Emulation, and Photography

At AP, Julie Bykowicz reports on the iron law of emulation:
Republicans watched American Bridge with envy. Then they copied it.

"Republicans had completely dropped the ball on tracking," said Steven Law, president of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, two of the best-funded outside groups of the 2012 election. "And we were deeply disappointed with the quality of the opposition research available to us."

Law and Crossroads co-founder Carl Forti persuaded Joe Pounder, the Republican National Committee's lead researcher, and Matt Rhoades, manager of Republican nominee Mitt Romney's campaign, to start America Rising in early 2013. Crossroads was its first client.

Like American Bridge, America Rising is part-super PAC. That entity raised $1.3 million by the end of last year. But the group also is part-corporation, selling its tracking, research and rapid response. Federal Election Commission records reviewed by The Associated Press show candidates and political groups have paid the corporate side more than $3.4 million for its services.

Its clients include the Republican National Committee and the main party committees for the Senate and House of Representatives as well as several state parties.

Both America Rising and American Bridge are expanding. Between the two, they'll employ at least 150 people through Election Day next year.

American Bridge recently spun off a second group, called Correct the Record, to defend Clinton against attacks coming from America Rising and GOP opponents. And America Rising this month brought aboard Spencer Zwick, the financial architect of Romney's campaign, to help raise money.

"I believe a donor gets more bang for their buck in participating with America Rising," Zwick said. The group "has a more direct impact than almost any other organization."
Reena Flores reports at CBS:
Right-leaning opposition research group America Rising has launched its own photo agency, announcing Thursday that it would begin selling its own original snapshots of candidates from the numerous political events they've attended "at a competitive price."

"Don't want to pay over $1,000 for a shot of Hillary Clinton?," America Rising LLC president Joe Pounder asked in an email unveiling "Building a new website? Putting together a direct mail piece? Need content for your digital campaigns? will have the photos you need."

The appeal of these photos, however, is the price point. AmericaRisingImages charges $250 for a blanket commercial license for what appear to be the majority of the photos for Democrats as famous as Hillary Clinton, as well as those less prominent.

America Rising LLC President Joe Pounder told CBS News that "[The] target audience is the public at large and everyone interested in politics from campaigns, to public affairs shops, to news outlets." The site is a boon for that first market - those cash-strapped GOP campaigns - which will be able to use the photos in digital and direct mail for that token cost.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Early Bumps

Jonathan Easley reports at The Hill:
Republicans in New Hampshire are shrugging their shoulders and rolling their eyes at Donald Trump’s surge in the polls in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

They believe the Trump bump is nothing more than name recognition at an early stage in the cycle, and argue “The Apprentice” host is merely benefitting from wire-to-wire media coverage of his presidential launch.

“If they listed [Red Sox slugger] David Ortiz as a choice, a percentage would say they would vote for him too,” said former New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen.

Philip Klein and Ariel Cohen report at The Washington Examiner:
 Ben Carson, the famed surgeon turned presidential candidate, rode his outsider message to victory on Sunday at the Western Conservative Summit straw poll sponsored by the Washington Examiner, edging out former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. 
Taken together, the results point to the resonance of the anti-Washington message among conservative audiences, as all three candidates argued in different ways that they would shake up the D.C. status quo. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cruz Proposes Judicial Retention Electins

Judicial retention elections have worked in states across America; they will work for America. In order to provide the people themselves with a constitutional remedy to the problem of judicial activism and the means for throwing off judicial tyrants, I am proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution that would subject the justices of the Supreme Court to periodic judicial-retention elections. Every justice, beginning with the second national election after his or her appointment, will answer to the American people and the states in a retention election every eight years. Those justices deemed unfit for retention by both a majority of the American people as a whole and by majorities of the electorates in at least half of the 50 states will be removed from office and disqualified from future service on the Court.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bush and Developmental Disabilities

 At a town hall in Derry, New Hampshire on Tuesday, Jeb Bush heard from Lorraine Butler, a woman with special needs. Bush discussed his record on disability issues as Governor of Florida.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Unbroken Branch

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell just saved trade promotion authority for the president. At The New York Times, Peter Baker puts another nail in the coffin of the "Congress is Broken and Republicans are to Blame" narrative.
Perhaps surprisingly, Mr. Obama has found common ground with Republicans several times in the six months since they took control of the Senate and added to their House majority. He signed a bipartisan measure imposing new restrictions on national security surveillance, and, after initially threatening a veto, accepted bipartisan legislation giving Congress a role in evaluating any nuclear deal with Iran.
White House officials see room for further consensus with Republicans on a large public works program of road, bridge and other construction projects, as well as legislation to overhaul the criminal justice system to address what both parties see as excessive incarceration.
While they would not say so out loud, White House officials found it easier to work with Congress on trade now that Republicans control of both houses. Mr. Obama and his team saw Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, as challenging to work with when he was in the majority, and his opposition could have made it impossible to pass the trade authority measure last year.
By contrast, Obama aides have privately praised Republicans like Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader; Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio; and Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, saying they were straightforward and professional during the trade debate. And Mr. Obama invested more energy in lobbying for trade authority, which would grant him enhanced negotiating power, than he had in perhaps any initiative since Democrats lost the House in 2010.

“The last six months, working on this, they’ve really shown a willingness for the first time to work across the aisle, and because of that, this key economic measure has been salvaged,” said former Gov. John Engler of Michigan, a Republican who is president of the Business Roundtable. “It would have been catastrophic if it had been defeated.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Independent Expenditures in Congressional Primaries

This paper examines how Citizens United affected the balance of power in “outside” groups in congressional primaries through 2014. After the decision, critics predicted massive independent expenditures (IEs) by large corporations, while supporters saw it shifting the balance toward insurgent outsiders. While IEs were up, we expected and found neither of these effects. Instead, the paper documents: (1) an unsurprising increase in the number of (and decrease in the focused coordination among) IE groups; (2) a substantial change in the types of groups that wield power, with an increase in
the importance of ones tied to party leaders and decrease in the power of factional outsiders; and (3) the emergence of single-candidate PACs, with the most significant growth among those allied with incumbent office holders. The heightened power of mega-donors with issue agendas, underwriting new organizations, is important and well documented. But the changes supporting visible party leaders and incumbents could also have important systemic consequences over time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Would Not Vote For...

Gallup reports on the acceptability of presidential candidates of various background characteristics.
The news is likely worst for Sen. Bernie Sanders. At one point, Americans might have withheld their votes from him because of his Jewish faith -- fewer than half said they would support a Jewish candidate in 1937 -- but today his socialist ideology, given Americans' views on voting for a socialist candidate, could hinder his candidacy more.
To a lesser degree, evangelical Christian candidates may suffer, in that one in four Americans say they will not vote for an evangelical Christian. Candidates of various faiths who court American evangelicals, like Southern Baptists Cruz and Huckabee, or Catholic Santorum, could suffer from their association with the evangelical faithful and the social issues they take firm stances on.

Neither Populism Nor Demographics Will Be a Democratic Cure-All

At National Journal, John Judis warns Democrats that populism may not be their ticket to salvation.
To see why, it helps to understand the history of both liberal and conservative populism. Since the Civil War, there have two major left-wing populist movements against economic inequality. The first was the populist movement of the 1890s and the second was the redistributionist movement of the early 1930s, typified by Huey Long's Share the Wealth movement. Both these populist episodes occurred during depressions and at a time when there was no safety net—no Social Security, unemployment compensation, Medicare, or Medicaid—to cushion the blow of massive unemployment. During the 1930s, the middle class felt in danger, historian Alan Brinkley has written, "of being plunged back into what they viewed as an abyss of powerlessness and dependence. It was that fear that made the middle class, even more than those who were truly rootless and indigent, a politically volatile group." The result was a left-wing populism directed mainly against the wealthy and powerful.

But after the passage of Medicare and Medicaid, as well as the expansion of Social Security, the politics of middle-class fear changed. Protected by government social programs, the middle class didn't have to worry for its sheer survival during economic downturns. Instead, during downturns, some middle-class voters became susceptible to fears that they would have to pay higher taxes in order to aid those below them. As a result, they embraced a right-wing populism that sought to rally the middle class against the lower class (often identified by racial or national origin) and also against the infamous liberal elite, who were deemed to be allies of the lower class. This kind of populist politics flourished during the tax revolt of the late 1970s. And it once again found a receptive audience during the recession that began six years ago.
In earlier periods, left-wing or progressive appeals to reduce economic inequality have even provoked conservative responses within the general voting public. After the 1984 election, in which Democratic candidate Walter Mondale made an appeal to economic fairness central to his campaign, Greenberg ran focus groups in Michigan's Macomb County to discover why these white working-class voters had backed Reagan rather than Mondale. Greenberg found that these voters understood appeals to fairness as appeals to use their tax money for government programs to aid minorities. Outside of very blue areas, today's populist appeals to reduce economic inequality could well be understood in the same manner.
At The New Republic, Suzy Khimm notes that while Obama has won presidential elections, his party has foundered at every other level.
The disconnect between Democratic success nationally and locally is also partly due to the kind of “post-partisan” candidate Obama sought to be in 2008. Obama’s young, racially diverse base flocked to him precisely because he promised to transcend both parties. Out of necessity—at the time, much of the party establishment was firmly committed to Hillary Clinton—Obama circumvented the traditional party infrastructure with volunteers and small donors that were more loyal to him personally than to his party. In places where there was an entrenched Democratic machine, like Philadelphia, the campaign famously refused to hand out “walking around money,” cash payments that go to entrenched operatives and party loyalists in exchange for turning out the vote.
So while Obama may have, to an extent, reinvented campaigning, bringing together a new coalition that delivered the biggest Democratic presidential victory in decades, he didn’t reinvent the Democratic Party. Instead, he created an independent campaign structure that could win elections by driving the strategy, fundraising, and organizing itself. In 2012, he did integrate the state parties into his campaign and directed some of his funds through them. Ultimately, though, it was still Obama in control, not the party.
The Republican National Committee, in contrast, played a central role—much criticized in campaign autopsies—in organizing for both John McCain and Mitt Romney. But what seemed to be a weakness in presidential strategy has turned out to be a strength in the off years. “When a party holds the White House, the opposing party often gets smarter and better about doing things in terms of developing a bench and focusing more on the local level and state level,” said Liz Mair, a Republican strategist and former RNC staffer.
Republicans, meanwhile, haven’t discounted the threat that the new Democratic coalition poses to their long-term political prospects. In Florida and elsewhere, Republicans have increased their share of the white vote, which has given them a particular edge in the midterms when younger and minority voters are more likely to stay at home. But given the shrinking share of white, noncollege educated voters nationally, Republicans will either need to expand their share of the white vote even further or, more probably, win over larger numbers of younger and minority voters to prevail. “Doubling down on white voters does not look like a very promising approach to restoring the White House to GOP control,” Teixeira wrote in a 2013 Sabato’s Crystal Ball article he co-wrote with Alan Abramowitz. Republicans have more of an opportunity in this regard than Democrats might like to believe, as racial categories and self-identification tend to evolve: There’s a long history of immigrant groups becoming assimilated into white America; Hispanics of today could become the Irish- or Italian-Americans of the past, and their political views could shift accordingly. (Judis, meanwhile, recently recanted part of his book by arguing that Republicans could gain a lasting advantage by targeting middle-income voters across racial groups.)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Kasich's Temper

Alex Isenstadt reports at Politico:
Kasich’s temper has made it harder to endear himself to the GOP’s wealthy benefactors. Last year, he traveled to Southern California to appear on a panel at a conference sponsored by the Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch. At one point, according to accounts provided by two sources present, Randy Kendrick, a major contributor and the wife of Ken Kendrick, the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, rose to say she disagreed with Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage, and questioned why he’d expressed the view it was what God wanted.
The governor’s response was fiery. “I don’t know about you, lady,” he said as he pointed at Kendrick, his voice rising. “But when I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.”
The exchange left many stunned. About 20 audience members walked out of the room, and two governors also on the panel, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, told Kasich they disagreed with him. The Ohio governor has not been invited back to a Koch seminar — opportunities for presidential aspirants to mingle with the party’s rich and powerful — in the months since.
In October, Connie Schultz wrote at Politico:
Nuance is not always Kasich’s strong suit. Days after he was elected, Kasich gathered statehouse lobbyists and made it clear where he stood. Either they were with him, or they were expendable. “If you’re not on the bus, we’ll run over you with the bus,” he said. “And I’m not kidding.”
In a public speech to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency five weeks after he took the oath as governor, Kasich launched a tirade against a state trooper who had pulled him over for "approaching a public safety vehicle with lights displayed" on a state route. He paid the $85, but he was fuming about it. “Have you ever been stopped by a police officer that’s an idiot?” Kasich asked the audience. He then proceeded to use the incident to inveigh against government overreach. “We just can’t act that way. What people resent are people who are in the government who don’t treat the client with respect.”
After a video of Kasich’s comments went public, he apologized to the state trooper in a private meeting.

McLean, who is also the former director of the Women’s Political Caucus, says this illustrates a larger problem for Kasich. “He doesn’t like to negotiate or compromise. He doesn’t like to be challenged. ... With women voters, in particular, an angry man probably isn’t going to work for them.” (No less than Arizona Sen. John McCain once said that Kasich has a "hair-trigger temper.")

Facebook in 2016: Precision and Price

At National Journal, Shane Goldmacher writes that new Facebook features enable candidates to reach voters more voters, more cheaply, and with more precisions.
ALREADY, DIGITAL operatives are modeling the universes of likely Iowa caucus-goers and potential New Hampshire primary voters and uploading those models into Facebook. Then, they match them with Facebook profiles of actual voters in those states. (Strategists say match rates can run as high as 80 percent.) It's a powerful feature—custom-designing the audience for your ads to coincide with the voter rolls—that didn't exist four years ago.
A statewide television buy in Iowa, for instance, reaches more than 3.1 million potential viewers. But only 121,000 people actually turned out at the Republican caucuses in 2012. So instead of blanketing the state, Facebook allows campaigns to target only those who they believe to be likely caucus-goers and then to fragment that universe further into a thousand smaller subsets. One ad could run to students at the University of Iowa and another to those at Iowa State. Or just alumni. Or female alumni. Or alumni who "like" Rush Limbaugh. In Des Moines.
"Think about how powerful this is. This is so, so powerful, and I honestly think it's still underused," says Vincent Harris, Paul's chief digital strategist. "And it's cheap. It's so cheap. I am getting Facebook video views for one cent a view—one cent a view! ... It's a fundraising tool, it's a persuasion tool, and it's a [get-out-the-vote] tool. It's a way to organize, too."
There are new built-in Facebook tools that can help campaigns, too. Candidates can upload their databases of donor emails, find their corresponding profiles on the site, and ask Facebook to spit out ads to a "look-alike" universe of users whom they haven't yet pitched for money. Or they can take the sign-ups from an event, upload them, and ask to advertise to people who look like them. While the best-funded campaigns will almost certainly do some of this modeling themselves, Facebook's "look-alike" feature didn't exist until 2013, and it promises to allow poorer campaigns to tap into sophisticated analytics on the cheap.
BY FAR THE BIGGEST development for 2016 is video. "Video advertising wasn't around in the 2012 cycle," says Goudiss. "That's going to be huge in 2016."

Facebook says users log about 4 billion video views every day. Already, campaigns have taken notice that Facebook's algorithm has been pushing videos embedded on the site higher and higher in users' newsfeeds. (Harris says Paul's videos now get triple the interactions that more static posts get.)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

GOP Tech Divisions

Evan Halper writes at The Los Angeles Times that RNC promised technological innovation that would allow Republicans to leapfrog Democrats.
But that promised innovation has run into the head winds of contract disputes, suspicions about data firms' political loyalties and friction with the tea party. Voter information is being collected out in the field by a jumble of firms not always working in concert. Among them is a Koch brothers-funded outfit that one day could eclipse the national GOP's.
As a result, Republicans are heading toward 2016 with that crucial data being collected in systems that don't communicate seamlessly, experts say — and may not by election day.
“There is a clear sense on the Republican side that they need to catch up,” said Eitan Hersh, a Yale University political science professor and expert on political data mining. “But there is not a clear sense of how they should be doing it, and who should take the lead.”
In Washington, RNC officials take exception to any suggestion that the party is lagging behind. They say Republicans are positioned exactly as they should be following an enormous investment in technology talent and infrastructure that helped them bolster their House majority and win control of the Senate in November.
But the GOP doesn't have what the Democrats do.
Candidates on that side, from the top of the ticket to the bottom, utilize the same computer platform in all 50 states. Every time a volunteer in the field talks to a voter, information is added to a mega-file. The party endorses one product that every state works through, called VoteBuilder.
“The honest truth is, Democrats are ahead of Republicans because of their fundamental belief in the collective,” said Vincent Harris, digital director of last year's reelection campaign for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “This is very much a clash of ideologies, playing out through campaign tactics.”
Maybe, but there is another dimension.  Democrats hold the White House.  It is much easier for in-party national committees to make decisions stick because they have the presidential hammer. That's why the Republicans were ahead in the middle of the Bush years.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Henry Waxman, Lobbyist

At National Journal, Nora Caplan-Bricker writes of Henry Waxman's journey through the revolving door:"
Early on in Waxman's job hunt, his son had floated the possibility that they might team up. In the past, Waxman Strategies had run P.R. campaigns for a disabled veterans' group and an immigration resource center—the kinds of projects the elder Waxman could see himself getting behind. In February, Waxman announced that he had taken his son up on the offer. Waxman's personal clients, he says, are "the same causes that I advocated for when I was in Congress." Those include 340B Health, a membership organization for hospitals that serve low-income people (through the 340B drug discount program that Waxman wrote); the environmental group Climate Advisers; and "Save Wireless Choice," a campaign launched by a coalition including T-Mobile and Sprint to reserve more bandwidth for companies that aren't AT&T or Verizon. "It's a good fit, because I'm not under a lot of pressure to just represent people and bring in money," Waxman says. "Some…" he turns laughingly to Michael, "but not a lot."
"Even here, I wasn't sure I would lobby," Waxman says. But now, he sounds almost certain that, at the end of the one-year "cooling-off period" to which retiring lawmakers are subject, he will register as a lobbyist. "I don't think of myself as a traditional lobbyist, taking whatever clients come in the door," he says, but, "a lobbyist is an advocate, like a lawyer is an advocate. … If I wanted to advocate for a client, I want to do everything I can for them. … And if it means that I go to the administration, or to Congress, or elsewhere, I want that to be disclosed. I'd be proud of it."
Waxman's critics aren't necessarily convinced. "Even if you may start out thinking, 'I'm only going to work for clients who I like,' you've already made the step that money is really the No. 1 factor"—or, at the very least, a factor—in the work you'll accept, says [Public Citizen's Craig] Holman. "Those clients will pay a great deal for Henry Waxman." And yet, if Waxman's journey is any illustration, money isn't the only force funneling lawmakers into lobbying. When their days on Capitol Hill are done, former members must ask themselves what they're best prepared to do next. Are they to blame if the answer lies on the other side of the revolving door?
When he was in Congress, Waxman vehemently denounced the revolving door:
Energy and Commerce chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), however, said that the report shows that the most valuable thing most lobbyists have to offer is a specific relationship. He said the report's premise rang true -- but he boasted that there aren't too many K Streeters who'd be sad to see him leave the Hill. "It reminds me of how grateful I am that so many of the staff that I've had over the years stayed in public interest work. I can't think of more than one or two that ever went into lobbying," Waxman said. "I know for a fact that some lobbyists are hired because of the relationship with a particular member." -- Huffington Post, September 24, 2010
A senior White House official accused of doctoring government reports on climate change to play down the link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming has taken a job with ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company. ... "At a minimum it creates a terrible appearance," said Henry Waxman, a Democratic Congressman who sits on the committee for government reform. "This is one of the fastest revolving doors I have seen." -- The Guardian, June 15, 2005
Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat who has focused on health policy for 30 years, did not question the legality of Mr. Tauzin's move. But Mr. Waxman said: "The appearance is terrible. A chief architect of the Medicare prescription drug legislation is now going to represent the chief beneficiary of the bill. This will only reinforce the public's disillusionment with Congress." -- New York Times, December 16, 2004, on Billy Tauzin's decision to lead a pharmaceutical lobby

Friday, June 19, 2015

Trump and the Koch Network

As this blog has noted many times, political parties are networks that include operatives who move around from government to campaign to party organization to outside organization, and so on.  At Open Secrets, Alex Lazar offers an example:
While Trump is not an unfamiliar figure to many political, media and finance observers — the man behind Trump’s presidential operation has not garnered nearly as much coverage. That would be Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, who has been a senior political adviser at The Trump Organization since January, according to his LinkedIn page.
Prior to his stint with Trump, however, Lewandowski served as New Hampshire state director, followed by east coast regional director, and subsequently as national director of voter registration at the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity (AFP) — among the biggest of the dark money groups that do not disclose their donors.
For the 2008 election cycle (and the year in which Lewandowski arrived at AFP), the group spent $462,291 on electioneering communications in federal races. That number increased to over $1.3 million for the 2010 cycle. Lewandowski did have success during that cycle, as both New Hampshire Democrats Ann Mclane Kusterand Carol Shea-Porter lost their respective races (though Kuster was victorious in 2012, and Shea-Porter has experienced alternating victories and defeats since 2008).

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Democrats Move Left

Gallup reports:
Democratic candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination face a significantly more left-leaning party base than their predecessors did over the last 15 years. Forty-seven percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents now identify as both socially liberal and economically moderate or liberal. This is compared with 39% in these categories in 2008, when there was last an open seat for their party's nomination, and 30% in 2001.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Epic Takedown of Donald Trump

Maybe somebody will write a better paragraph about Donald Trump, who announced his candidacy yesterday, but Kevin Williamson holds the prize for now:
Donald Trump, being Donald Trump, announced his candidacy at Trump Plaza, making a weird grand entrance via escalator — going down, of course, the symbolism of which is lost on that witless ape. But who could witness that scene — the self-made man who started with nothing but a modest portfolio of 27,000 New York City properties acquired by his millionaire slumlord father, barely out of his latest bankruptcy and possibly headed for another one as the casino/jiggle-joint bearing his name sinks into the filthy mire of the one U.S. city that makes Las Vegas look respectable, a reality-television grotesque with his plastic-surgery-disaster wife, grunting like a baboon about our country’s “brand” and his own vast wealth — and not see the peerless sign of our times?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Are There Any New Ideas?

"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." -- Ecclesiastes 1:9

At Politico, Michael Lind writes:
Yet even the most radical ideas of the right for replacing Social Security, Medicare and public education are far from original. Many of today’s conservative policy ideas, including the replacement of progressive income taxes with a flat tax and the reduction of poverty by use of wage subsidies like the earned income tax credit (EITC), are inspired by Milton Friedman’s book Capitalism and Freedom. Friedman’s book was published in 1962. I was born in 1962. I am not young.
The extension of civil rights to gay, lesbian, bi and transgendered Americans is a genuinely revolutionary development. So are many of the debates about the environment and climate change, which involve relatively recent data and some new technologies. As are debates over Internet privacy that would have baffled Americans as recently as the early 1990s.
But when it comes to the basic questions of political economy, I can’t think of a single proposal being debated today that is not a variation of an idea proposed or passed into law between the first election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 and the passage of Medicare in 1965, a period that includes Milton Friedman’s influential masterpiece. The nearly five decades since have been marked by the same pattern, in which progressives defend and seek to extend the legacy of the New Deal and Great Society, while conservatives, and some neoliberal “New Democrats,” propose variations of the ideas set forth by Friedman in Capitalism and Freedom.

Even what appears to be a profound debate among contemporary conservative policy wonks turns out, upon inspection, to be merely a clash among different factions of Miltonism-Friedmanism. Proposals by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) for a larger child tax credit, reflecting one Friedmanite approach, have been criticized by conservatives who think the focus should be on another one of Uncle Milty’s ideas—flattening federal income tax rates. The debate on the right remains not whether to cut federal taxes, but how.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Jeb Channels Reagan and Bush 41

At National Journal back in February, Ron Fournier interviewed Jeb Bush, who officially announces his candidacy today.
I suspect Bush is road-testing the seeds of an attack against Hillary Rodham Clinton, the most likely 2016 Democratic nominee. "Certainly, the health care law was a good example of that. The industrial laws, the use of the Department of Labor, the encumbering that is making it harder for people to have start-ups – all these things are now really becoming a challenge," Bush says.
"The answer isn't no government," he says. "The answer is smarter, effective government."
If his brother, former President George W. Bush, was a compassionate conservative, Bush is trying to be a 21st-century conservative—a center-right leader who talks more about reforming government than shrinking it, even if the results are the same.
Bush tells me about Hernando de Soto Polar, the Peruvian economist who specializes in the so-called informal economy (removed from taxes and government oversight). The economist documented frustrations of entrepreneurs across the globe whose innovations are crushed by crony capitalism and government monopolies, including a Tunisian man who in 2013 set himself afire in protest. "We're not Tunisia by any stretch of the imagination," Bush says, but "we're getting more and more complicated."
In calling for smarter government instead of no government, Bush was channeling Reagan.  In his 1981 inaugural address, Reagan famously said: "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."  But people usually overlook what he said a few paragraphs later:  "Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work--work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it."

The mention of Hernando deSoto echoes remarks by Bush's father. President George H.W. Bush said in 1990:
Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto describes the maze of bureaucratic barriers that stood in the way of the entrepreneur and stifled economic growth in his country. De Soto also shows how much Lima, Peru's capital, owed its economic vitality to what he calls the informal sector, the thousands of individual and enterprising individuals doing business without the consent of the state. De Soto's prescription, and mine -- is to free this economic force, unleash the million sparks of energy and enterprise, let the incentive of reward inspire men and women to work to better themselves and their families.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Obama Bungles on Trade

On Friday, the president lost a big trade vote in the House, mainly because Democrats broke with him. Eric Bradner and Deirdre Walsh report at CNN:
The President attended a 9:30 a.m. gathering of House Democrats, making his case after several high-level officials -- including Labor Secretary Tom Perez and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough -- made their cases in the days leading up to the vote.
As he left the meeting, Obama said, "I don't think you ever nail anything down around here. It's always moving."
Democrats who attended said they weren't swayed and that the President's outreach came too late.
"The President tried to both guilt people and impugn their integrity. I was insulted," Rep. Peter Defazio, D-Oregon, told reporters after the meeting.
One House Democrat told CNN on the condition of anonymity that in Friday's meeting, Obama "was fine until he turned it at the end and became indignant and alienated some folks. Bottom line, he may have swayed some Ds to vote yes, but Pelosi sealed the deal to vote no."
Another House Democrat said Obama's last-minute lobbying effort "absolutely" hurt the bill's chances.
"Democrats believe they often are taken granted and not appreciated," this House Democrat said. "There was a very strong concern about the lost jobs and growing income inequality. Unions are the last line of defense. A number of reporters have asked whether Democrats felt threatened by the unions. Most told me that they wanted to do nothing to further weaken unions."
Added this member of Congress, pointedly: "Ms. Clinton should take notice."
Politico offers some further details:
It was a dramatic gesture, the kind that Obama has avoided for years. He’s had little success in wooing members of Congress from either party over the years, and his allies dismissed such efforts as made-for-TV drama.
But by Friday morning, there was the president, walking into a closed-door meeting in the Capitol Visitors Center to try to rally House Democrats. Pelosi was by his side. Inside, he implored lawmakers to “play it straight” on the vote.
“We’re not the other party, we’re not the tea party,” Obama said, according to sources in the room. He took no questions, Pelosi said nothing and the pair left the room together.
Once Obama left, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) told fellow Democrats that he “was offended by what the president said” in suggesting TAA opponents weren’t playing it straight. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and others echoed Ellison.
Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), a top trade supporter, said his sister and other relatives were union members, yet he would still support the package.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) broke into tears. She told Democrats how close she was to Obama.
Then she went to the House floor and voted “no.”

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Clinton, Reloaded

Joseph Curl reports at The Washington Times:
The small venue on Roosevelt Island outside New York City appeared packed to the gills for Hillary Clinton’s second announcement that she’s running for president, but there was much less excitement in Iowa.
CNN dispatched a reporter, Jeff Zeleny, to a “watch party” to gather reaction from what was expected to be throngs of people — but only six showed up.
“The real question here is: Is the enthusiasm going to be out there for Democrats?” Zeleny said in a live report. “I’m at a watch party here in Iowa and, Fredricka, only six people — which includes one staffer — were actually at it. Maybe people were watching at home, I’m not sure, but at this one party we picked randomly, only six people were inside watching it here in Marshalltown, Iowa.”
“Oh, that’s funny,” said host Fredricka Whitfield as CNN showed a few clips of the handful of people milling about the small room. “Those images of that house party, or watch party, I don’t know, looking kind of pitiful, not really very exciting.”

James Warren writes at The New York Daily News:
She invoked the legacies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and her husband, even the lyrics of “Yesterday” by the Beatles, released in 1965. She cited a weighty professional past that sets her apart from any prospective candidate.

But she also seemed cautious, even stale and a bit clichéd, in bashing “trickle down economics” of a Republican past and calling vaguely for “growth and fairness,” rewriting the tax code, cutting red tape and spurring innovation.

She catered to her party’s core on gay rights, better early childhood education, paid family leave, cutting student loan debt and upending the key Supreme Court decision on campaign finance.

There was nothing especially provocative, even in proposing greater worker share of profits. And she tried to have it both ways on energy: calling for more clean energy and the extraction of fossil fuels.

Friday, June 12, 2015

GOP Tech Troubles

At The New York Times, Ashley Parker reports that the GOP still lags the Democrats in campaign technology:
The lack of experience among Republican operatives and companies is captured in a coming study by Daniel Kreiss, an assistant professor of political communications at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Christopher Jasinski, a graduate student there.
Using the Federal Election Commission and other data sources, including LinkedIn, the two identified 626 political operatives with experience in digital, data and analytics on every presidential campaign since 2004.
The breakdown was stark: 503 of those staff members were hired by Democratic campaigns, 123 by Republicans.
They also found that 75 political companies or organizations were founded by those former campaign workers on the Democratic side, but only 19 on the Republican side.
“Historically, the one thing that’s pretty clear is that the Democrats, over the course of three cycles, have been investing much more in creating a deeper pool of talent that can do things like work in digital, data and analytics, and that runs from top to bottom in the party,” Mr. Kreiss said.
The study also found that Democrats have done a better job of actively recruiting and attracting employees from places like Silicon Valley who bring innovative thinking and new technologies from the commercial sector into the political arena.

Though the imbalance seems to stem largely from recruitment efforts, Mr. Issenberg added that Republicans suffered from a cultural disadvantage as well.
Many who work in technology have a somewhat libertarian worldview that, especially on social issues, more closely aligns with Democrats.
Jon Ward reports at Yahoo:
The Republican National Committee’s data arm last year called it a “historic” occasion when it struck a deal to share voter information with the Koch brothers’ rapidly expanding political empire.
It was an uneasy détente between the party committee, which views itself as the rightful standard-bearer for the GOP, and the behemoth funded by Charles and David Koch,
which is free of the campaign finance restrictions that bind the RNC and plans to spend almost $900 million in the 2016 election cycle to elect a Republican to the White House.
Party leaders, including the current chief digital officer for the RNC, hailed the deal as an important step forward in the GOP’s attempt to modernize itself.
But after the fall midterm elections, the deal was allowed to expire without being renewed. Since then, relations between the two sides have soured, turning into what one Republican operative described as “all-out war.” Interviews with more than three dozen people, including top decision-makers in both camps, have revealed that the Kochs’ i360 platform for managing voter contacts — which is viewed by many as a superior, easier-to-use interface than what’s on offer from the RNC — is becoming increasingly popular among Republican campaigns.
The RNC is now openly arguing, however, that the Kochs’ political operation is trying to control the Republican Party’s master voter file, and to gain influence over — some even say control of — the GOP.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

If the Times Has Lost Jon Stewart...

Josh Feldman writes at Mediaite:
Jon Stewart tonight failed to see exactly how Marco Rubio‘s traffic tickets and financial issues warrants front-page attention in The New York Times, and he proceeded to mock the paper for asking such probing questions.
Stewart reacted to Rubio’s financial issues by crying, “You bastard! Paying off law school loans? How dare you. At long last, senator, have you no sense of insolvency?”
He asked “how this is front-page news?” and kept just going after the Times for defending this “inconsequential gossip” instead of doing something crazy, like “exercising editorial control.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bush Runs Into Early Turbulence

Ed O'Keefe and Robert Costa report at The Washington Post:
In interviews this week, dozens of Bush backers and informed Republicans — most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to comment candidly — described an overly optimistic, even haughty exploratory operation. Strategic errors were exacerbated by unexpected stumbles by the would-be candidate and internal strife within his team, culminating in a staff shake-up this week.
The original premise of Bush’s candidacy that a bold, fast start would scare off potential rivals and help him overcome the burden of his last name — has proved to be misguided.
His operation’s ability to rake in large checks also fueled inflated expectations. Supporters acknowledged this week that an allied super PAC was likely to fall short — perhaps substantially — of predictions that it would bring in $100 million in the first half of the year.
On the stump, Bush has stuck to his pledge not to shift to the right to win the primary, but his middle-of-the-road positions on immigration and education have come off more as out of step with the base of his party than shrewdly pragmatic. His wonky question-and-answer exchanges with voters sometimes resemble college lectures rather than a disarming appeal for votes.
The troubles have eroded the image Bush has sought to present as the one Republican uniquely ready for the presidential stage. He has slipped in polls from presumed front-runner to one of several candidates jumbled toward the top of an increasingly crowded field.

NYT Unintentionally Boosts Rubio

Niall Stanage reports at The Hill:
Sen. Marco Rubio’s quest for the Republican presidential nomination is getting an unlikely lift from The New York Times.

The newspaper published two unflattering stories about the Florida senator in the course of five days, including a piece about his family’s traffic violations that was widely mocked on Twitter.

Republican strategists argue that attacks from the mainstream media, and the Times in particular, could help galvanize conservatives behind Rubio’s candidacy.

“If you’re a Republican, there is probably no better bogeyman for you than The New York Times,” said GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak, who also writes for The Hill’s Contributor’s blog.

Rubio tried to press his advantage Tuesday, firing back at a Times report that called attention to his personal finances, including the purchase of an $80,000 boat.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Strategic Doctrine: Rally the Base

Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman write at The New York Times:
Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to be dispensing with the nationwide electoral strategy that won her husband two terms in the White House and brought white working-class voters and great stretches of what is now red-state America back to Democrats.
Instead, she is poised to retrace Barack Obama’s far narrower path to the presidency: a campaign focused more on mobilizing supporters in the Great Lakes states and in parts of the West and South than on persuading undecided voters.
Mrs. Clinton’s aides say it is the only way to win in an era of heightened polarization, when a declining pool of voters is truly up for grabs. Her liberal policy positions, they say, will fire up Democrats, a less difficult task than trying to win over independents in more hostile territory — even though a broader strategy could help lift the party with her.
House Democrats, while realistic about the difficulty of retaking control, are also counting on Mrs. Clinton to drive turnout for their candidates. There will be contested races in some presidential swing states, but Democratic strategists say Mrs. Clinton could also help the party unseat House Republicans in deep-blue states like New York and California.

So to Democrats in states where Mrs. Clinton is unlikely to compete, her relying on Mr. Obama’s map would be worrisome. It would not only further diminish beleaguered state parties, but also leave Mrs. Clinton with a narrower margin for error.

“Go ask Al Gore,” Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, said about the risk of writing off states such as his, where Democratic presidential candidates prospered until 2000. “He’d be president with five electoral votes from West Virginia. So it is big, and it can make a difference.”
“The highest-premium voter in ’92 was a voter who would vote for one party some and for another party some,” said James Carville, Mr. Clinton’s chief strategist in 1992. “Now the highest-premium voter is somebody with a high probability to vote for you and low probability to turn out. That’s the golden list. And that’s a humongous change in basic strategic doctrine.”

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Jindal Falling, 2015

Tyler Bridges reports at The Washington Post:
Just weeks before he is expected to announce his presidential campaign, Bobby Jindal is at the nadir of his political career.
The Republican governor is at open war with many of his erstwhile allies in the business community and the legislature. He spent weeks pushing a “religious freedom” bill that failed to pass, while having little contact with legislators trying to solve Louisiana’s worst budget crisis in 25 years.
Jindal is now so unpopular in deep-red Louisiana that his approval rating plunged to 32 percent in a recent poll — compared with 42 percent for President Obama, who lost the state by 17 percentage points in 2012.
“This is very much a low point for Bobby Jindal,” said Pearson Cross, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette who is preparing a book on the governor.
Much of the trouble swirling around Jindal is connected to his unannounced presidential campaign and his regular travels to early primary states, which have angered many of his fellow Republicans in the GOP-controlled legislature.

In recent months, Jindal has focused his political energy here on trying to appeal to social conservatives nationally by pushing the Marriage and Conscience Act, which would have prohibited the state from taking “adverse action” against those opposed to same-sex marriage. But the measure died last month in the legislature amid opposition from major corporations that feared boycott threats by gay rights groups viewing such measures as sanctioning discrimination.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Carson Chaos

Ben Carson's political network is a mess. Robert Costa and Philip Rucker write at The Washington Post:
In interviews Friday, Carson’s associates described a political network in tumult, saying the retired neurosurgeon’s campaign chairman, national finance chairman, deputy campaign manager and general counsel have resigned since Carson formally launched his bid last month in Detroit. They have not been replaced, campaign aides said.

Two independent super PACs designed to help Carson are instead competing directly with Carson’s campaign for donations and volunteers, while campaign chairman Terry Giles resigned last month with the intention of forming a third super PAC.
Giles said he intends to try to convince the other two super PACs, called Run Ben Run and One Vote, to cease operations so that all outside efforts can be coordinated through the new group. But with Carson’s brand a galvanizing force on the right, there are potentially millions of dollars to be raised off his name, and the other super PACs are said to be reluctant to shut down.
“They are going after the same small donors, and we’ve simply got to figure this out or else we are going up against each other the whole time,” Giles said. “I’m planning to sit down with them and explain that.”
Before the exodus, Carson’s campaign was mostly controlled by Giles and conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, who for decades has been Carson’s business manager and gatekeeper. Giles’s exit to the super PAC side, where he will be prohibited from directly coordinating with Carson or his campaign, leaves Williams as the candidate’s chief confidant.
Jason Zengerle writes at GQ:
When Williams is described as Carson's "business manager," it sounds like a euphemism, but it's literally true. The two became friendly about 22 years ago, after Carson appeared on Williams's television show. Soon Williams says that he realized his friend's business could be managed better. As Williams tells it, Carson "was looking to sell some property and minimize his taxes, so I turned him onto the 1031 exchanges"—a financial strategy that's used to shield investors from capital gains taxes. Before long, Williams wasn't handling just Carson's business affairs, he was employing Carson's sons through his production company and helping Carson's wife, Candy, import 300 pounds of Egyptian marble for the renovation of the Carson family home. When Carson turned his attentions toward politics, it was only natural that he'd turn to Williams for assistance.
Williams has proven to be an able Sherpa. Although Carson is a legitimate grassroots phenomenon, Williams hasn't been shy about spreading the fertilizer for the man he calls "Doc." Through his television stations, which Williams purchased from Sinclair Broadcasting, he's provided Carson with a regular platform on 150 or so other Sinclair stations. While those appearances aren't as prominent as Carson's work for Fox News (where Carson was, until late last year, a paid contributor), they allow him to often reach more viewers. Williams has also plugged Carson into the mainstream media. Last Friday, after Carson committed a number of foreign policy gaffes during a radio appearance, Williams roused Bloomberg Politics reporter David Weigel at 7:45 in the morning to offer up an interview with Carson so that Carson could try to clean up the mess. Above all else, Williams is an excellent hype man, constantly talking up Carson to reporters ("This guy is a voracious reader," he told me) and even suggesting lines of inquiry. "Be sure to ask Dr. Carson about Kanye West," Williams instructed me. It turns out Carson and the rapper spoke on the phone last year. "He wanted to talk to me and tell me he admired me," Carson told me. "I was quite impressed with his intelligence."
Carson has been fond of using the same fake Tocqueville quotation that Williams has also used -- so one can make a pretty good guess about who is ghostwriting for him.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Obvious Oppo Hit on Rubio

Brent Scher reports at The Washington Free Beacon:
The New York Times Friday report that Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and his wife Jeanette have been cited 17 times for traffic violations was written after the citations were pulled by liberal opposition research firm American Bridge, according to Miami-Dade County court records.
Records show that each of the citations mentioned by the New York Times were pulled in person by American Bridge operatives on May 26, 2015.


Ken Goldstein writes at Bloomberg View:
Ultimately, Clinton’s fate (or any Democratic nominee) will be tied to President Obama and whether voters want a third straight term of a Democratic president. Obama's job approval is under water at 49 percent disapprove and 45 percent approve in the recent ABC News/Washington Post poll and 52 percent disapprove and 45 approve in the recent CNN study. The ABC News/Washington Post poll continues to measure significant economic angst and the CNN poll has a majority of American indicating that they think the country is off on the wrong track.
While there is good news for Democrats in the likely composition of the presidential electorate and how the states line up, these pessimistic assessments are surely of concern to Brooklyn and point to a competitive 2016 contest. There will be lots of candidate and campaign factors on which we will focus over the next 17 months. Still, Hillary Clinton, in particular and Democratic presidential ambitions, in general, are inseparable from assessments of Barack Obama. Ultimately, attitudes about the current president’s performance will matter more than attitudes about a former president’s foundation.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Perry, Running Under Indictment

Rebecca Berg writes at RealClearPolitics:
Rick Perry is bringing some baggage with him on the campaign trail.

The former Texas governor, who will announce his second bid for president Thursday at an airport in Addison, Texas, near Dallas, still faces criminal charges stemming from an indictment last year, and the legal proceedings could dog Perry for months to come.

Perry is charged with abusing his power as governor when he used a veto threat to try to force an official to resign. When a judge in January refused to dismiss the case, Perry’s legal team appealed.
Now, the ongoing legal drama threatens to cast a pall on Perry’s campaign launch and distract from his candidacy.
Jonathan Tilove writes:
But the bad news for Perry is that the field is large and fluid and his special virtues – leadership skills, executive experience and likabilty, which could make him broadly acceptable – aren’t necessarily unique. What is unique to him, not just in this field but it seems in the annals of American history, is that he is the first major candidate for president running for president while under indictment.

He and his team have done a very good job of presenting that fact in its best light, and making it almost an afterthought, if that, in most of what is now written about Perry. But, the fact remains that he is under indictment back in Austin, with no resolution in sight.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Rubio: Upside

Janell Ross writes at The Washington Post:
A couple months ago, we declared Marco Rubio to be the "upside candidate" in the 2016 presidential race. He's proving us right.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday shows Rubio has the best split between his favorable rating and his unfavorable rating in the ever-expanding 2016 Republican field. Among Republicans, 37 percent more said they like him than don't. Among independent voters, Rubio’s favorable rating outpaces his negatives by seven percentage points.
Perhaps more important, during this, the pre-pre-primary season, is Rubio’s standing with multiple Republican factions. Put plainly: Rubio is broadly liked by almost all of them. His favorable rating among "very conservative" Republicans outpaces his negative ratings by 49 percent, by 26 percent among moderate and liberal Republicans and by 39 percent with "somewhat conservative" Republicans. In addition, Rubio's favorable rating among evangelical Republicans sits 44 points above his negatives. The same holds true if you keep digging into the Washington Post/ABC News poll results.
No other candidate can claim such broad acceptance at this point. And while Rubio is jumbled in with the rest of the field (a seven-way virtual tie at this point), he's far less reliant on one particular (and limited) group of GOP supporters. Hence, the "upside" designation.

HRC & Honesty

Niall Stanage writes at The Hill:
Is it possible to win the White House if more than half the electorate thinks you’re dishonest?
Hillary Clinton may yet put that question to the test. It’s not the kind of challenge any candidate would relish, but two new polls released on Tuesday underlined the presidential hopeful’s difficulty in persuading the public of her integrity.
Both those polls found Clinton deep underwater when voters were asked whether they viewed her as honest and trustworthy.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll found 52 percent of people answering “no” to that question, compared to 41 percent who expressed trust in Clinton.

A CNN poll made even grimmer reading for the former secretary of State. It found 57 percent of adults asserting that Clinton is not honest or trustworthy, and only 42 percent saying that she is.
Those figures were enough to send a shiver down some Democrats’ spines.
“We’re about 30 to 60 days away from real nervousness, if not panic, in the Democratic establishment,” said one strategist who declined to be named, citing a fear of retribution by Clinton loyalists.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Sanders Threat

At National Journal, Josh Kraushaar writes of Bernie Sanders:
In the past, the notion of an unreconstructed socialist winning widespread support—even as a protest candidate—would have been fanciful within the Democratic Party. The closest recent parallel to Sanders is Dennis Kucinich, who tallied less than 4 percent of the total primary vote in 2004. Ralph Nader's high-water mark was in 2000, when his 2.7 percent third-party tally was nonetheless enough to spoil Al Gore's hopes for the presidency. Other progressive insurgents within the party, from Vermont's own Howard Dean to Bill Bradley to Gary Hart, were squarely within the party's mainstream—even if they stood on the leftward side of it.
ke the tea-party stirrings among Republicans in 2009, the Sanders boomlet is a sign that liberal activists are getting restless, and looking for a fight. For the first time, congressional Democrats have shown a willingness to torpedo an important presidential initiative to placate the base. Organized labor is threatening to challenge vulnerable moderate Democrats in primaries if they vote for the president's fast-track trade authority. One of the most pugilistic progressives in Congress is getting closer to a Senate bid, even though it could endanger the Democrats' prospects for a Senate majority in 2016. The newly-aggressive grassroots are letting their ideology blind them to the political realities of the moment.
This is the real threat that Sanders poses to Clinton—not as a candidate, but as a sign that the Democrats' version of the tea party is ascendant at the worst possible time. By nonideological standards, Sanders is a weak challenger; he's got an unhealthy mix of Donald Trump's ego and Michele Bachmann's bombast. He's won statewide office in Vermont, the most liberal state in the country, with a population smaller than Bachmann's old congressional district.Sign up form for the newsletter

But Sanders is poised to play the same role as Mitt Romney's 2012 GOP tormentors, a motley cast of characters who stood no chance of winning the nomination but gradually pushed Romney to the right. After all, Romney's infamous line about "self-deportation" was a reaction to the fear that he was vulnerable on his right flank from the likes of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Clinton Cash and Arms Sales

David Sirota writes at the International Business Times:
Under Clinton's leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure -- derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) -- represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.
The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent increase incompleted sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House. The 143 percent increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80 percent increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period.
American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements. Such firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163 billion worth of Pentagon-negotiated deals that were authorized by the Clinton State Department between 2009 and 2012.
At Salon, Sirota writes:
During Hillary Clinton’s 2009 Senate confirmation hearings, Republican Sen. Richard Lugar said the Clinton Foundation should stop accepting foreign government money. He warned that if it didn’t, “foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of state.”
The Clintons did not take his advice. Advocates for limits on the political influence of money now say that Lugar was prescient.
“The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center.
While these arms deals may seem like ancient history, Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics, says they “raise a fundamental question of judgment” — one that is relevant to the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise?” he said. “And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?”