Sunday, January 25, 2015


Jim Rutenberg's breathless, gushing New York Times Magazine profile of Fox's Megyn Kelly has already been the subject of a couple of excellent takedowns, by Asawin Suebsaeng at the Daily Beast and Ellen Brodsky at NewsHounds. In his puff piece, Rutenberg prints a legend -- that Kelly is the future of Fox because she's the kind of conservative who'll occasionally break with right-wing orthodoxy, which means moderates and liberals really, really ought to watch her. But Suebsaeng reminds us of her gutter-scraping reinforcement of right-wing memes (no one pushed the New Black Panthers non-story harder than Kelly), while Brodsky notes that Kelly's breaks with conservative orthodoxy (which Rutenberg refers to, like a PR flack, as "Megyn moments") are usually just palate cleansers between courses of the usual red meat.

I'd just like to add that Rutenberg is so invested in the not-your-father's-Fox-host story line that he doesn't let the factual video record get in the way.

Let's go back to the now-famous moment when Mike Gallagher, a radio talk-show host, grumbled about Kelly's maternity leave. Kelly brought Gallagher on to Fox after her return and lit into him. Jon Stewart, however, detected a note of hypocrisy, as Rutenberg points out:
Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” was not buying it and showed clips in which Kelly questioned the need for men to take long paternity leaves and criticized entitlements in general.
But Rutenberg gives Kelly the last word on this subject:
In a later phone conversation, Kelly confronted Stewart, arguing that he had taken devil’s-advocate questions out of context to make them seem like her positions. “Typical Stewart,” she said. “He wouldn’t budge.”
In the online version of this story, Rutenberg (or the Times) provides a link to the clip -- but Rutenberg surely hopes you won't actually watch it:

Do Kelly's denunciations of other entitlements, particularly what she sneeringly says about paternity leave at 3:27 -- "Correct me if I'm wrong, Lee, but don't they call it ma-ternity leave for a reason?" -- seem like "devil’s-advocate questions" to you?

And then there's the segment with former Navy SEAL Jonathan Gilliam that opens Rutenberg's piece. Fox was (and is) deeply invested in another SEAL, Robert O'Neill, who participated in the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. O'Neill claims to have fired the bin Laden kill shot (a claim that's been vigorously disputed, and that violated the SEALs' code of silence), but his story has been a ratings bonanza for Fox.

Gilliam had criticized O'Neill on CNN, which led Kelly to invite Gilliam on her show. Rutenberg wants to portray Kelly's interview of Gilliam as another orthodoxy-defying "Megyn moment," but the videotape tells a completely different story. Here's Rutenberg:
“This is a little dicey because you’ve been very critical of this man,” she said, the model of stern sincerity. “But I wanted to give you the chance to explain it. Because I think a lot of our viewers are looking at him thinking, That man is a national hero.”

Gilliam was prepared. He wasn’t attacking O’Neill. He was attacking the president. “There’s a problem that starts at the top and works its way down,” he said.

“Head of the Navy SEALs?” she asked innocently.

No, he said. “Let’s start with the president, commander in chief. He’s never even been in the military. We elect somebody who’s never been in the military before, and we don’t put them through any training so they know how the military works. Then you have a vice president who goes out -- “

But Kelly, incredulous, stopped him midsentence. She then asked him a question often heard on Fox News, though seldom in nonrhetorical form: “What did the president do wrong?”

Here was the Megyn moment, and Gilliam would never recover.
He tried to explain his case, arguing that the White House set the bad example for O’Neill and his fellow SEALs by divulging details about the operation in a craven bid to win credit for the president. But Kelly didn’t let it shake her focus: his mistreatment of O’Neill. “You made people view him as a pariah,” she said.

It was another win, and another winning night, for Megyn Kelly.
(Emphasis added.)

Now watch the video. Nothing of the sort happens. Yes, Kelly interrupts with that question, and yes, she momentarily seems to be expressing incredulity. But she gives Gilliam plenty of time to bash President Obama and Vice President Biden. And Gilliam in no way seems to be thrown off stride by the question -- in fact, it's a very gentle, respectful interview, and Kelly agrees with Gilliam that the Obama administration leaked classified information about the raid, some of it to the people who made the movie Zero Dark Thirty. If "Kelly didn’t let" Gilliam's reference to the president "shake her focus: his mistreatment of O’Neill," it's because O'Neill had become a Fox star, and Kelly needed to steer the conversation back to O'Neill for the good of the copany. She was plugging Fox's product.

But that's not the story Rutenberg wants to tell. So Rutenberg told the story he liked rather than the truth.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


The New England Patriots are accused of cheating in the playoff game that sent them to this year's Super Bowl by not fully inflating footballs used in the game. Now, you just knew that someone on the right would find a way to link this scandal to President Obama and liberalism, didn't you? Of course you did! It takes quite a bit of effort for Ian Tuttle of National Review to get from deflated footballs to evil liberalism, but Tuttle is a determined young man. Follow him on his tortuous journey:
Marshawn Lynch, a.k.a. “Beast Mode,” starting running back for the Seattle Seahawks, is being fined $20,000 by the National Football League for grabbing his crotch during a touchdown celebration amid last week’s NFC championship game against the Green Bay Packers. Prior to the game, Lynch had planned to wear custom-made gold cleats -- footgear finished with a 24-karat gold-flake paint, featuring gold-chrome-plate soles; value: $1,100. For that, the NFL threatened to outright suspend him.

Perhaps those penalties are warranted. But it seems that the NFL has bigger problems to worry about.

Like, for instance, the New England Patriots, the other half of upcoming Super Bowl XLIX, who apparently deflated eleven of twelve footballs used in their AFC championship-game victory over the Indianapolis Colts....

[If] the above is true, it would be an example of what most people typically call “cheating.” But the same NFL that threatens to suspend Marshawn Lynch for flamboyant footwear could issue the proverbial slap on the wrist to the Pats....

The NFL has rules upon rules upon rules. Professional football in the United States might be the most painstakingly regulated sport in history -- and, increasingly, the rules most zealously enforced are those that don’t seem to matter.

How could such a thing have come to pass?
Um, maybe as a result of the NFL's anality regarding flamboyance on the field? Maybe as a consequence of the fact that fining Lynch is very easy and has minimal impact, while nullifying a victory in a championship game is extremely disruptive for the league and generates awful publicity?

Nahhh. It's all about culture. (Sorry, we haven't quite gotten to liberalism or Obama yet. Hang tight -- we'll get there.)
Ask Marty Hahne, a.k.a. “Marty the Magician,” who, with his rabbit, Casey, performed astonishing feats of enchantment for school groups in the Springfield, Mo., area -- until, in July 2013, he was informed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that Casey would be confiscated if Hahne did not submit to the agency a “disaster” plan for his rabbit, detailing how he planned to protect his furry friend in the event of “flooding,” “earthquake,” “landslide/mudslide/avalanche,” “wildfire,” or “intentional attack.”
Yeah, this seems excessive -- though I'm not sure how much of a commentary on contemporary values it is, given the fact that the decision to do this was based on a Nixon-era law intended primarily to protect circus animals, and given the fact that when Hahne's case got publicity, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack ordered an immediate review of the case and a reexamination of the policy.
Or ask Kenneth Wright, who was arrested in his boxer shorts when a dozen gun-wielding Department of Education agents -- “it was like a task force of a SWAT team,” said a neighbor -- raided his home in 2011. The DOE’s Inspector General’s Office executes search warrants on “bribery, fraud, and embezzlement of federal student-aid funds.” Problematic crimes, to be sure, but not ones that should lead to an active-shooter situation.
Well, it was Attorney General John Ashcroft who authorized federal inspector generals' offices to engaged in armed searches of this kind; he signed a set of guidelines in 2003. This story initially went viral, on the left and the right, when news reports suggested that the search was conducted by an actual SWAT team, and the raid concerned nothing more than unpaid student loans. It was later revealed that no SWAT team was used, and that the principal target was Wright's estranged wife, who was accused of fraudulently obtaining multiple student loans, some using stolen IDs of severely handicapped students. This was in pursuit of real crime, though, yes, it was law-enforcement excess.

But you want to know what all this has to do with Obama and liberalism. Tuttle -- after a couple more examples of heavy-handed authoritarianism -- finally gets where he's headed:
... as the law’s minutiae are being fervently prosecuted by every badge-brandishing bureaucrat in every government agency from Sitka to St. Petersburg, the nation’s chief executive, constitutionally tasked with enforcing the law, has decided that the words of the law do not much matter. In 2011, the Obama administration announced that it would stop enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act. The next year, under the auspices of “prosecutorial discretion,” the administration stopped enforcing immigration laws against young illegal immigrants. Two years later, following a laughably disingenuous expansion of prosecutorial discretion to effectively amnesty half of the illegal-immigrant population currently in the country, the president plainly proclaimed to have “changed” the law -- in explicit violation of the constitution, of course, the supreme law of the land. And one need hardly the mention the multiple occasions on which the president has refused to enforce -- or ordered the non-enforcement of -- the provisions of the health care law that he signed.

The law, as Saint Paul suggested, was a matter of both letter and spirit. But our over-inflated regulatory state, with its bloated bureaucratic class, has all but forsaken the latter, while our puffed-up executive has utterly abandoned the former. At one and the same time, our land of laws, not men, grows impulsively legalistic and alarmingly lawless.

Is it any surprise, then, that in a country more concerned with crisis plans for bunnies than crises at its borders, a Michael Jackson move in the end zone is the real menace?
So there you have it -- Tuttle shows how "Deflate-gate" is inextricably linked to Obamaism and "our over-inflated regulatory state": this depraved culture will crack down on you only if you're doing something trivial, because liberalism.

It takes Tuttle a while to get from Point A to Point B, but he gets there, and that's why Young Ian is "a William F. Buckley Jr. fellow at National Review and you're not.

(Story via Fox Nation, naturally.)

Friday, January 23, 2015


There's a lot of talk, especially on the right, about the Obama administration's anger at Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu because of Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress demanding new sanctions on Iran, which would probably put an end to any chance for an Iranian nuclear deal. On the right, Obama is seen as an appalling anti-Semite because members of his administration have uttered unkind words about Netanyahu. How dare an American president show anything less than unwavering support for Israel!

I just want to remind you of an earlier moment when an Israeli prime minister and a U.S. president got into it like this. It was 1981. President Reagan was trying to arrange the sale of AWACS aircraft to Saudi Arabia. Reagan was to meet with Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin in September -- but just prior to this, he sent a warning to Begin:
President Reagan’s special advisor on Jewish affairs, Jacob Stein, is reported to have warned Premier Menachem Begin not to press his luck with Reagan by continuing to try to block the sale of American AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia. Stein was in Israel last week for talks with Begin and Israeli leaders, in apparent preparation for Begin’s visits to Washington for talks with the U.S. President next month.

Israeli papers say that Stein told Begin that Reagan and the U.S. Administration would view a continued Israeli policy to persuade Senators and Congressmen to oppose the aircraft sale as a personal affront to Reagan himself.
Reagan and Begin met -- and, according to Reagan's post-presidential memoir, An American Life, Begin agreed not to lobby Congress in opposition to the AWACS sale, then did just that:

Before Reagan ultimately won the fight, unpleasant words were uttered about Israel:
The Reagan Administration actively sought to diminish Israel's voice and influence over the deal. In public speeches, Administration officials admonished Israel for getting involved in a U.S. foreign policy matter. Secretary of State Alexander Haig said the President must be "free of the restraints of overriding external vetoes," and went on to say that were the AWACS deal blocked by Israeli influence, there would be "serious implications on all American policies in the Middle East. ... I'll just leave it there." ...Reagan himself declared, "It is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy."
But Reagan was a god among men, so his dispute with Israel was OK, right?


I don't think it's surprising that some of Mitt Romney's donors from 2012 are hesitant about jumping on board his 2016 bandwagon -- after all, a lot of other prominent Republicans are thinking of running in 2016. So I understand why some deep-pocketed former Mitt backers would be considering other big names in the GOP:
The 2012 Republican nominee is struggling to secure the financial backing even of the people who were his staunchest supporters.

The Center for Public Integrity in recent days attempted to contact roughly 90 top Romney fundraisers from his most recent presidential run, including every federal lobbyist who helped him raise $30,000 or more.

The vast majority willing to speak on the record say they haven’t decided whom to support in 2016. Almost all of these fundraisers said they’re wrestling with conflicting loyalties to Romney, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and other potential Republican hopefuls such as [Senator] Marco Rubio ... and Govs. Mike Pence, Scott Walker and Chris Christie.
But then there are these guys and the candidates they think might be a better bet than Romney (emphasis added below):
Van D. Hipp Jr., chairman of consulting firm American Defense International and a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, said he thinks the array of choices “shows the strength of the Republican field.” He served on Romney’s finance team in 2012 but hasn’t committed to Romney in 2016.

“I’ve got several friends looking at it mighty strong. I think the world of Romney,” Hipp said, while noting his ties to other prospective candidates, including Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former New York Gov. George Pataki.

Add [Lindsey] Graham, the U.S. senator from South Carolina, to Hipp’s mix, too.

“I’ve talked with some folks in South Carolina this past week who said they had gotten phone calls [from Graham] telling them, quote, to keep their powder dry,” he said. Hipp says he personally hasn’t yet heard from Graham, but added, "we go back a long ways and he’s a good friend of mine.”

Someone who has been in touch with Graham: David Wilkins, who leads the public policy and international law group at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.

Wilkins bundled $87,000 for Romney in 2012. He was the state chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004 and was an ambassador to Canada under President George W. Bush. “I have great admiration and respect for Gov. Bush, but until Lindsey makes a decision, a lot of us are -- we’re for Lindsey Graham,” Wilkins said.
Lindsey Graham?

George Pataki? Seriously? George Pataki?

Wow, that's gotta sting.


I give Peggy Noonan credit for saying, in her latest column, that it's highly inappropriate for Republicans to invite Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress next month. But she's also upset that British prime minister David Cameron is lobbying members of Congress personally on Israeli sancions -- and, of course, she's offended by the man in the White House, whose State of the Union address and other recent utterances, she says, have been lacking in respect:
After forgetting to be gracious to the victors of the 2014 election, or even to note there’d been a significant election, he referred to his relations with Congress. “Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different,” he said. “A better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.” It is instead one “where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.” Well, OK, but before this sweet hectoring he had sternly threatened to veto Republican-backed legislation. (CBS News’s Mark Knoller counts nine veto threats since the new Congress was sworn in Jan. 6.) Somehow Mr. Obama’s olive branch always looks like a blunt instrument. He has spent the past six years blaming Republicans when he wasn’t ignoring or dissing them, and despite some nice touches in the speech, his essential disrespect for his political adversaries shone through.
Yes, because presidents never spoke disrespectfully of the opposition before Obama. Certainly Noonan's old employer never did anything like that! Certainly Ronald Reagan would never go around insolently issuing multiple veto threats after his party lost control of Congress!

Oh, wait -- here's a story from July 1987, a few months after Democrats had taken control of the Senate as well as the House:
In Indianapolis this week, Mr. Reagan said, "If any tax hike ever comes across my desk, my handling of the veto pen will make the way Eliot Ness went after Al Capone look like child's play."

The week before, he cracked that "if a tax hike makes it to my desk, I'll veto it in less time than it takes Vanna White to turn the letters V-E-T-O."

And in Florida last month, Mr. Reagan borrowed a line from a familar television commercial when he said, "How do you spell relief? V-E-T-O."
Here's a quote from a Reagan speech delivered shortly after that story appeared:
Looking at the way Washington spends money, you would think that you were watching "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" on TV. [Laughter] The special interests want to raise the American people's taxes to pay for their high times and holidays. Well, as long as I am President, those holidays are over. And any tax increase that reaches my desk will be headed on a different kind of vacation: a one-way cruise to nowhere on the SS Veto.
Here's another 1987 Reagan speech:
No way are the American people going to be made to foot the bill for the tax-and-spend crew on Capitol Hill. Now, I have to tell you, some in Congress are standing against this tax tide. When I visited the Republican Senators last week, they gave me a giant veto pencil especially designed to take care of tax hikes. I'm keeping that pencil at the ready in my desk, and believe me, any tax hike bill that makes it into the Oval Office won't make it out alive. So, the tax-and-spend crew might as well just face the facts: There isn't going to be any tax hike in this administration. What there is going to be is a Capitol Hill cleanup....
And yes, there really was a giant veto pencil -- I couldn't find a photo of it online, but here's one from Paul Slansky's book on the Reagan years, The Clothes Have No Emperor (which is the source for some of these quotes):

A while Noonan doesn't mention Obama's reference o his two electoral victories in the State of the Union address, that certainly got up a lot of Republicans' noses. Well, here's Reagan doing some similar trash talk in a 1987 speech:
And then there are those in the other party who are clamoring for an increase in tax rates. You'll remember, of course, that it was just a little better than 2 years ago that one Presidential candidate promised not to raise taxes, while the other candidate promised that he would. And while I don't want to be immodest about this, it's true that the fellow who promised no tax increase carried 49 out of 50 States. Now, with less than 2 years to the next Presidential election, to see the other party once again demanding a tax hike -- well, if you'll permit me, there they go again. [Laughter]
Reagan was the best president ever, wasn't he? So frequent presidential taunts and veto threats must be a good thing -- right?

Thursday, January 22, 2015


I keep trying to wrap my mind around this story. The GOP has gotten away with so much extremism in recent years, so why the sudden concern about this?
House Republican leaders abruptly dropped plans late Wednesday to vote on an anti-abortion bill amid a revolt by female GOP lawmakers concerned that the legislation's restrictive language would once again spoil the party's chances of broadening its appeal to women and younger voters.

In recent days, as many as two dozen Republicans had raised concerns with the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" that would ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy. Sponsors said that exceptions would be allowed for a woman who is raped, but she could only get the abortion after reporting the rape to law enforcement.

A vote had been scheduled for Thursday to coincide with the annual March for Life....

But Republican leaders dropped those plans after failing to win over a bloc of lawmakers, led by Reps. Rene Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), who had raised concerns.
Elmers and Walorski voted for the same bill in 2013, and spoke in its favor. But suddenly they're concerned. Why?

What's supposed to be the problem is that this bill attempts to define (to use a now-famous phrase) "legitimate rape":
... many female lawmakers were also furious over its clause stating that women can be exempt from the ban in cases of rape only if they reported the rape to authorities....
Here's why that's a problem, according to the objecting legislators:
The Justice Department estimates that nearly 70 percent of rapes go unreported, oftentimes due to victims' fear of retribution. Reps. Renee Ellmers (N.C.) and Jackie Walorski (Ind.), among other GOP lawmakers, argued the bill could hurt the GOP with women and young voters.
These Republican women threatened to vote on a Democratic amendment altering the bill:
One conservative lawmaker told The Hill that a key factor in deciding to pull the original 20-week bill was that Republicans might not have had the votes to defeat a Democratic motion to recommit that would have returned the legislation to committee for additional changes.

Democrats threatened to use the routine procedural vote before final passage to strip out the rape reporting language, and all but one female Republican told leadership they would support it, one lawmaker said.
But if the language wasn't a problem for Republicans in 2013, including the Republican women who are objecting now, then this brouhaha had nothing to do with principle and was just an effort to position the GOP as the non-Todd Akin party, in advance of the 2016 elections.

But -- and I'm being purely cynical here -- why do any Republicans think that's necessary early in 2015? Republicans have done really well in congressional races since 2010. Yes, candidates such as Todd Akin have lost races, but Republicans who haven't said outrageously extremist things have been unaffected by talk of "legitimate rape" and the like by Republicans such as Akin. Also, the experience of candidates like Joni Ernst suggests that Republicans can pretty much do and say anything they want before a campaign gets under way and there'll be no consequence to them or the party. That may not be true for presidential candidates, but there aren't any potential GOP presidential nominees in the House.

The GOP could have passed this bill and most Americans wouldn't even notice; the president would have vetoed it and it would have slipped down the memory hole. I'd suspect that the entire kerfuffle was for show if not for the fact that every story I've read describes it as an unexpected meltdown on the part of the GOP, driven by a sincere and unexpected rebellion on the part of Ellmers et al.

Meanwhile, the House instead passed a bill to block federal funding of abortion, a bill that extends the ban to private health insurance. Is that bill noticeably less extreme than the one that was tabled? Also, the House leadership says that the tabled bill will be brought back. So what was this all about?

Chris Cillizza thinks scuttling the bill was a shrewd move by the GOP:
An anecdote relayed to me by a very conservative Republican consultant a few years back still sticks with me.... In 2012, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin lost their races for Senate at least in part due to their unwillingness or inability to affirm their pro-life credentials and then move on to issues people were more concerned about in that election. (Both men rambled into a discussion of rape and whether women can get pregnant from it.) Two years earlier, Pat Toomey, running for the Senate in Pennsylvania, would make clear to anyone who asked that he was pro-life but would then quickly pivot to talking about jobs, the economy or President Obama. Toomey won.

The point of the story, according to the consultant, was that Toomey understood that steering conversations -- and voters' perceptions -- away from troublesome areas and onto stronger ground isn't an abandonment of principles. It's smart politics. It didn't make Toomey any less pro-life to affirm his beliefs and then carefully avoid being caught in the thicket of other social issues questions. And, it, inarguably, helped him win in a Democratic leaning state.
But the original plan was to vote for this 20-week ban and then (presumably) pivot to other subjects. It would be nice to think that voters would have punished the party for the vote, but they probably wouldn't have -- there'd have been a vote, then a pivot, and the vote would have been forgotten. Now we just see the GOP obsessing over abortion, the exact opposite of a quick pivot. Why didn't Republicans just go with the bill, given how likely they'd have been to get away with it?


Mitt Romney's 2016 presidential campaign is now pretty much over:
Mitt Romney says one of the biggest challenges facing the country is climate change and that global solutions are needed to combat it.
He said this in a speech last night to an investment management conference in Salt Lake City. He made the same point in a speech in California on Monday.

He's a Republican with presidential ambitions, so I don't know what the hell's gotten into him.

Romney's done a flip-flop-flip on this issue:
For Romney, this is his second about-face on climate change. In his 2010 book, No Apology, he called human activity a "contributing factor" to melting ice caps. And in the run-up to the 2012 Republican primaries, Romney backed a reduction in emissions to curb anthropogenic global warming. "I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer," he told the Manchester Union-Leader in 2011. "And...I believe that humans contribute to that. I don't know how much our contribution is to that, because I know there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past, but I believe that we contribute to that. So I think it's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you're seeing."

But as the 2012 campaign evolved, Romney reversed course. He said that he opposed curbing carbon dioxide emissions. He declared, "We don't know what's causing climate change on this planet." Instead, he pledged to increase coal production and ramp up oil exploration. At the Republican convention in Tampa, he turned climate change into a punch line. "I'm not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet," he remarked during his nomination speech....
No, it doesn't matter that Senate Republicans just voted to acknowledge the reality of climate change, because, as I said last night, they aren't acknowledging that climate change is any more than a natural variation, and they're not acknowledging that it's a problem (and some are portraying an acknowledgment of climate change as a recognition of the fact that the weather changes).

Sorry, but Romney simply can't get the 2016 Republican nomination if he's saying that climate change is a problem that needs to be dealt with. Add this to his dreadful numbers in a new Washington Post/ABC poll -- the supposedly electable moderate trails Hillary Clinton by 15 points (though Clinton also has double-digit leads over Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and Mike Huckabee) -- and Romney is toast for 2016.

Okay, maybe not -- maybe the poll numbers will change, and (much more important) maybe he'll flip-flop again on the climate. (Would you put that past him?) He'll have to, because this is going to be a litmus test in the 2016 primaries. And he's failing it.


In case you had any doubts, the DA who failed to obtain an indictment against the cop whose chokehold killed Eric Garner is almost certainly going to Congress:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee commissioned a poll this month testing potential Democratic candidates to replace Rep. Michael Grimm, along with voters' opinions on the Eric Garner case....

Republicans have all but nominated Staten Island district attorney Dan Donovan, despite some concerns that Donovan's candidacy could focus attention on his role in the grand jury process that declined to indict a police officer in the death of Garner.

In a potential head-to-head matchup, the poll found 28 percent of voters would support [Democratic state assemblyman Michael] Cusick, compared to 48 percent for Donovan.

After hearing information about both candidates, support for Cusick jumped to 33 percent while Donovan stayed nearly the same, at 49 percent.
So Donovan still wins in a rout. And that's no surprise: Of the poll respondents, 50% agreed with the decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Garner case; 34% disapproved (16% said "don't know" or refused to answer the question). Oh, and:
The poll also found Mayor Bill de Blasio with a 26-68 percent favorable-unfavorable rating in the district. One Democratic operative characterized those as “toxic” for any potential Democratic candidate, if Republicans can successfully make the special election a referendum on the mayor.
Well, what do you expect? According to Ballotpedia, this district is 73% white, and culturally it's never been urban or liberal.

Politico told us a couple of weeks ago that national GOP leaders were fretting over this election:
National Republicans fear they’ve got a problem on their hands in an upcoming New York City special congressional election....

Daniel Donovan, a Staten Island prosecutor and veteran political figure, is locking up the support of local GOP power brokers who will decide who runs in the election. But on Capitol Hill, party strategists are nervously taking stock of Donovan....

Washington Republicans, who are more focused than their local counterparts on how the party is perceived nationally, worry that Donovan’s candidacy would create a national spectacle and turn the election into a referendum on his handling of the racially fraught case....
Yes, but in a district that agrees with the decision not to indict Pantaleo, will the Democrats even bother to raise the subject? The DCCC poll tests several lines of attack against Donovan that have nothing to do with this case. (Example: "Dan Donovan was caught accepting $1,500 from a mob-connected waste management company that received millions of dollars in government contracts under his watch." I'm trying to resist the temptation to say: Yeah, but on Staten Island, who hasn't?) What this tells me is that Democrats are going to say little or nothing about the Garner case. And so Donovan will slide.

Whenever it comes (Governor Cuomo still has to schedule the special election), Donovan's victory will be one more small bit of evidence that the GOP is the party of white people exclusively. The election is unlikely to attract national headlines, so I'm not sure how much harm this does to the party. But it does some.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Over at The New Republic, Rebecca Leber is gleeful:
Democrats Are Trolling Republicans So Hard on Climate Change

Democrats see weakness in the GOP's stance climate change, and they’re doing everything to exploit it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised an open amendment process on the bill to approve the Keystone pipeline, and on Wednesday the Senate will take up six of those amendments -- two of which are Democratic efforts that will put Republicans on the spot: Are you a climate change denier or not?

Senator Brian Schatz's amendment declares that climate change is real and caused by human activity, while Sheldon Whitehouse's asserts climate change is not a hoax. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders's has a third amendment, stating the U.S. has a responsibility to act on pollution, which could be taken up at a later point.
But Republicans have wriggled out of this trap. They've taken advantage of the noncommittal wording of the Sheldon Whitehouse amendment and voted for it en masse:
The U.S. Senate has voted overwhelmingly, 98 to 1, to approve an amendment affirming that climate change is real, and "not a hoax."

... One lawmaker, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) has even called climate change "a hoax."

The amendment, from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D–RI), takes a veiled jab at Inhofe, asking simply whether it is “the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax."

In a surprise this afternoon, Inhofe rose before the vote to ask to become a cosponsor of the Whitehouse amendment. Scattered applause greeted his remarks. "The climate is always changing," he said, and always has. The hoax that he has talked about, he suggested, is that there are people who think they are so "arrogant" and "powerful" that "they can change climate."

... Inhofe was one of the last Sentors to vote, in favor. The lone no vote came from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS).
Yes, Inhofe has used the word "hoax" in reference to climate change -- but what he said was this:
"With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it."
All he had to do today in order to support the Whitehouse amendment was agree that, um, the climate changes. He still doesn't believe those changes are caused by humans, or that they amount to global warming. So he agreed to an amendment that reads, in its entirety, "It is the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax," and all but one of the other Republicans followed suit.

Trolling averted. And now there's no reason for Republicans to vote for any of the other amendments that specifically ascribe climate change to humans, because they're on record as not being deniers, even though they still are deniers.

Senator Dan Coats expressed the sense of the GOP caucus with this tweet:

Yeah, that's confusing climate and weather. But Heartland America won't mind that.

I predicted last week that if a stronger amendment from Senator Bernie Sanders is put up for a vote, nearly all Republicans will vote no, with no hesitation. I stand by that prediction.


UPDATE: The Brian Schatz amendment stating that "human activity significantly contributes to climate change" just got only 50 votes in the Senate, 10 fewer than it needed to overcome a filibuster. If it's voted on, the Sanders amendment won't even get that many.


UPDATE, THURSDAY: Regarding the Schatz amendment:


Charlie Pierce has a gripe about last night's State of the Union address:
As for the speech, one of the most popular current reactions has been that the president didn't mention al Qaeda, and that this was the first State Of The Union speech in 12 years that didn't refer to that particular bogeyman. I was more interested in another word that didn't appear prominently in the speech. That word was "poverty." I know, I know. All those references to helping the middle-class are sure winners, and they poll extraordinarily well, and they are fine public policy.... But the whole Democratic party emphasis on the middle-class has made me a little itchy ever since Bill Clinton discovered that it was the magic key to getting old white folks to vote for him. Poverty disappeared from the Democratic policy debates and, therefore, from the national political debate entirely....

You can't call something an anti-poverty program an anti-poverty program any more. The term no longer is politically viable, being an embarrassment to Democrats and anathema to Republicans. Poverty must appear in our national debates only as a dark threat to our embattled middle class. That's the only acceptable way to discuss it -- not as a daily crisis for millions of people, but as a potential crisis for millions more.... Poverty in this country continues to be a deep and serious problem in and of itself, and not merely a condition into which unfortunate one-time members of the middle-class might one day find themselves. It still demands specific solutions to the specific problems it presents.
It's true that the word "poverty" showed up only once in the president's speech last night, while "middle class" was uttered seven times. I think Pierce is right that Democrats shy away from the word "poverty," and embrace "middle class," because expressing concern about "poverty" suggests too much interest in helping those people.

But Republicans aren't shying away from the word "poverty" quite as much as Pierce thinks -- not that we should praise them for that. In fact, these days it seems as if Republicans absolutely relish the opportunity to say "poverty."

Here's Rand Paul using the word "poverty" eleven times in an op-ed about Ferguson that was much shorter than last night's Obama speech. Of course, Senator Paul's ideas about poverty aren't particularly enlightened:
... we’ve become two separate worlds in which the successful are educated and wait to have children until they are married, and those in poverty are primarily those without higher education and with children outside of marriage.

This message is not a racial one. The link between poverty, lack of education, and children outside of marriage is staggering and cuts across all racial groups. Statistics uniformly show that waiting to have children in marriage and obtaining an education are an invaluable part of escaping poverty.

I have no intention to scold, but escaping the poverty and crime trap will require more than just criminal justice reform. Escaping the poverty trap will require all of us to relearn that not only are we our brother’s keeper, we are our own keeper. While a hand-up can be part of the plan, if the plan doesn’t include the self-discovery of education, work, and the self-esteem that comes with work, the cycle of poverty will continue.
Yes, poverty is a real problem, says the senator -- and it's the fault of the poor.

Mitt Romney is also focused on poverty these days -- but he doesn't think it's the fault of the poor. He thinks it's the fault of liberalism:
Mitt Romney stressed the need to sharply reduce poverty in America Friday night during a speech to members of the Republican National Committee.

“Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty in American than ever before,” the former Massachusetts governor told a large crowd aboard the USS Midway Museum on San Diego Bay.

He said only Republican and conservative principles, such as focusing on education, fostering strong families and creating jobs, could solve a problem that President Lyndon Johnson first tackled 50 years ago.

“His heart was in the right place, but his policies didn’t work,” said Romney, contending Obama has failed in similar fashion to Johnson. “Their liberal policies are good for a campaign every four years, but they don’t get the job done.”
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last year, Paul Ryan claimed to have identified "A Better Way Up From Poverty." (The key step, of course: "unwind the cycle of dependency on government.")

On the right, it's hip to talk about poverty -- in pretty much the same way it's popular in some corners of the right to talk about racism. Right-wingers are eager to decry racism -- which they define as any attempt by liberals to bring up the subject of race. Similarly, for the Republicans I've just quoted, poverty is exclusively caused by liberal culture -- either government programs meant to eradicate it or tolerance of sex and procreation outside of marriage.

Maybe a future Democrat will reclaim the word "poverty." But for now, discussing poverty is more or less a one-way taboo -- off limits for the people who actually care about eradicating it, acceptable coming from people who don't really give a damn about it.


Jay Cost at the Weekly Standard:
Put simply, in the face of the most Republican Congress since the 1920s, President Obama has offered a defiantly liberal agenda. It has precisely zero chance of passage.

I happen to think there is a fair bit of common ground to be found between the two parties. Corporate tax reform and corporate welfare reduction come immediately to mind. On both these issues, congressional Republicans and the president could cut back government subsidies for the wealthy and well-connected.
All together now, kids: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
In my new book I call this, pursuing Jeffersonian ends (greater equality) with Jeffersonian means (less government).

I’d add to this list, trade and immigration. In theory, common ground can be found.
Well, yes, probably trade. But immigration? Was Cost in a coma the last two years, when a few Republicans took baby steps toward immigration reform, only to run screaming from the pitchfork-wielding mob that is thier party's base? (Marco Rubio's current 2016 rank, according to the Real Clear Politics polling averages: ninth place.)
But little of that is going to happen because President Obama insists on trolling Republicans.
Yes, that's right: according to Cost, Republicans have been champing at the bit, desperate for the opportunity to work with Democrats, because nothing is more important to them than doing what's right for America, which is making democracy work via compromie -- but then Obama insulted them, so the hell with doing what's right for America, because Republicans' feelings trump America's needs. Yeah, what could be more Jeffersonian?


And on a related subject, let's recall the words of Ron Fournier yesterday:
The pronouns: Count how many times Obama uses the words "I," "me," and "my." Compare that number to how often he says, "You," "we," "our." If the first number is greater than the second, Obama has failed.
Let's see: Of the president's State of the Union address and the official GOP response by Senator Joni Ernst, in which had more talk about "I" and "me"? Here, I'll give you a hint:
[Ernst's] populist conservatism was evident in nearly every passage and at times explicitly mentioned, including when she talked about the fast-food chain where she worked in her youth. “As a young girl, I plowed the fields of our family farm. I worked construction with my dad. To save for college, I worked the morning biscuit line at Hardee’s,” she said. “We were raised to live simply, not to waste. It was a lesson my mother taught me every rainy morning.

“You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry. But I was never embarrassed, because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.”
Oh, but it was okay if her speech was all about her because that's non-elitist narcissism, which is the good kind.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Ron Fournier has just published an unsurprisingly gaseous column about President Obama's upcoming State of the Union address. Zandar and Jamelle Bouie have already addressed some of the column's worst aspects (UPDATE: Jim Newell, too), but I just want to comment on this bit of lazy, boilerplate-ish nonsense:
Among George W. Bush's greatest mistakes was not asking Americans to sacrifice in the aftermath of 9/11. He put the nation on perpetual war footing without demanding new taxes or national service. Obama inherited the so-called war on terrorism and doubled down on the mistake of thinking Americans are too cynical for sacrifice. He gives lip service to national-service programs. In his hands, proposals for higher taxes smack of class warfare rather than shared sacrifice. Can he appeal to our better angels?
Let me see if I can explain all the ways this is ridiculous.

First of all, we're just now coming out of a period that felt to most people like a deep, sustained recession. The tax plan the president has proposed -- increases for the very rich, cuts for the middle class -- reflect the (to put it mildly) uneven nature of the recovery. Fournier calls this "class warfare," but, in fact, it would represent "shared sacrifice": the non-rich have sacrificed since 2008, and now the rich might sacrifice a little to make up for the windfall they've received from the boom in their economy. What's insulting about Fournier's words is that, after most people have spent years being kicked in the gut by the economy, he wants them to stand in line for more kicks, as a patriotic duty. Why?

And when we talk about national service as "shared sacrifice," who in particular is going to do the sacrificing? Presumably not every citizen of this country, or even every adult citizen. Presumably it's going to be the young who'll do the enlisting in the military, or do the community service. But the young have had an especially hard time in this downturn; economically, they may never be able to make up for what they've lost by not getting their careers off the ground. Why do they need to sacrifice more?

And who's going to pay for all this? Fournier, being a good right-centrist, surely doesn't believe we have piles of money lying around to pay for all those national service positions. What do we sacrifice economically -- and who sacrifices -- so Fournier can experience the warm glow of knowing we have a shared sense of communing with our better angels?

And is anyone in America naive enough to believe that we could construct a truly fair national service program? Isn't it obvious that such a program would work like everything else in this country -- the children of the 1% would find ways to avoid their obligations or at least get the cushiest slots, while lower-status kids would get the dregs? How shared would this sacrifice be?

It's not clear exactly what Fournier wants, but it's obvious that he thinks we're not supposed to look at inequities in wealth and taxation over the last several decades as we raise taxes to the level that will satisfy Fournier -- now the new burden is supposed to fall on everyone equally, even though the old burden didn't and still doesn't. And as for national service, that's just automatically going to be fair across class lines, even though nothing else is in our society. Sorry, Ron, I'm not buying it.


UPDATE: Charlie Pierce finishes Fourier off.


In The Washington Post today, former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen declares that President Obama is being unserious:
Let’s imagine you were a Democratic president who just lost control of Congress to the Republicans, and you wanted to make it really, really clear that you are not serious about governing. What would you do? Simple: Use your State of the Union address to propose hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes that will never be enacted, in order to fund a slew of new government programs that have no chance of being approved.

Welcome to President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address.
Oh, dear -- proposals that can't get through Congress! Shouldn't a president devote his State of the Union address to more serious items?

Well, let's look at the person the Republicans have chosen to give their response to the State of the Union address: newly elected Iowa senator Joni Ernst. What did she advocate in her successful campaign?

Let's ignore the pre-2014 policy positions Ernst tried to run away from, such as support for a "personhood" amendment that would ban all abortions, or opposition to the UN's harmless but, to right-wingers, terrifying Agenda 21. Let's just look at positions she espoused during her campaign for Senate.

She advocated repealing Obamacare. She said she favored abolishing the Education Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. She spoke in support of partial privatization of Social Security. She advocated an amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced budget. When asked whether she supports a minimum-wage increase, she told an interviewer, "I do not support a federal minimum wage."

Will the federal minimum wage be repealed in the remaining two years of President Obama's term? No. Will the EPA and Education Department be abolished? No. Would Obamacare repeal or privatization of Social Security survive an Obama veto? No. Could a balanced budget amendment get a two-thirds vote in both houses of the current Congress? No.

So Joni Ernst -- the person the GOP chose to speak for the entire party after the State of the Union address -- campaigned on a lot of ideas that have absolutely no chance of passage, at least in the next two years. Many would be extraordinarily difficult to enact even if the presidency and both houses of Congress were in Republican hands.

But it's President Obama who's "not serious about governing." Right. Got it.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Marine Le Pen, head of the National Front party in France, has an op-ed in The New York Times today. If you're familiar with American right-wing bloviation on foreign policy and terorism, her main recommendation will have a familiar ring:
“To misname things is to add to the world’s unhappiness.” Whether or not Albert Camus really did utter these words, they are an astonishingly apt description of the situation in which the French government now finds itself. Indeed, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius no longer even dares pronounce the real name of things.

Mr. Fabius will not describe as “Islamists” the terrorists who on Wednesday, Jan. 7, walked into the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, right in the heart of Paris. Nor will he use “Islamic State” to describe the radical Sunni group that now controls territory in Syria and Iraq. No reference can be made to “Islamic fundamentalism,” for fear that Islam and Islamism might get conflated. The terms “Daesh” and “Daesh cutthroats” are to be favored instead, even though in Arabic “Daesh” means the very thing to be hidden: “Islamic State.”

Let us call things by their rightful names, since the French government seems reluctant to do so. France, land of human rights and freedoms, was attacked on its own soil by a totalitarian ideology: Islamic fundamentalism. It is only by refusing to be in denial, by looking the enemy in the eye, that one can avoid conflating issues. Muslims themselves need to hear this message. They need the distinction between Islamist terrorism and their faith to be made clearly....

Once things are called what they are, the real work begins.
Really? The work of fighting these people can't even get under way until all government officials are shouting MUSLIM MUSLIM MUSLIM, carefully adding in a whisper, like Le Pen, that they distinguish "Islamic fundamentalism" from "Islam," a distinction that is likely to be ignored by enraged ordinary non-Muslim citizens?

In the past I've called this the "Rumplestiltskin" approach -- you can't act until you utter the magic word. But President Obama generally refrains from uttering the magic word, and he had Osama bin Laden killed. Does Le Pen not consider that part of "the real work"? Does she disapprove of the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was said to be a key inspiration for the Charlie Hebdo massacre, even though that killing was also set in motion by the non-"Rumplestiltskin"-uttering President Obama?

There's a case to be made that some of what Le Pen describes as "the real work" is actually counterproductive -- drone strikes that kill civilians, torture prisons, the Iraq War, surveillance exceses. But that's not what she's saying. Like so many American right-wingers, she's saying that efforts to prevent terrorist attacks can't even begin until all politicians utter the particular phrases that give right-wingers a self-righteous thrill.

This is nuts -- but it's widely believed on the right. If Le Pen ever decides to cede control of her party to someone else, she has a promising future as an American right-wing pundit.


You know the narrative of many Republican primary contests in the tea party era: establishment candidate who's the favorite of the party bosses but is hated by rank-and-file voters faces off against the True Conservative choice of the people. Something like that seems to be happening in the contest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, according to a new CBS poll -- but the candidate who's being rejected by party insiders and embraced by ordinary voters isn't exactly an insurgent:
Just last week, the 2012 GOP nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, told a room of donors in New York City that he's seriously entertaining a 2016 bid.

Fifty-nine percent of Republicans would like to see Romney jump into the 2016 race, while only 26 percent believe he should stay out, according to the CBS News poll.
Wait -- I thought Republicans were begging Romney not to get in. What happened? How did he manage the highest positive score, and the top positive-to-negative ratio? Jazz Shaw at Hot Air has the numbers in table form:

Some of it is name recognition, obviously -- but that's not helping Sarah Palin, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, or Rand Paul, all of whom have more haters than fans (and more haters than Romney has).

You have to remember that even though rank-and-file voters don't regard Mitt Romney as a true conservative, they actually liked the things Romney did that the party bosses now believe made him a terrible candidate in 2012. They agree with Romney that much of the American population -- maybe 47%, maybe more -- consists of "takers." They agree that "corporations are people." (Remember that the tea party cheered the Citizens United decision, and remember also that the Hobby Lobby decision is premised on the notion that corporations are people.) They're Randians, so they believe a "wealth creator" is entitled to keep his tax returns secret, and to have as many car elevators as he wants.

Unlike the party bosses, a lot of them don't think Romney ineptly blew a winnable race -- they think Obama stole it, through outright voter fraud, IRS trickery, giveaways to "takers," and (probably) the intervention of ACORN (which didn't exist in 2012, but never mind).

In 2014, the party bosses became very good at freezing out candidates they deemed unelectable. They may need that skill in 2016, in order to freeze out the guy they considered their most electable candidate in 2012.