Why poor nations aren’t prisoners of their history. By Charles Kenny
If May has been a rough month for Barack Obama, you could say the same for those intrepid voices calling for a “rebranding” of the Republican Party to make the GOP kinder and gentler and more appealing to the significant majority of Americans who look dimly upon that organization (59% of them in the latest CNN-ORC survey).
There’s the general problem that Scandalmania ‘13 is reinforcing the pre-existing impression that the GOP isn’t exactly focused on the issues most Americans care about, while amplifying the voices of conservatives who buy into all sorts of outlandish conspiracy theories about the president. And then there are more specific problems associated with high-profile GOP candidates for office who are undermining the claims that past controversial candidates like Todd Akin (and Richard Mourdock and Joe Miller and Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle and just a few dozen others) are isolated cranks unrepresentative of the “adults” in the party.
The ticket just nominated by the Virginia Republican Party, in which gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, long a hero of the mad fringe, is probably the “moderate,” is a case in point; conservative analyst Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics writes this very morning that Commonwealth Republicans may be in the process of throwing away their advantages in this year’s state elections, which will receive vast national attention).
But there’s more fresh hell for Republican “rebranders” roaring out of the Rockies: the news that Tom Tancredo is running for governor of Colorado, and will almost certainly be the front-runner for the GOP nomination after winning 35% of the vote for that office in 2010 as a third-party candidate.
For the many Republicans who believe de-toxifying the party’s image among Latino voters is central to its short- and long-term political prospects, a Tancredo run for statewide office is very bad news. It’s not just that Tancredo, a nativist right out of the nineteenth century, is opposed to the comprehensive immigration reform legislation that even many serious conservatives consider so important that it must be made an exception to the general rule that the GOP need not “moderate” its policy positions to win. Tancredo has major issues with levels of legal immigration, and insists the GOP and the conservative movement must advocate deportation—not self-deportation, but forced deportation—of millions of undocumented workers.
Everything about Tom Tancredo’s act is designed to secure maximum national media attention. Yes, perhaps national Republicans can ostracize him like they did poor old Todd Akin, but at some point you have to wonder how many statewide candidates running on their own “brand” can be disclaimed without drawing still more attention to their ravings, not to mention engendering blowback from the majority of Republican primary voters in most parts of the country who actually agree with their most outrageous utterances. Yes, Tancredo’s “out there,” but in 2014 he may well be joined in the ranks of bizarre high-profile GOP candidates by Joe Miller of Alaska (again), Paul Broun of Georgia, and Lord only knows who else. The “rebranders” really have their work cut out for them.
Mitch McConnell’s whiny little op-ed on the alleged persecution of campaign donors by evil bureaucrats and “union thugs” is, believe it or not, only the second worst thing I’ve read on the WaPo site this morning. The worst is a piece by Republican “strategist” Ed Rogers under the headline: “A special prosecutor in the IRS matter is inevitable.”
Oh, God, please, anything but that.
Rogers, concern-trolling with great solemnity, suggests that appointing a special prosecutor would enable the White House to adopt a strategy of “slowing the congressional inquiries and giving Jay Carney some relief from his daily embarrassing routine by supplying him with the escape hatch of not being allowed to comment on matters associated with the special prosecutor’s ongoing investigation. Not to mention, the White House all the while could blast the appointed counsel as a partisan ideologue a la the hatchet job that was done on Ken Starr.”
Yeah, we all remember that poor victim Ken Starr, don’t we?
Personally, I’m all for letting the congressional “investigators” run wild, if the only alternative is dependence on one of the worst institutions of modern law and politics, the special prosecutor (and yes, I felt that way when the Bush administration was resisting calls for a special prosecutor to investigate its many scandals). At least congressional committees have to deal with the growing public realization that they really ought to have something better to do—you know, something connected with actual governing. Special prosecutors are encouraged, yea required, to engage in endless fishing expeditions, even if they lead the intrepid sleuths far from the original issues.
Mike Tomasky said it well in his Daily Beast column today:
The Republicans are looking for some way to tie this bureaucratic screw-up to last year’s campaign, or better still to Obama himself. They know very well the best way to do that: a special prosecutor. A special prosecutor, unlike all those apparently unspecial prosecutors across the United States trying to nab genuinely bad guys with limited resources, has no constraints on time or money. He can just keep turning over rocks until he finds something that smells suspicious. Of all the undemocratic institutions we suffer with in our democracy, it’s far and away the most undemocratic.
Bill Clinton learned that agreeing to a special prosecutor was the greatest mistake of his presidency (and by the way, conservatives howling for one now—imagine what Dick Cheney would have thought of a Plame special prosecutor, and at least have the self-awareness to acknowledge that you’d have been with him every step of the way). But part of the reason Clinton agreed was that he knew he and Hillary had done nothing wrong on Whitewater.
Fat lot of good that did them. Obama may know that he’s done nothing wrong here, but that is no reason to accede to these dishonest demands. There will be pressure from the right, and it will grow, but there’s only one person who has the power to name a special prosecutor. His name is Obama. He has been naive about the Republicans, but he better not be that naive.
You have to hand it to Mitch McConnell. While other scandal-mad Republicans are off on a wild goose chase that could well end in 1998, McConnell’s focused on exploiting scandals to promote his very favorite cause, and his special gift to the corruption of American politics: hiding the identity of big campaign donors. His op-ed in today’s Washington Post aims at convincing us that conservative donors obviously need anonymity because they will otherwise be persecuted by Obama-inspired bureaucrats and union thugs.
Not since Ted Olson’s Wall Street Journal op-ed last year throwing a pity party for his clients the Brothers Koch have we seen anything quite like McConnell’s inversion of reality. For one thing, the whole piece is based on the false premise that the selective scrutiny of Tea Party groups by the IRS in reviewing 501(c)(4) applications represents a “culture of intimidation” aimed at silencing conservatives. Even if you buy the “money equals speech” formulation that is at the center of Mitch McConnell’s world view—yea, it is perhaps his actual religion—that doesn’t mean “tax exemptions equal speech.” The idea that members of Tea Party groups whose (c)(4) applications were in limbo were hiding in their closets, weeping in fear and awaiting the sound of the first jackboot at their door, is a complete fabrication, even for the more paranoid of that breed.
But even if you buy the idea that incompetent fumbling over exemption applications actually represents persecution, the idea that efforts to force disclosure of large donors to organizations running political ads (the idea of the DISCLOSE Act that is the main target of McConnell’s ire) would unleash the liberal hordes on poor, defenseless little rich boys who just happen to sincerely believe they shouldn’t have to pay taxes to support those people is ha-larious. Is anonymity really their only line of defense? Don’t we have laws against real acts of persecution, public and private? Do donors pouring tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars into political campaigns to nuke opponents and protect their economic interests really have a right to avoid the disdain that exposure would bring? In all the endless efforts to create Obama Scandals, has anyone yet come up with a tangible harm (and no, I’m sorry, the failure to get a quick answer on an application for tax-exempt status doesn’t qualify) suffered by the president’s identified enemy? With all this persecution going on, why aren’t the jails crammed with poor innocent conservatives and the streets running with blood as poor little rich boys flee union thugs?
McConnell’s argument really boils down to the claim that donors who hate on government or on Barack Obama have to be given anonymity because government and Barack Obama don’t like being hated on and therefore might retaliate, as evidenced by the IRS “scandal” and Obama’s “class warfare” speeches, which created a “culture of intimidation.” That’s just another way of saying that conservative political activity is a form of self-defense for the rich against the power of rapacious liberalism, and that the rules governing political activity should privilege that self-defense, since after all liberals can’t be expected to treat them fairly (i.e., leave them alone to spend their money and treat their employees as they please).
I don’t know how much sympathy a cold-eyed cynic like McConnell can engender for this line of defense outside the boardroom set and the Tea Party fever swamps, where the very existence of liberalism is often considered an outrageous defiance of the Will of God as expressed through the Founders. But as always, you have to admire his chutzpah.
A video by a wonderful old band with two songs that nicely reflects two aspects of the mood surrounding Scandalmania ‘13: “To Cry You a Song” and “A New Day Yesterday.” Sorry for the abrupt ending, but it’s concert footage: Jethro Tull in Tampa, 1976:
Kinda get the feeling that a lot of readers are sort of checking out of political media today. Don’t blame them a bit given the kind of “news” we’re all dealing with.
But at day’s end, there’s always a bit more news quantity, if not quality:
* Issa claims Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights by making opening statement to Oversight Committee. What’s next? Lerner hauled off to jail in chains? Rush seems to think that’s a good idea.
* Administration admission that four Americans killed by drones overseas could overshadow Obama’s big foreign policy speech tomorrow.
* TPM’s Hunter Walker has amusing story about Anthony Weiner campaign’s successful strategy to handle launch in way that kept his face—and the inevitable puns—off front pages of this morning’s New York tabloids.
* At Ten Miles Square, Ryan Cooper executes rational intervention in Krugman-Kinsley war over austerity.
* At College Guide, Daniel Luzer offers his own take on Michelle Rhee’s recent trajectory, and on Nicholas Lemann’s review of her book.
And in non-political news:
* Tiger Woods’ rivals just can’t seem to pass up the fried chicken “jokes,” can they?
Since we started the day with Ozzie, let’s end it with a jumbo pack of vintage Black Sabbath: “Paranoid” and “Iron Man,” in a video recorded for German TV in 1970.
Our good friend Greg Sargent of WaPo, who matches my own enthusiasm for filibuster reform, is also a lot more optimistic than I am about Harry Reid’s willingness and ability to go the whole hog. In that spirit, he today reports on a verbal slugfest between Reid and Mitch McConnell under the headline, “Harry Reid escalates ‘nuclear’ threat.”
Reid sounds pretty feisty all right. But Greg’s belief that Reid’s decision to push a vote on the nomination of Richard Cordray until July to create a really big showdown on every available nomination is only one way to look at it. The other way is that he doesn’t want to get the immigration reform bill, due to come to the floor next month, into the crossfire, and/or isn’t sure how either floor fight will turn out.
Maybe Greg’s right, and we’re in the runup to a real war over the filibuster. I certainly hope so. But like European nations during the runup to World War I, the United States Senate is a creaky machine where hostilities require extensive mobilization of forces before the fact. That may be all we are hearing right now. Or maybe, as in 1914, mobilization, once started, will be hard to stop.
We will probably never again see anyone in the ranks of “expert” political prognosticators quite like what Dick Morris became last year, blithely basing predictions on what he wanted to happen along with big, vague “trend” assertions based on thin air.
But I gotta say, for a guy who is in the business of very precise election predictions, Roll Call’s Stu Rothenberg got pretty unmoored from empirical evidence today. He moved six Senate races a notch in the direction of the GOP, en bloc. So far as we can tell, this shift wasn’t based on any state polls or money numbers, or even on national polls. It’s all about “the narrative:”
While national polls haven’t shown a shift in the public’s opinion of President Barack Obama’s performance, recent controversies have, in my view, significantly changed the political landscape.
And changes in the landscape have led the Rothenberg Political Report to change its Senate ratings.
For the past few years, the public’s focus has been on Republicans’ opposition to the president’s agenda, their desire to shrink (even cripple) government and their conservatism. But the IRS scandal, along with controversies involving the attack in Benghazi and the Justice Department’s collecting of journalists’ telephone records, has change the political narrative.
While the Oklahoma tornado tragedy will dominate media coverage for the next few days, the new political narrative that will re-emerge when journalists return to politics involves questions about what the administration knew, said and did.
The new focus on the Obama administration puts it on the defensive and should boost enthusiasm on the political right throughout this year.
While we don’t know how long the focus will stay on the administration — or whether Republicans will stumble over the investigations or matters of public policy — between now and the November midterms, it is undeniable that recent events have altered, at least for now, the trajectory of the 2014 elections.
That’s “undeniable?” Sorry, Stu, I deny it. “The narrative” suggested here is the one, of course, that the Republican Party is promoting, and maybe that will work out for them and maybe it will backfire, as even some GOPers fear. I sure as hell wouldn’t incorporate it into election odds until there’s a least some evidence that “Narrative” is being bought by the public, which ain’t happening just yet.
Rothenberg naturally tries to leaven his big vote of confidence in a GOP trend with lots of things-could-change qualifiers. But if I were him, I’d be on the lookout not only for a bit more objective evidence, but for any sudden desire to suck toes.
Okay, class, here’s what should be an easy assignment:
What does it mean when Sen. Ted Cruz says the following on budget negotiations (per TPM’s Sahil Kapur)?
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Wednesday defended his objection to initiating House-Senate budget negotiations unless Democrats take a debt limit increase off the table, saying he doesn’t trust his party to hold the line.
“The senior senator from Arizona urged this body to trust the Republicans. Let me be clear, I don’t trust the Republicans,” Cruz said. “And I don’t trust the Democrats.”
On Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) scolded Republicans for blocking negotiations. He was backed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
“Unfortunately,” Cruz said, “one of the reasons we got into this mess is because a lot of Republicans were complicit in this spending spree and that’s why so many Americans are disgusted with both sides of this house. … And every Republican who stands against holding the line here is really saying, let’s give the Democrats a blank check to borrow any money they want with no reforms, no leadership to fix the problem.”
Does it mean, as political reporters often blandly repeat, that “Tea Party” pols like Cruz are hardy independents who care about principle rather than about the GOP, and represent a constituency that is up in the air?
No, and I might add: Hell no! Cruz specifically and Tea Party members generally, for all their independent posturing, are the most rigid of partisans, and are about as likely to vote with or for Democrats as a three-toed sloth is likely to win a Gold Medal in the 100-meter dash. Yes, they often threaten to form a Third Party, but never do (why should they when their power in one of the two major parties is overwhelming and still growing?), and even more often threaten to “stay home” during elections, but in fact tend to vote more than just about any other sizable bloc of Americans.
So what’s with their inveterate Republican-bashing, if they usually vote and almost always vote Republican?
There are two interconnected explanations. The first is that they want to make it clear that for them the GOP is not a tradition, or a roughly coherent set of attitudes, or a mechanism for civic participation and ultimately the shaping of public policies through democratic competition and cooperation: it’s a vehicle for the advancement of a fixed and eternal set of policies, mostly revolving around absolute property rights and pre-late-twentieth century cultural arrangements. Those who view the GOP as anything other or less than this sort of vehicle are deemed RINOs or “establishment Republicans,” and presumed to be in charge of the party, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
So when Tea Party champions or “true conservatives” or “constitutional conservatives” (three terms for the same people) say they’re not willing to sacrifice their principles to win elections, do they really mean it, and is that the difference between them and those “establishment Republicans” like John McCain that they are always attacking? No, not really. They want to win elections, too, but only in order to impose a governing order that they believe should be immune to any future election, immune from contrary popular majorities generally, and immune to any other of those “changing circumstances” that gutless RINOs always cite in the process of selling out “the base.” And that’s why they are willing to use anti-majoritarian tactics when they are in the minority, and anti-minority tactics when they are in the majority: the only thing that matters is bringing back the only legitimately conservative, the only legitimately American policies and enshrining them as powerfully as is possible.
So from that perspective, sure, they’re conservatives first and Republicans second. But this isn’t a “revolt” against the GOP, but a takeover bid, executed through primaries (e.g., Ted Cruz’s victory over “establishment Republican” David Dewhurst) and the power of money and ultimately sheer intimidation. Ted Cruz won’t “trust Republicans” until they’re all taking orders from people like him, who are in turn simply taking orders from God Almighty and the Founding Fathers.
When Fed chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress today (his first trip to the Hill in a while), he exhibited an exceptionally clear purpose: telling Congress to stop the austerity already! Wonkblog’s Neil Irwin summed it up efficiently:
Even as state and local governments are becoming less of a drag on growth, Bernanke says in his prepared testimony before the Joint Economic Committee, “fiscal policy at the federal level has become significantly more restrictive.”
“In particular,” his testimony says, “the expiration of the payroll tax cut, the enactment of tax increases, the effects of the budget caps on discretionary spending, the onset of sequestration, and the declines in defense spending for overseas military operations are expected, collectively, to exert a substantial drag on the economy this year.”
He adds that with the Fed’s interest rate policies already near zero, “monetary policy does not have the capacity to fully offset an economic headwind of this magnitude.”
Bernanke went on to lash Congress for all but reversing his own formula of combining long-term deficit reductions measure with short-term caution or even stimulus (which has pretty much been the formula of most Democrats, though it’s been obscured or even contradicted by the occasional White House and/or congressional lurches into short-term fiscal hawker). But despite the alleged laser-like focus of both parties on jobs, the economy, and fiscal policy, the rebuke was difficult to hear over Scandalmania.
On this day 157 years ago, Preston “Bully” Brooks of SC beat MA Sen. Charles Sumner into unconsciousness on Senate floor for insulting southern “honor.” And you thought polarization was bad today.
Here are some mid-day news/views tidbits, none of them about the IRS or Benghazi!. That took some doing.
* Paul Ryan reported to be writing a book. Maybe we’ll finally get to the bottom of his brilliant synthesis of the thinking of Ayn Rand and St. Thomas Aquinas.
* Vanderbilt poll shows near-majority support (49% for, 46% against) for marriage equality in Tennessee. Bet it’s still zero in the state’s GOP congressional delegation.
* Glutton for punishment: Anthony Weiner formally announces mayoral candidacy.
* At TNR, Jonathan Cohn has grim report on how low-wage employers are trying to evade Obamacare.
And in non-political news:
* In case you missed Twister, HuffPost debunks seven dangerous myths about tornadoes.
Back in under an hour.
As of this morning, the IRS “scandal” has shifted so thoroughly and quickly that it’s easy to lose the thread of what we are supposed to be upset about. As Brother Benen nicely summed it up:
When it comes to the IRS controversy, I’m starting to get the impression that the goalposts have moved rather quickly.
The initial allegation raised by the right and other White House critics is that President Obama’s White House, if not the president himself, may have been directly involved. As this story goes, Team Obama sent word to an IRS office in Cincinnati to apply extra scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
When every shred of evidence suggested this allegation is baseless, the charges shifted from “Obama did too much!” to “Obama did too little!”
Steve also aptly quotes Jeffrey Toobin’s characterization of the apparent behavior of the White House towards on ongoing investigation as “the opposite of a cover-up.” They let the Inspector General’s office do its job and didn’t interfere. And as for the planted axiom that the White House’s failure to make a big public deal out of the investigation is suspicious, there’s the inconvenient fact that congressional Republicans, most particularly the Grand Inquistor himself, Darrell Issa, knew about the investigation (and of Tea Party complaints that their 501(c)(4) applications were being stonewalled by the IRS), and didn’t think enough of it to help make it a 2012 campaign issue.
Among reporters (e.g., WaPo’s normally excellent Dan Balz) who understand there’s no real legal culpibility here for the White House, the latest game is to blame the White House for political incompetence in letting the president get blind-sided on this issue, and in not treating the “scandal” with sufficient seriousness when it “broke.”
Well, whatever. It’s not exactly breaking news that this White House, like any White House, isn’t politically infallible. If the scandal is poor handling of the scandal, we are a very long way from the original claims, which are still being repeated every single second throughout conservative-land, that the administration has gotten caught deploying the IRS to destroy the First Amendment rights (which apparently includes the right not to pay taxes and to hide donors) of innocent activists who were minding their own business.
The ultimate howler here is that we are supposed to believe that IRS bureaucrats, in obedience to the “dog whistle” of the president’s demonization of conservative groups’ involvement in the 2012 presidential campaign, chose to ignore the groups that were actually involved in the campaign in a significant way, and instead go after small fry Tea Party organizations (who apparently could not express their views without a certificate of tax-exempt status), many undoubtedly operating in non-competitive states. This idea reflects the deeper delusion that the Tea Party Movement is perceived by Democrats as a deadly threat to their electoral prospects, instead of as the Democratic Party’s very best friend, driving the GOP into extremism and political cul de sacs every day. You know, like the one we’re all barreling down right now in inflating IRS stupidity in processing 501(c)(4) applications into the central issue of American politics (with the possible exception of Benghazi!).
But hey, forget all that: Lois Lerner (the same bureaucrat who came up with the brilliant idea of making this whole subject very public by planting a question about IRS “targeting” at a luncheon so that she could “apologize”) is taking the Fifth! Crimes must have been committed! To hell with those portions of the Bill of Rights that don’t involve the self-protection of Tea Folk! To hell with the law and logic! Down the rabbit hole we go, world without end!
In more widely-discussed signs of the conservative zeitgeist, the dubious results of last weekend’s Virginia State Republican Convention, which in the deliberate absence of primaries nominated candidates for three statewide offices, are drawing much-needed attention to the kind of message and policies the GOP “base” would prefer when left to its own devices.
As quoted by Mother Jones’ Tim Murphy, a prominent Virginia GOP “moderate,” former Rep. Tom Davis (who had a particular bone to pick since his wife, Annemarie Devolites Davis, was one of the candidates beaten by E.W. Jackson for nomination as Lieutenant Governor), pointed out these are precisely the kind of nominees you can expect from a convention, and went out of his way to note Jackson doesn’t even particularly stand out:
Davis is voting for Jackson anyway, for a simple reason: “It’s control of the state Senate. The lieutenant governor doesn’t vote on anything. I certainly don’t agree with his comments, but I don’t agree with some of Cuccinelli’s comments either…And frankly just to tell you, what E.W. was saying isn’t much different from what most of the others were saying.”
“This is where the party is gonna go,” Davis said. “I would marginalize myself in the future if I come out here and don’t support the ticket. So we support it. I mean, how active I’m gonna be remains to be seen.”
So in effect, practical-minded Virginia Republicans are treating their ticket as a red-meat-offering to the Great Idol of the “base.” They have no one but themselves to blame when even the most minimal oppo-research turns up items like this bizarre ad Jackson ran as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2012:
Yes, Jackson is splitting watermelons in this ad. The Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta calls this “‘possibly the worst campaign ad since Herman Cain’s campaign manager smoked a cigarette on camera.” I think that’s a terrible insult to Cain and to Mark Block, whose coffin-nail-puffing tribute to his boss became an instant hipster classic. Perhaps there are people who will think similarly of Jackson’s ad, but if so, they have a capacity for irony far exceeding mine. And we’re just beginning to come to grips with the Jackson oeuvre. No telling what’s way down in the weeds.
If you want a sign of the genuine grassroots conservative zeitgeist at the moment, don’t listen to blind-quote assurances in the MSM that Republicans have Scandalmania ‘13 “under control” and won’t let the this turn into a rerun of the counterproductive effort to drive Bill Clinton from office. Instead, check out this report about yesterday’s Tea Party protest against the IRS at the Georgia State Capitol, from local radio station WABE:
The message of the day was clear - keep investigating and find out if the White House applied political pressure.
“Little people didn’t do this stuff, it comes from the top,” said protestor Janice Faircloth of Coweta County.
Several top IRS officials have already resigned and congressional hearings are ongoing. President Obama has denied any involvement or knowledge of the targeting as it was happening.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder last week ordered a separate probe to investigate whether laws were broken.
But protestors like Henry Ashmore of Newnan said they were skeptical of Holder’s independence.
“We need a special prosecutor because I don’t think Holder will get to the bottom of this. I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him.”
Many at the event spoke in broader political terms, saying the scandal represented a federal government run amok.
Bob Barr, the former Georgia congressman who is now once again running for office, painted a dark picture.
“The deep-seated systemic corruption that has infested not just this administration but so many in Washington, that’s why we need change in Washington.”
Barr referred to himself as an “impeachment manager.” While in Congress, Barr led efforts to impeach President Clinton. He vowed to pursue the scandal “like a bulldog” if elected back to Congress.
Yep. After years of trying to live down his role in the Clinton impeachment saga, Bob Barr, engaged in a more-conservative-than-thou primary fight to succeed Senate candidate Phil Gingrey in the House, now finds that it’s once again a positive credential. After all, if you want to impeach Barack Obama, why not hire a guy with the relevant experience?
So with virtually no national attention (and I plead guilty to ignoring it myself), America’s second-largest city held a competitive mayor’s election (actually, a runoff election) yesterday, and a booming 19% of Los Angeles’ registered voters turned out to elect city councilman Eric Garcetti over city controller Wendy Greuel by a 54-46 margin.
Both candidates were more or less standard-brand center-left Democrats who had relatively broad bases of support (Greueul won perhaps the highest-profile endorsements, from Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer, while Garcetti was endorsed by Howard Dean and Cory Booker). Both candidates also had plenty of money (a total of $33 million was spent on the race). But it was Greuel’s close association with the city employee unions that seemed to be the key issue in the runoff, helping Garcetti (who was endorsed by the main teachers’ union) outpace his rival significantly in Republican areas of the city. Greuel tried to make Garcetti’s endorsement by Republican Kevin James, who finished third in the first round of voting, an issue in the runoff, but that may have just helped Garcetti look like the lesser-of-evils to conservatives.
Garcetti becomes LA’s first Jewish mayor (Greuel would have been the first woman to serve in that office) and will probably spend his first days in office trying to heal intra-Democratic wounds, and perhaps wondering what sort of mandate he actually has after an election in which four-fifths of voters didn’t bother to show up.
We might as well get the relatively good news of the morning out of the way: the Senate Judiciary approved comprehensive immigration reform legislation late yesterday by a 13-5 margin. All the Committee Democrats voted “yea,” even after they had to accept (a) withdrawal of an amendment providing equal treatment for same-sex partners in green card applications, and (b) amendments from Orrin Hatch on H-1B (“skilled worker”) visas that are deeply troubling to the labor movement. The H-1B amendments were enough to bring Hatch on board, where he joined Gang of Eight Members Lindsay Graham and Jeff Flake.
So the general buzz is that the margin in Committee will be enough to create a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate as a whole, particularly since Mitch McConnell has promised to back a “motion to proceed” to consideration of the bill—in essence an agreement to oppose any any front-end filibuster—when it comes to the floor in June.
But it’s helpful to recall that last month gun legislation survived a front-end filibuster as well, admidst high hosannas that the gun lobby had been “broken.” Senate opponents of the immigration bill got a boost of their own yesterday when a letter opposing the Gang of Eight bill from 150 high-profile conservative leaders (the less famous of whom were largely state tea party folk). Tellingly, the letter concentrates on comparisons of the immigration bill—its substance and the process that created it—to Obamacare. That’s an easy-to-understand argument to make against the kind of compromises that inevitably go into any “comprehensive” bill on any controversial topic.
Meanwhile, despite the announcement last Friday that the House Gang of Eight had reached an “agreement in principle” on its own immigration bill, nothing has actually been released, and now it appears a draft provision banning any government assistance for newly legalized immigrants in securing health care could endanger Democratic support, particularly outside the Gang.
So don’t get your hopes up on immigration reform just yet, even if Republican congressional leaders keep insisting it’s the one subject they won’t forget about no matter how central Scandalmania becomes to their overall political message.
Feed the Political AnimalDonate
Washington Monthly depends on donations from readers like you.