Political Animal


July 29, 2014 4:49 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

I have some time-sensitive and labor-intensive family business to conduct, so I’m wrapping up a bit early today.

Here are some remains of the day:

* Three-judge panel of 5th Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down Mississippi’s abortion restriction law, saving (at least temporarily) the state’s only abortion clinic.

* George Zimmerman at it again: “patrolling” (but not at the owner’s request) outside a recently robbed Florida gun shop.

* Republicans continue to hype underwhelming Wehby Senate candidacy in Oregon.

* At Ten Miles Square, Jonathan Bernstein discusses continuing GOP “tantrum” holding up executive branch nominations.

* At College Guide, Jon Marcus reports 31 million Americans have college credits but no degree.

And in non-political news:

* Circulation up, but profits down 21%, at New York Times.

That’s it for Tuesday. Let’s close with one more Cream performance, of a song every garage band was playing in 1968: “Sunshine of Your Love.”


July 29, 2014 4:33 PM Paul Joins the Presidential Campaign Book Parade

Here’s an entirely predictable report from the Louisville Courier-Journal:

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is working on a new book that will come out early next year - about the same time he will decide whether to run for president.

“Just coincidence, probably just coincidence, yeah,” the Republican said, chuckling in a recent interview with The Courier-Journal.
The publisher has not yet announced the upcoming book and Paul was reluctant to share the working title. But he said the possible subtitle was “Beyond Partisanship.”
“Beyond the left-right paradigm kind of thing,” the senator elaborated.

Oh brother.

But we’d better get used to it. Paul is certain to project his ideology as exerting a magical pull on non-Republican voters, instead of representing a largely extremist point of view. If you get far enough “beyond” the mainstream, you definitely can occupy your own “paradigm.”

July 29, 2014 3:44 PM No, Rich Coastal Liberals Aren’t Trying to “Exile” Poor Californians

One of the most revealing and powerfully supported movement-conservative memes going back to the Nixon years is that liberals are mostly upscale parasites who are actually hostile to poor and middle-class working people, and only use them to increase their own political and economic power. The idea is at the heart of right-wing “populist” thinking, and at the margins borrows from the ancient “producerist” wing of reactionary politics that seeks a coalition between different economic classes that allegedly share an interest in destroying the power of professional elites, bureaucrats and financiers, parasites every one.

National Review’s Kevin Williamson (a very self-confident writer famed for his widly counter-factual revisionist history of the civil rights movement) offers an aggressive version of this “New Class” hypothesis in an angry meditation on talk of conservatives adjusting their ideology to reach “downscale” voters:

[T]he fact is that, despite the po-faced rhetoric, progressives do not really care about the poor, the brown, the black, or the marginalized. Progressivism is very little more than the managerial class pursuing its own class interests under cover of altruism.
That, and not the state’s gentle native loopiness, is what is really behind “Six Californias,” the eccentric enthusiasm for subdividing California into six states: Having made a mess of the impoverished interior of the state, progressives seek to exile the poor and the unwashed to the new states of Central California (which gets Bakersfield and Stockton) and Jefferson (Chico, Redding), while Silicon Valley and the coastal stretch from Los Angeles up to San Luis Obispo get their own states — golden gated communities, in effect. Affluent progressives already have a great deal of social insulation — the Manhattan doorman serves the same purpose as the $5,000 rental in San Francisco — to keep them from interacting with the human effects of their policies. Journalists, senior bureaucrats, lawyers, union bosses — they all claim to know what’s best for the poor and the middle class, but they end up doing what’s best for themselves. And when the poor and the unglamorous grow sufficiently numerous and concentrated, then it’s time to build a Berlin wall between Malibu and Modesto.

Aside from indicating that Williamson has overdosed on the writing of his NR colleague Victor Davis Hanson, this rant shows a rather striking ignorance of the actual politics of the “six Californias” initiative. Its primary promoter, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tim Draper, has conceded his private polling shows the “golden-gated” Silicon Valley itself hates the idea, and that the only region actually supporting it is the Central Valley, which Williamson treats as its victim. A February 2014 Field Poll testing the older idea of letting several hyper-conservative rural counties secede from California to form their own state showed the wealthy liberal regions opposing it overwhelmingly.

In other words, Williamson’s got the whole thing entirely backwards.

Now perhaps he’s somehow confusing Michael Lind’s support for breaking up the big states (which I jocularly wrote about earlier today) with the entire point of view of “progressivism.” Or maybe the whole “New Class” analysis of the left is just as big a crock as it’s always been.

July 29, 2014 1:57 PM Lunch Buffet

Georgia aflame with Josh (Brother of Aaron) Murray victory on Bachelorette.

Here are some less cheesy midday news/views treats:

* Pelosi pushing for quick House vote on V.A. “fix” bill before bipartisan agreement can fall apart.

* Still no definitive confirmation or denial of reports U.S. Chamber will endorse Mary Landrieu.

* New likely-voter poll in Kentucky shows McConnell with narrow 47-45 lead over Grimes.

* The Atlantic’s Molly Ball contributes to growing CW that immigration issue key to Perdue upset of Jack Kingston in GA last week.

* Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a useful roundup of reactions to the leak of strategy memos prepared for Michelle Nunn campaign at beginning of the year, which GOP is trying to make into a big deal.

And in non-political news:

* California judge clears way for sale of L.A. Clippers.

As we break for lunch, here’s Cream performing my favorite song of theirs, “White Room,” in 1968.

July 29, 2014 12:56 PM Where Could They Have Gotten That Idea?

Get a load of this, from TPM’s Sahil Kapur:

House Speaker John Boehner torched Democrats on Tuesday over talk of impeaching President Barack Obama, insisting that Republicans have no such plans and that Democrats are using the issue to gin up their base.
“Listen, this whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff, and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they’re trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year’s election,” the Ohio Republican told reporters, in response to a question
“We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans,” a visibly frustrated Boehner said. “Listen, it’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House.”

Yeah, no question about it. There’s no reason whatsoever that anyone should imagine House Republicans might try to impeach the law-breaking, anti-American, socialist tyrant in the White House, is there? I mean, just because he’s determined to abandon America’s allies, destroy religious liberty, take down the borders, and scoff regularly at both Constitution and law, House Republicans would never, ever, think about reigning him in via the one procedure made available to them by the Founders, right? And it’s not like the GOP has ever initiated any previous questionable resort to impeachment, has it?

Yeah, the very idea has to be a Democrat scam.

July 29, 2014 12:43 PM The Coming Red State Ghetto of the Uninsured

Via Harold Pollack, the Urban Institute estimates that the percentage of Americans without health insurance living in states that have rejected the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion jumped from just under 50% to over 60% between September of 2013 and June of this year. That’s a pretty amazing shift for a period of just nine months. And it provides another way to look at the social and economic segregation that Republican governors and state legislators are imposing on their own populations.

July 29, 2014 11:54 AM Florida’s Toxic Twins

What do Rick Scott and Charlie Crist most notably have in common, other than the fact that they were the Republican gubernatorial nominees in Florida in 2006 and 2010, respectively, and are running against each other for the same gig this year? Well, they are the only set of gubernatorial nominees with underwater approval/disapproval ratios, as noted by FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten:

While the national political scene has decayed into polarized stagnation, Americans’ views of state governments have remained mostly positive. That’s probably part of the reason why governors seem to have an advantage when running for president. Yet in Florida, home to one of the nation’s marquee gubernatorial races, Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican incumbent Rick Scott are teetering on becoming the least-liked pair of candidates for any governor’s race in the past 10 years.
Scott has been unpopular for most of his term. His unfavorable rating has almost always exceeded his favorable rating in Quinnipiac University’s polls of the state. In the most recent Quinnipiac survey, for example, 45 percent of Floridans held an unfavorable view of the governor, and just 40 percent held a favorable opinion….
Crist’s image has taken a hit. The percentage of Floridians who view Crist favorably has steadily decreased, while the percentage who view Crist unfavorably has steadily risen.

These trends probably won’t change much during the three or so months just ahead when Scott and Crist are beating on each other with big sticks. But it really is unusual:

It’s rare for both gubernatorial candidates to finish the campaign season with a negative net favorable rating — in fact, it’s only happened twice [in the last ten years].
One of those elections involved the now-disgraced Rod Blagojevich. Then governor of Illinois, he won re-election in 2006, even though his average favorable rating was one point lower than his average unfavorable rating. He was able to do so because his opponent, Republican Judy Baar Topinka, had a favorable rating 20 percentage points below her unfavorable rating.
The other was the 2009 New Jersey gubernatorial election, in which the incumbent Democratic governor, Jon Corzine, and Republican Chris Christie pummeled each other with negative ads. By the end of the campaign, a large majority of voters said both had attacked the other unfairly. Christie won as the lesser of two evils.

Those were some bad acts that will be hard to beat. But Rick Scott’s best hope for re-election is to drag Crist down to the bottom of public esteem right along with him, and he’s got the money to do it.

July 29, 2014 11:03 AM Is Ernst a Potential Gaffe Machine?

National Republicans are real psyched about the possibility of picking up Tom Harkin’s Senate seat, and are generally pleased with their nominee, Joni Ernst, who managed to attract both Establishment and Tea Party support in her primary and blew away heavily self-funded early front-runner Mark Jacobs and conservative activist Sam Clovis with a majority of the vote. But while Ernst scratches a lot of itches (a woman running for Senate in a state that has never elected anything but men to Congress; an active National Guard soldier; and subject of the best right-wing political ad of the cycle so far), you get the feeling she’s a potential gaffe machine. To paraphrase George Harrison: “in her eyes there’s something lacking.”

So it wasn’t that surprising when the Daily Beast’s Ben Jacobs came up with a 2013 video of Ernst at a Christian Right event saying some odd stuff:

Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, appears to believe states can nullify federal laws. In a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Ernst said on September 13, 2013 at a forum held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition that Congress should not pass any laws “that the states would consider nullifying.”
“You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right…we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators—as senators or congressman—that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.”

All righty, then! That clears it all up for me!

Seriously, Ernst has a knack for the occasional statement that makes you wonder if she has any idea what she’s talking about,and/or would say anything to pander to the extremists of her party. It’s the sort of quality that ought to keep Republicans a bit nervous between now and November.

July 29, 2014 9:11 AM Adding Stars to the Flag

Knowing Michael Lind, I am quite sure he was deadly serious in proposing at Salon yesterday that the larger states break themselves up into smaller pieces in order to outgun smaller states in the U.S. Senate. He’s right, of course, that it can be done because it has been done (most recently with West Virginia, to which the parent state of Virginia, then in military rebellion against the U.S., did not exactly consent). But it requires not only full authorization by the state so dismembered, but also action by Congress, which isn’t happening so long as the beneficiaries of small-state power have at least veto capability in either House or in the presidency.

But yeah, it’s fun to fantasize about it, as Lind does via his familiar allusion to the oppression of the virtuous Germans of Texas by the evil Scots-Irish:

A fifth-generation native of Central Texas who worked in the state legislature, I agree with Cactus Jack Garner that the State of Texas is too big and should be broken up. When the former republic of Texas was admitted to the Union, it should have been admitted as several states, not one. Another missed opportunity came during Reconstruction, when many of the freed slaves of East Texas, the German-Americans of Central Texas and the Mexican-Americans of South Texas lobbied Washington to divide Texas into several states to protect them from postwar repression by Anglo-Celtic Southerners. The failure to do so allowed the former Confederates of East Texas and their descendants to recapture power in Austin, the state capital, and lord it over minorities in Texas to this day.
An independent Central Texas could be a high-tech social democracy, with really good music and movies, once liberated forever from the Protestant fundamentalist Taliban of East Texas. Willie Nelson could compete with Kinky Friedman to be the first governor. To prevent rivalry between Austin and San Antonio, the new state capital of Centex should be located in a neutral place — say, Luckenbach, Texas.

It would be even more fun to inflate the U.S. Senate and cut the Dakotas and Wyoming down to size. But it ain’t happening any time soon.

July 29, 2014 8:29 AM Obama’s Immigration Options

TPM’s Erica Werner has a good overview today of the options the president is considering with respect to executive action on immigration—not the short-term problem of current and recent refugees from Central America, but the bigger problem of “the 11 million,” the undocumented people currently living in the country. Her account makes it clear the White House is actively discussing prospective actions with a wide range of likely supporters, and may well act before the November midterm elections:

Advocates and lawmakers who were in separate meetings Friday said that administration officials are weighing a range of options including reforms to the deportation system and ways to grant relief from deportation to targeted populations in the country, likely by expanding Obama’s two-year-old directive that granted work permits to certain immigrants brought here illegally as youths. That program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has been extended to more than 500,000 immigrants so far.
Advocates would like to see deferred action made available to anyone who would have been eligible for eventual citizenship under a comprehensive immigration bill the Senate passed last year, which would be around 9 million people. But Obama told them in a meeting a month ago to “right-size” expectations, even as he pledged to be aggressive in steps he does take.
That’s led advocates to focus on other populations Obama might address, including parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizen children (around 3.8 million people as of 2009, according to an analysis by Pew Research’s Hispanic Trends Project) and parents or legal guardians of DACA recipients (perhaps 500,000 to 1 million people, according to the Fair Immigration Reform Movement)….
Another focus could be the potentially hundreds of thousands of people who might be eligible for green cards today if current law didn’t require them to leave the country for 10 years before applying for one.

Obama might as well act as broadly from the get-go as he ultimately intends, since Republicans will go completely nuts on him for any executive action on immigration, and add it to the list of tyrannical “abuses of power” that merit impeachment.

It is interesting, however, to contrast the current environment with the one that preceded DACA. The earlier action essentially preempted a Republican initiative, reportedly designed by Marco Rubio as something Mitt Romney could embrace to heal the wounds caused by his primary-season talk of encouraging “self-deportation.” No matter what Obama decides to do to expand “legalization” of the undocumented, even if it’s a very narrow initiative, will far exceed anything under serious discussion by Republicans, most of whom have been getting in touch with their inner nativists of late.

July 29, 2014 7:54 AM Daylight Video

Cream had their live debut in Manchester on this day in 1966. Here they are performing Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” at their farewell concert in 1968.

July 28, 2014 5:25 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

Another primary-less Tuesday tomorrow, but things will heat up against next week with six contests.

Here are some remains of the day:

* Sen. John Walsh’s current line of defense on plagiarism charge is that he just did it once.

* In other plagiarism news, Dave Weigel has the elaborate backstory of the BuzzFeed scandal that got Benny Johnson fired.

* Nate Cohn finds no signs of a 2014 Republican “wave” in the generic congressional ballot numbers.

* At Ten Miles Square, Mark Kleiman expresses frustration at the lack of interest in the question of how rather than whether pot should be legalized.

* At College Guide, Jill Barshay argues that over-estimation of poverty among U.S. students disguises systemic educational failures.

* Fourth Circuit affirms district court ruling striking down Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

And in non-political news:

* Red Lobster tries to go upmarket by cutting down on deals. No more Shrimp Fest?

That’s it for Monday. We’ll close with Mike Bloomfield performing “Long Distance” with Muddy Waters in 1974.


July 28, 2014 5:00 PM Republicans Looking For Plan B With Latinos

Now that it is clear the high tide of Republican interest in comprehensive immigration reform occurred early in 2013 and has receded to a point far beyond the disastrous “self-deportation” stance of Mitt Romney in 2012, GOPers are naturally casting about for a Plan B or C or D for appealing to Latino voters, while telling themselves immigration policy ain’t all that. There’s a good overview of emerging “alternative” options by Josh Kraushaar at National Journal. He personally favors Marco Rubio’s formula of “middle-class economic issues,” which is sorta what used to be called an “aspirational” agenda, or in the GOP lexicon, “compassionate conservatism.” And he mentions as less attractive approaches the efforts by Paul Ryan and Rand Paul to come up with something constructive to say to and about poor people and the vast number of non-violent offenders locked up in prisons.

Now if Republicans decide to retreat from atavistic social and economic policies because they are under the impression that it will save them from the demographic consequences of their alienation of minority voters, that’s fine with me. But Kraushaar’s protesteth-too-much claims that Latinos don’t really care that much about immigration policy is a bit laughable. Here’s a contrary argument heard not so long ago from one group of Republicans:

If Hispanic Americans perceive that [a] GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence. It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.

Those were the words of the Republican National Committee’s Growth and Opportunity Project report, released in March of 2013.

July 28, 2014 4:22 PM The Lie That Won’t Die

I didn’t bother to read John Boehner’s USAToday op-ed on his lawsuit against the president. But Brother Benen did, and via him we learn that in the mixed salted assortment of complaints about Obama abusing his authority appears the Great Lie of the 2012 presidential campaign:

And then there’s the claim that President Obama “waived the work requirement in welfare.” This is a lie, and if Boehner doesn’t know that, the Speaker owes the public an explanation for how he can be so uninformed.
We last covered this in March, when former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) alluded to the same falsehood, but in case anyone’s forgotten, let’s quickly review reality.
In the president’s first term, a bipartisan group of governors asked the Obama administration for some flexibility on the existing welfare law, transitioning beneficiaries from welfare to work. The White House agreed to give the states some leeway - so long as the work requirement wasn’t weakened.
That’s not “waiving the work requirements in welfare”; that’s the opposite. Providing governors, including several Republicans, the flexibility they requested to help move beneficiaries back into the workforce is exactly the sort of power-to-the-states policy that Boehner and his cohorts usually like.
But in 2012, the policy inspired Mitt Romney and GOP leaders to turn this into a rather shameless lie, accusing Obama of weakening welfare work requirements. The more fact-checkers went berserk, the more aggressive Romney became in pushing the lie. One can only speculate as to the rationale behind the ugly falsehood, though the Republican presidential campaign seemed quite eager at the time to use the words “Obama” and “welfare” in the same sentence, even after the GOP candidate and his team realized they were lying.

As one of the people who went “berserk” in 2012 over this crap (which for me was especially outrageous having followed and even contributed to the 1994-1996 debate over welfare reform very closely), I’m only half-amazed that Boehner has resurrected it. On the one hand, he’s not in the middle of a tense presidential contest where fanning the flames of the old race-laden welfare debate probably seemed shrewd. But on the other hand, this is an example of how lies that aren’t completely demolished tend to become “facts” to those who repeat them often enough.

In this as in other respects, Boehner is shameless, as in the sense someone who is incapable of shame.

July 28, 2014 2:54 PM Blue Moon Over V.A.

I’ll go with Paul Waldman’s announcement of the news we are about to see a “fix” bill for the V.A. health care system fly down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House:

House and Senate negotiators will be announcing today that they have reached a compromise bill, one that is likely to pass and President Obama will certainly sign. This is very good news, but it’s the exception that proves the rule on congressional inaction. The fact that it’s this hard to get a piece of reform legislation that should have been able to be accomplished in a couple of days shows just how impossible the GOP has made governing.
Take a look at what characterizes the VA issue. First, there was a dramatic and troubling scandal. Second, the scandal involved victims that everyone in both parties wants to be seen supporting. Third, the way to fix the problem, at least in the short term, was fairly obvious. Fourth, that solution involved at most some mild ideological discomfort for both parties, but nothing they couldn’t tolerate. Finally and most importantly, addressing the problem involved zero political cost to either party.
How often does an issue like that come around? Once or twice a decade? But that, apparently, is what’s required to actually pass meaningful legislation to get government functioning properly.

I’d add to Paul’s comments that the “fix” is spinnable by both sides in very different directions: Progressive Democrats will say the V.A. health system has been restored as a model of publicly-provided health care after a period of adjustment mostly caused by changes in eligibility, while Republicans will say the “fix” is a first step towards privatizing that same system (i.e., because veterans who cannot be served immediately or who live far from V.A. facilities will received subsidized private care).

But in any event, it’s very true this is a “blue moon” phenomenon, not some sort of bipartisan dawn breaking over the darkened Capitol.

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