Category Archives: The Nation

Karl, all Trump ‘needs’ is to LOSE, for the sake of the nation

Democrats, and probably even some Republicans, demonize Karl Rove. Some probably have a litany of specific sins they can recite, but in general he seems to be for them a dark, menacing presence pulling strings in the background, like “the Koch brothers,” or Sauron behind Saruman.

But whatever he has done or not done to deserve that reputation, he has assuredly done a monstrous thing today.

STAFF PORTRAITS OF KARL ROVE.

Rove in the early 2000s.

He has offered, without apology or irony, advice to Donald Trump on how to win the general election. As though he were just another Republican candidate, another client (which is perhaps what Rove hopes he will be), and this is just another election.

In the same 24 hours in which his former bosses, Bushes 41 and 43, have said they do not plan to support Trump, and in which one of those very Koch brothers has hinted he might vote for Hillary Clinton, Rove has offered Trump calm, sensible, bloodless pointers on how to succeed. As though his success were a desirable thing.

His Wall Street Journal piece is headlined “What Donald Trump Needs Now,” and the subhed tells you that Rove isn’t being facetious: “To stand a chance, he must tone it down, hire a fact-checker and open his wallet.” To which I respond, to hell with what Trump “needs;” what the nation needs is for him to lose, and lose big.

The closest Rove comes to criticizing Trump comes at the beginning, when he says Trump’s “success was achieved only by inflicting tremendous damage to the party,” and that his suggestion that Cruz’ father was connected to the JFK assassination was “nuts.” But rather than treat these as evidence of something fundamentally wrong with Trump, Rove looks upon them as rough edges to be smoothed. Trump has damaged the party? Well, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. As for saying something “nuts,” Rove is like, Ya knucklehead! We need to break you of that silly habit so you can win this thing!

As though he were coaching an otherwise gifted boxer to remember not to drop his guard.

The everyday ordinariness, the sheer banality, of the advice Rove offers is appalling. An excerpt:

For the general election, the Trump campaign is behind in everything: digital operations, the ground game, advertising, you name it. The campaign must add new people and talents but would be wise to leave the ground game to the Republican National Committee. Sign the “joint fundraising agreements” that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the GOP Senate and House campaign committees must have to collect the resources necessary for a massive voter turnout effort that is beyond the Trump campaign’s abilities.

Mr. Trump should also avoid attacking Mrs. Clinton in ways that hurt him and strengthen her. He is already in terrible trouble with women: In the April 14 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 69% of women rate him negatively, 58% very negatively. So stop saying things like: “Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5% of the vote.” He was lucky her response to that jibe was so lame. Next time it won’t be.

Mr. Trump must also retool his stump speech. Voters will tire of The Donald if he doesn’t have a second rhetorical act with far fewer insults and more substance. Reading more speeches from a teleprompter, particularly on the economy, will help. The Trumpistas argue that voters don’t need details, but those up for grabs in November do. These speeches will put meat on the bones of his policy views and yield new material for the stump….

As though… as though the idea of Trump becoming president was just an interesting challenge, a puzzle to be solved, and not an unthinkable nightmare for the country.

This same day, E.J. Dionne has a piece in The Washington Post in which he appeals to Republicans, the media, and the rest of us to avoid this very thing. “Please don’t mainstream Trump,” he pleads, and he’s absolutely right. Don’t act like this is just another election, and Trump just another nominee.

He concludes:

My friend, the writer Leon Wieseltier, suggested a slogan that embodies the appropriate response to Trump’s ascent: “Preserve the Shock.”

“The only proper response to his success is shame, anger and resistance,” Wieseltier said. “We must not accustom ourselves to this. . . . Trump is not a ‘new normal.’ No amount of economic injustice, no grievance, justifies the resort to his ugliness.”

Staying shocked for six months is hard. It is also absolutely necessary.

Amen to that, E.J….

‘Ten Reasons Moderates Should Vote for Ted Cruz’ (if they are Republicans)

Jeff Mobley brings to our attention this interesting piece in National Review, “Ten Reasons Moderates Should Vote for Ted Cruz.” It’s by a guy named Dan McLaughlin.

Jeff makes these observations:

From reason nine of Ten Reasons Moderates Should Vote for Ted Cruz:

Ted Cruz loves the Constitution like a fat kid loves cake, like a dog loves a tennis ball, like Donald Trump loves the sound of his own name.

Reasons four and six were somewhat interesting. I hadn’t really thought about reason six before.

And it is an interesting piece, which raises some points many of us may not have thought about. In the end, though, for me, it fails to persuade. That’s because the list assumes, since you’re reading National Review, that you are a Republican and think like one. It’s not aimed at independents who just want the best (or least bad) candidate to win, regardless of party.

Here are the 10 reasons:

  • One: This Election Is Too Important to Punt.
  • Two: Only Ted Cruz Can Stop Donald Trump.

    McLaughlin

    McLaughlin

  • Three: Ted Cruz Might Beat Hillary Clinton; Donald Trump Won’t.
  • Four: Ted Cruz Knows What He’s Doing.
  • Five: The Republican Party Can Survive Losing with Ted Cruz.
  • Six: Ted Cruz Won’t Rest until He Gets His Shot.
  • Seven: You Can Live with Ted Cruz and His Supporters.
  • Eight: Ted Cruz Might Be the Man to Tame Trumpism.
  • Nine: Ted Cruz Loves the Constitution.
  • Ten: President Cruz Would Be More Responsible Than You Think.

Before you consider my objections to some of them, go read the explanations. Some of them are pretty good.

And here are my objections, based on my UnParty perspective:

  • One: All elections are too important to punt, but this one is no more so than others. This assertion is based in the Republican assumption that “Twelve years of Democratic control of the White House, with its expansive powers and massive cultural footprint, is intolerable.” No, it isn’t. It’s no worse than 12 years of GOP control.
  • Two: You know I disagree with the thinking here, but we’ve been over that again and again…
  • Three: Again, defeating Hillary Clinton is only a desired thing if the one defeating her would make a better president. Hillary is a mess, and with all her baggage is not someone that a reasonable, objective, nonpartisan person would actually want to become president. But she’s far more likely to govern from a pragmatic center, relatively free of unbending ideology, than Cruz. The Republicans only have one candidate left who would be a better deal as president, and that’s Kasich.
  • Five: I don’t care about the Republican Party surviving, not if it thinks its only choices are Trump and Cruz.
  • Seven: Basically, the argument here is We Republicans are used to dealing with people like Cruz supporters, so it won’t be so painful. Speak for yourselves, GOP.
  • Eight: The argument here is that Trump and Cruz have enough in common that Cruz could take Trumpism and channel it for good. The trouble is, their areas of agreement are some of the worst things about both of them. Dealbreaker after dealbreaker, ladies.
  • Nine: Yes, he does love the Constitution, and at least knows a lot about it, which distinguishes him sharply from Trump. I love the Constitution, too. But I noticed something a number of years back: Political candidates who go on and on and on and on about the Constitution quite frequently have some eccentric ideas about that same document. They see unconstitutionality everywhere they look. But folks, most political disagreement isn’t between the constitutional and the unconstitutional; it’s between options that represent different ways to go within the framework of constitutionality.
  • Ten: Yeah… tell me another one.

Anyway, as you can see from all that typing I just did, at least the piece made me think. Maybe it will do the same for you…

Obama: ‘Brexit’ would not make Special Relationship closer

Prince_of_Wales-5

Conference leaders during Church services on the after deck of HMS Prince of Wales, in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, during the Atlantic Charter Conference. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (left) and Prime Minister Winston Churchill are seated in the foreground. Standing directly behind them are Admiral Ernest J. King, USN; General George C. Marshall, U.S. Army; General Sir John Dill, British Army; Admiral Harold R. Stark, USN; and Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, RN. At far left is Harry Hopkins, talking with W. Averell Harriman.

I kind of go back and forth on the whole “Should Britain exit the E.U.?” thing:

  • I’m generally not for nations or federations splitting up, especially not for nationalistic (in the racial or cultural sense) reasons. Balkanization is bad. I’m against secession whether practiced by the Confederacy or Quebec separatists. I make an exception for the USSR.
  • On the other hand, British culture is so awesome! From Shakespeare to the Beatles, Jane Austen to Nick Hornby, Monty Python to Douglas Adams, King Arthur to QEII, the guy who wrote “Greensleeves” to Elvis Costello, Beau Brummel to Carnaby Street, Jack Aubrey to Arthur Dent, James Bond to George Smiley, I want to see Britain hang onto everything that makes it special and unique, and I don’t want a bit of it to be watered down.
  • The E.U. makes for a strong trading partner for the United States, when it’s not having eruptions in Greece and such.

    Stack of British one pound coins

    No coin is sounder than a pound.

  • I’m deeply gratified that the Brits didn’t go to the Euro. I’m still not thrilled that they decimalised the pound. It was disappointing, when I was there, not to hear people refer to shillings and crowns and such. But every time I held a pound or two-pound coin, I fully understood the phrase “sound as a…” That is some seriously solid, dependable-feeling money.

And so forth.

I found myself swinging back and forth today, with President Obama visiting London and backing up David Cameron’s position of maintaining the union.

For instance, I find the idea that maybe we could deepen the Special Relationship by having special bilateral trade deals, just between us and our Mum Country.

But Obama threw cold water on that:

The UK would be at the back of the queue for a trade deal with the US if Britain voted to leave the EU, Barack Obama has said.

The US president said a trade agreement would not happen any time soon in the event of Britain leaving because it was better to strike a transatlantic deal with Europe as a whole….

Which made me think, it’s great you’re helping the PM out and all. As you say, that’s what friends do. But really? We wouldn’t negotiate favorable trade terms with our closest friend in the world if she stood alone?

It’s almost enough to make you think Boris Johnson is onto something when he suggests that Obama’s Kenyan heritage makes him a less-than-enthusiastic ally of the colonial power. I mean, really — American presidents don’t stiff-arm Great Britain (by doing such thing as sending Churchill’s bust back).

Almost.

In the end, I suppose, I think it’s best for our friends to hold France close, and Germany closer. After all, Europe hasn’t launched another World War since this alliance came together. Yet.

But my Anglophilia still causes me to go wobbly sometimes…

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom talk during the G8 Summit at the Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 17, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom talk during the G8 Summit at the Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 17, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Tubman to replace Old Hickory; Hamilton to stay on sawbuck (Yay!)

Here’s some mighty fine news:

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department will announce on Wednesday afternoon that Harriet Tubman, an African­American who ferried hundreds of slaves to freedom, will replace the slaveholding Andrew Jackson on the center of a new $20 note, according to a Treasury official, while newly popular Alexander Hamilton will remain on the face of the $10 bill….

And the best part to me — with all due respect to Ms. Tubman and the noble role she plays in our history — is that Alexander Hamilton will stay on the sawbuck. As I’ve said before, if anyone needed to go, it was Old Hickory.

I celebrated that part of the news on Twitter the other day:

But I neglected to mention it on the blog, so I’m glad to have this opportunity to make up for that.Tubman mug

Jackson is one of my less favorite major American historical figures, despite his triumph at New Orleans. I consider his defeat of John Quincy Adams — possibly the best-qualified president in our history — in their second contest to be one of our nation’s low points.

And I feel something of a personal connection to Ms. Tubman — when my wife and youngest daughter moved up to Pennsylvania for a year so my daughter could study ballet there, they lived in part of a house that had been part of the Underground Railroad. Or, at least, its cellar had been.

So I’m quite pleased…

Alternative GOP universes: One with Kasich, one without

There are two non-overlapping universes out there among those who want to save the Republican Party from Donald Trump (and, if they truly care, from Ted Cruz).

The guy Republicans will nominate if they wan to win.

The guy Republicans will nominate if they wan to win.

In one, John Kasich — as the only other survivor of the original 17, and as the only candidate likely to beat Hillary Clinton in the fall — is the obvious alternative.

In the other universe, Kasich either doesn’t exist or exists only as an irritant who should go away, and quickly.

You know I live in the first universe, and praise its wise inhabitants on a regular basis.

Just yesterday, NPR was interviewing former RNC chair and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and he quite naturally mentioned Kasich as the one electable candidate out there:

BARBOUR: Well, I’m certainly a regular Republican. I’ve been a Republican since 1968. But people are looking at two things – electability – and today, in The Wall Street Journal, Clinton leads Trump by 11 points. Almost every poll shows Trump running under 40 in a general election. That’s very scary because if we have a presidential candidate that runs in the low 40s or below, then a lot of Republicans down the ticket are going to lose. They can’t overcome that.

SIEGEL: Does Cruz pose the same threat to the party as Trump?

BARBOUR: His numbers are not as bad today, but one has to worry about electability. And you look at Kasich – he leads Mrs. Clinton by six or seven points in the poll, not as well-known. But we have in Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the two most unfavorably seen presidential candidates ever….

Which, you know, should be obvious to everyone. Like, you know, duh.

Then there’s the other universe, which all-too-often asserts itself. Today I was reading a piece by Jennifer Rubin, who often (but not always) makes a lot of sense, headlined “It’s nearly time for that white knight to show up.” The piece mentioned some really esoteric, out there possibilities for who that knight might be:

That, however, presupposes a candidate, one on which the #NeverTrump forces could agree upon as their white knight. There will be those principled conservatives who want a champion (e.g. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, former Texas governor Rick Perry, former Indiana govenor Mitch Daniels, current Indiana Gov. Mike Pence), those who think only a respected public person with impeccable national-security credentials has a shot (e.g. retired general James Mattis), Mitt Romney supporters who want one more go at the presidency and still others who think a moderate with appeal to Democrats (e.g. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty) is the only feasible option. Lacking the benefit of a party primary system or caucus, the third-candidate supporters would not have the benefit of testing how contenders do with actual voters. The risk obviously is coming up with someone real voters don’t find compelling….

Who? Sasse? Mattis? Really?

Bizarrely, the column does not even mention Kasich, the one sane alternative who has actually put himself out there, and who has survived the brutal culling process to date. You know, the guy who came in second in Trump’s big win in New York last night.

This is because, apparently, Ms. Rubin really does not like Kasich.

But you know, once you eliminate the two unthinkables and go looking for a knight, the most obvious choice is Sir John, the only guy out there who is already in his armor and mounted up, and who has continued faithfully on his quest lo these many months…

Uphold has a problem: California is even worse than SC

As you’ll recall, yesterday I said this about the company that is precipitously deciding to move from Charleston (supposedly, although its presence in Charleston seems theoretical) to California over the Bathroom Bill:

I hate to break it to this guy, but there’s a distinct possibility that there’s a lawmaker in California just as loony as Lee Bright who will propose a similar bill. Then what is he going to do? It’s a significant feature of representative democracy that people who have a different worldview from you get to vote, too — and elect people like them. So there’s no way to guarantee that someone won’t file a bill that you find unfair, unjust or abhorrent.

Well, it turns out, that has already happened — although it’s a proposed ballot initiative rather than a bill:

California’s system of direct democracy — the voter initiative process — has produced landmark laws reducing property taxes, banning affirmative action and legalizing medical marijuana.images

Now there’s a bid to declare that “the people of California wisely command” that gays and lesbians can be killed.

You read that right.

The “Sodomite Suppression Act,” as proposed, calls sodomy “a monstrous evil” that should be punishable “by bullets to the head or any other convenient method.”…

You can always count on California to make the rest of us look sane, can’t you?

True, the guy proposing this isn’t a lawmaker, but he is a lawyer. Juan should love that.

I want all y’all to remember this next time you find yourself wanting more direct democracy…

SC not the only place where cops throw girls around

Not that that’s much comfort, but since we had that awful incident here, I thought y’all might be interested in seeing this.

It happened in San Antonio, and the officer was fired:

A Texas school police officer who became enmeshed in controversy after he was captured on video seemingly body-slamming a sixth-grade girl has been fired from the San Antonio Independent School District.

District officials said officer Joshua Kehm was terminated Monday amid an investigation into an incident last month at Rhodes Middle School, in which he appeared to restrain and then throw down 12-year-old Janissa Valdez.

“We understand that situations can sometimes escalate to the point of requiring a physical response; however, in this situation we believe that the extent of the response was absolutely unwarranted,” Superintendent Pedro Martinez said in a statement. “Additionally, the officer’s report was inconsistent with the video and it was also delayed, which is not in accordance with the general operating procedures of the police department….

WSJ still advocating for Kasich. Good for them…

I don’t always agree with The Wall Street Journal editorial board (they’re a bit too… Mark Sanford… for me), but when they’re right they’re right.

And they’ve been very right lately about John Kasich, making the logical arguments for him that seem to escape a lot of Republicans who ought to know better, such as our own Lindsey Graham.

In today’s editorial, “The Real Kasich Threat,” the editors first note how fervently both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz want Kasich out of the race, then point out, again, how unwise that would be for the GOP:

As for Mr. Cruz, he’d have to sweep nearly every remaining primary to get to 1,237. He also knows Mr. Kasich has a better chance than the Texan does of denying Mr. Trump delegates in states like Pennsylvania and Maryland that vote on April 26. But Mr. Cruz wants to drive Mr.

The guy Republicans will nominate if they wan to win.

The guy Republicans will nominate, if they want to win.

Kasich out of the race before the convention even if it means running a greater risk that Mr. Trump can get closer to 1,237. Mr. Cruz wants Mr. Kasich out now because he figures the delegates in Cleveland will choose Mr. Cruz if the choice is down to him and Mr. Trump. But if Mr. Kasich is still an option, the delegates might favor him as a better November candidate.

Mr. Kasich defeats Hillary Clinton by 6.3 points in current head-to-head polls, according to the Real Clear Politics average. Mr. Cruz loses by 3.1 and Mr. Trump by 10.8. Changing these polls would require gut renovations of the Trump and Cruz public images that will be hard for either to execute.

Mr. Kasich did the public service of winning Ohio’s delegates—with which Mr. Trump might have locked up the nomination—and he deserves a chance to see if he can win Pennsylvania or pick up delegates in the East and California. He has no hope of reaching 1,237 delegates before the convention, but what Messrs. Trump and Cruz really fear is that the convention might want to nominate a potential winner.

Absolutely.

There’s no excuse for Cruz calling for ‘carpet’ bombing

Walls of houses of Wesel still stand, as do the churches, but a great part of the town was destroyed when the German commander forced the Allied troops to fight their way street by street through the ruins. Germany, 1945. Army. (OWI) Exact Date Shot Unknown NARA FILE #: 208-N-39903 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1336

Wesel was 97% destroyed before it was finally taken by Allied troops in 1945. See that carpet of craters? Wikipedia doesn’t SAY those are bomb craters, but what else might they be?

I tend to agree pretty frequently with Charles Krauthammer on national security issues, but I was disappointed in him over the weekend.

Did you see his column assessing the foreign policy approaches of Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, which he termed, respectively, “passivist,” “internationalist,” “unilateralist” and “mercantilist.”

There was much of value in the column, and some things to enjoy — such as his observation that Trump’s worldview comes closest to that of King Philip II of Spain (1556-1598).

Of course, I was disappointed that he left out Kasich — I reject the notion that we have no options left but these four. But to his credit, he promised that “If Kasich pulls off a miracle, he’ll get his own column.” Which he would, of course, unquestionably deserve at that point.

Most of his observations are sound, and he is scrupulously careful to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton would likely be less reluctant to take effective action in the world than her erstwhile boss, President Obama. He says her nearest historical analog is her husband’s approach in the 1990s — which isn’t as good as, say, Tony Blair in that decade, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

What gets me is the way he bends over backwards to make Cruz’ approach palatable:

The most aggressive of the three contenders thus far. Wants post-Cold War U.S. leadership restored. Is prepared to take risks and act alone when necessary. Pledges to tear up the Iran deal, cement the U.S.-Israel alliance and carpet bomb the Islamic State.

Overdoes it with “carpet” — it implies Dresden — although it was likely just an attempt at rhetorical emphasis….

Really?!?!?!? “Overdoes it?” The fact that Cruz uses that word utterly disqualifies him from consideration as POTUS. Whether he really wants to do that, or merely does not understand what the word means, he is beyond the pale.

Here’s what “carpet bombing” means:

Carpet bombing, also known as saturation bombing, is a large aerial bombing done in a progressive manner to inflict damage in every part of a selected area of land.[1][2][3][4] The phrase evokes the image of explosions completely covering an area, in the same way that a carpet covers a floor. Carpet bombing is usually achieved by dropping many unguided bombs.

And yes, when we think of “carpet bombing” we do think of Dresden, and Tokyo, and Cologne, and all those other places that we sent thousands of planes over in an effort to destroy everything below — including all those civilians.

I’m not going to get into the ethics of our having done that in the course of total war, in a time in which we lacked the technical precision of modern munitions. I’m just going to say that that is what is clearly, unquestionably meant when one says “carpet bombing” — that you’re dropping a carpet of bombs to destroy everything and everyone in the covered area, and let God sort them out.

There is no room in the 21st century, when we have so many other options, for a suggestion like that. The term is primitive, atavistic, barbaric — which is no doubt why Cruz said it, in an attempt to appeal to Trumpist sensibilities.

Yet Krauthammer is completely blasé about it, with that forgiving “overdoes.”

But that’s just the setup to the really bad thing: His assertion that Cruz’ closest historical analog is… Ronald Reagan.

So it’s come to this: That folks on the right are working so hard to talk themselves into settling for Cruz that Charles Krauthammer can equate the Cruz worldview with that of the one guy Republicans believe could do no wrong.

That’s just inexcusable.

Trump abortion comment may be the ultimate example of his malevolent cluelessness

Donald Trump, engaged in what passes for 'thought' with him.

Donald Trump, engaged in what passes for ‘thought’ with him.

Donald Trump outdid himself yesterday, managing to alienate everyone on both sides of the abortion divide with his utter malevolent cluelessness:

APPLETON, Wis. — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump came under fire Wednesday for saying that women should be subject to “some sort of punishment” for undergoing illegal abortions, a position that antiabortion and abortion rights groups alike emphatically denounced….

This prompted plenty of comments to the effect that Trump had evidently not thought carefully about the issue — which would mean that he has treated this issue the way he treats all others.

Say “Donald Trump thinking about issues,” and I picture a flat rock skipping across a pond before it runs out of momentum and eventually sinks to the bottom. Trump is the rock, in case the metaphor is too complex for you.

I would take it another step, though, in this case. I think what he said reflects that, to the extent he’s thought about the issue at all, he still holds a view (left over from his “very pro-choice” days, back when that was more convenient for him) of us pro-lifers propagated by those who oppose us: That our opposition to abortion arises not out of a concern for the unborn life, but from a hostility to women and their interests.

To the extent that something one would characterize as “thought” passed through Trump’s mind before he spoke in response to prompting from his interviewer, it seems to have been along these lines: “This is the way those pro-lifers think, so since I’m pretending to be one of them, I’ll say that.”

Mixed in with that, we should probably take into account his general preference for sounding “tough,” whatever the issue. The tougher — and the stupider — he sounds, the more his base seems to like him.

So where does this leave us? With this guy still the GOP front-runner, which means that unless a miracle can be pulled off at the convention, the allegedly pro-life party will be represented by someone who holds actual pro-lifers in contempt, while the left will characterize him the way this NYT headline yesterday did: “Donald Trump, Abortion Foe, Eyes ‘Punishment’ for Women…” Even though Trump is as much of a “abortion foe” as the aforementioned flat rock.

Presidential campaign generally produce much heat, and little light, on the abortion issue. But things seldom go this dark…

Something for Doug: Abramoff backs term limits

Doug should enjoy this.

It came along with the following release from U.S. Term Limits:

Jack Abramoff Backs Term Limits in New Video

The man once known as “America’s most notorious lobbyist” is speaking out in a new video for congressional term limits. Jack Abramoff now says “Congress will never be fixed without term limits” in a video produced for U.S. Term Limits’ “Term Limits Convention” campaign.

According to Abramoff, term limits would reduce special interests’ influence in Washington by disrupting their relationships with long-serving incumbents.

“When I was a lobbyist, I hated the idea that a congressman who I had bought with years of contributions would decide to retire,” Abramoff says. “That meant I had to start all over again with a new member, losing all the control I had bought with years of checks.”

Abramoff’s comments debunk the arguments made by anti-term limits politicians, who’ve long claimed that lobbyists like term limits.

“Career politicians often smear term limits by claiming lobbyists are for it,” said U.S. Term Limits President Philip Blumel. “But the opposite is true. Whenever lobbyists get involved in a term limits campaign, all of their money goes to the side trying to prevent, weaken or abolish term limits. That’s why we’re glad Jack Abramoff is speaking out.”

Abramoff’s video closes on this note, as he warns “if you want to see pigs screeching at the trough, tell them they can’t stay there forever. There’s no trough as dangerous as the one in Washington.”

The ex-lobbyist volunteered his opinions and was not compensated by U.S. Term Limits. His remarks will be used to raise awareness for the Term Limits Convention, a new campaign to term limit Congress using an Article V amendment convention.

The campaign, launched in January, requires 34 state legislatures to pass bills calling for term limits on Congress, before a convention can be called to propose a congressional term limits amendment. Florida was the first state to pass the resolution but several others are considering it now.

Watch the Abramoff Video here.

Of course, it doesn’t change my mind. I still have problems with telling the voters who they can and can’t re-elect if they so choose.

There are good arguments in favor of term limits — ones that I find more persuasive than Abramoff’s “everybody’s a crook like me” thesis. For instance, it might increase political courage — representatives daring to do the right thing, rather than the popular thing so they can get re-elected.

Most people who favor term limits think it would be a way to bind elected officials more to the popular will. They have it backwards. It could free them from slavish adherence to the popular idea of the moment. And that could be a could thing. It could also be a bad thing, if it freed pols to do something unpopular that was also a terrible idea.

But in any case, I remain unconvinced, and mostly for the reason that drives Doug the craziest: I believe that experience is valuable in public service, just as it is in every other field of human endeavor. And a mindless mechanism that would throw out the very best representatives along with the very worst is not a good idea.

Are Graham, Bush and Romney just resigned to Hillary now?

So are the erstwhile voices of GOP reason utterly resigned to a President Hillary Clinton?

So are the erstwhile voices of GOP reason now utterly resigned to a President Hillary Clinton?

I can see no other reasonable explanation for Lindsey Graham raising money for Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush endorsing him.

As recently as Feb. 25 — that’s less than a month, people — our senior senator was saying “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.” That’s how utterly unthinkable supporting Ted Cruz was.

That was in the same speech in which he said “My party’s gone bats— crazy,” since it was narrowing its presidential choices to Cruz and Donald Trump. There was plenty of evidence to support his assertion.

But it must be catching, because Sen. Graham is now supporting and raising funds for the unthinkable Cruz, apparently operating on the principle that Trump is even less thinkable.

Now we have this:

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush endorsed Ted Cruz for president on Wednesday, the latest sign that the Texas senator is eagerly seeking to unite Republican Party leaders behind his campaign in an attempt to stop Donald Trump.

Securing the Bush endorsement is a coup for Cruz, who may not be well-liked by many GOP colleagues in Washington, but can now boast the support of a key political family and its vast, unrivaled donor network….

 

And that follows on this even greater outrage, offering clear evidence that Mitt Romney may have gone the most “bats___” of all:

First Romney recorded robocalls for Marco Rubio, then he hit the campaign trail with John Kasich. Now just a week later, he’s urging voters in Utah and Arizonanot to vote for the Ohio governor in a Cruz campaign robocall. “This is a time for Republicans across the spectrum to unite behind Ted. He is the only Republican candidate who can defeat Donald Trump,” Romney says in the message, according to Politico. “And at this point, a vote for John Kasich is a vote for Donald Trump.”

Romney said last week that he intends to vote for Cruz in Utah’s caucuses on Tuesday, but his allies stressed that he wasn’t endorsing the Texas senator. On Facebook, Romney explained that he likes Kasich and would have voted for him in Ohio, “but a vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism would prevail.” There was a time when saying you intend to vote for a particular candidate and urging others not to vote for anyone else would be called an endorsement, but that’s not how things work in 2016….

Gentlemen, it is clear that you have but one honorable choice at this point, given that Trump and Cruz are still what Graham accurately said they were back in January — a choice between “being shot or poisoned:” Get behind John Kasich with all your might. Work your networks to try to get friendly delegates to the convention, to support him on the ballots after Trump fails on the first.

So what if he’s coming in third in most states? That’s a whole lot better than you supposed exemplars of the party, Lindsey and Jeb, managed to do when you were running. Do you really, truly, not stand for anything?

Have some self-respect. Get behind an honorable candidate who doesn’t make you retch when you think of him being president. At the very least, strengthen his hand so that even if he can’t get nominated, there’s a rational person in better position to help determine who does.

Other sincere, mainstream Republicans — ones with less high profiles — have had no trouble doing this. What’s your problem?

Perhaps you should just come out and acknowledge that you are resigned to Hillary Clinton being elected. Because that seems the logical outcome of the courses you’re pursuing, supporting a candidate you cannot stand for the nomination.

I’m sorry, but this photo does not inspire confidence

25986848835_b1c501ec4d_o

The White House was probably trying to assure us that, even though he’s very busy doing photo ops in Cuba, he’s really staying on top of the Brussels situation.

So we have this official photo showing POTUS in a (presumably, going by the riveted door and sound-absorbing panels) secure room at the residence of the U.S. chief of mission, with this cutline:

President Barack Obama and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice talk on the phone with Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco to receive an update on a terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium. The President made the call from the residence of the U.S. Chief of Mission in Havana, Cuba, March 22, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

But ya know, I’m not much assured. Not because the president’s looking all tense and worried, but because of the person sitting at his right hand.

I still get a little chill down my spine whenever I’m reminded that Susan Rice is the president’s national security advisor. That’s because I learned way more than I wanted to know about her back when she was floated as possible secretary of state. And almost everything I learned worried me.

Not just because her misspeaking got the ball rolling on the GOP’s Benghazi fixation, but because incident after incident in her history showed a lack of judgment and reliability — in Rwanda, and other places. Such as Sierra Leone.

Ours is a vast and resource-rich nation. We have loads and loads of really smart people, in academia, in government, at think tanks, in multinational corporations — people with great track records in dealing with a complicated world. Is Susan Rice, who has so many questionable items in her record, from the deadly serious to the trivial, really the best person in the nation to be at the president’s right hand in a crisis?

That seems doubtful to me…

There’s ONE rational grownup left in GOP contest: Kasich!

Yes! YES! You know it! (As Frank the Tank would say.):

This. Is. Awesome.

This is the best outcome we could have had.

Kasich comes out of Ohio as the one rational option left. No, he won’t go into the convention with enough delegates to win, not by a long shot. He’ll likely come in third.

But he’s got enough mo now to stay in the race all the way, maybe pick up another state here or there with Rubio out of it. And with both him and Cruz pulling from Trump, there’s a good chance Trump won’t have the magic 1,237 for that first ballot.

And then… we’re gonna see how we do things in a republic, baby!

I love it…

Wow, even John Kerry is more hawkish than POTUS

THIS guy's more hawkish than the president?

THIS guy’s more hawkish than the president?

I’m not sure I go along fully with the premise of David Brooks’ most recent column (“Dogs, Cats and Leadership,” March 11), but I was very impressed by the anecdote with which it began:

When he was in the middle of his Syrian peace deal negotiations, Secretary of State John Kerry would go to President Obama with a request: Could the U.S. quietly send a few cruise missiles to hit Assad regime targets, just to send a message and maybe move the Syrian president toward a deal.

“Kerry’s looking like a chump with the Russians, because he has no leverage,” a senior administration official told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic.

Obama continually said no, and eventually grew impatient. Goldberg asked Kerry if he thought he has more of a bias toward action than Obama. “I do probably,” Kerry responded. “I’d say that I think we’ve had a very symbiotic, synergistic, whatever you call it, relationship which works very effectively. Because I’ll come in with a bias toward ‘Let’s try to do this, let’s try to do that, let’s get this done.’”…

Wow. I mean, I knew President Obama was the most reluctant to act militarily within his administration — as Brooks notes later, “His senior advisers were shocked when he announced” that he would not back up his “red line” in Syria.

But to be so markedly dovish in comparison to John Kerry, whose personal legend is so wrapped up in his antiwar activism?

That’s fascinating. Particularly when you consider the president’s willingness to use drones far more than his predecessor, and to send the SEALs in to get bin Laden (the riskiest of the options, which included simply bombing the compound).

Perhaps this POTUS is a bit of a cat — the deadliest of pets, yet inscrutable…

David Ignatius states the painfully obvious

Since this is (yet another) year for people who are mad at government qua government, it’s good to see David Ignatius point out the obvious — or what should be obvious — today:

Here’s the puzzle: A country that is angry at “government” or “Washington” will have difficulty fixing problems that result from the breakdown of public services caused by underfunding, incompetence and the predominance of private “special” interests over the public interest. What’s needed isn’t less government, but better government — which costs money and requires good leadership….

ignatiusd

Ignatius

Of course. This is closely related to hating and utterly addressing “politics” or “politicians” when the things you’re angry about can only be addressed by the skillful application of politics. And who is best at doing that? Politicians.

It’s self-defeating. And it always has been. In fact, as Ignatius notes, “The deep anti-government hostility of the modern Republican Party is part of the problem. Tax cuts have starved many government agencies of money and good people.”

Do we have deep problems with our government as it stands today? You bet. But when it comes to solving those problems, there are no substitutes for government, and politics…

One way in which I’m like Trump supporters

The other day, Karen brought my attention to this piece by Tom Friedman, trying to explain Trump supporters.

I was struck by the opening:

Donald Trump is a walking political science course. His meteoric rise is lesson
No. 1 on leadership: Most voters do not listen through their ears. They listen
through their stomachs. If a leader can connect with them on a gut level, their
response is: “Don’t bother me with the details. I trust your instincts.” If a
leader can’t connect on a gut level, he or she can’t show them enough
particulars. They’ll just keep asking, “Can you show me the details one more
time?”

Trump’s Republican rivals keep thinking that if they just point out a few
more details about him, voters will drop The Donald and turn to one of them
instead. But you can’t talk voters out of something that they haven’t been
talked into…

Huh. So, in a way, I’m a lot like Trump supporters, according to Friedman.

Not in the “listen through their stomachs” bit. I’m more likely to use my head. But I’m definitely less about the details.

George_HW_Bush_saying_-Read_My_Lips-_(screenshot)Over the years, I’ve come to look for someone I trust to make good decisions, whatever comes up. I’m less about what specific proposals the candidate makes. What a candidate actually encounters in office often has little to do with the concerns expressed during the campaign. In fact, the fewer promises, the better — promises can back an officeholder into corners and commit him to courses that are unwise under the circumstances. See “Read my lips; no new taxes.” Bush made the right decision, but the unwise promise not to do so got him into trouble.

I care more about how a candidate’s mind works, along with experience and a good history of having made sound decisions while accumulating that experience.

Since I do that, I still can’t imagine how anyone arrives at thinking Trump is the guy to trust. But I’m with them on caring less about details of proposals…

 

Thoughts on last night’s Univision debate?

These things are wearing me out. And there’s another one tonight!!!

I only Tweeted once during the whole thing:

You know what I mean? Last night, it got sounding like one of those reality/talent shows that I could almost tolerate if not for the constant shrieking of the crowd. Those audiences exercise no judgment whatsoever. They scream at exactly the same volume and pitch for every performer. I’ll never understand people like that, or how other people can listen to them.univision

At least the howling last night was variable. Apparently it was the fans of Hillary and Bernie cheering whatever was said.

I like debates with rules against applause. Actually, I wouldn’t mind applause if it were impartial — if the audience cheered only when either candidate said something really good. But you know that the level of hollering is purely a matter of who managed to pack the room with more of his or her own followers. Which means that it’s just meaningless noise.

Aside from that, there were only two parts of the debate I liked, both from Hillary:

  • When she admitted that she is lacking in political gifts, especially compared to her husband and President Obama. So true, so it’s good that she knows it.
  • When she started riffing on Trump’s wall in his terms, going on about how beautiful it would be, etc. I like when pols make jokes that work…

That was about it.

Which would you prefer as president: Trump or Underwood?

PrezHouseOfCardsAriailW

Robert Ariail has proposed it in a cartoon, as a joke.

But as an alternative to, say, Donald Trump, would you accept the devious scoundrel Frank Underwood as president?

Robert also posed the question with regard to Hillary Clinton, and go ahead and address that if you choose.

But I’m more interested with the conundrum on the GOP side, where the dynamic is entirely different. Whatever you think of her, Hillary is pretty middle-of-the-road among Democrats — members of that party won’t have an identity crisis if she is their nominee. “Anybody but Hillary” isn’t really a thing on that side.

It’s over on the Republican side that we see serious people considering deals with the devil.

We’ve already seen Lindsey Graham, who like everyone else in the Senate utterly despises Ted Cruz, say that it might be necessary to embrace the Texan in a last-ditch effort to stop the disaster of Trump. Even though he has described Cruz, accurately, as “toxic.”

So why not Underwood? Think about it: Does he advocate any horrible policies? Not so I can recall (although y’all might remind me of some dealbreakers.) Basically, he’s a thoroughly rotten, ruthless individual when it comes to seizing and keeping power. But as long as the policies were relatively benign, would that not make him preferable to someone who is both personally and in policy terms unthinkable?

Saying that runs against my own inclinations. Over the years I’ve increasingly come to care less about people’s specific policy proposals and more about their character. That’s because no one can predict what will really arise once the person’s in office — the candidate’s promises may become impractical, or ill-advised, based on unforeseen circumstances. I look for someone who I trust to make good decisions in the face of the unanticipated.

And it occurs to me that maybe, maybe we could expect ol’ F.U. — who is a pretty smart guy, aside from all his character defects — to act wisely and responsibly, if only because he does love power so much, and therefore would not want to screw up and lose political support.

Whereas we know that Donald Trump doesn’t know wise policy from a hole in the ground. Even if he were trying to do the right thing just to look good, he wouldn’t know how.

Thoughts?

Frank Underwood

Want to be MORE worried about Trump? Listen to the world

This morning on NPR, I heard a Republican — a supporter of Marco Rubio, I believe (I missed his introduction) — state the obvious: Donald Trump winning the GOP nomination would be bad for the party — and, far more importantly, for the country.

But that’s thinking small. I get most concerned when I think about the effect on the world. That, of course, is the way I think of the presidency — not someone who’s going to “fight for me” (possibly my least fave political locution) on domestic issues, but someone who will skillfully handle our relations with the rest of the globe.

And when it comes to that… Well, speaking of public radio, I recommend that you listen to this discussion from The Takeaway last week, which looks at reactions from around the world, from PM David Cameron’s statement that things Trump has said are “divisive, stupid and wrong” (which doesn’t bode well for the Special Relationship were Trump elected) to a Chinese view that the alleged Republican is an “April Fool’s joke” (although the same speaker likes him better than Hillary Clinton).

Then of course, there’s the apocalyptic view of Trump from south of the border.

What struck me the most was the comments of Edward Lucas, a senior editor from The Economist (I get deeply embarrassed for my country when I think of such smart people as senior editors at The Economist actually paying attention to this election), who among other things said:

We really need U.S. presidents who are deeply engaged in European security…. And I think what really worries me about Trump is not his off-the-wall comments and his rudeness and vulgarity and so on — it’s the isolationism, it’s the idea that he just really isn’t interested in shouldering burdens with other countries. And we here in Europe really need America as our partner in all sorts of ways…

Of course, he goes on to say that the isolationism of some of the other GOP candidates and of Bernie Sanders worry him as well. But I get the impression that Trump stands out.

Edward Lucas

Edward Lucas

And this is a sharp departure from the norm. Lucas notes that all recent presidents — Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton and Obama have taken a proper, healthy interest in Europe and the world.

But Trump, and some of the other candidates, do not. And that rightly worries our allies.

Of course, I’ll confess that being the Anglophile that I am, hearing these concerns expressed in a posh English accent make them all the more alarming…