When AIDS Was Funny

Vanity Fair: “Using never-before-heard audio tapes from three separate press conferences, in 1982, 1983, and 1984, When AIDS Was Funny illustrates how the reporter Lester Kinsolving, a conservative (and not at all gay-friendly) fixture in the White House press corps, was consistently scoffed at when he posed urgent questions about the AIDS epidemic. With snickering, homophobic jokes and a disturbing air of uninterest, Speakes dismisses Kinsolving’s concerns about the escalating problem.

Bush Forms Large Finance Team

Jeb Bush “formed an expansive financial support team led by about 350 major donors from across the country in a much-needed show of strength for his presidential campaign,” Reuters reports.

“The list of donors on his campaign’s National Finance Committee, provided to Reuters, is a who’s who of his long-time supporters from Florida, members of his famous family’s far-flung political network, and recruits from other candidates in the race. The announcement of the team appeared aimed at reassuring jittery Bush supporters that he maintains a steady stream of funds and has the ability to fight his way out of a rough period in which his poll numbers have sagged.”

Cruz Says Access to Contraceptives Is a ‘Nonsense Issue’

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told hundreds of Iowans that the idea of “condom police” in the United States is a “nonsense issue,” NBC News reports.

Said Cruz: “I have been a conservative my entire life. I have never met anybody, any conservative who wants to ban contraceptives.”

He added: “Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. Like look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom. You put 50 cents in — and voila!”

No Excitement for GOP Establishment

First Read: “With two months to go until the Iowa caucuses, here’s another reality check on the state of the 2016 race: The Republican insurgents (Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz) are still beating the GOP establishment (Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie) — in the polls, in excitement, and in energy. Sure, two months is a long time in American politics (Newt Gingrich was leading Mitt Romney in the Dec. 2011 national NBC/WSJ poll by 17 points!!!). And, yes, what’s been a surprising and strange race will likely become even more surprising and stranger. But the only candidates who have truly surged so far in this GOP contest have been the insurgents.”

“So where is the excitement and energy on the establishment side? When will, say, Marco Rubio shoot up in an early-state poll the same way we saw, say, Ted Cruz in the most recent Quinnipiac poll of Iowa — despite Rubio’s recent endorsements and his impressive debate performances? It’s more than possible that Rubio (or Jeb) could win the GOP nomination without winning either Iowa or New Hampshire — something that’s never happened before in modern times on the Republican side. Such a scenario would prove the political scientists right that, ultimately, ‘the party decides.’ But until then, we’re still waiting for the establishment hype around Rubio among the insider crowd to translate into something tangible in the polls or on the ground. Then again, maybe simply being seen as even having a toe in the establishment is enough to chase away primary voters. Nothing can be assumed at this point.”

Obama Will Deliver Early State of the Union

President Obama “will deliver his final State of the Union address on Jan. 12, an early date for the annual ceremonial appearance on Capitol Hill,” the New York Times reports.

“The White House recommended that date for a variety of reasons. The House was not scheduled to be in session the week after, ruling that one out. And holding it later seemed, from a White House standpoint, to be pushing it too close to the start of the presidential primary season, with the Iowa caucuses set for Feb. 1 and the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9. This year’s address was held on Jan. 20.”

Cruz Torches Rubio Over Foreign Policy

Ted Cruz offered “his strongest denunciation so far of Marco Rubio’s foreign policy views, assailing his Republican presidential rival as a proponent of ‘military adventurism’ that he said has benefited Islamic militant groups,” Bloomberg reports.

He even tied Rubio to Hillary Clinton and says the Florida senator’s support of her policy led to the Benghazi attacks.

Trump Really Wants to Win

Nicco Mele: “One of the things I learned in political campaigns is that generally speaking the candidate who wants it most tends to win. You have to really want it. And lately I think Trump has decided he wants it. I’ve been on his email list since his announcement, and the frequency of the emails has increased from monthly to almost weekly, and the tone of the emails has shifted recently from ‘buy more hats’ to something that very nearly sounds presidential. I think something has changed and he’s decided he wants this, which is crucial.”

Bush Strategist Thinks It’s Unlikely Jeb Can Win

Matthew Dowd, chief political strategist for George W. Bush, told the Washington Post he thinks it’s highly unlikely Jeb Bush will win the Republican presidential nomination.

Said Dowd: “I had always doubted Jeb’s ability to run an effective campaign in this environment for a few reasons: He is not as good of a retail politician as his brother, he has been away from elective office for too long, and times have changed.”

He added: “While there is an outside shot he can surface sometime next year, the odds are incredibly low and it will take the five candidates ahead of him falling apart.”

Trump Says His Critics Can’t Take a Joke

Donald Trump “was in full insult mode at a campaign rally here on Monday night as he egged on a man who called President Obama a ‘dumbass’, the New York Times reports.

“Trump, in defending some of his recent jabs before making new ones, resorted to the old trick of suggesting that anyone who took offense at his remarks simply didn’t have a sense of humor… Trump contended that he was simply telling ‘jokes’ when he mocked Ben Carson’s oft-told tales about his violent youth and a New York Times reporter’s physical disability.”

Said Trump: “We can’t tell any more jokes, you know.”

GOP Leaders Plot Strategy to Avoid Shutdown

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) “strategy for avoiding a government shutdown is taking shape, with his leadership team seeking a clean break from the divisive intraparty warfare that plagued John Boehner’s (R-OH) tenure,” The Hill reports.

“GOP leaders on Monday predicted there would be no shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding and made clear that they expect an omnibus package to be approved with Democratic support before money runs out on Dec. 11.”