Open Thread: What’s the Level Below ‘Farce’?

benghazi no giggling luckovich

(Mike Luckovich via

Per the Washington Post, Trey Gowdey is not gonna give up easily, just because his prize committee has become almost as big a joke as Chris Christie’s presidential ambitions, and for approximately the same reasons:

… Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he has told Republican colleagues to “shut up talking about things that you don’t know anything about. And unless you’re on the committee, you have no idea what we have done, why we have done it and what new facts we have found.”

Clinton is slated to testify before the committee on Thursday. She called the panel “a partisan arm of the Republican National Committee” and said she did not know what to expect from Thursday’s hearing.

“I already testified about Benghazi. I testified to the best of my ability before the Senate and the House. I don’t know that I have very much to add,” Clinton said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “I will do my best to answer their questions, but I don’t really know what their objective is right now.”…

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested in a recent Fox News interview that the committee was formed to drive down Clinton’s poll numbers. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) and Bradley F. Podliska, a former Republican staffer on the committee, also called the investigation politically motivated.

Gowdy said McCarthy, Hanna and Podliska are “three people who don’t have any idea what they’re talking about.”…

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the committee, remained skeptical of Gowdy’s comments.

“It’s interesting that after 17 months, $4.7 million and counting of taxpayer money, that Chairman Gowdy is now saying he has another two dozen witnesses to interview. It’s very interesting,” Cummings said on “Face the Nation.” “I do believe that what he has tried to do — I listened to him very carefully — he’s now trying to shift back to where we should have been all along. That is looking at the Benghazi incident. And it’s clear to me.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a committee member, accused Republicans on the panel of leaking information to the media to embarrass Clinton. Cummings addressed the issue in a memo released Sunday, saying the committee has attempted to attack Clinton repeatedly over her use of a private e-mail server while at the State Department. Gowdy disputed the allegation in a memo and said he cares about Clinton’s e-mails “only to the extent that they relate to Libya and Benghazi.”…

Dueling memos! Dude, you figured beating up on That Woman Everyone Mistrusts would make your bones as an effective thug for your quasi-criminal organization. But even if your associates had managed to keep their big yaps shut, wasting all that time and money just to inconvenience a great many innocent people was never gonna win you any popularity contests. And you’ve done a great job of convincing everyone who wasn’t paying much attention before your cronies blew the gaff that your “serious, hard-charging, effective prosecutor” rep was self-promotion by a cheap bully with a badge.


Late Night Open Thread: Here’s Confusion to Our Enemies (Who Are Pretty Confused)

From the Politico article:

In 2012, both sides in the general election invested enough on television, but only one side invested enough in registering and turning out the vote. The Obama campaign registered 3 million voters (a good chunk of its national popular vote margin), and had 3,000 full-time organizers on payroll whose mission was to “organize themselves out of a job.” This meant that staffers were explicitly told not to call voters and knock on doors, and instead focus exclusively on recruiting a massive volunteer army who could do the job instead. This process of “capacity building,” as it was referred to internally (and documented extensively in Elizabeth McKenna and Hahrie Han’s academic book, Groundbreakers), allowed the Obama campaign to scale its operations an order of magnitude beyond the Romney campaign. On Election Day, the president over-performed the final polling averages by 3 points, a possible indicator that his turnout operation had done the trick.

This legacy influences the party’s 2016 hopefuls today. According to Democracy in Action, a website that uses Federal Election Committee data and press reports to track campaign structure and organization, Clinton has a staff of at least 90 in Iowa, with an additional 100 unpaid organizing fellows, and at least 17 field offices. Bernie Sanders’ Iowa staff has grown to more than 50, with 14 offices. In Democratic circles, an operation of that size is not considered a luxury available only to front-runners like Clinton, but a prerequisite for being taken seriously. Though gaps in reporting are likely, Democracy in Action reports that no Republican candidate has more than 10 full-time staff in any early voting state (not counting consultants and volunteer leaders).

These numbers speak to a stark divide in what Republicans and Democrats find valuable in campaigns. For Democrats, it’s field. For Republicans, it’s gross ratings points on TV. The Republican position might be understandable at the moment; no one wants to sink money on a big staff in a fragmented field and risk not having enough to capitalize on late momentum. (Scott Walker would probably tell you this.) But failing to invest in staff will make adjusting to the very different terrain of the general election a major challenge for Republicans once the Trump freak show ends. And, make no mistake, it is likely to end…

The Republican approach may be completely rational in a Hobbesian primary, where TV advertising can assist in defining candidates who still relatively unknown. The challenge the GOP will face is in adapting to the general election—not just message-wise, but in scaling an operation in an era of mass engagement. Many would argue that widespread mistrust of Clinton and an aversion to “Obama’s third term” should be enough to ensure a Republican victory. Such talk is political malpractice. The duty of a political campaign is to press every small advantage possible on every front, because the fundamentals of the election (the economy, or identity of the opponent) are often out of its control. Lessons forged in the parochialism of a primary may not be enough to ensure victory in the general election. Despite the obvious headwinds they may face in 2016, the two leading Democrats are at least trying to win their primary in a way that might pay dividends a year from now. Because of the primary campaigns each are running, Clinton or Sanders would be able to more easily roll over an experienced field team into a general election contest…

Field organizing is old-school and digital fundraising is new-school, but what both have in common is a philosophical commitment to building a campaign one voter and one donor at a time. Once critical mass is reached, both are perpetual motion machines for voter outreach and fundraising. This is in contrast to the emphasis on mass communications we are likely to see in the Republican primary.

For a Republican campaign engaged in the 15-way trench warfare of primary, it is easy to put off thinking about the general election until the primary is won. But by then, it might be too late. Field and digital infrastructure don’t come together overnight; unlike media buys, they must be planned and built months in advance. The deficit in campaign mechanics Republicans have faced in the past two election cycles have largely come about because of a lack of time between winning the primary and the general election…

Open Thread: No More Crowns At the RNC

Delicious schadenfreude, from Dave Weigel at the Washington Post:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) jumped out of a gray SUV and got back to work. Joined by a small staff and a few fellow Republicans, he’d taken an aerial tour to see Hurricane Joaquin’s flood damage to South Carolina. Now, he was hitting the ground to meet its victims, walking down the sloping streets of a neighborhood where each house was being emptied before the mold could conquer it.

“Everybody gripes about the government until they need it – sort of like a lawyer,” said Graham, the state’s senior senator and a struggling candidate for president who is among the diminishing number of Republicans still talking about the great things government can do.

In a week that began with Hurricane Joaquin’s floods and ended with the House Republican caucus rejecting the heir apparent to House Speaker John Boehner, flood relief stood out as an ironic topic in this key early nominating state. Skepticism of Washington and fear of federal power, always strong here, have rarely been stronger. Several of South Carolina’s Republican members of Congress are among the leaders of the rebellion underway inside the GOP.

All of it cements the uncertainty pervading the Republican presidential nominating contest — here and across the country. Much like in Washington, where the abrupt withdrawal from the speaker’s race of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) signaled total party chaos, the view is fading that, eventually, this presidential race will get back to normal.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who recently called South Carolina a “lock,” is at 5.7 percent here, according to the RealClearPolitics average. That’s good enough for only fifth place, 28 points behind frontrunner Donald Trump and 12 behind former neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Four years ago, on his way to losing the state primary, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney never polled lower than 13 percent. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another establishment favorite who is ahead of Bush nationally and rising in recent polls, is currently even further behind in South Carolina, with a RealClearPolitics average of just 5 percent.

“The pattern of crowning the nominee has been broken,” said Barry Wynn, a former South Carolina GOP chairman whose office is festooned with Bush memorabilia, down to a “I Miss W” coffee mug…

“I tell ya, in retrospect, I don’t think we got a lot from George W. Bush,” said state senator Lee Bright, a 2014 primary opponent of Graham who now co-chairs the South Carolina presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “You’d hope with the justices he appointed we’d see some improvement. We didn’t. Bush definitely didn’t move the ball for conservatives. If he’d have done half as much for conservatives as Obama did for liberals, anybody named Bush would have been our next president.”…

Emphases mine, of course.

Saturday Morning Cartoons Open Thread

gop leadership dumpster fire danziger

(Jeff Danziger’s website)

Count on Politico to be earnestly solicitous of the badly bruised (self-abused) Republican caucus, describing “The 14 days the House went to hell”:

[T]he man whom party honchos are begging to run for one of the most powerful jobs in Washington — 45-year-old Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — wants none of it…

The upshot is that House Republicans, for the time being, will be left with the same speaker several dozen of them just forced out — only in lame-duck form. Which nicely sums up the state of the House GOP Conference: Those who want to be speaker can’t line up the votes, and the one person who’s popular enough to win is desperate to avoid the job…

With Ryan demurring, literally dozens of lawmakers have been floated — or floated themselves — for the speaker’s job. Yet it’s not clear if any of them have support. Here’s a short list: Reps. Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.), Conaway, Peter Roskam (Ill.), Tom Cole (Okla.), John Kline (Minn.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Jeff Miller (Fla.), Bill Flores (Texas) and Pete Sessions (Texas). That’s 4 percent of the House Republican Conference…

And that doesn’t even include one of the first and loudest aspirants to lunge for the throne:

… possibly because Rep. Chaffetz was forced to wrap up his week by admitting that his personal show trial against Planned Parenthood “failed to find any wrongdoing.”

Another highly-touted candidate has made it as clear as possible that he’d just as rather some other notoriety-seeking grifter accept the poisoned chalice:
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Open Thread: I {Heart} Repubs in Disarray!

The standing “leadership” fustercluck has been a rich gift to snarkists, but seriously: The more energy these mopes expend scheming to destroy each other, the less they have to devote to destroying the American commonwealth for the rest of us.

I’m hoping this show runs longer than The Mousetrap in London. But with a higher body count!

(Complete with surprise twist, at the very end of this thread.)

Elspeth Reeve, “The Republican House Today Was More Melodramatic Than High School“:

… “Be­fore John Boehner stepped down, I said if John Boehner steps down, the same people who were try­ing to take John Boehner down, will try to frag the next guy. … Well, that is just what happened,” Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania told National Journal. Fragging is when soldiers kill one of their own. It is a rather intense metaphor for guys walking around in Brooks Brothers suits. A more apt metaphor might be high school—it’s like prom, except conservative House Republicans dumped pig blood all over the prom queen…

The way the news broke was emblematic of the chaos that took hold today: The press found out about McCarthy’s withdrawal when Representative Ryan Costello bumbled out of this morning’s caucus meeting. “Apparently I broke the news about McCarthy; blame it on being a Freshman and going out the wrong door,” he tweeted…

Mr. McCarthy’s shocking move echoed the stunning events of December 1998, when another Republican speaker-in-waiting, Representative Robert L. Livingston of Louisiana, was forced to withdraw because of marital infidelities. Republicans scrambled to find an acceptable consensus pick, and J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois was plucked from out of almost nowhere to become speaker of the House.

Blindsided by the McCarthy withdrawal, Republicans were assessing their options Thursday even as Mr. Boehner sought to calm nerves by declaring that he would stay in the job until a replacement was found. But in 1998, House Republicans had a strongman in their majority whip, Tom DeLay of Texas, to rally the rank and file behind his choice. No such figure exists today…

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Open Thread: JEB!, Ripe to Rot

Universally beloved commentor Amir Khalid flags a Daily Beast article by (former Daily Caller star) Will Rahn, “Jeb Bush Should Face Facts: It’s Time to Drop Out“…

… After all that money spent, you’re still sagging nationally and in fourth place in New Hampshire, a state you need to win. You’ve had nearly a year to make your case. It isn’t working. You should pack it in.

The conventional wisdom a few months ago was that your brother’s catastrophic presidency would be your bid’s biggest hurdle. Now, in a fit of desperation, it looks like you’re about to draft him to stump for you. Putting aside that George W. is still despised by a not-insignificant swath of the Republican electorate, how is that going to play in the general should you somehow win the nomination? You’re making the Democrats’ job easy, Jeb. They’ll be more than happy to attach you to his legacy, and you’re doing that for them.

Speaking of the Democrats, we know what will happen if you drag this out through next spring. The going thinking right now is that the guys really low in the polls—your Rand Pauls and George Patakis—should be next to drop out. But what damage do they do to the GOP by staying in? You Bushes, meanwhile, for all your patrician aloofness, are some of the dirtiest campaigners out there, and every jab you get in at your fellow establishmentarians like Marco Rubio is going to be used against them by the left. It’s one thing to toughen up a nominee in a primary fight—it’s another to make them damaged goods, unready to lead. If you’ve got some golden piece of oppo that will take Rubio or John Kasich out of consideration, by all means use it now. Otherwise, time to step aside…

Yeah, like Bar Bush would ever permit John Ellis to jump off this train before it jumps the tracks. He’ll never be her favorite son, but he does seem to be the one who inherited the most from her — all the stolid, cruel, uncaring “patrician” contempt for everyone in the world that is not of the Bush clan.

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Open Thread: Repubs in Disarray, Speaker Edition

Excellent summary of the “grandstanding charlatan” from Digby, at Salon:

Everywhere you turned, it seemed Jason Chaffetz was on television, so much so that if you didn’t know better you might think he was running for speaker himself. Lo and behold, by the weekend, he was. A week that started off with him brow-beating the director of Planned Parenthood ended with him on “Fox News Sunday” and explaining to Politico that his rationale for running for Speaker was his superior communication skills. (And truthfully, compared to McCarthy, he’s Winston Churchill.)…

The son of a man once married to Kitty Dukakis, wife of 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael, Chaffetz started off as a Jewish Democrat, then converted to Mormonism during his last year of college in Utah — and Republicanism when former President Ronald Reagan was hired as a motivational speaker for Nu Skin, the “multi-level marketing” company (think Amway) which employed Chaffetz for a decade before he entered politics. He worked as chief of staff for the famously moderate Gov. Jon Huntsman and then beat the very conservative Representative Chris Cannon by running against him from the right in the 2010 Tea Party electoral bloodbath. On Election Night, Cannon said, “the extremists who don’t want to win elections have taken over the party. We don’t want that to happen in Utah. Politics is way too important to leave to the boors.”…

And despite his politically eclectic past, Chaffetz has stuck to his arch-conservative guns during the five years he’s been in Congress. He wants to slash Social Security, ban gay marriage and look into impeaching President Obama. Still, he sees himself as a sort of mediator between the hard-core Tea Party insurrectionists and everyone else — perhaps because he’s been everything from a liberal Democrat to a moderate Republican to a hard-right zealot, depending on where the opportunities lie at any given moment.

He is a good communicator, except for the fact that he seems to have a tiny problem with the truth, which he perfectly illustrated in the Planned Parenthood hearing, when he offered up a chart so misleading that it caused Politifact to call it not only misleading, but, quoting one expert, “ethically wrong.” And while he may have a point that Kevin McCarthy screwed the pooch on Trey Gowdy’s Benghazi committee, his own history of being loose-lipped and excitable puts McCarthy’s little faux pas to shame…

Pass the popcorn… and the Gallagher-style plastic ponchos.