Political Animal


August 22, 2014 5:12 PM Day’s End and Weekend Watch

Man, I think I’m going to try to sleep for 15 hours tonight. If that’s not in the cards, I should finish the Perlstein book assuming I’m not too sick.

Here are some remains of the day:

* Jonathan Chait thinks a lot of criticism of Obama economic advisors is a surrogate attack on the president from unhappy lefties.

* D’Souza compares Ferguson protestors to ISIS. Of course he does.

* Benyamin Applebaum discusses theories that sluggish economy and chronic unemployment owe a lot to pre-Great Recession developments.

* At Ten Miles Square, Jonathan Bernstein notes conspiracy theories exist all over spectrum, but get more elite support on right than on left.

* At College Guide, Daniel Luzer discusses chronic problem of transfer students losing credits.

And in non-political news:

* Huffpost offers an Emmy preview for Monday.

That’s it for Friday. David Atkins and D.R. Tucker will be in for weekend blogging, and the 2014 College Guide will be released on Monday, so tune back in.

We’ll close with Robert Junior Lockwood performing “I Feel Like Blowin’ My Horn” in Lincoln, MA in 1987.


August 22, 2014 4:45 PM Medicaid Expansion Is Good For You

At the New Yorker Sam Wang took a fresh look at gubernatorial polling in competitive states and noticed something: Republicans who accepted the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion are doing much better than those who are fighting it.

The Republicans Tom Corbett, of Pennsylvania, and Paul LePage, of Maine, are both unlikely to win their races, and Nathan Deal, of Georgia, is locked in a tight contest with the Democrat Jason Carter. Corbett, LePage, Deal, and Walker have all governed according to their party’s most strongly held beliefs. They stalled or blocked implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including its Medicaid expansion. And all have sharply cut state budgets, imposing austerity measures during a recession….
The Republicans Susana Martinez, of New Mexico, John Kasich, of Ohio, and Rick Snyder, of Michigan, look as strong as they did when they were first elected. All three accepted the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion. Evidently, Obamacare is not the political liability it was once thought to be. This stance by Martinez, Kasich, and Snyder has been predictive of their support of other issues with that have drawn support from both parties. Martinez and Kasich, for example, have pursued education-reform policies that have gained a lot of traction among both Democrats and Republicans. To the extent that governors hold on to their offices in close races, it may be because they have focussed on issues that are important to the voters in their states rather than the core views of their party.

Remeber that next time you wonder why Republicans seem to be talking less about Obamacare. At the state level, it’s most about the Medicaid expansion, and saying no to that much money for that cause remains a head-scratcher for many swing voters.

August 22, 2014 3:13 PM The Need For a Little Self-Vetting

I know it happens all the time, but still, it never ceases to amaze me when candidates with big disqualifying issues in their backgrounds think nobody will find out about them.

The latest case is Nevada GOP Attorney General nominee Adam Laxalt, whose scathing recent evaluation by the law firm he left to pursue his political career was leaked to the state’s leading political reporter, Jon Ralston. Let’s just say it doesn’t exactly recommend him to be the top attorney in Nevada:

Republican AG hopeful Adam Laxalt was described by his firm’s evaluation committee as “a train wreck” who “doesn’t even have the basic skill set,” according to a review of his performance two years ago.
The assessment by the Lewis & Roca Associate Evaluation and Compensation Committee (AECC) suggested that Laxalt attend seminars to “address basic legal principles” because of his “horrible reviews” and because he “has judgment issues and doesn’t seem to understand what to do.”
The recommendation: A “freeze in salary, deferral, and possible termination.”
The summary of the findings, which I have obtained, authenticated and posted below, is incredibly scathing and derogatory. The conclusion: “You need to work on the quality of your work. You need to work on your legal writing skills.”
Other than that….

You might wonder how this dude got his party’s nomination. Well, he’s the grandson of former Nevada governor and senator Paul Laxalt—a.k.a. Ronald Reagan’s favorite political friend. And it came out pretty recently that he’s also the illegitimate son of one-time Laxalt colleague Pete Domenici of New Mexico.

Well, all that may not be enough to save his candidacy now, unless his claims that the leaked evaluation is inauthentic are true, which is very doubtful. Nevadans may show us exactly how much value name ID has in a downballot race. On the other hand, Laxalt’s opponent, Democrat Ross Miller, is the son of ex-governor Bob Miller.

Small state.

August 22, 2014 1:57 PM Lunch Buffet

I’m really struggling today, sports fans, after a largely sleepless flu-ridden night. I should be over this by Monday, but forgive me my shortcomings today.

Here are some midday news/views munchies:

* TNR’s Danny Vinik documents the Tea Folks’ steady disillusionment with Paul Ryan.

* MSNBC’s Irin Carmon explains the Obama administration’s new “accomodations” to contraception coverage mandate.

* Lurid Republican ideas about child refugees continue to escalate, as Iowa GOP National Committeewoman Tamara Scott suggests the children could have been sent into U.S. as “highly trained warriors.”

* Bibi Netayahu may be target of criminal investigation of leak of high-level military briefing on costs of reoccupying Gaza.

* At the Prospect, Peter Montgomery explains why Dinesh D’Souza’s racist fantasy is at top of bestseller list.

And in non-political news:

* Jell-O sales continue to melt.

As we break for lunch, here’s more Robert Junior Lockwood with “Mean Black Spider.”

August 22, 2014 1:16 PM Job opening for an editor/reporter at the Washington Monthly

The Washington Monthly is seeking applicants for an editor/reporter position that will be available soon. This is the same job that launched the careers of many great journalists, including James Fallows, Nick Lemann, Kate Boo, Joe Nocera, Michael Kinsley, Taylor Branch, Jon Meacham, Josh Green, Nick Confessore, Haley Sweetland Edwards and others. A sense of humor, a lively intellect, love of and facility with long-form journalism, and a willingness to work long hours for modest pay are required. Knowledge of politics, government, and Washington a plus. Candidates should send a cover letter, resume, and writing samples that show fact-gathering and analytic ability to WashingtonMonthlyJobs@yahoo.com.

August 22, 2014 1:15 PM Setback For Backpack Vouchers in North Carolina

I wasn’t aware that North Carolina had created a program providing public money for private K-12 schools with zero accountability, but it’s obviously not surprising given the state’s current management. But the program has at least temporarily come to a screeching halt thanks to a very blunt ruling from Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood.

Here’s the story from NC Policy Watch (via Charles Pierce):

In his ruling today Hobgood recognized the state’s obligation to provide a “sound basic education” to the children attending public schools in North Carolina as mandated by the Supreme Court in its Leandro decision .
“The General Assembly cannot constitutionally delegate this responsibility to unregulated private schools by use of taxpayer opportunity scholarships to low income parents who have self-assessed their children to be at risk,” he said.
Hobgood noted that the private schools receiving the scholarships are not subject to any requirements or standards regarding the curriculum that they teach, have no requirements for student achievement, are not obligated to demonstrate any growth in student performance and are not even obligated to provide a minimum amount of instructional time.
The collateral effect of the program, he added — whether intended or not — is to remove the Leandro protections from the hundreds of students who have been determined “at-risk” solely by their own parents.
“It appears to this court that the General Assembly is seeking to push at-risk students from low income families into non-public schools in order to avoid the cost of providing them a sound basic education in public school as mandated by the Leandro decision,” he said.

The Leandro decision that Hobgood’s talking about is a North Carolina Supreme Court precedent that established a state responsibility to ensure each school-age child a quality basic education.

It appears the North Carolina program is an example of “backpack vouchers” where specific kids are given funding their parents can use absolutely anywhere, including and perhaps especially Church of the Final Thunder Bible Academy type schools. The biggest such program is in Louisiana, but it’s struggled legally just like North Carolina’s.

But in Louisiana there’s been at least a token effort to provide some sort of certification of eligible schools for vouchers, despite Bobby Jindal’s insistence that all this “standards” and “results” crap is liberal bushwa aimed at taking away the inherent God-given right of parents to use taxpayer dollars to entrust their kids to the care of the Rev. Jimmy Joe Jeeter. North Carolina’s program makes no pretense of accountability to the public for the use of taxpayer dollars at all.

Hobgood’s decision has been appealed, of course, to a state Supreme Court that earlier overturned the same judge’s effort to stop implementation of the program pending a full hearing. But whether it prevails or not, it’s good to see so clear an articulation of the principles involved.

August 22, 2014 11:49 AM Get Serious About a Return of the Mittster

So in an evasive action when asked about his own plans for 2016, Paul Ryan finally brimmed over with admiration for his 2012 running-mate and said he would “drive his bus” if the Mittster ran again. And then he resorted to the tired woulda shoulda coulda cliches losing candidates so often deploy (per The Hill’s Peter Schroeder):

Ryan said that he believed that a lot of voters now had “buyer’s remorse” about giving Obama a second term.
“A lot of the things [Romney] said in the campaign, projections he made … were true,” he said.

Yeah, yeah. You hear this talk every time a winning candidate loses some popularity. Why not do a do-over?

Truth is, it rarely happens, and when it does, it almost never works. Since the advent of the Second Party System in the 1830s, there have been five presidential candidates who lost a presidential election and were renominated by their party the next cycle. One, Grover Cleveland in 1988-92, barely counts since he won the 1884 election. Adlai Stevenson (1952-56), Tom Dewey (1944-48) and William Jennings Bryan (1896-1900) all failed. Only William Henry Harrison pulled off the immediate rematch, but even that is misleading, since he was a regional candidate first time around (additionally, it was the Panic of 1827, not “buyer’s remorse,” that probably lifted Ol’ Tip over Martin Van Buren in 1840).

It’s not, moreover, like Mitt Romney headed up an ideological faction of the party, or had a deep personal following (other than perhaps fellow LDS folk). He could theoretically be a fallback candidate if all hell breaks out, or if someone else is cruising to the nomination and it turns out they regularly celebrate black masses. Short of that, those purporting to promote the idea of a Romney Return have ulterior motives, like Ryan keeping his powder dry.

August 22, 2014 10:25 AM Could Refugees Steal the Elections?

No, so far as I am aware, no one has asked the question posed in the headline to this post. But it may just be a matter of time.

After all, just this week Texas Gov. Rick Perry suggested, offering no evidence, that ISIS members may be sneaking across the border amidst Central American refugees. And now we learn a former Arizona House Speaker running for Congress is suggesting (again, with zero evidence) refugees could bring in Ebola virus.

So it’s clear the refugees are rapidly becoming an all-purpose scapegoat for conservative pols. All that’s missing is the Obama nexus. That’s why I figure these birds will eventually argue the refugees have been invited in by the wily president to commit voter fraud—at least the ones who could pass for voting age adults.

Remember—you read it here first.

August 22, 2014 9:32 AM Rand Paul Returns to Steve King’s Table

So the great Man of Principle, Sen. Rand Paul, who is forever proclaiming himself pro-immigration, has now made it clear he supports House legislation shutting down the DACA program.

You can argue this is a lot less shocking that Sen. Marco Rubio’s recent shift in exactly the same direction, insofar as Rubio was actually working on legislation similar to DACA when that initiative was launched. Any way you look at it, the GOP has lurched radically in a nativist direction since that long-lost day when the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill with support from 14 Republicans. Even then, the disjunction between Paul’s rhetoric and behavior was notable—he voted against the bill largely crafted by Rubio (who has since repudiated it).

Brother Benen underlines the implications for Paul’s reputation:

[T]his latest posture will permanently ruin the senator’s relationship with much of the Latino community. By endorsing the reactionary House package, Paul isn’t just focusing on migrant children who recently fled Central America; he’s specifically endorsing a plan that targets Dream Act kids for deportation. We’re talking about youngsters who’ve been here for years and who see the United States as the only home they’ve ever known.

So much for the candidate of “minority outreach.” You now have to wonder why Rand Paul bothered to leave Steve King’s table when America’s leading nativist was confronted by DREAMers—unless he was embarrassed by his own future positioning.

August 22, 2014 8:30 AM Daylight Video

Let’s have us some Friday blues. Here’s Robert Junior Lockwood (a.k.a. Robert Lockwood, Jr.) performing “Take a Little Walk With Me” in New Orleans in 1984.

August 21, 2014 5:57 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

One week until beginning of the College Football season. Just sayin.’

Here are some remains of the day:

* Rick Perry says it’s just “common sense” that ISIS terrorists are coming across Mexican border. In other words, he has zero evidence.

* James Fallows makes the case for third-party gubernatorial candidate in Maine, Eliot Cutler (just endorsed by Angus King). Persuasive, but if wrong price could be another four years of Paul LePage.

* Steve King rants some more about disobedient black folks in Ferguson and strange phenomenon of Congressional Black Caucus (“There’s no Congressional White Caucus”). It’s going to be fun to watch entire 2016 GOP presidential field suck up to this dude.

* At Vox Ezra Klein riffs on one of my favorite themes: how winning Senate this year could screw up 2016 royally for Republicans.

* At Ten Miles Square, Jonathan Bernstein addresses extent to which foreign policy commitments by presidential candidates actually determine their behavior in office.

And in sorta non-political news:

* Russia threatening mass shutdown of McDonald’s outlets, allegedly because of sanitation issues.

That’s it for Thursday. Let’s close with some early Clash: “Career Opportunities.”


August 21, 2014 4:59 PM Are Issue Positions Irrelevant to Character?

Running for major—and sometimes minor—offices in a competitive environment generally involves a combination of messages about one’s values and policy commitments on the one hand, and about one’s “character” and resume on the other. It’s interesting that in a year when Republicans are so insistent that voters are preparing to smite Democrats and Barack Obama for very specific misdeeds, there are at least two GOP candidates in close races that are shying away from their own records on specific issues.

I’ve talked a good bit here over time about Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton, he of the gold-plated resume and ramrod-straight posture and finely honed intellect. He actually has two problems in a what should be an easily manageable race in his rapidly reddening state. First, Mark Pryor has his own “brand” of character and personality that’s arguably more in touch with the average persuadable Arkansan than the Harvard-and-McKenzie war volunteer. And second, Cotton has a relatively large assortment of extremist issue positions for a guy who never ran for office until 2012.

A more extreme case of let’s-don’t-talk-about-issues campaigning is presented by Joni Ernst of Iowa, whose own supporters become alarmed whenever she’s driven to talking about anything other than her farm and military backgrounds (as opposed to opponent Bruce Braley’s tenure as as a—gasp!—trial lawyer). National Journal’s Emily Schultheis goes so far as to argue that the deciding factor in the race may be whether Democrats can ever penetrate Ernst’s folky facade to talk about much of anything else:

“Their campaign knows that if the race is focused on the issue contrasts, they’re at a disadvantage,” said Braley communications director Jeff Giertz. “Ernst and her campaign have embraced some real out-there, tea party ideas in order to win the primary, and those ideas just do not resonate with middle-of-the-road Iowa voters.”
In an interview at the Iowa State Fair, Ernst said it’s “a lot of camouflage” to talk about her as extreme, and said her top issues will be “the issues that are important for Iowa voters”: namely jobs and the economy, education, and government spending.
“It really is very much a distraction because I’ve been a successful state senator. I work very well with all types of people. I don’t see where they’re coming up with the extreme,” she said. “I am a person with Iowa values, I work very hard, I connect with people, I care about people, I think that’s what our voters want to see.”

Well, if it’s up to Ernst, that is indeed all that voters will see.

What anyone contending with one of these “ignore what I’ve said or how I’ve voted; look at who I am” campaigns really needs to do is to make flip-flopping and pandering, and refusal to embrace one’s own past statements, character issues. The best way to do that is by tenaciously challenging candidates to fish or cut bait on fairly quoted statements and positions, and then draw the obvious conclusions if they bob and weave.

Personally, I’d like to hear Tom Cotton explain why a espousing a North-Korean-style practice of holding family members responsible for violation of sanctions against Iran represents good old fashioned Arkansas values. And I’ve love to see Joni Ernst explain to Iowans why her abundant record of buying into the insane John Birch Society “Agenda 21” conspiracy theory—not years ago, but in the current election cycle—isn’t “important to Iowa voters.” These biography-driven candidates shouldn’t be able to have it both ways.

August 21, 2014 3:26 PM Middle East “Status Quo” Is Dead

More depressing Middle East truth from Gershom Gorenberg at the Prospect today:

Netanyahu’s conflict management style had a good run, at least for the domestic audience. It also had a spectacular flaw: While the status quo was tolerable for Israelis, it wasn’t for Palestinians. In Gaza, the claustrophobia and poverty imposed by the siege worsened as the latest Egyptian regime clamped down on smuggling to and from the Sinai.
In the West Bank, the daily indignities of occupation were accompanied by perpetual growth of settlements. Even if most Palestinians avoided expecting too much of the Kerry talks, the negotiations created a hope and then removed it.
The formation of a Palestinian unity government at the beginning of June offered a different kind of hope—for ending the rift between Fatah and Hamas, the West Bank and Gaza. An Israeli leader awake to opportunities would have seen the unity government as an opening to an agreement with a demilitarized Palestinian state that included Gaza. Instead, Netanyahu treated the unity government as proof of Abbas’s nefarious intentions.
By mid-June, the status quo was a rotted, rickety building waiting only for a spark to set it alight. There always pyromaniacs waiting for such chances, people whose strategy is indiscriminate violence, and who have far less faith in a negotiated resolution than Netanyahu does. The spark was provided by the kidnappers of three Israeli teens.

And the ensuing events were inevitable, as Israel and Hamas, neither interested in a two-state solution, have lethally grappled with each other, mutually undermining any momentum towards peace in Israel or in Palestine. (If that sounds like “moral equivalency,” I don’t intend it to be in the broader sense, but in the narrower sense of blowing up negotiations, it’s accurate).

The bottom line is that this cycle of events isn’t sustainable much longer.

[I]f there is anyone—in Brussels, say, or at U.N. headquarters in New York, or even in Washington, little as I can imagine that—who is interested in facilitating such talks, I have this advice: Please ignore the experts who tell you to aim only for managing the conflict rather than resolving it. The only way to manage this conflict is to lay down a framework for a two-state resolution and push toward achieving it. Either you move forward toward peace or you allow the next war.
August 21, 2014 3:00 PM Why Schmooze?

I suppose it’s a sign of progress that instead of expecting Barack Obama to personally solve all the world’s problems, the punditocracy is now more prone to complain that he’s “detached” or “aloof.” Ezra Klein has tried to rebut the strange assumption that things would all change if Obama’s attitude would just improve; he’s usefully paraphrased by Paul Waldman:

Klein goes on to note that because of increasing polarization in Congress, Barack Obama actually enjoys more unified support from Democrats in Congress than any president since anyone has been keeping track of these things. And it goes without saying that no amount of friendliness would ever get today’s Republicans to vote with him on anything. So why are we hearing the complaints now?

Waldman thinks it’s a combination of Obama’s lame-duck status and congressional ego. That makes a lot of sense; in the land of 535 preening Sun Kings demanding attention and inflating their importance, the symbolism of presidential schmoozing is valued far beyond its actual worth. And yes, the fact that the president’s power over congressional Democrats is ebbing matters, too; as Waldman notes, Obama spends a lot of time raising money for the party committees, but it’s not like he is in much of a position to hold Members accountable individually.

But I’d add another factor: the current bitching is bipartisan. Democrats are upset Obama can’t do more for them, and Republicans seem to alternate between treating the president as a tyrant exceeding his authority and as a deadbeat not doing his job. Either argument, of course, is a landmark on the road to calling him impeachable, if not actually impeaching him.

August 21, 2014 2:12 PM Lunch Buffet

As I’ve been hinting all week, I’ve been struggling with a non-serious but occasionally debilitating health condition, and was until this morning scheduled to have an unrelated but blogging-incompatible non-emergency medical procedure tomorrow. Long story short, the doc thinks I’m too sick to undergo the procedure, so I should still be chained to the blogging post tomorrow. Hope you’ll appreciate, though, a bit of abbreviation in both individual posts and the total count. Lest you think my colleagues aren’t providing enough support, I should mention they are totally heads-down on the release of the next issue of the magazine, and are probably sleeping a lot less than I am. So we’re all doing what we can to keep readers well-fed and happy.

Here are some midday news/views snacks:

* At TNR, Yishai Schwartz notes Missouri law makes claims of self-defense by Darren Wilson especially hard to overcome.

* Grand jury deliberations on killing of Michael Brown could take weeks. So much for swift justice, or injustice.

* House staffers messing with Wikipedia entry on Orange Is the New Black to insult transgender folk. They seem to have a lot of spare time for culture war.

* Paul Ryan allows as how he hates getting Boehner’s “cigarette smell” in his clothes, so he gives Speaker wide berth in meetings. Guess stench of fear and futility don’t bother him so much.

* Live tweets (here and here) indicating that David Perdue getting medieval on immigration policy in Chamber debate with Michelle Nunn. Looking more Romneyesque every day.

And in non-political news:

* New MLB commissioner means another plea for rescinding of lifetime ban by Pete Rose.

As we break for lunch, here’s one of my very favorite Clash songs, “Guns on the Roof,” from Give ‘Em Enough Rope.

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