Saturday, June 04, 2011

Howard Dean says Palin could beat Obama. Is he mad?

(Ed. note: Richard and I both wrote about this this evening. So let's just combine our thoughts into a single post.)


Once upon a time, Howard Dean was a major voice in the Democratic Party, a leading figure on the left. And it was hard not to admire his energy and his appeal as an anti-establishment progressive running a strong grassroots campaign. And it was hard not to admire what he stood for, which for many of us was genuine change we could believe in.

I supported Kerry from early on in the '04 process, but Dean was the one who got people, and especially young people, excited, who engaged them in a way that Obama did four years later -- on a smaller scale, but still, it was genuine.

I've come to question his instincts and political sense since then, and now, it would seem, he has lost his marbles:

Howard Dean, the former Democratic National Committee chairman who helped Democrats capture the White House in 2008, warns that Sarah Palin could defeat President Obama in 2012.

Dean says his fellow Democrats should beware of inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom that Obama would crush Palin in a general-election contest next year.

"I think she could win," Dean told The Hill in an interview Friday. "She wouldn't be my first choice if I were a Republican but I think she could win."

Dean warns the sluggish economy could have more of a political impact than many Washington strategists and pundits assume.

"Any time you have a contest — particularly when unemployment is as high as it is — nobody gets a walkover," Dean said. "Whoever the Republicans nominate, including people like Sarah Palin, whom the inside-the-Beltway crowd dismisses — my view is if you get the nomination of a major party, you can win the presidency, I don't care what people write about you inside the Beltway," Dean said.

Okay, fine. You never know. And with unemployment high and the economy still struggling, a situation that could worsen by next year, perhaps any Republican would have a chance of beating Obama.

And Democrats do need to be concerned. It's hardly a given that Obama will win. What happened in NY-26 was instructive but not necessarily how the rest of the country will go next November, and it would be foolish to think that the Republicans are simply too crazy to win.

Crazier things have happened, after all, and it wouldn't take much to push a deeply divided electorate to the GOP column.

But Sarah Palin? Please.

This isn't just about how she is viewed by the Washington press corps or the punditocracy, it's about how she is viewed across the country, and what's clear is that her numbers are poor -- and have gotten markedly worse since her peak during the '08 campaign. She's nowhere close to being presidential, she crapped out as Alaska governor, and she's a right-wing extremist, and people know it. Sure, things might change were she to win the nomination and were the party to rally around her enthusiastically, which itself is unlikely given how so much of the Republican Party is opposed to her, but it's really a stretch to think that she could then beat Obama. The economy would have to be a truly horrible state.

But I suspect Dean isn't providing detached analysis here. He is touting her, in a way, because he has a certain fondness for insurgent anti-establishment figures, that is, for himself. No, no, no, I'm not saying that Palin is the Dean of the right or that Dean is the Palin of the left, but there are similarities there that are undeniable -- not intellectual, for Dean is very smart and she, well, isn't, but situational. He ran against the Democratic establishment from the left, while she may run against the Republican establishment from the right.

Again, he makes a fair point. Nothing is certain. Anything could happen. Given the right circumstances (or wrong, from our perspective), any Republican who managed to win the GOP nomination could beat Obama. It's just hard to see how that applies to Palin, who has an extremely low ceiling of potential support.



I have to say that Howard Dean is a clever one, suggesting that Democrats should be careful not to dismiss Sarah Palin too lightly as someone who could potentially beat Barack Obama in a general election.

He warns that a bad economy would greatly enhance any Republicans chances and that if Palin could secure the nomination, which he agrees would be hard for her do to, she could become president.

I don't know. I think Howard is having us on, or, more to the point, having conservative voters on by trying to get them to believe that Sarah could be for real. Democrats know how polarizing a figure she would be in the GOP nomination battle and how embarrassing she would be for Republicans in the general election. Having her in the race is good for Democrats and Dean knows that.

Maybe he's trying to push Palin to stop dicking around and actually jump in.

To be fair, it would be unwise to dismiss anyone, even Palin, especially given the volatility of the economy. But if I were to dismiss anyone, if I felt compelled, Sarah P. would be first on my list.

Maybe Dean is just trying to give Karl Rove a heart attack as pay back.

The one thing that Dean said that does make sense is that Jon Huntsman would be an ideal Republican candidate and one the Democrats really should fear, though his chances of getting the nomination are slim to none.

Final thought is that Dean, like so many others, points out that Bill Clinton came out of no where to win the nomination and presidency in 1992, but let's be serious. Whatever faults the man has, he has been one of the brightest and most natural politicians the country has ever seen. No way the current crop of GOP losers comes close to that level of skill and certainly not Palin. Not a chance.

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The Sesame Manifesto

By Capt. Fogg

(Ed. note: This is a follow-up to Fogg's post from yesterday. See the Fox News clip there or below. It's certainly enraging, but Hannity et al. are also massively stupid. It's hard to know whether to laugh or shudder. -- MJWS)

It's impossible for me to watch a Fox "panel" chew on a story without thinking of an alligator feeding frenzy or a bunch of mean dogs fighting for possession of a bit of rawhide. Actually, it's impossible for me to watch Fox News at all, but for those of a tougher breed, here's a prime example of that ruthless war on reality called Fox.

Listen carefully and you'll spot the message that Sesame Street aims at lower income, urban kids and you'll smell the racism and you'll hear the Republican anthem that the fraction of a cent per taxpayer that this show costs is "on principle" too much and especially because it tries to elevate the underclasses in direct contravention of Divine Law and Ayn Rand, whichever is the more powerful.

Does anyone really believe that Big Bird is a Communist or that Sesame Street is ruining America and the morals of its children? (Perhaps Doctor Spock fans can sigh with relief now that they've moved on to a new chew toy.)

Perhaps you do, perhaps you watch Fox anyway. Perhaps you're a malicious idiot with delusions of persecution, but here it is again:

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Mitt Romney calls for action on global warming, further disqualifying himself from the Republican presidential nomination

Why won't Mitt Romney win the Republican presidential nomination? Oh, where to begin?

A lot of it has to do with his lack of credibility with conservatives. They just don't think he's one of them, and he isn't. He's conservative, but in a 1990s sort of way, or at least in a pre-2008 sort of way.

And then there's his Obamacare-like health-care reform in Massachusetts. That alone disqualifies him, but in broader terms he's simply behind the Republican times. What was right-wing ideological orthodoxy just a few years ago is now heresy. His health-care reform in Massachusetts was once acceptable, and not so long ago, as a market-based alternative to, say, a single-payer system.

Now? Yeah, not so much.

While it's Romney who is accused of opportunistically flip-flopping in order to pander to the right -- and he certainly has done that, to some degree -- it's the Republican Party (and conservative orthodoxy more broadly) that has changed, moving further and further to the right and becoming more and more extreme, shedding what was once mainstream and acceptable.

And Romney, well, he just can't keep up.

But maybe he doesn't want to. Maybe he realizes that it just won't work. Maybe he now thinks that the only way he'll win the nomination, as remote as that seems, is to make a point of distinguishing himself as the only relatively sane candidate in a field of rampant insanity. He'll never be forgiven for supporting health-care reform, nor for supporting Obama's economic stimulus, nor for so much else that mars his record in the eyes of the right.

Or maybe he's just caught between his real views and the need to embrace the views of the far right if he is to get anywhere in today's GOP. Or maybe he's trying to say different things to different people, hoping no one will notice the inconsistencies.

Whatever the case, it's unclear how this helps his chances:

"I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that," he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney broke with Republican orthodoxy on Friday by saying he believes that humans are responsible, at least to some extent, for climate change.

"It's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors."

This would have been fine just a few years ago, when relatively sensible Republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham were advocating action to combat climate change (and even supporting cap and trade, a market-based approach that was widely popular among conservatives as an alternative to, say, a carbon tax, but it's reached a point now where even acknowledging the reality of climate change is a no-go for Republicans. Recognizing the new orthodoxy, Tim Pawlenty has even apologized for making a "mistake" on climate change. He once thought it was real and that something needed to be done about it. Now he's a denialist, or so we are led to believe, because anything else is heresy.

There's a group of relatively sane (and relatively moderate) Republicans who are just too old-school to win in 2012 (which is no doubt partly why most of them are staying away), with the party where it is and where it will be for the forseeable future: Romney, Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels, Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, and Jeb Bush, to name some of the more prominent.

Romney is the leader of this group at the moment, the only one to put himself out there, the frontrunner in a terribly weak field. He could beat Pawlenty (if Pawlenty fails to catch on with the right), but if Sarah Palin gets in the race (however unlikely), or Michele Bachmann, or Paul Ryan, he's in trouble. He's got way too much baggage and is way too much of a heretic on any number of issues. 2012 will be a litmus-test election for Republicans, and Romney, in that regard (if to his credit), is an utter failure. He has his supporters, of course, particularly with the business class and the old-school establishment, but Republicans will do what they have to do to defeat him. As Jon Chait explains:

Romney is evidence that Obama's policies -- on economic stimulus, health care, the auto bailout, and pretty much everything -- are anything but the extreme socialism they now portray them as. His nomination would undercut their claims daily, and demonstrate it is the GOP, not Obama, that is proposing a radical new direction for the country. That's why they can't nominate him. Now, Republicans don't process the thought that way. In their minds, Obama's policies are truly radical, and their party somehow failed to grasp this radicalism until Obama took office. But that is the dynamic at work.

Which is yet another reason why he won't get the nomination. Whether he likes it or not, he exposes the Republican Party for what it is, or rather for what it has become. He's not just too "moderate" for conservatives, for the new conservative orthodoxy, he's everything the GOP used to be but has now rejected.

Actually, he's a lot like Obama, or at least used to be, and it would be awfully hard for Republicans to keep up their insane assault on Obama, their ridiculous claim that Obama is a dangerous anti-American radical, with Romney and his record proving that Obama is nothing of the kind.

Progressives are right to criticize the president for being a Republican-friendly centrist, but one of the consequences of Obama's embrace of the center is that Republicans have had to move ever further to the right to differentiate themselves from him. They were moving that way anyway, to be sure, but he has made it even more difficult for them to embrace anything of their old-school, pre-2008 past. And that includes Mitt Romney.


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Donald Trump plumbs the depths of the pathetic

His rise and fall as a Republican non-candidate was stunning, if not surprising. Of course, he was never going to run. It was all about attracting the spotlight, about enhancing his stardom, about money, about himself. In that regard, he's a lot like Sarah Palin, his recent dining partner.

Trump's delusional megalomania apparently knows no bounds. And, yes, he's back:

So much for dropping out -- Donald Trump tells TPM he believes he can win the White House as an independent candidate, keeping his name in the presidential game despite declaring last month he would not run for the GOP nomination.

TPM caught up with Trump at the Faith & Freedom Conventionm after he left a closed door meeting with event organizer Ralph Reed and other social conservatives and asked how he figured he'd do as an independent.

"I think I'd do great," he said, telling TPM he believed he could win the White House. As for whether he'll run, he said it depended on the GOP nominee.

"Let's see what happens with the Republicans, who they put up," he said.

Asked if he was consulting with pollsters on a run, he said "I was leading in the polls when I decided to sign a very big contract -- I was actually leading."

Well, no, he wasn't. He was exposed as a national laughingstock at the White House Correspondents Dinner and his poll numbers were collapsing, just like the Birtherism he pushed (and is still pushing).

There's no way he'd "do great" as an independent, but there's no way we're getting to that point. He's not running. Ever.

He desperately needs the spotlight, the media attention, but only on his terms, only when he's the bully. He wants nothing of the all-out media glare that would come with a serious political campaign, and he'd self-destruct along the way, much as he did even as a non-candidate.

He is one of America's most ridiculous national jokes. And this latest stunt, suggesting that he's still in the race, that he still might run for president, is simply and utterly pathetic.

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Anti-history: Paul Revere's "Midnight Ride," according to Sarah Palin

To say that Sarah Palin is stupider than a 5th grader is to insult 5th graders...


I had no idea that Paul Revere warned the British and did so with bells and gunshots and that the whole "Midnight Ride" thing was about the Second Amendment.

But that's what Sarah said, and she must know her history given how much she loves America and all, and how she knows so much about the Tea Party and talks about the Foundin' and everythin':

He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms uh by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.

And she said this in Boston.

Thanks for clearing this up for us, Sarah. I guess we'd all just gotten it wrong these many years.

Check out the hilarious deadpan reaction of CNN's Brooke Baldwin: 

For more, check out Booman and Benen, as well as MoJo's Tim Murphy, who notes that:

This is actually the opposite of everything Paul Revere did. He wasn't sending any messages to the British soldiers who were about to move on the patriots' weapons stockpiles and arrest key leaders. According to history, Revere was warning the Minutemen that the Brits were coming so these militia members could prepare. He did not ring any bells. He instructed a friend to put either one or two lights in the tower of the Old North Church ("one if by land, two if by sea"). He did not fire any warning shots. His ride at the time was no act of symbolism; it was a stealth operation in support of a local resistance movement whose goals at that point remained largely undefined.

Ah, but that's the real history, what really happened. Palin is living in a land of make-believe, the land of creationism and global warming denialism and a general disdain for science, for facts.

And in that world, that alternate "reality" that is nothing of the sort but that is extremely powerful on the right, Paul Revere, a Tea Party Republican way ahead of his time, did everything just the way Palin said he did.

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Friday, June 03, 2011

Only on Fox

By Capt. Fogg 

Did you know that not only is Sesame Street "liberal," not only is Big Bird a bigot, watching it could lead to a totalitarian state and undermines morality and the destruction of the American family. It sets up an appetite for "governmental largesse" and prompts high schoolers to nominate homosexuals to host the junior prom. 

No, not only could you not make this up, you couldn't be paid millions to rave like a lunatic. It's getting to the point where you couldn't pay me to admit I'm American.

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Glenn Beck's Fox departure now has a date

I just couldn't help but mark the news that Glenn Beck's departure from Fox News now has a date attached to it. According to Mediate, it has been confirmed by the network that his last day is to be June 30th.

There was a time when I would get home from work and actually tune in to the crazy little man mostly because I could not believe that anyone was seriously buying his act for anything other than comic relief. I slowly had to come to the realization that there are those out there who believe that he talks sense. I am told that many people have even been scared senseless by his warnings of the imminent demise of the America we all know.

I have been amazed by the chalkboards and lines drawn from one "radical" to the next proving beyond a doubt, or so he tell us, that a grand conspiracy is afoot and that we must be ever vigilant to protect ourselves against threats foreign and domestic.

But I will tell you what really amazes me. It is the thought that there are so many people in the world so easily fooled by this snake oil salesman, that so many are this hungry for such a simplified explanation of a frighteningly complex world that they will turn to this idiot for answers.

Those of us who follow politics closely like to believe that most people are reachable with rational arguments, that even if we can't convince others of the correctness of our own opinions, everyone has a desire to be swayed by the force of the better argument.

And then we come upon people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, who believe no such thing. They are people stuck in a looped sound track full of nothing but meaningless platitudes. They don't want to be convinced of anything because they already know everything.

That people like that exist and that they have a significant following scares the crap out of me.

I go back and forth between believing that people like Beck and Palin are just charlatans in it for the buck or that they may actually believe the things they say. Maybe both are true.

If they didn't have such an impact on the quality of our discourse, it would be best to ignore them. In Beck's case that may now be somewhat easier. I look forward to the day when it will also be easier to fully ignore the half-term governor from Alaska. Please God let it be soon.

(Cross-Posted at Lippmann's Ghost)

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Paul Ryan, still trying to find a way to lose his own congressional seat

Shortly before the hugely significant upset win by Democrat Kathy Hochul in the special election for the New York 26th Congressional District, I mused about what it would take for Paul Ryan, architect of the Republican plan to privatize Medicare, to lose his congressional seat in Wisconsin.

I said then that it takes a lot for incumbents to lose, but they sometimes do.

In the disastrous 2010 midterm elections, the Democrats lost 63 seats. In 2008, the GOP lost 21 and 30 in 2006. Keep in mind, though, that all 435 seats are up for re-election every two years, so chances are much better of holding on than getting the boot.

But, when the the boot comes in significant numbers, it can be because one side was successful in framing the debate in a way that makes the other side vulnerable. It is therefore no wonder that Paul Ryan was out there yesterday addressing the press corp, after the House GOP caucus met with the president, admonishing Democrats not to "demagogue" Medicare reform. In other words, he was more or less begging Democrats not to use the best issue they are ever likely to be handed to beat the crap out of the GOP.

Anyone with a memory that goes back more than a few minutes will enjoy the hypocrisy of Republicans saying this, given all the rich bullshit about death panels and threats to Medicare they were peddling on their way to a House majority back in November. But no one ever said Republicans were principled.

Anyway, back to Ryan's home district, the Wisconsin 1st. After election day in the NY-26th, it didn't take Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, long to say that it was in fact the Democrats plan to beat the hell out of the GOP with Medicare reform, as if anyone needed to be told.

Even in one of the most Republican districts, seniors and independent voters rejected the Republican plan to end Medicare. The American people will continue to hold House Republicans accountable for their plan to end Medicare from now until election day 2012.

The lesson was certainly not lost on Ron Zerban, a Democrat running against Ryan in 2012, who told Talking Points Memo:

I just am overwhelmed at the results from this election [in the NY-26th]. It's a harbinger of things to come. I'm certainly going to make this a key issue in the 1st Congressional District in Wisconsin. Democrats are going to focus on how we can actually shore up, strengthen and keep Medicare solvent, and this will be a clear distinction in the 2012 cycle.

Just to beat this argument to a pulp, as noted above, the Republicans were quite successful in frightening seniors during the midterm elections that Obama's health care plan would somehow work to deny them treatment or interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. Everyone recalls the bizarre signs at protest rallies saying things like "keep your government hands off my Medicare." That may have been a silly comment, but it spoke volumes about how attached people are to Medicare and how ready they are to punish politicians they think are going to tamper with it.

Elderly voters who turned against President Obama's Democrats last year for tampering with Medicare are now threatening to punish Republicans in the 2012 election over their plans to scale back the health care program for seniors.

The shift will likely be most pronounced in important swing states with older populations such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and New Mexico.

It's interesting to note that of this list of states, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have new Republican governors whose cost cutting measures are being greeted by plummeting polling numbers. To be sure, I suspect that Paul Ryan is not unaware of the relatively older demographic of his own state.

Yes, it's hard to beat incumbents, but there is something plaintive about the way Paul Ryan has been asking that Democrats not "use" the Medicare issue to their own political advantage. It's almost as if he knows that he may have screwed up in a big way, even to the point of putting his own congressional seat at risk.

But, to be clear, what the Democrats have been doing is simply speaking the truth about what Paul Ryan and the Republicans plan to do to Medicare. If Ryan wants to call that "demagoguing," he really needs to get himself a dictionary.

It is hard to know what issues will be top of mind on election day 2012, especially if the economic recovery continues to be weak. Right now, though, a plan to take something so important away from so many people seems like a safe bet to do electoral damage to those most responsible.

In an otherwise nonsensical piece in the Washington Post by Jennifer Rubin, she offered her opinion that Paul Ryan, by virtue of his budget plan and his attempt to sell it, has become the de facto leader of the Republican Party. She thinks that's a good thing. I wouldn't be so sure.

No, no one's going to take Ryan down by running a local campaign. The only way he loses this one is if he beats himself. Lucky for Democrats he's giving it his best shot.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost)

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Stanley Cup finals, the Vancouver Canucks, and hockey in Canada

I grew up in Montreal and, as you might imagine (if you know anything about hockey), am a Habs fan, but when it comes to this year's Stanley Cup finals between Boston and Vancouver, the choice for me is clear. It's the Canucks all the way. Partly it's ABB -- Anyone But Boston. I despise the Bruins. But it would also be nice for a Canadian team to win the Cup. It hasn't happened since the Canadiens won for the 24th time in 1993.

As you may have heard, if you didn't see the game, Vancouver won the series opener 1-0 last night with the deciding goal scored late in the third period -- actually, with just 18.5 second left.

Actually, these are extremely good times for hockey in Canada. (And it's about time.) We won the men's and women's Olympic gold medals in Vancouver last year. We have the Canucks. And now we also have a new team, the Winnipeg somethings (Jets?), with the announcement just this week that the Atlanta Thrashers, struggling in a virtually non-existent hockey market, had been sold and would move to Manitoba.

The NHL's -- and specifically commissioner Gary Bettman's -- ridiculous expansion plan into non-hockey markets in the U.S., all to secure revenue (mostly from a TV deal) that hasn't come, has been, for the most part, an embarrassing failure. While some franchises have done fairly well, like Dallas, others have struggled badly, like Atlanta, Phoenix, Nashville, and the two Florida teams. (To be fair, other franchises even in major markets have struggled as well, like the Islanders, on Long Island.)

Instead of trying to make it where hockey barely registers, it would be far better for the NHL to focus on traditional hockey markets with committed fan bases. Winnipeg is a start, but Quebec City should have a team again (the Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche, just as the Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes) and the Toronto area, the most important hockey market in the world, should have a second team, either in Hamilton, a city roughly halfway between Toronto and Buffalo, or somewhere even closer to Toronto. We could certainly sustain both the Maple Leafs and another team.

Other than Toronto/Hamilton, these Canadian cities, like Winnipeg and Quebec City, may be smaller than Atlanta and Phoenix, but it's not the size of the city or metropolitan area, it's the commitment to hockey. And we have it. Oh, do we have it.

But back to the game...

I have one team and one team only: the Montreal Canadiens. I grew up with them, I idolized Lafleur and Robinson and Dryden and the rest of the players on those great teams of the '70s, and I was there with my dad, at the old Forum, when they won the Cup against the Rangers in 1979. We've won the Cup twice since then, but it's been a challenging time in recent years for the greatest, most glorious franchise in the history of hockey.

I don't always root for the Canadian teams next -- I also despise the Maple Leafs, for example, and I wouldn't always go for the Canadian team over the American -- but this year I really do hope we get the Cup back. Go Canucks!

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Is Michele Bachmann the savior of the GOP?

TNR's Jonathan Chait has been providing some of the smartest commentary I've read anywhere on the 2012 Republican presidential race -- and his post yesterday on Michele Bachmann's opportunity was no exception.

As I do, Chait sees Tim Pawlenty as "he only candidate acceptable both to party elites and to grassroots activists," and therefore as a possible "default" winner of the nomination. (I would just note that, to me, Pawlenty is looking more and more hopeless.) Mitt Romney may be the presumptive frontrunner, but there's just no way the party's rabid right-wing base will allow him to be chosen. (Is there?) And given how weak the hardcore conservatives in the field are (Rick Santorum, Herman Cain), Pawlenty may be able to secure enough conservative support to emerge as the alternative either to Romney or to some other "moderate" (in relative Republican terms), like Rudy Giuliani or Jon Huntsman.

But while Pawlenty is trying hard to portray himself as a bona fide conservative, there are just too many holes in his record, not to mention the fact that he's just not that engaging a figure. Which leaves the door open for a genuine right-wing ideologue to step in and secure the conservative vote. Sarah Palin could be that person, but she's highly unlikely to run and in any event doesn't have nearly the support she used to. Paul Ryan is a possibility, but his budget plan, however much Republicans are circling the wagons to defend it as party orthodoxy, is toxic with the general public. I suspect he won't run. There are others, like Jim DeMint, but as Chait points out the one figure who could actually pull it off is none other than Michele Bachmann:

The candidate best positioned to win this constituency is Michelle Bachmann, who I've also been touting as a dark horse. She's been honing her pitch before Tea Party rallies for two years, building a national constituency and a fund-raising base. A Sarah Palin candidacy would probably siphon off too much of her base, but Palin doesn't seem to be preparing to run. And if Palin doesn't run, and an outsider like Paul Ryan doesn't run, then you're looking at a field overloaded with candidates catering to the small pragmatic wing and nearly devoid of candidates catering to the Tea Party base.


[W]hile Bachmann may be even crazier than Palin on questions of public policy, she seems to manage to hold things together as a candidate. She can answer questions from the news media. She is putting together a professional campaign rather than relying on amateur advisors. She takes care to point out frequently that she is a former tax lawyer, and she does not engage in Palin's visceral anti-intellectualism, giving herself the aura of a plausible president, at least in the minds of Republican voters. Bachmann may well combine Palin's most powerful traits without her crippling organizational failures.

It's worth keeping in mind that the 2010 election cycle featured a long series of conservative upstarts shocking the mainstream media by knocking off establishment-approved candidates in nominating contests. Obviously, the nominating contest is a series of state-level nominating primaries generally dominated by an activist base. Right now, the right wing of the party nominating field is a vacuum. Somebody is going to fill that vacuum.

Republicans are desperate to fill it, which is why so many names are being thrown around as possible saviors. But a lot of big names are going to sit this one out, not least because Obama looks formidable, but also because they don't want to have to play to the Tea Party right and its various litmus tests. And so it would take someone who is delusional enough to think that he or she could win, or someone who is so convinced of his or her own righteousness that he or she puts principle before performance, or both. And yet also someone with some serious political skills and the talent to advance the sort of right-wing agenda that excites the base.

Well, that's Bachmann, isn't it? Maybe so. How crazy is that?

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Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's chances for re-election

By Richard K. Barry 

In my never ending quest to get a better handle on the more interesting political races coming up in 2012, I now turn my attention to Democrat Bill Nelson's Florida senate seat.

It's always interesting to see a politician who won the last time by such an overwhelming margin be considered in either a toss-up situation, as both The Cook Report and Roll Call have it, or as only marginally well placed to win, as Rothenberg sees it.

Nelson beat Republican Kathleen Harris in 2006 by a margin of 60.3% to 38.1%. You may recall that, as Florida Secretary of State, Harris played a pivotal role in stealing the presidential election for George W. Bush in 2000 and was, on account of that, a polarizing figure in the campaign before self-destructing. But I digress.

The point is simply that Nelson won handily in 2006 and yet is getting little respect from the leading political prognosticators in the business.

So what do we know?

Well, I think the first thing you'd have to notice is that the relatively new Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott is one of the least popular politicians in the country, and that can't hurt an incumbent Democratic senator's chances in 2012 in the same state. Scott is not alone as an unpopular Republican governor, but he has distinguished himself as a particularly loathsome hack, if I do say so myself.

As Bloomberg reports:

Scott took office in January and by April his disapproval among voters doubled after he called for cutting spending in schools and health care to close a $3.8 billion deficit. In May, his popularity was at the lowest in five months.

So, there's that working in Nelson's favour.

What else can we say?

A Quinnipac University poll released on May 26th had Obama's approval rating in Florida at 51%, admittedly fueled by the killing of Osama bin Laden, but a bump's a bump.

Accord to The Miami Herald, the poll also indicated that the Republicans may have quite a task ahead of them in their attempt to unseat Senator Nelson:

Nelson holds leads of between 20 to 25 points over three hypothetical contenders: former U.S. Senator George LeMieux, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos and former state Representative Adam Hasner.

It is no doubt early days in determining who the GOP challenger will be, but those are not good numbers for any of them.

Although, Peter Brown, the assistant director at Quinnipac, says that while Nelson appears to be in good shape, he does not win 50% against any of the three putative contenders. For some reason unclear to me Brown calls 50% the "magic threshold" that signals an incumbent will be difficult to beat. It is a nice round number. Maybe that's it.

Whatever the reason, that could be why the major handicappers are calling it a toss-up or very nearly. But Nelson still seems awfully strong especially considering one more number from the poll indicating that he has an approval rating of 51%, including 39% among Republicans.

I do note that a Public Policy Polling poll from December 2010 had Nelson with a job approval rating of just 36%, a disapproval rating of 33%, and another 31% not sure. This, of course, would have been back in the dark days after the disastrous midterm elections, but it does indicate a certain volatility amongst voters in The Sunshine State.

The same poll suggested that Jeb Bush would be the only Republican with a realistic chance of beating Bill Nelson, but, so far, apart from a Facebook page urging Jeb to run, I'm not finding much indication that Mr. Bush is so inclined. I suppose that could change.

Not for nothin', but, baring surprising developments, this race sure looks like the kind that hinges strongly on how well Obama ends up doing. In fact, we could say that about almost all of the Democratic senate races that are deemed close at this point, which may end up being good news for the Dems since I think Obama will do just fine in 2012.

Come to think of it, I'm not all that worried about Senator Nelson after all, no matter what Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg think. What do they know?

But in all seriousness, if you go back to just after the midterms, it seemed like it wasn't that hard to find people writing Nelson's political obituary and now not so much. I wonder how many twists and turns there will be on this one before November 2012? Maybe that's what Cook and Rothenberg know.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Is Sarah Palin duping her supporters into funding her bus tour?

So, how's Sarah Palin paying for this grand tour anyway?

At the Statue of Liberty today, ABC News asked the former Alaska governor how much her tour has cost so far and how she's paying for it.

"How am I paying for it? SarahPAC," she said, adding that she's traveling in "our own personal motor home that we've had in Alaska."

Palin didn't answer when asked how long she's owned the bus that's adorned with the Constitution and a larger-than-life version of her signature. When asked, twice, how much her "One Nation Tour" has cost four days into the trip, she got visibly irritated.

"Check," she said. "I don't know why in the world you would ask a question like that. I'm just thinking about America and our foundations and our freedoms and our opportunities. Why would you ask something..."

So here's what seems to be happening...

While the signs -- the bus tour, the movie, etc. -- are pointing to a presidential run, there's really no evidence at all that she plans on running. In fact, political insiders think she won't run and whatever evidence there is actually suggests she has no intention of running. As she has done before, she is tantalizing us, and mostly the media and her supporters, with the possibility of a run. And, as usual, we're playing right along.

What does this have to do with who's paying for her bus tour? Well, by her own admission, her PAC is paying for it. Which is to say, her supporters are paying for it, those who have donated to SarahPAC: does not currently offer any information about how much money has been spent on the tour. It does, however, feature a big green "Donate" button, inviting visitors to help fund Palin's trip across the nation.

Adverisements on sites like also encourage Palin fans to donate.

But why are they donating? Are they donating just to support the bus tour, one that includes a pizza dinner with Donald Trump? Or are they donating because they think she's running for president and that the bus tour is one of the first steps in what may be an unconventional rollout? I'd guess the latter, which means that Palin is basically duping her supporters into stuffing her coffers, into financing her egomaniacal quest for the spotlight, which had begun to fade for her, and for a life of luxury (in case you were wondering, she's not living on the bus), both on the tour and generally. It's one thing for Fox News to pay her loads of money to be whatever it is she is for that network. It's quite another for her to deceive her supporters, many of whom no doubt don't have much money to begin with, into adding to her wealth. (And getting "visibly irritated" when asked about the bus tour. Why get defensive? What is she hiding?)

It would be one thing if she were running. In that case, her supporters, her donors, would have every reason to get involved and help finance her campaign. But while I think there's a very small chance she runs, which is more than I would have said even just a couple of weeks ago, I remain (almost) certain she won't. Maybe some of her donors are just happy to have her back in public again, back in the glare of 24/7 media attention/obsession, but I wonder how many of them realize they're just subsidizing her own money-making efforts -- for what else is this ridiculous bus tour but an effort to recover her star and to profit even more off her stardom?

If you give money to SarahPAC, it seems, you're a sucker.

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Most Obnoxious Republican of the Day: Jeff Landry

Ed. note: As it turns out, both Richard and I wrote about this at roughly the same time. (You know what they say about great minds.) Instead of having two pretty similar posts, I thought I'd just merge our two posts into one. -- MJWS



A freshman GOP lawmaker rejected an invitation to the White House on Wednesday, saying he didn't want to be "lectured" by President Obama.

"I have respectfully declined the president's invitation to the White House today," Rep. Jeff Landry (La.) said in a statement. "I don't intend to spend my morning being lectured to by a president whose failed policies have put our children and grandchildren in a huge burden of debt."

Respectfully, Rep. Landry, you're an idiot. And you're a speck of dust compared to President Obama. You think you'd be lectured, but really you'd just be exposed as an ideological extremist and partisan hack. Like the rest of your party.

Failed policies?

Like the auto bailout that saved tens of thousands of jobs and rescued the auto industry -- and a huge swathe of the U.S. economy connected to that industry, from the brink of destruction?

Like the Wall Street bailout that saved the economy, and global credit markets, from plunging into catastropic collapse?

Like agreeing to extend the Bush tax cuts, including for the wealthy? Isn't that something you liked?

Like TARP? Hey, even Paul Ryan voted for that.

And if you really think it's Obama who has "put our children and grandchildren in a huge burden of debt," you really are an ignorant fool. Do you have no historical memory at all? Do you remember anything that happened before 2008?



We have an occasional feature here at The Reaction called the "Craziest Republican of the Day."

Just this one time I want to modify that slightly to make Republican Louisiana Congressman Jeff Landry the "Most Obnoxious Republican of the Day."

I do this because Landry rejected an invitation to meet with the president at the White House on Wednesday because he didn't want "to be lectured to" by President Obama. This was as part of a meeting that the president had scheduled with the entire GOP House caucus.

According to the The Hill, Landry said the following:

I have respectfully declined the president's invitation to the White House today. I don't intend to spend my morning being lectured to by the president whose failed policies have put our children and grandchildren in a huge burden of debt.

This is just pathetic. If our national leaders can't show each other the common courtesy of meeting to discuss the policies we need to move the country forward, we are in more trouble than any of us thought possible. I know Landry must be hoping this will play well back home, but our elected representatives have to be better than this.

The office of the presidency has to be respected no matter how little regard one may have for the individual holding the office. Conservatism used to be about respecting tradition and process. In so many ways this current crop of Republicans aren't conservatives at all. They're miserable little brats.

Hey Landry. I'll do you one better. Go fuck yourself.

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Admitting A Truth

By Carl
I'm sure this won't happen, at least in the US, anytime in the near future, but you have to admit there's an awful lot of sense here:

The Global Commission on Drug Policy report calls for the legalisation of some drugs and an end to the criminalisation of drug users.

The panel includes former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the former leaders of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, and the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.

The US and Mexican governments have rejected the findings as misguided.

The Global Commission's 24-page report argues that anti-drug policy has failed by fuelling organised crime, costing taxpayers millions of dollars and causing thousands of deaths.

It cites UN estimates that opiate use increased 35% worldwide from 1998 to 2008, cocaine by 27%, and cannabis by 8.5%.

No doubts the jump in usage is coincident to the increase in worldwide wealth gained from American companies outsourcing American jobs to countries that pay less than American wages, thus bringing to those countries the uniquely American problem of work-related stress disorders.

I'm very much on the fence about this. Some drugs, opiates in particular, have a track record that is, well, less than ideal for introduction into society legally. Most are on prescription as having medical uses, and it seems to me that this might be the way to go for these classes of drugs: expand the prescriptive framework. Allow doctors to prescribe them more often for uses that people are already abusing them for, but with strict monitoring and follow up. Hell, we administer Prozac and Ritalin as if they were candy to any yahoo who can persuade a psychologist that his boredom or sheer idiocy is symptomatic of some disorder that sees sixteen squirrels running around his brain.

To coin a scenario.

Yes, there will be blindspots and oversights and people will slip thru the cracks but it almost certainly has to be better than having near-100% illegality. The current situation is untenable. Too, it creates shortages of medications that people actually need (try getting a box of Sudafed someday.)

On the other hand lie drugs that are clearly over-protected, that have a more benign history, that rightly could and maybe should take their places alongside such mood-altering substances as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and sugar.

Indeed, that last may be triggering an awful lot of excuses people have for medicating. Overmedicating with sugar leads to obesity, depression, and sleep disorders, among other effects.

If all these are going to be basically un- and at least under-regulated, then other substances like marijuana deserve "a day in court": serious study for legalization, and if not, then full decriminalization.

Too, from an economic standpoint, lifting the war on drugs would improve Third World economies enormously, not least from simply avoiding destruction of valuable farmland and the price that crime and criminals take out of a native population. Imagine Mexican farmers growing pot without worrying which drug cartel is in charge and what happens if another muscles in. Or perhaps the price of marijuana will drop enough that they plant a food crop instead.

It sure as hell would make our borders more secure, too.

Wars on nebulosities, like poverty or drugs or terrorism, inevitably butt up against a simple truth: where is the finish line?

In the case of poverty, the finish line was arbitrarily drawn by the haters at five years, and you'd better have your act together by then. That maybe the only war that we can control, because people in poverty don't want to be in poverty and will work with us to beat their own poverty back if given the opportunity.

People who supply drugs or terror are antithetical to the goals of those "wars": they want the war to lose. And if they can make us spend the energy and resources to beat them, even if we succeed, another crop will rise up to take its place. It is neverending war, by definition.

In the case of terror, the answer is simple. As Peter Gabriel once famously observed, you only achieve true security and peace by respecting the rights of others. There will still be terror attacks, true. For a while. Until the strength of a peaceful nation shows not in retaliation but in resilience. Once terrorists realize they can't do enough harm to topple us, they'll leave it be.

The case of the war on drugs, I think, is best won by admitting there really wasn't a war to begin with, that it was a marketing plan cooked up by people who were shocked that other people were having fun. Once we get over that hurdle and start to look into the causes of the use of drugs, we will have taken a large step in the direction of civilization.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)


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