Rand Paul

The Impossible Successor

#PresidentRyan | ¿#WhatTheyVotedFor?

Republican U.S. vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaks at a campaign rally, Oct. 22, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Amid everything else over the last week or so, we ought not forget this:

We’re left with an unsettling picture. Flynn told the transition team he’s the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, and either that information either reached Pence or it didn’t. If Pence was out of the loop, he was dangerously incompetent at his job. If Pence knew, and Flynn became National Security Advisor anyway, that’s worse.

Remember, as the turmoil surrounding Flynn grew more serious, the vice president said he was completely unaware of Flynn’s alleged misdeeds. In March, when Fox News asked Pence about Flynn having to register as a foreign agent, Pence said he was hearing the story for the first time.

Except, as Rachel has explained on the show, that’s literally unbelievable. Not only were there multiple news reports for months about Flynn’s foreign work, but Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote to Pence’s transition team to make sure Team Trump was aware of this.

(Benen)

Because, quite frankly, it still cracks me up that once upon a time, when Rubio was fumbling for water, Paul was drowning in plagiarism, and Christie apparently had nothing to do with that bridge, we might have heard Mike Pence’s name whispered as the cyclical dark horse. The Indiana governor, by Republican accounts, was politically savvy and a dedicated conservative. And while others might disagree about the savvy, it seemed for naught when he signed a RFRA and failed to comprehend what happened next. Except, of course, his dramatic revitalization as Donald Trump’s vice presidential candidate, and then vice president. It was easy enough to joke that we might yet see a President Pence.

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What They Voted For: Swamp

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answers a question during the third presidential debate at University of Nevada Las Vegas, 19 October 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Who: Christina Flom (Roll Call)
What: “Rand Paul on Bolton Appointment: ‘Heaven Forbid'”
When: 15 November 2016

Roll Call brings us up to speed:

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul says that President-elect Donald Trump appointing former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton to his Cabinet would be a major step toward breaking his promise of “changing America’s disastrous foreign policy.”

Rumors that Trump is considering Bolton as Secretary of State prompted Paul to write an op-ed in Rare.us, calling Bolton “part of failed elite that Trump vowed to oppose” ....

.... Paul said no man “is more out of touch” with the Middle East than Bolton and that Bolton is unable to see the mistakes he has made.

“All nuance is lost on the man,” Paul wrote. “The fact that Russia has had a base in Syria for 50 years doesn’t deter Bolton from calling for all out, no holds barred war in Syria. For Bolton, only a hot-blooded war to create democracy across the globe is demanded.”

This is one of those interesting things Republicans do to themselves. The Kentucky also-ran is not without a point, but he’s also Rand Paul, and this is Donald Trump’s Republican Party, now. There really isn’t anything surprising happening, which is a strange thing considering it’s happening at all. Still, though, as Donald Trump continues to undermine pretty much every allegedly respectable reason anyone might have offered in defense of their vote, we should remember that it always was about supremacism and lulz.

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A Note on Conservative Values

Kellyanne Conway speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, 4 March 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

This is fun. Peter Montgomery, for Right Wing Watch, the day after Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012:

Not only did Obama win big, but voters in Maine and Maryland embraced marriage equality, and Washington seems likely to join them. Minnesota voters rejected a Religious Right-backed attempt to put anti-gay discrimination into the state’s constitution. Tammy Baldwin was elected to the Senate, where she will be the first openly gay member.

Well before all those results were in, it was clear that the night was not going according to what Religious Right leaders had thought was God’s plan. At 10 pm, Tony Perkins and Jim Garlow held a phone call briefing for pastors. It was a very subdued affair, with representatives of the state marriage campaigns trying to sound hopeful about the then-uncalled outcomes in their states. Perkins and Garlow also held a Wednesday webcast on the “aftermath and aftershocks” as the scope of their Election Day drubbing sank in. “The problem in America is sin,” said Garlow. But, he said, “we have no problem that the next Great Awakening cannot solve.”

The tendency after an election defeat to avoid blame by casting it elsewhere was in full flower the day after the election. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Religious Right favorite, described Mitt Romney as “the most liberal Republican nominee in history” who had “waffled” on abortion, had passed a health care bill as governor, and had a hard time convincing conservatives on his commitments on taxing and spending. Perkins criticized Romney for not campaigning on issues of life, marriage, and religious liberty, even though Obama used them to appeal to his base. Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway agreed, saying Republicans had not done enough to draw the contrast on social and “moral” issues. Regarding the marriage wins, Perkins blamed Obama in part, saying the president’s policies have had “a shaping influence on the culture.” He and others also blamed marriage equality proponents’ financial advantage ....

.... Some Religious Right leaders sought solace in faith that God is ultimately in control. “America as we know it may have signed its death warrant tonight,” said Garlow during the pastors’ briefing. But not to worry, he said, nations come and go, but God’s kingdom is forever. Perkins said FRC and its allies would continue to stand strong in the face of “an increasingly hostile culture.”

Others looked forward to the next political fight. Pollster Conway predicted that 2014 would bring, like 2010’s Tea Party wave, a conservative resurgence and called for candidate recruitment to begin now. Perkins agreed that conservatives have never had a stronger “farm team” and touted potential conservative candidates for 2016, including Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, and Mike Pence.

Yes, indeed, a genuine Kellyanne Conway sighting, as the pollster reminded Republicans, as we hear every election, how things would go better if they would just become more misogynistic, homophobic, masculinist, Christianist, supremacist―you now, whatever counts among Republicans as family values and morality. It’s also worth noting, in addition to the farm team standouts, the presence of Tony Perkins of Family Research Council.

It’s just an interesting contrast. Kellyanne Conway, in her role as Donald Trump’s campaign manager, has undoubtedly drawn a contrast on social and moral issues. Mr. Perkins, for his part, was last heard explaining, “My personal support for Donald Trump has never been based upon shared values”.

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¿Normalization?

Naota (at right), tugs on the electrical cable rectally feeding a sex toy designed to look like his father (bottom), while MiuMiu the cat catches some rays. (FLCL episode 4, 'Full Swing')

This is a sentence that ought to thrill hearts: “America may be closer to a post-gay state of politics than most realize”. Alex Roarty’s report for Roll Call either begs certain questions or else desecrates them; matters of perspective abide.

The St. Jerome Fancy Farm Picnic is an annual showcase for Kentucky’s top politicians to give (they hope) a funny, sharp-elbowed speech at the other party’s expense. While they speak, hundreds of loud-mouthed partisans are encouraged to yell and scream as loudly as they can―as if the American political id was caged in a small pavilion two hours from a major airport.

U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray (D) speaks the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Kentucky, on Saturday, 6 August 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)“I want to introduce myself to Sen. McConnell,” he said, looking over to the Senate majority leader seated a few feet away, who minutes earlier had given his own speech. The Republicans, whose voices drowned out the sound of nearby thunder, chanted “Go away Gray!”

The candidate continued: “He earlier called me a ‘nobody.’ Well, let me introduce myself, senator. I am Jim Gray, and I am the guy who is going to beat Rand Paul.”

What went unnoticed this recent Saturday afternoon was that Gray was probably first openly gay person to speak at Fancy Farm. Records aren’t easy to come by for something that began in 1880, but veterans of the event say they can’t recall an openly gay speaker.

This is how Gray’s campaign has gone: He’s making history, and nobody seems to notice. Or, for that matter, care.

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The Donald Trump Show (Boffo)

Donald Trump awaits his introduction at the 2005 launch of Trump University. (Detail of photo by Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press.)

Again we hear the refrain wondering whether presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has finally gone too far. The answer, of course, is invested in who marks the threshold, and in the end voters have the final word, or so to speak. GOP consultant and fierce Trump critic Rick Wilson appears quite correct when he says a leaked conference call tells us the Trump Univesity lawsuit “really bothers” his party’s apparent nominee. And while Wilson’s critique that “there is no campaign” actually sounds about right under the circumstances―hint: more than the conference call, perhaps the msnbc article with the straightforward title, “Donald Trump does not have a campaign”, explains the problem better― NYT deputy Washington editor Jon Weisman is even more blunt: “The leaks in this boffo @bpolitics piece,” he tweets, “show @RealDonaldTrump doesn’t understand he’s playing in the majors now.”

And boffo fits well enough; the Bloomberg Politics piece describes a Monday conference call between Mr. Trump and prominent supporters:

An embattled Donald Trump urgently rallied his most visible supporters to defend his attacks on a federal judge’s Mexican ancestry during a conference call on Monday in which he ordered them to question the judge’s credibility and impugn reporters as racists.

Which sounds about right, all things considered, except that’s when things start to go off the rails:

When former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer interrupted the discussion to inform Trump that his own campaign had asked surrogates to stop talking about the lawsuit in an e-mail on Sunday, Trump repeatedly demanded to know who sent the memo, and immediately overruled his staff.

“Take that order and throw it the hell out,” Trump said.

Told the memo was sent by Erica Freeman, a staffer who circulates information to surrogates, Trump said he didn’t know her. He openly questioned how the campaign could defend itself if supporters weren’t allowed to talk.

“Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?” Trump said. “That’s one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”

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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.

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.