John Kasich 2016

A Note re: Kaine vs. Pence

22 FEBRUARY 2015: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on 'FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace'. Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 'dark horse' for the GOP presidential nomination, and the Hoosier State's 'religious freedom' bill empowering discrimination, which Pence signed into law in late March. (Image credit: FOX News)

This is important:

In one important area, Pence has the advantage of being perceived as a mainstream pol. Politico published a piece yesterday that characterized tonight’s vice presidential debate as “Battle of the Normals,” and a “sane moment” in a campaign cycle that’s often seemed insane.

On a certain level, I can appreciate where analysis like this is coming from. As a matter of tone and temperament, Mike Pence is hardly scary: the governor is a mild-mannered, soft-spoken Midwesterner. Unlike the man at the top of the GOP ticket, no one would ever expect Pence to start tweeting at 3 a.m. about his disgust for a beauty-pageant contestant and encourage Americans to seek out a “sex tape.”

But to shift one’s focus from tone to policy is to see one of the most extremist politicians to seek national office in over a generation.

Steve Benen is not wrong. This has been a factor worth considering in recent years, and even more so this cycle. What counts as centrist or mainstream is, in American politics, a roving range. The msnbc blogger and producer continues:

About four years ago, Nate Silver published an interesting analysis of Paul Ryan, who’d just been named to Mitt Romney’s ticket. Nate wrote at the time, “Various statistical measures of Mr. Ryan peg him as being quite conservative. Based on his Congressional voting record, for instance, the statistical system DW-Nominate evaluates him as being roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. By this measure, in fact, which rates members of the House and Senate throughout different time periods on a common ideology scale, Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900.”

Nate added a chart, highlighting the fact that Ryan’s record put him slightly to the right of Dick Cheney, who was slightly to the right of Dan Quayle.

There are curious circumstances, now and again, in which the GOP hardliners leave me standing shoulder to shoulder with Republicans I generally wouldn’t get along with. George W. Bush on China, and suddenly I’m commiserating with Pat Buchanan? What was it, Jade Helm? How do Rick Perry and I land on the same side? I can tell you, though, that when Lindsey Graham is bagging points off John Kasich being described as a “moderate”, well, at least we have that much in common.

It happens.

We revisit the question for Mike Pence. Benen notes the Indiana governor also has a record in Congress:

In the 107th Congress (Pence’s first, covering 2001 and 2002), for example, out of 435 members of the U.S. House, Pence ranked #428―meaning that 427 members were to his left, putting the Hoosier on the far-right-wing fringe. The results were roughly the same in the 108th Congress and the 109th.

By the 110th Congress, Pence was at #432, putting him to the right of nearly everyone in the chamber. The results were roughly the same in the 111th Congress and the 112th.

Let’s put this another way: during his congressional career, Pence wasn’t just more conservative than Paul Ryan. His voting record also put him to the right of Michele Bachmann, Todd Akin, Steve King, and even Louie Gohmert. That’s not an exaggeration. Bachmann, Akin, King, and Gohmert all had voting records less extreme than Mike Pence.

The problem is the gap between perceptions of Mike Pence and his actual record. To use Politico’s phrasing, the Hoosier is seen as “normal” and “conventional.” But on a substantive level, we’re talking about a politician whose claim to fame is an anti-LGBT law that did real harm to his state. Pence is a climate denier. He rejects the idea that cigarettes are deadly. He doesn’t believe in evolutionary biology, but he does support “conversion therapy.”

There was an embarrassing episode having to do with alleged Iraqi WMDs; something about privatizing Social Security not being conservative enough; something about government shutdowns; oh, right, and some manner of conspiracy theory about Disney film and women in the military.

Unfortunately, that last isn’t a joke.

This is the problem: If Gov. Mike Pence is “normal”, then we might pause to consider how we define normalcy.

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Image note: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace, 22 February 2015. Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 GOP dark horse and the Hoosier State’s infamous “religious freedom” bill intended to empower discrimination. (Image credit: FOX News)

Benen, Steve. “Mike Pence saw secret propaganda in Disney film”. 18 July 2016.

—————. “Pence becomes the most far-right running mate in modern history”. msnbc. 15 July 2016.

—————. “To see Mike Pence as ‘normal’ is to grade on a generous curve”. msnbc. 4 October 2016.

Kaczynski, Andrew. “Mike Pence Argued In Op-Ed That Disney’s ‘Mulan’ Was Liberal Propaganda”. BuzzFeed. 17 July 2016.

Salter, Lamar. “‘My party has gone bats— crazy’: Lindsey Graham jokes about killing Ted Cruz and bashes the remaining GOP candidates”. Business Insider. 26 February 2016.

Silver, Nate. “A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan”. FiveThirtyEight. 11 August 2012.

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The Donald Trump Show (Denial)

Donald Trump speaks at the John Wayne Museum, in Winterset, Iowa, 19 January 2016. (Detail of undated photo by Tannen Maury/epa/Corbis.)

A note from last month:

Last week, presidential candidate Donald Trump caused a minor stir by retweeting someone with the Twitter handle @whitegenocideTM, which some saw as making explicit the connection between Trump and American white supremacists. But that’s just one data point, right? A one-off thing that could have been an intern’s mistake? Unfortunately, no: the data shows that 62 percent of the accounts Trump has retweeted recently have white-supremacist connections.

Marshall Kirkpatrick, of social-media analytics company Little Bird, took a look at the 21 people the Donald has blessed with his fantastic, luxurious retweets this week, and discovered that six of them follow major white-nationalist accounts, and 13 of them follow multiple accounts that have used the #whitegenocide hashtag.

Conclusion? “It turns out that Donald Trump mostly retweets white supremacists saying nice things about him.”

(Hathaway)

This is not surprising.

Unfortunately, that point comes with something of a sickening explanation.

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Clowntastic

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

“The truth is that Republicans are at a crossroads. What we are seeing is a surrogate battle to determine whether the GOP will be a sort of populist/protectionist party, or a more cosmopolitan and compassionate one. And if those are the two world views that will eventually clash, Cruz and Rubio are much better representatives than, say, Trump and Bush.”

Matt Lewis

Conservative stalwart Matt Lewis offers an intriguing commentary considering the real potential of a marquee showdown between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. The junior U.S. Senators from Florida and Texas respectively enjoy competitive positions in the polls, and thus stand out as leading candidates to ascend as Dr. Ben Carson tumbles and pretty much everyone else wonders when Trump will follow. The Roll Call op-ed opens:

“The two people to watch are Cruz and Rubio,” Charles Krauthammer declared on Tuesday’s episode of Fox News’ “Special Report.” Call it wishful thinking or conventional wisdom (or both), but there is an assumption that this clash of titans might eventually occur—and I, for one, am rooting for it.

And we can skip ahead to the ending, a pretense of obvious afterthought―that both Cruz and Rubio can win the general against Hillary Clinton―long enough to remember that Lewis is, after all, a conservative pitch man. Cruz can’t win; Rubio has a chance if he can overcome the deer and headlight air of youthful inexperienceα he often demonstrates so aptly when rattling through talking points that thoroughly defy his comprehension. That is to say, we can attend the pretense of afterthought long enough to dismiss it.

Nonetheless, Mr. Lewis offers an insightful analysis that includes the benefit of also sounding reasonable:

Most people I know think a Trump candidacy would be disastrous, but there is division regarding just how freaked out we should be. Some, like statistician Nate Silver, argue that we are putting too much stock in these early polls showing Trump ahead for a variety of reasons, including the fact that “the vast majority of eventual Republican voters haven’t made up their minds yet.”

Others argue that this is fantasy. All the previous predictions about a Trump collapse were premature, and besides, he’s a paradigm-shifting candidate; the old rules no longer apply.

Having said all that, it’s not absurd to believe that voters will finally come to their senses, and that Cruz and Rubio might eventually emerge as representatives of their various “lanes” to face off in a sort of championship battle to determine who will represent the GOP in the general election.

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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.

The Lindsey Graham Show (Establishment Avenger)

No, seriously, people need to start paying attention to Lindsey Graham.

Lindsey Graham has told colleagues he launched his implausible presidential campaign, in part, for two reasons: Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

(Everett)

The senior U.S. Senator from South Carolina has not even a tattered map fragment with a shadow of a line that might have once been there that could possibly be something resembling a pathway to the presidency. Yet to consider a personal context, he is also the kind of Republican who it is much, much easier to respect, even if we don’t like the guy. And if it is true that he is in this for the long haul regardless of the outcome, Lindsey Graham suddenly becomes one to watch:

Graham said in an interview he’s prepared to confront Cruz directly as the chamber braces for a rhetorical assault from the Texas senator, with Graham arguing that a shutdown would be futile and politically damaging. It’s an opportunity, Graham says, “to tell my side of the story here.” And, the senator with the syrupy Southern drawl admits, it won’t be because he thinks it’s going to give him a bounce in the polls.

“I’m running to be the president of the United States. And a certain amount of honesty comes with that,” Graham said in an interview. “Shutting down the government, I think it hurts our overall cause and I don’t mind telling people that. If I’m going to be a good nominee and a good president, I’ve got to tell you what I believe” ....

.... Still, Graham has little to lose at this point in his campaign. He can’t sink any lower in the polls, and fighting a pitched battle against the conservative wing of the party could help boost him in the eyes of moderate Republicans.

In fact, Graham was thinking about squaring off with Cruz and Paul from the very beginning of his campaign.

No, really, this could be interesting. Like Jeb Bush and John Kasich, Mr. Graham will have some difficulty navigating the turbulent waters of the preseason feeding frenzy as voters chomp down on platform and principle; later, when serious questions of how to actually win the White House rise (we hope) to their proper prominence, America’s most eligible bachelor hawk might find himself well positioned to not only shore up the establishment Republican guard, but compete for the nomination. Steve Benen noted, in reflection on Scott Walker’s early withdrawal:

Many observers – inside the Republican Party and out – simply assume as a matter of course that the Inexperienced Three will eventually fizzle, leaving a race featuring only a handful of credible contenders. The list will likely include two establishment governors (Jeb Bush and John Kasich) and two very conservative senators (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio).

In this scenario, is this a contest that could elevate Rubio to the GOP nomination? Of course it is.

The weird thing about the Rubio pathway is that it is not so far-fetched. But how does the political calculus change if another establishment Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham, is also in there peeling votes from the insurgents?

This could be entertaining, indeed. It should certainly be interesting. As to the question of whether or not it is real, we need only keep our eyes and ears open. Perhaps something is about to happen.

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Image note: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). (Detail of photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

Everett, Burgess. “Graham itching to confront Cruz, Paul”. Politico. 24 September 2015.

Benen, Steve. “As GOP field shrinks, Marco Rubio gets the spotlight”. msnbc. 22 September 2015.

The John Kasich Show (What Counts)

Gov. John Kasich (R-OH; second from right), celebrates after signing a budget, 1 July 2013.  The controversial budget contained several anti-abortion measures intended to bureaucratically outlaw the practice.  (Detail of frame from video by Ohio Capitol Blog, via The Rachel Maddow Show.)

“I’m willing to fight all day long, but you’ve got to have a good prospect of being able to be successful. Because if you’re not successful, you shut the government down, you open it up and you haven’t achieved anything. You’re just going to have people shake their head and wonder what your thinking was.”

Gov. John Kasich (R-OH)

Remember, though, this is John Kasich we’re talking about, here. The takeaway from Jennifer Bendery’s report for Huffington Post is that Mr. Kasich is giving his colleagues sound strategic advice. That is to say, we should not let this or his recent sound bite about Kim Davis suggest he is any sort of moderate.

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The Marco Rubio Show (Gaffe Rig)

Marco Rubio: A New American Century

There are so many places to go and bizarre spectacles to see, but for the moment these paragraphs from Steve Benen ought to be devastating:

Rubio, a member of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, is basing much of his campaign on his alleged expertise on international affairs. The far-right Floridian would love nothing more than to be seen as the candidate who has a “deep understanding” of “the threats that the world is facing.”

But Rubio has run into Trump-like problems of his own. Just last week, in a big speech on foreign policy, the GOP senator told an embarrassing whopper about military preparedness, touching on an issue Rubio should have understood far better.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., arrives for the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)In June, Rubio was asked about his approach towards Iraq. Told that his policy sounds like nation-building, the senator responded, “Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

Just this year, Rubio has flubbed the details of Iran’s Green Revolution. His criticisms on the Obama administration’s approach towards Israel were quickly discredited as nonsense. His statements of nuclear diplomacy were practically gibberish.

In the spring, Rubio had a memorable confrontation with Secretary of State John Kerry, which was a debacle – the senator stumbled badly on several key details, and Kerry made him look pretty foolish.

Soon after, Rhonda Swan, a Florida-based journalist, wrote that the Republican senator “should be embarrassed.” Swan added, “By his own standard that the next president have a ‘clear view of what’s happening in the world’ and a ‘practical plan for how to engage America in global affairs,’ Rubio fails the test.”

What’s more, as readers may recall, when Rubio has tried to articulate a substantive vision, he’s relied a little too heavily on shallow, bumper-sticker-style sloganeering, rather than actual policy measures. Rubio declared “our strategy” on national security should mirror Liam Neeson’s catchphrase in the film “Taken”: “We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you.”

Soon after, the candidate’s team unveiled the “Rubio Doctrine”, described by Charles Pierce as “three banalities strung together in such a way as to sound profound and to say nothing.”

And yet the narrative leads with Donald Trump.

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More Fun with Censorship

The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona's strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, adoption or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents. A.R.S. §15-115 A.R.S. §15-716

Call it a lesson learned. When I was young, parents the problem was kids listening to rock music, and the solution was to put stickers on albums warning parents that their children might hear explicit words.

These days the problem is apparently smart kids learning biology, and the solution is to put stickers on textbooks warning kids that they need to talk to their parents about what the state of Arizona thinks.

True, we are not certain what lesson was actually learned, but the tale is hardly unfamiliar.

And now, the update from the one and only Laura Conaway:

The board acted at the urging of the same group that backed gay discrimination bills in Indiana, Arkansas and Louisiana, the Alliance Defending Freedom. Based in Arizona, the Alliance insisted that Gilbert’s biology books were out of compliance with an Arizona law requiring school districts to present childbirth and adoption as preferable to abortion. msnbcBut soon after the Tea Party majority decided to censor the biology books, voters in very conservative Gilbert decided to replace them with a new majority. Shortly afterward, the outgoing board reversed course and decided against going ahead with ripping pages out of biology textbooks.

From the beginning, superintendent Christina Kishimoto had warned her bosses on the board that removing information from the books would only send kids to the Internet to find out what they were missing. With the new majority taking over, Kishimoto told us late last year she would have a team of biology teachers go over the books this summer and likely put together two or three pages of information that they would include in an envelope glued to the inside back cover.

Last night, though, a local viewer emailed us Gilbert’s solution, and it turns out to be much smaller than expected.

As you can see below, teachers are adding this small sticker to the inside back cover of the honors biology textbooks.

The stickers read:The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona's strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, adoption or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents. (A.R.S. §15-115, A.R.S. §15-716)

The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona’s strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, adoption or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents.

And there is a political moral to the story. Remember that this intrusion of the moral authority of the state government of Arizona is brought to you by small-government Tea Party Republicans.

To the one it is part of a conservative notion whereby small government means using local government to tamper in people’s lives, like citing square footage in order to censor Zombie Jesus. Or, you know, TRAP laws, by which Republicans use zoning regulations to shutter businesses providing goods and services they don’t like. Women’s health care, for instance. The infamous abortibudget, for instance, in which Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich refused to use his line-item veto to strike anti-abortion provisions from the state budget. Here’s a fun one: Abortion providers must obtain transfer agreements with local hospitals. This is similar to the admitting privileges debate in other states; many abortion providers can’t get local admitting privileges because they do not admit enough patients to the hospital. But Ohio, knowing this wasn’t popular with the courts, went with another idea. A “transfer agreement”. A doctor needed a transfer agreement with a local hospital before providing abortion services. The hospitals, meanwhile, are explicitly forbidden under law from entering such an agreement. It’s no wonder Mr. Kasich didn’t want to discuss the anti-abortion law he signed, and the only real question remaining is why the Cleveland Plain Dealer tried to scrub that episode from history. One need not be a paid pundit to recognize, also, that it is always Christian supremacist moralism.

At least it’s not forcible insertion this time.

But it is using the state to deliver a moral message intended to undermine reality. And this in itself is problematic.

Which leads to the other. Only Tea Party activists in Arizona could rush to follow in the footsteps of Tipper Gore and somehow manage to screw up even worse.Parental Advisory: Explicit Content

No, really.

Come on.

At some point, we must admit the entire Tea Party brand really is that stupid.

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Benen, Steve. “Ohio’s Kasich approves sweeping restrictions on reproductive rights”. msnbc. 1 July 2013.

—————. “The gag rule Kasich doesn’t want to talk about”. msnbc. 31 October 2014.

Conaway, Laura. “Arizona town decides not to censor books, adds stickers instead”. msnbc. 14 August 2015.

The Donald Trump Show (Strangers in Cars)

Donald Trump.

There is plenty about this morning’s report from Niall Stanage of The Hill worth considering:

Republican insiders are reconciling themselves to the idea that Donald Trump won’t be exiting the stage anytime soon — and their main concern now is limiting his damage to their party.

The GOP establishment is almost universally hostile to Trump, who has soared in the 2016 polls on the back of his celebrity, his outspoken statements on immigration and trade deals, and media coverage of his antics.

Many party strategists believe Trump did himself serious damage with his recent remarks denigrating Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) experiences while a prisoner of war in Hanoi, Vietnam — but there is not yet conclusive polling evidence available.

Meanwhile, Trump has made clear that he has no serious intention of reining in his rhetoric — or curbing his propensity to tweak the nose of anyone who displeases him. On Tuesday, shortly after fellow White House contender Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had referred to the businessman as a “jackass,” Trump read out Graham’s cellphone number on live television during a campaign event in the senator’s home state.

During that appearance, Trump also called Graham “a stiff” and an “idiot,” and took shots at another critic and 2016 hopeful, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, saying he’d begun wearing glasses to make himself look smarter.

Among Washington Republicans, the hope is that voters will tire of such comments and that Trump will have to push his boat out into ever-murkier waters to continue to command attention.

Well, okay, sort of. There really is nothing to compare to the reality television spectacle of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. Over at msnbc, last night, Steve Kornacki helmed TRMS, and pretty much made the point in the eighteen minute A-block by reminding us that Gov. John Kasich of Ohio also declared his presidential candidacy yesterday. And there certainly remains a question of whether Donald Trump’s spectacularly bizarre performance in South Carolina was specifically intended to obscure the arrival of the sixteenth major Republican presidential candidate.

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