Category Archives: The Nation

‘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

Yes, Iowa matters, and no, it should not

On the day when Iowa will caucus, veteran WashPost political writer Dan Balz raises the question, “Does Iowa really matter? And should it?

My answer is, yes, it does. And no, it shouldn’t.

And my answer has nothing to do with those white people in Iowa or their relative political value. I object to the idea of anything as idiosyncratic, and as extremely partisan, as caucuses having such an outsized effect on our nomination process.

As Balz notes:

There’s no question that both the Democratic and Republican caucuses deny some people the opportunity to participate. Unlike a primary, when polls are open from dawn to dark, there is but one window for taking part in the caucuses. There are new provisions this year to make it easier to participate for some who otherwise might be unable to do so. But it is by nature limiting and, to those not closely aligned with their party, it can be intimidating and seemingly exclusionary….

And not just “seemingly.” Ruth Marcus puts her finger on the problem, too:

Welcome to my quadrennial rant against the caucus system. The theory is Norman Rockwell heartwarming: neighbors gathered in a communal enterprise of representative democracy. The reality is jarring, as illustrated by conversations with voters I encountered during a canvassing session with Sanders volunteers Saturday afternoon.

The unforgiving demands of the caucus system serve to intensify the voice of the parties’ most committed, and therefore likely most extreme, voters, as others are deterred by the seemingly arcane and time-consuming process. Meanwhile, caucuses disenfranchise nurses, firefighters and others working the night shift, although both parties took steps this year to offer some opportunity for members of the armed forces to participate….

Yeah, I’m concerned about those nurses and firefighters, yadda-yadda. But I tend to rant against the process in large part because it disenfranchises a guy like me.

There is no way I am ever going to attend a caucus, except to cover it (which I did, way back in 1980, in Arkansas). Attending caucuses is for partisans — and not only for partisans, but for the kind who are so into it that they don’t mind standing up at a public meeting and declaring themselves so, and actively advocating for one candidate or another in front of their neighbors.

So, yeah: It’s yet another thing, alongside the way we reapportion districts, that pushes our politics more toward the extremes.

At least, that’s the usual effect. This year is weird. This is one year in which it might be a good thing for some party regulars to show up and steer the process back toward the mainstream a bit. But even the possibility that that could happen doesn’t reconcile me to the process. The fact that I would, even for a moment, think of party regulars as part of a solution to a problem just shows how far gone we are this year.

I could go on about all the reasons caucuses are horrible, but I don’t have to, because I already did, in this column back in 2008

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…

Will the U.S. never disentangle itself from WWII?

Here are the two top stories in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs:

  • The Bundeswehr Backs Away From the Brink — Since the end of the Cold War, NATO members’ defense expenditures, which include arms as well as personnel and facilities, have dropped dramatically. Now, Germany plans to increase its military spending, in large part to repair and maintain the Bundeswehr’s deteriorating equipment.
  • The Battle for Okinawa — Growing discontent in Okinawa has the potential to reverberate beyond Japan’s borders. If Washington and Tokyo wish to maintain the bases there, they must be prepared to address the historical and political issues that have led Okinawans to reject them.

By modern standards, we should all be wringing our hands that we are still not rid of the challenges arising from that mess we got involved in back in 1941.

At the moment, I’m reading a fairly new book about the battle in the Ardennes in December 1944 (a.k.a., Battle of the Bulge), and I’m reminded of how Hitler hoped it might give him a chance to fight to a stalemate in the West, so he could concentrate on his main enemy, Russia.

If some modern American leaders had been in charge back then, he might have succeeded. The nation would be in political shock from the disasters of Market Garden and the Hurtgen Forest, that a modern president might have seized upon the Ardennes as an excuse to quit and seek a negotiated settlement.

Then, he could have bragged about having “ended the war in Europe.” Of course, that would have been totally bogus, but not by our standards today…

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.

Last night’s Democratic debate in Charleston

Hillary Clinton sitting on the COLD State House steps this morning with Todd Rutherford, awaiting her turn to speak.

Hillary Clinton sitting on the COLD State House steps this morning with Todd Rutherford, awaiting her turn to speak.

Well, I meant to write today about the Democratic presidential candidates at the King Day at the Dome observance, but technical problems intervened. I watched some of it (via WIS) on my laptop and iPad, but the signal kept getting interrupted — both wifi and 4G.

Finally, when Hillary Clinton was done and Bernie Sanders had started, and I could see him but hear nothing, I put on my coat (and hat, and gloves, and scarf, remembering the bitter cold of a similar such rally eight years ago) and walked the four blocks or so to the State House, and… it was over. I walked onto the grounds against the flow of uniformed Secret Service officers hurriedly leaving.

I saw Sheriff Leon Lott, and he told me I hadn’t missed much, in terms of what the candidates had to say. He said if you heard them last night, you heard what they said today.

So let’s talk about the debate last night.

My quick takeaways…

  • Most who watched who are not Hillary Clinton supporters saw Bernie Sanders as the winner. And that’s probably true, partly because he stayed on message and partly because ex-Sen. Clinton was so obviously, deliberately lashing out at him, in light of the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.
  • Note that term, “deliberately.” Everything Hillary Clinton does is so calculated, it’s one of the reasons a lot of people like Bernie, and a lot of other people wish Joe Biden had run.
  • Saying Bernie won does not mean I liked what he had to say. The raw paranoia of it is so disturbing — the whole Occupy Wall Street narrative about a few billionaires running the country (when anyone who looks around would see nobody’s running the country; it’s kind of on autopilot). How do people believe that stuff? Just because you aren’t doing well (and hey, I can identify with that) doesn’t mean that there’s some conspiracy against you. It just doesn’t. It’s like… when I was laid off from the paper, I wasn’t mad at anybody. The world changed, and the business model that supported newspapers collapsed under them. Nobody did it on purpose.
  • O’Malley did a nice job, and got to play the reasonable guy on the stage a number of times when Hillary was lashing out at Bernie and Bernie was spouting about super PACs, the wicked banks and billionaires. But it’s over for him.
  • I felt for Hillary when the moderator asked, “If Obama couldn’t bring the country together, how could you?” I mean, that’s a cruel question to ask someone who is Republicans’ favorite punching bag (as they are hers). He might as well have added, “… of all people.” But as she said, she has reached out and tried to work with the Lindsey Grahams of the Senate. No one would call it a core strength of hers, though.

I guess that’s enough to get some conversation going. I’ll close with this, which I tweeted when the debate was over:

Joel Lourie had asked me essentially the same question earlier in the evening, after I said I expected her to win the election. My answer? “Not all that great.” All the reasons why I preferred Obama on the Democratic side eight years ago are still present, only this time there’s no Obama.

That was, for me, the no-lose election, since I liked both Obama and McCain a lot. But this time? I like Hillary on foreign affairs, and I like that she’d veto the GOP’s perpetual attempts to scuttle the ACA. But she does not inspire enthusiasm.

And it’s looking increasingly like the sensible options on the Republican side have the odds stacked against them.

So I’m nostalgic for 2008. Maybe someone will inspire me before it’s over. But the chances of that don’t look great at the moment.

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.

Thoughts about the State of the Union, Haley’s response?

sotu

Y’all, I’ve really been backed up today and having technical problems and just haven’t been able to stop with day job stuff to reflect on last night’s State of the Union, or Nikki Haley’s response.

But what did y’all think? I’ll jump in there with you as I can…

haley vid

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…

The Democrats’ response to Nikki Haley giving the GOP ‘response’ — and mine to theirs

From the governor's Facebook page.

From the governor’s Facebook page.

The SC Democrats put out this release today:

SCDP Chair Statement on Nikki Haley Delivering GOP SOTU Response
Columbia, SC –  South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison issued the following statement on the announcement of Governor Nikki Haley delivering the GOP response to the President’s State of the Union.
Next Tuesday, America will see a poised and confident speaker in South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. But, what they won’t see, and what they certainly won’t hear about, is the despair that has plagued our state as a result of her leadership.”
“What Gov. Haley doesn’t want you to know is that South Carolina is hurting. While she’s smiling in front of the cameras, normal people in our state are struggling just to get by.
“The South Carolina we see is filled with roads and bridges in dire need of repair after recent flooding. Our schools, especially those in poor, rural communities, are without the funds they need to teach our children. Hard-working men and women are being forced to work two or three jobs to support their families because the wages they make at one job simply aren’t enough.
“The stakes are high. While Gov. Haley and Republicans are focused on driving a wedge between us, South Carolina Democrats are working to find common ground and common sense solutions. Because we see what South Carolina can be.
“Let’s make the game fair again—let’s take care of the many, not just the powerful and influential. Let’s create good paying jobs and make education affordable for the next generation of leaders. Let’s make healthcare accessible and repair our bridges and roads. And let’s do it together.
“If you work hard and play by the rules, you should feel good about your future and the future of your loved ones. That’s what South Carolina Democrats believe, and that’s the American Dream we’re defending.
###

I’d like to make a couple or three points about that:

  • Jaime HarrisonFirst, a modest attaboy: The tone of this is noticeably better than that in many such communiques, and I want to give Jaime Harrison credit for that. Seldom do see a statement from either party regarding a leader of the opposing party that says anything like this: “America will see a poised and confident speaker in South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.” No, it’s not huge, but the bar is so very low when it comes to party rhetoric that I wanted to make positive note of that.
  • Next, as I’ve said many times before, I heartily disapprove of these “responses” from the party that does not occupy the White House. The president has a constitutional obligation to make these reports “from time to time” — not to the voters, but to Congress, although it is obviously a matter of concern to the whole country, and I applaud networks for airing it all these years now. The “response” has now become an informal institution, and an unfortunate one — it institutionalizes pure partisanship. There is no reason for it except to afford the opposition party a chance to say “Yeah? And your mama!” in response to the president’s performance of this constitutional duty, and to do so before a live television audience. It is one of the most visible expressions of pointless partisanship in a country in which many voters have forgotten that our founders despised parties (at least in theory; they were more fallible in practice).
  • Finally, I want to praise Gov. Haley for calling it an “address” rather than a response. After all, it never is a response, is it? It’s prepared in advance, before the president has spoken. It’s a pro forma “Is not!” that is offered regardless of what the president actually just said. I appreciate her frankness about that.

Obama wept: Tears of rage, tears of grief

Obama wept

Hey, y’all! Obama’s coming to get your guns!

Of course, he’s not. The measures he announced today will do practically nothing to stem gun violence, and won’t go out and take a gun from anyone’s hands, be they warm and alive or cold and dead.

But that’s the way it will play, isn’t it? Gun rights people are sort of binary creatures. They have two modes. In one, they are happy and comfortable in their personal bunkers with several years worth of MREs, an off-the-grid power supply, and good fields of fire in every direction. And in the other, they’re screaming “OBAMA’S COMING TO GET MY GUNS!”

Except Bryan, of course.

Doubt me on this? Read the second graf of this story:

“He wants to take my guns,” said Kim Nettles, a 66-year-old West Columbia resident who said Obama’s plan — to issue executive orders Tuesday enacting new gun rules — is “illegal.”…

In the real world in which we live, though, there’s little the president or anyone else can do about the fact that there are so very many guns out there, and sooner or later some of them are going to be in the wrong hands. It’s an economic problem — too many unstable, violent people chasing too many guns.

And so, rather than some avenging angel who is singlehandedly going to undo the 2nd Amendment, we have a president who weeps in frustration. And grief, of course…

Poll: Only half of voters would be embarrassed if Trump were president

Oddly, the news accounts I’ve seen leave out the “only.” Yet to me, the fact that no more than half would feel such mortification is the startling, and alarming, news in this report.

Meanwhile, a quarter say they’d be “proud.” To quote from the wisdom of Dave Barry, I am not making this up…

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?

 

‘Hands up, don’t shoot!’ makes list of biggest canards

As you probably know, The Washington Post has a fact checker feature which involves regularly checking the veracity of various claims that make news, and awards “Pinocchios” to indicate the relative level of falsehood. The biggest lies get four Pinocchios.

The Post has now published a year-end list of “The biggest Pinocchios of 2015,” and as you might expect, the list is dominated by the 2016 presidential candidates. In just six months, Donald Trump has earned 11 Four-Pinocchio ratings — far more than any other candidate.

Politicians, of course, are easy targets. Their statements are regularly subjected to great skepticism and close scrutiny.

What struck me as most intriguing (and not just because it was more of a 2014 thing than 2015) is that the Post chose to include, on this list of biggest lies, the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” meme out of Ferguson. In other words, the Post is highlighting that thousands of morally outraged people who thought they were speaking truth to power were in fact perpetuating a falsehood.

The belief that Michael Brown raised his hands and said “Don’t shoot!” was embraced without question by protesters across the country, and helped to launch the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

The thing is, though, that to the best of our knowledge, it did not happen. As the Post states, “But various investigations concluded this did not happen — and that Wilson acted out of self-defense and was justified in killing Brown.”

The irony here, of course, is that there are other incidents across the country more deserving of protesters’ indignation — Walter Scott being shot multiple times in the back, the shocking killing of Laquan McDonald, Eric Garner suffocating in a police chokehold.

But unfortunately the Michael Brown killing — which was never as clear-cut a case of police brutality as other incidents — was the one that got the ball rolling. And it’s appropriate, in the interest of historical accuracy, to take note of the fact that the protesters didn’t know what had happened.

Reminds me of the Boston “Massacre.” The British soldiers involved were later acquitted, and rightly so (John Adams was their defense attorney, which took a lot of guts and a profound faith in the rule of law).

That didn’t mean the Revolution that followed was without merit. On the whole, I’d call our independence an excellent thing. But sometimes people are initially radicalized by the wrong things…

Obama acknowledges War on Terror

Obama speech

Most of the commentary I’ve seen since last night has emphasized that POTUS didn’t unveil anything new in his speech last night, that he mainly just tried to justify what he’s doing (or what he’s not doing, if you prefer), and that his real purpose was apparently to lecture us about tolerance.

Well, I heard something that sounded new to me. He said:

Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11. In the process, we’ve hardened our defenses — from airports to financial centers, to other critical infrastructure. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have disrupted countless plots here and overseas, and worked around the clock to keep us safe. Our military and counterterrorism professionals have relentlessly pursued terrorist networks overseas — disrupting safe havens in several different countries, killing Osama bin Laden, and decimating al Qaeda’s leadership…

Did you catch it? Tell you what; let’s just zero right in on what I’m talking about:

Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

 

You catch that? We are “at war with terrorists.” Not “We’ve been prosecuting incidents of terror as discrete crimes,” or “I’ve been shutting down multiple wars started by my predecessor,” or “the so-called War on Terror.”

He said we are at war with terrorists. Maybe he’s said it multiple times before, but this time it jumped out at me.

Did it strike anyone else?

The NYT’s front-page editorial about guns

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We knew that the New York Daily News was conducting a rather lurid campaign against guns on its tabloid front, but things have taken a significant new turn in a more respectable direction.

The Gray Lady, The New York Times itself, has published its first front-page editorial since 1920, headlined, “End the Gun Epidemic in America.”

This is a profound development, folks. The editors of the Times have resorted to a step that they did not see as necessitated by anything going on during the Great Recession, World War II, the turmoil of the 1960s, Watergate, 9/11 or anything else that happened during the past 95 years.

I suppose that’s because, while those other things were huge news events, none involved such difficult questions about what sort of nation we want to be as does this. More to the point, none of those things were likely to run into such adamant opposition as this initiative. If we’re really, truly, after all these years, about to have a serious national discussion about guns, it may be our toughest disagreement since slavery.

An excerpt from the editorial:

All decent people feel sorrow and righteous fury about the latest slaughter of innocents, in California. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are searching for motivations, including the vital question of how the murderers might have been connected to international terrorism. That is right and proper.

But motives do not matter to the dead in California, nor did they in Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut and far too many other places. The attention and anger of Americans should also be directed at the elected leaders whose job is to keep us safe but who place a higher premium on the money and political power of an industry dedicated to profiting from the unfettered spread of ever more powerful firearms.

It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism….

Bryan and I have already been having a discussion about this today, via Twitter. This post is intended to broaden the discussion:

336 days, 355 mass shootings

I got this from The Washington Post‘s Wonkblog. How is a “mass shooting” defined for the purposes of this count?

The San Bernardino shooting is the 355th mass shooting this year, according to a mass shooting tracker maintained by the Guns Are Cool subreddit. The Reddit tracker defines mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people, including the gunman, are killed or injured by gunfire.

The Mass Shooting Tracker is different from other shooting databases in that it uses a broader definition of mass shooting — the old FBI definition focused on four or more people killed as part of a single shooting.

It would be also be the second mass shooting just today — in the early morning hours, one person was killed and three were injured in an incident in Savannah, Georgia.

Speaking after the Colorado Springs shooting last week, President Obama urged Americans to not let this type of violence “become normal.” But the data show that this type of incident already is normal. There have been more mass shootings than calendar days so far this year…

So if only three people are hit, it’s not a mass shooting, by this count.

That’s right. In SC, who the governor is matters more than who the U.S. senator is

The Washington Post was musing about why David Vitter’s prostitute problem didn’t keep him from being re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, but did keep him from being elected governor of Louisiana this year.

And I was surprised and pleased to see that the Post, despite its Beltway perspective, had the insight to list this reason first:

1.  Louisianans care much more about who their governor is than who their senator is. It might be hard for many in Washington to grasp, but Louisiana is far from alone in caring more about who its governor is than who goes to the Senate from the state. (New Jersey, California and Texas are three others that jump to mind.) “Voters have a higher standard for governor than someone they send off to Washington,” said Bob Mann, a professor of mass communication at Louisiana State University who was a top aide to former senator John Breaux (D).

Added Curt Anderson, a Republican consultant who advises outgoing Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: “In Louisiana, they take the governor’s race seriously. They feel like they are voting for the head man for the state. They do not take Senate races very seriously. The job of a senator from Louisiana is to go to Washington and try to stop the madness in D.C. and oppose [President Obama] Obama. That’s it. If you can do that, fine.”  

Simply put: The bar that Vitter needed to clear was MUCH higher in the governor’s race than in his 2010 Senate bid.  And he never really understood that or came close to clearing it.

Indeed. That’s a point I’ve made many times over the years here in South Carolina. In fact, back when the news first broke that Inez Tenenbaum was going to run for the U.S. Senate in 2004, I called her to ask why she wanted to waste time doing that; South Carolina needed a good governor far more than it needed to send its talent to Washington to engage in the eternal, pointless, partisan wars.

Yet time and again in this state and others, you’ve seen governors use their posts as stepping-stones to the Senate, sometimes even appointing themselves when a Senate vacancy occurs. I can’t speak for other states, but if talented, smart politicos really care about South Carolina, we can use them here a whole lot more than we can up there.

Of course, some people are more suited for the Washington stage than for the State House. Lindsey Graham comes to mind. And the country (not the state, but the nation) needs good senators — better ones than we have now. But here in SC, if someone has what it takes to be a good governor, I’d rather they stay here and run for that. Too few people who could make a difference do…

Not to be outdone, Graham calls for war ‘with no limits’

Just in case I missed it in my daily perusal of The Washington Post (and somehow I had), Sen. Graham’s office made sure I knew that, while Jeb! Bush may be calling for boots on the ground, Graham is not going to give up his status as the undisputed hawk in the field:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is readying an authorization of military force against the Islamic State that would allow the United States to attack the militant group’s allies anywhere, and with no timetables.

“ISIL is a more credible threat to our homeland than al-Qaeda,” Graham said in an interview, referring to the Islamic State by one of its other names. “We need to have an authorization of force that is not limited by geography, time, or means.”

The resolution, which Graham plans to officially introduce after the Thanksgiving recess, is being shaped and shopped around to senators on Wednesday. “No geographic limits are placed on American military or intelligence services in the fight against ISIL,” reads the outline of the in-process legislation. “No expiration date. No prohibition on sending American forces on the ground to combat ISIL. No prohibitions on the ability of the United States to disrupt online terrorist recruitment activities, online terrorist propaganda, or terrorist communications.”

All of that makes Graham’s AUMF further-reaching than any comparable ones — none of which have gotten traction in Congress….

Read the whole story here.

 

THIS would be too much government, FYI

Frequently, my libertarian friends here on the blog accuse me of loving Big Government so much that I’ve never seen an expansion of it that I didn’t like.

Not true. And in his column today, George Will reminded me of a Trump proposal that I regard as an utterly unwarranted and highly objectionable expansion of government:

Watch Trump on YouTube and consider his manner in light of his stupendously unconservative proposal, made one day earlier, for a federal police force. (It would conduct about 500,000 deportations a month to remove approximately 11.4 million illegal immigrants intwo years).

I am completely opposed to turning this nation into a police state.

Remember this next time you wonder where I would draw the line.