opposition

Chuck Change

U.S. Capitol Police arrest protesters who were staging a sit-in in the office of Sen. Charles E. Schumer on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Last week seems like, well, right. But it was all of a week ago we quoted without commment Patricia Murphy of Roll Call saying something about how the incoming president would need Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), “the rising Senate Democratic leader and the man poised to be a Clinton consiglieri or Trump’s not-so-loyal opposition”. Shoulda, coulda, doesn’t matter woulda said something, you know? Because, a headline today from The Hill tells us, “Protesters block Schumer’s office, call for new leadership”, and, you know, why not?

Meanwhile, Roll Call runs a bland, informative headline, but stings in the sub with, “Protesters chant for Schumer to ‘grow a spine,’ step aside for Sanders or Warren”.

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Chuck Portent

Patricia Murphy, for Roll Call:

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks as part of an immigration policy "Gang of Eight", at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., 18 April 2013.  (Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters)Either Clinton or Trump will live in the White House, but when it comes to getting an agenda passed into law, they’ll need Senate Democrats’ votes to do it. And to get those votes, they’re going to need Sen. Chuck Schumer, the rising Senate Democratic leader and the man poised to be a Clinton consiglieri or Trump’s not-so-loyal opposition.

But after one of the ugliest presidential elections in history, Capitol Hill veterans point to Schumer as the glimmer of hope that Congress may finally be entering an era of accomplishment instead of gridlock after years of partisan paralysis.

The Brooklyn exterminator’s son, who finished Harvard and Harvard Law by 23, may seem like an unlikely vessel for hope in the post-Obama era, but Schumer’s existing relationships, caucus loyalty and prejudice toward action may make him the man for this moment.

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Image note: U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks as part of an immigration policy “Gang of Eight”, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., 18 April 2013. (Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters)

Murphy, Patricia. “Chuck Schumer Is on the Line”. Roll Call. 3 November 2016.

The Rand Paul Show (Rumors and Exaggerations)

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)“Even if we put aside whether or not Paul is answering the question well, the issue is the existence of the question itself: competitive candidates who are performing well aren’t asked when they’re quitting.”

Steve Benen

You know, he’s kinda got a point.

What? What would you like me to quote, here? “Evidently, Bevin forgot that his third choice is supposed to be his first.” Valid point. Or, you know, maybe politics is just that cynical and everyone in Kentucky knows it. “A month before Kentucky voters choose a new governor, the Republican nominee joined Kentucky’s own presidential candidate – on a weekend – for a high-profile event. Just 50 people showed up?” Again, a valid point. Even more so, actually.Rand Paul 2016

And it just keeps coming. A sixty-four percent drop in fundraising for the campaign; opposition is switching to focus on Sen. Paul’s re-election campaign, as if his presidential bid is of no concern; he is hearing the actual question, even pressed so far as to explain, “I think the rumors of my demise are somewhat exagerated”, which never really is a good sign. When the headlines remind readers that a candidate is not dropping out, it’s not merely ominous. It’s an actual omen.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Rand Paul Show.

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Image note: 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 Jun. 18, 2015. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Benen, Steve. “Rand Paul facing the question no candidate wants to hear”. msnbc. 5 October 2015.

A Note on Legacy

President Obama speaks at the Greater Boston Labor Council Labor Day Breakfast on Sept. 7. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

“Watching him now is a useful reminder that there is no such thing as the ‘twilight’ of a presidency. Until the day his successor takes office, Obama will be the leading actor on the biggest and most important stage in the world.”

Eugene Robinson

When we perceive a presidency as dismal, it is easy enough to wonder what could have gone better. Still, though, it is easy enough to wonder if perhaps the historical discussion, and probably not so far off in the future, will pause amid its reflections on one of the more affecting and effective presidencies in American history to wonder what more President Obama could have achieved.

That answer might as well be wishing on stars. But as Eugene Robinson reminds, these premature death notices of a lame duck twilight zombie administration really do remind of the soft bigotry of low expectations. Barack Obama is no George W. Bush, and but for a press accustomed to thoughtless milling and recycling, we might have no cause to remind.

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Image note: President Obama speaks at the Greater Boston Labor Council Labor Day Breakfast on Sept. 7. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

Robinson, Eugene. “Obama has plenty of reasons to smile”. The Washington Post. 7 September 2015.

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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Beyond Silly

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Steve Benen brings a setup certain to evoke an exasperated groan:

Former Sen. Bill Frist’s tenure as Senate Majority Leader is perhaps best known for an unfortunate misstep. In 2005, the Tennessee Republican weighed in on the controversy surrounding Terri Schiavo, declaring that he, as a heart surgeon, could make a reliable medical diagnosis about the brain-damaged woman by watching a brief video filmed by the patient’s family.

Yeah, we know. The punch line for that will suck regardless of what it actually says:

Coburn talked to CNN’s Dana Bash late yesterday, telling her that he’s convinced that Bergdahl “had been drugged … either with an anti-psychotic or hypnotic drug.” The Oklahoma Republican said his diagnosis is “obviously” true and was “easy” to make.

Coburn added that it’s “not at all” possible that Bergdahl was sick. The released prisoner’s “physical health,” the senator told Bash, “is fine.”

Just to drive the point home, the far-right Oklahoman, an obstetrician gynecologist by trade, went on to argue, “I’m speaking as a doctor, yeah.”

It seems the sort of plot twist that is also a bit of an extraneous twist of the knife. A prisoner of war has been released, and the president’s opponents will say all manner of ridiculous things, including the proposition that Sgt. Bergdahl ought to be convicted without trial in order to justify criticisms of securing his release. It was one thing when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) undertook his usual acrobatics and contortions, but what happened next really was rather undignified.

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