Jonathan Martin

What Mitch Made

#unprincipledleadership | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY; left), walks with President-elect Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol for a meeting, 10 November 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

There is the saying about how we Americans will get around to doing the right thing eventually; it is usually a begrudging concession, that we have no remaining alternatives or excuses. Perhaps a better way of looking at it is that, generally speaking, we do not actually intend the harm we cause. Or maybe not; at some point, pleading stupidity over and over again is the sort of ritual that breeds resentment. Among Americans. Toward everyone else. Because how dare you say you’re smarter than we are every time we say how were we supposed to know.

Or, y’know … something like that.

Oh, hey, Steve Benen, ladies and gentlemen:

The Timesarticle added that McConnell has privately marveled at Trump’s unwillingness “to learn the basics of governing.” The Senate GOP leader has also “expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump’s presidency may be headed.”

McConnell’s concerns are obviously grounded in fact, and on the surface, it’s tempting to feel some sympathy for him. But it’s important not to lose sight of the senator’s role in making the mess he finds himself in the middle of.

Like Dr. Frankenstein, McConnell created a monster he thought he could control, only to discover he doesn’t care for the results.

His quiet, unassuming demeanor notwithstanding, Mitch McConnell has spent many years taking a sledgehammer to American political norms. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank argued persuasively in April that the Kentucky Republican effectively “broke America.” The columnist added, “No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government. His has been the epitome of unprincipled leadership”.

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Terrific (Nobody Dies)

#SomethingTerrific | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID01). [Detail of photo by John Miller/Associated Press]

Let us try a compromise: Just don’t call him “pro-life”. Or, perhaps, we should begin in the moment, as Kristine Phillips tells it for the Washington Post:

A conservative Republican congressman from Idaho is drawing criticism for his response to a town-hall attendee’s concerns about how his party’s health-care bill would affect Medicaid recipients.

“You are mandating people on Medicaid to accept dying,” the woman said.

“That line is so indefensible,” said Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, a member of the influential House Freedom Caucus. “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”

The boos instantly drowned him out.

The congressman from Idaho’s First Congressional District and founding member of the House Freedom Caucus might have discovered a new apex for the absolute value of conservative political rhetoric. To the other, tempting as it seems to wonder if e’er so thoughtless bovine excrement was spoken, we do happen to be speaking both of Congress and conservatives, so, yeah, actually, lots. Still, though, Rep. Labrador reminds without question the challenge of abiding no integrity.

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Some 2020 Democratic Presidential Speculation, Just Because

The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

It would be easy enough to overplay the drama in an early look toward the 2020 election by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin of the New York Times:

In a largely leaderless party, two distinct groups are emerging, defined mostly by age and national stature. On one side are three potential candidates approaching celebrity status who would all be over 70 years old on Election Day: Mr. Biden, and Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Competing against the Democrats’ senior cohort is a large and relatively shapeless set of younger candidates who span the ideological spectrum: governors, senators, mayors, wealthy executives and even members of the House. They are animated by the president’s turbulent debut and the recent history, from Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 to Mr. Trump’s last year, of upstart candidates’ catching fire.

In the Senate alone, as much as a quarter of the Democrats’ 48-member caucus are thought to be giving at least a measure of consideration to the 2020 race, among them Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California. All are closer to 40 than 80.

For now, however, it is the party’s septuagenarian trio that is casting the longest shadow over 2020, and all three have taken steps to extend or expand their leadership status in the party.

In between, for good measure, is discussion of an amorphous non-faction we might consider as the collected other, including Rep. Seth Moulton (MA-06), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Before booking the orchestra for a dramatic score, we should remember this is merely April, 2017; Democrats need to to read the midterm map, first. That is to say, it seems a bit early to see who lands where in relation to what. And, admittedly, it is hard to account for the proverbial known unknowns in the time of Trump; the unknown unknowns seem extraordinary at this time, too.α

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The Dynamite Martini Show

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 1 July 2016.You know, this was actually a Brexit joke, and at the time, sure, the joke seemed to have myriad other applications, most notably attitudes toward Donald Trump.

Think back, though. Try to remember what Donald Trump was doing and saying that had everybody horrified, mortified, terrified, apoplectic and wide-eyed. Two months. What trumpaholic trumptacle possessed the headlines two months ago?

Fraud and plagiarism, mostly. As July loomed, the Trump University scandal also tumbled into the Trump Institute branding scandal, something about “heebajeebees”, and questions of competence involving basic arithmetic that also happen to come up at a time when Donald Trump himself could be heard wondering aloud, “Why am I not doing better in the polls?”

As we looked toward July, people still wondered if maybe it would all sort itself out; Mitt Romney even piped up, revealing that one of his sons told him, “You’ve gotta get in, Dad, you’ve gotta get in”.

Naturally, things have only gone downhill from there. Certes, some articles of faith can become dangerous under particular circumstances or according to particular scale, but it really is a comfortable temptation. The superstitious would eye November as the next chance for this all to work itself out.

Never mind. Something about filler goes here. And no, we can’t actually blame Adam.

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Image note: Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 1 July 2016.

Benen, Steve. “Trump vows to look into Muslim ‘Heebeejabees'”. msnbc. 1 July 2016.

Martin, Jonathan. “Trump Institute Offered Get-Rich Schemes With Plagiarized Lessons”. 29 June 2016.

Tani, Maxwell. “Mitt Romney: My son emailed me yesterday telling me to run for president”. Business Insider. 29 June 2016.

Nothing More Than We’ve Come to Expect from Bobby and the Hardline

Detail: "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La. speaks in New York on Oct. 16, 2014." (John Minchillo—AP)

There comes a point when being a scientist might have certain advantages; if you need some time away from people, just go. When they ask where you’ve been, just say you were running an experiment. When they ask what it was, just shake your head like you’re annoyed and mutter that it didn’t work out. There are all sorts of ways to justify this as not being a lie, but we’ll skip the joke about the effects of repeated physical exertion during cinematic experience. Besides, Reubens established a result of some sort, decades ago, and it would be counterproductive to get arrested testing the reliability of that one.

Excuses aside, it is also true that the month before and after Christmas can be especially trying, and while most suggest a thing or two about sunlight in this region, it is unclear whether the application of the Seasonal Affective proposition is appropriately oriented.

Still, though, speaking of professional wankers:

You know what Bobby Jindal said about Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe, a statement that resulted in Jindal being criticized and mocked by mainstream commentators? It turns out many social conservatives in Iowa really liked it. To them, Jindal was warning about the danger of enclaves of unassimilated Muslim populations in an age of Islamic radicalism, a problem they fear could be in store for the United States. Jindal, who is himself the model of an assimilated American from an immigrant family, not only did not suffer from his remarks but instead benefited from them.

(York)

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Something About Arkansas

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR4) is running for the United States Senate in 2014.

Sometimes the hardest part is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Meanwhile, Jonathan Martin tries to explain the latest weirdness surrounding the U.S. Senate campaign of Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR4).

A certain level of murkiness has become the rule when it comes to campaign finance in a post-Citizens United world. But even by this standard, a group called Right Solutions Partners LLC is remarkable for its opacity.

Representative Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican running for the Senate, disbursed over $131,000 to Right Solutions Partners in March for “fund-raising consulting” and an additional $161,000 to it in August for the same purpose. A smaller third disbursement brought the total to $322,963.

But here’s the catch: It’s not clear that such an entity actually exists. It has no presence on the Internet, it appears that no other campaign is paying it this year, and it has no office at the Washington address listed on the articles of organization filed with the city last year.

As scandals go, this isn’t much to work with. Barring some evidence of illegality, the sense of scandal will blow away on the first light breeze that starts to shape this up as just another Beltway maneuver. But lacking that puff from the winds of change, the apparent scandal here would have something to do with Rep. Cotton once again affirming his appearance of plain stupidity.

Then again, stupidity might be a (ha!) “Natural State” virtue; polling shows Cotton leads his race against incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D).

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A Toxic Troika? A Note on ‘Optics’ and ‘Metrics’

Jeb Bush, left, speaking Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C., in support of Thom Tillis, a Republican candidate for the Senate. Credit Chuck Burton/Associated Press

When studying the Castor and Pollux of politics and punditry it might help to bear in mind that many of the buzzwords are intended to sound quasi-scientific in order to hide the fact that the terms describe artistic results. A metric, for instance, is simply an abstract measurement in unknown units compared to a presupposed psychomoral idyll that may or may not be available for examination and should never be trusted in the first place, anyway. The metrics of a situation are whatever the pundit wishes to describe in order to make his or her own narrative sound that much more compelling.

But then there are the optics of a situation, and this is a fairly easy explanation. Political optics are, quite literally, nothing more than appearances within a frame described by a pundit’s metrics.

In one of his first public appearances of the 2014 campaign, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida had a vivid preview Wednesday of the challenges he would face with his party’s conservative base should he seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

Standing alongside Thom Tillis, the North Carolina House speaker and Republican Senate candidate, Mr. Bush outlined his views on two of the issues he cares most passionately about: immigration policy and education standards. But as Mr. Bush made the case for an immigration overhaul and the Common Core standards, Mr. Tillis gently put distance between himself and his guest of honor, who had flown here from Florida on a dreary day to offer his endorsement in a race that could decide which party controls the Senate.

(Martin)

Ah, optics!

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