Ron Paul

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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Prognostication

Detail of 'This Modern World' by Tom Tomorrow, 23 March 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.You know, with all the diversity in the right-wing tinfoil and wingnut sectors, it is sometimes hard to choose. Then again, misogyny tends to stand out. Trump talks to plot a place in politics; Lindsey Graham belabors Benghazi; a sense of inevitability about a Bush-Clinton grudge match has a wearying effect even as the ponies register for the sideshow.

But misogyny perches on a precarious pedestal. The 2012 debacle caught so many off guard, yet the signs were all there. The Tea Party Revolution set out to remake the House in its own image, trying to distinguish between statutory and other forms of rape. Even Ron Paul had his go, waxing furiously about “honest” rape, but perhaps we gave him a pass for being from Texas, or simply for being Ron Paul. Mitt Romney stumbled over Blunt-Rubio, and Republicans dragged birth control back into controversy.

And this year everyone looks to Hillary Clinton, the one person in Washington who should be sick and tired of State of the Union Addresses, having attended some twenty of them as First Lady, United States Senator, and Secretary of State. If men have reason to fret about their penises, they ought not wag them about as the glass ceiling shatters.

Misogyny really could be the show. As Republicans hope to lipstick wage inequality (Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN07) and women’s health (Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-NC05), compel rape and trafficking survivors to bear assailants’ children, and, well, run a presidential election against a female candidate, don’t ignore this impish hatred.

No, seriously, at this point, who will be the least bad on women’s rights? Jeb Bush? Perhaps the most alarming aspect of that suggestion is that even having seen just how poorly Mitt Romney’s campaign went over, we might wonder how well Jeb will or won’t handle these issues. Certes he can’t be as bad as Romney was on Blunt-Rubio; then again, after Cory Gardner’s ascension to the Senate, we might have reason to wonder if it really matters one way or another. They are, in the end, Republicans.

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Tomorrow, Tom. “A sneak peek”. This Modern World. Daily Kos. 23 March 2015.

Bill Kristol, Failing to Make Sense

ABC News Contributor and Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile, ABC News Contributor and The Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, ABC News' Cokie Roberts, and The Wall Street Journal Columnist Bret Stephens on 'This Week', 30 November 2014. (ABC News)

Does one ever wonder what, exactly, Bill Kristol gets paid for?

Alana Horowitz of Huffington Post sums up the sound bite:

Conservative pundit Bill Kristol said that Paul is “totally overrated” as a potential 2016 candidate.

“I predict Rand Paul will get fewer votes than his father got in 2012,” he said. “He’s more dovish than President Obama on foreign policy. Republican voters aren’t.”

To the one, here we have a pundit known for some sort of incisive something or other, yet he starts from a pretense of making the most obvious point possible and ends with something entirely irrelevant.

RADDATZ: OK. Rand Paul is targeting younger voters as well. Let’s take a look at our Facebook senti-meter. He is among the most talked about potential GOP candidate in the 18-34 year-old range, second only to Ted Cruz. And take a look at how they view him.

Perry, 61 percent positive; Rand Paul, 57 percent positive; Ted Cruz, 37 percent positive.

What do you think there, Bill Kristol?

KRISTOL: I think Rand Paul is totally overrated as a 2016 possibility. The media loves him. The media loves him because he takes a couple of liberal views, publicizes them in an incoherent way. I predict Rand Paul will get fewer votes than his father got in 2012. He’s as — he’s more dovish than President Obama on foreign policy. Republican voters aren’t.

And on law and order, yes, Republican voters — and I think most Americans — and I think an awful lot of African Americans think whatever injustice might happen in any individual case — and God knows there are cops who make mistakes and do things that they shouldn’t do — maybe not enough to get indicted.

Nonetheless, there’s no excuse for rioting and there’s no excuse for people apologizing for the destruction of property and the endangering of life. Law and order’s not just a political (INAUDIBLE). It really is part of a decent society.

(ABC News)

No, really, just try to follow that wreck. In truth, there is more leading up to the moment than the bite suggests, but nonetheless it is a hopeless pile of words trying to cover way too many things and, ultimately, represents Mr. Kristol at what passes for his usual self, starting with perfectly obvious considerations and descending immediately into incoherence. After all, one would think incompetence would be enough to forestall the Kentucky junior’s pres―

Oh.

Still, though, talk about opportunism. Any opportunity to complain about rioting. Trust us, it reads even worse in its own context.

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Horowitz, Alana. “Bill Kristol: Rand Paul ‘Is Totally Overrated’ For 2016”. The Huffington Post. 30 November 2014.

ABC News. This Week with George Stephanopolous. Transcript. 30 November 2014.

A Note on Narrative and Context: Life and Death Edition

 Henry Lee McCollum wiped tears at a hearing Tuesday in Lumberton, N.C., where a judge declared him and his half brother Leon Brown innocent and ordered them both released from prison. Credit Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer

“I feel very, very sorry for them and I’m glad to know they’re out. At least the process worked, it just took too long.”

―State Rep. Thom Tillis (R-NC98)

Context … is … everything.

At first blush, North Carolina State Speaker of the House Thom Tillis seems to have the right answer, politically speaking, to the inherent question of just what happened the now-infamous case of Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown. Mr. McCollum spent thirty years on death row, and his half-brother Leon Brown the same period under a life sentence; as the fact of their innocence echoes from sea to shining sea, the tragic tale is also boosted into the realm of the political circus, courtesy the one and only Justice Scalia:

The exoneration ends decades of legal and political battles over a case that became notorious in North Carolina and received nationwide discussion, vividly reflecting the country’s fractured views of the death penalty.

The two young defendants were prosecuted by Joe Freeman Britt, the 6-foot-6, Bible-quoting district attorney who was later profiled by “60 Minutes” as the country’s “deadliest D.A.” because he sought the death penalty so often.

For death penalty supporters, the horrifying facts of the girl’s rape and murder only emphasized the justice of applying the ultimate penalty. As recently as 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party put Mr. McCollum’s booking photograph on campaign fliers that accused a Democratic candidate of being soft on crime, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.

In 1994, when the United States Supreme Court turned down a request to review the case, Justice Antonin Scalia described Mr. McCollum’s crime as so heinous that it would be hard to argue against lethal injection. But Justice Harry A. Blackmun, in a dissent, noted that Mr. McCollum had the mental age of a 9-year-old and that “this factor alone persuades me that the death penalty in this case is unconstitutional.”

It was a spectacular line Scalia uttered; far beneath the dignity of any court in this fair land. Jonathan M. Katz and Erik Eckholm were kind enough to omit it from their New York Times article describing this week’s acquittal of McCollum and Brown, but still manage to make the point, anyway. This was just one of those cases, and in his own, inimitable way, Justice Scalia may well, by the fact of these acquittals, see what was merely crass and inflammatory rhetoric transformed into an icon of his shameful tenure on the Nation’s Highest Court.

But, yes, at first glance, it might seem Tillis has said exactly the right thing. The Devil, of course, is in the details:

Now middle aged, the two brothers have been in prison — one of them on death row — since they were teenagers, wrongfully accused of raping and murdering a child. When ThinkProgress asked Tillis if anything needs to change in light of this case, he said that because they were eventually exonerated, “It’s an example of how we have protections in our judicial system in North Carolina.”

“I feel very, very sorry for them and I’m glad to know they’re out,” he said. “At least the process worked, it just took too long.”

(Ollstein)

It’s called WYWA. The point is to answer the question you Wish You Were Asked. This is, of course, standard fare, and as much as it might annoy us, it is also true that voters respond affirmatively; if you cannot answer WYWA, you do not stand a chance.

But in this case, Tillis’ answer would seem to leave a certain issue unresolved. If the question is if anything needs to be changed, and the answer is that at least the system worked and an example of how we have protections, then what about how it just took too long?

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Stupid: The Kentucky Come-Hither

Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell, left, and Rand Paul address the media during a press conference following McConnell's victory in the republican primary Friday, May 23, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

As photographs go, this otherwise unremarkable example from Timothy D. Easley offers two brief amusements. To the first—

Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell, left, and Rand Paul address the media during a press conference, May 23, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. (Timothy D. Easley/AP Photo)

—someone botched the caption; that is, of course, Sen. McConnell on the right, although one might understand how, compared to his junior colleague from Kentucky, the Senate Minority Leader might be seen as being to the left.

To the second, though, is a simple evaluation of the aesthetics. Sens. Paul and McConnell are wearing those weird matching expressions, like a May-September couple that simultaneously spied a dashing young potential third for the evening’s enjoyment.

Seriously: Kentucky come-hither.

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Yet Another Republican Disaster

The face of corruption, a Ron Paul devotee.

“I’m sort of holding my nose for two years because what we’re doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand in ’16, so that’s my long vision.”

Jesse Benton

Okay, this is what you need to know about the above quote: Jesse Benton is married to Ron Paul’s granddaughter, worked on the former Texas congressman’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, and left the service of Rand Paul in order to work for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Like a turkey in the headlights.A former Iowa state senator, Kent Sorenson, has pled guilty to charges that he accepted a bribe to abandon his endorsement of and services as state campaign manager to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN06), in order to endorse and work for the Ron Paul campaign.

Mr. Sorenson has named Mr. Benton as a participant in arranging the bribes.

It would seem that what he did for McConnell that will help the junior senator from Kentucky in his 2016 presidential quest is be running the campaign for the senior senator from Kentucky’s re-election when the bribery scandal finally catches up to him.

After a while, it’s kind of like the stories about how everyone else but Dr. Paul wrote those racist newsletters with his name on them. What is it with this family, its political ambition, its willingness to rile people over the traditional corruption of politics, and apparently astounding accidental associations among anfractuous allies?

Y’know. As the saying goes, just sayin’.

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Weigel, David. “Mitch McConnell’s Campaign Manager Resigns After Being Ensnared in Iowa Ron Paul Scandal”. Slate. 29 August 2014.