Saturday, February 20, 2016

"Bush running on fumes"

That title, "Bush running on fumes," is typical of what we see on the eve of the South Carolina primary.   Donors are refusing to give him more money;   crowds are less than expected;  reportedly some of his staff are sending out their resumes, seeking other work.

As a further measure of the gloom pervading the Bush campaign, Jeb signed off a town hall on Friday with these parting words to his supporters: 
“I hope that you believe that it’s possible for us to do this. 
I hope you don’t think the end is near.”
The end is near.

Meh . . . the non-compassionate Bush

SIMI VALLEY, CA - MARCH 08:  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Reagan Library after autographing his new book
Another reason Jeb Bush should not be president.   Along with my previously discussed objections, based on his cruelty to a classmate in prep school and his demonic attempts to force a brain-dead woman to be kept alive (see ShrinkRap on 2/5/15 3/16/15 and two on 6/11/15), is this story about Jeb advocating shame to enforce his moral imperatives.   The report comes from an article on Daily Kos by correspondent SemDem.
*     *     *
"This man cannot be president. I am not exaggerating what happened here.  [According to a law passed by the Florida legislature and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush] If a mother was going to give up her child for adoption . . . she was required to PUBLISH HER ENTIRE SEXUAL HISTORY in a major newspaper.

"The idea behind it was . . . to publicly shame the woman. . . . It was called the Scarlet Letter Law.  Your friends, neighbors, employers, family, and acquaintances would be able to read [the names of] everyone you had sex with . . .

"If you were raped and conceived a child, . . . you couldn't give the child up for adoption in the State of Florida unless you gave the rapist a chance to read about it in the paper. . . .

"The mother had to put all her personal information, including weight, her sexual partners, and WHERE they may have conceived.  NO exception was made in a case of rape!  . . .  It had to run for one month at the MOTHER'S personal expense even though this was forced on her. . . .  

"Instead of being publicly shamed, Florida women simply refused to do this.  It may have happened, but I don't know of one case where a woman printed her sexual history in the paper.

"Do you know what DID happen though?  Abortions increased.  Adoptions dropped--by a lot. . . . a personal friend of mine . . . wanted to adopt his stepdaughter when the law was in effect, but he couldn't.  Not without humiliating his wife.  This was JEB!'s Florida.

"Eventually. . . Bush conceded this may not have been the brightest idea.  He relented.  But it got what he wanted: to SHAME women.

" . . . .  The backlash from this awful law was such that the law was repealed fairly quickly. . . .  What is reprehensible is how JEB! is being allowed to rewrite recent history as if he never wanted this law and was somehow unable to stop it. He could have and he didn't.  It was a very shameful time in our state's history, and one that shouldn't be overlooked. . . . "
*     *     *
I don't doubt for a minute that Jeb Bush willingly signed this law.   Besides speaking and writing approvingly about the desirable role of shame in controlling out of wedlock births, this is completely in keeping with that prep school bully -- Jeb -- who led a gang of boys to chase down a classmate with long hair, throw him to the ground, and forceably hold him down while they cut off his long hair, even as he screamed and begged them not to.

Jeb's self-righteous smugness and basic cruelty to those he deems in violation of his priggish superiority make big brother Dubya look downright humane and compassionate --and a smarter and a more decent human being as well.   Having him on the campaign trail just shows up Jeb's deficiencies, even measured by the very low bar of George W. Bush.   His campaigning for Jeb! won't help.

In the indelible words of Sarah Palin:
"You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."

Friday, February 19, 2016

Republicans: "Don't make us hurt the nominee . . ."

Senate Republicans want President Obama to abdicate his responsibility to nominate a SCOTUS replacement so they don't have to damage the reputation of the, as yet unnamed, nominee.

Their first tactic was to claim, falsely, that it just isn't done for a president to nominate a SCOTUS justice in his last year in office.  That didn't fly, because it's not true;  so now they're trying this:

"Don't make us hurt the nominee."

Huh?   That's what it amounts to.  Sen. Ted Cruz said:  "I think that hearing would end up very politicized. And I don't think it would be fair to the nominee."  Thanks for you concern, Ted.    You could accomplish that by simply being fair to the nominee yourselves.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), in a tight re-election campaign, said it might "mislead" people into thinking it's about the qualifications of the candidate, but "it's bigger than that."  In other words, confirming President Obama's nominee -- no matter who it turns out to be -- is not an option.  So, if they have to destroy the reputation of the nominee, that's what they'll do.

Now they're pleading not to have to do the dirty work that they will 'be forced to do.'   Come on, guys.   Put on your big boy pants and do your job.  If you're going to hurt the nominee, you'll just have to take responsibility for your actions.

Perhaps the strategy is to try to scare off any potential nominee from accepting President Obama's nomination.   I think his strategy is going to be to select someone with such impeccable credentials and so obviously qualified that the Republicans will only wind up hurting themselves if they try to play politics.

As much as I disagreed with Justice Scalia's approach to the Constitution and disliked him personally, I do think it is downright shameful that Republicans couldn't even wait until after his funeral before turning it into a political "throw them to the lions" sideshow.   Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz didn't even wait an hour after his death was announced before throwing down the gauntlet.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Republicans thumb nose at Ronald Reagan's plea

President Ronald Reagan, during his State of the Union address to Congress on 1/25/1988, his final year in office, said this:
"Now, to make sure there is a full, nine-member Supreme Court to interpret the law and to protect the rights of all Americans, I urge the Senate to move quickly and decisively in confirming Justice Anthony Kennedy to the highest court in the land, and to also confirm 27 nominees waiting to fill vacancies in the federal judiciary."
Ronald Reagan is widely and routinely invoked as the greatest president in modern history by most Republicans -- the same ones who now say filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Scalia's death should wait until next year so that the American people can speak through the election this fall.   That would mean the process couldn't even begin until a year from now -- meaning the seat would be vacant for perhaps 18 months or so.

In addition, in 1977 Mitch McConnell wrote an article in the Kentucky Law Journal in which he lamented the politicization of the judicial nominating process and said:  "altering the ideological directions of the Supreme Court would seem to be a perfectly legitimate part of a Presidential platform. To that end, the Constitution gives to him the power to nominate."

In 2016, McConnell was the first to call for the nomination to wait for the next president in 2017 -- obviously because he fears President Obama's nominee would alter the ideological direction of the Court.

Hmmm.   I believe it is spelled "h-y-p-o-c-r-i-s-y."


Bernie Sanders answers critics

photo credit:   Getty Images

From an interview with CBS Evening New's Scott Pelley, here are some important answers from Bernie Sanders to what critics are saying about him and his chances.

PELLEY: [Pointing out that both Iowa and New Hampshire have a largely white population and]  . . . A more liberal population than the states that you're headed to next, South Carolina, Nevada. You're gonna be facing African American voters, Latino voters.  How do you appeal to those people?
SANDERS: Well, the same way we appeal to all Americans. Look, if you and I were having this conversation nine months ago. . . .  You would have said, "Bernie, nobody knows who you are. You're regarded as a fringe candidate, you don't have any money, you don't have any political organization. Last poll we saw you in, four percent. How are you possibly gonna do well in Iowa or New Hampshire?" Well, a lot has happened in nine months. . . .

PELLEY: [Referring to single payer health insurance, raising taxes, $15 minimum wage]  Every one of these ideas is dead on arrival in the Congress.
SANDERS: No it's not. Change always takes place when millions of people stand up and fight back. And what we are talking about in this campaign is a political revolution.
PELLEY: The Republicans in Congress are gonna say, "You go ahead and have your revolution, but we're not gonna have one here."
SANDERS: Ah, but the Republicans, for better or for worse, are gonna be drawn into this revolution.
PELLEY: You're gonna change their minds?
SANDERS: No, I'm not gonna change their minds. The American people will change their minds. . . . 

PELLEY: Gallup did a poll a few months ago and the people that they surveyed said that they would vote for a gay candidate, an atheist candidate, and a Muslim candidate before they voted for a socialist candidate.
SANDERS: Uh-huh. Well, the people in Iowa and New Hampshire might not have been part of that poll, 'cause we just won New Hampshire I think by 21 points. [It was 22.]  And we came in a virtual tie in -- in Iowa. Look, let's not scare people with words, okay, all right? Social security, terrible, awful program? It's one of the most popular programs in American history. It's a socialist program.  The United States Postal Service is often regarded as one of the most popular federal programs. It's a socialist program. Veteran's Administration, of which most veterans feel really good about. You know, that's-- that's a government health insurance program. If you look around countries around the world, I mean, the ideas that I'm proposing, Scott, are not radical ideas.
*     *     *
I agree.   But the Republicans have not yet waged their relentless ad campaign full of hammer and sickle logos and screaming SOCIALIST scare tactics that they surely will do.  They're very good at damning messaging -- as distorted as they need to be.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"No character" --quote from Heller's "Catch-22"

Thanks to singer-comedienne Bette Midler for circulating this quote from Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22, in which he describes one of his characters thus:
“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all.   It merely required no character.” — Joseph Heller, Catch-22
I ran across this just after finishing the post summarizing David Brooks' comments about Barack Obama's character.   What a difference -- and what a difference it makes in a president.


NYT's David Brooks: "I miss Barack Obama."

 Photo credit:  Doug Mills/New York Times

David Brooks, center-right columnist for the New York Times, is already missing President Barack Obama, he writes in his Feb. 9, 2016 column.

"As this primary season has gone along, a strange sensation has come over me: I miss Barack Obama. Now, obviously I disagree with a lot of Obama’s policy decisions. . . . But over the course of this campaign it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply."

Brooks lists these as:
1.  Basic integrity
2.  A sense of basic humanity and respect for the dignity of others
3.  A soundness in his decision-making process
4.  Grace under pressure
5.  A resilient sense of optimism 

In his column, he elaborates on each of these qualities and concludes, regarding #5, that to listen to some of the current presidential candidates ". . . is to wallow in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse. That’s simply not true. We have problems, but they are less serious than those faced by just about any other nation on earth. . . .

"No, Obama has not been temperamentally perfect. Too often he’s been disdainful, aloof, resentful and insular. But there is a tone of ugliness creeping across the world, as democracies retreat, as tribalism mounts, as suspiciousness and authoritarianism take center stage.

"Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him."
*     *     *
David Brooks retains his belief in Burkean conservatism, but he finds little in today's Republican Party to feel compatible with.   His phrase "pornography of pessimism" captures what we hear from everyone except John Kasich on the GOP debate stage.

That Brooks took this moment to praise Obama's temperament underlines the concern about Marco Rubio's bad moment in the last debate.   Now even some of his unidentified "allies" are saying that, ever since high schools days, Rubio tends to panic under pressure, and his friends have to try to calm him down.   This is the more serious underlying problem than just the outward symptom of robotic parroting of talking points.   Perhaps he developed that memorizing trick as his way to overcome his anxiety under stress.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

An amazing confluence of improbables

Ezra Klein on Vox first brought these things together, saying that "Four years ago, if you had told me [that] I would one day watch Fox News's Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly marvel while Bernie Sanders sinks shot after flawless [basketball] shot on the night he won the New Hampshire primaryI would have laughed at you."    But it actually happened.

Look at the improbables in that statement:
1.  A democratic socialist from Vermont soundly defeated the formidably prepared Hillary Clinton (60.4% to 38.0%, including a majority of the women's vote), in New Hampshire after essentially splitting the Iowa caucuses vote with her.

2.  Bernie Sanders, the 73 year old, rumpled, granddaddy, is a basketball whiz, calmly shooting hoops with his kids while awaiting the New Hampsire returns.   Who knew?

3.  Conservative Fox News commentators are airing video of this feat and cheerfully marveling at his skill.

As some old caricature of a corn-pone Southerner was wont to say:   "Won't wonders never cease!"


Very, very scary -- "The Face of the God We Serve"

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the Freedom Summit in Greenville, South Carolina May 9, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Keane - RTX1C9RG
From an article by David Badash, based on a video recording of Heidi Cruz's speech.   Photo by Reuter's
"Heidi Cruz says her husband's campaign, and, if elected, presidency, exist 'to show this country the face of the God that we serve. Perhaps unaware of the Constitution, she believes Ted Cruz is 'uniquely able to deliver' a 'combination of the law and religion. . . .  this Christian God that we serve is the foundation of our country.'"

"Explaining why she is supporting and campaigning for her husband, Heidi Cruz said 'we are at a cultural crossroads in our country' . . . this Christian God that we serve is the foundation of our country, our country was built on Judeo-Christian values, we are a nation of freedom of religion, but the God of Christianity is the God of freedom, of individual liberty, of choice and of consequence.'. . .

"Right Wing Watch, which first reported Cruz's comments, notes that Cruz’s father Rafael has implied Ted Cruz 'was chosen by God for the White House,' and said his son is 'running for president to 'share the love of Jesus Christ' with 'every person in America.'

"Ted Cruz has invoked God and religion frequently in his campaign, like when he claimed gay people are waging a 'jihad' against Christians, and when he suggested gay people should stop advocating for equal rights because of the violence ISIS perpetrates against both gays and Christians."
*     *     *
This is why I am more scared of Ted Cruz as president than of Donald Trump.   There is a rigidity and certitude about Cruz's thinking that leads those who knew him in college and law school to say he is not open to any ideas but his own.   They say his thinking has not changed one iota since he was 17 years old -- despite his years at Princeton and Harvard Law School.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Appointing Scalia's replacement -- WWSD ?

Within minutes of reports of his death, Republicans had already policitized the naming of Justice Scalia's replacement, demanding that President Obama not exercise his constitutional duty to nominate federal judges.   Mitch McConnell said that the American people should be allowed to express their opinion through the upcoming election, leaving the choice to the next president.

Senator Elizabeth Warren destroyed this argument, saying that the American people already spoke when they re-elected Obama for a second term, which runs through January 20, 2017 -- not just until the next SCOTUS conservative dies.

Conservatives wishing this not to be true does not change the constitution.    If Scalia had been the leading liberal on the court with a Republican president, does anyone doubt for a minute . . . honestly . . . that they would be arguing exactly the opposite?

If they really think that should be the law, let them pass a constitutional amendment, which is what it would take.   But realize what this would mean 25% of the time, one full year out of every four, it would take off the table any SCOTUS appointmentThat's right.  The fourth year of every presidential term.

Let's recognize politics for what it is, be adults, and take responsibility for upholding the constitution which, in every other context, conservatives scream their insistence that we must do.   Better yet, let's ask them WWSD?   What Would Scalia Do? -- the ur-originalist and ur-textualist interpreter of the constitution.  We know the answer:   He famously hated the role of politics in judicial appointments.


GOP debate: slugfest and playground insults

CBS promoted it as a Republican Primary debate.   But it was more like a schoolyard fight among 12 year olds who tried to outdo each other in arguing about who was the biggest liar.   Donald Trump went off even his own rails, although with him you never know how much is calculated.

What Trump did, besides upping his usual game of insults and vulgar taunts, was to thumb his nose at the Republican party by talking trash against some of their cherished (but vulnerable) myths.   And he got repeatedly booed by an audience made up in large part by party officials.   Out of 1600 tickets, only 600 were given to the candidates;  1000 were given out by the party itself -- and Jeb Bush seemed to be the crowd favorite.

What Trump did was to attack George W. Bush, right there in the state where he is still popular among Republicans.   He reminded people that rather than "keeping us safe," as Jeb likes to say, "9/11 happened on his watch."   He added insult to injury by saying, not only that the Iraq war was an expensive failure, but that Bush lied about WMD to justify starting the war.   Later he also said that Planned Parenthood does some great things; and some of his other, earlier liberal positions came up and were not denied.  He sounded more like the liberal Democrat he used to be.

All of this is anathema to the Republican establishment and to Jeb Bush in particular.   Why did Trump do it?  And in South Carolina, where George W. has first hit the campaign trail and been featured in Jeb's tv ads?   Where there is strong support for the military?

Jonathan Chait of New York magazine has an interesting theory.
As Trump has defied his skeptics, evaluations of his political acumen have grudgingly embraced the conclusion that there is a method to his madness. But on Saturday night, he took the madness to a completely new level. By the normal standards of politics, Trump swallowed enough poison to kill himself ten times over. If he survives, it will be the strongest evidence that he has forged a connection with Republican voters that resides beyond any plane visible to the rest of us.
Chait may be right.   This was Trump's ultimate "fuck you" to the GOP establishment.   If he still wins the SC primary, then he is in total control.    Or was it a miscalculation and the beginning of his downfall?   Personally, I think Trump decided to go for broke -- a do or die moment.   If, in spite of burning down the temple, he still wins SC, then he owns the race.   It's risky, but that's his style.

The only thing that gives me pause that it was calculated was Trump's appearance during all this.   He was very red in the face, seemed flustered and to be reacting more like someone whose anger has gotten the better of his judgment, not someone carrying out a planned attack.

Stay tuned.   Who needs commercial soap operas?   You literally could not sell this as a script to producers;  it's too extreme.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Consequences of Scalia's death

Jonathan Chait, writing for New York magazine, gave one example of the effect of Justice Scalia's death:

"The immediate and easily foreseeable impact is staggering. Last week, the Supreme Court issued a stay delaying the implementation of Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The stay indicated that a majority of the justices foresee a reasonably high likelihood that they would ultimately strike down Obama’s plan, which could jeopardize the Paris climate agreement and leave greenhouse gasses unchecked.

"Without Scalia on the Court, the odds of this drop to virtually zero. The challenge is set to be decided by a D.C. Circuit panel composed of a majority of Democratic appointees, which will almost certainly uphold the regulations. If the plan is upheld, it would require a majority of the Court to strike it down. With the Court now tied 4-4, such a ruling now seems nearly impossible.  Even if the Senate does not confirm any successor, then, Scalia’s absence alone reshapes the Court."
*     *     *
Completely apart from whether President Obama gets his replacement nominee confirmed by the senate, and how that shapes the court going forward, there are those cases that have already been heard in arguments this term, but decisions not yet handed down.   This may change how some of them will turn out, as well as other landmark cases yet to be heard this term.   I don't think we realized how much difference one day in the life and death of one justice can make in the laws of our land.


Antonin Scalia 1936-2016

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has died, apparently of natural causes, while at a resort ranch in Texas.   He had told friends he was not feeling well but was alone when he died in his hotel room.  He was the longest serving member of the current court, having been appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

There is no question that the death of this one justice leaves control of the court hanging in the balance between conservative and liberal justices.  With four of each plus Justice Kennedy, who often casts the swing vote that determines outcomes of close cases, the replacement for Scalia could turn it into a reliable liberal majority of five.  That is, if President Obama names the replacement, which he has every legal right to do -- and has said he will do.

But conservatives have wasted no time (within minutes of the announcement of Scalioa's death) of demanding that the senate block any appointment by Obama, reserving the appointment for the next president.

Need we remind those conservatives that Obama is still the president for 11 more months?   It is a presidential duty to nominate members of the courts and a senate duty to "advise and consent," not to block every nomination.

Sam Stein, senior political editor for the Huffington Post, wrote: 
"The haste with which Scalia's death was reduced to a political battle was a bit alarming. But the tweets also underscore a pretty obvious reality that existed even before the news broke: in the last year of the Obama administration, congressional Republicans are pretty invested in just running out the clock. 

"What is perhaps more telling is the immense political importance that one man's death could have on our system of governance. Beyond the president, the death of a sitting justice on the U.S. Supreme Court has possibly the greatest ripple effects."
That is a very sobering fact.   We don't ordinarily consider SCOTUS as a political position;  but in such a polarized populace and political process, it cannot fail to come down to that.   And that fact itself gives even more urgent motivation to both political parties to have their nominee win the election to be the next president.

Much has been said about the next president's likely opportunity to appoint three or four members of SCOTUS.   Now one of those four has already departed, leaving a vacancy.