Political Animal


September 19, 2014 5:42 PM Day’s End and Weekend Watch

Off for more birthday festivities, and then tomorrow to Athens for a rare opportunity to see my Georgia Bulldogs live.

Here are some remains of the day:

* Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond to step down in November.

* Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach orders military ballots sent out without Democratic Senate candidate, which may indicate he’s throwing in the towel on trying to force the party to appoint one.

* Peter Beinart explains how Ted Cruz combines the worst vices of all the various Republican factions when it comes to his rhetoric on IS.

* At Ten Miles Square, Henry Farrell examines the two ways to look at the obnoxious opinion production of Charles Krauthammer.

* At College Guide, Daniel Luzer argues that Harvard Business School needs to accept some accountability for the behavior of American CEOs.

And in non-political news:

* OMG: Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (iconic to rednecks long before hipsters discovered it) bought by Russian—Russian!—brewery.

That’s it for Friday. David Atkins and D.R. Tucker will be in for weekend blogging. We’ll close with David Bromberg performing Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.”


September 19, 2014 5:08 PM Georgia’s Number One—In Unemployment

I haven’t actually looked at state-by-state unemployment data in a while, but was still shocked when the latest report (for August) came out showing my home state of Georgia a big fat number one, edging out the previous “winner,” Mississippi.

It’s obviously not good news for incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who’s descended to a claim that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is playing politics with the numbers (you never hear this when pols like the numbers, do you?). Since Deal has fully returned Georgia to the best economic development practices of the 1950s, it would be nice to see him take some heat instead of pretending that every corporate-welfare-enabled ribbon-cutting is a giant leap forward for the state.

September 19, 2014 4:52 PM The Budget Reconciliation Act of 2015

There’s plenty of on-again, off-again talk about what Republicans will do over the next two years if they gain control of the Senate. At Slate (presumably among his final columns before he moves on to Bloomberg) Dave Weigel has by far the most extensive set of speculations, based on talking to the very GOP folk who are drooling over gavels. pre

Most of what he projects is reasonably obvious once you think it through: (1) Republicans probably don’t need to get rid of last year’s filibuster reforms to thrwart Obama’s remaining nominations since they’ll be able to kill them in committees in most cases; (2) they’s counting on it making a difference to the public that Obama is killing legislation passed by both Houses, and opposed to the two Houses disagreeing; (3) some would-be committee chairs (e.g., James Inhofe R-Oil) want to aggressively pursuing bicameral actions to stop or reverse regulatory actions; and (4) Chuck Grassley, who would chair Judiciary, seems the most avid about holding “investigations”—i.e., holding show trials.

But the most obscure and potentially the most important question is whether a Republican Congress would choose to use the budget reconciliation process—which bypasses the normal super-majority requirements of Senate action—to create a high-stakes confrontation with Obama over very big things—things like Obamacare. The temptation will be strong, since the Affordable Care Act was enacted via the functional equivalent of reconciliation (thanks to Scott Brown) and GOPers were planning to repeal it via reconciliation in 2013 if the 2012 elections had turned out a bit differently. Budget procedures are flexible enough to make a monstrous reconciliation bill possible. It will probably be a test of how willing congressional Republicans are to make life complicated for their presidential candidate—and even for some of their own blue-state members who are up in 2016—in how audacious they become in 2015.

September 19, 2014 4:22 PM Can Republicans Get Through November Having It Both Ways on IS?

As noted yesterday, the Republicans opposing the authorization to aid Syrian rebels in the fight against IS were, unlike Democrats, all over the place. Some oppose the intervention. Some want it to be much broader and violent and to deploy U.S. combat troops. And some are obsessed with congressional prerogatives in declaring and even guiding wars.

That’s all fine, but it creates a bit of a problem for the GOP in its pre-election messaging. But they aren’t letting that get in their way, as Greg Sargent notes today at The Plum Line:

The NRCC today unleashed a fearsome barrage of new ads accusing multiple House Dem incumbents and candidates of being soft on terrorists — spots that feature grainy footage that hearkens back to 2002 attack ads. This comes after a fusillade of other similar attacks, including some in ads running in key Senate races such as those in Arkansas and Kentucky.
Do Republicans really want to go here, given that many GOP lawmakers’ position is to send in ground troops, a course of action that is broadly opposed by the American mainstream?
Obama and Dems are probably somewhat vulnerable on national security in a general sense. The President’s approval on terrorism has plummeted and the GOP now holds a huge advantage on foreign policy. Republican strategists see this as a way to exploit what they see as a general sense that things have gone off the rails, and Dems aren’t doing anything about it.
“There is just this growing sense that things are a little out of control,” says NRCC chair Greg Walden, adding that Republicans are making a bid for so-called “security moms” whose national security anxieties may have been stirred by imagery of beheadings and other international turmoil. In other words, for Republicans this is all about opening up a new front in the battle for worried female voters.

Yeah, but don’t they need something of a united front? I mean, last time Republicans appealed to “security moms,” they were the party of “Let’s Roll,” that had already attacked Afghanistan and was coiling to invade Iraq.

Perhaps on this issue — as on the Affordable Care Act — Republicans can get away with running against Obummer and keeping their own ideas vague. But on the other hand, if Republicans really want to make these elections about national security, you’d think it just might prompt some media pressure on GOP candidates to say what course of action against ISIS they support and to clarify whether they support another ground war in the Middle East.

How about it., media?

September 19, 2014 1:34 PM Lunch Buffet

I have a new accomplishment to boast of today: “Blogging while interviewing real estate agents.”

Here are some less confusing midday news/views snacks:

* Russians carping about conduct of Scottish independence referendum, apparently in “so’s your old man” gesture aimed at criticism of their own elections.

* Justin Wolfers notes betting markets did better at predicting outcome of Scottish referendum than most polls.

* At TNR, Elaine Teng explains “devo max” agenda Scottish nationalists will push after referendum.

* At the Prospect, Paul Waldman reflects on new debate over corporal punishment.

* Bob Dole, 91, to thump the tubs for beleaguered Sen. Pat Roberts.

And in non-political news:

* Seems I also share a birthday with Jimmy Fallon, who’s turning 40 today.

As we break for lunch, here’s more David Bromberg, with “I Will Not Be Your Fool.”

September 19, 2014 12:17 PM Opposing Reproductive Rights Really Matters in Colorado

If you wonder why Republican Senate nominee Cory Gardner blatantly flip-flopped on his past support a “personhood” initiative (even though he still is listed as a cosponsor on a similar federal resolution) and now is running ads calling for sale of oral contraceptives over-the-counter, check out Shane Goldmacher’s column at National Journal about the special potency of the issue in Colorado:

This is the third straight election cycle that Democrats have leaned heavily on reproductive rights. “It is the exact same playbook they used in 2010, 2012,” said Sean Tonner, a Colorado GOP strategist. And that’s because it works.
Colorado voters support reproductive rights by wide margins, year after year. In 2010, Bennet used months of nonstop abortion messaging to open up a 17-point advantage among women—the biggest gender gap of any Senate race in the country. He did it by focusing on Republican Ken Buck’s opposition to abortion in the case of rape or incest, and his decision as a district attorney not to prosecute a rape case, saying the victim might have suffered “buyer’s remorse.” Craig Hughes, who was Bennet’s campaign manager, estimated that between one-third and half of all the ads that Bennet aired touched on the topic of abortion.
In 2012, President Obama followed Bennet’s cue, running a campaign calibrated to appeal to women in Colorado by talking about reproductive rights. He won the state, too, though by only a 1-point margin among women….
[This cycle] no fewer than four pro-Democratic groups, including NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood’s political arm, have joined the abortion and birth-control barrage. Even the environment-focused group funded by billionaire Tom Steyer, NextGen Climate, opened its latest television ad this week by first referring to Gardner’s opposition to “common forms of birth control,” before pivoting to the environment….
Hughes, now a Colorado strategist for NextGen Climate, said abortion is so powerful a messaging tool in the western state because it serves as a “prism issue” for libertarian-leaning Colorado voters. “Once people understand where you fall on this, other issues make more sense,” Hughes said. “For example, if you are 100 percent anti-choice but also for no limits on pollution, then those two tie together with a certain value set that is far out of touch with Coloradans.”

On top of everything else, there’s another “personhood” initiative on the ballot in Colorado in November. So Republican efforts to change the subject will only go so far.

September 19, 2014 11:25 AM Big Names Among “No” Votes on IS Authorization

Yesterday the Senate joined the House in quickly approving the authorization for the administration to aid Syrian rebels in pursuit of a strategy to crush IS. The margin of approval (78-22) was significantly higher in the upper chamber than in the lower (273-156). But there were some pretty big names among the “no” voters: Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Kirstin Gillibrand, and independent-voting-Democrat Bernie Sanders; and Republicans Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Indeed, the only “yea” voter whose name has been kicked around as a 2016 presidential candidate is Marco Rubio.

There will allegedly be a bigger debate on the fight against IS after the elections, and perhaps a bigger vote. But this one could be remembered for quite some time.

September 19, 2014 10:49 AM HRC’s “Fair Shot”

Eleanor Clift thinks it could be a “brand” like FDR’s New Deal and Harry Truman’s Square Deal. I dunno about that, but in using “fair shot” for what she wants for American women, Hillary Clinton has staked out one corner of economic “populism” on which potential progressive rivals—with the obvious exception of Elizabeth Warren—might have trouble competing, viz. her performance at the Center for American Progress.

“We need a broader-based economic platform that is inclusive,” she said, a clunky way of fleshing out the fair shot she envisions for women, and indeed all Americans. She gives President Obama full credit for “stanching the bleeding” from the financial meltdown, but said, “Unless we change our politics, a lot of the benefits are not going to be broadly shared.”

This isn’t a bad way to promise to change Obama’s policies without repudiating them. It’s somewhat similar, ironically, to Howard Dean’s rap about the administration of Bill Clinton, which he damned with the faint praise of representing “damage control.”

Some of the specifics may be troubling, though:

Flanking Clinton at CAP were pioneers like herself who have been in the trenches fighting for women’s issues for decades. The indefatigable Nancy Pelosi, former House speaker, now Democratic leader; Washington State’s Patty Murray, elected as a “mom in tennis shoes,” now chair of the Senate Budget committee; Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut congresswoman, “the godmother” of what she calls “family-centered economics.”
The only newcomer among these stalwarts, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has the seat that Clinton once held, raised the issue of paid family leave—a core concern where women are shouldering the care of parents as well as children. “Afghanistan and Pakistan have more paid leave than us,” she said, “and they don’t even educate their girls.” With eight out of 10 women in the work force, and four out of 10 the sole or primary breadwinner, “I think we have a Rosie the Riveter moment for this generation,” Gillibrand declared. Recalling the iconic World War II image of a woman with her sleeves rolled up ready to contribute to the war effort, Gillibrand said 6 million women entered the work force then.

Personally, I see no reason why HRC and other Democrats should not take the plunge on paid family leave right away. It’s one place where Republicans cannot pretend to follow them, and its benefits are clear and extraordinarily general. The bigger in scope the “shot” any one proposal represents, the easier it is to argue it’s “fair.”

September 19, 2014 9:13 AM False Choices on Climate Change

The politics of climate change has forever been translated by opponents and even some supporters of national and international action as a choice between carbon emissions reductions and economic growth, between virtue and prosperity, and even between the present and the future. You can guess which side of those arguments typically has an advantage.

But as Paul Krugman points out today, research is increasingly documenting the economic benefits of action on climate change:

[T]here has been dramatic progress in renewable energy technology, with the costs of solar power, in particular, plunging, down by half just since 2010. Renewables have their limitations — basically, the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow — but if you think that an economy getting a lot of its power from wind farms and solar panels is a hippie fantasy, you’re the one out of touch with reality.
On the other side, it turns out that putting a price on carbon would have large “co-benefits” — positive effects over and above the reduction in climate risks — and that these benefits would come fairly quickly. The most important of these co-benefits, according to the I.M.F. paper, would involve public health: burning coal causes many respiratory ailments, which drive up medical costs and reduce productivity.

If this research breaks though the wall of false choices, then the second line of defense against action on climate change—the first is denial, the second is “we can’t afford to do anything about it”—could begin to crumble, and we can begin to debate “how” more than “whether” to act.

September 19, 2014 7:53 AM One GOP Gambit Down in Kansas, Two More To Go

To no one’s great surprising, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach was required to strike Democratic Senate candidate Chad Taylor’s name from the November 4 ballot insofar as Taylor had properly withdrawn from the race.

Now Kobach will shift to Plan B, an effort to force the Kansas Democratic Party to replace Taylor on the ballot. What this is all about, of course, is diluting the Democratic vote going to independent candidate Greg Orman, who has been leading Sen. Pat Roberts in recent polls.

Since Kobach has no power to place someone on the ballot unilaterally, he’ll need the cooperation of the courts to pull off this gambit, and the clock is not in his favor.

But if he succeeds, I suppose Democrats could just nominate Orman, but that would play into the GOP’s Plan C, which is use the bottomless resources the national party will make available to depict the independent candidate as a stooge—nay, a godless, socialistic stooge—of Barack Obama and Harry Reid. It will be a wild ride.

September 19, 2014 7:34 AM Scotland Says “No” To Independence

After last week’s alarums that the “yes” vote was spiking, in the end Scotland voted against independence by what Americans would call a landslide, 55/45. Turnout was over 86%. Now the focus will shift immediately to the promises of devolution promised by the three leading British parties in Parliament; there’s already an English backlash developing, especially among Tories who have virtually no political support in Scotland.

September 19, 2014 7:13 AM Daylight Video

It’s my birthday, and also David Bromberg’s, who is 69 today. Here he is singing a song about how most of us would prefer to live, but can’t: “Sleep Late in the Morning.”

September 18, 2014 4:15 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

Finishing up a bit early today in order to get feted a bit for my birthday tomorrow. It could involve barbecue.

Here are some remains of the day:

* House passes short-term CR and adjourns until after November 4.

* Very bad week for Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is suddenly object of all sorts of anonymous Democratic backbiting.

* At TNR Alec MacGinnis argues that Alison Grimes might have mobilized Kentucky voters she needed by talking about Obamacare’s benefits, which are very notable in that state.

* At Ten Miles Square, Michael O’Hare taunts the NFL for its deserved torment and confusion.

* At College Guide, Daniel Luzer discusses growing evidence that vocational education programs are good for college prep, too.

And in non-political news:

* Craig Ferguson calls Macy Gray most difficult guest he encoutered on Late, Late Show.

That’s it for Thursday. We’ll close with one more brilliant Jimi Hendrix song that never got the attention it deserved: “Castles Made of Sand.”


September 18, 2014 3:30 PM A Benghazi! Unicorn

It’s probably premature to project one moment of comity even a moment into the future. But the first public hearing of the House select committee investigating the incidents in Benghazi, Libya (in this one case I won’t use the dramatic italics and exclamation point) two years ago was so shockingly calm that the usually cynical Dana Milbank of WaPo was billing and cooing, as were committee Democrats:

[W]hen the South Carolina Republican chaired his panel’s first public hearing Wednesday, Gowdy did something completely unexpected: He played it straight.
There was no discussion of talking points or stand-down orders, and only one of the seven Republicans on the panel — Jim Jordan of Ohio — even mentioned Clinton. Instead, Gowdy adopted as the theme of his first hearing an idea suggested by one of the committee’s Democrats, Adam Schiff of California: How well the State Department has been implementing recommendations to prevent future attacks on U.S. diplomats like the one in Libya two years ago that killed four Americans.
This is exactly what congressional oversight should be: a bipartisan effort by legislators to make sure executive-branch officials don’t repeat past mistakes. The resulting bonhomie was unprecedented in the two years of Benghazi bickering.
“I thank you for holding this hearing today,” Elijah Cummings (Md.), the panel’s hard-nosed ranking Democrat, told Gowdy. “. . . I want to thank our colleague Representative Schiff for proposing the topic for today’s hearing, and, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for accepting that topic.”

Now it’s possible Gowdy will be taken to the woodshed by other Republicans (not to mention the conservative media that has made Benghazi! a sort of national security counterpart to Agenda 21), and come back snarling and ranting. But for the first time since September 11, 2012, the subject is being discussed by Republicans in an atmosphere that isn’t reminiscent of a Tea Party street rally.

September 18, 2014 3:18 PM Twin Impulses of Beseiged Zionism

Consuming any issue of the Washington Monthly involves tucking in to tasty book reviews, and the current issue is no exception. Anyone interested in the complex background to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should read Jacob Heilbrunn’s review of two books on two great rivals of Zionism and their shifting legacies today.

Hillel Halkin’s biography of Vladimir Jabotinskly, the leader of “revisionist” Zionism, and Seth Lipsky’s biography of the American socialist Zionist Abraham Cahan, take us back to the old but evergreen arguments about the best way for Palestinian Jews, and later Israelis, to deal with hostile Arab neighbords. As Heilbrunn notes, Rabotinsky’s blunt faith in nationalist force instead of mutual aid or “co-prosperity” almost seems more modern, given its adoption by Bibi Netanyahu, the son of one of his proteges. But Cahan’s point of view points to many paths not taken by the Zionist enterprise, including a less aggressive assertion of exclusive statehood.

If it sometimes seems nothing new is ever said and done in the dispute between Israel and its Arab neighbors, it may be best to look back a bit further, when intra-Zionist disputes were more robust and less fraught with immediate peril (except, of course, for the many souls that might have escaped fascist terror had the situation in Palestine been more settled).

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