Bob Dole

An American Lamentation (Two by “Huh?”)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

Americans often lament the fact of their essentially two-party political league, and the top of the Libertarian ticket, Gary Johnson, is capable of providing spectacular reminders of why we tend toward the binary. The former New Mexico governor and middle-tier celebrity stoner has managed to reduce a human atrocity to yet another icon of American stupidity, which really is no good legacy to build. Yet it is true, in the American discourse, “Aleppo” is … well, Matthew Kitchen tries to explain for NBC News:

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson struggled to name a single foreign leader when asked who his favorite was during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night.

“Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that your respect and look up to. Anybody,” host Chris Matthews pushed during the event, causing Johnson to sigh loudly as his VP pick Bill Weld tried to jump in.

“I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment,” Johnson finally said, referring to his recent gaffe on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when he asked “What is Aleppo?” after he was questioned about how he would handle the conflict in the Syrian city.

So, yeah. Aleppo is … Gary Johnson being inexcusably stupid. (Look, dude, I mean, you’re, like, running for president, you know, like, aren’t you?)

And then there is Donald Trump.

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The Donald Trump Show (Un-Obama)

Donald Trump pauses during a speech while making a surprise appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., Thursday, 10 February 2011. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

This really is putting the cart before the horse, as excerpts go―

Trump is likely to have a tough time getting the Republican nomination. Back in 2000, John McCain had exactly the right message after Bill Clinton: straight talk. But conservatives didn’t trust McCain. McCain had challenged conservatives’ ascendancy over the Republican Party, so conservatives rallied behind George W. Bush. And ran a vicious campaign in the South Carolina primary to stop McCain.

Now another Bush is trying to stop the frontrunner by attacking his conservative credentials. “Mr. Trump doesn’t have a proven conservative record,” Jeb Bush charged last week. “People will vote for a proven conservative leader.” Bush is going to have to get a lot tougher than that. The Bush family proved in 1988 and 2000 that they can get pretty nasty.

Trump offers decisiveness, which is something a lot of voters are missing in President Obama. That’s why Trump has acquired a following. But brashness and boorishness come with the package, and that will make it tough for Trump to expand his following. Most voters find those qualities repugnant. And unpresidential. Too much unlike Obama.

―but the path Bill Schneider forges to that reach conclusion really is worth the time to read.

He makes a reasonable point.

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Image note: Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., Thursday, 10 February 2011. (Detail of photo by Gage Skidmore)

Schneider, Bill. “The Un-Obama”. The Huffington Post. 23 August 2015.

The Ted Cruz Show (Hair-on-Fire Apoplexy)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) responds to the 2015 State of the Union address in an online video, 20 January 2015.

“As ridiculous as Cruz’s posturing seems, it’s important to remember the broader context: national GOP candidates have a built-in incentive to be as hysterical as possible right now, in the hopes of currying favor with the party’s base. Mild, reasoned disappointment with the court doesn’t impress far-right activists; unrestrained, hair-on-fire apoplexy does.”

Steve Benen

This is an obvious point, or, at least one might think.

Steve Benen points to his msnbc colleague Benjy Sarlin’s report Friday last detailing the 2016 GOP presidential reactions following the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in favor of same sex marriage:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) went so far as to call for a constitutional convention to overturn the court’s decision while campaigning in Iowa, according to CNN. In an interview with Sean Hannity he called the back-to-back rulings on health care and gay marriage “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.”

While the Texas junior is hardly the only Republican presidential candidate opting to skip out on posturing his response within the realm of general dignity, Mr. Benen responded aptly:

Hannity, incidentally, found Cruz’s rhetoric quite compelling, responding, “I couldn’t say it more eloquently.”

For what it’s worth, it’s not hard to think of some genuinely tragic 24-hour periods in American history. The Lincoln assassination comes to mind. So does the time British troops burned the White House. There were days during the Civil War in which tens of thousands of Americans died on the battlefield. Just in the last century, we witnessed the JFK assassination, Pearl Harbor, and a corrupt president resign in disgrace.

For the Republican presidential hopeful, learning that Americans will have health benefits and loving couples will get married belongs on the same list.

The thing is that Mr. Cruz is not entirely wrong; the rest, as Benen points out, is a matter of perspective.

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Obamacare, or, a Reflection on the PPACA

President Barack Obama.

msnbc“If you’d told me five years ago that on March 23, 2015, the Affordable Care Act would exceed expectations on every possible metric, including reducing the nation’s uninsured rate by a third, I’d say ‘Obamacare’ would look like a great success. And fortunately for the country, that’s exactly what’s happened.”

Steve Benen

Perhaps it is the sort of detail that doesn’t get passed around enough, or maybe it just doesn’t seem important: Obamacare was a conservative idea.

It is a true fact that often gets overlooked amid the bluster and fury that seems pretty much all the GOP is worth anymore; the whole idea of forcing people to buy private insurance was a conservative scheme intended to fend off single payer. And, yes, it is fun sometimes to remind a conservative of this fact and then sit back to enjoy the spectacle of how many stupid excuses one will try.

Such entertainment brings no real benefit, though. As interesting as the idea might seem from afar, sitting through conservative excuses for what Republicans have done to themselves is something of an exercise in futility. That is, it might seem fun to sit by, egging Republicans on as they desperately rattle off fake fact after fake fact―did you know that Mitt Romney has always been a liberal? that Ronald Reagan never raised taxes? that Obamacare is a socialist plot?―but it is actually a tragic outcome we witness. Consider that the conservative argument against the PPACA includes calling Bob Dole―yes, that Bob Dole―a Nazi. There really is nothing about the conservative response to Obamacare that makes sense except in hindsight, when we pause to consider just how popular the alternate reality has become. Despite everything else, though, Republicans continue to hold the line; it was less than two weeks ago that Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) complained, “It’s time for the White House to stop celebrating and start thinking about the people”.

After everything else, they’re down to telling people there is nothing to see here, except, of course, for what they say is there and never mind the objective evidence speaking quite clearly otherwise.

Or, as Benen suggests:

Anniversaries are a good time to pause, reflect, and take stock, and when it comes to health care reform, objective observers are going to find it easy on the ACA’s fifth anniversary to appreciate the law’s triumphs. But it’s also a good time to take a moment to acknowledge those who told Americans exactly what to expect from the Affordable Care Act – and who got the story backwards.

We need not wonder why Republicans would prefer skip such a review.

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Benen, Steve. “5 years later, ‘Obamacare’ critics can’t believe their lying eyes”. msnbc. 23 March 2015.

Ferris, Sarah. “Top GOP senator tells White House to ‘stop celebrating’ on ObamaCare figures”. The Hill. 11 March 2015.