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The bullshit’s only this high right now.

Since it’s Jeb Bush season, it’s worth restating that, while wrong on the merits, conservatives who oppose comprehensive reform tend to have the politics of the issue right. There is an assumption that simply will not die that a Republican president who passes a humane round of immigration reform will be in a position to stop or even reverse the GOP’s slide with the Hispanic electorate, but this did not happen after George W. Bush’s sincere (if doomed) attempt to pass such a bill nor after Reagan’s actual, full-on amnesty bill: such attempts to give dignity to large numbers of people are more than balanced out by stuff like Prop. 187 and self-deportation. One step forward and one back, as the problem here is not one of mere willpower so much as a systemic one to do with the makeup of the GOP base. And needless to say, a grudging effort with one eye on the political advantages of passing the bill and the other on providing cheap labor to corporations with a guest program is hardly going to impress anyone. In any event, the GOP will not be able to outflank Democrats on the issue. The issue here is systemic, and while Bush seems to support immigration reform as a matter of principle it would take a mammoth amount of political capital to enact and wouldn’t ultimately help his party much. Also worth noting, Bush wouldn’t fix the GOP’s ideological problems (he seems to buy into neoconservative and laissez-faire assumptions as much as his brother), nor will he fix the problems posed by the conservative media-industrial complex (he will, in fact, have to appear on FOX News many times, as well as radio programs like Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, etc. but not Rush, because that typically means you’ve done something bad and need to apologize). The only real solution to all of these issues is coalition collapse due to attrition, and given how disastrously Bush’s brother’s rule turned out–due in part to his own personal failings but largely to the ideology he (and Jeb) subscribe to–a Jeb Bush presidency would undoubtedly hasten this along.

A bunch of positive new 2014 polls for Democrats. I understand why the media is going with the Republican 20104 narrative, which is because it’s a better story than standing pat, and in the Senate some losses are expected. But I strongly suspect Democrats will net some House and Governor seats and I’ve not seen much yet to change that thinking.
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Is basically the same as the meaning of conservatives deliberately altering Andrew Cuomo’s inescapably accurate quote about the electability of staunch conservatives in New York State* to sound like he was telling them all to move out of the state. This is the way I see it. At this point, it could be argued that the entire conservative movement (including its elected politicians) has become little more than a support structure for the multibillion dollar conservative media industry. People pretend to run for president in order to make a living from it. Powerful Representatives straight-up quit in order to join it. Plausible presidential contenders would rather keep their cushy media gigs rather than bother to attempt the highest office in the land. And so on. And given the prospect of making Limbaugh money, why wouldn’t you? But the problem is basically that conservative media has already peaked. Actuarial tables suggest a deep hit to business over the coming decade, which invariably means that a lot of rich, famous, successful people will find themselves fighting each other for shrinking pieces of the pie. Don’t think I mean that it’ll all fall apart immediately–Lawrence Welk ran for forty years playing music that was obsolete when the show began, after all, and future angry elderly people might well tune into the sweet sweet sounds of Bill O’Reilly for some time to come. But it seems a good guess to bet on steady decline. Which means they’ll need to come up with more red meat, of course, and since there’s only so much fresh stuff made daily, these folks are going to have to chance it with marginal, unhealthy looking stuff, stuff past its expiration date, and so forth in order to fill their viewers’ plates. (You get the metaphor.) And we shouldn’t talk about this as though it hasn’t already started.

* Forty years since the last one depending on how you rate Al D’Amato. Who was sort of a Peter King type if I remember correctly but I could be wrong.

Now that roughly 7.1 million people have signed up for health insurance under the new Affordable Care Act regime, I really don’t get how exactly Republicans would go about repealing it. If Republicans got the votes, would they rip health insurance out of lives of these 7.1 million people? Grandfather them in but stiff everyone else?

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Larison’s discussion of the increased unpopularity of Pres. Obama’s foreign policy (parts one and two) is highly interesting, and got me thinking a bit. For example, why was the first-term Afghanistan “surge” something that did not hurt Obama, while the proposed Syrian bombing, which was about as wrongheaded but less destructive and dangerous, ultimately was? I can think of several reasons why this might be:

  1. The process was handled much better for the first case. In both cases Republicans attacked Obama for being irresolute, taking too long, and so forth, but those attacks didn’t stick because it was plain that there was a decision-making process in place, discussions were being had, different perspectives were being heard. I think the public understood this and the deliberative tone probably helped, especially since that debate was only a year removed from the brash impulsiveness of Bush. Last year, though, one saw a very different process, perhaps even a lack of one. We don’t have the benefit of the many, many books published about Obama’s Afghanistan decision in understanding how things worked with Syria, but there seemed to be no process at all, new principles were being developed on the fly, the Administration was clearly only listening to themselves and the hawkish pundits they choose to care about and the rhetorical overkill couldn’t mask the lack of an argument to use force. I do think Americans are a bit more willing to deploy military force than I would be, but you hardly need be a full-on dove to know the Administration’s case stunk.
  2. Republican critiques accomplishing an ironic resonance. Republicans have sought again and again to portray Obama as weak-kneed, irresolute, and weak from the start. Ironically, it might have been his attempts to avoid these labels that made them stick, as his apparent insistence on leaving his options open and not committing to any course of action has had the effect of forcing him into situations he didn’t want to be in, as happened with Syria. I’m reminded of the line from Ulee’s Gold to the effect that there are lots of different kinds of weakness, not all of which are evil. Of course, backing down from poorly chosen words is not necessarily a weakness, nor is flatly refusing to involve the country in the conflict in a military sense.
  3. In the same vein, while I welcome Obama’s joined opposition to bulk NSA data collection, this seems to be poorly timed to say the least. As with financial reform, it’s a reasonably good idea that ought to have been proposed much earlier to have much more political impact. Instead, Obama suffered months of backlash and spent political capital to defeat legislative measures that would have done this. The damage is done. Fairly reactive and slow-moving.

I suppose the differences are (a) an apparent decline in the professionalism/ability of the Admin.’s foreign policy team from the last term to this, and (b) this pushing perceptions of Obama’s similar conduct in both from positive to negative connotations. Any other ideas?

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My low opinion of Scott Brown’s intellect is well known I guess, but passing up a winnable race for Kerry’s seat last year–as well as a slam-dunk race for Governor of Massachusetts–in order to fight a tough primary against a more conservative former senator who’s from the state as well as a popular general election incumbent surprises even me. There are three basic theories to explain this:

  1. Vanity – Brown felt so disgusted with being rejected by Massachusetts that he bolted the state in order to go to a state that would better appreciate his awesomeness. That it’s an early primary state that would ensure that Scott Brown gets more attention during the 2016 presidential race, whether he runs or not.
  2. Delusion – Brown lucked out in 2010 in an all-the-planets aligning kind of situation and thought it was because he was a political genius, and that he could do anything as a result.
  3. Stupidity – Kind of mean to suggest this, perhaps, but this is a guy who thought it was wise to tie his campaign to domestic terror attacks and got pranked by a chain email. He’s not shown much ability to ferret out the bullshit if you know what I mean. Regardless of whether he has a path to victory or not–and recent polls suggest not–if anyone would be more likely to trust in ephemerals rather than cold hard data, Brown would likely qualify.

These aren’t, of course, mutually exclusive. The other possibility is that the GOP hype machine has reached such a pitch over 2014 and Obamacare that Brown thinks this will be easy. I suppose we’ll see. My basic sense is that Brown is an idol not much worshiped by the Tea Party Republicans he briefly personified and that this bugs him, and that this is more a desperate bid to stay relevant than anything else. I just don’t see 2016 primary voters going for a socially-liberal former Massachusetts senator who failed to actually stop the Affordable Care Act from being passed and then got defeated by someone to the left of Teddy Kennedy.

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rand paul

Weigel gives a good argument for why Rand Paul is going to have a difficult time in 2016:

At the end of a short and friendly interview, I asked Paul whether the darker associations of Ron Paul, his father, could be used against him. If Republicans were looking to tar him, couldn’t they bring up the racist newsletters published under Ron’s name, or the donations from white supremacists that Paul never solicited but declined to give back?

It was like an arctic blast came through my receiver. I don’t see how anyone could think that, Rand Paul said. That has nothing to do with this campaign. […]

As long as Paul’s in the Senate, as long as he’s a fascinating, quotable, and potentially successful libertarian iconoclast, stories about his associations and his movement will be relegated to the think-piece pile. If he’s a credible presidential candidate? The jackals run loose, and they know where to hunt. Years of experience and evidence tell us that Paul can be rattled by that. His potential opponents know this.

It’s a latent and undiscussed problem, exacerbated when Paul criticizes Hillary Clinton because of her husband’s infidelties with a White House intern. “In re-invoking Bill Clinton’s track record,” writes Carl Cannon. “Paul seemed to serve notice that the checkered pasts of other (male) Democrats is fair game as well.”

True. But the Clintons have put up with decades of reporting and embarrassment about their pasts. When Paul’s received the same treatment, it hasn’t gone very well.

In a word: nerves. Which I think is true, but above and beside that I really have to question the basic sanity of the notion that Paul is the frontrunner. How on Earth does this guy get the nod and enthusiastic backing of such a resolutely hawkish party? The Kristols and Krauthammers and Cheneys of the party almost certainly have veto power over who gets the nomination, and they will shiv him every chance they get, and if it gets down to it and he wins I’d be almost positive they’d try to steal the nomination away from him the same way it happened the last time a relatively dovish Republican rightly won (i.e. 1952). After all, allowing that would be like letting the Russkies, er, I mean Islamofascists win! And I wouldn’t bet against their ability or willingness to do it. Rand Paul mocked their idol, Chris Christie, before everyone was doing it, and while he’s hardly a pacifist he’s a few notches too reticent about “leadership.” He might try to mend fences but there’s a pretty good reason why in 2008 and 2012 even the minor candidates sounded just like Bill Kristol.

I do suspect that Paul will build on his father’s core following and might even be able to garner enough clout to make some changes to the party platform. Undoubtedly he’ll be able to shape the debate a bit, and this could in fact be very interesting in both bad ways and good. But party nominations are the result of consensus of party actors and not necessarily of fame and the ability to fundraise. We’ve seen plenty of candidates with either or both of those coming way short. Paul’s connections in and of themselves might not doom him among the faithful–he could just say something about how the media should have spent more time vetting Barack Obama and he’ll win South Carolina–but the crazy extreme connections and the crazy extreme domestic policy positions might draw people to make connections between the two that Republican officials likely do not want accentuated. The connection between neo-Confederate ideology and, say, an opposition to the Voting Rights Act is clear enough but a Paul nomination would inevitably take the connection to a new level of explicitness, to where this might actually become a public conversation, as opposed to an intra-progressive one. Really, it would probably become unavoidable were he nominated, so the GOP will have every interest in keeping him from getting the nod.The only way Paul wins is if the Republican Party has changed in a way that no credible observer has noticed, and has changed to such an extent that his less orthodox positions are no longer radioactive. This might be plausible in the future but my guess is: not in 2016.

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