Political Animal


September 22, 2014 5:03 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

Wish my flight was on the fancy new Councourse E, with all the power outlets. Here on Concourse D, you have to fight with surly gamers for power. There is a Five Guys, though.

Here are some remains of the day:

* Mike Pence gets a Wall Street Journal presidential profile.

* Pew finds 32% of Americans think houses of worship should endorse political candidates, up from 22% in 2002.

* Gitmo, the “most expensive prison in the world,” is physically deteriorating at an alarming pace.

* Big Politico profile on Lois Lerner makes her sound significantly less satanic than she’s been painted by conservatives who believe in constitutional right to untaxed secret political donations.

* Michael Boggs judicial nomination finally sunk.

* At College Guide, Daniel Luzer defends the much-maligned university endowment managers.

And in sorta non-political news:

* Chelsea Clinton baby watch dominates media attention for Global Clinton Initiative meeting.

That’s it for Monday. Let’s close with Leonard Cohen talking about and then performing probably his best-known song: “Suzanne.”


September 22, 2014 4:43 PM No Longer Quivering

I probably don’t do this often enough, so today I’m drawing attention to a blog I just discovered via Amanda Marcotte. It’s a site for survivors of the conservative Christian Patriarchal movement known as “Quiverfull,” which encourages maximum childbearing and submission by women. And it goes by the delightful handle: “No Longer Quivering.”

Check it out.

September 22, 2014 3:21 PM Hil and Saul: Here We Go!

Anyone who thinks it’s too early to talk about the 2016 presidential campaign should be aware that the Right has just chosen its Big Narrative for the cycle, via the Free Beacon’s discovery of correspondence between Hillary Rodham and—wait for it!—Saul Alinsky. It was previously known that HRC had written (both favorably and unfavorably) about Alinsky in a college thesis on community organizing (it would have been rather difficult to ignore him on that subject—sorta like writing about Chick Fil-A without interviewing the late Truett Cathy). But direct correspondence is a new thing.

No, it doesn’t reveal any revolutionary plotting between the two, and yes, this was forty-six years ago. But we’re off to the races.

National Review’s Stanley Kurtz, who wrote a whole book about Barack Obama’s alleged devotion to an Alinskyite conspiracy. is a very happy man today. And he shows his appreciation by laying out exactly what he and hundreds of other gabbers are going to do with this very old news:

Hillary has never abandoned her early leftist inclinations. She has merely done her best to suppress the evidence of her political past, from barring public access to her thesis on Alinsky during her time in the White House, to papering over the significance of her internship at Treuhaft, Walker, and Burnstein, to pretending that she turned away from Alinsky after her undergraduate years, when in fact she brought his methods and outlook into the heart of her political work. Her strategic preference for polarization and targeting enemies is well documented from her time in the White House, even, or especially, by sympathetic writers like Bernstein.
Hillary is fortunate in having a more open and straightforward champion of the left like Elizabeth Warren as a foil. Yet far less separates the two of them than meets the eye. Not only have Hillary’s deepest sympathies always been on the left, but the newly ideologized Democratic
With Obamacare and much else besides, the legal and bureaucratic groundwork has already been laid for a leftist transformation of America. It is naïve to believe that Hillary would roll any of this back. On the contrary, as president she would finish the job Obama started. A Hillary presidency is destined to be Obama’s third term. Two Alinskyite presidents in a row? Hillary said it best: “the result would be a social revolution.”

This last quote was something Clinton said in her thesis about what Alinsky’s vision if implemented would mean. But don’t expect such nuances to be given a lot of attention. Kurtz’s meme will soon be coming to a viral email near you.

September 22, 2014 2:59 PM October Surprise?

I suppose Juan Williams is being provocative in wondering aloud if the president’s decision to intensify efforts to “degrade and destroy” IS as a politically motivated “October Surprise.” But though I think it highly unlikely Barack Obama greeted an opportunity to take a high-risk military action shortly before midterm elections (if only because prioritization of national security tends to bring out the Republican in many voters), it is a legitimate question: are his approval ratings suddenly at sea going into November?

[It’s] the biggest unknown of the fall campaign season. Will Americans react with political scientists refer to as the “Rally Around The Flag” effect for a national fight to take out a rising terrorist threat? This is exactly what has happened to every president engaged in a fight to protect the nation.

Well—it may be what has happened at some stage of the “fight to protect the nation,” but not necessarily in the run-up or in the denouement. It’s difficult to tell what sort of conflict we are entering right now, much less what “stage” we will be at on November 4.

September 22, 2014 2:12 PM Lunch Buffet

Heading back to California this afternoon, and hoping the allergy attack I’m experiencing goes away somewhere over the Rockies.

Here are some hypo-allergenic midday news/views treats:

* A participant in the Texas Textbook Wars explains the baleful influence of David Barton on what kids learn about U.S. history.

* At TNR, John Judis provides a backgrounder on Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the anti-immigration activist who’s in danger of losing re-election in November.

* Yes, she’s being criticized for encouraging binge drinking, but MoJo’s Tim Murphy figures Mary Landrieu’s participation in an LSU “keg stand” helped her Looziana street cred.

* Conservative blogosphere just can’t help itself: NFL domestic violence incidents interpreted as part of liberal war on masculinity.

* Greg Sargent argues alleged “rift” between Obama and military leaders over how to proceed in Iraq and Syria has been overblown.

And in non-political news:

* McDonald’s rolling out condiment customization as cure for sales woes.

As we break for lunch, here’s Leonard Cohen performing his early-90s hit “The Future” live in London.

September 22, 2014 12:57 PM Work in Progress

While tomorrow’s UN Summit on climate change will draw more attention than yesterday’s People’s March, if only because the president will be there, the event is little more than a milepost to a difficult work in progress. At TNR, Rebecca Leber notes that the real moment of truth will come next March:

Among the 120-plus heads of state and lower ranking officials going to the summit, the two countries everyone is watching closely are China and India—the world’s first and third biggest polluters. It’s also possible they will have little new news to report: Neither of India or China’s leaders—President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi—will be attending the summit themselves, sending high-level representatives in their place. It’s not clear yet just what new policies China and India might propose. India has hinted there won’t be much.
UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres stressed that it is “not critical who delivers the message but what the message is.” But there’s more to be discouraged about then a few no-shows. Several recent comments made by Modi suggest little commitment to global warming, by implying it is a natural phenonemon. “We should also ask is this climate change or have we changed. We have battled against nature. That is why we should live with nature rather than battle it,” Modi said, in a departure from stronger remarks on climate action Indian officials made in 2011.
Still, optimists can point to other signs. The U.S. heads in with additional commitments to fighting global warming, including a formal announcement from President Barack Obama the U.S. is phasing out hydrofluorocarbons in refrigerators and air conditioners, which contribute to global warming. Carbon pricing is gaining momentum, and the World Bank will unveil a list of 230 companies and almost 30 governments that have agreed to set an internal price on carbon that’s high enough to actually lower its investments in emissions. And cities, which account for 70 percent of global emissions, may be taking even more aggressive steps where national leaders are not. New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Stockholm are among the cities pledging to cut pollution by 2050.
So when will we know for sure whether this summit was a success? Not right away, alas. In March, countries are due to voluntarily announce what they are willing to contribute in greenhouse gas cuts at the national level—setting the stage for the Paris negotiations in late 2015. And Figueres, for one, remains optimistic. “All large economies are well into the work” of developing emissions targets and “middle sized economies are also doing their homework,” she said. “I think most countries will come forward in March.”

So it’s important not to overreact—positively or negatively—to what happens at the summit tomorrow.

September 22, 2014 12:29 PM The Climate Change Happening That Didn’t Happen on the Sunday Shows

D.R. Tucker posted here at PA yesterday from the People’s Climate March in New York. But as karoi noted today at Crooks & Liars, the event that drew 300-400 thousand people just didn’t exist in the world of the Sunday Shows:

If 310,000 teabaggers showed up for a rally somewhere they’d be blasting the whole damned thing from start to finish on every damn news channel. But hey, it was just climate change activists — THREE HUNDRED TEN THOUSAND of them is all. So no big deal, they can pretend like that’s not anything to worry about and move on.

Well, I don’t know that every network follows every Tea Party event, but Lord knows they’ve got one network guaranteed to draw and keep attention.

September 22, 2014 12:05 PM Does Ruining a State Reflect Moral Turpitude?

Kansas’ embattled right-wing Republicans probably think they got a divine assist from the revelation that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul David received a lap dance sixteen years ago.

But I dunno. Ruining a state’s fiscal condition, and damaging its schools, as Gov. Sam Brownback has done, not as the indiscretion of a single man “in the wrong place at the wrong time” but with malice aforethought and as the perfect expression of his values, strikes me as worse. Here’s how WaPo’s editorial board put it:

Mr. Brownback has cherry-picked the statistics to suggest that things aren’t as bad as they seem, while arguing that it’s still too early — more than a year and a half after his cuts were enacted — to gauge their full impact. Meanwhile, Wall Street’s bond rating agencies, taking note of plummeting tax revenue and a siphoning off of the state’s reserves to cover current and projected deficits, have weighed in with their own verdict: Moody’s cut Kansas’s credit rating last spring, and Standard & Poor’s followed suit last month….
[S]pending reductions have been sufficiently draconian and divisive that large numbers of Kansans, including more than 100 current and former GOP elected officials, have expressed alarm and are supporting the man trying to unseat Mr. Brownback, Paul Davis, the Democratic minority leader in the state’s House of Representatives. There have been particular expressions of anxiety about cuts to per-pupil expenditures in public schools, which have dropped more than 10 percent since 2008.

Is conducting the kind of “experiment” Brownback has undertaken with such disastrous results an offense reflecting moral turpitude? That may be the ultimate question Kansas voters will answer this November.

September 22, 2014 10:39 AM Obama to the UN

So two of this week’s big moments are likely to feature Barack Obama at the United Nations. Tomorrow he’s speaking at a UN session on climate change. And on Wednesday we will personally wield the gavel at a meeting of the Security Council called to discuss collective action against Islamic State.

To hard-core conservatives, both appearances carry a whiff of treason, as an American president seeks to bargain away God-given property rights in pursuit of the satanic idea of regulating development to make it consistent with the planet’s environmental capacity, in the very cockpit of Agenda 21, and then tramples upon U.S. sovereignty by seeking international sanction for national security measures.

But this side of semi-Birchers, Republicans may feel constrained to distinguish between the two appearances and attack the first categorically and the second contingently. Since even good presidents find it prudent to secure coalition assistance for military actions, Obama will be criticized not for going to the Security Council but for insufficient forcefulness and self-righteousness in rallying the world. The script is already writing itself.

September 22, 2014 9:07 AM Defensive Voting Rarely a Solution For Red State Democrats

If you want a quick lesson in the futility of defensive voting by red state Democrats—you know, voting with Republicans on hot button issues like guns—check out this attack ad on Alaska Sen. Mark Begich:

As the New York Times’ Ashley Parker notes in discussing this ad, Begich has actually been a conspicuously reliable vote against any sort of gun regulation. But that doesn’t matter, since he voted to confirm “anti-gun” Supreme Court nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. And even if he hadn’t voted for these Justices, he votes “with Obama” all the time, and we all understand Obama wakes up each morning scheming to vitiate the Second Amendment so he will not have to worry about armed patriot resistance when he snatches away America’s birthright of freedom.

Maybe Begich really does favor unlimited gun rights, or maybe he views that as a particularly important “value” of his constituents. But no one should be under any illusion that defensive voting on individual issues will provide any significant political protection these days.

September 22, 2014 8:44 AM The Abandoned and Scorned

Spurred on by another speech by another leading Republican politician (in this case Speaker John Boehner) suggesting that historically high and persistent unemployment rates are the fault of the unemployed themselves, Paul Krugman provides a timely reminder of an issue that has all but been forgotten in this election year.

I don’t know how many people realize just how successful the campaign against any kind of relief for those who can’t find jobs has been. But it’s a striking picture. The job market has improved lately, but there are still almost three million Americans who have been out of work for more than six months, the usual maximum duration of unemployment insurance. That’s nearly three times the pre-recession total. Yet extended benefits for the long-term unemployed have been eliminated — and in some states the duration of benefits has been slashed even further.
The result is that most of the unemployed have been cut off. Only 26 percent of jobless Americans are receiving any kind of unemployment benefit, the lowest level in many decades. The total value of unemployment benefits is less than 0.25 percent of G.D.P., half what it was in 2003, when the unemployment rate was roughly the same as it is now. It’s not hyperbole to say that America has abandoned its out-of-work citizens.

Now Krugman is right in drawing attention to the “animus against the unemployed” so regularly expressed by conservatives, when they aren’t shedding crocodile tears for the terrible injustice being done to all recipients of government assistance via demoralizing food, initiative-sapping shelter, and spiritually damaging health coverage. But this ought to be a subject at least occasionally mentioned by Democratic politicians, too. A higher minimum wage isn’t of much use to people who cannot find work. Abandoning the long-term unemployed is a sin even if it is not compounded by scorn.

September 22, 2014 7:53 AM Daylight Video

Yesterday was the great Leonard Cohen’s 80th birthday. Here he is performing “The Story of Isaac” in Warsaw in 1985.

September 22, 2014 12:23 AM Had I been a gun “enthusiast,” last night might have ended in tragedy

Last night at around 9pm as my wife, my brother and I were in our apartment watching a movie, a large man was prowling around our patio in the dark. We first heard him when he tried to open our sliding glass door.

I quickly threw on my shoes, opened the front door and stepped out onto the balcony. I asked him what was going on and why he was there. He said “Nothing, sorry” and walked past me toward the stairs (I live on a second story corner apartment.) My wife called the police. The man was obviously under the influence of narcotics, which made him lumber slowly but methodically; he then walked down the stairs and sat at the bottom. I asked if I could help him, and he said no. My wife and my brother went the other direction up the stairs to get out of harm’s way and wait for the police, while I stood by the front door.

The police didn’t arrive for another 45 minutes. During the next half hour, the man went up and down the stairs a few more times, once trying to come back toward the front door. Each time I asked if I could help him and he said “no.” Finally he took a call from a friend, and his confused conversation seemed to indicate he was at the wrong building. I surmised which building he was looking for, asked him if he was looking for that address, and when he nodded yes I gave him directions.

The police didn’t arrive until 10 minutes after he had left for good. Which is unfortunate, less for my sake than for the intruder’s.

Had I been a different person—a “gun enthusiast”, let us say—the man might be dead or seriously injured. It would have been an unjustifiable homicide against a mostly innocent man for the crime of being high and lost. Many people all across America die or are horribly injured that way all the time.

That’s unconscionable. Most encounters that end in tragedy need not have done so. Last night was just another reminder of that.

September 21, 2014 7:15 PM …And Climate Justice For All

It was an honor and a privilege to join 400,000 concerned citizens of the world at the People’s Climate March in New York City this afternoon. If the fossil fuel industry is an immovable object of avarice, this march represents an irresistible force of justice.

It was an honor especially to shake the hands of climate activist Tim DeChristopher and Sierra Club head Michael Brune, two men who have demonstrated uncommon valor in the fight for a livable planet. I will never forget the broad diversity of this movement for change: grandparents and grandchildren, gay and straight couples, every race and ethnicity, all representing one united force demanding that the United States and other powerful, prosperous nations finally hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for its actions, and put this planet on the path to sustainability.

Did our voices penetrate the consciences of those who benefit from the energy status quo, assuming of course that some of those folks actually have consciences? We’ll know soon enough. The (clean) energy generated by this march will be reflected at the ballot box—and, hopefully, on our television screens. Momentum this strong simply cannot be stopped. No billionaire can buy this power.

At one point, fellow marchers chanted, “The People, United, Can Never Be Defeated!” I used to think that slogan was just idealistic, corny BS. Now, I know that slogan is a truth beyond dispute—just like climate change itself.

UPDATE: More from Brad Johnson.

September 21, 2014 5:11 PM The trouble with Republican reinvention

The political landscape is replete with hope that the GOP will find a way to reinvent itself as a more inclusive and more reality-based organization in the future. The Washington Post carried another such piece today. All it’s a question of, say the optimists, is a few tweaks, some rebranding and a minor dose of reconciliation.

We haven’t seen the beginnings of that at a national level because, well, national Republicans still feel pretty good about themselves. They’ve got control of the House, they may well gain control of the Senate, and they look with relish at President Obama’s approval ratings.

But shouldn’t we be starting to see signs of the reinvention where the GOP is facing its toughest challenges? Like in California? We should. But it’s not pretty:

The gathering opened on a sour note Friday, when the evening’s keynote speaker, state controller candidate Ashley Swearengin, told reporters she was still mulling whether to vote for Kashkari or Brown. “I’m looking at the two candidates like other Californians are,” she said. And Pete Peterson, the Republican running for secretary of state, said in an interview that he was not endorsing Kashkari — or anyone else on the statewide ballot — and did not plan to vote a straight party ticket.
The extraordinary display of disunity led Ron Nehring, a former state Republican chairman and underdog candidate for lieutenant governor, to vent his fury in a profanity-tinged email to party brass just before midnight Friday, after news organizations began reporting the dust-up.

Kashkari is an economic royalist who hasn’t strayed far off the GOP ranch when it comes to supply-side economics, tax cuts for the rich, and the rest of the Republican financial tapestry. But he does preach a more inclusive social message. And for that if nothing else, rank-and-file conservatives are avoiding him like the plague.

A moderate social message is essential for Republican rebirth in California. A more moderate economic one is, too, but Republicans won’t even be able to get a foot in the door without a change on issues like gay marriage and immigration. It would seem that rebranding should be easy on the west coast.

But they can’t even manage it there. How will they ever manage it in Iowa?

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