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Now that alleged plagiarist John Walsh is out of the picture, the inevitable question is: does former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer reverse course and jump into the race that he initially turned down? And then go on to win it?

My guess is yes and yes. Schweitzer declined to run for the Senate because he was clearly eyeing a presidential run, likely to avoid incurring any Washington baggage. However, that was last year. Since then, he’s destroyed his once-formidable levels of netroots support and admiration due to some poorly-advised comments about Dianne Feinstein and Eric Cantor, as well as other poorly phrased and excessive (though hardly wrong) criticisms of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Things have all been going in the wrong direction for a presidential run–he’s under contract to MSNBC but hasn’t been put on the air for months, for example. After all this, all he’d have to use against Hillary in 2016 would be some residual popularity in Montana. Which would buy him a couple of delegates, in the unlikely event his campaign even managed to last that long.

However, that this flap has come up when it has is almost a perfect attempt for Schweitzer to resurrect his political career. His super-high popularity in the state should make the race winnable, even with such a late start. He is never going to have a better opportunity, in fact, it’s an opportunity that seems almost tailor-made for the man. He gets to play the savior role in a race Democrats have been skeptical about for ages, and saving a key seat (and quite possibly the majority) for Democrats will wipe the slate clean, at least to some extent. He’d suddenly have a national platform for his bold views on the security state. He would have a chance to rebuild some of the bridges he burned, and maybe even to run some kind of presidential campaign, or at least to lead a caucus of like-minded senators to counteract the hawkish and neoliberal instincts that a Clinton Administration would undoubtedly bring to the fore (or, rather, would remain there). It’s a pretty good deal, and it’s the only one he’s going to get.

Again, this is really just a guess. But the advantages to Schweitzer would seem to be sky-high, so much so that it would be a little baffling if he said no.

Update: Well that was a nice thought, wasn’t it? Ugh. This guy might be the most selfish and unthinking man in politics.

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I never read George Will because I have a hack aversion that transcends all partisan and ideological grounds, but courtesy of Dave Weigel, I see he had some recent wisdom to share on the California governor’s race:

The Democratic candidate, 76-year-old Gov. Jerry Brown, is “the old white guy.” Kashkari, the 40-year-old son of Indian immigrants, was born in 1973, the year before Brown was first elected governor … if California becomes a purple state and Democrats can no longer assume its 20 percent of 270 electoral votes, Republicans nationwide will be indebted to the immigrants’ son who plucked up Goldwater’s banner of conservatism with a Western libertarian flavor.

George Will has a lot of knowledge about some subjects, such as old-time baseball greats. California politics isn’t one of them. If you look at everyone who’s been elected governor in the past forty years–Jerry Brown, George Deukmeijan, Pete Wilson, Gray Davis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and then cut out Schwarzenegger given the crazy, gimmicky recall election that he won–the other four men all have pretty similar resumes. Prior statewide elected office. Strong regional bases. Political organization going back years if not decades. This state is so big and diverse (and so full of ambitious politicians with only so many posts to hold) that getting to the top requires a lot of skill and a lot of preparation. Kashkari has literally none of this, and his main accomplishment in public life was running one of the most reviled public programs of our time, the TARP. This is not someone who a party picks to seriously contend for the seat, this is someone they run when you know you’re going to lose and you want to lose well by at least getting some image points out of it. You know the drill: Michael Steel is another example of this, or future toxic person Geraldine Ferraro for the Democrats. And there are benefits to nominating a Steel or a Kashkari or a Wehby: people like Will, Peggy Noonan, and Kathleen Parker can continue to delude themselves into thinking this isn’t the party of Limbaugh and Cruz, that finally signs of their party are showing up. Finally! The last fifty times they didn’t materialize are suddenly forgotten. And they don’t think about the fact that any even marginally winnable race gets a hard-right conservative, even if it makes the job much harder. Like Iowa, a state Obama won twice by double-digits, but which features a Republican nominee who castrates hogs, supports impeaching Obama and Calhoun-style nullification.

But that’s not even the issue. My issue is with the weird fanfic that Will spools up here, in which Kashkari (a) actually wins, and (b) does such a great job that the state reverts to the ideological and partisan balance it possessed in 1984. Has this ever happened, a single officeholder completely turning around a state’s partisan and ideological balance? This is based not on any empirical reality or theory of politics, but rather is just a flight of fancy from Will. It’s such a baffling thing to read–Democrats’ fantasies about winning Texas never seem to come to pass, but at least they’re based on actual facts about demographics, minority voting patterns, and turnout strategies. Will’s is based on nothing and is thus completely worthless. Time to retire, George. As if we need a poor man’s William F. Buckley Jr., whose prominent usage of his middle initial I’m sure had nothing to do with your usage of the same initial.

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I work in the private sector, and one of my basic opinions is that all this networking/making connections/flattery/business-friendship stuff is that it’s mostly a way for less competent people to get ahead. It’s also, unfortunately, often effective, and every once in a while you find someone who is utterly unskilled in their field but is so smooth and slick, knows everybody and is so good at working them, that they seem to keep getting booted up in spite of themselves. I submit that Carly Fiorina is the apotheosis of this tendency. Her disastrous reign of HP begat her equally disastrous work as a McCain operative in 2008, which reached its hilarious peak when she argued that Sarah Palin’s unemployability (according to Carly) in the corporate world was actually a good thing. That was true entertainment.

Then came her 2010 Senate bid, which was hilariously miscalculated, with such highlights as running as a staunch pro-lifer in a state where 75% of the electorate (and even half of Republicans) identify as pro-choice, and supporting the anti-Affordable Care Act lawsuits. Also worth noting that she spent $5 million of her own cash on a pointless, impossible campaign to get California to elect a hard-right Republican–not Meg Whitman money but her net worth is a fraction of Meg’s–and then stiffed her staff on getting paid for years. And while Whitman’s vacuous campaign and ad overkill destroyed her, she didn’t come off as nearly as charmless and unpleasant as Fiorina. Keep in mind that the latter had had experience stumping for John McCain and should have come off better. But in fact, it was quite the opposite.

After that came her gig as vice-chair of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, in which Republicans shocked everyone by dropping two seats in 2012 in spite of an extremely favorable map, thanks partly to loony rape-philosophizing insurgents like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock winning primaries, and partly because of shitty candidate selection (like Rick Berg of North Dakota, who lost an open seat in a very red state). Both of these phenomena can be blamed on the RSCC to some degree, for not reading the politics and allocating resources better. Admittedly, it’s unclear just how much she did, but given that most pundits began the cycle thinking that Republicans would win the Senate, I have to suspect that the endless fail of Fiorina was what really tanked them.

Unluckily, she’s no longer at the RSCC. Apparently she’s been one of the Republicans’ “Real War On Women” messengers, which might explain why that campaign has been so wimpy and ineffective. But I’m really so hoping that US News & World Report is onto something here:

But her recent moves in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire have convinced some she’s eyeing a bigger prize come 2016.

Fiorina slipped into the Granite State last week to promote her new political group, dubbed UP for “Unlocking Potential.” Its mission is to engage women with new messages and combat the gaping gender gap that’s hobbling Republicans in races up and down the ballot. In addition to headlining a breakfast last Thursday for more than 200 GOP activists in the business and political spheres, Fiorina attended a GOP gala the night before honoring Joe McQuaid, the conservative publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, the state’s largest and most influential newspaper. [...]

Perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of the emerging 2016 presidential campaign is that Republicans lack a top-tier female contender, a fact that’s even more significant if Hillary Clinton decides to try to smash the glass ceiling at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for Democrats.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has tantalizingly dropped her name as a possibility, but given the demise of her 2012 endeavor, that prospect seems unlikely. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., did some of her own water testing in New Hampshire at a conservative rally in April. GOP Govs. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Susana Martinez of New Mexico – two other oft-mentioned women with national potential – have re-election battles to contend with in their own states this year.

It’s Fiorina who appears to be doing more preparatory political groundwork than any other GOP woman on the radar. She’s a regular surrogate for Republicans on national news programs and serves as an adviser to the Center for Strategic and International Studies and as a board member of the American Conservative Union – two groups that allow her to foster relationships with separate but highly influential groups of conservatives.

I do think Republican elites will work hard to have a top-tier female contender for 2016. Martinez and Haley, however, both run unsavory state governments and would have to deal with corruption allegations, along with very checkered records of achievement. I don’t really see how a Republican who can barely win a majority in South Carolina plays nationally. And a House member is a bit too low down the totem pole. I would not be surprised if Sen. Kelly Ayotte decided not to go for the re-election she has not set herself up for at all in New Hampshire to give it a go nationally. But if not, Fiorina would be hilarious as a backup: I can’t think of another politician, Republican or Democrat, male or female, with her combination of entitlement, sheer unlikeability and just a general anti-Midas Touch (i.e. everything she touches turns to shit). I truly hopes she does it, I can only imagine the viral videos of her awkwardly interacting with families in Iowa and New Hampshire, and I would not want the internet to be deprived of them.

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This is 100% right. The fact that some Democrats are actually criticizing the Administration over this and calling for Brennan’s ouster gives me hope. However, I actually think the chances of John Brennan being forced to leave the CIA are nil, since DNI Jimmy “The Clap” Clapper basically did the same thing and is still in office. I’m not 100% certain that Obama is on board with these excesses–bureaucracies are bureaucracies, and such opaque ones can be difficult to control. It’s not always so much a factor of will as attention, as the president only has so much focus he can give to any one area of the bureaucracy. One can recall John Kennedy’s famous quote about how if a president wanted to watch the military-industrial complex closely, then he wouldn’t be able to do anything else. But at the very least, if Obama was bothered by it, he could install a hard-nosed reformer to try to straighten things up. Instead he appointed John Brennan.

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I really do appreciate a Republican who at least tries to understand the plight of the less-fortunate, but “Landslide Neel” Kashkari’s main takeaway from spending a week living as a poor person seems to be that all Republican economic ideas are sound, which makes a dramatic turnaround from his prior position that…all Republican economic ideas are sound. Hoooooooly shit! That’s about as radical of an arc as a Hulk Hogan character typically has in one of his movies. And there’s a generous dollop of “we just need jobs!” by which Republicans invariably mean lower taxes and fewer worker and environmental safeguards, proposals not generally known to create jobs (just ask Kansas). As Weigel notes, California’s unemployment rate has plummeted under Jerry Brown’s tenure, after years of highs during Ahnuld’s Caligula-lite reign of boredom/incompetence/personal sociopathy. The Kashman could at least have championed public works projects for the Central Valley or some such. And of all the people to be leading this charge, a former member of the Treasury team whose laxity encouraged the financial collapse and whose tactics focused solely on protecting bankers is an odd one indeed, since the case can be made that the joblessness and poverty that has become so prevalent is in some sense his own fault.

Lemme just translate this for you. There’s simply no way to attack Jerry Brown for being a fiscal profligate. The public won’t buy it. Brown has tamed the seemingly untameable budget problems, has created a rainy day fund, state bonds have had their ratings go up, etc. He was even able to get the public to agree to raise taxes on itself in 2012. And he made it all look easy for the most part. So Kashkari, who seems to be every bit as much a Sentient RNC Diversity Memo as our dear departed Abel Maldonado (last seen entering the Republican Lubyanka some months ago), decides that attacking Brown from the rhetorical left while actually advancing the eternal Republican credo is a better move. You begin to see why the guy is doomed: Brown is simply too strong for Republicans to make any kind of argument they’ve won by making in recent times, and getting on board with Paul Ryan’s pretending to care about poor people push isn’t going to convince anyone, especially since he doesn’t seem to have ideas even as specific or actionable as Ryan’s.

So anyway, yeah, this is perhaps a bit too cruel of a song to include for this post, but it’s so good I can’t resist:

david_brooks_tongueThis Larison piece is interesting in its own right, but it’s also another reminder that other countries have no problem investigating and, if necessary, prosecuting national leaders. Off the top of my head, Georgia, Germany, Israel, France (their last two!) among others have all done this, and they all continue to stand as countries today, with their own peculiar strengths and weaknesses. Yet D.C. pundits constantly tell us that doing so with a current or former president of the United States, the nation will absolutely fall apart, and thanks to the visionary, generous hackdom statesmanship of Lee Hamilton and Jerry Ford, we avoided that fate both times it was vaguely credible. Only we didn’t, the price has been paid instead by the people having to deal with a succession of presidencies with varying degrees of contempt for the law.

I don’t really think we’ll ever see a president or former president face the criminal  justice system for breaking the law. The punditocracy always manages to keep such things from really happening, for reasons undoubtedly stemming from Sally Quinn’s immortal “Villagers” article from the 1990s–i.e. an inappropriate attachment to the presidency and bad boundary-setting with respect to the person of the president–they always manage to make politicians and the public think that this would be catastrophic, that it would destroy the presidency and hopelessly divide the nation. Far better that we destroy our democracy I suppose–at this point warning about political divisiveness just seems horribly naive.

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In a post on the viability of movement conservatism to win nationwide elections, Martin Longman makes a dubious point:

Both John McCain and Mitt Romney might have won the presidency if they had been allowed to run as moderates, but they both had to sacrifice that label to win the nomination.

I don’t really agree with this. There was no real chance that McCain could have won in 2008, but he was the relative moderate in the field and accentuated his non-movement positions ferociously. It didn’t matter: Republicans had to defend a disastrously unpopular and failed president who most of them nevertheless staunchly supported right up until the end, and there was no political jiu-jitsu that was going to square that peg. The only way Republicans might have had a chance was by repudiating the entirety of Bush’s presidency, which would not have been possible given the GOP never gave Bush less than a 70% approval rating. Romney might have been a different story, but I’d argue that ideology wasn’t his real problem. Romney was simply overrated as a politician: his record of governance was essentially ignored from the outset in large part because it couldn’t be pressed into any useful form for his campaign (too much bipartisan cooperation for the primary, too many overridden vetoes and dysfunction for the general), his business record–the cornerstone of his campaign–wound up being easy grist for the oppo mill, too easy to tie him to the global financial mumbo-jumbo that few people understand but that most inherently distrust. Really, outside of his brazen and energetic propensity for lying there wasn’t much that wasn’t generic there, though probably not much needed to be: as all challengers to a president do, he ran on a “things are shitty” platform and people decided they weren’t shitty enough to vote for him. Not much else he could have done, and adopting a couple of more moderate positions probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

I’m not going to claim that movement conservatism is hopeless on the national stage just yet. But it is very much the case that conservatives haven’t fixed the problems they face with the electorate and it’s unlikely they’ll improve their performance much until they do. Movement conservatism has no real reputation of competence or having a pulse on the country at this point in time, and they are increasingly isolated as prudish, trigger-happy radicals. This will eventually change but I strongly expect whoever gets the 2016 GOP nomination to struggle just as much as the last couple guys to diminish the base’s contradictions. My guess would be that the GOP will come back once the “Silent” Generation is as marginal as the WWII Generation is now, demographically.

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