Category Archives: Republicans

You know you’ve gone too far in attacking Obama when the WSJ defends him

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Meant to post this the other day…

I kind of went “Huh?” when I saw that Marco Rubio had been critical of President Obama’s visit to a mosque, saying POTUS is “always pitting Americans against each other.”

From Trump and Cruz I expect such non sequitur grumbling. Not from Rubio.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board agreed with me the next day:

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio gave PresidentObama a hard time for his speech Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, and we wonder if the Florida Senator read it. The speech was one of Mr. Obama’s best attempts to fulfill the promise he made in 2008 to promote racial and political comity.

We’ll admit to expecting worse, since Mr. Obama has typically addressed the issue of Islam by apologizing for Western behavior (2009 in Cairo) or analogizing Islamic State to the Christian Crusades (2015 National Prayer Breakfast). But in Baltimore he sought to reassure Muslims about their place in this country by invoking the best traditions of American religious freedom and tolerance….

Yeah. That’s pretty much what I heard.

Weekend’s best video: GOP intro and ‘Bern Your Enthusiasm’

Some of you may think the best thing on TV was a football game, but I beg to differ.

The above and the below beat that by a mile.

As wonderful as good satire (below) can be, in this year it’s hard for deliberate comedy to match real life (above) on the campaign trail…

Things seem to be lining up to create Mo for Marco in SC

The Rubio camp released the above video today.

It’s kind of minimalist — doesn’t say a lot. But then, TV ads tend to be that way; this one just seems more that way than most.

But it brings up the subject of… Things are building a bit for Marco Rubio in South Carolina, a state that he had always planned to do well in.

He won the Mainstream Republican race in Iowa… Tim Scott endorsed him… now Rick Santorum has done the same

… which national observers think won’t mean much in New Hampshire, but could mean a good bit here in the Bible Belt — specifically, in South Carolina.

Are they right? I don’t know. But I’m sensing some Mo for Marco.

No, I take that back. I’m not actually feeling the Mo yet. It’s like surfing — when you feel your board rising, it’s a bit late to start paddling to catch it. This is more like when you’re looking over your shoulder and seeing what could turn into a righteous wave by the time it gets to you…

‘Brushfires of Liberty’: Rand Paul drops out, too

GOP chorus

A little less like a chorus line now (I don’t even RECOGNIZE the fourth guy from the right! Pataki? Is he that tall?)

First, Mike Huckabee and Martin O’Malley quit during the Iowa caucuses, so that their passing was hardly noted.

Now, Rand Paul has joined them, in true Paulista style: “Brushfires of Liberty were ignited, and those will carry on, as will I.” (See, this is one of the things about ideologues that kind of gives me the fantods. All that talk about setting fires and extremism being no vice, etc.)

So now that they’ve joined Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb and others I’m probably forgetting, this is starting to look a presidential election rather than a revival of “A Chorus Line.”

Of course, on the GOP side, we need someone other than the undercard candidates to quit in order to help us focus. Several someones, in fact. Y’all know that I think political parties are pretty meaningless constructs, but if the mainstream Republicans still running (but not in the running) want to show that they do believe in their party (I’m picturing the Cowardly Lion: “I DO believe in parties! I DO believe in parties! I do I do I do I do…“), now would be a good time to quit and throw their support to a single rational candidate. Increasingly, as weird as that would have seemed when he first came on the scene, it looks as though that candidate would be Marco Rubio.

Or at least get it down to two, so that the Establishment has something of a chance against the two Unthinkables.

As to Rand Paul… Bob Amundson asked this morning:

Doug, who will libertarian voters support now that Rand Paul is dropping out?

Well, we sort of already have an answer from Doug (although I urge him to answer the question himself). Yesterday, he said:

Do you REALLY think your vote in the Republican primary could ever impact the results? If you’re voting for the most liberal Republican, it won’t make a difference.

I suppose I could skip the Republican primary and vote for Sanders because I’d prefer him over Hillary every day of the week and twice on Sunday… but what’s the point? I’m not voting in either because the only candidate I would ever support hasn’t got a chance – Paul.

I hope all of y’all will join me in urging Doug to pick a candidate he considers least bad (a Republican, or Sanders, or whomever), rather than surrender his franchise. Note that I’m arguing against my own inclinations here, since whoever is next on Doug’s list is likely to be last on mine, but I believe that strongly in his right and duty as a citizen.

This is the moment in the film when the crusty sergeant slaps the private back and forth across the face several times telling him, “You’re a MARINE, dammit! Snap out of it!” And the private says, “Thanks, I needed that,” and gets up and does his duty… OK, OK, so it doesn’t work with me as the crusty sergeant, or Doug as the private. I’m more the officer who taught school in peacetime and is working on his novel between battles, and is given to spontaneous lectures about Why We Fight. Doug is more the recalcitrant misfit who instead punches the sergeant for touching him and ends up in the stockade, again. (There’s a WWII B movie stereotype for everybody!)

But my point is, Doug should vote…

chorus line

Thoughts about the GOP debate last night?

694940094001_4727215413001_6c5812e4-26b9-4cb9-9f6f-09738c65eb37

Consider this to be a sort of open thread, since I don’t have a lot to say about last night’s debate in Des Moines. I only put up 19 Tweets (not counting a couple on other topics) during the whole thing, which for me is like being unconscious or something.

But to get us started…

  • Trump’s absence did not elevate the discussion. So, you know, he’s not the whole problem.
  • Cruz started out acting like this was his personal stage and he was welcoming people to it, but then got all whiny when that turned out not to be the case.
  • I’ve decided that I know who Ben Carson is. He’s the kid who almost never gets into the game, and when he does they put him in right field, where he spends the game dreading the possibility that the ball might come to him. When a late swing by a right-hander produces a high pop fly in his direction, he’s like “Oh, no! A foreign policy question! Everybody’s looking at me, and they know and I know I’m going to flub it!”
  • Did you hear Carson say, “saber-rabbling?” Others on Twitter told me they did. Did Cruz really say “vigorousness?” That one surprised me because he likes to do impressions of JFK, whose favorite word was “vigah.” (His impressions are OK, but he confuses Jack with Bobby.)
  • I still think that Jeb Bush may be the safest bet if one of these guy has to occupy the White House, but he just cannot connect. It’s not just that the GOP electorate has gone nuts this year and is looking for crazy. Even without that, he’d be struggling. He doesn’t seem to be able to say anything in an engaging manner. He is just not good at this. As I Tweeted at one point, “As a speaker, Marco Rubio is everything Jeb Bush is not.”
  • I didn’t know who the blonde woman was until about halfway through. I thought she kinda looked like the one Trump hates, but the hair really threw me. Then I felt dumb, even though I never pretend to keep up with TV news personalities. (Also, in my defense — I don’t look at the screen much during these things. I’m busy Tweeting or reading other people’s Tweets.)
  • A writer at Salon was very impressed with Ms. Kelly’s montages of past statements by Cruz and Rubio about immigration. I zoned out of it because 1) I know Rubio has changed his tune on the subject, and 2) I don’t care whether Cruz has or not, because he’s disqualified himself from my consideration in so many other ways. After all that, I wrote, “Did anyone else start thinking about just going ahead and going to bed during that duel between Rubio and Bush over immigration?.”
  • I keep wondering when they’re going to bring out the real candidates. As Lindsey Graham Tweeted earlier this week, “The is more believable and serious than the GOP primary for president right now.”
  • I covered the GOP debate in Des Moines (sponsored by the Register) in 1980. Ronald Reagan skipped that one, just as Trump did this one. It was a better debate. The conventional wisdom on it was that Reagan lost by not being there. (And indeed, Bush won the caucuses.) Nobody was saying that last night.
  • On alternate days I like to like Chris Christie. Last night wasn’t one of those times. He says too many stupid things in stooping to conquer, such as when he said he preferred officeholder who are “from outside Washington.” I mean, hey — everybody serving in Washington is from outside Washington. I did praise him, though, when he declined the opportunity to pander about that court clerk from Kentucky. So I stretched to give him a compliment:

That’s enough from me. What did y’all think?

Henry McMaster’s shocking endorsement of Trump. Yeah, DONALD Trump…

OK, this is a stunner.

Henry McMaster — former state Republican Party chairman, moderate and modest soul, the guy who stuck by John McCain in 2007 when everybody said he had no chance at the nomination, and who is therefore not a guy to jump onto any bandwagon that comes along — has just endorsed Donald Trump.

And not in an “I surrender; we might as well cooperate with the inevitable” way, either. He used language he might well have used to describe McCain, or George H.W. Bush, or Mitt Romney:

He’s not a bomb thrower, not an impulsive man. He thinks things through. He’s very careful. He takes advice. He listens. He seeks advice. He’s very gentle, fine manners, very courteous.

Um, Henry… Could you step over here a second? I want you to meet somebody…. Henry, meet Donald Trump… Because I don’t know who it was you were talking to and thinking it was Donald Trump.

Wow. Just wow…

I mean, Bob Dole trying to talk himself into settling for Trump was bad enough, but this

ARRRGGGGHHH! Marco Rubio just lost ground with me

I’ve been struggling to figure out which candidate I’ll vote for next month, and Marco Rubio has been in the mix for consideration (since he meets the critical “not Trump or Cruz” criterion).

But he just lost a lot of ground with me.

Watch the above ad. It’s only 30 seconds.

Did you hear it? Did it grate on you as much as it did on me?

Yes, he really did say, “It’s time for a president…” (note that — A president, as in just one) “… who will put THEIR left hand on the Bible and THEIR right hand in the air, and keep THEIR promise to uphold the Constitution…”

ARRRGGGHHHH!!!!

I really don’t think I’ve ever heard it done so egregiously by any candidate for any office — three times in one sentence!

Yes, we’re a republic, but that’s no excuse for abusing the Queen’s English so…

Chris Christie touts tenuous link to Lindsey Graham

Some of y’all who are always belittling my main senator, Lindsey Graham, may think he gets no respect on the national scene, given how poorly his erstwhile presidential campaign did.

But you’re all wrong, as evidenced by Chris Christie’s eagerness to connect himself to the South Carolinian, even at second hand:

 

 

Former McCain NH Chairman and Lindsey Graham Supporter Peter Spaulding Endorses Chris Christie for President

 

For Immediate Release:                                                 Contact: press@chrischristie.com

Monday, January 25, 2016

MORRISTOWN, NJ – At a press conference in Concord today flanked by several additional members of Senator McCain’s former New Hampshire leadership teams, Peter Spaulding announced his support for Governor Christie. Spaulding was chairman of Senator McCain’s successful 2000 and 2008 bids for president in New Hampshire. He had previously endorsed Senator Graham in the 2016 race.

Spaulding was joined at the press conference by Wayne MacDonald, Paul Chevalier, Sheriff Scott Hilliard, Richard Brothers, Jim Burke, Bernie Streeter, and Dan St. Hilaire who were members of Senator McCain’s 2000 or 2008 New Hampshire leadership teams.

“Chris Christie has the extensive executive and leadership experience that our country needs in these very difficult times. He is also the only candidate who has a proven record of meeting the terrorist threat to our nation head on,” said Peter Spaulding. “I am proud to support him.”

“As we get closer to the primary and we continue to see the growing momentum on the ground in New Hampshire, I am honored to receive Peter’s endorsement,” said Governor Christie. “Peter has a deep understanding of the Granite State and the qualities voters here are looking for in their next president. His support in the coming weeks will be incredibly helpful.”

Peter Spaulding was New Hampshire Chairman of US Senator John McCain’s successful presidential primary campaigns in the first-in-the-nation primary. He also served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1988, 1996, 2000 & 2008. He was Chair of the New Hampshire Delegation in 2000 and 2008.

Spaulding, currently Chairman of the Merrimack County Board of Commissioners, served as an Executive Councilor from 1983 to 2006. He previously served as a county commissioner from 1970-1992.

Spaulding is a New Hampshire native who grew up in Bradford, NH. He earned a BA from the University of New Hampshire in 1966.

View the full New Hampshire endorsement list here. 

So there…

Rubio is a pawn star in new ad

I visited Marco Rubio HQ over on Huger earlier this week. If I hadn’t known exactly where it was (in the building that used to be a flag store), I might have driven past it. There was no signage visible from the road other than one of those wheeled signs with the movable letters.

I was there to touch base with Buzz Jacobs, newly named senior adviser to the campaign. Buzz was one of the architects of John McCain’s come-from-behind (remember when they said he was out of it, in mid-2007) victory here in 2008.

Nothing to report on that conversation — we just spent the time catching up, off the record. But I did ask him to put me on the Rubio email list — I’m sort of inundated with stuff from Cruz and Christie, but hadn’t been getting anything from this campaign.

Buzz obliged, and so I share with you the above new ad, which came in this morning.

I’m not entirely sure of the value of being hawked as a great investment by a pawn shop owner, but hey, there are popular TV shows now about that business, right? So what do I know? (And I find myself trying to place the background music — I think I heard it on a video game I had years ago.)

One thing Buzz did tell me was that they would have a more noticeable sign out front soon. And he meant really soon, because there were some young guys putting it up as I was leaving.

So it seems the Rubio campaign is getting settled in for the home stretch in South Carolina…

“Bloggers are we, born to be free…”

Did you see Rep. Mike Pitts’ proposal that journalists be registered?

To his credit, Mr. Pitts apparently did this ironically. The intention, apparently, is to mount a facetious attack on the First Amendment to make a point about the Second, which doesn’t really make sense, but don’t stop him; he’s on a roll.

Anyway, last night Bryan asked, via Twitter, whether this would also apply to bloggers.

No way, I responded defiantly:

Apparently, Trump and Palin have the same first language, and (surprise!) it’s not English

Had you listened to Donald Trump and wondered where you had heard that peculiar, gushing, bouncing-around, non-linear mode of expression before?

Yesterday, we were reminded where, when Sarah Palin endorsed him. Thanks to The Fix for providing the transcript of what it terms “Sarah Palin’s rambling, remarkable and at times hard to understand endorsement of Donald Trump.” Some excerpts:

“He is from the private sector, not a politician. Can I get a ‘Hallelujah!’ Where, in the private sector, you actually have to balance budgets in order to prioritize, to keep the main thing, the main thing, and he knows the main thing: a president is to keep us safe economically and militarily. He knows the main thing, and he knows how to lead the charge. So troops, hang in there, because help’s on the way because he, better than anyone, isn’t he known for being able to command, fire! Are you ready for a commander in chief, you ready for a commander in chief who will let our warriors do their job and go kick ISIS ass? Ready for someone who will secure our borders, to secure our jobs, and to secure our homes? Ready to make America great again, are you ready to stump for Trump? I’m here to support the next president of the United States, Donald Trump….

“Trump’s candidacy, it has exposed not just that tragic ramifications of that betrayal of the transformation of our country, but too, he has exposed the complicity on both sides of the aisle that has enabled it, okay? Well, Trump, what he’s been able to do, which is really ticking people off, which I’m glad about, he’s going rogue left and right, man, that’s why he’s doing so well. He’s been able to tear the veil off this idea of the system. The way that the system really works, and please hear me on this, I want you guys to understand more and more how the system, the establishment, works, and has gotten us into the troubles that we are in in America. The permanent political class has been doing the bidding of their campaign donor class, and that’s why you see that the borders are kept open. For them, for their cheap labor that they want to come in. That’s why they’ve been bloating budgets. It’s for crony capitalists to be able suck off of them. It’s why we see these lousy trade deals that gut our industry for special interests elsewhere. We need someone new, who has the power, and is in the position to bust up that establishment to make things great again. It’s part of the problem.

“His candidacy, which is a movement, it’s a force, it’s a strategy. It proves, as long as the politicos, they get to keep their titles, and their perks, and their media ratings, they don’t really care who wins elections. Believe me on this. And the proof of this? Look what’s happening today. Our own GOP machine, the establishment, they who would assemble the political landscape, they’re attacking their own front-runner. Now would the Left ever, would the DNC ever come after their front-runner and her supporters? No, because they don’t eat their own, they don’t self-destruct. But for the GOP establishment to be coming after Donald Trump’s supporters even, with accusations that are so false. They are so busted, the way that this thing works….

Oh, go read the whole thing. Just be careful you don’t get whiplash…

Yeah, Parliament’s vote about Trump IS embarrassing

I got this release from the DNC today:

Today, the governing body of one of the United States’ closest allies will debate whether to bar the Republican Party’s frontrunner from their country for “Hate Speech.” Setting aside the serious diplomatic implications of the United Kingdom barring a potential U.S. president from their shores, this shameful and embarrassing spectacle shines a light on the Republican candidates’ vitriolic rhetoric and discriminatory policies that undermine our values, alienate partners we need to prosecute the war on terror, and make our country and our people less safe. Today’s debate underscores just how far Republicans have moved to the extreme right and how out-of-touch they are….

Of course, I could do my usual thing and deconstruct that piece as typical overblown rhetoric from one side making generalizations about the other (as though all Republicans were Trump).

But you know what? They do have a point here: This really is embarrassing, and not just for Republicans. It’s embarrassing to America that someone who would attract this kind of attention is doing so well in the run-up to our presidential election.

All of our faces should be red. Because Trump’s supporters are unlikely to feel the embarrassment. We have to do it for them…

This was the only picture of Parliament I could find in my files. That's me in late 2010.

This was the only picture of Parliament I could find in my files. That’s me in late 2010.

In the studio with Todd and Joel on Cynthia Hardy’s show

Studio

Just sharing this shot of Rep. Todd Atwater, Sen. Joel Lourie and me in the studio during Cynthia Hardy’s On Point radio show on the Big DM this evening.

Note that Todd is alert and looking around, Joel is playing the nerd studying the notes he had brought with him about the SOTU and Gov. Haley’s response, and I’m staring at my phone, probably writing this Tweet:

Which prompted Rob Godfrey from the governor’s office to respond:

Yes, this is a very self-referential blog post. But then, blogs tend to be that way as a medium — they are to journalism what selfies are to photography.

We had a good discussion, with everyone on board with agreeing with both the president and the governor in their calls for greater civility and less negativity. In fact, if our Legislature consisted entirely of Joel Louries and Todd Atwaters, we’d get a lot more done at the State House.

Not that there wasn’t sincere disagreement. Todd and Joel had a pretty good back-and-forth about Obamacare and Medicaid expansion. At one point I almost jumped in on Joel’s side, when Todd said it was a shame the president didn’t meet Republicans halfway on the issue.

Hey, I was about to say, the president and the Democrats did meet Republicans halfway and more from the get-go — before the debate on the Act was joined, before the president was even elected.

That happened when Obama didn’t run advocating for single-payer, which is the one really rational approach to healthcare. And he backed away from that in deference to the wall of Republican resistance that already existed against it. So he and the other Dems started out with a compromise position.

But then the subject changed, and we didn’t return to it. Just as well. I was being presented to listeners as the guy in the middle between Joel the Democrat and Todd the Republican, and it would have just confused everybody if I had jumped out on the one issue where I’m to the left of Bernie Sanders. That is, that’s where my position has been cast popularly — mostly by Republican resistance that has made Democrats afraid to embrace it. I don’t consider it to be to the left of anything. To me, it’s the commonsense, nonideological, pragmatic option. And a lot simpler than the ACA.

Speaking of Bernie… He and the author of Hillarycare will be on the tube in awhile, so I think I’ll stop and rest up to get ready to Tweet during that. Join me @BradWarthen if you’re so inclined.

 

Graham endorses Bush, which makes sense for him

You’ve probably heard about this by now:

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Sen. Lindsey Graham on Friday endorsed Jeb Bush for president, a major get for the former Florida governor who has struggled to gain traction in the contest.

In a press conference here, where the two stood side-by-side, Graham praised Bush, calling him a thoughtful and pragmatic figure who, unlike many of his rivals, had the experience to be president. At one point, Graham offered harsh criticism of Sen. Marco Rubio, saying that he wasn’t ready for the White House.

“I think Marco Rubio will be president of the United States someday,” Graham said. “I like him. But I wasn’t ready to be president at 44.”

Bush, Graham said, “is ready to be a commander-in-chief on Day One.”…

Umm… that doesn’t sound all that “harsh” to me. It’s not even inconsistent with the big pat on the head he gave Rubio last year, calling him a “son of Ronald Reagan.” That spurred speculation that he might back Rubio. But sons are not necessarily always ready to fill the roles of their fathers.

This makes sense for Graham. The only choices for him were Bush, Rubio, Christie and maybe Kasich. And of them all, Bush comes closest to the kind of traditional conservatism that would appeal to Graham and to South Carolina Republicans — or would have, before they lost their collective mind when Donald Trump started running.graham mug

It’s like Graham is saying to fellow Republicans — this is the guy I prefer, and he’s the one y’all would prefer if you weren’t under the influence of red kryptonite, or whatever’s gotten into you.

As for the first objection most people will have — But Bush can’t win! He’s out of it! He’s missed his chance! — that wouldn’t bother Graham. As he said at his availability in Columbia last week, there are two ways to approach choosing someone to endorse, or vote for — getting onto the bandwagon of someone with momentum, or choosing the person you honestly think would do the best job if he did get elected.

And I was thinking during the debate last night, as Bush failed yet again to get the sort of traction that would help him gain lost ground, he was the one guy on the stage who didn’t say anything really strongly objectionable. He plays the quiet, Father Knows Best role in the crowd — maybe not the most fun guy, but somebody you could trust to run the government while you’re busy living your life. The sober, stolid type who may be boring but isn’t alarming.

Which is saying something these days.

I can’t believe we’re voting next month (this just doesn’t feel right)

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., responds to a warm welcome from the audience as he approaches the microphone during a South Carolina victory party in Columbia, S.C. Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Dimly remembered: 8 years ago, there was actual excitement.

I started to say this in a comment earlier, but decided it was worth a post…

You know, this year doesn’t feel like either 2012 or 2008 — which are the only presidential years since I’ve been blogging (which affects my perception). By now, there should be a fever pitch of interest, on my part and on the parts of my readers. January 2008 was by far my biggest month for blog traffic when I was at the paper. January 2012 was huge on the blog’s post-MSM iteration.

But that absorbing interest just doesn’t seem to be there, on anyone’s part. After a high last summer with the Emanuel AME shootings and the flag coming down, my traffic has been ticking along at, if anything, a slower pace than usual. And it hasn’t picked up since Christmas, the way it usually would.

A huge part of this is me — I’m not feeling charged up, and my level and frequency of posting reflects that. But I sense that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I’m not picking up on any excitement on anyone’s part. (Please tell me if I’m wrong.) And it’s not just on the blog — I’m just not hearing all that much interest out on the street, either.

And I think a big part of is that the choices are so dispiriting.

There just doesn’t seem to be any likely good outcome from the GOP contest, which makes a sensible person want to go to sleep and leave instructions to be awakened when there’s a whole other slate of options to choose from.

But every night for what — six months or so — we’ve gone to bed each night and waked up to see Trump leading the polls. Some days, we might think we see something else on the horizon — look, somebody else is catching up to him! But then that somebody else turns out to be Ben Carson, or Ted Cruz, and you just want to give up.

Then, on the Democratic side…

It looks like, when it’s all said and done, it will be Hillary. But by the time that happens, she will be so battered and shopworn that no one will feel any enthusiasm about that outcome. There will just be a sort of weary acceptance. In fact, it feels like we reached that point some time back. Years ago, even.

Sure, there have been moments of almost-hopefulness on that side, too:

  • Joe Biden might run! Oh, no… he won’t…
  • Look, someone’s catching up to her! Dang, it’s just Bernie Sanders…
  • Hey, she did great in that debate! Maybe it won’t be so bad if she’s the nominee… but then you are soon reminded of the things, big and small, that keep you from being enthusiastic, and make you feel like you’re being marched to the inevitable by a Vogon guard who is shouting “Resistance is useless!

You tell yourself, there are some decent options on the Republican side — Jeb Bush or Mario Rubio on their good days, maybe Chris Christie when he’s not blustering or John Kasich when he’s not being crabby.

But then you think, none of them seems likely to win here. And even if one of them is the eventual nominee, it seems increasingly likely that that will be decided quite some time after our primary.

And hey, you tell yourself: You may be tired of her, but don’t you like her views on foreign policy better than any Democrat since Joe Lieberman? (OK, maybe you don’t think that; but I do.) Isn’t this a chance to revive the Third Way, or at least to take a step in that direction? Wasn’t Bill Clinton a pretty sound policy guy, despite all the drama, and doesn’t she have a lot of the same characteristics?

But then you remember that with the Clintons there is always the endlessly wearying drama, the feelings of persecution, the scores to settle with the vast right-wing conspiracy, and you wonder, Am I really up for more of this?

Maybe I’m just blowing smoke here. Maybe I’m totally off-base. But this just all feels really low-energy for a month before the primaries. Maybe y’all disagree with that. Or maybe you have a better explanation for it.

Or maybe no one will comment on this, which seems to happen too often these days. Which means, maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m losing my touch…

Naaaahhh…

Lindsey Graham, back from the campaign trail

Graham availability

You may already have read Andy Shain’s piece on Lindsey Graham’s press availability in Columbia yesterday. It began:

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Friday that he quit the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination last month because he saw no clear path to the upper tier of candidates, some of whom — Donald Trump and Ted Cruz — he sees as toxic to the GOP.

The Seneca Republican regularly was named the winner of the GOP race’s “undercard” debates, which featured lower-polling candidates. But not getting on the main debate stage killed his chances to win greater support, Graham said.

Graham thought that if he could make the top three in the New Hampshire primary polls, he could have won the next GOP contest, in his home state of South Carolina….

And so forth. I won’t repeat anything Andy already said. But here are a few points Graham made that Andy didn’t touch on:

  • Asked whether he was interested in serving in the Cabinet of the eventual winner, he said he didn’t think so. He sees it as too important to stay in the Senate. He’s one of the few who can work across the aisle, and he’s convinced that none of the actual challenges that face the country — dealing with entitlement reform, dealing comprehensively with immigration — can be dealt with by one party or the other. It’s going to take coalition-building. It’s going to take people who can “get to ‘yes’.”
  • “This is a religious war” that the West is engaged in, and winning will require working with Muslims — the 99 percent who “are non-radical Islamists.” That’s why the approach of a Trump will never work.
  • Is Christianity under attack in this country — with laws forcing employers to provide birth control, or a court ruling creating the institution of same-sex marriage? No, he says. Not in this country. Democracy has outlets for people to express their views, and sometimes they win and sometimes they lose. There is a war against Christianity, though, and everything else about Western culture — but it’s happening in the Mideast.
  • Did he like running for president enough to do it again? As Andy wrote, he’d consider it. And the reason why is that he thinks there’s a market for what he offers. “I think people are looking around for somebody like me,” if not actually him. Somebody who will be “tough on our enemies,” but who believes in pluralism, in the principles of a liberal democracy and land of opportunity.
  • On the campaign trail, John McCain “worked harder for me than he did for himself,” and Graham deeply appreciates it. Noting that politicians are a little too quick to call everyone their friend, but in this case, it applies: “John McCain is my friend.”
  • Reminiscing about the campaign trail, he asked whether anyone had heard the story of his encounter with an out-and-out racist in a pool hall. No one said yes, so he told the story, which recognized before he was done. The voter in question muttered some ethnic slurs, including the “N-word.” Graham said “I totally dissociate myself from this guy,” and answered a few more questions before taking the bigot on in a game of pool — and winning. “It was fun to beat his ass,” Graham said Friday.
  • Speaking of pool halls, Graham said anyone who grew up in a bar — as Graham did, the one his parents owned — is very familiar with people like Donald Trump, and knows how to deal with them.
  • Touching on fellow South Carolina Republicans, he said Nikki Haley being chosen to deliver the GOP response to the State of the Union is “a big honor” for our state, Tim Scott is “a rock star,” and Trey Gowdy has done well with the tough hand he was dealt. “South Carolina is hitting above her weight” on the national political scene.

Earlier, I had asked him another SC question. I wondered whether, with Newt Gingrich having won here in 2012 and Trump and Cruz doing so well here this time, South Carolina’s losing its touch on picking eventual nominees, and presidents. In other words, is South Carolina becoming irrelevant?

He didn’t think so. His answer is on the video clip that follows…

How is Tim Scott like Strom Thurmond?

Well, I’ll tell you…

Did you see this item in The State over the weekend?

Tim ScottSCOTT SEEKS HIS OWN TERM

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-Charleston, is expected to run for re-election in 2016. The only African-American Republican in the U.S. Senate, Scott was appointed to the seat in late 2012 after Jim De-Mint resigned to run a conservative think tank. Scott, the state’s most popular pol, won a special election in 2014 to complete DeMint’s six-year term. Now, he must seek his own term on Nov. 8. Do S.C. Democrats even field a candidate?

Catch that? Scott is “the state’s most popular pol”?

Think about that for a moment. What is Tim Scott known for? How has he distinguished himself? What has he done in office, for good or ill?

Not much, near as I can recall.

And South Carolina voters love that. That’s why they loved Strom Thurmond, at least for the last three or four decades of his career. During my adult life, Strom never did much of anything. OK, he did one thing: He had warning labels put on bottles of alcohol. He worked on that one from 1971 to 1988. After 1988, he kicked back let constituent service occupy him — or at least, occupy his staff — for the rest of his time in office.

Floyd Spence followed pretty much the same approach. He provided constituent service, identified himself with a strong national defense, and kept his head down. Except for that brief “You lie!” eruption, his successor, Joe Wilson, has followed a similar pattern.

And if Strom were still in office today, he probably wouldn’t even have messed with the warning-labels thing, since the surging libertarian wing of his party would probably regard it as nanny-state meddling.

Anyway, Tim Scott is sticking with that formula, and it works for him. Our other senator, Lindsey Graham, tries to do stuff, and that just gets him into trouble with the base.

In fact, in a sense he’s more like Strom than Strom’s own son is. Paul Thurmond is retiring from the SC Senate after this year — after only a single term! That boy fell a long way from the tree…

Thoughts on the Las Vegas debate?

No, I’m not going to embed my dozens of Tweets, or the 60 or 70 interactions they attracted on Twitter. (Twitter isn’t deep, but it’s way livelier than blogging.)

But I’ll show you this one, which makes a good point I’d like to elaborate on:

Now, I don’t know what that means in terms of the horse race. It should move him a bit toward front, but the GOP electorate has been so extremely irrational this year that things that should give a guy a bump don’t deliver, while things that should finish him for good send him soaring.

Elsewhere, I lamented — on Jeb Bush’s account — the sad disconnect between what it takes to govern and the talents needed to shine in debates. There’s some overlap, but they’re not the same things. Jeb did better this time, but not better enough.

I felt bad for Christie, too, as another candidate who deserves a serious look who just can’t get the crowd to turn away from the sideshows and check him out.

That said, Christie and Kasich made themselves look pretty bad with their plans for dealing with Russia. I thought Kasich had gone off the reservation wanting to punch them in the nose, but then Christie wanted to shoot their planes down. Christie even managed to set up Rand Paul to sound more rational on foreign affairs, which is a hard thing to do.

So that kind of left Rubio and Bush as… well, here’s another Tweet:

Maybe that’s too harsh. Carly Fiorina didn’t really say anything extraordinarily foolish, although her assertion that people have said “no” to her all her life rang a bit empty coming from someone who was CEO of HP. But wait — come to think of it, they did say “no” to her later, and I know how that feels, so… In any case, she didn’t say much that impressed. Nobody really impressed, except the razzle-dazzle kid Rubio, who was playing the part of Lindsey Graham in the big-table debate, standing up for national defense.

Well, no, someone else impressed: Cruz did. We’re all starting to focus more on Cruz. Trump has been so distracting that few people have focused on the fact that Cruz is the real, dyed-in-the-wool, right-wing ideological extremist in the bunch — with a dollop or two of let’s-disarm-ourselves, Rand Paul-style libertarianism, which doesn’t endear me either.

Which makes Rubio look even better.

Speaking of Lindsey Graham: Philip Bump of The Fix made a strong argument for why Graham, who has dominated most of the undercard debates, should be allowed into the big ones, regardless of his poll numbers. In short, no one else could possibly be such an effective foil for Trump — and that’s something most of us would like to see:

Including Trump. Graham and Trump differ on issues, but Graham also seems to have a sense for Trump’s Achilles heel. The tycoon’s only demonstrated weakness against his opponents is when he’s the butt of someone else’s zinger — which we saw in the second debate after Carly Fiorina put him in his place. So far, the only significant on-going challenge to Trump in the debates has been questions he didn’t want to answer. He can’t be used to dealing with people who are able to spar as well as he can. Wouldn’t that be fun to watch?

 

Polls: South Carolina, Trump, Republicans and Muslims

These three polls just in:

Bad News: Donald Trump favorite of SC Republicans — again — This is Winthop Poll. The only reassurance I can give you is that it was mostly taken before Trump spoke of banning Muslims from our shores.

Good News: Majority Opposes Trump Plan to Ban Muslims, Poll Finds — Unfortunately, the WSJ/NBC poll finds that Republicans are more evenly split on the matter.

Bad News: Trump’s Lead Solidifies in Poll, but Many Are Nervous — This one’s from the NYT and CBS. Again, this was largely taken before Trump’s latest bad craziness.

All of which leads to this story from The Washington Post:

As Trump surges, GOP prepares for a contested convention — Time to crank up the ol’ smoke-filled room, boys. Your phony-baloney party is on the line. Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph….

Let’s look at an excerpt from that:

Republican officials and leading figures in the party’s establishment are now preparing for the possibility of a brokered convention as Donald Trump continues sit atop the polls and the presidential race.

More than 20 of them convened Monday for a dinner held by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, where the prospect of Trump nearing next year’s nominating convention in Cleveland with a significant number of delegates dominated the discussion, according to five people familiar with the meeting.

Considering that scenario as Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listened, several longtime power brokers argued that if the controversial billionaire storms through the primaries, the party’s establishment must lay the groundwork for a floor fight, in which the GOP’s mainstream wing could coalesce around an alternative, the people said….

May you live in interesting times, Reince Priebus…

Lawmakers hope to see more cooperation, building upon the summer

panel

Reps. Nathan Ballentine and Joe Neal; Sens. Joel Lourie, Katrina Shealy and Ronnie Cromer

This morning, ADCO had a table at the latest Columbia Regional Business Report’s Power Breakfast. This one was about looking ahead to the coming legislative session, and featured a panel of lawmakers — Reps. Nathan Ballentine and Joe Neal, and Sens. Joel Lourie, Katrina Shealy and Ronnie Cromer.

(Bryan Caskey joined me at the ADCO table, along with several other representatives of local law firms whom I invited.)

The nice thing about “covering” these events is that if I just wait a few hours, CRBR will put up its own report that gives you the basics and saves me from a lot of typing. An excerpt:

Next year’s legislative session will be a failure if not remembered for collaboration across party lines, state lawmakers said today.

Legislators from both sides of the aisle urged to see similar cooperation next year from the General Assembly as it did in the aftermath of the Emanuel AME tragedy. The give-and-take between Democrats and Republicans will be vital if the state hopes to finally fix crumbling infrastructure, they said during the Columbia Regional Business Report’s quarterly “Power Breakfast” networking event at the Columbia Marriott.

“I think 2016, more than anything else is going to be known as the year that we either came up with an idea to fund our infrastructure and do it in the right manner,” said Sen. Ronnie Cromer, R-Newberry, “or it’s going to be known as the year we failed the people of South Carolina. Because we couldn’t put some plan together to fund our roads and bridges.”

Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Chapin, knows it can be easy to assume collaboration as part of the General Assembly’s supermajority. But he still saw it at work when his colleagues voted to remove the Confederate Flag from the Statehouse grounds in July and expects to see more of it again next year, this time without tragedy serving as a catalyst….

And that pretty much states it. There was an air of cautious optimism that maybe, just maybe — after the miracle they experienced together over the summer (achieving near-unanimity on an issue that had previously been too controversial even to bring up), that goodwill could be channeled productively on other fronts.

Of course, the usual differences were on display — the three Republicans tended to think in terms of coming together over infrastructure; the two Democrats wanted to see some Republicans agreeing with them on Medicaid expansion. But there was also agreement on some key issues — Democrats agreed infrastructure must be dealt with, and both sides acknowledged that the state Supreme Court’s instructions to improve educational opportunity in poor, rural districts must be meaningfully addressed as well.

Beyond that, here are some Tweets that give you the flavor of the session: