GOP Clown Car

The Ted Cruz Show (The Devil Inside/Lede of the Week)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, gestures while addressing the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Friday Nov. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

“A leading Satanist group is trying to distance itself from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after the presidential candidate was compared to Lucifer this week.”

Mark Hensch

This is your lede of the week.

This is also your Republican Party.

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A Clown Car Catastrophe

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

To the one, the heart of winter can be rough. To the other, as Seasonal Affective Disorder, a term I generally loathe, turns out to not be what we thought it was, anyway, that doesn’t really explain it.

Which implies it really is true: The GOP nomination contest spectacle debacle has become so depressing even I can’t cope with it.

No, really, if there is a time for whipping out posts as fast as one might, it should be now, as the Clown Car ejector seat puts on a show.

So let’s try, oh, I don’t know, let’s try Donald Trump joking about Marco Rubio’s sweat and Mitt Romney’s bowel control, and then the Florida junior’s retort about Donald Trump’s sweat and bladder control.

That was Friday. I’m pretty sure something important happened over the weekend, but … er … yeah, couldn’t tell you.

(sigh)

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Image note: Detail of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015

Benen, Steve. “Rubio follows Trump down an undignified road”. msnbce. 26 February 2016.

Garofalo, Michael. “‘He was so scared, like a little frightened puppy’: The 10 most bizarre moments from Trump’s Fort Worth rally”. Salon. 26 February 2016.

Jarrett, Christian. “Why Your Brain Actually Works Better in Winter”. Science of Us. 14 February 2016.

The Smarmy Face That Will From This Day Forth Haunt Your Sleep

Ted Cruz. (Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, via Daily Kos Comics, 2 February 2016.)Two notes here:

• Most obvious punch line ever.

• Favorite Ted Cruz caricature ever.

And when you wake in cold sweat sometime between three and dawn, utter a prayer of thanks unto Lalo Alcaraz.

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Image note: Ted Cruz wins Iowa ― Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, via Daily Kos, 2 February 2016.

The Marco Rubio Show (Rookie Hijinks)

Detail of photo by Jason Reed/Reuters.

“In essence, not voting for it is a vote against it.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

This is the Marco Rubio Show:

For months, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio has been dogged by questions about his rampant absenteeism from the Senate. On Friday, the senator from Florida missed another vote. This one stood out more than most―for the legislation’s scope and the extent of Rubio’s criticism of it.

Rubio was one of just two senators who did not vote on on a sweeping tax and spending bill that passed with bipartisan support. His three Republican Senate colleagues running for president each cast votes.

(Sullivan)

The thing is, Mr. Rubio said on Thursday he knew “enough to say we’re going to oppose it, and I know enough to say that we should use every procedural aspect that we have to slow it down and perhaps force some changes on these things that we’ve been discussing”.

Or, as Steve Benen of msnbc put it:

But when Rubio said “we,” he wasn’t referring to himself. In fact, he did not take any steps to pursue his goal: the Republican didn’t show up on Capitol Hill to try to delay the process, and a day later, Rubio also didn’t show up to vote against the bill he wanted to kill.

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Clown on Clown Debauchery

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), part of the U.S. Senate's 'Gang of Eight', speaks during a news briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., 18 April 2013. (Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed)“Marco Rubio, again, looked like three small children stacked on each other’s shoulders wearing a suit. He spent much of the evening sparring with Ted Cruz over their respective positions on immigration. When he wasn’t doing that, he was repeating the same canned answers he gives to every question. Usually, a Rubio answer starts with an anecdote about his upbringing as the child of Cuban immigrants, then devolves into a blizzard of words that tickle the Republican g-spot―opportunity, America, great, unleash, America, capitalism, America―before his sentences just sort of meander into a nothingness of a point that lies flat on the ground, as if beaten into a coma by its own banality.”

Gary Legum

Honestly, covering the GOP debates is a bit of an exercise in frustration featuring the latest culmination of a long habit―possibly a deliberate tactic, once upon a time―in which one packs so much wrongness into a political statement that critics don’t know where to begin. Gary Legum, for instance, offers a review that is ostensibly about the proposition that there arrived a moment in the CNN spectacle when it was “almost possible to like Rand Paul”.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) waits before addressing a legislative luncheon held as part of the "Road to Majority" conference in Washington, 18 June 2015. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)Which, in turn, is a personal assessment; I might not get it, but that doesn’t mean Mr. Legum is wrong―in that moment when the Kentucky junior turned on the Governor of New Jersey apparently struck a chord.

But at the same time, the Salon article actually offers another point to consider: A Republican presidential debate occurred last night, and reading through the review the most profound response I can muster is to remember just how much I loathe the phrase, “That one moment when”.

I know, I know. Still, it’s the Republican presidential contest; we have every reason to pay attention, but at some point these candidates need to actually start running for president.

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Legum, Gary. “The GOP debate’s weirdest twist: That one moment where it was almost possible to like Rand Paul”. Salon. 16 December 2015.

The Clown Car Collective

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

“It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Republican presidential hopefuls, who at least claimed to be outraged by last week’s CNBC debate, suddenly discovered the power of collective bargaining.”

Steve Benen

It is never actually useful to make such declarations after the fact, but come on, who doesn’t see that quote and experience an internal sigh of relief akin to, “Yeah, so I’m not the only one who noticed”?

And you know how it goes. You cock your head, or raise an eyebrow, and when you look around nobody else seems to be reacting, so, you know, maybe you’ve got it wrong.

Whatever. Never mind.

The moral of the story, Steve Benen’s tale, inasmuch as we might risk using the word “moral” in any context remotely related to Republicans, is actually pretty straightforward, and thus pretty much what you might expect:

Putting aside for a moment whether the list had merit―it didn’t―the underlying point was that candidates believed they could leverage their power by acting together. After all, without them, there could be no debates―networks would be expected to meet the Republicans’ demands, fearing that the candidates simply wouldn’t show up unless they were satisfied ....

.... But revolts like these only work when compatriots link arms, and in this case, Donald Trump, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, and Ted Cruz―constituting a third of the Republican field―have each said they’re not endorsing the demands.

This is a really important point. Conservative policies often seem hostile toward the collective consideration in any collective endeavor. To wit, there is a reason so many of their policies require that some people be left out, excluded from the benefit. And this is always couched in a selfish appeal. And when the underlying motivation is a Machiavellian assertion of self, working and playing well with others is behavior only cultivated for calculated purpose. That is to say, if conservatives seem to face extraordinary inherent challenges when attempting or purporting to work together, yes, there is a reason for that.

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Image note: Detail of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015

Benen, Steve. “GOP debate rebellion starts to unravel”. msnbc. 4 November 2015.

A Clown Car Presentation: Insurevirentaderble

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

Never read too much into any one poll, but the lede from Associated Press is nonetheless troubling:

Republican voters view Donald Trump as their strongest general election candidate, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that highlights the sharp contrast between the party’s voters and its top professionals regarding the billionaire businessman’s ultimate political strength.

But wait, there’s more:

Seven in 10 Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say Trump could win in November 2016 if he is nominated, and that’s the most who say so of any candidate. By comparison, 6 in 10 say the same for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who, like Trump, has tapped into the powerful wave of antiestablishment anger defining the early phases of the 2016 contest.

And then there is the reality check: “Trump and Carson are considered among the least electable general election candidates by the Republican Party’s professionals, those who are in the business of helping candidates run campaigns and win elections”, explain Steve Peoples and Emily Swanson, and in truth one need not be a political professional to figure that out. Still, though, how superstitious do we really wish to be?

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The Mike Huckabee Show (Republican Virtue)

Mike Huckabee: "I trust @BernieSanders with my tax dollars like I trust a North Korean chef with my labrador! #DemDebate" (13 October 2015, via Twitter)

In truth, given the terrible rhetoric earning Ben Carson rewards, why wouldn’t Mike Huckabee, go out of his way to throw down a racist jab that only invites reminders about the time his son sadistically killed a dog.

This is Mike Huckabee, after all.

And this is your 2016 Republican presidential clown car.

Oh, right. That. You’re going to love the follow-up.

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Image note: Composite ― Detail of photo by Charlie Niebergall/AP; tweet by Mike Huckabee, 13 October 2015.

Huckabee, Mike. “I trust Bernie Sanders with my tax dollars like I trust a North Korean chef with a labrador!” Twitter. 13 October 2015.

Lavender, Paige. “Mike Huckabee Got Pretty Racist While Live-Tweeting The Dem Debate”. The Huffington Post. 13 October 2015.

The Mike Huckabee Show (All That)

In this April 18, 2015 file photo, former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks at the Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, NH. Huckabee is set to announce he will seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He has an event planned for May 5 in his hometown of Hope, Ark., where former President Bill Clinton was also born. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

“When a candidate for the nation’s highest office is outraged by bags of snacks, it’s probably time for a shift in focus.”

Steve Benen

And, you know, walking into a gas station and seeing a bag of godawfully-flavored, rainbow-colored tortilla chips is the sort of thing that might make one chuckle and wonder quietly what Mike Huckabee would say. And, you know, in the moment it feels like hack comedy, the easy bit that anyone can write and everyone thinks of. First thing to mind, that sort of thing.

And then the Preacher Clown goes and picks a fight with a bag of chips.

Yes, really.

But here’s the thing:

Right Wing Watch noted yesterday that when Chick-fil-A faced criticism from the left, and some LGBT groups and their allies organized boycotts, Huckabee condemned the moves as “economic terrorism”.

He added that there are many companies that are led by executives with whom he disagrees, but Huckabee said he’d never call for a boycott of those businesses.

It is one thing to sit back and lob flaming softballs about a man’s word being his word, and all that, but Mr. Huckabee manages to show us, from time to time, what it looks like.

Still, though, perhaps it is most important to remember that the former Arkansas governor and one-time Southern Baptist pastor, is making a stand against efforts to reduce bullying in our society.

Blessed are the whozat?

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Image note: Former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks at the Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, New Hampshire, 18 April 2015. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Benen, Steve. “Huckabee picks a fight with a bag of chips”. msnbc. 6 October 2015.

A Clown Car Special Presentation: The Audience

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

“When those surveyed were asked to volunteer one word to describe Trump, the most frequent response was ‘idiot’ or ‘jerk’. For Fiorina, the most frequent response was ‘smart’.”

USA Today

The latest USA Today/Suffolk University poll regarding the 2016 GOP presidential contest does not tell us anything spectacularly new, though Beltway wonks are sweating and scrambling to figure out what to tell us. Meanwhile, Susan Page and Paulina Firozi offer an attempt to sort out the mess that is littered with what should be comedy gold, except it’s not actually a joke.

The carryout, though:

Graphic representing poll responses regarding 2016 GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll 24-28 Sept. 2015.“It has now come down to the GOP ‘gang of six’,” says David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University in Boston. That would be Trump, Carson, Fiorina, Rubio, Bush and Cruz. “These six contenders swallow up nearly three-quarters of the Republican vote.”

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Image notes: Top ― Detail of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015. Right ― Graphic representing poll responses regarding 2016 GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll 24-28 Sept. 2015.

Page, Susan and Paulina Firozi. “Poll: Donald Trump still on top as outsiders Fiorina, Carson rise”. USA Today. 30 September 2015.