Open Thread: Warpigs {Heart} Christie

Since comments on my post about Ted Cruz turned into a discussion of another high-profile GOP face-of-the-moment, I thought y’all might enjoy Alex Pareene’s take:

You saw the thing where Chris Christie and Rand Paul had an argument (in the press, not face to face) that climaxed with Paul calling Christie “King of Bacon,” right? That was not merely a game of the Conservative Dozens. That was a battle in the war for the soul of the Republican Party. In this war, Christie has a stalwart crusader on his side: Jennifer Rubin.

The Washington Post’s token conservative blogger headlined her post on the tiff “Christie flattens Rand Paul,” which I’m pretty sure was not meant to be a joke about Christie’s size, but, like “King of Bacon,” you can’t really help but go there. “This is getting fun,” she says, above an embedded YouTube of Christie doing his “arguing with some jerk-off” shtick, but this time against an opponent who is not actually present…

… What you have to remember about Rubin is that she actually doesn’t really care that much about “conservatism” as a whole. She cares primarily about “national security,” which is to say war-making and Muslim-bombing, two fixations she shares with the editors of her former employer, Commentary. Her beef with Rand Paul isn’t about his dalliance with white supremacists or his decidedly austere plans for the social safety net, even if she’ll use those beliefs as a cudgel against him if need be. Her beef with Paul is that he is not an interventionist neoconservative hawk.

The problem for her, right now, is that the GOP is almost running low on those, following the rather disastrous Bush administration and its launching of two endless, awful wars. The future of the party most likely looks more like Paul (and, honestly, Pat Buchanan) than Liz Cheney.

But the hawks have a contingency plan. They will do what they have been doing for a generation: take attractive pols with absolutely no foreign policy opinions and give them some. Matt Welch recently described this process in Reason. Sarah Palin was trained in interventionism by Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol. A conservative operative described her as “a blank page” and a “project.” John McCain himself was trained in “Teddy Roosevelt”-style foreign adventuring, years ago, by David Brooks and “one of Bill Kristol’s best friends,” Marshall Wittmann…

One of the funnier aspects of the 2012 presidential election was watching Jennifer Rubin shift from a not-particularly-conservative uber-hawk blogger to an unpaid advocate for all things Mitt Romney, because her allies were advising Romney and she is deeply invested in her allies regaining power. It looks like she has her man for 2016. Or at least a man she’d be comfortable shilling for, over and over again, shamelessly. Congratulations, Chris Christie. Neoconservative fear of Rand Paul has just made you a new best friend.

Open Thread: Ted Cruz Does Not Think He Is the New Newt

Dave Weigel, “Ted Cruz: Filibustering the Continuing Resolution and Shutting Down the Government Will Be Great for Republicans“:

The Heritage Foundation, still making amends for its old advocacy of a health care mandate, played host to Sen. Ted Cruz [Tuesday] for a talk about the “defund Obamacare” movement. It was the latest in a run of conservative media appearances for Cruz; anyone who’d heard what he told Glenn Beck or Fox & Friends got a preview of what he’d tell conservative bloggers…

“The Obama White House operates on the assumption Republicans will surrender on every major issue,” said Cruz. What he needed were 63 days of Republican activists putting the fear into the party if it didn’t defund Obamacare, and great communicators shifting the blame for a shutdown from Republicans to Obama. “If we got to this fight, they ought to be on television every hour of the day, asking: Why is President Obama shutting down your government, because he’s so committed to forcing Obamacare on you?”

To make that point, Cruz argued that the 1995 government shutdown really didn’t hurt the GOP in the long run. They won “years of balanced budgets,” and in the 1996 election, they held Congress. “The sort of cocktail chatter wisdom that, oh, the shutdown was a disaster for Republicans, is not borne out by the data.”…

Jonathan Bernstein, in the Washington Post, reminds us that “Why, yes, Ted Cruz is a demagogue“:

How, if you are Ted Cruz, do you win the Republican nomination for president? You follow the same path that you used to win an upset nomination for the Senate. Cruz can’t really go to the right; there are essentially no issue differences that he can open up between himself and the bulk of the Republican field. Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, to name but a few, will match Cruz and each other step-by-step as they compete for who is the real conservative in the race.

No, it’s not going to be substance. Instead, Cruz will use the tried-and-true strategy of calling the rest of the party weaklings and wimps. And so [Monday] he blasted Republicans for refusing to sign on to the insane plan to shut down the government until Barack Obama and the Democrats surrender and eliminate the Affordable Care Act.

Insane? Well, as a tactic to actually get anything done, sure….

As a way to separate himself from the pack at the expense of his fellow Republicans, however, Cruz’s tactics are hardly insane. They’re irresponsible, but if Cruz doesn’t have the willingness to demagogue, then he’s just a brand new Republican Senator with nothing to show for his first six months in office, and no plans to add anything substantive to his record before his already-begun presidential run. So expect plenty more of this in the months to come. After all, it may be hurtful for the nation and destructive for his party, but it’s a lot easier than actually doing real (conservative) policy work.

The obvious template for Cruz here is Newt Gingrich, shutting down the federal government in 1995. That didn’t work out so well for the country, or even for his fellow Republicans, but it did cement Newt’s lifelong prosperity as one of the lead spokes-grifters on the Wingnut Welfare Wurlitzer. Money for nothing, and the chicks media are free!

But I’m getting the impression that Cruz is so impressed with his new “gravitas” that he’s fallen for his own hype (traditionally the professional grifter’s greatest pitfall), and now sees himself following in the footsteps of quite a different role model. Hey, if a brand-new Senator from an unimportant Midwestern state can rocket to the White House and a Nobel Peace Prize in just four years, why not a sterling fellow like Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz?

Ready, or Not, for Hillary

From the company paper, in the town where politics is the monopoly industry, in WaPo‘s political-horserace blog:

Earlier this month, Jeremy Bird, the national field director for Obama’s reelection race, and Mitch Stewart, who ran the 10 swing state operation for the president, signed on to “Ready for Hillary,” the super PAC that is functioning as a campaign-in-waiting for Clinton should she decide to run.

While the Bird/Stewart hires drew attention when they were announced, it’s hard to overestimate what the duo’s decision to work for a Clinton vehicle (and said vehicle’s willingness to have them) means going forward.

The single most valuable commodity in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is the staff talent that Obama cultivated during his two presidential campaigns. While some of the top names — David Plouffe, David Axelrod, Jim Messina, Dan Pfeiffer etc. — are Obama-ites through and through and won’t likely ever work on another presidential campaign, there is a whole layer of staff talent beneath them that is itching to bring what they learned in 2008 and/or 2012 to bear on another campaign. Bird and Stewart are at, or near, the top of that list — due in no small part to their expertise in building a field operation, a major weak spot of Clinton’s 2008 campaign…

From the MSM Paper of Record, the NYTimes, “A Bet on Clinton”:

A new group dedicated to paving the way for a Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 has already recruited dozens of the Democratic Party’s elite donors and bundlers, effectively kicking off the presidential money hunt more than three years before Election Day.

The group, Ready for Hillary, is aiming to build Mrs. Clinton a grass-roots network that would give her a prohibitive edge in any Democratic primary and a significant advantage over potential Republican rivals, channeling enthusiasm for Mrs. Clinton, a former first lady and New York senator, into Facebook hits, Twitter followers and affinity groups around the country.

But the group’s early cash haul and cultivation of a high-powered donor network underscores how presidential campaigns have continued to evolve — and lengthen — in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision

Unlike many of the outsize super PACs formed in recent years to wage expensive advertising campaigns, Ready for Hillary is trying to build a list of enthusiastic volunteers and repeat small donors, emulating the model that proved to be Mr. Obama’s most significant strategic advantage in battling an onslaught of Republican outside groups last year. (The group has received more than 3,625 contributions of exactly $20.16 each.)…

Whether or not Hillary Clinton decides to run in 2016, I think this is good for the Democratic party. If she runs, she has a head start on the Republican Klown Kavalcade; if she doesn’t, there’s an army of volunteers and donors ready to support whichever Democrat does. The temptation for second-term Presidents is to hoard campaign veterans & donors for Operation Cement the Legacy, and that’s not good for the rest of their party — ask both Al Gore and John McCain!

Charter school ratings rise dramatically in one week

I don’t know if you’ve seen the “signature” A-F school grading system yet, but it’s probably coming to your state. We have it in Ohio, but we blindly adopt every school reform gimmick and fad that comes down the pike:

Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold “failing” schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett’s education team frantically overhauled his signature “A-F” school grading system to improve the school’s marks.
Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan’s school received an “A,” despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a “C.”

The emails, which also show Bennett discussed with staff the legality of changing just DeHaan’s grade, raise unsettling questions about the validity of a grading system that has broad implications. Indiana uses the A-F grades to determine which schools get taken over by the state and whether students seeking state-funded vouchers to attend private school need to first spend a year in public school. They also help determine how much state funding schools receive.
Bennett, who now is reworking Florida’s grading system as that state’s education commissioner, reviewed the emails Monday morning and denied that DeHaan’s school received special treatment.
However, the emails clearly show Bennett’s staff was intensely focused on Christel House, whose founder has given more than $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett and thousands more to state legislative leaders.
“The fact that anyone would say I would try to cook the books for Christel House is so wrong. It’s frankly so off base,” Bennett said in a telephone interview Monday evening.
Bennett rocketed to prominence with the help of former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and a national network of Republican leaders and donors, such as DeHaan. Bennett is a co-founder of Bush’s Chiefs for Change, a group consisting mostly of Republican state school superintendents pushing school vouchers, teacher merit pay and many other policies enacted by Bennett in Indiana.
But trouble loomed when Indiana’s then-grading director, Jon Gubera, first alerted Bennett on Sept. 12 that the Christel House Academy had scored less than an A.
“This will be a HUGE problem for us,” Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12, 2012, email to Neal.
Neal fired back a few minutes later, “Oh, crap. We cannot release until this is resolved.”
By Sept. 13, Gubera unveiled it was a 2.9, or a “C.”
A weeklong behind-the-scenes scramble ensued among Bennett, assistant superintendent Dale Chu, Gubera, Neal and other top staff at the Indiana Department of Education. They examined ways to lift Christel House from a “C” to an “A,” including adjusting the presentation of color charts to make a high “B” look like an “A” and changing the grade just for Christel House. Over the next week, his top staff worked arduously to get Christel House its “A.” By Sept. 21, Christel House had jumped to a 3.75.

Bennett was chased out of Indiana in an upset election:

“This [race] is definitely being watched nationally as a referendum on reform,” Mike Petrilli, the executive vice president of the right-leaning Fordham Institute and Bennett ally, told the Associated Press. “If Tony Bennett can push this kind of aggressive reform agenda and win, it will give a big lift to other politicians eager to enact similar reforms.”

Bennett lost:

The campaigns and the messages they delivered couldn’t have been more different. Bennett raised more than $1.5 million in campaign contributions, with some of that money coming from prominent outside sources, including Walmart heiress Alice Walton, who donated $200,000 to Bennett’s campaign. Ritz, meanwhile, raised only about $250,000. In contrast to Bennett’s campaign ads, which started back in September, and were seen around much of the state, Ritz’s campaign didn’t start running TV ads until just days before the election and they were run in a handful of media markets and targeted cable TV stations.

His loss meant absolutely nothing going forward, and the race wasn’t taken as a “referendum on reform.” Bennett simply moved his “signature” school reform circus from Indiana to Florida, where he’s pursued exactly the same privatization agenda that we’ve been subjected to for more than a decade now, nationally.

Maybe we could launch a nationwide search and find some people who actually support public schools to run public schools. Continuing to hire people who seek to dismantle, defund and privatize public schools probably isn’t the Path To Excellence.

Let’s work hard to make it backfire on them

Rick Hasen, expert on all things voting related, has a good piece on the new restrictions in North Carolina:

Until last month, 40 of North Carolina’s 100 counties were covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Fat chance the DOJ or a three-judge court would have given approval of House Bill 589, at least as it passed out of a Senate Committee after a raucous session this week. The bill is a nightmare for voting-rights advocates: not only does it include a strict voter-ID law and provision shortening early voting and eliminating same-day voter registration for early voting, but it’s also a laundry list of ways to make it harder for people to vote, and which cannot plausibly be justified on antifraud grounds.
Thanks to the Supreme Court, this measure no longer requires federal approval before it can go into effect. And while we can be sure that voting-rights advocates will challenge this law in court once it passes, they will do so under much tougher voting-rights standards. Many of these laws could well pass constitutional review under other Roberts Court precedents that have been none-too-friendly to voting rights and challenges to voter-identification laws.
There seems little doubt that the Republican legislature has passed these laws in an attempt to gain partisan advantage. As Nate Cohn explains, a recent study by the State Board of Elections on just the voter-ID portion of the law certainly would have its greatest negative impact on nonwhite voters likely to vote for Democrats, and likely many other parts of the law will as well.
There is good reason to think, however, that there will be a strong reaction from Democrats, minority voters, and voting-rights activists if this law passes. Litigation to bar paid voter-registration drives will probably be struck down. Activists will spend considerable energy seeking to negate the effects of these laws and to increase turnout.
Just ask Republican legislators in Florida. They passed their own cutbacks in voter registration and early voting before the 2012 elections. Voting-rights advocates eventually got the registration rules thrown out. After Election Day in Florida saw some people waiting hours to vote, and Florida was once again held up as the example of how not to run an election and a friendly Republican home for voter suppression, the Florida legislature repealed the cutback in early voting and other voting restrictions. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker, seeing Florida’s experience, abandoned his effort to eliminate same-day voter registration in the state. The story of the 2012 election was a story of voter and judicial backlash against Republican overreaching on voting.

These two pieces jump out at me, because I haven’t seen them before:

Eliminate provisional voting if someone shows up at the wrong precinct.

Provisional ballots were sold to the public as a back-up to protect the right to vote. If conservatives are now moving to limit provisional balloting, that seems to me to be a new front in this war.

shortening early voting
Prohibit counties from extending poll hours by one hour on Election Day in extraordinary circumstances, such as in response to long lines.

I don’t think this restriction will survive a court. Conservatives in North Carolina can’t create long lines to “wait out” the voters they disfavor by restricting measures designed to avoid long lines (early voting) then refuse to accommodate the voters who are trying to deal with the long lines the state deliberately created.

One of the things I thought about seeing the long lines in Florida last cycle was people with small children. If you’ve been a poll worker, you know it is very common for people to bring small children when they vote. Obviously small children can’t be left home alone, so that’s one good reason, but some parents bring little kids along to show them what voting is about. That isn’t a problem when it’s a short wait but could be a real disaster if we’re talking about 2 or 3 or 4 hour waits. The length of the line itself could be a real deterrent to parents with babies or young children, especially if they don’t know they have to wait on a long line until they arrive.

In happier North Carolina news, commenter Summer is still planning another Balloon Juice meet-up in North Carolina:

ten people have responded to the post and it looks like we’re going to have us a meetup! (8/5)
Please email summerjsmith97 at gmail if you’d like to be there or influence scheduling toward another date.

Reformers celebrate budget cuts to local public schools

Funding for traditional Ohio public schools was the big loser again in the last state budget. Kasich and an army of school reform lobbyists got more charter schools, more reliance on standardized tests, further deregulation to facilitate privatization of our existing public schools and a state-wide expansion of vouchers. A friend is on Michelle Rhee’s lobby shop email list. He has no idea how he got on it. He forwarded an email from Rhee’s Ohio franchise. Here are the reformers celebrating the Ohio budget, a budget that harms every kid who attends a traditional public school:

Ohio has proven itself a national leader when it comes to how we fund our schools. Thanks to the efforts of Governor Kasich, the General Assembly, and StudentsFirst members like you, public school financing will now be fairer and will be linked to real student outcomes.The sweeping legislation that was just signed into law is a huge win for Ohio students, but there is still a lot of work to do to make sure that every child receives an excellent education. We should commend public officials for their hard work and cooperation and encourage them to continue to make important reforms once the legislature is back in session later this summer.Send Governor Kasich and your legislators a note of thanks and encouragement now!By entering your address below, you will be able to send an email directly to your Members of the General Assembly and the Governor. Thank them for their support!

Not surprising to me, this complete disconnect between school reform marketing rhetoric and my local reality of school reform. I have 4 children, 3 are grown and our youngest is 11, so I’ve watched “market based” reform play out in one local school district over the last decade, up close and over time. What school reform means to me is this: funding cuts, encroaching privatization, an insane focus on standardized testing, knee-jerk blaming of local public schools and a complete lack of accountability for the national leaders of the reform “movement”, the same “reformers” who are driving the national agenda and have been driving it for more than a decade. When do traditional public schools benefit from reform? I get that charters and private schools benefit. What about the traditional public schools that 95% of US public school kids actually attend?

What I want is competent stewardship and thoughtful long-term investment in the school system I already had and valued when this “reform” insanity started more than a decade ago. I also want advocates and allies in government who support public schools. Not some abstract, round-table concept of “great schools” but the actual public school my kid attends. That’s what I want. I’m not getting it. I’m getting Milton Friedman’s theories on public schools.

I don’t think I’m alone in this so I was glad to see some polling on it. A labor union commissioned the poll which means it will be dismissed by media and the national reform groups as self interested, but I don’t buy that public school teachers who belong to unions are “self interested” while national reform celebrities and their many, many, many lobbying groups are not. By using this lop-sided credibility metric media and reformers have effectively marginalized anyone who acts as an advocate for a traditional public school system, because we, parents and teachers, support the dreaded “status quo” by supporting our existing school system. I reject that. It’s dumb.

I think about my own work and compare it to what media and national reformers have done to discredit public school teachers and I’m amazed at how misguided and unfair it is. I’m a lawyer and I work some in the juvenile court system. When we have discussions on the juvenile court system here, lawyers and judges who work in the juvenile court system run the show. This, despite the fact that many lawyers bill the county for work (self interested!) and judges are actual public employees (with pensions!) Under the “school reform credibility rubric” lawyers and judges would be dismissed as hacks who seek only to keep their jobs, never mind that we actually work IN juvenile courts, with real live juveniles, every day. I’m here to tell you that would never, ever happen. Judges and lawyers would raise hell. In my darker moments watching this “reform” madness unfold I sometimes wonder if public school teachers are so easily dismissed and marginalized on “school reform” because K-12 public school teachers are 1. middle class and 2. primarily women.

In spite of all the trashing of public schools by media and reformers, you may be shocked to learn that the parents of kids who attend traditional public schools support their local (shudder) “government schools.” Since 95% of US public school kids attend traditional public schools not “choice” schools or the “miracle” charter chains that get all the attention, this polling probably matters if one is interested in the opinions of the not-famous people who use public schools:

*The two biggest problems facing public schools are too much testing and too little funding — both at 32 percent. Third on the list is large class sizes (23 percent), fourth is lack of support for teachers (17 percent) and fifth, poor teacher quality (16 percent).
*Sixty-eight percent of parents are satisfied with their children’s public schools, including 66 percent of parents with children in urban schools and 62 percent of parents with incomes under $50,000.
*Seventy-six percent oppose reduced funding for traditional public schools to increase spending on public charter schools.

Thursday Evening Open Thread: Goodbye, Guv Goodhair

perry makes texas safer ohman
(Jack Ohman via

So, in case anyone wondered why the Governor of Texas had just rediscovered his inner Savonarola, the latest next-time-for-sure happytalk from America’s Revanichist Party pretends Perry’s a contender in 2016. Yet DFHs are not afeared, as per Alex Pareene:

Perry is not going to seek a fourth term as governor of Texas, a high-status, low-authority gig that he has worked at longer than anyone else in history. The next governor will likely be Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Perry isn’t just going to go away, or at least he doesn’t intend to. He is not going to put on a stupid hat and retire to a ranch that was until very recently named something unspeakably awful. He is going to run for president. Because once a sufficient number of people have convinced an egomaniac that he would be a very good president, it’s hard for that egomaniac to let go of that dream, even after a bunch of voters do everything they can to discourage it.

In 2011, we in the rest of America were told to look out for Perry, that he was savvy, a brilliant politician, and that he’d be totally irresistible to the electorate once he made his inevitable decision to run for president. He turned out to be a dunce, completely incompetent at basic tasks like “debating” and “public speaking.”… No one in 2016 will be particularly frightened of him, and he also probably won’t have the luxury of running against a field made up entirely of clowns and a front-runner no one in the party actually liked.

As the lawyers say: Assumes facts not in evidence. But still.

He’s amiable, decent-looking, and right-wing enough to suit the modern Republican Party, but he is also a bit of an idiot and nothing about him appeals to anyone outside his state. Republicans aren’t interested in him anymore, even in Texas. Public Policy Polling (a liberal shop, but still) has Hillary Clinton beating Perry 50 to 42 in a potential presidential contest. A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showed Texas Republicans preferring Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul over their finally outgoing governor. And if they don’t want him there’s no reason to suggest Republicans anywhere else will want him. “Vote for your dumb right-wing dad” won’t work any better in 2016 than it did in 2012….

Charles Pierce:

What does Perry have to recommend him now that he didn’t have in the late summer of 2011, when he completely obliterated Michele Bachmann’s victory in the Iowa Straw Gooberfest? More uninspected, deregulated exploding fertilizer plants? He’ll be taken seriously for a while because he’s white, a Republican, and possesses a penis, but that won’t last. He’s still the guy who wanted to give illegal sponging wetbacks a complimentary college education. Forget his later stumbling and bumbling. That’s what killed his campaign with Republicans, and it looks as though, against all odds and logic, The Base wants a tougher line on that issue. No, Goodhair, your time, if it ever was, has passed.

Apart from smacking around the old pinata one more time, what’s on the agenda for the evening?