Tuesday Evening Open Thread: Peak NYT Mealymouth

Because of the SSL issues referenced in the last post, I can’t post links properly, but I wanted to state for the record that this article (Debate Offers Jeb Bush a Chance to Take the Family Gloves Off: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/15/us/politics/republican-debate-jeb-bush.html) reaches some kind of apotheosis of the Grey Lady’s inability to call things by their proper names:

… The Republican debate on Tuesday in Las Vegas provides Mr. Bush with a highly anticipated platform to forcefully take on his rivals. After faltering in a previous debate exchange with Senator Marco Rubio, Mr. Bush — perhaps more than anyone else onstage — might be compelled to prove he has the strength and passion not just to lead the nation, but to hold his own in the aggressive Colosseum of modern politics.

That could be tricky for a man whose family code is one of polite gentility and even bipartisanship, not angry yelling and boorishness.

That hardball, in-the-trenches style of politics, said friends, aides and scholars of the three men, goes against the ethos of the blue-blooded dynasty with roots in New England, where manners and decorum were ingrained not just at the dinner table but in the halls and playing fields of Andover.

“Even the most visceral of the Bushes, George W. Bush, has been averse to that kind of pugnation,” said Robert Draper, the author of “Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush.” “The charitable view of it is manners — it’s better not to flash anger and swing elbows. The less charitable view is it derives from a kind of superiority that Bushes don’t fight in alleys.”

Ron Kaufman, who served in the first President Bush’s administration and is a longtime friend of the family, said Jeb Bush in particular was more of a serious-minded policy aficionado than a political fighter…

Even for a dedicated professional coatholder like Ron Kaufman, that is a lot of bullshit to cram into one sentence.
Apart from the ever-enjoyable spectable of REPUBS IN DISARRAY!, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

Schadenfreude Read: “Republican Billionaires Just Can’t Seem to Buy This Election”

Unlike the Blogmaster, if I can’t have a responsible press corps covering our politics — and of course we all know that’s not happening any time in the foreseeable future — I want them to take up as much space as possible detailing exactly how YOOOOGE a collection of idiots, losers & haters now populate the GOP’s Disloyal Opposition. Here’s an excellent example, from Gabriel Sherman for NYMag:

Rove’s 2012 crash is having profound effects on the 2016 Republican primary. To begin with, George W. Bush’s Brain is no longer considered much of a brain. “I gave Rove $500,000. What did I get for it? Nothing!” Langone told me. Two of Rove’s most generous 2012 funders, Texas billionaires Bob Perry and Harold Simmons, have since passed away, and their heirs have turned off the cash spigot. “Everyone is still shocked Romney lost,” says Simmons’s widow, Annette. “I haven’t committed at all.” So far this year, Crossroads has raised just $784,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Rove insists he’s still a player. “We’ll be involved in the Senate races,” he told me. “Depending on who the presidential nominee is, we may be involved in that, but that’s a long way off.” What Rove is not is anywhere near the center of the Republican Party. “But for his perch on Fox News, Karl would be in political Siberia,” says a top Republican strategist. “The going joke is that he must have a picture of Roger Ailes in his underwear to keep his contract.”

It’s not just that Rove is personally marginalized. Donors have awakened to the realization that topflight consultants can earn millions from campaigns regardless of whether they win. “It bothers a lot of people that politics has become a cottage industry. Everyone is taking a piece of this and a slice of that,” says California winemaker John Jordan, a former Rove donor. “Crossroads treated me like a child with these investor conference calls where they wouldn’t tell you what was really going on. They offered platitudes and a newsletter.”

Working under the assumption that they can support a campaign better themselves, donors are building their own organizations, staffed by operatives who report to them…

If you read the whole thing, you’ll see that (so far, at least) these billionaires are learning what billionaires usually learn whenever they step outside their own narrow fiefdoms: Winning always looks easier in retrospect, when you don’t see the frantic marathons, the near-misses, the many times competitors came thisclose to taking the medalist down. Who knew that a band of professional grifters calling themselves “campaign operatives” would be well-positioned to take advantage of every half-bright moneybag who strolled into their office with a grievance and a checkbook?….

Monday Morning Political Gambling Open Thread

This time, in Las Vegas. There were rumors that Little Prince Rand would quit if denied his spot on the main stage, but a last-minute Fox News poll out of Iowa allowed CNN to retain the optics of a flame-haired Trump at center stage setting his fellows alight.

Staying on theme, Politico gives “British political gambler” Paul Krishnamurty a chance to “predict the entire 2016 election”:

… As a gambler, I’ve noticed that Americans might also be obsessed with predicting their presidential races, but they often rely on pundits whose name recognition far outstrips their accuracy. Gamblers can’t afford to be wrong that often: Political prediction is a genuine game of skill, with serious research going into the effort—and serious rewards for the gambler who gets it right.

I’ll cut to the chase: my current prediction is for Hillary Clinton to become president, in line with Betfair’s ratings, at about 54 percent. But my main focus—and where the greatest potential profit lies—is predicting the winner of the GOP nomination. In gambling terms, this race is the perfect political market: one that’s wide-open, and in which momentum (and therefore the betting), swings regularly between candidates. Right now I have positions on a raft of outsiders, including Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina—and my biggest bet, on Ted Cruz…

… I expect a better motivated, high-turnout anti-Trump contingent to coalesce around the candidate best placed to beat him. Given that Carson and Trump together add up to over 40 percent of poll share, their decline or withdrawal would utterly transform the race. Their former backers would prove decisive. Where would these voters go next?

Both candidates represent hostility to conventional politicians: Trump’s bid has been fueled by extreme rhetoric on immigration—now the third most important issue as of last month, behind the economy and national security—while Carson is thriving among evangelicals. So the beneficiary of their decline should be anti-establishment, immigration hardliner, popular among evangelicals and well-resourced to withstand a long race.

I’ve felt for months that this mystery candidate is Ted Cruz, as only he can convincingly tick off all four of these boxes. He appeals to social conservatives, libertarians, constitutionalists and immigration hardliners. His candidacy has immeasurably greater potential than a damaged Gingrich or under-resourced Santorum. Wrecking ball tactics in Washington effectively make him the outsider the base seems to want. Cruz has avoided criticizing Trump and is openly chasing his voters. And as far as evangelicals are concerned, who better than the winner of the Values Voter Straw Poll for the past three years?…

Me, I doubt that the Great American Common or Low-Info Voter will chose to risk four years of watching Ted Cruz’s smug mug emitting horrible nasal noises on their teevees, but since B-movie actor Ronald Reagan got elected I’ve learned to never say never when it comes to Rethug taste (or the lack thereof).

Apart from horserace journalism (lowest of the low!), what’s on the agenda for the start of the new week?

Long Read: “The Freedom Caucus & the War in the Republican Party”

DougJ already extracted another jaw-dropping quote, but the whole article is well worth reading. Ryan Lizza, in the New Yorker, on “How a radical group of Republicans pushed Congress to the right”:

… [T]he House Freedom Caucus [is] an invitation-only group of about forty right-wing conservatives that formed at the beginning of this year. Since 2010, when the Party won back the chamber, the House has been engaged in a series of clashes over taxes and spending. Two years ago, House Republicans brought about a government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act and nearly caused the United States to default on its debt. This week, as Congress raced to meet a December 11th deadline to pass the annual legislation that funds the government, the members of the Freedom Caucus had new demands: they wanted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and restrict Syrian refugees from entering the United States, policies that, if attached to the spending bills, could face a veto from Obama and, potentially, lead to another government shutdown.

To the general public, these fights have played out as a battle between President Obama and Republicans in Congress. But the more critical divide is within the Republican Party, as House Speaker John Boehner discovered. Boehner, who is from Ohio, was elected to Congress in 1990 and rose to the Speakership in 2010. His tenure was marked by an increasingly futile effort to control a group of conservatives that Devin Nunes, a Republican from California and an ally of Boehner’s, once described as “lemmings with suicide vests.” In 2013, to the bafflement of some colleagues, Boehner supported the shutdown, in the hope that the public backlash would expose the group as hopelessly radical. It didn’t work. The group continued to defy Boehner. He tried to regain control as Speaker by marginalizing its members, and they decided that he must be forced out…

Boehner’s troubles and the rise of the Freedom Caucus are the product of resentments and expectations that the G.O.P. leadership has struggled for years to either address or dismiss. In 2009 and 2010, Democrats, who then controlled both the House and the Senate, pushed through the most aggressive domestic agenda since the Great Society. In response, during the 2010 midterm elections Republicans promised to overturn Obama’s entire agenda—the Affordable Care Act, financial regulation, stimulus spending, climate-change regulations—and dramatically cut government. Just before the election, the three House Republican leaders, Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy, promoted a manifesto, called “A Pledge to America,” that, among other things, promised to cut a hundred billion dollars from the budget and return spending to pre-Obama levels. The Republicans won sixty-three seats, taking control of the House, and expanded their ranks in the Senate. In November, 2010, House Republicans unanimously elected Boehner Speaker…

In January of 2013, when Boehner was reëlected as Speaker, a dozen Republicans withheld their votes. In August, Meadows sent a letter to Boehner recommending that he offer Obama a trade, which read more like a threat: if the President agreed to defund the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans would continue to fund the government.

The idea had little currency inside the House, but it found an eager audience among activists and conservative media outlets… Read more

Open Thread: What News of Ted Cruz, Stealth God-King Candidate?

Per the NYTimes, “Ted Cruz Questions Donald Trump’s ‘Judgment’ to Be President”

… [I]nside a conference room Wednesday in a Madison Avenue office, with about 70 people pressed around a table, Mr. Cruz gave his assessment of the race, lumping Mr. Trump with another candidate whose supporters the Texas senator hopes to poach, Ben Carson.

“Both of them I like and respect,” said Mr. Cruz, according to an audio recording of his comments provided by one attendee. “I don’t believe either one of them is going to be our president.”…

On the audio, after he described the “challenging question” facing Mr. Trump and Mr. Carson, Mr. Cruz went on to explain: “So my approach, much to the frustration of the media, has been to bear hug both of them, and smother them with love.”

He added: “People run as who they are. I believe gravity will bring both of those campaigns down” and “the lion’s share of their supporters come to us.”…

Mr. Cruz, questioned about the remarks on Thursday after a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, said he was “not going to comment on what I may or may not have said at a private fund-raiser.”…

In a decent world, that audio clip would be the 2016 version of Mitt Romney’s “47 Percent” fundraiser speech, if only because listening to Ted Cruz for even five minutes is an ordeal, and not just because of his revolting politics.

Unless, apparently, one is a Talibangelical hustler drafting on Rep. Steve ‘Pig Muck” King’s slice of the electorate: Read more

Late Night Open Thread: He Is Their Frontrunner

luck i am your frontrunner luckovich

(Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)

Jeb Lund, in the Guardian:

Trump cannily recognizes that his extremism bedevils establishment Republicans. Publicly saying things a chunk of the conservative base yells at reruns of Cops is bad form. It mars the high-class brand…

More pointedly, Trump shrewdly shifted the discussion from his polls to his policy. On Monday, Monmouth University published a poll showing Trump falling behind Texas senator Ted Cruz in Iowa. What would be a temporary setback for most candidates challenges Trump’s core appeal: that he is the strongest, most luxurious candidate in the field. You can’t trail when you sell invincibility, especially when the equally shrewd Ted Cruz makes no secret of drafting behind you in hopes of picking up your followers and refuses to give you any material by attacking you.

So the horserace journalism goes: Trump again leapt to the right, leaving establishment Republicans well to his left and daring real conservatives Cruz and Marco Rubio to either compromise their identities and follow suit or risk staying put and looking like centrists. If political cleverness is the widest setting on your moral aperture, this is great.

The shrewd left doesn’t do much better. The argument you will hear is that shutting our borders to all Muslims only aids Isis by feeding into their narrative of an America at war with Islam itself and, by extension, all Muslims. They aren’t wrong. That’s a persuasive argument, but if that’s America’s default appeal, we all need to put on a chain mail suit, run through the rain and try to make babies with an electrical transformer. We’ve outlived our decency.

Sometimes it’s enough for an idea to merely be stupid, wretched, inhumane and, if we need a fourth for bridge, unconstitutional. Sometimes a refusal to be morally impoverished is reason enough. Sometimes, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, we can point to a meringued trash golem effervescing with sewage ideas like Donald Trump and say: “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”…

Open Thread: Would That It Were So Easy

Aaaand the Libertarian viewpoint, from Mr. Megan McArgleBargle…

…. because whatever happens among the wild things, he expects to come home to his comfy bed and find his supper waiting — still warm! (Between this & Cruz misunderstanding Green Eggs & Ham, maybe we should just keep Repubs away from the childens’ section entirely.)

Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, what’s on the agenda for the evening?