Wednesday, April 01, 2015

We're about to learn a lot more about Marco Rubio's career plans

By Michael J.W. Stickings 

Yesterday, Daily Intelligencer reported that an announcement from the Republicans' Great Cuban Hope is coming soon:

A year after declaring he'd run for the Senate or the presidency in 2016, but not both, Marco Rubio has made up his mind. Following reports that the Florida senator has reserved the Freedom Tower in Miami, on Monday he confirmed on Fox News's The Five that he'll "announce on April 13 what I’m going to do next in terms of running for president or the U.S. Senate," according to Politico. "So you will announce that you’re running for president?" said co-host Dana Perino. "I'll announce something on April 13," Rubio replied. The senator's being coy, but feel free to start getting excited about his Senate reelection campaign!

Well, maybe. Let's consider that possibility:

He won't run for president, because he doesn't want to lose (and he would), but he'll run for Senate, because he wants to win (and he will). It's probably just that simple.

Now, would he really lose were he to run for president? He'd almost certainly lose to Hillary, who is, of course, the certain Democratic nominee, but it's highly likely he wouldn't even come close to the Republican nomination.

I hesitate to make too much of the silly Iowa Republican straw poll, and I won't, but Rubio finished a distant seventh at the end of February with just 4%, well behind even fellow Floridian Jeb Bush, who ended up with a disappointing (for him) 8%. Now, that's a straw poll of the extremists who make up the base, but mainstream polls put him well back as well.

Now, it could be premature to back out. After all, there are loads of ups and downs in any nomination race -- just think back to 2012, when every challenger to Romney as the general frontrunner seemed to have his moment at the top of the pack. And Rubio could very well emerge as the bridge between the extremist base (represented by Ted Cruz, as well as by more defined social conservatives like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee) and the somewhat less extremist establishment (represented by Bush and Chris Christie), with Rand Paul representing the iconoclastic quasi-libertarian elements of the party. Currently, the bridge figure appears to be Scott Walker, but he's untested on the national stage and might not have the staying power to remain a serious contender throughout the long and winding race. So why not Rubio?

Well, maybe because Rubio just doesn't seem to have it. And by "it" I mean that nebulous quality that seems to propel a select group of politicians, even a dud like Romney, into presidential politics. He just seems too raw, too immature, too unprincipled, too shamelessly opportunistic.

And it's that last point that matters now. He knows where the opportunity is, and that's not in a run for the White House that is sure to end in defeat but in a re-election campaign for the Senate.

And hey, if he does end up announcing that on April 13, at least we can say he did the realistic thing, which is not something that can be said about many Republicans these days.


What if that isn't his decision? What if he does decide to run for president? I mean, he's booked the Freedom Tower. Generally, you'd make an exciting announcement at such a venue, not one that is sure to disappoint the enthusiastic supporters who would turn out for such an event.

So it would seem that he's going for it, that he really thinks he can win -- and I suppose he has a shot, though of course politicians in their bubbles of sycophantic cheerleaders always think they can win.

But if that's the case, the above still applies. He could emerge as the bridge candidate, if more of an establishment type than a base type, but the odds are against him, and his biggest weakness may very well be himself.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On the Hustings

Today News: "Elizabeth Warren on 2016: 'I’m not going to run' — and Hillary Clinton deserves 'a chance to decide'" (Eun Kyung Kim)

(The Atlantic): "Hillary Clinton makes it hard to follow the money" (Conor Friedersdorf)

Roll Call: "Bill Clinton endorses Strickland in Ohio" (Alexis Levinson)

The Hill
: "Watchdogs accuse 2016 hopefuls of breaking election law" (David McCabe)

Philadelphia Inquirer: "Menendez expecting charges Wednesday, sources say" (Jonathan Tamari)


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The takeaway from Gov. Pence's bigotry

By Richard K. Barry

There are many implications to be drawn from Indiana's attempt to give discrimination against gays the cover of law but one of the more interesting has to do with what this will mean at the ballot box in 2016.

Jill Lawrence at U.S. News & World Report writes:
If there’s one takeaway from Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s “religious freedom restoration” debacle, it’s that Republicans ignore today’s cultural environment at their peril.

Conservatives can continue to live in a bubble if they want to, but they should expect blowback, because outside that bubble is a far different reality.

Pence seems shocked by the widespread perception that his state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act invites businesses and individuals to discriminate against gay people on the grounds that serving them would, or might, infringe on the religious owners’ beliefs. But what other conclusion is there?

Time was when Pence's move would have been seen as smart politics for Republicans. That was then, this is now. Even now Pence is scrambling to revise the legislation in response to the blowback, which is particularly interesting as Steve Benen notes: "If Pence wants to 'fix' his right-to-discriminate law, what does that say about the 2016ers who like the law as-is?"

And what does it say about their ability to read the electorate, particularly in the general election?


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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Happy, happy, happy

A new poll finds that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel can stop worrying.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has opened up a substantial lead on challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia with only a week to go in the runoff campaign, a new Chicago Tribune poll has found.

Emanuel has the backing of 58 percent of voters compared with 30 percent for Garcia — double the margin of a similar survey three weeks ago, when the mayor led his opponent by 14 percentage points. Another 9 percent were undecided in the latest poll, which was conducted March 25 through Sunday and has an error margin of 3.7 percentage points.

Such a pleasant man. Would hate to see him go away. 

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Gov. Sununu thinks Obama is baiting birthers by going to Kenya

“I think his trip back to Kenya is going to create a lot of chatter and commentary amongst some of the hard right, who still don’t see him as having been born in the U.S.," Sununu said, adding "I personally think he’s just inciting some chatter on an issue that should have been a dead issue a long time ago."

President Obama is planning a trip to Kenya this summer to attend the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. 

As we well know, crazy conservative conspircy theorists love to claim Obama, who was born in Hawaii, was actually born in Kenya and therefore is not legally qualified to be President.

So, stupid people believe stupid things, and the President of the United States is supposed to give consideration to how his travel itinerary might stir them up. Yeah, he's going to do that.

Don't worry, Governor Sununu, there is limited opportunity for birthers to appears more foolish.

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Obama Derangement Syndrome by the numbers

By Richard K. Barry

According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll:
A third of Republicans believe President Barack Obama poses an imminent threat to the United States, outranking concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A Reuters/Ipsos online poll this month asked 2,809 Americans to rate how much of a threat a list of countries, organizations and individuals posed to the United States on a scale of 1 to 5, with one being no threat and 5 being an imminent threat.

The poll showed 34 percent of Republicans ranked Obama as an imminent threat, ahead of Putin (25 percent), who has been accused of aggression in the Ukraine, and Assad (23 percent). Western governments have alleged that Assad used chlorine gas and barrel bombs on his own citizens.

If you could see me now, you would see that my head is shaking.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio will soon add his name to the list

By Richard K. Barry

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is getting ready to announce his plans to run for the GOP presidential nomination with the only unknown being where and when. 

Aides to the senator don't deny reports first published late Friday by the Tampa Bay Times that he's reserved space at Miami's iconic Freedom Tower for a possible announcement on the afternoon of April 13. A team of Rubio advisers is traveling to Miami next week to put finishing touches on the anticipated rollout — and their tasks will include picking the spot where the senator and his family can make the announcement.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced last week and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is expected to jump in on April 7th. 
Rubio is polling well in surveys of Republicans in early primary states and among GOP voters nationally. While former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have been actively campaigning in recent weeks ahead of the start of their formal campaigns, Rubio has kept his head down, focusing instead on his formal Senate duties, including holding hearings on the deteriorating situation in Venezuela and introducing legislation relaxing gun restrictions in the District of Columbia.

In what Charlie Cook calls Conservative Bracketology, he identifies a number categories for potential GOP presidential candidates including "Secular/Conventional," "Social, Cultural, Evangelical," "Tea Party Populist," and "Establishment." I'm sure you can figure out who belong where. 

As for the last-mentioned bracket, and Rubio's chances, Cook writes this:
The Establishment bracket consists of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. (Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki will be in this bracket, too—if they manage to put together viable campaigns.) Bush remains the unquestioned leader, but if the conventional wisdom is wrong anywhere (and I admit to being very conventional most of the time), it might be in underestimating Rubio's potential. While there may not be enough room or money in this bracket for two Florida Republicans with moderate records on immigration, the senator is smart, attractive, and potentially more charismatic than any of the others. If Rubio were to move up, it would be more about personal appeal and political skill than ideological positioning.

Perhaps, but Rubio seems far too light-weight to be taken seriously (and about 12 years old), but I suppose he could, as Cook writes, "move up."

Whatever else may be true, I am willing to bet the "Establishment" category yields the eventual nominee. 


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Friday, March 27, 2015

On the Hustings

The Washington Post: "Harry Reid will not run for reelection in 2016" (Paul Kane)

National Journal: "Reid exit turns Nevada race into wild card" (Alex Roarty)

Roll Call: "Reid, Durbin endorse Schumer as next Leader" (Niels Lesniewski)

The Hill: "Warren fundraises off Wall Street's threats" (Kevin Cirilli)

New York Times: "For G.O.P., support for Israel becomes new litmus test" (Peter Baker)


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Rand Paul shifts shamelessly on defense spending to appease bloodthirsty Republicans

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Oh, those lofty presidential ambitions. Oh, the need to appeal to the bloodthirsty, warmongering Republican base.

Oh, the shame of it all:

Just weeks before announcing his 2016 presidential bid, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is completing an about-face on a longstanding pledge to curb the growth in defense spending.

In an olive branch to defense hawks hell-bent on curtailing his White House ambitions, the libertarian Senator introduced a budget amendment late Wednesday calling for a nearly $190 billion infusion to the defense budget over the next two years -- a roughly 16 percent increase.

But... but... he's a principled libertarian! He's not like the others! He actually believes in things other than some incoherent combination of plutocracy and fundamentalist moralism.

You know, except on abortion, and same-sex marriage, and now on the military, and, well, let's face it, on any other issue where those presidential ambitions require him to put aside his principles and embrace the must-have Republican position, or else.

As BooMan says, this about-face renders Paul "basically worthless." Because basically he's just like any other mainstream Republican.

"I already mock anyone who presents Rand Paul as a desirable leader or serious voice," he adds, "but from now on my abuse is going to be deafening."

Which is precisely what Paul deserves. From all of us.

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Indiana formally joins up with the forces of ignorance and bigotry

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, Wingnut Gov. Mike Pence and the other defenders of this odious law can say whatever they want. Religious "freedom" is really just Christianist bigotry in disguise, and not a very good one:

The nation's latest legislative battle over religious freedom and gay rights came to a close Thursday when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a controversial "religious freedom" bill into law.

His action followed two days of intense pressure from opponents — including technology company executives and convention organizers — who fear the measure could allow discrimination, particularly against gays and lesbians.

Pence and leaders of the Republican-controlled General Assembly called those concerns a "misunderstanding."

"This bill is not about discrimination," Pence said, "and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it."

Bull. Shit. That's exactly what it does.

It allows bigots to hide behind "freedom," to justify their bigotry with appeals to "freedom," which of course is really just a vicious assault on freedom, on the very principles and ideals of any genuinely free society.

Feel free to boycott the hell out of Indiana. And feel free to discriminate at the polls against these bigots and enablers thereof, most of whom, of course, are Republican.

What else is new?

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It must be hard being Joe Biden right now

By Richard K. Barry 

Joe Biden will not be the president of the United States, nor will he be his party's nominee for the office. And that's got to hurt a little. But politics sucks and everybody knows it. Besides that, Joe Biden is simply not the guy.

As Alex Seitz-Wald at MSNBC writes:

Interviews with more than a dozen people close to the vice president paint a picture of a politician torn between a decades-long aspiration for the presidency, a deep commitment his family and a recognition of a political reality tilted against him.

For reasons both bigger and smaller than Hillary Clinton, Biden will not achieve the dream to which he’s now come so close. But he refuses to rule himself out completely and will keep a presidential pilot light burning as long as possible. If nothing else, the fiercely loyal Biden will use these next two years to defend the legacy of the Obama administration and his role in it.

While Biden has been largely left out of Washington chatter about 2016, he has forced himself into the conversation whenever possible. He recently made a series of visits to promote the White House agenda to early voting states including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Biden frequently appears in the same city the same week as Clinton does. And he readily tells interviewers he’s taking a serious look at a run.

It's hard to say how someone with such a stellar resume, and in such an historically important position for succession, ends up so far away from serious consideration. Though if there was no Hillary Clinton, he almost certainly would have taken his shot. 

It may be true that the vice presidency isn't worth a warm bucket of piss, as John Nance Garner famously said. But it does provide a certain profile in this media age of ours, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. For Biden, it's been mostly a bad thing. 

Truth be told, if he hadn't so often seemed like a fool, like an embarrassing uncle in his execution of the duties of the office, we would be having a different conversation.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

It's a conspiracy!

By Capt. Fogg

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead,"
"I never died," says he.
"I never died," says he.

No sooner does something happen in this world, but that it didn't and in a strange quantum physical way, nothing itself is reason to believe something. The bomb wasn't a bomb, the flight never flew, Saudi terrorists didn't hijack those airplanes and neither Jesus nor Mohammad's nephew nor Elvis nor Joe Hill actually died. There are many reasons for it, but Humans being creatures for whom faith is always tempting, need something to anchor it, a substrate to mount it upon like a plaque on the wall. Every article of faith, every statement of belief requires a denial.

The anguish of grief, the horror of circumstances, the shock of sudden change; these things cause us to deny, at least for a time that the beloved leader and voice of God has been murdered and his mission has come to nothing. We see them in our dreams, even when we're awake. But as with any human weakness, the inability to accept invites explanations of why reality isn't real for the purposes of exploitation. We want your support so Joe hill lives on in spirit. Jesus came to Jerusalem to restore the divine dynasty and throw out Rome, he was about mystical forgiveness of sin. The Hidden Imam is just around the corner and will come back to bring justice, or was that Jesus or was that Tammuz? Denial is power, but power over us by someone else.

Read more »

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PACs, unlimited money, and the end of democracy

By Richard K. Barry

In the most recent edition of Time, Alex Altman describes how PACs are now doing the work traditional campaigns use to do and why that's a problem.
In 2012 super PACs were used as blunt instruments of destruction: the group backing Mitt Romney devoted about 90% of the $142 million it spent overall to TV attack ads. But in the 2016 presidential race, these organizations are poised to play a much bigger role, taking over more-traditional campaign duties ranging from field organizing and voter turnout to direct mail and digital microtargeting. “They are becoming de facto campaigns,” says Fred Davis, a Republican media consultant who ran former Utah governor Jon Huntsman’s presidential super PAC in 2012.

And the concern:
Such efforts are the latest way to game the traditional campaign-finance system, which limits the amount of money individuals can give to candidates and forbids direct donations from corporations. The Cruz super PAC, for instance, is barred from directly coordinating campaign spending or strategy with Cruz, but it is able to raise and spend unlimited sums on the candidate’s behalf while collecting money from just about anyone.

Thank God money is the same as free speech, so everything's cool.

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Ted Cruz seeks to be the anti-Galileo of our time

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Ted Cruz is a hyper-partisan ideological extremist with deep-rooted cynicism. He's also a fucking idiot.

Because if he actually believes this, if this is more than just pandering to the ignorant Republican base, he basically disqualifies himself from reality:

Speaking to the Texas Tribune on Tuesday, Cruz said that contemporary "global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers."

"You know it used to be it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier," he said.

In Cruz's opinion, when it comes to climate change, his denier position places him alongside 17th Century scientist Galileo Galilei, who was also considered to be denying the mainstream knowledge of his day. According to Cruz's logic, he is taking the minority view that human-caused climate change is not happening, just as Galileo took the minority view that the scientific method should be trusted over the Catholic Church.

That's right, Galileo was a scientist. And, contra Cruz, what Galileo was denying was not the "accepted scientific wisdom" of the day but the prevailing religion-based ignorance of the day. Galileo was a scientist challenging anti-science. Cruz is an anti-scientist challenging science. If anything, Cruz is the anti-Galileo, exactly the opposite of his ridiculous claim.

But in related news -- and I kid you not, this is true! -- when Cruz fell out of bed the other night, having wet his shorts with the liquid poop he shits through his urethra, he floated up to the ceiling and remained there suspended in a state of trance-like hyper-sleep, his anus pulsating as it pulled sulfur out of the atmosphere to feed his enraptured body, his nose emitting oxygen waste, until sea creatures pulled the sun back from its resting place across the eternal waters of bliss and he slipped back down between the sodden sheets, finally awaking to the sound of trumpets played with Miles Davis-level intensity by a band of Norwegian sheep living in his bathtub.

It's science! Fuck you.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Despite long odds, Chris Christie staffs up for a presidential run

The Hill reported today that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is staffing up for a presumed Republican presidential run. One of his political action committees has just hired a digital firm to implement a "comprehensive digital presence" for the candidate, including website development, online fundraising and email marketing. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that Leadership Matters for America (one of Christie's PACs) hired Upstream Communications for the job. 

As the Hill states:
Christie’s PACs will provide a momentum boost should he decide to officially launch a bid for the presidency, helping his potential campaign solicit major donors for repeated, large-money contributions.

Both PACs could allow Christie a chance to gauge early fundraising support among donors and build operatives for an eventual campaign apparatus.

This might mean that if the support is not there he could go away quietly, although we've never seen this man do anything quietly. 

For those keeping track, Christie will be entering one of the most crowded GOP presidential fields ever should he run, with at least 19 other Republicans having expressed an interest. 

Maybe Christie has to give it a shot because that's what politicians with massive egos do, but his chances of securing the nomination are certainly slim, as Nate Silver wrote back in early February.
Silver puts New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's chance of winning at just 5%. "I think Chris Christies chances are vastly overrated. In part because he has a lot of issues where he deviates from the Republican base and in part because he’s not a guy who’s seen as a team player." says Silver. Christie's New Jersey administration has been tainted in recent controversy. First Christie received heat over lane closings near the George Washington Bridge and is now under Federal investigation for firing an employee who objected to Christie dismissing indictments against his political allies.

Long, long, long shot. 


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Ted Cruz's America, and you better watch yourself

By Richard K. Barry

I know this has received a lot of play, but I have to weigh in.

In an interview Tuesday on “CBS This Morning,” Senator Ted Cruz said he “grew up listening to classic rock” but that his "music taste changed on 9/11."

“I actually intellectually find this very curious, but on 9/11, I didn’t like how rock music responded,” he said. “And country music, collectively, the way they responded, it resonated with me."

“I had an emotional reaction that said, ‘These are my people,’” Cruz said. “So ever since 2001, I listen to country music.”

I realize many people will ignore this as a meaningly issue, but is it? Is there anything this man won't say. And what, precisely,  did "rock music" do back then that was so awful? But we know the answer: if you weren't deemed patriotic enough by the arbiters of real American public opinion, you were "the enemy," you were "against us" and "with the terrorists," as W. famously said.

That's what Cruz really wants to signal. That's his America.

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