Iran

The Marco Rubio Show (Elephant Gore Pioneer)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), talks to CNBC correspondent John Harwood during an interview at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Monday, 5 October 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

This is the Marco Rubio Show:

Speaking before dozens of influential Jewish Republicans here last week, Marco Rubio lashed out at President Obama’s foreign policy and vowed, “When I am Commander-in-Chief, I will fortify our alliance with Israel.”

Applause filled the room and Rubio sought a deeper connection. “As speaker of the Florida House,” he said, “I pioneered what became a national effort by requiring the Florida pension program to divest from companies linked to Iran’s terrorist regime.”

It was groundbreaking, but Rubio had nothing to do with creation of the legislation.

(Leary)

We have before noted that the junior U.S. Senator from Florida has shown himself something of a dim bulb in the foreign policy pack; everything from his campaign slogan to his understanding of history to his comprehension of nation-building is borrowed failure―he is a walking rehash of bad ideas and, apparently, empty bluster and braggadocio.

Here is a fun irony: With Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) palling around with terrorists, did Marco Rubio just have an “Al Gore moment”? Hindsight suggests they might actually be trying to do this; the only rational argument otherwise is the reasonable―even otherwise convincing―proposition that such endeavors require way too much effort for the payoff. But, really, can Republicans be any more ironic right now?

You know, don’t answer. Something about the elephant in the room goes here.

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The Ben Carson Show (Phenomenon)

Source photos: Ben Carson announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, 5 May 2015 (Paul Sancya/AP). A biblical inscription is chiseled into the wall of Ben Carson's home, with 'proverbs' spelled incorrectly (Mark Makela/The Guardian, 2014).

Tom McCarthy tries to explain the Ben Carson phenomenon for The Guardian:

He is more than an American success story, brilliant brain surgeon and bestselling author of 10 Christian-themed books. He has also coined some of the most outlandish statements ever uttered on the national stage, a purveyor of bizarre conspiracy theories and a provocateur who compares abortion to slavery and same-sex marriage to pedophilia.

This week, Carson restated his belief that the pyramids were built by the biblical Joseph to store grain, and not by Egyptians to entomb their kings. He believes that Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Abbas attended school together in Moscow in 1968. He believes that Jews with firearms might have been able to stop the Holocaust, that he personally could stop a mass shooting, that the Earth was created in six days and that Osama bin Laden enjoyed Saudi protection after 9/11.

The Carson conundrum is not fully captured by a list of his eccentric beliefs, however. He also confounds the traditional demographics of US politics, in which national African American political figures are meant to be Democrats. Not only is Carson a Republican – he is a strong conservative on both social and economic issues, opposing abortion including in cases of rape and incest, and framing welfare programs as a scheme to breed dependence and win votes.

He has visited the riot zones of Ferguson and Baltimore but offered little compassion for black urban poor populations who feel oppressed by mostly white police forces.

Even Carson’s core appeal as a Christian evangelical is complicated by the fact that he is a lifelong adherent to a relatively small sect, the Seventh-Day Adventist church, whose celebration of the sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday and denial of the doctrine of hell have drawn accusations of heresy from other mainstream Christian groups.

That last probably plays more strongly with the British audience; in the United States, Christian is as Christian does; Dr. Carson’s penchant for false witness and exclusionary, judgmental scorn are his own ad hoc iteration of faith, shot through with neurotic self-contradiction as it struggles to justify his self-centered pretense of humility. If one seeks strangeness about the SDA experience in general, it is a different phenomenon.

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A Meandering Consideration of Absolutism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, 3 March 2015.  (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“Maybe it’s an unfortunate hallmark of contemporary conservative thought?”

Steve Benen

Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan offers an interesting consideration:

It’s looking more and more like Benjamin Netanyahu committed a strategic blunder in so ferociously opposing the Iran nuclear deal and in rallying his American allies to spend all their resources on a campaign to kill the deal in Congress.

SlateIf current trends hold, the Israeli prime minister and his stateside lobbyists—mainly AIPAC—are set to lose this fight. It’s politically risky for Israel’s head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it’s catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it’s a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn’t so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.

It would have been better for Netanyahu—and for Israel—had he maybe grumbled about the Iran deal but not opposed it outright, let alone so brazenly. He could have pried many more favors from Obama in exchange for his scowl-faced neutrality. Not that Obama, or any other American president, will cut Israel off; but relations will remain more strained, and requests for other favors (for more or bigger weapons, or for certain votes in international forums) will be scrutinized more warily, than they would have been.

There is, of course, much more to Kaplan’s consideration, including the implications of current Congressional momentum and the widening gap between the credibility of favoring and opposing arguments. Toward the latter, he notes, “Most criticisms of the deal actually have nothing to do with the deal”, and that’s about as least unfavorable as his critique of the criticism gets.

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A Growing Nuclear Arsenal

Detail of the flag of Pakistan.

The first thing to not do is panic:

A new report by two American think tanks asserts that Pakistan may be building 20 nuclear warheads annually and could have the world’s third-largest nuclear stockpile within a decade.

The report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center concludes that Pakistan is rapidly expanding its nuclear capabilities because of fear of its archrival, India, also a nuclear power. The report, which will be released Thursday, says Pakistan is far outpacing India in the development of nuclear warheads.

To the other, neither is Tim Craig’s report for the Washington Post what we might call encouraging.

Something about the #GOP47 goes here, and maybe Congress might consider doing its job instead of whining like Republicans … er … ah … oh. Right.

Still, though, there is a reason this is all happening, and it’s not exactly newsα. In terms of geopolitics, the American conservative handwringing about the P5+1 nonproliferation accord with Iran seems ever more ridiculous, and could very well prove dangerous.

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α See also:

Dhoundial, Shreva. “Indian Army denies any ‘unusual’ Pakistan troop along the border in J&K”. IBN Live. 2 January 2015.

Farooq, Umar. “Afghanistan-Pakistan: The Covert War”. The Diplomat. 1 January 2014.

Toosi, Nahal. “Swat Valley: Scenic Pakistani Region Falls To Taliban Militants”. The Huffington Post. 29 January 2009.

Dugger, Celia W. “Big Troop Buildup Mounted by India and Pakistan”. The New York Times. 25 December 2001.

Benen, Steve. “After sabotage letter, Cotton wants US to ‘speak with one voice'”. msnbc. 26 August 2015.

—————. “GOP discovers it doesn’t like filibusters after all”. msnbc. 27 August 2015.

Craig, Tim. “Report: Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal could become the world’s third-biggest”. The Washington Post. 27 August 2015.

The Ted Cruz Show (Deeply Invested)

TedCruz-bw-banner

Ladies and gentlemen, this is The Ted Cruz Show:

Ted Cruz for President 2016 logo.Sen. Ted Cruz said Sunday that doing everything possible to thwart the Iran deal should include states exploring imposing their own sanctions.

The Republican presidential candidate from Texas was asked at a raucous town hall-style forum here about the prospects of states taking action to impose sanctions on the money the Obama administration has agreed to release as part of the deal regarding the country’s nuclear development.

“I think that states should act and lead to do exactly that,” Cruz said.

You may, of course, proceed to laugh yourself to emergency surgery if you are so inclined, but the Texas junior isn’t done yet, as Niels Lesniewski makes clear for Roll Call. Mr. Cruz recalled an occasion when, as solicitor general, he rebuffed an attempt by President George W. Bush to force Texas to apply the authority of the International Criminal Court. Roll Call On the Road.Without drawing any connection to his proposition that states conduct geopolitics, Cruz reminded, “The court further concluded that no president, Republican of Democrat, has the constitutional authority to give up U.S. Sovereignty. So I think states ought to go down that road.”

We might suggest to wonder what that actually means, but such a question also demands wondering if we might ever find out. Ted Cruz is deeply invested in nonsense.

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Lesniewski, Niels. “Ted Cruz to States: Impose Your Own Iran Sanctions”. Roll Call. 9 August 2015.

Georgia, in Disgrace

Georgia Republican Senate Candidate David Perdue speaks to supporters at a primary election night party, Tuesday, 20 May 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Something about the goodness of noodly appendages goes here, though we need not thank Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) for the mess; throwing pasta at the walls in order to see what sticks is best reserved for teaching young children the scientific method, and certainly has no part in geopolitics and diplomacy.

Steve Benen explains:

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) complained bitterly about the United Nations moving forward on the international agreement before Republicans have had a chance to try to kill the deal. “We’re showing the world we don’t stand together right now,” Perdue said.

In March, Perdue signed on to a letter to Iranian officials, urging them not to trust the United States. The Georgia Republican, one of 47 GOP senators who endorsed the letter, were openly and brazenly trying to sabotage American foreign policy.

Maybe he ought to skip the complaining about “showing the world we don’t stand together right now.”

It might well seem a valid point. After all, Mr. Perdue is one of the infamous #GOP47 who hoped to sink P5+1 negotiations by telling Iranian leaders the United States and its people lack integrity as negotiating partners.

When your great contribution to the U.S. Senate is knifing the nation in the back while hoping to start a war, it is probably best to not be heard complaining about an apparent lack of unity.

The people of Georgia owe us an apology and an explanation for sending this excremental character to the United States Senate. However, as with the cowardly Mr. Perdue, we have no reason to expect they will bother.

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Image note: Georgia Republican Senate Candidate David Perdue speaks to supporters at a primary election night party, Tuesday, 20 May 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Benen, Steve. “‘Showing the world we don’t stand together'”. msnbc. 24 July 2015.

The Lindsey Graham Show (Three Amigos Reunion)

From left, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham and former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in New York on Monday. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Maggie Haberman’s entry for First Draft, at the New York Times, actually has a really distracting quirk about it.

Surrounded by two of the “three amigos” — as former Gen. David H. Petraeus called them — Senator Lindsey Graham appeared with Senator John McCain and former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in New York on Monday to denounce the deal to contain Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Graham, a Republican presidential hopeful from South Carolina who is one of the most hawkish voices in his party, repeatedly invoked the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, just over three miles from the Women’s National Republican Club in Midtown Manhattan, where the “No Nukes for Iran” forum was held.

“My friends, what we will see is a nuclearized Middle East,” said Mr. Graham of the deal’s implications, arguing it would extend well beyond Iran. “They view New York as a symbol of America. This is the place they would choose to hit us again if they could.”

Let us be clear: “Surrounded by two of the ‘three amigos'”? Sen. Graham (R-SC) is the third Amigo. This was a Three Amigo reunion. And they broke out a new version of an old classic. A nuclear nonproliferation treaty is bad because … here’s the new chorus, same as the old chorus.

But, yeah, other than the quirk, the important point is that it remains imperative to remember just how wrong these Three Amigos were.

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Image note: From left, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham and former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in New York on Monday. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Haberman, Maggie. “Lindsey Graham and Friends Join to Denounce Iran Deal”. First Draft. 20 July 2015.

Steinhauer, Jennifer. “Foreign Policy’s Bipartisan Trio Becomes Republican Duo”. The New York Times. 26 November 2012.

Madness for a New American Century

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announces his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination on 13 April 2015.  (AP Photo)

Trevor Timm for The Guardian:

The New York Times detailed many of the Republican candidates’ nebulous “criticisms” of the Obama administration, most of which assume a fantasy world in which Obama is not sending the US military to fight Isis at all, even though he’s authorized thousands of airstrikes per month in both Iraq and Syria. Most of the candidates, while competing with each other over who can sound more “muscular” and “tough”, are too cowardly to overtly call for what they likely actually want: another ground war in the Middle East involving tens of thousands of US troops.Project for the New American Century

The vague, bullshitt-y statements made by Republican candidates would be hilarious if it wasn’t possible that they’ll lead to more American soldiers dying in the coming years. “Restrain them, tighten the noose, and then taking them out is the strategy” is Jeb Bush’s hot take on Isis. Thanks, Jeb – I can’t believe the Obama administration hasn’t thought of that! Marco Rubio’s “solution” is even more embarrassing: according to The Times, he responded to a question about what he would do differently – and this is real – by quoting from the movie Taken: “We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you.”

Rubio has also called for “strategic overhaul”, but his radical plan seems to be virtually indistinguishable from what the Obama administration is actually doing – yet another sign that Republicans tend to live in a fantasy land where Obama is an anti-war president rather than someone who has bombed more countries than his Republican predecessor. (That is not a compliment, by the way.)

This is one of those things where we won’t be able to say we weren’t warned. Consider that Mr. Rubio’s campaign slogan is “A New American Century”.

Just think about that for a moment.

They really are promising us a war.

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Image Note: Top ― Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announces his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination on 13 April 2015. (AP Photo) Right ― Logo of the Project for the New American Century.

Timm, Trevor. “Republicans’ ‘plans’ for Isis would drag us into Iraq for another ground war”. The Guardian. 27 May 2015.

SourceWatch. “Project for the New American Century”. 19 February 2012.

The Ted Cruz Show (Cover Songs)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during the Iowa Agriculture Summit, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

“Is there something about the left―and I am going to put the media in this category―that is obsessed with sex? ISIS is executing homosexuals―you want to talk about gay rights? This week was a very bad week for gay rights because the expansion of ISIS, the expansion of radical, theocratic, Islamic zealots that crucify Christians, that behead children and that murder homosexuals―that ought to be concerning you far more than asking six questions all on the same topic.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

There are a number of things we might say. Sure, the state of Ohio might be trying to unmarry a dead man, Louisiana might be looking to shield discrimination by state employees, and Christians might be eyeing re-education camps for insufficiently Christian children, but, you know, hey, they’re not actually executing anyone, so … you know, get over yourselves.

And, hey, you know, we might also mention that doing better than Daa’ish is hardly a reasonable standard for American political health. We might look at Ted Cruz, then, and suggest that, hey, it’s not like we’re actually having dogs rape your ass while forcing you to say you like it, so, you know, get over yourself.

In truth, the functional problem with actually saying that would be legitimizing Mr. Cruz’s stupidity.

Bobby Blanchard tries to explain:

[Cruz] got in a light sparring round with reporters, mainly working on his attacks on Hillary Rodham Clinton and defending his views on same-sex marriage.

Ted Cruz for President 2016 logo.“Is there something about the left―and I am going to put the media in this category―that is obsessed with sex?” Cruz asked after fielding multiple questions on gay rights. “ISIS is executing homosexuals―you want to talk about gay rights? This week was a very bad week for gay rights because the expansion of ISIS, the expansion of radical, theocratic, Islamic zealots that crucify Christians, that behead children and that murder homosexuals―that ought to be concerning you far more than asking six questions all on the same topic.”

Cruz also said he did not think his opposition to gay marriage will hurt his chances with moderate voters.

“With respect, I would suggest not drawing your questions from MSNBC―they have very few viewers and they are a radical and extreme partisan outlet,” Cruz told a reporter. He cited the expansion of “mandatory same-sex marriage” as an assault on religious liberty in the United States.

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The Carly Fiorina Show (One Percenter Hope Pilot Episode)

Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co., pauses while speaking during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The talent show that is a presidential campaign began in earnest saturday as more than 1,200 Republican activists, who probably will vote in Iowa's caucuses, packed into a historic Des Moines theater to see and hear from a parade of their party's prospective entries. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Welcome to the Carly Fiorina Show. By most accounts, it will be a short run. Then again, compared to the rest of the clowns in the GOP campaign car, one might expect Ms. Fiorina would bring some significant, serious presence to the present.

These are, of course, Republicans.

Former Hewlett-Packard Co Chief Executive Carly Fiorina on Monday announced she is running for president, and took a shot at Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who she said represents a political class that Americans are “disgusted” with.

Once one of the most powerful women in American business, Fiorina registers near the bottom of polls of the dozen or so Republican hopefuls and has never held public office.

She is positioning herself as an outsider with real-life experience earned through years in the corporate world.

As Alistair Bell and Bill Trott report for Reuters, the newly-minted Republican candidate faces the obvious consideration:

Fiorina, 60, said the former first lady and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, belong to an out-of-touch political elite.

“She reminds people that there is a huge disconnect between that political class and the hopes and concerns of hard-working Americans everywhere,” she told reporters on a conference call.

“I see that disconnect everywhere I go. I see people just disgusted, honestly, with the way the playing field is tilted against them, the disconnect between what they’re thinking about and what they perceive people in Washington are thinking about,” Fiorina said.

Previously described as the “anti-Steve Jobs”, Ms. Fiorina will likely struggle to define herself as the anti-Hillary. Reuters puts her at less than one percent in a recent poll; this is problematic, but hardly an impossible challenge. Given the early critique of Hillary Clinton’s performance, one wonders whether Fiorina will last long enough to endure the sort of scrutiny normally reserved for the former Secretary of State.

And these are, after all, Republicans. There really is nothing to be done about that.

She said on Monday that her first phone call as president would be to the prime minister of Israel to assure the Jewish state of America’s support.

The second call, she said, would be to the supreme leader of Iran to warn him of U.S. sanctions unless he allowed unfettered access for inspectors to Tehran’s nuclear program.

Boilerplate is as boilerplate does; it serves a function of some sort. But calling Hillary Clinton out of touch, or an elitist, and then pandering to Israel are not exactly compelling opening bids. If she wishes to double her support to somewhere near two percent, Carly Fiorina will need an actual pitch.

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Image note: Carly Fiorina speaks at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, 24 January 2015. (Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bell, Alistair and Bill Trott. “Former HP CEO Fiorina enters 2016 race, takes shot at Clinton”. Reuters. 4 May 2015.