Saturday, October 31, 2015


The political world is excited about this:
Paul Singer, Influential Billionaire, Throws Support to Marco Rubio for President

One of the wealthiest and most influential Republican donors in the country is throwing his support to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a decision that could swing millions of dollars in contributions behind Mr. Rubio at a critical point in the Republican nominating battle.

The decision by the donor, Paul Singer, a billionaire New York investor, is a signal victory for Mr. Rubio in his battle with his rival Jeb Bush for the affections of major Republican patrons and the party’s business wing.
Singer was a big donor to a Mitt Romney super PAC in 2012, and to the Swiftboat liars in 2004; he also gave a lot of money (and use of a private jet) to Rudy Giuliani in 2008. He's very conservative, but he's pro-gay marriage -- his support was instrumental in getting gay marriage through the New York state legislature, but his promise to provide enough money to shield vulnerable legislators didn't pan out: of four New York Republicans in the state senate who voted for gay marriage, three lost their seats anyway.

So Singer's money is meaningful, but it doesn't guarantee Rubio the nomination, although it's one more nail in the coffin of the campaign of Bush, who was hoping for some of Singer's cash.


Obviously, this is a sign that the GOP Establishment is closing ranks around Rubio -- but that doesn't mean the voters are going to follow suit:
After leading the crowded Republican field since July, Donald Trump finds Ben Carson pulling even with him in the latest national NBC News online poll conducted by SurveyMonkey, beginning Tuesday before the debate through Thursday.

Among Republican or Republican-leaning registered voters, Carson and Trump each have 26% support - taking up more than half of all the vote preference. Republican leaned voters who watched the debate gave highest marks to Ted Cruz....
In fact, it's Carson and Cruz rather than Rubio who got the bumps in this poll, which was conducted before and after the debate.

While the top two candidates are head and shoulders above the rest of the field, Ted Cruz has climbed into third place with 10% support, the first time he has hit double-digits since after the first Republican debate this summer. His performance in the debate is likely boosting his standing in the poll; among those leaned Republican voters who watched or followed the debate coverage, Cruz gets 17% support, while Trump and Carson get 25% and 24%, respectively.
Rubio's at 9%, in a statistical tie with Cruz -- but as you can see, his poll numbers are flat. (Jeb is at 5%.)

My sense of the sentiment among base voters is that they were much more exited by Cruz than by Rubio. Cruz has dominated Free Republic since the debate. And, of course, Cruz raised more than a million bucks in the day after the debate. (And don't forgot, he already had lots of billionaire support.)

And even though they had mediocre debates, Trump and Carson are still dominant -- and Carson seems to be on the ascent.

If you think this is just autumn craziness that will dissipate just the way Cain Mania did after the fall of 2011, let me just say this: Yes, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum captivated a significant percentage of the GOP electorate in the 2012 race before ultimately losing to Romney -- but never all at the same time. In this poll, three of the most extreme candidates are 1-2-3. Combined, they have 62% of the vote. In 2012, there was never a time when fringe candidates combined for 60+% of the vote while the lead mainstream candidate languished in single digits. That's what we have now.

So, yes, I think Rubio will rise -- but I think the voters still want someone more like Trump, Carson, or Cruz. And I'm convinced that that may not change.

(Poll link via Bill Scher.)


Fox Business has announced the format for its November 10 Republican presidential debate (no opening statements, slightly more time to answer questions, yet another kiddie-table debate for the low-ranked candidates), as well as the team of moderators:
The main-stage debate will be moderated by Fox Business Managing Editor Neil Cavuto and Global Markets editor Maria Bartiromo, along with Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker.
Baker? I don't think we're going to hear any Ted Cruz rants about his anti-conservative bias. He's perhaps best known in America for a 2008 Times of London column in which he mocked then-candidate Barack Obama as a Messiah:
He Ventured Forth To Bring Light To The World

And it came to pass, in the eight year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness. The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical White person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: "Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?"
This goes on and on. The video version is six minutes long:

Read the complete text here.

That column went viral on the right, as did another column from the 2008 campaign, in which Baker compare Obama to Sarah Palin (guess who came out ahead):
Political experience

Obama: Worked his way to the top by cultivating, pandering to and stroking the most powerful interest groups in the all-pervasive Chicago political machine, ensuring his views were aligned with the power brokers there.

Palin: Worked her way to the top by challenging, attacking and actively undermining the Republican party establishment in her native Alaska. She ran against incumbent Republicans as a candidate willing and able to clean the Augean Stables of her state's government.

Political Biography

Obama: A classic, if unusually talented, greasy-pole climber. Held a succession of jobs that constitute the standard route to the top in his party's internal politics: "community organizer", law professor, state senator.

Palin: A woman with a wide range of interests in a well-variegated life. Held a succession of jobs - sports journalist, commercial fisherwoman, state oil and gas commissioner, before entering local politics. A resume that suggests something other than burning political ambition from the cradle but rather the sort of experience that enables her to understand the concerns of most Americans....


Obama: A very attractive speaker whose celebrity has been compared to that of Britney Spears and who sends thrills up Chris Matthews' leg

Palin: A very attractive woman, much better-looking than Britney Spears who speaks rather well too. She sends thrills up the leg of Rush Limbaugh (and me).
Yes, and you can practically feel the leg tingle in this chat with Hugh Hewitt after Palin's 2008 convention speech:

Gerard Baker and Hugh Hewitt React to Sarah Palin by FORAtv

BAKER: ... that amazing way that she did it with -- going after [Obama] with, you know, with real, real vigor, but also with that smile on her face.... I don't think I have seen a -- and I've seen a lot of kind of national political arrivals, if you like. I mean, this was her arrival on the national political and the international political scene -- I don't think I've seen -- you know, Obama gave a great political speech at the 2004 Democratic convention -- I don't think I've seen an arrival, an emergence of someone like that on the international scene, you know, in twenty or thirty years. I thought it was just a remarkable performance.
Hewitt compares Palin to Margaret Thatcher -- a saint on the right. Baker says that Palin as a speechmaker was better than Thatcher, or at least the early Thatcher.
BAKER: ... to me, I think Sarah Palin -- you know, again, I'm saying she's a Margaret Thatcher, we've got a long way to go before we see what metal she's really made of, whether she is a real Iron Lady -- but again, in terms of coming onto the scene like that, she was, if anything, more impressive than Margaret Thatcher.
After that, Baker and Hewitt repaired to a private chamber for a cigarette, or something.

So no, I don't think he'll ruffle any conservative feathers. And hey, from that Palin gush we know what an excellent judge of political talent he is.

Friday, October 30, 2015


Why do Republicans hate freedom of speech?
The Republican National Committee has pulled out of its Feb. 26 debate with NBC News after widespread criticism from both the party and campaigns over this week's CNBC debate.

"CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith," RNC chairman Reince Priebus wrote in a letter to NBC News chairman Andrew Lack.

"I have tremendous respect for the First Amendment and freedom of the press. However, I also expect the media to host a substantive debate on consequential issues important to Americans. CNBC did not."
By the way:

But that's irrelevant. Despite Priebus's pro forma invocation of the Bill of Rights, he's trying to silence dissent. How do I know that? I've been told that many times by the conservative media.

You see, every so often the Obama White House does something to express its displeasure with Fox News -- the channel isn't shut down, and its executives aren't hauled off to prison the way they would be in a truly totalitarian state. In fact, Fox is thriving. But to hear Fox commentators talk -- particularly faux-liberal Kristin Powers -- you'd think that the administration's critiques of Fox, and failure to tick off the Fox box while making media rounds, is the equivalent of sending Roger Ailes off to rot away in a gulag.

Here's Powers earlier this year:
Kirsten Powers doesn’t mince words when discussing what she calls the “illiberal silencing tactics” of the left, including those employed by the Obama administration.

“It goes without saying that if George Bush had done this, he would have been Hitler,” she said of the Obama administration’s attempt to “delegitimize” Fox News....

While speaking to a small group of reporters Monday at The Heritage Foundation, Powers explained how the tactic works, using the Obama administration’s attack on Fox News as an example:

“They go around to ABC and CNN and say, ‘We’re not going to listen to them, and neither should you.’ To me, it’s so unprecedented,” she said.
They can’t handle any dissent. It’s got to be completely 100 percent behind what they want -- they don’t want to debate, they won’t send anybody on Fox News. … It goes without saying that if George Bush had done this, he would have been Hitler. If George Bush had come out and named a news organization … I can’t even imagine what would have happened.
And here's Powers at in 2013:
Obama vs. Fox News -- behind the White House strategy to delegitimize a news organization

... In a recent interview with The New Republic, President Obama was back to his grousing about the one television news outlet in America that won’t fall in line and treat him as emperor. Discussing breaking Washington's partisan gridlock, the president told TNR,"If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News...for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you’ll see more of them doing it."

... This latest volley from the president is just one in a long line of comments from his White House as part of their campaign to silence any dissent they detect in the press corps.

Recently, the White House has kept Fox News off of conference calls dealing with the Benghazi attack, despite Fox News being the only outlet that was regularly reporting on it and despite Fox having top notch foreign policy reporters.

They have left Chris Wallace’s "Fox News Sunday" out of a round of interviews that included CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS for not being part of a “legitimate” news network. In October 2009, as part of an Obama administration onslaught against Fox News,White House senior adviser David Axelrod said on ABC’s “This Week” that the Fox News Channel is "not really a news station" and that much of the programming is "not really news."

Whether you are liberal or conservative, libertarian, moderate or politically agnostic, everyone should be concerned when leaders of our government believe they can intentionally try to delegitimize a news organization they don’t like.

In fact, if you are a liberal -- as I am -- you should be the most offended, as liberalism is founded on the idea of cherishing dissent and an inviolable right to freedom of expression.
So does that mean we can say now that the Republican Party is trying to "silence any dissent" by "delegitimizing" NBC? (I know the GOP isn't the White House, but it does control both houses of Congress and the governments of a large majority of states, which makes it pretty damn powerful.)

In the past, when the White House tried to be sharp-elbowed with Fox, the rest of the press took Fox's side, as in October 2009:
... the White House has gone beyond words, reports CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield. Last Sept. 20, the president went on every Sunday news show - except Chris Wallace's show on FOX. And on Thursday, the Treasury Department tried to exclude FOX News from pool coverage of interviews with a key official. It backed down after strong protests from the press.

"All the networks said, that's it, you've crossed the line," said CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid.
So let's see. The GOP has canceled a debate on NBC. Three upcoming debates are scheduled on Fox News and Fox Business, but there are other Republican debates scheduled to take place on CNN and Salem Radio (twice), CBS, and ABC.

Will those media organizations stick up for NBC the way the rest of the media stuck up for Fox in '09? They should say that they no longer intend to be part of their debates, unless NBC's broadcast rights are restored.

But they won't. Instead, they'll kowtow to any of the party's demands (and to demands from the angry Republican candidates who are getting together to demand that the debate hosts lick their boots).

None of this rises to the level of "silencing tactics," you see. It's OK if you're a Republican.


UPDATE: John Cole is thinking similar thoughts.


A 112-page analysis of the Republican presidential race prepared by Jeb Bush's campaign has been leaked to U.S. News, presumably by the campaign, in order to demonstrate that, heck yeah, Jeb's still in it to win it.

The report's harsh words about Marco Rubio are getting most of the attention -- but I'm more interested in the preview of Jeb's upcoming comeback campaign, and how it continues not to deliver what Republican voters want these days:
... the campaign also previewed the types of ads it would run, listing "Denisha," a story about an African-American student who took advantage of Bush's voucher program, as a potential spot.

The document implies that Jeb plans to roll out this ad for early contests -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada.

Really? This ad? An ad about how a young woman -- a young black woman -- got to college because of a government program championed by Bush when he was governor? That's going to appeal to the Republican voter base?

Yes, the young woman says the magic word "voucher" -- but she describes the program as one that was intended "to give low-income kids an opportunity to go to a private school."

Two problems with that. First, the Republican voter base thinks low-income people get too much help and the middle class doesn't get enough. Second, she says the program allowed beneficiaries to go to a "private" school. Why not rewrite the copy to say "a private or religious school"? That would be an accurate description of the program (which is why it was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court in 2006). Invoking religion would be catnip to the GOP base, which thinks there's a war on Christianity, and which backs voucher programs in large part because they're perceived as a counterattack in that war.

No, Jeb's campaign is never going to recover. He has no idea how to appeal to a modern Republican electorate.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Ezra Klein does a good job of debunking Ted Cruz's applause-generating rant at last night's debate -- or at least part of the rant. Here's the part Klein debunks:
"The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media," Ted Cruz said with considerable disgust. "This is not a cage match."

Cruz ticked off the insults the CNBC moderators had lobbed Wednesday night at the assembled Republicans. "Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues?"
Klein points out that the questions Cruz complained about actually were substantive, and that his characterization of them was inaccurate. But here's the part of the rant Klein didn't address:
CRUZ: The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, "Which of you is more handsome and why?"
Perhaps the Democratic debate Cruz described really took place in some parallel universe, from which it was broadcast to the assembled citizens of Wingnuttia. In the world as we know it, the debate questions were quite different. Here was the first question addressed to each of the candidates by moderator Anderson Cooper in the actual Democratic debate:
COOPER: ... Secretary Clinton, I want to start with you. Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency.

You were against same-sex marriage. Now you're for it. You defended President Obama's immigration policies. Now you say they're too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozen of times. You even called it the "gold standard". Now, suddenly, last week, you're against it.

Will you say anything to get elected?


COOPER: Senator Sanders. A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?


COOPER: ... Governor Chafee, you've been everything but a socialist. When you were senator from Rhode Island, you were a Republican. When you were elected governor, you were an independent. You've only been a Democrat for little more than two years. Why should Democratic voters trust you won't change again?


COOPER: Governor O'Malley, the concern of voters about you is that you tout our record as Baltimore's mayor. As we all know, we all saw it. That city exploded in riots and violence in April.

The current top prosecutor in Baltimore, also a Democrat, blames your zero tolerance policies for sowing the seeds of unrest. Why should Americans trust you with the country when they see what's going on in the city that you ran for more than seven years?


COOPER: Senator Webb, in 2006, you called affirmative action "state-sponsored racism." In 2010, you wrote an op/ed saying it discriminates against whites. Given that nearly half the Democratic Party is non-white, aren't you out of step with where the Democratic Party is now?
That was typical of the debate. Do you see any questions about handsomeness? Neither do I. But conservatives feel entitled to their own facts as well as their own opinions.


It's fairly obvious now that Jeb Bush is toast. But did last night's debate kill his chances -- or just make obvious the fact that the campaign has been terminal for a while?

I'm looking at a couple of newly released state polls that were conducted before the debate. The results, for Jeb, aren't pretty.

One was conducted last week in Oklahoma by The Oklahoman. Here are the top finishers:
Carson 25
Trump 19
Rubio 9
Cruz 7
Huckabee 4
Bush 3
There are similar numbers in this Franklin & Marshall poll of Pennsylvania, conducted October 19-25:
Trump 23
Carson 22
Rubio 13
Kasich 6
Cruz 4
Bush 3
Christie 3
Fiorina 3
Yeah, Jeb's been in the doldrums in a lot of polls. But 3%? Seriously? In the Pennsylvania poll at least, that's below the margin of error (+/- 3.9%).

I think it's been over for a while for Jeb. His remaining voters were heading for the exits before last night. Now the pundits finally get it.


In my previous post, I approvingly quoted a tiny bit of this Weekly Standard debate wrap-up by Jonathan Last -- but I disagree with part of Last's main premise. He thinks we have a "final six" in the Republican race -- six remaining serious contenders -- and Jeb Bush is not one of them. I'm with him on that. I'm with him on including Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio in the final six. I understand including Ted Cruz. (Until now, Cruz hasn't seemed able to translate his burn-it-all-down talk into voter support, but sooner or later he might.)

However, Last is dead wrong to include Carly Fiorina and (especially) Chris Christie.

I told you last month that Fiorina would fade in the polls after a good debate performance, and she did. I told you why she'd fade: Republicans like their women tough but smiley and down-home (even fake down-home) -- like Sarah Palin and Joni Ernst. And what I wrote then seemed true again last night: "Fiorina's words are brined in contempt -- nearly every sentence she utters seems as if it could be completed by an unspoken 'you idiots.'" It's true that men in politics are allowed to be tough and nasty in ways that women are expected not to be, but even men can't be as huffy and contemptuous as Fiorina is, unless they're laser-targeting the contempt at enemies of their voters. Fiorina seems contemptuous of everyone. It doesn't work. In presidential elections, we elect happy warriors -- even people who don't fake it well (Nixon) at least try to seem cheerful and upbeat. She doesn't try.

But Chris Christie, surprisingly, has also become an unhappy warrior. It's odd, because in his heyday, while he always seemed to be angry at someone, he seemed to be having a terrific time being angry. He invited his supporters to share in the joy he felt expressing his wrath, and they did. (They hated the union teachers who challenged him, too.) Now Donald Trump is the angry guy who's having a great time. (Or at least he was up until the last few weeks -- notice that he's mellowed and he's slipping in the polls? Think it's a coincidence that he's not going gangbusters now that he's dialed down his gleeful rage?)

Christie's ideas are overwhelmingly from the conservative end of the spectrum, but he seems to have decided to run a Tom Friedman, Simpson-Bowles, No Labels sort of campaign. He seems to have swallowed the notion -- a favorite of centrist pundits everywhere -- that voters will thrill to the words of a prophet of doom who tells them that they have to shut up and eat their benefit cuts, for the good of the nation. A thousand op-eds have told Christie that voters want to hear this, and he seems certain that it will prove to be true.

Thus, we had this last night:
QUICK: Governor Christie, I'd like to (inaudible) a question next. Actually, I have a question for you (inaudible).

In your tell it like it is campaign, you've said a lot of tough things. You've said that we need to raise the retirement age for Social Security. You think that we need to cut benefits for people who make over $80,000 and eliminate them entirely for seniors who are making over $200,000.

Governor Huckabee, who is here on the stage, has said that you and others who think this way are trying to rob seniors of the benefits that they've earned. It raises the question: When it is acceptable to break a social compact?

CHRISTIE: Well, I wish you would have asked that question years ago when they broke it. I mean, let me be honest with the people who are watching at home. The government has lied to you and they have stolen from you. They told you that your Social Security money is in a trust fund. All that's in that trust fund is a pile of IOUs for money they spent on something else a long time ago.

And they've stolen from you because now they know they cannot pay these benefits and Social Security is going to be insolvent in seven to eight years. We're sitting up here talking about all these other things; 71 percent of federal spending today is on entitlements, and debt service. And, that's with zero percent interest rates.

Now, I'm the only person that's put out a detailed plan on how to deal with entitlements. And we'll save a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. And, here's the difference between me and Hillary Clinton. What Hillary Clinton's going to say, and has said before is, she wants to raise Social Security taxes.

Now, let me ask you a question everybody, and, this is for the guy, you know, who owns a landscaping business out there. If somebody's already stolen money from you, are you going to give them more? Or, are you going to deal with the problem by saying, I'm going to give people who've done well in this country less benefit on the backend. We need to get realistic about this. We're not -- the American people -- forget about anything else, they've already been lied to and stolen from. And...
Wow, there's an inspiring bumper sticker: VOTE CHRISTIE: We Need to Get Realistic.

And, later:
CHRISTIE: ...The only way we're going to be moral, the only way we're going to keep our promise to seniors is start by following the first rule we should all follow, which is to look at them, treat them like adults, and tell them the truth.

It isn't there anymore, Mike. They stole it. It got stolen from them. It's not theirs anymore. The government stole it, and spent it a long time ago...

HUCKABEE: ...Chris...

CHRISTIE: So, let's stop fooling around about this, let's tell people the truth. For once, let's do that, and stop trying to give them some kind of fantasy that's never going to come true.
There's no hope, America! Vote for me!

No, folks, this is not going to work for Chris Christie. Americans may sometimes want to elect a Republican Dad, but they don't want to elect one who says he'll send them to bed without their supper.


I'm not sure I believe the political-insider wisdom that Marco Rubio was the big winner in last night's debate -- when I look at the coverage on conservative sites, I see much more praise being lavished on Ted Cruz. (Blog post cited at Free Republic: "Happy-Warrior Cruz CRUSHED It Last Night..."; post at the Right Scoop: "Ted Cruz OBLITERATES CNBC on their BIASED questions and gets HUGE applause for it!!")

But Rubio did quite well. He attacked the media in a way that drew applause from the conservatives in the debate audience, and he deployed sentiment and smarm in a way that really could work in general-election politics. I think Jonathan Last of The Weekly Standard has a point:
... what should scare Hillary Clinton is how effortless Rubio is even with throwaway lines, like “I’m against anything that’s bad for my mother.”
What has the chattering class talking, of course, is Rubio's counterattack on Jeb Bush, a guy the chatterers continue to believe has a chance to win this race -- or at least they believed that until last night. (I think Jeb lost the race long ago, but he retained the ability to gum up the works for an actually electable mainstream candidate -- probably Rubio. I don't think that's changed, because Jeb won't quit and he still has money.) You know the moment that got insiders' hearts racing:
Mr. Rubio has missed more votes than any other senator this year. Mr. Bush ... blasted Mr. Rubio over his work ethic....

“Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term -- you should be showing up to work,” Mr. Bush said. “I mean, literally, the Senate, what is it, like a French workweek? You get like three days where you have to show up?”

Mr. Rubio hit back forcefully, noting that Mr. Bush has said he is modeling his campaign after Senator John McCain’s in 2008, and that Mr. McCain missed many votes in the chamber during that run. And he attributed the criticism to the fact that Mr. Bush is struggling in the polls.

“The only reason you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you,” Mr. Rubio said.
Rubio got the better of this because he took the punch and hit back. But it occurs to me that maybe we've been looking at this story all wrong, and we still are. We saw Senate absenteeism as a vulnerability for Rubio, and now we see it as a vulnerability he's dealt with.

But what if it's an advantage for him that he's blowing off his Senate job and letting the country know that he loathes the Senate?

Think about who's been dominating the Republican race: two candidates who've never held office. Just being in government at all, in the present or the past, is regarded by Republican voters as a mark of shame, even for an insubordinate delinquent like Ted Cruz. It's a sign that you've had a chance to establish the Wingnut Utopia and you've failed. (That's what right-wingers actually believe.)

So when Rubio embraced his distaste for the Senate, maybe some GOP voters decided that he hates government as much as they do. Maybe this helps Rubio.

I can't tell. And with regard to the debates, I still don't understand how they work. I don't understand why Ben Carson and Donald Trump always seem to come out of them stronger, no matter how poorly they perform. I expect that to be true again. I expect Rubio and Cruz to get poll bumps, though I suspect they won't last any longer than the bump Carly Fiorina got from the last debate. But I really don't know.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Politico says that Jeb Bush's people were unhappy with the way CNBC handled tonight's debate:
Jeb Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz got into a heated confrontation with a CNBC producer outside the debate as it was happening, according to two sources familiar with the incident.

One of the sources said Diaz was complaining about speaking time allotments.

“It’s a poorly managed debate,” said a Bush campaign staffer.
Jeb was the guy on stage. He was face-to-face with the moderators. Why didn't he say anything about this himself if he and the rest of Team Jeb were so steamed? Nothing plays better with GOP voters than an attack on the media, as other candidates recognized:
Attack on Media for Bias Big Theme at CNBC Republican Debate

“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media,” Sen. Ted Cruz said in answer to question about his opposition to the 2-year budget and fiscal cliff deal advancing in Congress.

“This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions -- ’Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?’ ’Ben Carson, can you do math?’ ’John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?’ ’Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?’ ’Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?’ Cruz said

“How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about?"; crowd erupted in applause

Rubio issued several attacks on media, including: "The Democrats have the ultimate Super PAC: it’s called the mainstream media"

Referring to editorial in his homestate of Fla suggesting he resign from Senate, given key votes he has missed, Rubio said: ‘‘This is another example of the double standard that exists in this country between the mainstream media and the conservative movement”
If Jeb had a complaint, he should have voiced it on the air. He should have mingled it with a broader attack on the moderators and the media in general. GOP voters eat that kind of thing up.

But no. Jeb has people to do the complaining for him. He's not going to get into it with the moderators. He's not going to scrap. He's above that sort of thing.

And that's why he's losing so badly.


I don't agree with Hot Air's Allahpundit on very many issues, but he's not a bad political analyst. He's noticed a pattern in the GOP polls, one that contradicts the "Trump fades, Carson surges" narrative -- possibly:
The latest national poll from YouGov has [Donald Trump] north of 30 percent, comfortably ahead of Ben Carson.

This is a poll of Republican registered voters, not likely voters.
And that's the key point -- Trump's still leading in polls of registered voters.
It may be the case, as yesterday’s Reuters poll suggests, that Trump does worse in polls of likely voters because some chunk of his base consists of disaffected Republicans who don’t much bother to vote anymore.
(In the Reuters poll, Carson led Trump 33%-26% among likely voters.)
If Trump can convince those people to turn out, he’s an even bigger threat to win than everyone thinks. If he can’t, then some of the splashier polls, like this one, showing him leading big among registered voters are overstating his actual strength on election night. In fact, this is just the second poll tracked by RCP since September 10th to show Trump north of 30 percent. The other, from ABC/WaPo, was also a poll of registered voters.
So if Trump can get people who usually don't turn out to show at caucuses and polling places, then he's still the guy to beat. I think it's possible that those people will be more motivated to vote, because voting for Trump is a thumb in the system's eye. But it's true that he'll need to get them to follow through. And maybe neither of these neophytes can do that. But we'll see in a few months.


A number of Republican presidential candidates who aren't in the first tier are upset:
DENVER, Colo. -- Just hours before GOP candidates take the stage here Wednesday night, tensions over the Republican National Committee’s handling of the debates are flaring anew.

At issue this time: greenrooms.

During a tense 30-minute meeting at the Coors Event Center, which was described by three sources present, several lower-polling campaigns lashed out at the RNC. They accused the committee of allotting them less-than-hospitable greenroom spaces while unfairly giving lavish ones to higher-polling candidates, such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
The drama began Tuesday afternoon as RNC officials led campaigns on a walk-through of the debate site. After touring the stage, candidates got a peek at what their greenrooms looked like.

Trump was granted a spacious room, complete with plush chairs and a flat-screen TV. Marco Rubio got a theater-type room, packed with leather seats for him and his team of aides. Carly Fiorina’s room had a Jacuzzi....

Then there was Chris Christie, whose small space was dominated by a toilet. So was Rand Paul’s....

As a longtime office worker, let me just say to the disappointed candidates: Welcome to my world.

Did any of you ever work at a real job? The first workspace I was assigned to in my current position was literally a repurposed closet; this was, I think, the second time I'd been asked to work in a former storage area. Actually, the previous one, I think, still was a closet when I worked there; fortunately, most of what was stored there wasn't in frequent demand, so interruptions weren't all that common.

Many an office worker is assigned a terrible space intended for other uses, while much more pleasant digs go to higher-ups -- some of whom may have cushy deals that allow them to show up at the office no more than a dozen days a year, leaving the nicest work areas empty much of the year. Oh, and I haven't even started to talk about the horror of "open plan" offices or cubicle farms, which are sold to corporations as a means of encouraging collaboration, but instead lead to staffs of workers using headphones as a way of obtaining a modicum of relief from ambient chatter and foot traffic.

Crappy work areas? Unequal distribution of those work areas? You think it's an outrage. Many of us think it's ordinary life.


Paul Ryan is about to become Speaker of the House, and he's expected by some to be a healer; before he gets the job, a budget deal that will prevent a default or shutdown will pass Congress and be signed by the president. In the GOP presidential race, Donald Trump has lost his lead -- yes, he's been replaced by Ben Carson, who's as demagogic as Trump and as poorly informed, but hey, at least Carson is soft-spoken and thoughtful rather than brash and boorish. Oh, and if Trump can fade, surely Carson will fade next, and then we'll have a sober-sided, within-the-pale Republican presidential nominee to go along with our new consensus-choice Speaker. Maybe it'll be Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio -- or maybe it'll be that nice John Kasich, who's mad as heck about the irrationality of Trump and Carson!

Yes, the fever is passing, isn't it? Republicans will start playing well with others any minute now, won't they?

Um, no -- not if this is indicative of the mood among Repubican voters:
If this PPP poll of NC Republicans is any indication, a Clinton presidency in 2017 is going to be splendiferous quantities of awesome from day one.

No one in the media will take this poll seriously, just as no one has ever taken seriously the many, many polls showing that Republicans doubt President Obama was born in the United States. These polls weren't taken seriously even after a birther led GOP presidential polls for three months. And no, the North Carolina Republicans who say this aren't just angry Trump and Carson backers -- according to the poll's crosstabs, 71% of that nice Marco Rubio's supporters think Clinton should be impeached immediately, as do 72% of Chris Christie supporters and 95% of Rand Paul supporters.

The trend-piece writers in the political press are itching to declare that the current craziness in the GOP is temporary. It's not. It's endemic, and it's only going to get worse.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


David Corn of Mother Jones thinks the tenets of Ben Carson's Seventh-Day Adventist faith are an unexploded bomb for him in a party that's heavily evangelical:
Carson is a Seventh-day Adventist who has publicly voiced his commitment to this church and championed its core beliefs, most notably the view that God created the world in six days (literally) and that evolution is bunk (and encouraged by the devil). He has spoken at Seventh-day Adventist events. In a 2013 interview with the church's official news service, he was asked, "Are there ever any times when you feel it's best to distinguish yourself from the Seventh-day Adventist Church and what it teaches?" Carson replied, "No, I don’t."

... a central belief of the church is that most other Christian denominations will end up working with the devil. Seventh-day Adventists hold that the Sabbath should be worshipped on Saturday and that religions that observe the Sabbath on Sunday have been corrupted by Satan. The church's early prophet Ellen White cast much of the blame for this supposed perversion of the Sabbath on the Roman Catholic Church.

... the official position of the Seventh-day Adventists incorporates White's forecast that other Christian denominations will partner up with Satan. This is church doctrine.

... Here's the political question: Do the evangelical voters who are drawn to Carson because of his articulate and forceful professions of his Christian faith realize that he may well consider them future allies of Satan? And if they did, would this matter to them?
Sounds risky for Carson, right? Sounds as if he might have trouble with evangelicals once they learn more about him -- right?

Or maybe not, as a New York Times story about Carson's faith makes clear. Remember how much difficulty Mitt Romney was supposed to have with evangelicals because he's a Mormon?
In 2008 and 2012, Mitt Romney had to explain to voters what it meant to be a Mormon, and despite losing the last election, he won nearly 80 percent of the evangelical vote.
This year, Donald Trump has tried to distinguish himself from Carson:
“I’m Presbyterian,” Mr. Trump proclaimed at a rally in Florida last Saturday. “Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about.”
But this sounds really plausible to me:
... will Mr. Carson’s religion affect his prospects with conservative evangelicals in places such as Iowa? So far it has not been a problem.

“I think a lot of evangelicals would say they would rather have a practicing Adventist than a nominal Presbyterian who doesn’t seem to have basic theological understanding about Christianity,” said Thomas Kidd, a professor of history and religion at Baylor University in Texas. “Even if he’s not an evangelical like us, he’s sort of a friendly fellow traveler in a way that Trump is not.”

Bob Vander Plaats, president and chief executive of The Family Leader, a social conservative group in Iowa, said his members had not yet expressed concern about Mr. Carson’s religion....

“I think Trump threw out the fleece to let people check it out,” Mr. Vander Plaats said of why he thought Mr. Carson’s religion suddenly became an issue. “People of faith will be more interested in the fruit of leadership, policy and does it align with honoring God or dishonoring God.”
I agree with what Kidd and Vander Plaats say about evangelicals seeing Carson as "a friendly fellow traveler," though I see this in a much more cynical way. I don't believe religion is exclusively or even primarily about religion for these people -- it's about tribal identification and tribal solidarity. The tribe in this case isn't the members of a particular faith tradition, but rather the overall group of heartlanders who wear their Christianity on their sleeve. They're proud Christians who talk about God a lot, and we liberals and moderates aren't, as far as they're concerned -- even those of us who believe in God aren't as demonstrative about religion as Christian conservative heartlanders of a number of faiths. They see anyone who thumps the Bible a lot and holds right-wing political beliefs and they think: one of us.

Up till now, Trump was making inroads with these people, because their true belief system is that some people (them and their kind) are just plain good, while all kinds of people are relentlessly, irredeemably evil. That's the way they look at the secular world, too, and Trump seems to look at it the same way. But so does Carson -- and he's a God-botherer. Of what kind? It doesn't matter, as long as he's Christian. (They would also accept a right-wing Jew.)

Hell, the favorite candidates of the Christian right before the GOP settled on Romney in 2012 were two Catholics, Rick Santorum and the more recent convert Newt Gingrich. The fact that Evangelicals and Catholics didn't get along in the past meant nothing. More recently they've bonded around a shared opposition to abortion, gay marriage, and other manifestations of what they see as sinfulness.

It's happening with Carson now. Evangelical voters won't care about doctrine. All they'll care about is that he's a Christian and he's a conservative who divides the world into good and evil.


UPDATE: Just wanted to add this, from Reality Chex:
BTW, every time Carson uses the word "secular," in whatever context -- & he uses it often -- that's a dogwhistle to evangelicals. (When Carson asked for Secret Service protection, for instance, he said the reason was that "I’m in great danger because I challenge the secular progressive movement to the very core.")


Given the fact that Republicans loved the Iraq War and loved George W. Bush-era torture, I think it might make sense for brother Jeb to embrace W -- but not like this:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says his brother George W. Bush responded in an “awe-inspiring” way to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and suggests he would learn from his sibling's leadership if he wins the presidency.

The Republican presidential candidate’s comments ... were made in a staged conversation with his brother at a Bush family donor retreat in Houston on Monday....

“The case study of leadership is how George responded to 9/11, period, over and out,” Jeb told the audience of some 175 donors and supporters who gathered in a ballroom at a Houston hotel, according to a pool report.
Let me list the ways Jeb is screwing this up.

You want to embrace the George W presidency? Do it in public, on camera, not in a secret family confab with a pool reporter transcribing the comments. Jeb should own his brother's presidency. If he does it blatantly enough, then -- like Trump bashing Mexicans or Carson talking about Hitler -- he'll be pushing the limits of acceptable political discourse. This is his chance to be "politically incorrect" -- in fact, what would work is for Jeb to say something like "I'm proud of my brother's presidency, and I don't care if that's politically incorrect!" Wingnut voters never tire of that sort of phony defiance.

He also shouldn't limit himself to a tear-jerking recollection of the immediate aftermath of 9/11:
“How he responded to 9/11," Jeb Bush said of his brother, "was just awe-inspiring.

“People were united. And people really got it that he had a heart for them,” Bush added. “At that time, as you know, kids were crying. All around people, children and grandchildren didn’t know what was going on.

“The whole world was turned upside down, and you had a president who was staid and sure and strong.”
No -- he should embrace the war. As I said a couple of weeks ago, he should embrace it the way Ronald Reagan embraced the Vietnam War when he described it on the 1980 campaign trail as a "noble cause." He should double back on rejecting the war. He should express admiration for Dick Chene. He should praise W's "freedom agenda" (that could still be a catnippy phrase for conservatives). He should invoke dimming memories of "liberated," purple-fingered voters.

Really, he's going nowhere doing what he's doing now, so he has nothing to lose by doing this. The electorate he's trying to reach is so crazy, so hungry for outside-the-established-limits red meat, that it just might work.


I hate to say I told you so, but....
Ben Carson has taken a narrow lead nationally in the Republican presidential campaign, dislodging Donald J. Trump from the top spot for the first time in months, according to a New York Times/CBS News survey released on Tuesday.

Mr. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, is the choice of 26 percent of Republican primary voters, the poll found, while Mr. Trump now wins support from 22 percent, although the difference lies within the margin of sampling error.

The survey is the first time that Mr. Trump has not led all candidates since The Times and CBS News began measuring presidential preferences at the end of July.
I predicted a few weeks ago that he was going to move into the lead -- as he's already done in Iowa, according to three recent polls. I said that his extreme statements were likely to cause a poll surge, even as the mainstream media called them gaffes. And I told you that the suspension of his campaign for a weeks-long book tour was just campaigning by other means.

But what happens now? As Donald Trump's lead persisted for months, he struck me as someone who really could hang on for the long haul, because he was giving crazy-base voters a combination of boorish "political incorrectness" and the sense that he had a Master of the Universe's can-do spirit. I think it's possible that he and Carson could go nose to nose all the way to the voting -- as we're told by the Times,
The new poll found that Mr. Trump’s supporters are firmer in their support than Mr. Carson’s. A majority of Trump supporters, 55 percent, said their minds were made up.
Whereas, for Carson,
... 80 percent of Carson backers said it was too early to say for sure that they would eventually support him.
But can Trump continue to send a tingle up his voters' legs if he's not the alpha dog in the polls? Oliver Willis is right:

If Trump is stuck at #2, will he fade? Will he start sounding like -- oh, what's the word I'm looking for? -- a loser?

I know that's what the GOP Establishment hopes for. But that's accompanied by a hope that Carson will also fade -- and I think it's extremely unlikely that GOP voters' desire to toss a bomb into the whole system by voting for a real outsider will fade. The only scenarios I can imagine in which both Trump and Carson fade involve a Fiorina resurgence (though, as I said last month, she's just not the kind of cheerily nasty good ol' gal GOP voters like, i.e., not a Sarah Palin or Joni Ernst) or possibly a Cruz surge (though he's in government, which, to GOP voters, means he has the chance to blow the system up and he's failing -- I know he's just waiting to hoover up Trump's voters after a Trump fade, but the new poll has him languishing at 4%).

I wonder, though, how Carson is going to weather the inevitable opposition-research attacks spoon-fed to various media outlets. Is there anything that can undermine him? I think, to some extent, he'll have some of Trump's Teflon -- it won't matter if there are embarrassing facts in his past, or heterodox opinions. We already know that he used to believe in some gun control, but he's been so pro-gun lately that his fans don't care. We know he was prone to violence as a youth, but only because he's told us that himself. To GOP base voters, there's an "Amazing Grace," "I once was lost but now I'm found" quality to both of these transformations.

I think the Establishment (and Trump) simply might not know how to attack him. Here's Joe Scarborough telling us that, good heavens, the man doesn't know how to run anything!

GOP voters don't care. They think the people who've demonstrated that they can't be president are the professional politicians, whose failure is manifested in the fact that they haven't driven liberal and moderate policies and officeholders from government altogether. GOP voters assume Trump and Carson can't do worse, so they'd probably do better. The one thing Republican voters don't want to hear is that a candidate has honed his chops in government. (I'm talking to you, Jeb -- that's never going to work.)

Trump, I think, is screwing up by talking about Carson's religion -- you're from the Northeast, Donald, so you have no idea how Christian religiosity is interpreted in the heartland.

Carson seems easier to attack than Trump, because he doesn't fight back as hard -- but some voters suddenly want an unabashedly "politically incorrect" candidate who isn't loud, and in order to appeal to those voters it's strategically shrewd for Carson not to hit back (as long as he continues to demonize abortion rights supporters, gun control advocates, and other favorite right-wing Antichrists).

With all this going on, could an Establishment candidate nudge his way into the race? I think only if other Establishment candidates drop out -- in this poll, Marco Rubio is 8 percent and Jeb is at 7. If Jeb were to quit and Rubio were to get get his votes, there's an Establishment candidate at 15 percent. But Jeb is never going to regain his mojo, though he's not going to drop out until after several contests. He's going to pull just enough votes from Rubio (the most-liked Establishmentarian) to keep Rubio from rising. (

So I think this will continue to be a two-man race, and Carson really might have a chance of winning it.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Um, I thought cops were so intimidated by cellphones these days that they're afraid to do any policing at all. Apparently this cop doesn't have that problem:

Authorities in Richland County, South Carolina, are investigating a video that surfaced Monday showing a uniformed officer aggressively confronting a high school student.... the incident ... took place on Monday at Spring Valley High School, according to school officials. The video, which appears to have been recorded on a cellphone by a classmate, shows a white male officer standing over a black female student sitting at her desk; moments later he grabs the student and flips her on her back. After dragging her across the floor, the officer says, "Hands behind your back -- give me your hands."
The officer's name is Ben Fields, and it appears that he doesn't suffer the inhibitions that FBI director James Comey claims are now widespread in the police community:
"In today's YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? Are officers answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns?" [Comey] asked in his Friday remarks. "I don't know whether this explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year. And that wind is surely changing behavior."
That "chill wind" doesn't seem to have changed the behavior of Fields, does it? Oh, and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has said similar things:
With Chicago's annual murder count soaring, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is laying blame on what he sees as the chilling effects of high-profile protests against police brutality and officers' fear of cell phone videos of their actions going viral.

"Officers themselves were telling me about how the news over the last 15 months have impacted their instincts -- do they stop, or do they keep driving? When I stop here, is it going to be my career on the line?" Emanuel said this week....
Officer Fields seems not to have let concerns like this worry him.

What Comey and Emanuel seem to be saying is that police officers routinely do things that look terrible even though they're perfectly acceptable and legal, and they need to be able to continue doing those terrible-looking but perfectly innocent things without public scrutiny. Or are they saying that cops routinely violate the law, individuals' civil rights, and common decency, and since that's just unavoidable, wouldn't it be better if people just don't see it?

Unlike the terrified, intimidated cops Comey and Emanuel warn us about, Fields seems very willing to throw his weight around, according to
Former and current students flocked to Twitter to lodge their complaints about Fields.

One student says she saw Fields “slam” a pregnant student in 2012:

Heavy also reports that Fields is facing a lawsuit -- his second.

But maybe typical cops are cowed and terrified, and Fields is just unusually fearless because he's made himself a physically intimidating figure:
According to his now-deleted Twitter account, Fields is also the defensive line and strength coach for the Spring Valley High School football team....

Videos posted on YouTube show Fields weightlifting:

Raw Story says Fields
can be seen in several videos posted four years ago by a fitness professional, Marc “Spud” Bartley.
On Bartley's YouTube page, we're told that
Marc "Spud" Bartley is an accomplished powerlifter and the Founder of Nutrition Warehouse, South Carolina Barbell and Spud Inc Straps.
I wonder if any of the products sold by Nutrition Warehouse are regularly used by Fields -- or perhaps similar products of a more, um, medical nature. And I wonder if any aspects of Fields's personality could be attributed to his consumption of these products.

In any case, Fields has now been banned from working at the school. Perhaps Comey and Emanuel feel vindicated -- another cop's career ruined! Wouldn't it be better if he could body-slam teenagers without being seen by the entire nation?


I don't agree with this Washington Post op-ed by former Obama chief of staff William Daley, and I wonder if Daley believes it himself:
The GOP’s dysfunction all started with Sarah Palin

When The Post’s front page declares: “Republicans are on the verge of ceasing to function as a national party,” it’s time to ask: How did this come to pass?

You can choose from a litany of insurrections, government shutdowns and other self-inflicted wounds. But this year’s carnival-like GOP presidential primary makes one event, in retrospect, stand out as a crucial turning point on the road to upheaval: the 2008 embrace of then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be a heartbeat from the presidency.

Palin’s blatant lack of competence and preparedness needs no belaboring. What’s critical is that substantive, serious Republican leaders either wouldn’t or couldn’t declare, before or after the election: “This is not what our party stands for. We can and must do better.”

... Palin became a Fox News fixture, reinforcing the newly formed tea party’s “never compromise” demands. Bombast, not reason, reigned. Now the “settle for flash” aura of Palin’s candidacy looks like a warning that the party was prizing glib, red-meat rhetoric over reasoned solutions.
Does Daley remember nothing from the Clinton years? The years when right-wingers openly speculated that the president and his wife had a long record of involvement in crimes such as murder and drug dealing? The years when you could reach #1 on the New York Times bestseller list with a book claiming that a Christmas tree in the Clinton White House was decorated with crack pipes and sex toys? Oh, and did I mention that moment of unpleasantness involving impeachment for lies about sex?

Daley writes:
Once McCain put Palin on the ticket, Republican “grown-ups,” who presumably knew better, had to bite their tongues. But after the election, when they were free to speak their minds, they either remained quiet or abetted the dumbing-down of the party. They stood by as Donald Trump and others noisily pushed claims that Obama was born in Kenya. And they gladly rode the tea party tiger to sweeping victories in 2010 and 2014.
Is any of that a huge leap after 2004, when Republicans rode to victory in part because of blatant lies about the Democratic presidential candidate's military record? Wasn't birtherism just a new form of Swiftboating?

All through this period, the GOP took advantage of nonsense peddlers who kept voters loyal to conservatism and the party. There were a lot of such nonsense peddlers: in the conservative Christian media, on websites such as Newsmax and World Net Daily (and, later, Breitbart), on talk radio (remember, after the 1994 midterms, the incoming GOP majority in the House made Rush Limbaugh an honorary member of their class), at conservative book publishing outfits such as Regnery, and, of course, on Fox News. The GOP clearly thought it could keep these forces under control forever -- even as late as the 2014 midterms there was the belief that the Republican Establishment had successfully tamed and domesticated the Tea Party. Maybe Palin's nomination represented a turning point -- although I don't know how can she can be regarded as much more of an ignorant simpleton than Dan Quayle or George W. Bush. I think it's more likely that what destroyed the GOP was not nominating a few simpletons, but rather a day-to-day reliance on the political equivalent of superstition.

It's possible that Daley doesn't believe what he's writing. It could be that he's just baiting Palin, in the hope that she'll resurface -- she's been lying fairly low these days -- and make the GOP seem even crazier than it already does. I hope that's what he's trying to do, and I hope it works. She's an embarrassment, and Republicans deserve all the harm she does to their reputation. But she didn't turn them into the crazy party. They were heading in the direction for a long while.


Ben Carson went on Meet the Press yesterday and said one of those things he says:
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson compared abortion to slavery in an interview on Sunday, insisting women who are raped or victims of incest should not be allowed to terminate their pregnancies. “Think about this,” Carson said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “During slavery -- and I know that’s one of those words you’re not supposed to say but I’m saying it -- during slavery, a lot of slave-owners thought they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave, anything that they chose. And what if the abolitionists had said, ‘I don’t believe in slavery but you guys do whatever you want’? Where would be?”
The New York Times would have you believe that Carson is leading in two new Iowa polls and tied in a third in spite of statements like this, not because of them:
Mr. Carson’s support has not been dimmed by his statements on the unsuitability of a Muslim to be president; his linking of gun control and the Holocaust; and his likening of President Obama’s health care law to slavery. On the contrary, 57 percent of Republicans in the [Des Moines Register] poll rated as “very attractive” his comparison of the health care law to slavery, and 73 percent said his opposition to a Muslim as president made him more attractive.
And we've been through this, of course with Donald Trump -- who also says offensive things and is still leading everywhere except Iowa.

What's going on? Yes, the things Carson and Trump say fire people up, but what do they have to do with suitability for the presidency?

Well, you have to think about what the GOP's crazy base wants. The base wants Republicans in Congress to smash the status quo right now, despite the fact that this is literally impossible, because the GOP doesn't hold the White House and doesn't have congressional majorities big enough to overturn vetoes.

But when Republican base voters perceive tyranny in America, they don't just perceive it in government. They think the culture is tyrannical. They see the culture -- the "politically correct" culture, in their words -- as a liberal-fascist dictatorship, just like the Obama presidency.

The difference, in their eyes, is that Carson and Trump actually are striking serious blows against this fascist dictatorship. Congress hasn't found a way to repeal Obamacare or crush Planned Parenthood or permanently block the next debt-ceiling increase or make gay marriage illegal again, and that makes GOP base voters furious at all the party's politicians because, dammit, they ought to be able to do something -- but Ben Carson can say "Nazi, Nazi, Nazi" and get away with it, and Donald Trump can say that undocumented immigrants are feral rapists and get away with that, and that, to Republican voters, is a real blow against the liberal-fascist power structure.

So to you, to me, to the non-conservative media, and even to the Republican mainstream, it looks as if Carson and Trump have never demonstrated that they can be at all effective in government -- but to the base they are demonstrating it, and the rest of the candidates have demonstrated nothing but helplessness, because they've never undermined totalitarianism.

I suppose there's more to the Trump/Carson phenomenon than this. But I think this is the foundation.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


I'm back, I'm jet-lagged, and I probably can't top what Yastreblyansky, Crank, and Tom posted here while I was gone. Thank you again, guys.

I've come back to discover that Jeb Bush is ... the new Hillary Clinton? She was the election's punching bag, the candidate who couldn't do anything right, but she had a fine debate, Kevin McCarthy said out loud what everyone knew about the politicization of the Benghazi committee but no one in the mainstream wanted to acknowledge, and now she's survived a day of questioning from that committee, Joe Biden's not running against her, and the fatal faceplant we're all waiting for is Jeb's.

Jeb thinks he knows what voters want to hear, and he gets it almost right, then he puts his foot in his mouth, yet it seems clear he's trying to convey an impression of himself that's exactly the opposite of how he actually comes off:
I’m not sure Jeb helped himself ... with some extremely revealing remarks he made at a rally in South Carolina. As tweeted by Jake Tapper, here’s what he said:
If this is an election about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people are literally in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.
In the first part of that, Jeb is nearly there -- and yet he really isn't. If this is an election about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, I don’t want any part of it: That's very similar to the rallying cry of the zealots -- but what they mean is: "We've got an extreme talk radio/Breitbart/RedState agenda and we're sick of seeing it fail to become law just because Establishment Republicans in power positions obsessed over some silly math that says we don't have enough votes to get what we want. We should get what we want anyway!" But what Jeb actually seem to be saying is: "We should work with Democrats to enact stuff." (I don't think he actually would, but never mind.) Jeb almost keeps it vague enough to fool his party's primary voters, and maybe this talk works in New Hampshire, where the primary voters are fairly moderate, but the wording just isn't vague enough. The zealots want no compromise, and they know compromise is what he's promising.

And then he completely loses it: I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that. He's trying to make a point about trash talk not solving our problems, but he and every other conventional candidate in the GOP race should have figured out a month or two ago that their electorate wants to hear trash talk out of an enormous sense of frustration, earned or otherwise. (To some extent we're all frustrated, but GOP voters are frustrated because they think they should be able to get everything they want, even though they lost the last two presidential elections and don't have overwhelming congressional majorities.)

Beyond that, Jeb seems to be trying to make a very Bushy point about noblesse oblige and service to country. In any election cycle, this would have been a bad way to put it -- you can say you feel called to service and imply you have other options because of your privileged status, but you can't whine about it. Even Trump gets this right -- he's said he just felt the country was in a such a bad state he felt he had no choice but to run. This is always nonsense, but it can work if said right. Jeb says it all wrong.

Is Jeb going to drop out? I see he's trimming campaign costs, though he's denying that the campaign is in trouble. Me, I don't want him to go. I look at the national race and the races in Iowa and New Hampshire and assume that if Jeb drops out, Marco Rubio will get the vast majority of his voters and make it a real horse race with Trump and Carson. I don't want that. Rubio has an excellent chance of winning a general election against Hillary Clinton.

But I think Jeb will stay in and continue to fight Rubio, Cruz, Kasich, and Fiorina for third place, thus clearing the way for a two-man nomination fight between Carson and Trump. That makes me happy. The longer the others stay in, the more likely a much less electable Trump or Carson is to win the nomination.

I think Jeb will stay in because he's talking like this:
Addressing the concern that his campaign is falling apart, Bush responded, “Blah blah blah blah, that’s my answer, blah blah blah.” He further dismissed the idea by jokingly referring to the ‘presidencies’ of Herman Cain, Hillary Clinton, and Rudy Giuliani, candidates who led polls early in their respective campaigns only to fall behind by the primary election. “October is not when you elect people, it’s February, and then you move into March and we have a campaign that is designed to win,” said Bush.
He thinks he has "a campaign that is designed to win." I think he has the kind of campaign that could have won a primary race years ago, but not this year. But his failure to understand that will keep him in for a long while.

I also suspect it's something he has to plug away at in order to save face within his family. As The New York Times tells us today, Poppy Bush, 91 and wheelchair-bound, is obsessed with the race. He's the patriarch of a family that's famous for being fiercely competitive at trivial things, like horseshoes. Remember, Dad won a presidential race in 1988 after trailing by 17 points just after the Democratic convention. It's a quitters-never-win kind of family (though the persistence is usually accompanied by the employment of amoral attack dogs like Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes, and Karl Rove, an approach Jeb isn't taking yet).

So I don't think Jeb will drop out until he loses the Florida primary, and that's more than a dozen contests in. That's excellent news for Carson and Trump -- and, ultimately, for America.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Why does James Comey hate cops?

"A hunky Baltimore police officer has been inundated with marriage proposals after a photo of him cuddling a stray kitten he rescued and then adopted went viral....  The image [of Jon Boyer with friend] received more than 4,000 likes and several hundred comments praising his selfless work -- and handsome looks." (Daily Mail) How many politicians got on his case for this unseemly publicity?
We're accustomed to various privately funded agents of fascism—the heads of police benevolent associations, the radio-talk Ciceros—issuing blackmail threats on behalf of the police, to the effect that if the behavior of cops is subjected to some kind of public scrutiny cops will just refuse to protect us.

And I generally discount it, because I believe the responsible figures who tell me that the vast majority of police officers are serious and dutiful and good people who would never dream of conducting their work like a protection racket, and have no reason to fear seeing it exposed. At least I'd like to believe them, but it's somehow not very easy to find out how true that is.

But I get taken a little aback when the director of the FBI does it, as reported today:
Mr. Comey lent the prestige of the F.B.I., the nation’s most prominent law enforcement agency, to a theory that is far from settled: that the increased attention on the police has made officers less aggressive and emboldened criminals. But he acknowledged that there is so far no data to back up his assertion and that it may be just one of many factors that are contributing to the rise in crime, like cheaper drugs and an increase in criminals who are being released from prison.
“I don’t know whether that explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement over the last year,” Mr. Comey said in a speech at the University of Chicago Law School....
Really? Even though that "rise in crime" is fictionalas FBI reports make clear? And even though logically it's a bit of a stretch to move from "there's no evidence this effect exists" to "therefore it may not be the only factor"?

As a matter of fact, rates on specific violent crimes, notably homicide, are somewhat up in a few cities, such as Oakland or Washington, even though total shootings continue to decline in those cities as well, and the Times article notes that. If there's an empirically observable phenomenon there that demands a causal explanation there, it's the way murderers appear to have gotten more efficient, killing more people with fewer bullets. What's going on with that? Are they out on the range practicing? Are they buying better quality ammunition?

Are they using more lethal weapons that are legally hard or impossible to obtain in Washington or Oakland, maybe smuggled from states with laxer laws like Virginia and Arizona, because Congress refuses to contemplate stricter federal gun control, perchance? Because when I think "chill wind", I generally think "Republican".
Mr. Comey said that he had been told by many police leaders that officers who would normally stop to question suspicious people are opting to stay in their patrol cars for fear of having their encounters become worldwide video sensations. That hesitancy has led to missed opportunities to apprehend suspects, he said, and has decreased the police presence on the streets of the country’s most violent cities.
“I’ve been told by a senior police leader who urged his force to remember that their political leadership has no tolerance for a viral video,” Mr. Comey said, adding that many leaders and officers whom he had spoken to said they were afraid to address the issue publicly.
You notice he says "leader", not "chief" or "commissioner". Wouldn't be surprised if he was talking about a PBA head.

But you know the theory of how we should accept certain levels of surveillance in our lives, because if we're not doing anything wrong we have nothing to fear? That's obviously a stupid argument, because we could have all kinds of reasons for not wishing to be watched, in our private lives, and it's really nobody's business what the reasons are, either, because it is, precisely, private.

By the same token, it does apply to police officers on duty: that's a public position. A cop on duty shouldn't be doing anything that will get him or her in trouble if it's on video. (It's not the virality of the video that counts, a video of cops rescuing a kitten out of a tree or what have you is certainly going to go viral without giving them career problems. It's only when you get caught being unprofessional or abusive.)
“Our officers are very, very sensitive to the climate right now, but I haven’t seen any evidence to say our officers aren’t doing their jobs,” [Oakland police chief Sean] Whent said. In Washington, homicides are also up, but violent crime and crime over all are down, said Lt. Sean Conboy, a police spokesman. “Trying to correlate it to a Ferguson effect, I don’t believe is appropriate,” Lieutenant Conboy said.
That's what I would be happy to expect of the cops. If Comey imagines they will literally stay in the car and let some crime occur because they can't trust themselves to behave in an acceptable way, he's really insulting them. Glad there's no evidence that it's happening, but he really needs to watch himself, because there is some evidence he's an idiot.

Via Look Here 3.
On the same page as Emptywheel here, that doesn't happen every day. Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Talk Me Down Off This Ledge

It's been a week of Republicans In Disarray news, what with their little witch hunt turning into an 11-hour Clinton campaign infomercial and Paul Ryan holding out about 24 hours before caving to the demands of the Freedom caucus. Meanwhile, Trump and Carson continue to lead in the polls, while the Establishment candidates are all in single-digits. Can't anybody here play this game?

So with all this delicious Schadenfreude, why am I so gloomy?

Because as Steve points out repeatedly, Republicans are almost never punished for anything. Because perversely, Republicans' failure to govern often winds up working to their political advantage. Because there is a non-trivial probability that within the next year this will be demonstrated in apocalyptic fashion.

Less than two weeks before we hit the debt ceiling, there's no clear path to raising it. And as hilarious as Paul Ryan's fail may be, it just makes things that much more difficult, since he'll be as much a hostage to the Freedom Caucus as Boehner was. Maybe someone can see how this plays out without a default, but I can't.

And if there is a default, it won't be the Republicans who get punished. Sure, they'll get some bad press for a while. There'll be scolding editorials, maybe even calls from constituents. And...not much more.

But the longer-term economic consequences--we know who'll pay for that. If default throws us into a recession, if we're in a recession a year from now, the weakest Republican will beat the strongest Democrat. The GOP will strengthen their hold on Congress, and finally take the White House. At which point it's game over. All Dark. Forever.

And the Republicans incompetence or deliberate sabotage (likely both) will end up achieving what a billion dollars of Koch money couldn't.

That's my recurring nightmare. Someone, anyone, tell me I'm wrong about this. Please.