Rand Paul 2016

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.

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The Carly Fiorina Show (Next Level)

Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina speaks during the WSJ/FBN Republican presidential debate, 10 November 2015, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo: Morry Gash/AP)

“Yes she met him in a green room, but not in a green room before a show. It was before a conference.”

Anna Epstein

The Carly Fiorina Show really does distinguish itself according to strange rules forged in some alternate universe. Then again, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is a Republican, and running for president at that. And this year the conservative market licks its lips for lies, as Dr. Ben Carson so aptly reminds. Ms. Fiorina, for her own part, works hard to keep up.

Which brings us to the WSJ/FBN debate; Steve Benen observes:

Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal, reminded Carly Fiorina, “In seven years under President Obama, the U.S. has added an average of 107,000 jobs a month. Under President Clinton, the economy added about 240,000 jobs a month. Under George W. Bush, it was only 13,000 a month. If you win the nomination, you’ll probably be facing a Democrat named Clinton. How are you going to respond to the claim that Democratic presidents are better at creating jobs than Republicans?”

If anything, Baker’s numbers were tilted in the GOP’s favor, since Obama’s totals are dragged down by including the early months of his presidency, when the economy was in free fall. Nevertheless, the point is accurate―since World War II, more jobs are created under Democratic presidents than Republicans―prompting Fiorina to reply, “Yes, problems have gotten much worse under Democrats.”

She’d just been reminded of the opposite, which made the exchange a little unnerving. I kept waiting for one of the candidates to drop the pretense and declare, “I reject this version of reality and replace it with one I like better.”

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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.

The Rand Paul Show (Another Day, Another Dereliction)

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa. The Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, a conservative Christian organization, hosted 9 potential contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nominations at the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

If the lede seems nearly nonsensical―

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that he doesn’t support a government shutdown, but then proceeded to advocate an approach that was effectively a government shutdown.

(Levine)

―we might as well concede at the outset that it doesn’t actually make any sense. Then again, this is (A) Rand Paul, (B) a Republican, (C) during an election cycle in which he is bucking for a promotion.

Shorthand: Yeah, sounds about right.

Still, though, what does it mean?

“We should no longer continue to spend money at the same rate we are spending money, so yes, we should let all spending expire and then we should renew those programs that are working,” Paul said.”It should require a supermajority to get the new programs started.”

Right. So … if we shut down the government and then require, piece by piece, a filibuster majority to restart each component, it’s not actually a government shutdown.

See how that works? No? Then you’re probably not a Republican, even if you think you are.

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Image note: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa. The Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, a conservative Christian organization, hosted 9 potential contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nominations at the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Levine, Sam. “Rand Paul Says He Doesn’t Support A Government Shutdown, But Basically Supports A Government Shutdown”. The Huffington Post. 29 Septemer 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 Rand Paul Show (Complication)

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., prepares to address the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference which featured speeches by conservative politicians at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, June 18, 2015. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP)

This is not quite the same as the whole complaint that government doesn’t work, but still, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) offers something in a lesson about the moral of the story. The Kentucky junior has been working hard for a while, now, trying to find a way to circumvent the Bluegrass State law prohibiting him from running for both President and U.S. Senate. And in August, he found a way, convincing the state’s GOP to hold an extraneous, costly caucus that Mr. Paul will pay for.

And while the question of his procedural genius seemed well-enough established in the 2012 cycle when Rand Paul’s created a competitive presidential contest by maneuvering in the caucuses, the current contest presents its own challenges. The scion of fake libertarianism struggles to break five percent support, and has averaged less than one percent support in polls released over the last week. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker suspended his campaign on the eve of Iowa numbers putting him ahead of Rand Paul, and while the punditry marvels at another establishment candidate and Beltway favorite languishing in the polls, there is another facet of the Rand Paul Show worth attending:

Paul’s shallow support in Congress mirrors the kind of support his presidential campaign has earned in GOP primary polls. That has prompted some concerns to be raised about his strength in what should be a safe re-election race for a Republican.

“Sen. Paul earned a lot of goodwill with his efforts last year to help Republicans win back the majority and I suspect party leaders have wanted to give him some deserved leeway” for how long to carry on both campaigns, said Brian Walsh, a Republican operative who has worked on House and Senate races for more than a decade. “But there’s no question that every seat will be critical to holding the majority, that every senator running for re-election will need to spend a lot of time back home and at some point soon Senator Paul will have to make a decision on his future.”

(Yokley)

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The Rand Paul Show (Unimpossible)

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) listens during a news conference on military sexual assault November 6, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. A bipartisan group of senators are pushing to create an independent military justice system with the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images).

Why not take a moment for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)?

Steve Benen considers the suspension of Rick Perry’s presidential campaign:

I’ve seen some reports noting that Perry did not technically withdraw from the race, choosing instead to “suspend” his campaign, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a distinction without a difference. The former governor’s national ambitions are finished.

Perry is the first candidate to depart the historically massive 2016 field, which is itself emblematic of a larger truth. In a year in which the leading GOP candidates never served a day in public office, the first candidate to quit is the one who has the most executive-level experience (Perry was governor of one the nation’s largest states for a record 14 years).

msnbcSen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another struggling presidential hopeful, said on Twitter last night, “What does it say about Republicans when a three-and-a-half-term governor with a successful record of creating jobs bows out, as a reality star leads in the polls?”

Under the circumstances, that’s not an unreasonable question.

Ordinarily, when a high-profile presidential candidate effectively withdraws from the race, there’s a brief scramble from the remaining candidates to pick up his or her supporters and top staffers. That’s not really an issue with Perry – at the risk of sounding unkind, his departure doesn’t affect race too much, since the Texas Republican’s support was so weak.

It is, of course, easy enough to postulate snappy retorts about consumerism and Americo-Machiavellian post-capitalism, or some such, but perhaps it is more important to make the point that it is, in fact, possible to find a common point of agreement with Rand Paul.

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Benen, Steve. “Rick Perry exits stage right”. msnbc. 12 September 2015.

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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The Marco Rubio Show (Fadeout)

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) listens to a question at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, 13 May 2015. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

One of the interesting things about the Trumpapalooza going on in the GOP nomination contest has to do with the cover lesser candidates are getting. Then again, this is the GOP nomination contest, so taking cover from seemingly inevitable flak has its drawbacks; rhetorical martyrdom is the way to score points with the conservative base, so perhaps Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was hoping for louder criticism:

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio sounded the alarm about the state of U.S. armed forces in a foreign-policy speech today. But his claims and campaign promises don’t account for the impact of improvements in U.S. military technology or in some cases their production schedule.

Rubio, a Florida senator, said the U.S. Navy is “now smaller than at any time since before World War I” and the Air Force “has the smallest and oldest combat force in its history.”

Yet the numbers of ships and planes don’t define U.S. military capabilities.

Mike Dorning and John Walcott of Bloomberg Politics consider the issue, and let us simply pause for a moment to appreciate the magnitude of Mr. Rubio’s utter stupidity.

When Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made the same argument — that the U.S. Navy is smaller than at any time since 1917 — during a 2012 campaign debate, President Barack Obama responded with a mocking rejoinder.

“We also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed,” Obama said. “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

Yes, really. Mr. Rubio hoped to get attention by recycling a damaging argumentative failure from Mitt Romney’s disastrous 2012 presidential campaign.

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The Rand Paul Show (Chainsaw, Chuckle, and Sigh)

'Now why was that?'

This is … well, okay, we might suggest this is interesting, but only the way an obvious joke might be when it occurs that you haven’t yet recognized it. A brief chuckle, then a sigh.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) released an intense new video on Tuesday where he appears to be literally destroying the US tax code.

Paul has made tax reform central to his presidential campaign. To draw attention to his plan, Paul is asking his supporters to vote how they want to see him shred the current tax system.

The options for his supporters are: chainsaw, fire, and wood chipper.

(Campbell)

2016 GOP presidential nomination campaign advert showing Sen. Rand Paul using a chainsaw to destroy the tax code.  The junior Republican senator from Kentucky is asking fans to vote for how he should destroy the tax code, by fire, chainsaw, or wood chipper.  (21 July 2015)There really isn’t much to add. After all, it’s Rand Paul doing something stupid to beg for everyone’s attention while he reminds us how much he hates taxes. Maybe next time he could try being a bit more original. Like, you know, having a point. Or being something other than a predictably petulant brat. I mean, he could try being intelligent for once, perhaps … if, you know, that isn’t asking too much of the man.

Or, you know, perhaps that’s not fair. In the reality television show known as the 2016 Republican Presidential Nomination Super Fun Happy Patriot Time Show … er … ah … yeah, we’ll work on that title. That is to say, this year spectacular is the new black.

Goddess grant, that sounds even worse than usual. You know, can we finally be done with assertions of the new black? I mean, black is black is black, and the only reason orange, or pink and silver with brown, or whatever the season demands, must necessarily be the new black is because we can’t be bothered to think of anything more intelligent to say.

To wit, the point being that the theme of this year’s Republican nomination contest would seem to have something to do with necessary sensationalism. It’s kind of an open thesis right now, observing the question of candidates playing to national polls instead of early state voters, and also the fact that Donald Trump is in the race and pretty much basking the overwhelming chatter and noise drowning out his competitors. Some might wonder about the dignity and assertion of presidential demeanor about publicity stunts involving maniacal wielding of chainsaws, but this is also the 2016 Republican presidential nomination contest. Spectacle is the rule of thumb, and watch the candidates pander for attention. In a way, Rand Paul chainsawing the tax code makes perfect sense. Nor is that a justification; Republicans did this to themselves.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Rand Paul Show.

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Image notes: Top ― “Now, why was it?” Mamimi loses her train of thought. (FLCL, episode 1, “Fooly Cooly”) Right ― Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wields a chainsaw for a campaign advertisement, 21 July 2015.

Campbell, Colin. “Watch Rand Paul literally shred the US tax code with a chainsaw”. Business Insider. 21 July 2015.