TRMS

Clowntastic

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

“The truth is that Republicans are at a crossroads. What we are seeing is a surrogate battle to determine whether the GOP will be a sort of populist/protectionist party, or a more cosmopolitan and compassionate one. And if those are the two world views that will eventually clash, Cruz and Rubio are much better representatives than, say, Trump and Bush.”

Matt Lewis

Conservative stalwart Matt Lewis offers an intriguing commentary considering the real potential of a marquee showdown between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. The junior U.S. Senators from Florida and Texas respectively enjoy competitive positions in the polls, and thus stand out as leading candidates to ascend as Dr. Ben Carson tumbles and pretty much everyone else wonders when Trump will follow. The Roll Call op-ed opens:

“The two people to watch are Cruz and Rubio,” Charles Krauthammer declared on Tuesday’s episode of Fox News’ “Special Report.” Call it wishful thinking or conventional wisdom (or both), but there is an assumption that this clash of titans might eventually occur—and I, for one, am rooting for it.

And we can skip ahead to the ending, a pretense of obvious afterthought―that both Cruz and Rubio can win the general against Hillary Clinton―long enough to remember that Lewis is, after all, a conservative pitch man. Cruz can’t win; Rubio has a chance if he can overcome the deer and headlight air of youthful inexperienceα he often demonstrates so aptly when rattling through talking points that thoroughly defy his comprehension. That is to say, we can attend the pretense of afterthought long enough to dismiss it.

Nonetheless, Mr. Lewis offers an insightful analysis that includes the benefit of also sounding reasonable:

Most people I know think a Trump candidacy would be disastrous, but there is division regarding just how freaked out we should be. Some, like statistician Nate Silver, argue that we are putting too much stock in these early polls showing Trump ahead for a variety of reasons, including the fact that “the vast majority of eventual Republican voters haven’t made up their minds yet.”

Others argue that this is fantasy. All the previous predictions about a Trump collapse were premature, and besides, he’s a paradigm-shifting candidate; the old rules no longer apply.

Having said all that, it’s not absurd to believe that voters will finally come to their senses, and that Cruz and Rubio might eventually emerge as representatives of their various “lanes” to face off in a sort of championship battle to determine who will represent the GOP in the general election.

(more…)

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Regular Chaos

U.S. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R/UT-03), left, and Daniel Webster (R/FL-10). in detail of frame from msnbc, 6 October 2015.

“The job of the Speaker of the House is not to preside over regular order. The Speaker’s job is to expedite the will of the majority party, to keep the trains running on time and to otherwise protect the prerogatives and the power of the House of Representatives.”

John Feehery

John Feehery is of the sort whose conservative credentials should not be dismissed lightly, though in the contemporary GOP that would put the Republican strategist and former aide to then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL14) squarely within the establishment wing of the Party. And he offers up a fine recollection for The Hill about, “The myth of regular order”.

Pay attention:

When Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) became Speaker, he too promised regular order. Indeed, he famously allowed the House to work its will early on in his tenure, in 2011, to have the Rules Committee allow members to offer countless amendments to spending bills, to give his members more access to the levers of power.

But the conflict between the will of the majority of the House and the majority of his majority became untenable. A clear majority — including the Speaker — wanted action on a comprehensive immigration bill, but his Republican Conference did not. A clear majority wanted to lift the budget caps, but a majority of his majority did not. A clear majority in the House did not want the government to shut down, but his conference clearly thought that shutting it down was a necessary exercise in a battle of wills with President Obama.

We might take a moment for his generosity, of course, on that last, which might well have been an exercise in cynically letting the backbenchers charge the enemy guns because they’re too stupid not to, and this isn’t the day to force a no-confidence vote.

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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 John Kasich Show (What Counts)

Gov. John Kasich (R-OH; second from right), celebrates after signing a budget, 1 July 2013.  The controversial budget contained several anti-abortion measures intended to bureaucratically outlaw the practice.  (Detail of frame from video by Ohio Capitol Blog, via The Rachel Maddow Show.)

“I’m willing to fight all day long, but you’ve got to have a good prospect of being able to be successful. Because if you’re not successful, you shut the government down, you open it up and you haven’t achieved anything. You’re just going to have people shake their head and wonder what your thinking was.”

Gov. John Kasich (R-OH)

Remember, though, this is John Kasich we’re talking about, here. The takeaway from Jennifer Bendery’s report for Huffington Post is that Mr. Kasich is giving his colleagues sound strategic advice. That is to say, we should not let this or his recent sound bite about Kim Davis suggest he is any sort of moderate.

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The Lindsey Graham Show (Sad Polly)

Detail of frame from The Rachel Maddow Show, msnbc, 9 September 2015.

It is almost enough to feel sorry for Lindsey Graham:

PPP’s newest South Carolina poll finds a clear message for Lindsey Graham from Republican voters in the state: drop out. 78% of GOP primary voters think Graham should end his Presidential bid, compared to only 15% who think he should continue on with it.

(Jensen)

Ouch.

The South Carolina Republican won’t even make the main stage for the CNN debate in his home state.

Which is, in turn, it’s own bizarre debacle.

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Image note: Detail of frame from The Rachel Maddow Show, msnbc, 9 September 2015, depicting results of a Public Policy Polling survey of South Carolina Republican voters, showing they would prefer their U.S. Senator, Lindsey Graham, drop out of the 2016 GOP presidential race.

Jensen, Tom. “SC Republcans to Graham: Drop Out”. Public Policy Polling. 9 September 2015.

Maddow, Rachel. “Let’s play gutterball! A dive to the bottom of 2016’s primary polling”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 9 September 2015.

—————. “Rick Perry drops out, leaving only 16 Republican presidential candidates”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 11 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.

(more…)

The Donald Trump Show (Strangers in Cars)

Donald Trump.

There is plenty about this morning’s report from Niall Stanage of The Hill worth considering:

Republican insiders are reconciling themselves to the idea that Donald Trump won’t be exiting the stage anytime soon — and their main concern now is limiting his damage to their party.

The GOP establishment is almost universally hostile to Trump, who has soared in the 2016 polls on the back of his celebrity, his outspoken statements on immigration and trade deals, and media coverage of his antics.

Many party strategists believe Trump did himself serious damage with his recent remarks denigrating Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) experiences while a prisoner of war in Hanoi, Vietnam — but there is not yet conclusive polling evidence available.

Meanwhile, Trump has made clear that he has no serious intention of reining in his rhetoric — or curbing his propensity to tweak the nose of anyone who displeases him. On Tuesday, shortly after fellow White House contender Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had referred to the businessman as a “jackass,” Trump read out Graham’s cellphone number on live television during a campaign event in the senator’s home state.

During that appearance, Trump also called Graham “a stiff” and an “idiot,” and took shots at another critic and 2016 hopeful, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, saying he’d begun wearing glasses to make himself look smarter.

Among Washington Republicans, the hope is that voters will tire of such comments and that Trump will have to push his boat out into ever-murkier waters to continue to command attention.

Well, okay, sort of. There really is nothing to compare to the reality television spectacle of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. Over at msnbc, last night, Steve Kornacki helmed TRMS, and pretty much made the point in the eighteen minute A-block by reminding us that Gov. John Kasich of Ohio also declared his presidential candidacy yesterday. And there certainly remains a question of whether Donald Trump’s spectacularly bizarre performance in South Carolina was specifically intended to obscure the arrival of the sixteenth major Republican presidential candidate.

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Absurd

Detail of frame from The Rachel Maddow Show, msnbc, 6 May 2015.

This is important: Over the years we witness much political wrangling over our American military. Even the question of whether our service members should answer to the law can become fraught with the cheap politics of patriotism. But a question has been nagging at me for years: Why do conservatives get to abuse our service members this way?

Via msnbc:

The perils of political paranoia in Texas (MaddowBlog, 29 April)

Cruz sympathizes with ‘Jade Helm 15’ conspiracy theorists (MaddowBlog, 4 May)

Walmart, Pentagon try to knock down conspiracy theory (MaddowBlog, 5 May)

Fearful Texas GOP base amuses nation with conspiracy panic (TRMS, 6 May)

Two points:

(1) Look me in the eye and tell me our service members would do it. I dare you.

(2) This insulting nonsense has reached the top valence of American politics, with at least three Republican presidential candidates joining in: Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

There is no point three.

This is absurd.

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Image note: Detail of frame from The Rachel Maddow Show, msnbc, 6 May 2015.

A Timeless Conservative Priority

Round Two: Detail from FLCL episode 1, 'Fooly Cooly'.

This is going on. You know, just so you know:

When city lawmakers in Washington, D.C., approved a new law banning discrimination on the basis of reproductive choices, much of the right was not pleased. But the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal website published a report this week that some conservative organizations are actually preparing to ignore the new policy.

Hours after the Senate allowed a controversial anti-discrimination law to officially take effect in the nation’s capital, a group of pro-life organizations released a joint statement pledging to continue operating in accordance with their beliefs – thereby putting themselves at risk of violating the law.

“Despite the enactment of this unjust law, we will continue to hire employees who share our commitment to the dignity of every member of the human family,” reads the statement released by Alliance Defending Freedom, the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Americans United for Life and Americans United for Life Action, March for Life, Concerned Women for America, the Susan B. Anthony List, the Family Research Council and the Assoc. of Christian Schools International.

The groups’ statement added, “We will not abandon the purpose of our organizations in order to comply with this illegal and unjust law. We will vigorously resist any effort under RHNDA to violate our constitutionally protected fundamental rights.”

If so, it seems an interesting showdown is on the horizon.

(Benen)

In a way, certainly this seems sudden. But asserting religious rights to make decisions for other people is the in thing to do among conservatives. There really is nothing new going on here. This is, after all, the same outlook asserting an employer’s right to interfere in doctor-patient relationships, that religious exemption paperwork is a violation of religious conscience, and a religious right to discriminate against homosexuals in the public square. Historically, this is the same outlook as any empowerment majority facing a loss of privilege; equality itself feels dangerous to them, as the unknown is almost always at least a little scary.

Something goes here about teaching an old bull new sh―

Oh, right. Anyway, you get the idea.

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Benen, Steve. “Right vows to ‘vigorously resist’ reproductive rights law”. msnbc. 7 May 2015.

—————. “At the intersection of reproductive choices and discrimination”. msnbc. 6 May 2015.

See Also

Maddow, Rachel. “Republican war on reproductive rights seen in DC bill”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 6 May 2015.

Not Exactly News

Most 2016 GOP hopefuls support original Indiana law.  (TRMS, 3 April 2015)

We should not be surprised that “most 2016 GOP hopefuls support original Indiana law”. Just, you know, remember it next year, when it’s actually important because one of them might actually last long enough to look like a real candidate.

Otherwise, of course they support the original discrimination law. I mean, really, you know?

Still, it’s a good segment, and Steve Kornacki examines the numbers: “half of GOP primary voters are religious conservatives”.

And, you know, they are Republicans, after all. Some of them probably actually believe in this sort of thing.

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3 April 2015. “GOP candidates back religious freedom policy”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 3 April 2015.