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I actually don’t think Republican candidates are going to do much damage to themselves in calling for cuts to Medicare and Social Security. I think that they’ll get in serious, serious trouble if (more when) they seriously try again to do it, and next time around, the billionaires ain’t waiting for no second term like they did with Dubya. But until that point, FOX News exists and it will tell the olds that Paul Ryan Chris Christie Jeb Bush is an honorable man, and they’ll listen. Of course, his brother’s presidency crashed when the hubris of a three-point reelection win prompted him to get all over that third rail, and if he wins, so will his. But up until that point, conservative spin will prevent much damage from occurring.

It’s hard to see how the current Republican coalition isn’t doomed in the long run–lotsa rich people who insist on carving up the safety net and lotsa old people who will revolt if this becomes a real possibility.

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Here’s Sean Hannity “singing” the song “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” by Charlie Daniels, who accompanies his own song:

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Interesting article over on The Guardian counterintuitively argues that the reason why the main parties over in the UK are struggling is because both of their leaders aren’t really able to fight against the negative perceptions of their party. It’s well argued. It may explain why Jeb Bush is struggling as a candidate in 2016: while he does have a genuinely multicultural family and outlook, post-Romney, post-no House action on immigration reform, post-near government shutdown on Obama’s executive order on same, the idea that all the Republican Party needs is a friendly pro-immigration president seems remarkably dated. Meanwhile, the Bush candidacy seems to mainly be an exercise in big business influence, which is hardly going to counter perceptions of the Republican Party.

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The announcement of the framework for a nuclear deal with Iran is obviously a cause for celebration for those hoping for peace and cooperation rather than endless conflict. But part of it makes me sad. There are moments–mainly the Iran framework and the work with Cuba–that offer flashes of the foreign policy president Obama could have been. Boldly ignoring the Right and mainstream pundits, rejecting the militarized consensus of today’s foreign policy and the bankrupt assumptions of yesterday’s to push for peace. It is clear that Obama can behave this way, and it’s enormously satisfying when he does, but it’s far less often than than one would have hoped going in and it throws the nonsense into sharp relief. Daniel Larison found perhaps the definitive example of the “I don’t know, just do shit, maybe it will pan out, at least we’re not getting tagged by the hawks about it, underpants gnomes” philosophy that is sadly much more typical of how they often work. The Yemen operation is clearly the work of a global chessmaster novice. And unfortunately, it’s much more typical of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy on a regular basis than the Iran deal.

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The RedLetterMedia guys are right: Boyhood just isn’t very good. I watched it on a plane the other day with modest expectations and found it to be basically no different from the Hallmark movies my mother watched back during my (ahem) boyhood, albeit with the odd bit of drug use or postcoital shot dropped in. Actually, that’s deeply offensive to Hallmark movies, and I apologize. Those movies actually had plots, strong protagonists, and some kind of takeaway (oversimplified, perhaps, but certainly there). That this film wormed its way into the hearts of cynical critics and intelligentsia types might well signal that we’re at a turning of the loop, past the ironic/jaded era where naked sentimentalism is mocked and downplayed and sidelined, to where it rules the roost. The time periods that come immediately to mind where this happened were the hypercynical postwar era giving way to the Eisenhower age, and the similar movement that occurred from the post-Watergate 1970s into the whole Morning in America thing. Perhaps we’ll look back on it as a sign, though I rather hope it isn’t. I’d rather not that history repeat itself.

Just what are the problems here? Well, the look of the film for one, which is shot like a TV movie, quite possibly one that would appear, with minimal changes, on the Hallmark channel (is there a major American director with less visual flair than Richard Linklatter? Kevin Smith may be the only one). That the movie often looks gorgeous is due entirely to generous location shooting and production design: nothing the camera does is particularly interesting. In an era where the lines between TV and movies are breaking down, where shows like Breaking Bad and True Detective are creating genuinely cinematic experiences, mark this down for movies that look more like plain old television. And then there is the problem of the protagonist, who lacks dynamism at every stage of the film, but goes from being essentially pitiable to deeply unlikable. Not exactly the most appealing arc in television; I agree with Jay from RLM that a film focused on either of the kid’s parents would have been vastly more interesting.

But fundamentally, the biggest problem is the misconception (or, more accurately, lack of conception) at the root of this whole enterprise, the rot in the foundation.

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Amoron fun new post at dkos dug up a 2009 post of mine about then-Rep. Mike Pence and his inability to fire up his neurons very well:

Yglesias gives us a useful summation of nutjob Republican Rep. Mike Pence:

For quite some time now I’ve been trying to emphasize the point that Pence is not an intelligent man. It’s good to see Ricks notice this as well. But I think it’s important for people in the journalism game to get a bit more interdisciplinary on this. Oftentimes people are inclined to grant the benefit of the doubt. A Ricks might say “well, this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about on national security, but maybe his energy ideas make sense.” Ask around, though, and you’ll see it’s not the case. He’s just got dumb ideas on all sorts of topics. And it’s worth aggressively making that point. It’s all well and good to “hope” that Iranian protestors recognize that he’s a “clown” and shouldn’t be taken seriously. But the odds are actually pretty good that foreigners will take the situation at face value—he’s one of the highest-ranking and most prominent members of a major political party, so surely his pronouncements should be taken seriously. Right? Because if such a high-level party leader were, in fact, a “clown” then people would hear about that. Right?

Here’s a gem of a money quote from an earlier Yglesias piece on Pence:

The larger issue … is that Mike Pence is a moron, and any movement that would hold the guy up as a hero is bankrupt…. I would refer you to this post from September about the earth-shattering ignorance and stupidity of Mike Pence…. [I]t’s really staggering. In my admittedly brief experience talking to him, his inability to grasp the basic contours of policy question was obvious and overwhelming.

We’re usually focused on the proven malevolence of people like now-Gov. Mike Pence.  But we must never lose sight of the fact that many of them are also blithering idiots.

I remain distinctly unenthused about Hillary Clinton. Her email issues show a level of judgment and attention to political optics that is not what it should be, for sure. That’s really all that can be said for now–we will have to see how she plays it from here on out with respect to transparency and access.

However, I think the greater problem here is not whether she can manage a presidential campaign. There’s really nobody of stature to beat her in the primaries and, as Jonathan Bernstein always reminds us, in the general election–unlike the primaries–the actual candidates are much less important. The fundamentals are of paramount importance, the odd gaffe under those circumstances is meaningless. The question remains: can she actually be an effective president? This I have the following doubts about:

  1. The vast majority of the job of being president is foreign policy, a subject on which she has an abysmal track record. Obviously there was Iraq, and her widely reported hard line on Iran. But her judgment has been awful across the board: from her boosterism of the disastrous Libyan campaign to her involvement in the coup in Honduras, she has strong instincts not only toward the use of force in every conceivable circumstance, but she is strongly concerned with being seen as tough, hence her near-forgotten support of the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment back during the 2008 race, which was essentially a call for Iranian regime change. The combination of hawkish instincts and a fundamental insecurity about being seen as willing to indulge them is not new–Lyndon Johnson also possessed this exact combination. I do think that Clinton is less sophisticated about selling eternal war than Obama is, and because of her past she may engender less trust from the left on these issues–Obama was initially defined by opposing the Iraq War. But still. She seems to value this stuff not just as a political means to an end, but rather as an end in itself.
  2. Staffing. Another major part of the presidency is staffing the judiciary and the White House, as well as many other independent agencies. This is another glaring Clinton weakness. Someone who made Mark Penn her chief strategist in 2008 is not someone who is a great judge of talent and ability. Someone who gives Lanny Davis the time of day is not anyone who is a great judge of character. To be fair, she did pick some competent people as well. But all the ink spilled about how the Clintons split the world into friends and enemies, and something like their freezing out Bill Richardson for endorsing Obama, at least gives a person pause about how she’d handle these tasks. Her second-rater filled campaign lost a near-unloseable race. How much worse could it be were she president?
  3. Administration. Clinton’s style of trusting just a few intimates and proceeding adversarially with the rest is, as always a recipe for disaster, particularly when those intimates are such as referred to in (2). Obvious enough.

Perhaps she’ll exceed my expectations. But I am worried.

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