February, 2015

GOP Hopefuls Court the Base

The Wall Street Journal reports “it wasn’t clear if any potential candidate was building particular momentum” at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC.

“More obvious were signs of what the crowd, which tends to skew younger than the overall GOP electorate, doesn’t want: A centrist nominee, or someone who backs Common Core national education standards or liberalized immigration laws. For some, that disqualified Jeb Bush, a likely candidate who is widely viewed as one of the front-runners.”

Bush Enters the Lion’s Den

Jeb Bush “made certain that he has no plan to pander to his party’s conservative base in pursuit of the Republican nomination when he declared, ‘I’m not backing down from something that is a core belief. Are we all supposed to cower because at the moment people are upset about something? No way, no how,'” the Washington Post reports.

“Bush’s pledge will be tested, though, as he wades into the proverbial lion’s den Friday when he speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual speechmaking festival that draws thousands of conservative activists to National Harbor outside of Washington.”

“After two bustling months spent shoring up his natural areas of strength — raising a mountain of cash from the GOP’s monied class, recruiting seasoned policy experts and political operatives, and charming old-guard opinion-makers — Bush is stepping into a new and potentially more perilous phase of his expected candidacy.”

Walker Compares Union Protests to ISIS

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) told conservatives that his experience with union protests has prepared him to confront terrorists, TPM reports.

Said Walker: “I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil. We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message not only that we will protect American soil but do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world. We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

Missouri Gubernatorial Candidate Dies In Apparent Suicide

Missouri state auditor Tom Schweich (R), a leading contender for the governor’s office in next year’s election, has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Politico: “The incident sent a shudder through Missouri government and political circles. Schweich had been in the early stages of an already-tense primary against Catherine Hanaway, a former state House speaker and U.S. attorney.”

Jindal Contradicted on Cause of Budget Crisis

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) “has repeatedly claimed that Louisiana’s projected $1.6 billion financial shortfall in the next fiscal year is primarily due to falling oil prices, but the state’s own economist is saying — in no uncertain terms — that this is not the case,” the New Orleans Times Picayune reports.

“Unlike Jindal, Albrecht blamed the majority of the shortfall on Louisiana’s budgeting tactics over the last few years. He said Jindal and the Legislature have relied on piecemeal funding  sources — trusts, revenue from property sales and other things — that don’t replenish themselves year after year. This has lead to the financial crisis.”

The Toxic Consequences of Netanyahu’s Speech

Dan Drezner: “The thing about most foreign policy decision-making is that a lot of it is irrevocable. In some cases it’s literally impossible: The United States can’t un-invade Iraq, for example. In other cases, the cumulative effects of certain choices renders a particular policy essentially locked in. The United States can’t really renegotiate NAFTA or dramatically curtail its economic opening to China, for example…”

“This makes Netanyahu’s decision to deliver this speech all the more confusing. The marginal value-added of addressing Congress (as opposed to just AIPAC, which he was going to do anyway) is not that great… The speech is such an obvious effort by Netanyahu to bolster his domestic position that the head of Israel’s election commission has ruled that the speech will be broadcast on a five-minute delay to excise any blatant campaigning.”

“Benjamin Netanyahu is many things, but stupid is not one of them. Why is he pursuing the course of action he is pursuing despite the fretting of his national security team?”

Republicans Only Trust Fox News

Public Policy Polling: “The extreme polarization in what media outlets people trust continues this year. Fewer than 25% of Republicans trust ABC, CBS, Comedy Central, MSNBC, CNN, and NBC. They’re closely divided on PBS with 37% trusting it and 39% distrusting it. But really they just trust Fox News and nothing else with 66% saying they put their faith in it to just 25% who don’t.”

“It’s almost the opposite story when it comes to Democrats. Majorities of them trust ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC News, and PBS. And more of them than not (44/30) trust Comedy Central as well. The only outlet they don’t trust is Fox News, although 33% who do trust it is still more than the share of Republicans who trust any of the major networks.”

‘House of Cards’ Turns to Policy

House of Cards began as a fun-house-mirror reflection of Washington, an outlandish sendup decked out in the pinstripes-and-Prada props of real-life politics. This Netflix series about a conniving congressman wasn’t realistic, but it was sly and knowing enough to pass as a naughty behind-the-scenes peek at government,” the New York Times notes.

“Fittingly enough, the first several episodes of Season 3 are weighed down with the same burden that bedevils real politicians when they come to power: After all the campaign high jinks and maneuvering come to an end, it’s time to actually govern.”

“And policy is not nearly as sexy and exciting. As a result, the series, whose new episodes all debut on Friday, gets off to a surprisingly sluggish start. The pace picks up and the subplots thicken by the fourth episode, and by the fifth the series recaptures some of its early panache, but given that there are only about 13 hours per season, that’s quite a slow windup. Viewers who intend to feast on the entire season should beware: Before dessert, there’s a heavy, overcooked first course that is hard to swallow.”

Bush Is Running Like a Grown Up

Joe Klein: “In a week during which Rudolph Giuliani went crusader-­ballistic questioning President Obama’s ­patriotism—­indeed, questioning his ­upbringing—Jeb Bush gave a speech about foreign affairs, the third serious policy speech he’s given this winter. Giuliani got all the headlines, of course. That’s how you do it now: say something heinous and the world will beat a path to your door. And Bush’s speech wasn’t exactly a barn burner. His delivery was rushed and unconvincing, though he was more at ease during the question period. He was criticized for a lack of specificity. But Bush offered something far more important than specificity. He offered a sense of his political style and temperament, which in itself presents a grownup and civil alternative to the Giuliani-­style pestilence that has plagued the Republic for the past 25 years.”

“It has been the same in each of bush’s three big speeches. He is a political conservative with a moderate disposition. And after giving his ­speeches a close read, I find Bush’s disposition far more important than his position on any given issue. In fact, it’s a breath of fresh air. I disagree with his hard line toward Cuba and the Iran nuclear negotiations, and I look forward to hearing what he has to say about reforming Obama­care. His arguments so far merit consideration, even when one disagrees with them.”

Why Walker is the GOP Frontrunner

Steve Kornacki: “Going strictly by the poll numbers, no one is off to a better start than Scott Walker. And yes, it’s easy to dismiss this — it’s so early. There were polls that showed Herman Cain ahead last time! The establishment candidate always wins in the end! But there’s also a good case to be made that it’s much more than a fleeting blip and that Walker is a genuine contender for the GOP nomination — maybe even (gulp) the favorite.”

“This is a testament both to Walker’s strengths and to the vulnerabilities of Bush, who is generally regarded as the front-runner and who is quickly establishing himself as the favorite of the party’s donor class.”

Paul Says Bush Is a Hypocrite on Pot

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) repeatedly slammed Jeb Bush for his “hypocritical” stance on marijuana, Business Insider reports.

Said Paul: “I think if you talk to young people, they’re not very tolerant of hypocrisy. Jeb Bush admits that — when he was at an elite prep school, where very wealthy kids went to school — that he smoked pot. But he’s still willing to put someone in jail for medical marijuana in Florida. … When Jeb was a very wealthy kid at a very elite school, he used marijuana but didn’t get caught [and] didn’t have to go to prison. I think it shows some hypocrisy.”

Bad Timing for Boehner

First Read: “With the Senate easily advancing a ‘clean’ bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, the ball is now in House Speaker Boehner’s court. And the timing couldn’t be more problematic for him: The conservatives assembling at CPAC probably aren’t going to appreciate House Republicans caving in their fight against the Obama administration. It’s déjà vu for Boehner: He’s caught between trying to help his caucus out of tricky situations, and looking over his shoulder for conservatives who want his head on a platter if he caves to Democrats. What we haven’t been able to understand: Why haven’t Boehner and Republicans been able to make their success (so far) in the courts against Obama’s executive action an asset here?”

Paul Says Benghazi Should Disqualify Clinton

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told Katie Couric that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to blame for the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi and that her failure to “defend our ambassador,” should “preclude her from even being considered for the higher office.”

Said Paul: “The biggest mistake Hillary Clinton made, and think this will be an albatross over her neck for the rest of the campaign, I don’t think she’ll be able to overcome this, is that when she was asked to provide security for Benghazi, she didn’t do it.”

What If the Supreme Court Guts Obamacare?

Joshua Green: “The possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon eliminate federal subsidies for people buying health insurance through the Affordable Care Act is the biggest story in politics and economics that no one wants to talk about. But the stakes in King v. Burwell, which the court will hear on March 4, could scarcely be higher: If the plaintiffs prevail, millions of people in 34 states who bought insurance on federal exchanges would suddenly lose the subsidies that make it affordable. Consequently, most would lose their coverage.”

“The immediate effect of a ruling against the ACA would be to hurl the political system, and no small part of the economy, into chaos. Yet there’s little sign that Washington is preparing for that scenario. Democrats won’t talk about what they would do because they don’t want the court to believe they could contain the fallout. Republicans don’t want to talk because they’re loath to admit that, even after voting 67 times to repeal or defund the ACA, they have no plan to help the millions who would be affected.”

Wonk Wire: Indifference to the Obamacare ruling from many governors

Conservatives Seek to Prevent Enforcement of Gun Laws

“Conservative lawmakers in at least 11 states are pushing legislation that would prevent state law enforcement from enforcing some or all federal gun restrictions. Proponents of these bills are emboldened by the success of marijuana legalization at the state level and claim that federal law enforcement is stretched too thin to stop them,” the Huffington Post reports.

For example, the Montana House “passed legislation earlier this month that would prohibit the enforcement of any potential federal ban or restriction on firearms and magazines. If a Montana cop did enforce such a federal law, it would be considered theft of public money.”