Friday, April 17, 2015


Here comes Kasichmania?
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Gov. John Kasich is about to launch a national political committee that would allow him to raise money and his profile as he considers a run for president in 2016, sources close to the Republican said Thursday.

The effort, first reported on, has been in the works since Kasich's well-received visit last month to New Hampshire, which holds the first primary....
I think a lot of non-conservatives feel this way:

And there may be some truth to that. But I don't think he'll get that far. If he runs, plenty of people in the base are going to react the way Mofo Politics reacted when he put forth a plan to expand Medicaid in Ohio under Obamacare:
Kasich justifies his “very conservative” decision to expand Medicaid and implement Obamacare...
I mean, that’s what we’re supposed to do in life, right? Help our neighbor. Help people…that’s my whole philosophy in the state.

Medicaid is another one we did…making sure that people could get health care.


There’s a, kind of a big faith-based component of the conservative, to me, that’s very conservative.
On issue after issue, Kasich is severely conservative.


Kasich received an “F” rating from the NRA after voting for Bill Clinton’s 1994 Assault Weapons Ban (AWB).


Kasich claims to be for lower taxes, but as Governor, he proposed “fee increases” on bank service, overnight trailer parks, bowling alleys, billiard parlors, hunting and fishing guides, racing events, and admission to museums, amusement parks, circuses, fairs, concerts, and sporting events.


On the topic of Obama’s Executive Amnesty, Kasich conceded that his immigration stance has “evolved” because he is “a little smarter now”...
The country needs healing...I wouldn’t ever be one to tell you that I don’t change my mind or that my thinking doesn’t evolve... I’m also a different guy than I was years ago.

This was accompanied by a subtle bit of Photoshop:

And here are a few skeptical Free Republic threads, in case you think that Mofo post is anomalous.

Meanwhile, as Joan Walsh has noted, many of the big-money boys don't like him either:
... why is [Scott] Walker still considered Bush’s top primary challenger, especially for the donor class, while Kasich can’t get started?

There’s an important glimpse of an answer in this dispatch from a Kasich meeting with big New York donors.

... Kasich left the crowd unwowed ... says the National Review’s Eliana Johnson....

Apparently Kasich turned them off with his “prickly” answer to a question from conservative intellectual powerhouse Avik Roy, about whether he wants to repeal Obamacare yet maintain its expansion of Medicaid. When pushed, Kasich defended Medicaid recipients: “Maybe you think we should put them in prison. I don’t. I don’t think that’s a conservative position. Because the reality is, if you don’t treat the drug addicted and the mentally ill and the working poor, you’re gonna have them and they’re gonna be a big cost to society.”

Another turn-off for the big New York money guys? “He also talked about the need for a renewed bipartisan spirit on both sides of the aisle, citing Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, and Jack Kemp and Charlie Rangel, as models for contemporary lawmakers to emulate,” Johnson reports. She concludes: “At the dinner’s close, there was little appetite for a Kasich presidency among those who’d assembled to hear him.”
Bipartisanship? Can't have that!

I don't know what's going on in the GOP. The fat cats cleared Mitt Romney out to make way for Jeb Bush, but now it looks as if Rubio, Christie, and Kasich will all run; they won't be able to dominate, but they will pick off votes from Jeb, thus possibly clearing the way for ... who? Walker? Cruz? Paul?

I know the thinking is that Kasich is running for VP because he's from electoral-vote-rich Ohio. But I think Jeb and Marco will be afraid to run with someone deemed a RINO, and, ideologically, Walker, Cruz, and Paul won't want to.

So I'm not seeing much upside for Kasich -- even though, yeah, he might win a general election, among non-crazy voters. (Though he does support the craziest idea ever, a balanced budget amendment, which would have made the New Deal illegal. So I'll be very happy if he's not on the ticket.)


Liz Mair was a Republican operative who was hired to be Scott Walker's digital strategist, but she had to resign after it was revealed that she'd posted a couple of Iowaphobic tweets:
“Morons across America are astounded to learn that people from *IOWA* grow up rather government-dependent. #agsubsidies #ethanol #brainless,” she tweeted on Jan. 22.

Two days later, she fired another missive against the Hawkeye State’s political status.

“The sooner we remove Iowa’s frontrunning status, the better off American politics and policy will be,” Mair tweeted on Jan. 24.
A visit to the "fact sheet" about herself on her website suggests that she regards herself as a young free-thinker with an attitude:
6. You hate gay people.

I'm actually a long-time gay rights supporter. I am on the board of the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry. I was on the board of GOProud. I've been on the record as supporting same-sex marriage for far longer than the vast majority of Democrats or liberals....

9. You're a racist/xenophobe.

This is true, actually. I am not a fan of Belgium and have met very few Belgians I like. I have a bias against Belgium and Belgians.

But I do like people of Latino, African and Asian extraction, as well as White people -- except if they're from Belgium.

10. You're a lesbian.

No, but I get that some people think any woman with short hair is a lesbian. I'm actually married to the guy I've been with since I was 18 and we have a kid. And yes, my husband was born a man with all the relevant bits, and still lives as a man with all the relevant bits.
So why, now that she's parlayed her fifteen minutes of hired-then-fired fame into a writing gig for the Daily Beast, does this seemingly edgy young conservative come off at the Beast like an old, tired sixtysomething op-ed writer?
[Hillary Clinton's campaign is] all so dull, so bland, so scripted, so planned, so typically political. And perhaps, just perhaps, it’s what American voters deserve.

Americans want to believe that we’re a nation of risk-takers, pioneers, people willing to cast comfort and safety aside to achieve a dream, tell the truth, and change the world. Some of us still are those things, too. But in reality, a lot of us have become something else in recent years: narcissistic, overly-cautious, superficial, reality-disconnected, and above all, very, very boring.

Even among those of us who loathe the former Madam Secretary, we have become in so many ways just like her campaign promises to be. We are, in effect, Ready for Hillary.

We have fallen in love with so-called “reality television,” which -- surprise! -- is often scripted and directed. We freak out about allowing 10-year-olds to play in the park unsupervised. We are obsessed with social media, posting selfies, and racking up followers, friends, and fans.

We frequently reject fully experiencing events and occasions in favor of documenting them, or more accurately documenting ourselves looking hot or cool at or during them. We veer toward what is comfortable and easy, just like Hillary and the Chipotle visit.

We avoid expressing any opinions that could be deemed “controversial” because it could impede our quest for popularity and acceptance. When someone ruffles feathers even just a little, our tendency is toward outrage, boycotts (or buy-ins), public humiliation, and pushing for firings.

We reject substance, preferring to focus on things like the optics of taking a sip of water, or being photographed looking at a smartphone. We wear modern versions of girdles and package-accentuating underwear so we can show off our “best selves.”

Many of us are concerned less with actual learning than just getting a good grade or diploma that we can show off. We think we deserve automatic promotions just for having been around or putting up with some nonsense or other...
Please! Enough! For the love of God, turn it off! I'll talk!

If you puréed the gray matter of Richard Cohen, Maureen Dowd, and David Brooks, threw in the preserved cerebellum of Andy Rooney, then formed the slurry into a new brain, it would write precisely this passage. I'm really amazed that she managed to leave out complaints about Kim 'n' Kanye, or "everybody gets a trophy" days.

Now, do you want an alternate theory for why the Hillary Clinton campaign is trying to be low-key? Maybe it's because Hillry's spent nearly a quarter of a century in the national spotlight being accused of murder, totalitarianism, fomenting jihad with her clandestine lesbian lover, and a host of other high crimes. Um, Liz, maybe she decided to let your side engage in all the nostril-flaring excess for a while.


The political press is reporting this breathlessly:
Sen. Marco Rubio’s splashy presidential-campaign announcement and his subsequent media blitz has likely helped him catch up with friend and former mentor Jeb Bush in their home state of Florida, according to a new poll of 400 registered Republican voters.

Rubio garnered 31 percent support from Republicans and essentially tied Bush’s 30 percent, according to a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey conducted Tuesday through Thursday and shared exclusively with POLITICO.
At The American Spectator, which has a gushy feature story on Rubio ("Ignore the low poll numbers. Rubio has seen worse. He is an effective candidate, with a strong campaign team around him, and will almost certainly exceed expectations once again"), there are hosannas on the house blog:

It didn’t take long. Mere days after Marco Rubio announced he would seek the Republican nomination for president with a right-populist message, a Mason-Dixon poll shows him slightly ahead of Jeb Bush in Florida.

Rubio’s 31 to 30 Florida lead is within the margin of error. But these numbers, as well as Bush’s sinking polls in New Hampshire, are blows to the conventional view that Bush III is the inevitable Republican nominee.
How is this poll a blow to the conventional wisdom? Rubio had a splashy candidate announcement and garnered a lot of positive press, which gave him a post-rollout bounce -- and that bounce still didn't give him more than parity in Florida with Jeb, who still hasn't made his formal announcement (and hasn't started spending much of the bajillion-dollar war chest he's likely to amass). What's going to happen to Rubio after this bounce dissipates and he's just one more guy with a rubber nose in the clown car?

Yes, Rubio was way behind Bush for quite a while in Florida, so this is an improvement -- but he actually was even with Bush in Florida early in 2014, according to several polls. So he's just making up lost ground. He actually has to win Florida (and a few other states) to be the nominee, no?

Scott Walker blew past Bush in a number of polls after his big CPAC speech, and he's still leading in a lot of polls (like the national Fox poll released two weeks ago). That's been a blow to the Bush-is-inevitable conventional wisdom. Wake me when Rubio is beating Bush anywhere.


Oh dear ... what has Hitlery KlintOOOOOOn, wannabe dictator of the United States of America, said now?

Really? She said the family shouldn't be involved in education?

Well, no, of course not, though you'd think so from stories like this one, from the Federalist:
During her first official campaign event in Iowa earlier this week, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton praised Common Core and referred to children’s education as a “non-family enterprise.” ...
And what exactly did she say? Here's the Federalist's transcript, from a C-SPAN video clip:
Hillary Clinton: You know, what I think about the really unfortunate argument that has been going on around Common Core, it’s very painful because the Common Core started off as a bipartisan effort. It was actually nonpartisan. It wasn’t politicized. It was to try to come up with a core of learning that we might expect students to achieve across our country, no matter what kind of school district they were in, no matter how poor their family was, that there wouldn’t be two tiers of education. Everybody would be looking at what would be learned doing their best to achieve that

I think part of the reason Iowa may be more understanding of this is you have had the Iowa core for years. The U.S. had a system plus the Iowa Assessment Test. I think I’m right in saying that I took those when I was in elementary school. The Iowa tests. So that Iowa has had a testing system based on a core curriculum for a really long time. You see the value of it. You understand why that helps you organize your whole education system.

And a lot of states, unfortunately, haven’t had that. They do not understand the value of a core in the sense, a Common Core, yes, of course, you can figure out the best way in your community to try to reach -- but your question is a larger one. How do we end up at a point where we are so negative about the most important non-family enterprise in the raising of the next generation which is how our kids are educated?
Yes, she's sticking up for national or statewide standards worked out under the aegis of the Evil Government. But did you catch the bit near the end of that transcript about how "you can figure out the best way in your community" to implement standards? Aren't parents part of the "community"?

And is her reference to school as a "non-family enterprise" really confusing? Isn't it obvious to anyone who's not an insane right-wing zealot that what she means is that the mot important things in a child's upbringing happen within the family, except school, which takes place in school buildings that aren't the home, at the hands of people who aren't family members? Is this really that difficult to grasp?

Well, yes, on the right it is -- or at least the right-wing media wants its target audience to misconstrue this. So, at PJ Media, we get this:
Just a reminder that Hillary’s “It Takes a Village” theme from the 1990s is her polite and folksy way of saying that in her socialist worldview, your children belong to the state, not to you.
A Red State blogger writes this:
Parents who send their children to school and expecting the school to “fix” them are the ones who do the most harm to their children and the education system in general. Why are we so negative about education, Mrs. Clinton? Because we see the results of where education has brought us since the movement began to make them do everything in place of parents.
Bizpac Review finds John Stossel stirring up outrage on Twitter:

See also National Review, the Medkia Research Council, Caffeinated Thoughts, Twitchy ...

You can criticize Hillary Clinton or endorsing Common Core if you don't like Common Core. But that's not what's going on here. These folks are trying to turn "non-family enterprise" into "you didn't build that" or "what difference, at this point, does it make?" -- phrases ripped from their original context so they mean, to conservatives, what they were never intended to mean.

And so the rage increases and the grievances pile up on the right.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


I'm told that this is Marco Rubio trying to "find the middle ground on same-sex marriage":
When it comes to same-sex marriage, Marco Rubio is trying to stake out a position somewhere between Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz.

A day after being called the “candidate of yesterday” by CNN's Jake Tapper over his opposition to same-sex marriage during a CNN interview, Rubio told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos on Wednesday that he would participate in a gay wedding involving someone he loves. At the same time, he ... compared a gay wedding to a divorcee’s second marriage

“I’m a member of the Catholic faith,” the Florida senator said. “It teaches that marriages -- after you get married the first time, if you’ve been divorced you can’t be remarried, and yet people attend second marriages all the time.”
Right, Marco. So why not take that a step further? Because I've noticed an interesting thing: Even though you think they're immoral, you and your fellow Catholics aren't trying to make divorce and remarriage illegal. You folks live with reasonable level of contentment in a world in which all sorts of things that are forbidden in your faith are legal: contraception (yes, some religious conservatives want to ban that, but you don't seem to be one of them, Marco), premarital sex, in vitro fertilization, divorce. You guys are free not to indulge in any of these things -- but they're legal, and somehow you tolerate that. So why not same-sex marriage as well, even for people you don't love?

By the way, I'm wondering how many Catholic bakers and florists refuse to provide services for remarriages. Are there any? Maybe there are. I'd like to know.


This is today's Hillary scandal:
Hillary Clinton’s statements that all her grandparents immigrated to the U.S. are in conflict with public records, a report says.

According to Buzzfeed, Clinton spoke in Norwalk, Iowa, on Wednesday about her family’s arrival in the country. “All my grandparents, you know, came over here,” she said.

Only her paternal grandfather, Hugh Rodham Sr., immigrated to the United States, according to Buzzfeed. Her paternal grandmother, Hanna Jones Rodham, was born in Pennsylvania, records show.

Clinton’s maternal grandparents, Della Howell and Edwin Howell, were both born in Illinois, according to records.

Clinton gave similar comments in a speech in Louisville, Ky., last April, saying her paternal grandmother “immigrated with her family as a young girl to Scranton and went to work -- very young -- in a silk mill.”
I think I understand this. I'm a dozen years younger than Hillary Clinton, but I'm of similar ancestry -- my grandparents are a mix of immigrants and children of immigrants. My maternal grandfather (who died before I was born) and grandmother were both born in America, the children of immigrants. My father's parents were immigrants -- or so I've been told. I'm not 100% sure I have their story straight. My father died when I was nine. These grandparents moved down to Florida in my childhood, and my mother's relationship with my father's family was never very good, so I lost touch with them. I never discussed this with them, or with any cousins. (I lost touch with them as well.) And my mother, while still sharp in her late eighties, has never been focused on nailing down the specifics.

I'm not sure what Hillary Clinton knew about her maternal grandparents from family lore. Hillary's mother's father died before Hillary was born. Hillary's mother's mother "essentially abandoned" the family when Hillary's mother was young, according to Hillary's memoir Living History. Hillary's mother spent several years of her childhood being raised by her grandparents. It doesn't sound like a cozy extended-family situation in which Little Hillary would say, "Grandma, tell me about the Old Country."

And remember that, in those generations of immigrants and children of immigrants, it was common not to talk about the past. (The story in my wife's family is that her father and his siblings literally didn't know which Mitteleuropean country their immigrant grandfather came from or what his first language was.) So some of us whose ancestors immigrated to America in that era don't necessarily have their stories straight.

I find this in a Mediaite story:
Now, second generation experiences are a fairly legitimate subject to discuss in America, but they’re wildly different from the first generation -- a.k.a. “the immigrant” -- experience.
I don't think that's necessarily true. Culturally, there didn't seem to be much difference between my immigrant paternal grandparents and my non-immigrant grandmother. They all spoke English without an Italian accent, because they'd all been speaking English since childhood (the immigrant grandparents came here when they were young) -- yet they were all children of immigrants, which meant they experienced their parents' sense of being outsiders.

Hillary Clinton has only occasionally talked about her grandparents, and she could have told the stories she's told with accurate information without really losing the point of the anecdotes. Her grandparents grew up as both Americans and outsiders -- that's true for the one born in Wales and for the ones who were born here as children of recent immigrants, just as it's true of my U.S.-born grandparents and the grandparents who came here from Italy as children. So I give her a pass on this.


This National Journal story suggests that there could be a punishing intraconservative war in the 2016 campaign, though I'm not going to cook up too much popcorn in anticipation:
A secretive group that serves as the umbrella operation for leaders and activists within the conservative movement will host two meetings in the coming months, National Journal has learned, the first to vet Republican presidential candidates and the second to discuss coalescing behind one of them.

The Council for National Policy, a shadowy organization of several hundred dues-paying members, typically meets three times a year in various locations around the country. But with the 2016 cycle accelerating, and many conservative leaders intent on rallying behind a single candidate, CNP's leadership is taking extraordinary measures -- scheduling two top-priority meetings outside of Washington -- and inviting a large number of nonmembers to both....

This sequence of events will be the manifestation of a year's worth of private meetings around the country ... in which leaders from the faith and tea-party communities have agreed on the importance of rallying their followers behind a single conservative candidate who might stand a chance of defeating the "establishment" favorite in the GOP primary....
So who are these folks?
CNP is known to represent all three legs of the conservative "stool" -- social, fiscal, and national security -- but there has always been a special emphasis on the first. CNP is currently led by Tony Perkins, who also serves in a much more visible role as president of the Family Research Council in Washington.
See, I want to believe that these people can gum up the works for Jeb Bush, and for the Establishmentarians who want to force him on the GOP base. I want to believe that they can get an unelectable religious-right zealot nominated. But I don't think they have the juice.

If it were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago, I'd say a group like this would have real clout:
CNP was conceived in 1981 by at least five fathers, including the Rev. Tim LaHaye, an evangelical preacher who was then the head of the Moral Majority. (LaHaye is the co-author of the popular Left Behind series that predicts and subsequently depicts the Apocalypse). Nelson Baker Hunt, billionaire son of billionaire oilman H.L. Hunt (connected to both the John Birch Society and to Ronald Reagan's political network), businessman and one-time murder suspect T. Cullen Davis, and wealthy John Bircher William Cies provided the seed money.

... Christian activist Paul Weyrich took responsibility for bringing together the best minds of conservatism, and his imprint on the group's mission is unmistakable....

... the CNP has functioned as a sausage factory for conservative ideas of a particular goût: strong affirmations of military power, Christian heritage, traditional values, and leave-us-alone-get-off-our-backs legislation.

The group has (or used to have) a kingmaker reputation, primarily for this reason:
In 1999, candidate George W. Bush spoke before a closed-press CNP session in San Antonio. His speech, contemporaneously described as a typical mid-campaign ministration to conservatives, was recorded on audio tape.

(Depending on whose account you believe, Bush promised to appoint only anti-abortion-rights judges to the Supreme Court, or he stuck to his campaign "strict constructionist" phrase. Or he took a tough stance against gays and lesbians, or maybe he didn't).

... Shortly thereafter, magisterial conservatives pronounced the allegedly moderate younger Bush fit for the mantle of Republican leadership.

The two events might not be connected. But since none of the participants would say what Bush said, the CNP's kingmaking role mushroomed in the mind's eye, at least to the Democratic National Committee....
More recently, the CNP gained notoriety for putting up fierce resistance to Rudy Giuliani in his pursuit of the 2008 nomination, and for opposing Mitt Romney in that same campaign.

But John McCain wasn't a favorite in this crowd, and he won the '08 nomination. Then Romney won it four years later, even though the group helped raise $1.8 million for Rick Santorum (late in the process, which probably helps explain why there's an effort under way by the group to pick a candidate early this time).

It's been widely reported that Sarah Palin was vetted by CNP before John McCain put her on his ticket in 2008. But I don't see anything similar about Paul Ryan in 2012, although you can find praise for him on CNP's website (here's David Limbaugh saying "thank God for Paul Ryan" in a 2012 speech to CNP).

I suspect you can't challenge these guys too forcefully if you want to be on the GOP ticket, but I think Jeb and the fillers of his war chest can probably roll right over them. The most I'll say is that if he wins the nomination he'll probably have to mollify them with his VP choice, and since they're also defense hard-liners, he's not going to pick Rand Paul as his running mate. But I would be delighted to be wrong about this. I hope these folks make a lot of mischief.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Talking Points Memo reports:
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter advocated for the administration of literacy tests as a prerequisite for voting on Wednesday during an appearance on "Fox & Friends."

During a segment on how poorly informed American voters are, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade asked Coulter whether it bothered her that her vote counted just as much as someone who knew nothing about politics.

"More than I can say," Coulter said. "I just think it should be, well for one thing, a little more difficult to vote. There's nothing unconstitutional about literacy tests."
Hmm, let's see: On August 17, 1999, Coulter said this on Fox's Hannity & Colmes:
I think there should be a literacy test and a poll tax for people to vote.
On September 29, 2006, again on Fox, she told Neil Cavuto:
Way too many people vote. We should have fewer people voting. There ought to be a poll tax to take the literacy test before voting.

New material, Ann: try writing some.

In the Fox & Friends appearance today, there was also this:
Throughout the discussion, Coulter maintained that voting was too easy.

"We have ballots being given in 124 different languages," Coulter said. "And I'm pretty sure Senate debates will not be taking place in Urdu. So what are they voting on?"
I'd love to know where she got that number. The Voting Rights Act requires ballots to be printed in languages other than English when a certain percentage of voters in a voting subdivision are insufficiently fluent in English but fluent in another language -- but the number of other languages in which ballots are required to be printed isn't 124, according to this 2011 notice from the Federal Register -- it's only 21. And 12 of those 21 languages are Native American languages.

Maybe Coulter has a source for that 124 figure that I don't know about. I'll stand corrected if so. But I'm skeptical.

Oh, and let me note for the record that this bilingual ballot requirement was expanded by Congress in 1992, and the expansion was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. It was a different country then.


A fast-growing movement is calling for an increase in the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, and according to a story in The New York Times, that's excellent news for John McCai-- ... er, uncomfortable news for Hillary Clinton:
The grass-roots energy building around the minimum wage issue may upend Hillary Rodham Clinton’s plans to ease into proposing specific economic policies.

The issue will be in the foreground on Wednesday, when fast-food and other low-wage workers plan a nationwide walkout that is expected to draw tens of thousands of people to rally support for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. The protest is the latest show of strength by the Fight for $15, a campaign that economists partly credit with the recent decisions by employers like Walmart and McDonald’s to raise the minimum wage they pay workers....

“The campaign is clearly going to have to come out with a position on it,” said Dean Baker, a progressive economist who met with economic advisers to Mrs. Clinton on other issues. “There is pressure on her to come up with a number.” ...
Curiously, this movement is putting much less pressure on Republican presidential aspirants, according to the Times. Now, you'd think that's because Republican presidential wannabes are unswervingly opposed to the minimum wage. But that's not what the Times story says. It strongly suggests that Republicans are perfectly cool with the existence of the minimum wage, and are therefore pretty much in the same boat as Clinton (and President Obama) when it comes to the issue of a big increase:
Even Republicans, whose party has long been skeptical of the minimum wage, have begun to soften their opposition. “I’m not for repealing the minimum wage,” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said at a candidate forum in January. “But I can tell you, I don’t want people to make $10.10 an hour. I want them to make $30 an hour.”
So there are no qualms about the minimum wage on the part of Rubio (or, by implication, the rest of the GOP field)?

Sorry, that's not accurate. This quote is thoroughly out of context. It comes from a January forum sponsored by the Koch-funded Freedom Partners and moderated by ABC's Jonathan Karl. Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz all participated -- and not one of them was willing to say whether, ideally, there should be a federal minimum wage at all. Cruz said that "the minimum wage consistently hurts the most vulnerable." Paul said, "The minimum wage is only harmful when it's above the market wage" -- which means that he believes it's never actually useful, and that it's harmful except in those special moments when wages are already high, at which point it's completely ineffective economically. Rubio says it's "a disruption that we don't need."

Karl repeatedly tries to pin the three candidates down on the existence of the minimum wage and the proper rate. Their answers are pure evasion, but not one of them will say that the minimum wage is a good thing, and not one of them will say that the minimum wage should be raised at all.

This is consistent with other statements they've made. In 2013, Rubio told Charlie Rose, "I don't think a minimum wage law works." That same year, Cruz, on Facebook, called an Obama administration proposal for an increase in the minimum wage "zombie economics," linking to a Forbes opinion column that said, "Using [Paul] Krugman’s terminology: The idea that government can create prosperity by enacting a higher minimum wage is 'a zombie idea ... that has been thoroughly refuted by analysis and evidence, and should be dead.'” And other top Republicans feel more or less the same way. Last year, Scott Walker said, of his state's minimum wge (which is set at the federal level), "I'm not going to repeal it, but I don't think it serves a purpose." Jeb Bush last month said, "I think state minimum wages are fine. The federal government shouldn’t be doing this. This is one of those poll-driven deals."


I'm going to lengthen this post significantly by giving you the complete exchange from that forum with Jonathan Karl. Read it. Then tell me: Are these guys softening on the minimum wage?
JONATHAN KARL: Well, let me just two specifics here, one: I think an easy one with the three of you-- the minimum wage. I think all three of you have come out against raising the minimum wage. So my question is do you think there should be a federal minimum wage at all? Just simple yes or no answer.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: No, it's more than a yes or no answer. Those are always-- the bottom line is--


SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: --I'm not for repealing the minimum wage. But I can tell you, I don't want people to make $10.10 an hour. I want them to make $30 an hour, $35, $40 an hour. And the only way you're going to get there, not through a law but through a growing economy that creates those jobs-- and then have-- giving people the opportunity to make that and more. And my problem with raising the minimum wage is not that I wanna deny someone $10.10. I'm worried about the people whose wage is gonna go down to zero because you've now made them more expensive than a machine.

JONATHAN KARL: But you're not for repealing the minimum wage. You think there should be a federal minimum wage. You're happy where it is now at $7.25 an hour?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: John, I think it's important to look at who loses out. You know, we had a debate on the minimum wage just recently. And I gave a floor speech on the Senate floor with three simple charts, $10.10, the proposed Obama minimum wage. And then the next chart Marco just referenced was $0.00 which is the real Obama minimum wage because when you have the lowest labor force participation since 1978 to the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs under the Obama economy that's their minimum wage.


SENATOR TED CRUZ: And then let me tell you the third number I had up there was $46.98. $46.98 is the average hourly wage of an oil and gas worker in North Dakota. And what I wanna see is an awful lot more people making $40 and $50 and $60 a week-- an hour and an awful lot less people making zero dollars a week.

JONATHAN KARL: Okay, but-- and I wanna-- I wanna move off this. I just very sh-- do you think there should be a minimum wage at all?


JONATHAN KARL: $7.25, is that the magic number? Is that where we are? I mean, you--

SENATOR TED CRUZ: --I think the minimum wage consistently hurts the most vulnerable. So, for example, on this--

JONATHAN KARL: --so there shouldn't be one. The market should set the minimum wage?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: --let me give you an example of this increase to $10.10 that Obama was urging. The Congressional budget office estimated up to one million people would lose their jobs. And the people who would lose their jobs are low-income, primarily African-American and Hispanic workers. And let me make it very real, 1957 when my dad came to the United States, he was 18. He couldn't speak English. So his first job was washing dishes. He made 50 cents an hour. Why did he get that job? Because you didn't have to speak English to take a dish and put it under hot water. Now if we had come in and made the minimum wage $2 an hour, you know what would of happened? They would of fired my dad and they would of bought a dishwasher.


SENATOR TED CRUZ: That's who gets hurt.

JONATHAN KARL: --so let me try this one more time. Senator Paul, you gave me--

JONATHAN KARL: --an answer.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: Let me make a comment.

JONATHAN KARL: Just a straight--

SENATOR RAND PAUL: You know, I think what's important even more than whether we should have and what we should have or how much it should be is what is our attitude towards work? I'll give you an idea of, like, Michelle Obama, what she said about her kids. She wanted them to get minimum wage jobs so they could see how terrible it was to get a minimum wage job.

I see it completely the opposite I have two boys. One works delivering pizza, the other one works at a call center while going to school and they make minimum wage. And I'm proud of them. I'm proud of them when they go, "Dad, I've got money and I will pay for some things."

JONATHAN KARL: Right, so is-- but before I move on, would you give a yes or no if you think that we should have one?

SENATOR RAND PAUL: I could go into a long answer again if you'd like.

JONATHAN KARL: No, no, I just want a straight answer. I really don't want a long answer.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: No, here's the short answer--

JONATHAN KARL: But you could also say you don't wanna answer. That's fine too.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: --no, here's the short answer.

JONATHAN KARL: It's a free country.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: The minimum wage is only harmful when it's above the market wage. Okay, so when it's above the market wage it causes unemployment. The simple way to look at this is that if it's $7 an hour and labor can afford ten workers at $7 an hour, if you make it $14 they'll afford five workers. So you will have unemployment. The CBO says it would cost a half million jobs. So this is an economic argument. This is something that should be done in a rational way, not an emotional way.

JONATHAN KARL: Okay, so let me move onto to another--

SENATOR RAND PAUL: Did you like our answers?

JONATHAN KARL: --you wanna get really quickly?

SENATOR RAND PAUL: Did you like our answers?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: He was persuaded. I think John--

SENATOR TED CRUZ: --agrees with him now.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: I just wanted to-- as a practical matter I'm not calling to repeal the minimum wage. I'm not saying to get rid of it as a practical matter. I think it is what it is and we don't-- that's a disruption that we don't need with all so many other disruptions happening.

But I will say this, I think that all this focus that the president has on the minimum wage is a cure-all for the, you know, the problems being faced by working Americans is not only a waste of time, I think it shows how un-serious he really is about dealing with the challenges of our time.


When Scott Walker said his experience as governor had prepared him to deal with ISIS, it was widely described as a gaffe:
In response to a question about how he would deal with global threats such as the one posed by ISIS, Walker drew from his personal experience.

"If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world," Walker said on the CPAC stage, after giving a longer answer about how he would handle ISIS if he were the president.

... Walker has faced bipartisan criticism for the comment...
But in an interview with Hugh Hewitt yesterday, Chris Christie said more or less the same thing. Emphasis added below:
HH: How do you think you could stand up against the Russian autocrat and his PRC counterparts?

CC: How do you think, Hugh?

HH: (laughing)

CC: I mean, you know...

HH: I just ask the questions, Governor.

CC: Listen, most of the time, you know, you’ll see a lot of people in the media who criticize me for being too tough, and being too direct and too blunt. Let me put it this way. My view is this. There would be no misunderstandings between me and any foreign leaders if I decided to run for president and was elected. Our allies would know that I would stand firmly with them without reservation, and our adversaries would know that this United States under that leadership would stand firmly opposed to those things which we believe are contrary to American interests. And we haven’t had that for six years. We’ve had a president who has run an absolutely timid, ineffective foreign policy, not only him, but his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. And so the fact is that I don’t know who Vladimir Putin least wants to be president of the United States. I couldn’t guess that. But I would tell you this. There would be no misunderstandings between Mr. Putin and I if I were president.
When "a lot of people in the media" criticize Christie "for being too tough," what are they specifically criticizing him for doing? Cutting government workers' benefits and yelling at people. Christie is telling Hewitt that if you've seen the things he does that the media says are "too tough," that's all you need to know about how he'd deal with Putin. Christie crushes unions! Christie tells it like it is! If you can do that, you can deal with extremely complicated geopolitical issues as president -- right, Hugh?

I've never thought Walker's statement was a gaffe -- I still believe the GOP voter base agrees with him that depth of knowledge is less important than dividing the world into good people and evil people and endeavoring to respond to the evil people by kicking their asses. I feel the same way about what Christie said -- although I think he lost Republican voters a long time ago and will never get them back, I think if they were still open to him, they'd like this. In any case, it's now clear that Walker wasn't being uniquely simple-minded -- Christie is no different from Walker on this.

But Christie won't be called on it, at least by the mainstream media, because the mainstream media still likes Christie, even if no one else does anymore.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Bruce Wilson of TWOCARE reports that Marco Rubio, who defines himself as a Catholic, nevertheless has regularly attended a Protestant Miami megachurch, Christ Fellowship:
"On most Saturday nights, we still attend services at Christ Fellowship, especially if Pastor Rick [Blackwood] is preaching the sermon. His sermons still inspire me to grow in my Christian faith... Some of my Catholic friends occasionally express concern over my continued association with Christ Fellowship. But I don’t think you can go to church too often...”
--Marco Rubio, “An American Son: A Memoir”
Wilson tells us:
Christ Fellowship ... requires prospective employees to sign the following sexual purity oath:
“I hereby certify that I am a Christian, not a practicing homosexual in accordance with scriptures (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9-10, I Timothy 1:10)”
In a 2012 guest sermon at the church, Dr. Bob Barnes compared homosexuality to addiction:
“Homosexual sin is no worse than heterosexual sin. There is not a hierarchy of sins. Sin is sin. But, if I find somebody that has a predisposition, a genetic predisposition, or a chromosomal predisposition toward substance abuse, it doesn’t mean I should cave in to substance abuse. There are people who just have a predisposition to addiction.”
Wilson notes that the church is vehemently anti-evolution as well, quoting this 2014 sermon by Rick Blackwood:
“The scientific method actually teaches that the Bible is science because it is based on observable evidence, and that evolution is actually blind faith because it is not based on observable evidence. Let me say that again. Evolution is not based on observable evidence. Creation is based on observable evidence.”
I'd like to add that in a 2010 sermon, Blackwood said that the theory of evolution is satanic:
Here is my proposition for you, and this is what I want you to get: Evolution is fundamentally an attack by Satan on the glory of God.

... Satan’s goal is to steal credit for the creation away from God, and than to assign that credit to evolution. When he is able to get people to believe that, he is then able to dethrone God as the Creator in the minds of people and then to enthrone spontaneous generation, to enthrone evolution so people then exchange the worship of the Creator, the worship of God, for the worship of the earth, for the worship of the universe, and for the worship of nature. That is pervasive in our society, in our culture. Look at what the Bible says in Psalm 19:1: “The universe declares the glory of God” (Not the glory of evolution).

... God said, “I created all of that to declare my glory to you. The universe declares my glory.” But Satan says “No, No. The universe does not declare the glory of God. The universe declares the glory of evolution. God did not make you. Evolution made you. Spontaneous generation made you, and since you evolved from Mother Nature, you need to exchange your worship of God for the worship of Mother Nature.” Mother Nature becomes the object of worship, and worshipping Mother Nature is really what some people are doing, and that is exactly what the Bible says would happen in the latter days.
Wilson focuses on references to demonic possession in Blackwood's sermons -- yes, Blackwood believes in demons, though not in exorcism, as he says in this sermon:
The answer to demons is not some spooky exorcism. The answer to demons is not some weird, bizarre ritual like throwing holy water or whatever. The answer to demons is not that kind of thing. You should never try to talk to demons. You talk to God. The power that drives demons out of people is the presence of Jesus. In other words, demon-controlled people do not need an exorcist. They don’t need you and me to go around shouting at demons to come out of people. The power that drives out demons is the presence of Christ.
Hey, a lot of Americans believe in one Devil, or many. In a deeply religious, largely Christian country, that's not surprising.

But to me the evolution thing is a dealbreaker. Does Marco Rubio think evolution is satanic? Jeremiah Wright's most intemperate language got hung around Barack Obama's neck -- will anyone ask Rubio if he repudiates the more extreme things Blackwood and his colleagues say? And if not, press corps, why not?


Chris Christie is back, and Matt Bai is feeling a thrill go up his leg at the governor's braveness and boldness and courage and guts:
... if you’re Christie, and you find yourself ready at a moment when the voters seem less ready to have you, where do you go to get your groove back? How do you re-establish yourself among Republican primary voters as the serious-minded reformer who seemed, for a time anyway, to tower above the rest of the prospective Republican field?

The answer is: You go back to what you do best, and maybe better than anyone else.

And so Tuesday in New Hampshire, Christie will reignite a crucial but divisive debate in American politics, unveiling a surprisingly detailed plan to remake the entitlement programs that account for more than half of federal spending now (and growing). As he did in New Jersey during those first, heady years of his governorship, Christie is taking on a longer-term problem that candidates in either party have historically tried to ignore, mainly because it entails nothing but bad news and thankless choices.

... Christie’s gambit on entitlements is about more than the policy. It’s also about reintroducing him to primary voters as the only guy out there who is willing to tell you, in blunt terms, what you need to hear about the realities of government, whether it makes for fun conversation or not.
So which specifical vegetables -- or cat food -- is Christie trying to get us to eat?
On Medicare ... Christie will propose gradually raising the retirement age to 69 (it’s currently inching toward 67) and expanding existing “means testing”...

Christie’s boldest idea, and the one certain to be most provocative, has to do with Social Security, where he is delving into a problem that most Democrats won’t acknowledge and most Republicans ... don’t want to touch.

Currently, Social Security has none of the means testing done in Medicare; in other words, you get back more than you paid in, regardless of how much money you might still be earning. Christie would change this, so that seniors earning $80,000 and up would begin to see their benefits shaved on a sliding scale....

Christie would also raise the normal retirement age for Social Security -- quickly, by actuarial standards -- to 69 (it’s currently headed for 67) and the early-retirement age from 62 to 64. And he would eliminate payroll taxes entirely for workers after they turn 62, as an incentive to keep them in the workforce (and because they’ve already paid their share of Social Security).
(Yeah, because what could be better for a country in the midst of a youth unemployment crisis than forcing old people to stay in the workforce longer?)
The one very sensible cost-saving measure that Christie doesn’t include in his plan, notably, is the progressive idea to lift the “cap” on payroll taxes, so that the top percent of American earners pay more than a fraction of their wages into the system.
What?! One of the hedge-fund community's favorite pols doesn't want to raise taxes on the rich? Why, I'm shocked.

Can Christie sell this brave, bold idea? Bai sure thinks so:
... what Christie knows about himself, in his better moments, is that he remains the best pure communicator in Republican politics today, and maybe in American politics, period. Say what you will about the man and his temperament, bury him in a mountain of negative polls if you want, but when you put him in a room with actual voters and give him an argument he believes in, he’ll take his chances every time.

This is why Christie is willing not only to run against the popular perception, and to take his time about doing it, but also to run on a policy platform that’s sure to meet with demagoguery. “I don’t think there’s any candidate who’s spent more time on their feet talking to real people than I have,” Christie said.

And so he’ll take what he calls his “Tell It Like It Is” tour to two town halls in New Hampshire this week, in the warm-up act for a presidential campaign that none of us should regard too lightly. Chris Christie is ready, and it’s almost time to perform.
I think Bai needed a cigarette after that.

Bai asks Christie about running for president, and he's coy, saying he won't decide for a couple of months. I hope he doesn't chicken out, because there's nothing I want more for ideas like this than to see them presented by a guy who's as unpopular across the political spectrum as Christie is now. It's hard to imagine a worse messenger -- and it's hard to imagine a worse target market for this message than the old, entitled Republican voter base.

So please proceed, governor.



How true.


Erick Erickson, who wants the rage junkies in the GOP voter base to believe that he's one of them even as he hobnobs with insiders and swells, has taken to to argue that Marco Rubio is still a Tea Party original gangsta at heart:
... In the same year Rand Paul won [his Senate seat], the man who started the major revolt between grassroots activists and party leaders ran. It was the Rubio race that really exposed the divide between the base and the leadership....

Rubio, over 2009, rose in the polls from three percent to victory....

Once in Washington, Rubio remained a favorite of the grassroots until he tried to cut a deal with the Democrats on immigration. To his credit, he went on Rush Limbaugh’s program to defend it. He made aggressive outreach to conservatives behind the scenes. But it hurt him and the deal died.

Since then, Rubio has been very quiet. Behind the scenes, he has voted quite often with Senators Cruz and Mike Lee of Utah. He has been a voice for fiscal sanity, small government, and strong foreign policy....

Rubio ... is the original Tea Party candidate. His candidacy united the grassroots against the leadership and he won. The Washington crowd convinced themselves he could not win, but the grassroots proved they could pick a winner. Rubio was the first.

While Cruz and Paul began forging coalitions, Rubio worked to not undermine his relations with the grassroots while not antagonizing the establishment.
"Rubio worked to not undermine his relations with the grassroots"? That's hilarious. Erickson tries to paper over the huge, fatal mistake Rubio made by pursuing immigration reform, but the folks in the GOP grassroots despised that effort and still do. Go read the Free Republic thread I quoted in my last post if you doubt that, or go to this Nate Cohn post and look at the chart of Rubio's plummeting poll numbers among Republicans ever since he went over to what the base considers he immigration dark side (as it were).

Yet Erickson is still defending Rubio. He laughably describes Rubio as one of three "grassroots revolutionaries," along with Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

Why is Erickson doing this? In large part because Rubio cares about what's really important to insider extremists like Erickson: maximal tax and regulatory relief for the already obscenely wealthy and underregulated, and maximal defense spending. All other issues, including immigration nativism, are just "Judas goat" issues, issues meant to keep the crazy base angry and loyally voting for the party that wants to give the most to plutocrats and defense contractors.

Unfortunately for Rubio and Erickson, crazy-base voters actually take all that "seal the borders" talk very, very seriously. It's not an issue on which the're willing to make tradeoffs.

So sorry, Erick, but your pal Rubio is toast.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Earlier this evening, Marco Rubio officially declared that he's running for president. In my Twitter timeline, it seemed as if a lot of non-conservatives were impressed by Rubio's speech (or at least the journalists were). Over at Free Republic, by contrast, Rubio can't get any love:
He’s an untrustworthy backstabber.


Nope. I won't vote for Rubio under any conditions. I only vote for conservatives.


When one of our candidates is loved by the media [cough, John McCain, cough, Rand Paul] we should take a long, hard look at why that is.


They know that at best, Marco was suckered by Shumer and Obama on illegal aliens for two years! They know he plays ball with the establishment.


THIS is the dink that the left wants. If he loses, good. If he wins...good. A win-win for the left either way.
F him.


Just look at his smirk when he was photographed agreeing with Shumer on amnesty. I don’t despise the guy, but this lost me forever. He is out of his league.


Immigration and foreign policy/national security are the two big issues for me. Marco made a huge mistake teaming up with the gang og eight on amnesty. I will never trust him again. I didn’t even hear him mention illegal immigration in his speech. Obviously he intends to pander to the Latino/Hispanic vote.


From the very start of his political career he preached amnesty to Spanish speaking audiences like La Raza, and securing the border to English speaking audiences.

The speeches were available to watch online. Many articles discussing this were posted here and I participated in a lot of those threads.

So from day one it was indisputably clear that slimeball Rubio was a liar. The only question was...which audience was he lying to?

That is pretty clear now.
Need I go on? Now, granted, these people don't trust Jeb Bush either, and yet he's one of the front-runners. But Jeb will have a gazillion dollars to play with in this campaign, and Rubio won't.

I watched most of the speech and Rubio seemed as if he'd be a better general-election candidate than Jeb; it almost seems as if the percentage move would have been to drive both Romney and Jeb out of the race and make Rubio the great Establishment hope. But the Establishment went with Jeb. So Rubio will get a poll bump from this speech, then a thousand other candidates will announce and he'll drop back again.


However, if he does catch on, will haters go birther on him? I spotted this exchange at Fox Nation:

Yes, in his case it's not about his birth -- it's about the citizenship status of his parents when he was born. As the Tampa Bay Times noted in 2011, birthers have focused on Rubio for just this reason:
... they say Rubio is ineligible under Article 2 of the Constitution, which says "no person except a natural born citizen … shall be eligible to the Office of President."

The rub is that "natural born citizen" was never defined.

The birthers rely on writings at the time of the formation of the republic and references in court cases since then to contend that "natural born" means a person born to U.S. citizens. Rubio was born in 1971 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, his office said, but his parents did not become citizens until 1975.
A blogger named Charles Kirchner has been making this argument for several years. And as Mother Jones noted in 2011, Orly Taitz, naturally, shares Kerchner's skepticism.

Here's my question: If the Rubio campaign does somehow manage to catch fire and he threatens Jeb Bush's status as the king of the Establishment, will pro-Bush operatives try to use this to sow doubt about Rubio? Is the birther argument too insane even for the GOP primaries (at least among the less-crazy voters these two candidates will be pursuing), or will we see suspicious anonymous flyers bringing this up in, say, South Carolina? If so, I can't wait.


Late last week, we first saw dashcam video of the Walter Scott traffic stop, including Scott's flight from the vehicle after Officer Michael Slager walked away. We were told:
What's missing is what happens from the time the two men run out of the frame of dashboard video to the time picked up in a bystander's cellphone video a few hundred yards away. The cellphone footage starts with Scott getting to his feet and running away, then Slager firing eight shots at the man's back.

"It is possible for something to happen in that gap to significantly raise the officer's perception of risk," Seth Stoughton, a former police officer and criminal law professor at the University of South Carolina.
Zandar wrote:
All Slager has to do in order to walk is testify that Scott tried to attack him during the period Scott ran from the traffic stop until the cell phone video opens, and that he feared for his life.

No jury will convict him. Not in the murder of a black man, because black men are vermin to be exterminated and shot in the back. We don't count as human, you see.

Slager will lie, and he will walk. And he'll quietly be hired back as a police officer somewhere.

And Walter Scott will be dead because he was black.
Zandar wrote that on Friday. Also on Friday, we learned this:
Some of what Gwen Nichols saw on the day Walter Scott was shot and killed by a former North Charleston Police Officer, fills in the gap between the dash cam of a routine traffic stop and the cell phone video of the shooting.

Nichols says she could see a struggle between Scott and then Officer Slager from the corner of the Advance Auto Parts.

“Before what you saw on that video tape, there was like a little tussle over there at the end of that gate down there,' Nichols explained.

She didn't see them on the ground.

“It wasn't on the ground rolling. It was like a tussle like, ‘what do you want?' or ‘what did I do?' type of thing.”

With alarms sounding all around her, as other officers responded to the scene, she didn't get too close....
Is that enough to acquit Slager? Maybe, maybe not. But if that isn't, this bit of who-knows-how-accurate amateur sleuthing by a Breitbart-loving blogger probably lays out the way the right is going to create reasonable doubt for Slager.

The post I've linked includes a video purporting to sync up what we've seen via dashcam and cellphone with the police dispatcher's audio. We're told:
The sync’d video IS BRILLIANT and shows the length of time in the chase, confrontation, physical struggle between Officer Slager and Walter Scott, and the first aid administered by the responding officers.

... this was not a short fight prior to Officer Slager using his firearm to shoot Walter Scott.
And we get a map:

But wait, there's more:
What is potentially a game changer occurs when you review Officer Slager stating he had lost control/custody of the x26 Taser he deployed to restrain a non compliant Scott -- and recognize the Taser actually appears to have been used against him.

At least one dart appears lodged in the upper torso, chest, shirt of Officer Slager.

You can read the post for the details, and you can decide for yourself whether it makes any sense. What matters is that this theory is already being retransmitted by such right-wing blogs as Gateway Pundit -- which, yes, is run by someone lefties like to call the Stupidest Man on the Internet, but which is also extremely well connected to the right-wing media infrastructure, including Fox News. Reasonable doubt won't take long to develop, and soon, on the right, Walter Scott will be talked about on the right as an uncontrolled thug, the same way Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are. That ought to be enough to keep any jury with typical white heartlanders from convicting Slager. So, yeah, he'll probably walk.


In an article in the Heritage Foundation's online publication the Daily Signal, we're told that one of the "9 (Surprising) Words That Describe Marco Rubio" is "Sword Owner." (That's actually a phrase, not a word, but never mind.) Here's the story:
After Rubio officially became speaker [of the Florida House of Representatives], then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush presented him with a golden sword called “Chang” -- ”the sword of a great conservative warrior.” Bush elaborated on what the sword meant:
Chang is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society. I rely on Chang with great regularity in my public life. He has been by my side, and sometimes I let him down. But Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down.
That quote comes from a 2005 article in The Gainesville Sun.

In 2012, The New York Times Magazine asked Rubio about this; here was the exchange:
After you became the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, in 2006, your mentor, Jeb Bush, presented you with a sword. What was that about?
Chang is a mythical conservative warrior. From time to time, if there’s a big issue going on, you’d see Jeb say, “I’m going to unleash Chang.” He gave me the sword of Chang.

From which mythology does this conservative warrior hail?
I think it’s a Jeb Bush creation.
But it's not a Jeb Bush creation. It's a Poppy Bush creation -- it's a preppy in-joke of his. As Timothy Noah explained in 2012, Bush the Elder used to say "unleash Chiang" while playing tennis, as "partly an expression of sincere competitive spirit and partly a self-mocking acknowledgment that he had what his daughter Doro Bush Koch, in a memoir, lovingly describes as 'a bit of a weak serve.'"

And note that the proper spelling of the name isn't Chang -- it's Chiang, as in Chiang Kai-shek, who was the exiled leader of the anticommunist Chinese in the Mao era. Poppy was mocking anti-communists in America who wanted to "unleash Chiang" in order to topple the mainland Chinese government. As Noah wrote:
Unleashing Chiang would not have been a good idea because Chiang could not win (he'd already been whupped once by Mao's army) without the U.S. dropping a few atom bombs on mainland China, and perhaps not even then. (You'll recall we had a hard enough time with the Chinese in Korea.)
When Rubio discussed "Chang" with the Times interviewer, Noah chided him for not understanding the history behind the reference:
This blog gives Rubio an F in post-World War II history....

Since Doro knows its real provenance, I assume Jeb must, too. Rubio clearly does not.
But I'm with Brad DeLong, who thinks Jeb didn't get it:
... George H. W. Bush’s sons -- even the smart one, Jeb -- never got the joke. They, you see, didn’t know enough about world history or even the history of the Republican Party to know who Chiang Kaishek was, or what “Unleash Chiang!” meant. Hence Jeb Bush’s explanation that twentieth-century Chinese nationalist, socialist, general, and dictator Chiang Kaishek was a “mystical warrior… who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society.”
Precisely -- Jeb took a joke about conservative zealotry and turned into a celebration of conservative zealotry.

And why did Jeb hand this sword to Rubio in the first place? He didn't do it at a gathering of party loyalists or conservative activists -- he did it, according to that Gainesville Sun story, in the chambers of the Florida House. Can you imagine Jerry Brown (or, say, Deval Patrick a few years ago) giving a ceremonial object to a fellow Democrat in a state legislative chamber while praising the Democrat as a "liberal warrior"? It would be regarded as completely out of bounds. But when Republicans do it, it's perfectly OK.

The passing on of a pseudo-sacred phallic object from an older man to a younger man has the weird, vaguely sexual reek of a secret-society ritual from an elite school. Rubio's going to announce his presidential run today, and he's probably going to talk about the fact that, as he says on his Senate site, his parents "earned their way to the middle class working humble jobs -- my father as a bartender in hotels and my mom as a maid, cashier and retail clerk." The passing of the sword strikes me as older, old-money Jeb granting membership in the inner circle to the scholarship boy. What started as Poppy Bush's clubby joke about purist true believers was turned by Jeb into an initiation into a club that's now a true believers' club. But however you look at it, it was a bizarre act.


UPDATE: Charlie Pierce identifies the perfect song to accompany this tale. Wait for the last verse.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


I gather from my Twitter timeline that a lot of people think this is a clever and novel, if calculated, move:
Hillary Clinton is kicking off her second bid for the White House with a road trip, riding from New York to her first campaign stop on Tuesday in Iowa. She was spotted on Sunday evening chatting with people at a gas station in Pennsylvania.

Chris Learn, a 19-year-old student at Penn State Altoona, told CNN that he ran into Clinton at a Pilot gas station. He said she greeted him and asked him questions. He also said she was traveling with a group of people in a small caravan.

"I knew it was her immediately," Learn said. "I just saw her and I was like, there's no way that's her!"

He added: "She didn't really say why she was there, but I was guessing it was for presidential stuff." ...​
Hmmm ... what does this remind me of? Oh, right:
Clinton-Gore bus tour draws enthusiastic crowds

July 20, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Staff Writer

Since they began their eight-state bus tour Friday, Bill Clinton and Albert Gore Jr. have tossed a football, worn blue jeans, played miniature golf, hugged their wives and spoken twice in front of likenesses of John F. Kennedy....

The candidates were enthusiastically welcomed yesterday by an overflow crowd at a community center in Weirton, W.Va. And later, hundreds of people lined the street outside the Stone Presbyterian Church in Wheeling where Mr. Clinton changed from jeans into a suit and appeared on an interfaith religious television cable network program.

Their itinerary also included a visit to an employee-owned steel mill in Weirton, W.Va., and a potluck dinner with farmers in Utica, Ohio, the half-way point of the candidates' 1,000-mile journey to St. Louis....
Hey, but I'm an old guy. I remember that. If you don't remember it, I guess it seems like a fresh approach. So maybe it was smart of Hillary to take it out of mothballs and tweak it a little bit.

Meanwhile, I think this got misattributed:
Just in case you didn't think Elizabeth Warren (and what she stands for) is on the minds of those in Clinton-world, check out this line from Hillary Clinton's just-happened announcement.

It's not quite "the system is rigged" -- Warren's most well-known slogan -- but the sentiment is almost identical, and there's no way it's a coincidence.
Well, Bill Clinton had a version of that way back in '92. This is from a speech he gave after that year's California primary:
For too long Washington has rigged our system for the benefit of the few, the quick buck, the gimmick, and the short run. For the first time since the twenties, one percent of the American people control more wealth than the bottom ninety percent.

For this we were promised jobs, but instead we got pink slips and insecurity, worries about health care and education and safe streets. We have tried it that way and now we have to change. I am tired of seeing the people who work hard and play by the rules get the shaft.
You can draw your own conclusions about whether they walk the walk, but the Clintons have been talking that talk for a long time. It'd be nice if Chelsea doesn't need to say it when she runs for president, because it's no longer true. I'm not optimistic. But at least keeping the GOP out of the White House could prevent inequality from getting much, much worse, by design.


I've criticized Mark Leibovich in the past, but on the subject of the word "polarizing," he's right:
To say that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a polarizing figure -- as people do all the time -- is to suggest that politics was like a big campfire singalong until this pantsuited fomenter showed up and turned us all against one another. Not true. No one person is to blame, or thousand people, or president, or talking head. The country has been divided for a long time and for a variety of reasons: the flood of money into the political system; the perverse proliferation and specialization of negative ads; partisan news channels; and the proverbial “coarsening of our culture.” Clinton is a product of that environment. She has adapted to it and at times thrived in it, but she hardly caused it.
I can quibble with Leibovich's list of causes, but he's right that we simply have a polarized political culture that's no individual politician's fault, a culture in which right-wingers denounced "Bush derangement syndrome" until our side began denouncing "Obama derangement syndrome" (and, as Leibovich notes, there was an unnamed but epidemic Clinton derangement syndrome when Bill Clinton was president). Hillary Clinton is seen as especially polarizing simply because she's been a prominent part of this polarized politics for longer than most pols, and has managed to thrive within it.

I think the political press understands this on some level -- many political journalists and pundits blame the same forces Leibovich blames for a widespread polarization -- but when the journos get the opportunity to blame polarization on an individual, they grab it.

And they think all the polarization might go away if a heroic anti-polarization politician on a white horse can just banish it, like St. Patrick driving out the snakes. Curiously, however, when they claim to have spotted a potential polarization-eliminator, the pol is almost inevitably a Republican. Rand Paul isn't a militarist and supports criminal justice reform! Paul Ryan's brow furrows thoughtfully when he talks about poverty! Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush worry about poverty, too! The political press is desperate to find a Great Republican Hope to drive away all the polarization -- if it's not one of these guys, it's a Republican governor such as John Kasich or (pre-religious freedom law) Mike Pence.

It was a bit different a few years ago -- you could be the potential banisher of polarization and be a Democrat, but you had to be Very Serious, which means you had to travel the land demanding that ordinary Americans give up a good portion of their government benefits.

In theory, you'd think Hillary Clinton could be one of the politicians touted by Beltway journalists as a polarization-killer. Polls show she's popular with non-white voters and white liberals, yet she's appealed to older white ethnics, at least during her beer-and-a-shot campaign in 2008. She deviates from party orthodoxy on some issues -- if she did that as a Republican, the press would praise her lavishly for it.

But she's not demanding the immediate passage of Simpson-Bowles, and Republicans despise and vilify
her because Republicans despise and vilify anyone who can beat them in elections. So it's not our fault that we don't all rally around her, as it is when we don't rally around Evan Bayh or John Kasich. It's her fault that she's polarizing.


In a New York Times article about Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Amy Chozick, Maggie Haberman, and Jonathan Martin tell us this:
Mrs. Clinton will also be trying to defy political history: Only once since the establishment of the two-term limit in 1951 has a candidate won an election to succeed a president from the same party -- and it was the first President George Bush, whose predecessor, Ronald Reagan, remained popular at the time....
Er, no -- Reagan was not popular -- at least he wasn't after the Iran-contra scandal blew up in his face. Here's the Gallup chart of his job approval:

He was mired in the 40s and low 50s from early in 1987 throughoutmost of the 1988 campaign. (That uptick in Reagan's numbers late in 1988 would seem to be linked to the successful garotting of Michael Dukakis, which turned him into America's top political object of contempt.)

How popular was Reagan compared to Barack Obama? They were roughly comparable early in their terms; Reagan's popularity climbed while Obama's didn't, but at this moment in the Reagan presidency, the Gipper's job approval was just about where Obama's is now:

The multi-decade campaign to persuade us that only a small percentage of malcontents ever disliked Ronald Reagan is at odds with reality. I know that campaign journalists are godawful at distinguishing spin from fact, but they ought to be able to get this right.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Marco Rubio is supposed to be the GOP's Great Hispanic hope, but the polling firm Latino Decisions finds that Hispanics aren't biting:
This past November we asked 4,200 Latinos who voted in the 2014 midterm elections whether they had a favorable or unfavorable view of Rubio. Nationally, only 31 percent had a favorable view (12 percent "very favorable", and 19 percent "somewhat favorable") while 36 percent hold an unfavorable opinion of the Senator (22 percent "very unfavorable", and 14 percent "somewhat unfavorable"), a net of -5....

In competitive states where Latinos comprise a significant share of the active and eligible electorate, Rubio's numbers remain in negative territory. In his home-state of Florida--where Latinos are a critical component to this famously competitive state--Rubio's favorables reach only 39 percent, compared to 42 percent unfavorable; a -3 net result. Similarly, his unfavorable share is just over 40 percent in North Carolina and Nevada....
The polling firm concludes that Rubio and Hispanic voters are on opposite sides not only on immigration reform but on Obamacare, which Latino voters strongly support.

A national Public Policy Polling survey conducted late last month found similar results. Rubio's favorability among Hispanics was just 24% -- not only do Clinton, Biden, and Warren beat this (by a considerable margin), but Cruz, Christie, Huckabee, Bush, Walker, and Paul all do a bit better than Rubio among Hispanics. Clinton beats Rubio 64%-28% among Hispanics, which makes him the worst-performing Republican against Clinton in the PPP poll among Hispanic voters (Bush, Carson, Christie, Cruz, Huckabee, Paul, Perry, and Walker all do slightly better).

I expect you'll hear a lot of nonsense about the outreach impact of Rubio's upcoming candidacy announcement, which will be at Miami's Freedom Tower, where Cuban emigres were received in the 1960s and 1970s. I think that's just going to remind non-Cuban Hispanics that Cubans who made it to American soil have been received with open arms, while non-Cubans, including those fleeing dreadful oppression, are routinely turned away, harassed, or forced to live in the shadows. The announcement will make a lot of white people think Rubio is doing successful ethnic outreach. It's the gullible whites who'll mostly be fooled.


That PPP poll doesn't have particularly good news for Rand Paul, either, with regard to non-white outreach. Paul has been speaking before black audiences and acknowledging racial inequalities in the criminal justice system -- but black voters don't seem to be warming to him. His favorability among African-Americans is 13%. Clinton's is at 80%. Biden's at 58%. Warren's at 55%. On the Republican side, even Chris Christie (17%) beats Paul. And Clinton beats Paul among black voters 89%-5%.

The Beltway media is impressed with how well these guys are communicated with voters outside the GOP base. Voters outside the GOP base aren't.