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Ed Kilgore’s post on a particularly hackish National Journal profile of Joni Ernst brings to mind the question of why specific Republicans wind up becoming media darlings, while others do not. Sometimes it makes sense: John McCain is a very limited political talent, but as someone who has lifelong training in dealing with elites in the military and political worlds, it’s not surprising he has a very good understanding of how to cultivate them. But I have no idea why Joni Ernst has managed to enjoy such laughably favorable coverage or, conversely, what Bruce Braley has done to merit such poor coverage. I guess the media would rather tell the story of a plainspoken farmer and soldier–a veritable Cincinatus!–rising to power than a former trial lawyer who goes for the capillary and commits gaffes. And just off the top of my head, I can see why the media was more interested in pumping up truck-ridin’, nude photo-posing bad boy Scott Brown over a dull underachiever like Martha Coakley. Or, the ultimate example, plainspoken “outsider” George W. Bush over boring, sweaty Al Gore. But placing drama and narrative over substance is, while understandable, utterly unacceptable, and it happens often enough that Democrats should do everything they can to flag it when it occurs.

I, like most Democrats, am generally mildly annoyed by the continued Benghazi! buzz on the right that never seems to go away. Well, it won’t until January 20 2017, anyway. Nevertheless, I find it very difficult to believe that the recent revelations are in any way legitimate. A bunch of guys who didn’t say anything under oath where they could be questioned by both friend and foe, but much later “remembered” massively damaging things about the story (especially when pecuniary interest is involved, as it is for the guys releasing a book) when confrontation with questioning people could easily be avoided, in the face of massive right-wing interest and therefore great ability to acquire money and attention? It doesn’t really pass the smell test, though I suppose the theory is that they were too intimidated to speak out (until they got a book contract, anyway). I suppose it’s not impossible it’s real, but the feel of it is much more “unscrupulous guys trying to cash in” than brave patriots doing their civic duty.
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All I can say about this kind of stuff is that, whenever one party starts to adopt softer, more moderate stances that are closer to the other party’s, it means the party is losing on that issue. It’s really not complicated.
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It’s interesting that the GOP’s 2028 presidential candidate sounds…reasonable on climate change. Sort of like many of them sounded in 2008, actually. Ted Cruz seems to think that the party is going to party like it’s 2011 permanently. I guess we’ll see which one moves farther.
Is that, while the hawkish elements of the GOP are easily able to keep noninterventionist, security state skeptics from usually getting Republican nominations, those positions are not actually political poison with a Republican primary electorate. Probably a good thing. Also, points for mocking Pete Hoekstra–it’s worth remembering just how awful he was (and is).

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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