Saturday, August 15, 2015

Former adviser to elder Bush thinks the GOP has to lose in 2016 in order to survive.

Bruce Bartlett, a senior policy analyst for George H. W. Bush and, by today's standards, a moderate Republican who voted for Barack Obama, wrote an op-ed for PoliticoMagazine, saying that "a Trump nomination is not something to be feared but welcomed.  It is only after a landslide loss by Trump that the GOP can win the White House again."

In other words, he concedes that only by losing in 2016 can the Republican Party purge itself of the Tea Party influence and "give what's left of the sane wing of the GOP a chance to reassert control. . . . [I]t would prove beyond doubt that the existing conservative coalition [of populism and anti-intellectualism] cannot win the presidency."

Thursday night, Bartlett was a guest on  "All In With Chris Hayes," where he expanded on this:
 "Donald Trump . . . exposes everything about the Republican Party that I have frankly come to hate. It is just filled with people who are crazy, and stupid, and have absolutely no idea of what they are taking about. And the candidates, no matter how intelligent they may be, just constantly have to keep pandering to this lowest common denominator in American politics. . . .

". . . one of the things that we are seeing very clearly this time . . .is that issues don't matter. Policies don't matter. The only thing that matters is attitude. And Trump has exactly the right 'chip on your shoulder' attitude that many, many people find extraordinarily attractive that is completely divorced from whatever he is saying about the issues, which is precious little."
There you have it from a man who once was in Poppy Bush's inner circle, who thinks the salvation for the Republican Party is not to elect another Bush -- but to go down in flames with Trump . . . and then rebuild the party.

OK.   Let's don't get in their way. 


Friday, August 14, 2015

"Obama just keeps failing to fail"

In his New York Times column on Aug. 11, Paul Krugman explained why Republican candidates are having trouble backing up their criticisms of Barack Obama.   So they resort to shouting dog-whistle words (Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, amnesty) or they try rewriting history to blame him for the Iraq war.

But Krugman nails it: 
Out there in the real world, none of the disasters their party predicted have actually come to pass. 

President Obama just keeps failing to fail. And that’s a big problem for the G.O.P. — even bigger than Donald Trump.


"All Lives Matter" is not a good response to "Black Lives Matter"

"Black Lives Matter" began as a verbal response to the multiple unjustified killings of unarmed, black men by police -- which added to the impression that blacks are not treated equally by our justice system.    It is about recognition.

And now it has grown into a nationwide political force, with protests at political rallies of both Democrats and Republicans.   It began as a plea;   now it is a demand.

Some white people feel accused and respond defensively, saying "All Lives Matter" -- or, unfortunately, much worse.   But put that aside for the moment, and let's just focus on "All Lives Matter."

At first, depending on the tone, it sounds inclusive.   But it doesn't sound that way to black people.   It misses the point, because it does not recognize what it comes from in their experience.  

One white man does get it.   The owner of a St. Louis bookstore commemorated the anniversary of Michael Brown's death on the streets of Ferguson by putting signs in his store window proclaiming "Black Lives Matter."  An upset customer blamed him for being "divisive."   Here's the store owner's response:
What I wish I could convey – white person to white person – is that Black Lives Matter does not mean White People are Bad.  It never did.  Saying someone matters does not mean that nobody else matters.  

It just says to someone who feels invisible, “I see you and I value you.”
That is the point.  They are simply asking for recognition as equal citizens with equal rights.  Not just on the law books, but in the streets and in the justice system. 


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Generals, admirals, scientists praise nuclear deal

A letter from 29 U. S. scientists, including Nobel winners and nuclear physicists, gave President Obama a strong endorsement for the deal negotiated to control Iran's nuclear program.

In addition, 36 retired U. S. generals and admirals, many with top level security clearance, have also endorsed the deal.


"The destruction of the historical unity of the American Jewish community"

Dana Beyer, retired physician, human rights activist, and Jewish American,  wrote an article for Huffington Post Blog on the division in the Jewish Community over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and over the negotiated nuclear deal with Iran.   This split is exemplified in the American Jewish community, on one side, by the well-financed, powerful AIPAC (American-Israel Political Action Committee) that supports Netanyahu and is spending tens of millions of dollars to oppose the Iran deal -- and, on the other side, by the more liberal J Street Group that is critical of Israel's occupation of the West Bank, supports President Obama's Iran nuclear deal, and is concerned that Israel is losing its moral high ground and its dedication to democratic principles.   

Beyer writes:  ". . . . I believe this Accord is . . . the best nuclear weapons control deal ever negotiated. Others are not even close, in terms of inspection and verification. . . .  Former Israeli security experts and leaders, free to speak on the subject, are also in support.

"The only people opposed are the Israeli government (with a parliamentary majority of one), the Republican Party and, basically, wealthy and right-wing Jewish Republicans. Their opposition boils down to . . . an 'existential threat.'  No evidence has been offered of this existential threat, other than the hyperbole of those who took America into its worst foreign policy debacle in Iraq a little over ten years ago . . . [and] the absurd statements of former Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad . . . . 

"And once you have that undivided Republican support . . . salivating at another opportunity to hurt the President, it's an easy lateral step to get wealthy American Jewish support and the support of organizations that are run by wealth, such as AIPAC [that] do not represent the American Jewish community, . . .  They did not poll their members, and in some cases make Executive Committee decisions influenced by major donors. That they evince no insight into the potentially permanent damage they're doing to the community is absolutely stunning.

"Jewish Democrats will not forget. Jewish millennials . . .  will continue to drift away. What will be left in its place? Is this fake existential threat to a state that has never been stronger and has a deterrence force of nuclear-armed missiles submerged within striking distance of Iran worth the destruction of the remarkable historical unity of the American Jewish community? . . . 

"As I've observed the widening chasm [in this community] . . .  I've come to believe there is a more fundamental issue driving this debate. . . .

"The opponents [of the Iran nuclear deal] clearly don't care about the specifics of the deal , . . . .  [They fear a U.S. rapproachment with the theocracy in Tehran.]  They don't trust Muslims - any Muslims - and, therefore, believe that the only response to any such regime is either crushing sanctions or invasion. . . .

"They have become more belligerent as the world has become more supportive of diplomacy. . . .  The world is united for this Agreement today, with the exception of neo-cons at home who managed the Iraq War and right-wingers in Israel who supported it. That says a great deal about their motives. . . .

'That 'something' . . .  is the nearly half century of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and the growing realization . . .  that Israel has played, and is continuing to play, a major role in the deadlock. I'm not the first Jewish American to worry about the threat to Israeli democracy and its Jewish character and the growing divide between American and Israeli Jews, nor am I the only one to recognize the corrosive effect occupying another people has on a nation, and particularly on its youth . . . . 

"Netanyahu and his coalition know they're losing the American Jewish community . . . . Young American Jews will no longer tolerate this . . . .  The unity of the Jewish community is a thing of the past, and the deliberate fracturing of that unity by Likud and the extremists to their right was apparently worth a few more years of diversion and distraction from the underlying problem. The Iran situation has only delayed the inevitable. . . ."

*   *   *
Beyer represents one point of view, but I sense that it is a growing one.   It is not just a matter of liberal vs right wing politics but a concern for the humanitarian crisis in Palestine and the very state of democracy in Israel -- one might even say the very character and soul of Israel is at risk.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

John Oliver puts the campaign in perspective

John Oliver is a brilliant comedian-satirist who has a knack for quirky, telling commentary.

Here's his take on the 2016 presidential race -- and how long it actually still is until the election in November 2016.

"Babies will be born on election night whose parents haven't even met yet."


A sportswriter who covers the game of politics

All the ShrinkRap space I've been filling with politics lately may only be of interest to politico junkies, like me.   As we go forward with almost 15 months still to go before the election, I'll try to keep a balance and write about other issues as well.   Certainly the world doesn't stand still for two years while we choose a new president.   For tomorrow, I'm working on a piece about Jewish support for the Iran nuclear deal.

Still, politics is what consistently excites me these days.   I have zero interest in holding public office myself (even if I were younger).  But I've come to realize that my fascination with the strategy and trivia of political campaigning is most like a sportswriter who watches not only the games but how it all happens -- the strategies of the plays, the skills and characteristics of the players, the trivia of the game.    I've become a sort of sportswriter who covers the game of politics.

Now that the excitement of the first debate is over, and now that the Trump Show is getting tiresome in its narcissistic excess, it's time to take a serious look at what the electorate is trying to tell us.

This message goes across political ideology, across party lines.   They're trying to tell us -- loud and clear -- that they are fed up with politics as usual.   Fed up with the status quo and the establishment -- and this message is coming from both the right and the left.

On the right, this disgust and resentment fuels the anti-government attacks voiced by Donald Trump.   On the left, it is behind the excitement that's bringing out record-breaking crowds to hear Bernie Sanders.

Their ideas about the role of government and about what needs to be done could hardly be more different, just as the two men could hardly be more different.  But the message that something radically different is needed is the same.  And each man has a sort of "outsider" status in the party he's running in.    Trump admits he has no great party loyalty.   Sanders identifies himself in Congress as a Democratic Socialist.

People seem to care less about the exact policies.  So far, it's not hurting Trump in the polls that he was once a Democrat and favored single-payer health insurance.   And Sanders is drawing m0re than 20,000 people in his rallies in Oregon and Los Angeles.  What is appealing is that each is demonstrating that he is not beholden to wealthy donors, he is not just another politician going about it the same old way.  And each speaks with a candor that is refreshing -- even though what comes out of Trump's mouth is often outrageous, insulting, and reprehensible.

They both are convincing that what they say is what they really mean -- Trump because he has no filter and Sanders because he is genuinely sincere and authenticWhether this enthusiasm will carry through for the next 15 months remains to be seen.   

Definitely, we should care about their policies, along with their refusal to kowtow to the way things are done.  In the long run, people are going to see that Trump has no plans, that his bluster and dictatorial manner may work in business but not in government.   Sanders' problem is different:   he has plenty of plans;  the question is whether he can he be elected.   And, if he should win, would he be able to govern effectively -- given how far to the left he is from congress.

Now, having said all that about how they are tapping into the same message, I think Trump and Sanders are worlds apart -- and there's no question which I would choose.    But I am also fascinated by the process we're going through, and I want to try to see clearly what's happening . . . as it happens.

So ShrinkRap is going to have a lot of politics -- along with a lot of other stuff too.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Will the Iran nuclear deal survive Congress?

The short answer is Yes.   But it will not be easy or simple.

Pressure is enormous and mounting.   The resolution to approve the deal will likely be defeated.   President Obama will then veto it -- and it now seems likely that opponents will not have enough votes (2/3rds in both House and Senate) to override his veto.

A letter from 23 Nobel Laureate scientists supporting the deal helps.   Sen. Chuck Schumer, #3 in the Democratic senate leadership team and a dedicated Israel supporter, just announced that he will vote No or both the resolution and the override.

But Schumer also said that each senator should vote his conscience, meaning he will not use his influence to defeat the resolution.   Insiders say that he waited until he knew there were enough votes to sustain the veto before he announced his opposition.


Opposition to Iran nuclear deal gets a little crazy

Josh Marshall of "Talking Points Memo" blog reported this.

One of the pressure groups opposing Iran getting nuclear capability has been UANI (United Against Nuclear Iran).   Under its chairman, Dr. Gary Samore, it had been a bipartisan group working in the area of sanctions and economic pressure.   

However, UANI has just announced that former Senator Joe Lieberman has joined the organization and will be its new chairman.   Remember Lieberman as the uberhawk buddy of John McCain and Lindsey Graham?

OK.  But why did UANI need a new chairman?   Well, it seems that Dr. Samore, the former chairman, has read the Iran nuclear agreement . . . . and he approves of it and wants it to go forward.

Which made it a bit awkward, since the board of UANI wanted to go the other way.   It has a war chest and is about to roll out a massive ad campaign to defeat the deal in Congress.    

Marshal concludes:
"This little nugget captures the current, non-reality-based phase of the Iran nuclear debate in which partisanship, hyperbole and deception have entirely engulfed the debate. . . .  Opponents have no alternative plan. . . . But Joe Lieberman is here to save the day."


Monday, August 10, 2015

Abortion debate: when does an embryo become a person with rights?

This question "When does an embryo become a person with rights?" is, to me, the essential issue.

In last Thursday's debate, Mike Huckabee declared unequivocally that life begins at conception and a baby with rights exists from that moment.   Thus, an abortion, no matter how early, is equivalent to murder.

Marco Rubio went out of his way to make sure he is on record as opposing the exceptions many pro-lifers make in pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.   When asked specifically if he would let a woman die rather than allow her to have an abortion, he said yes.

Look, nobody is advocating murdering babies.   We differ on when we think an embryo becomes a person, and when it has human rights that supersede the mother's rights.

I can agree that, when a sperm enters an ovum, a zygote is formed with DNA from two separate individuals.   If the process of development takes off -- and if it then implants in the endometrium of a uterus -- some process that we might call life has begun.    But what about all those other zygotes that don't implant, or that fail to develop properly into a more complex embryo, and that then flow out of the woman's body at the next menstrual period?  Were they persons too?

Irequires months of nurturing and in utero development to become what I would call a baby.  When does it become a person?   I do not see "personhood" as the result of a divine spark that transforms a two-cell zygote into a person that didn't exist a moment before.

Civilized society gives people some choices in what they do with their bodies.   To consider an embryo's rights as supreme, and the mother whose body may have been violated to create that embryo as only a vessel with no rights, seems . . . well, not right.

The decision to abort an embryo or an early fetus is, for me, a difficult moral and medical decision.   It may include parents who want a child, but this conception is so flawed that no viable baby can occur.  It may include cases in which the mother's health will not survive carrying a pregnancy to term.    Yes, it may involve a failed contraceptive effort, or careless disregard for consequences, or ignorance.

The circumstances of the mother and the effect on her life may be such that it becomes a factor in the decision, although I would also oppose the cavalier attitude of some that considers abortion as simply a back-up plan.

In short, I agree with Bill Clinton's famous answer:   Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.   That means realistic sex education and availability of contraception are the first steps to reducing abortions;  and, yes, it means that government should put money into those efforts for the good of society as a whole.    Often those who oppose abortion also oppose those efforts, except for abstinence-only indoctrination of the young.   Studies prove those programs to be either ineffective or to result in higher rates of teen pregnancy).

Still, looked at narrowly from their focus on rights of the fetus, Rubio and Huckabee are truer and more consistent in their principled beliefs than those pro-lifers who allow exceptions.   If you really believe that, from the moment of conception, this is a human being, a child of God, then it should have the same rights as all human beings.   And our laws should apply equally for its protection.

I agree that the embryo is not responsible for how it came to be;   why should it be any less protected than one that came to be some other way?    If you're going to hold that embryo's existence as sacred, as they all claim to do, why discriminate against any of them?  But what about the sacredness of the life of the mother?

Once again, to clarify, this is not my position.   I do not consider that a few weeks old collection of cells actually, at that moment, consists of an autonomous human being.   It is a part of the mother's body and, as such, she should have some say in what happens to it.   At what point in its development does that change?   That is the tough question.  In my view, it must be decided in each case based on all the factors at the moment.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Is it too early to start thinking about presidential tickets ?

The first debate generated a lot of excitement, so I'm already thinking about the eventual tickets for November 2016.   But do I pick the Republican team that would be the least bad (from a progressive perspective) if they got elected?  Or shall we pick the easiest ones for Democrats to beat?

For the time being, I'll be idealistic and pick the best choice for the country should they win.   That would be John Kasich and Marco Rubio.  I'm surprised I can be so definite about it after only one debate, but there it is.

My pick for months now for the Democratic pair has been Hillary Clinton and Julio Castro, the charismatic, young, Hispanic, former San Antonio mayor who currently is serving as Obama's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.    Remember his superb Keynote Convention Speech in 2012?

But Kasich/Rubio would bring formidable support from their home states, the crucial swing states of Ohio and Florida.

So I'm going to forego Castro's Hispanic advantage for Sherrod Brown's electoral map advantage being a senator from Ohio,   He'd be a terrific choice anyway:  a very appealing, progressive senator and a genuine man of integrity.    

Or might we be a bit more daring and pick Bernie Sanders? I like him, I don't disagree with anything he stands for, I'm impressed by his crowd appeal.  I want us to have a woman president, and we'll likely never have anyone as prepared for it as Hillary Clinton.   So, for the time being, I'll stay with Clinton-Brown.

But, if she stumbles . . .     What about a Biden-Sanders ticket?


Trump and senior adviser part ways -- but disagree over who fired whom.

Roger Stone, senior political adviser to Donald Trump who helped prepare him for Thursday night's debate, has left the campaign.    Trump says he fired Stone;   Stone says he fired Trump.

As reported by CNN, there are two factions within the Trump campaign:  "one side that wants to maintain Trump's high visibility by capitalizing on his public feuds and bombastic rhetoric, and another that wants to pull the candidate toward more disciplined political strategy."

Stone was of the latter and was dismayed at Trump's debate performance -- and then even moreso with the attack on Megyn Kelly.  The two had a discussion later that night.   Stone wrote a letter of resignation, which he planned to submit on Saturday;  but, according to one account, Trump got wind of it and fired Stone before he did.

Whatever . . . if the adults in the campaign abandon ship, it may get even more volatile before it's over.    Clearly the bomb-throwers, including the candidate himself, have the upper hand for now.


PS:  Yes, I am aware that I continue to write about Trump, despite my wish that we could just ignore him.   We can't.

Bernie Sanders responds to Republican debate

From a letter sent out from Bernie Sanders in response to the debate.

"Did you watch last night’s Republican presidential debate?   If you are one of the wealthiest people in this country, then you had ten candidates talking about your needs for two hours.

"But in the entire time I watched, I saw very little discussion about the issues important to most American families. There was no talk about climate change and clean energy, raising wages and providing healthcare for all Americans, criminal justice reform and the undermining of the Voting Rights Act, and nothing at all about the crushing burden of student debt. . . . 

"We need to be discussing issues facing working families at a debate hosted by trade unions. We need to be discussing climate change and environmental issues at a forum hosted by the environmental community. We need to be discussing civil rights issues and racial injustice at a forum sponsored by civil rights groups. We need to be discussing gay rights at a forum hosted by the LGBT community. In other words, more discussion, more debate is good for the Democratic Party and good for the American people. . . ."

*    *    *
I agree with Sen. Sanders.   The first Democratic debate is not until October.  That's way too much time to let the Republicans dominate the stage and capitalize on the 24,000,000 viewers of their debate.