Archive for February, 2016

From a Trump supporter at a Ted Cruz rally in Houston:

“Nationalism is the new thing, man,” said Jordan Voor, 30, a Trump supporter who works nearby and wore a longhorn belt buckle the size of a miniature football.

“I just kind of want to watch the establishment burn,” Mr. Voor added. “What’s the point of being conservative anymore? It’s a failing ideology.”

Kinda sums it up in a nutshell.

Yup. He won second place in the Nevada caucus last night. Which is like winning first place in Rubio-land. He said on the TV this morning that he feels “good about our second-place finish.” Congratulations!

Meanwhile, in the real world, Trump won again. The inevitability of his nomination is beginning to seem, well, inevitable. But a glimmer of hope for sane Americans can be found in the 1992 presidential campaign, where Bill Clinton lost the first four primaries, and nine of the first ten. Bob Dole lost four out of the first five on the Republican side in 1996. So I guess Rubio isn’t out of this thing entirely.

How about Ted Cruz? Hard to see a path for him.

John Kasich today: “Of course I’m staying in. Why would I drop out when I’ve got the best chance to be the nominee outside of Trump?” Memo to John: You’re gonna need to win at some point. Or at least come in second so that you can claim you won.

And we can’t forget Ben Carson, another card carrying member of the deep bench. Apparently he’s finally come to the realization that his campaign is nothing but a scam. “We had people who didn’t really seem to understand finances,” a laughing Carson told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on “CNN Newsroom,” adding, “or maybe they did—maybe they were doing it on purpose.”

And lastly: Whomever is the Democratic nominee had better not take Trump lightly, assuming he is the Republican nominee. Paul Waldman outlines Trump’s potential strengths in the general election.

So Dr. Ben Carson is a winner, too! Never mind his last place finish in South Carolina.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 9.43.37 PM

Yes, Marco is the big winner of the night! By coming in third. Or maybe second. And he’s not talking participation trophy here. No, he’s a winner, yes he is! Sheesh. At least he’s getting a lot of practice delivering his victory speech for when he actually needs it. If he ever does.

The big news, of course, is that the Donald Trump felled another member of The Deep Bench, namely Jeb! Bush. The Deep Bench was so deep–remember?–that a complete novice of a politician has laid waste to most of them. I feel a little sad for Jeb!. I mean, he was always supposed to be the smart one, but in the end he was bested by his dumb brother. That’s gotta sting. You know it does. But I’m also a little sad for Jeb! because he was really just about the only one to pushback against Trump’s ugly bigotry. So now the Republicans get to own Trump. He is them and they are him.

And we might be better off with him than Rubio, anyway–that is, assuming either one of them can beat Hillary. Matt Yglesias had an interesting piece on Vox the other day, titled “Why I’m more worried about Marco Rubio than Donald Trump.”

Yglesias explains that Rubio’s budget math is “ridiculous.” Remember: Republicans are supposed to be the ones who know how to manage budgets. You’d never know it from their presidential candidates.

Rubio has proposed a tax cut that will reduce federal revenue by $6.8 trillion over 10 years. Numbers that large don’t mean anything to people, so for comparison’s sake let’s say that if we entirely eliminated American military spending over that period we still couldn’t quite pay for it.

But of course Rubio doesn’t want to eliminate military spending — he wants to spend more. He also promises to avoid any cuts to Social Security and Medicare for people currently at or near retirement. For good measure, he is also proposing a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. You could eliminate the entire non-defense discretionary budget and you’d still need $100 billion to $200 billion more per year in cuts to make this work.

This is, of course, totally unworkable. And the process that led Rubio to this point is telling and troubling.

Rubio entered the Senate at a time when an intellectual movement known as “reform” was hot in conservative circles, which argued that Republicans should concentrate less on supply-side tax cuts and more on tax policy focused on the working class. This originally took the form of a $2.4 trillion tax cut plan crafted by Utah Sen. Mike Lee that Rubio signed on to but then kept transforming into a larger and more regressive tax cut, as Rubio came under pressure from the supply-side wing of the party and it became clear that the constituency for “reform” conservatism was limited to a handful of media figures. Eager to prove that his dalliance with the reformocons was over, he actually ended up proposing to entirely eliminate taxes on investment income, meaning that billionaire captains of industry could end up paying nothing at all.

The upshot is a plan that is costly and regressive, yet paired with other commitments around entitlements, military spending, and constitutional amendments that make it completely impossible.

Trump’s tax plan is even costlier than Rubio’s by most measures. But in his defense, he barely ever talks about it and hasn’t compounded the cost problem with a balanced-budget amendment or a firm commitment to enormous quantities of new military spending.

Then there’s Rubio’s foreign policy:

Rubio’s approach to world affairs essentially repeats the “let’s have it all and who cares if it adds up” mentality of his fiscal policy. His solution to every problem is to confront some foreign country more aggressively, with no regard to the idea of trade-offs or tensions between goals or limits to how much the United States can bite off at any particular time.

There’s more in the article. I guess we shouldn’t worry too much until Rubio actually wins something.

I got a chuckle out of this article the other day. It seems that even Rubio’s Senate colleagues and fellow Republicans can’t think of a single thing Rubio has, er, accomplished. Rick Santorum appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, where host Joe Scarborough, who seems to be in the tank for his pal, The Donald, asked Santorum a simple question.

Asked repeatedly to name a single one of Sen. Marco Rubio’s accomplishments while serving five years as a U.S. senator representing Florida, Rick Santorum – who just endorsed the GOP lawmaker after bowing out of the presidential race himself on Wednesday – struggled to come up with any during an appearance Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Santorum floundered right off the bat when asked to list Rubio’s “top accomplishment” while in office. “Well, I mean, I would just say that this is a guy who’s been able to, No. 1, win a tough election in Florida and pull people together from a variety of different spots. This is a guy that I think can work together with people,” he said. “That’s the thing I like about him the most.”

Yet host Joe Scarborough didn’t ask which personal quality of Rubio’s Santorum liked the most. He asked for just one standout accomplishment – so he pressed the former Pennsylvania senator again: “So he can win, but he’s been in the Senate for four years. Can you name his top accomplishment in the Senate, actually working in the Senate doing something that tilted your decision to Marco Rubio?”

Santorum danced around the question for a second time, concluding that “I guess it’s hard to say there are accomplishments” when a junior senator is working in a government “where nothing gets done.”

“Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski called the exchange with Santorum “disturbing.”

Meanwhile, Scarborough brought up the fact that Republicans have been in the Senate majority for the past two years, and asked for a third time: “Can you name one thing that he’s passed in the last two years?” eventually pleading with Santorum to “like one accomplishment – just one, just one – that Marco achieved.”

Santorum then blamed President Obama for Rubio’s lack of accomplishments in the Senate, saying “he spent four years in the United States Senate being frustrated like everybody else that nothing got done, and then you can’t point to him and say nothing got done and therefore he has no accomplishments. The problem is we have a president who doesn’t work with people.”

Eventually, however, Santorum did offer an example of a Rubio achievement, albeit a vague one.

“Well, I know he included something that went after the insurance companies in the most recent omnibus. He fought for that, to stop bailing out insurance companies. That’s one thing I’m familiar that I just saw recently, ” he said. “But – and again, he was on the campaign trail and accomplished that. The bottom line is there isn’t a lot of accomplishments, Joe, and I just don’t think it’s a fair question to say.”

Oh. It’s Obama’s fault. And Rubio was on the campaign trail and, you know, didn’t have time to actually accomplish anything. Also, it’s not fair to ask about Rubio’s accomplishments. Got it.

So at the Republican debate last Saturday night, Donald Trump went hard at Jeb Bush in his usual aggressive, bullying style. “Obviously, the war in Iraq is a big, fat mistake, all right? George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.” And, “The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign. Remember that.” Trump continued that line of thought on the Sunday talk shows, and he’s kept it up on Twitter today:

Trump was booed at the debate, but the lingering question is, will his performance hurt him in South Carolina? I suspect not, and the reason is that Trump is speaking some unspoken truths that many conservatives know to be true in their gut. Deep down, they at least suspect that they were lied to about the Iraq war, and they know it was a mistake. They actually do know that the World Trade Center towers came down during the George W. Bush administration. They do know that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. And yet, they stick to the party line. Why?

Well, first of all, to begin questioning the party line would be to admit that they themselves were wrong. That’s a problem for people who pride themselves on being, say, intelligence analysts. But it’s also because the thought leaders within their bubble continue to insist that the World Trade Center bombing was actually President Clinton’s fault, that the Iraq War was necessary because Saddam Hussein posed an existential threat to the United States, and that WMD actually were found, just like President Bush said they would (and even though President Bush has admitted they weren’t found). So it’s easy to just stick to the party line and keep the doubts beneath the surface, left unspoken. It’s a form of peer pressure.

We need to remember that a lot of conservatives have isolated themselves from anyone they think may be a liberal. This includes most of mainstream thought, not just true liberals. A perfect example is our friends at Blogs For Victory. Not only are they afraid to have anonymous discussions with individuals who challenge their opinions, their fear even extends to their daily, non-Internet lives. We know this because of the many times they have explained that they no longer speak to friends, or even relatives, who they deem to be “liberals.” They simply can’t stomach the thought of their worldview being challenged. Of course, the biggest challenge to them has been the election and re-election of Barack Obama. Sometimes these conservatives explain that they actually have healthy disagreement amongst themselves, but in saying so, they leave out what truly unites them, which is their shared hatred of President Obama and their belief that he is an illegitimate president.

This doesn’t mean that they aren’t aware of the mistakes of the Bush presidency–they’re just not willing to accept them being pointing them out by people who aren’t their thought leaders. Now along comes Donald Trump, who, at the Republican debate of all places, just comes right out and says it: Bush lied, the Iraq war was a horrible mistake, etc. Yeah, some people booed, but a lot of them know he’s right, even if they’re afraid to say so. An actual Republican candidate is giving legitimacy to some unaired thoughts.

They also believe he’s right when he says that Social Security and Medicare should be saved, not slashed. This particularly resonates with many of the bubble people because, well, they do or will shortly depend on Social Security and Medicare. See, conservative politicians can carry on about the Constitution and all, but conservative voters are a bit more pragmatic. It’s just that they generally won’t deviate from the party line until someone representing the party gives them permission to. And that’s what Donald Trump is doing. Conservatives would never accept it from a Democrat, but Donald Trump is running as a Republican, so he’s giving voice to their private thoughts.

You’ll continue to hear the usual conservative thought leaders bashing Trump for his apostasy. But silently, conservative voters are hearing things from Trump that they’ve thought about in their private moments–thoughts they wouldn’t admit to other conservatives, and would certainly never admit to a liberal–that is, if they even talk to any liberals anymore. But they do vote. We’ll soon see if Trump gets nicked by his outbursts or not.

So it didn’t take more than an hour or two after Antonin Scalia’s death for Republican leaders to insist that President Obama has no right to nominate a successor to Scalia. It’s all nakedly political, of course, the hypocrisy clear in chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley’s shifting views.

Marco Rubio insists that President Obama, with nearly a year to go in his four-year term, is already a “lame duck” president. Look, we all know what this really is: Republicans have never accepted the legitimacy of President Barack Obama. As Amanda Marcotte writes, “Everyone knows the real reason is the conservative base has never accepted that a black Democrat could be a legitimately elected President, and after 7 years of having to live with a President the majority of white voters voted against, Republicans are going to use this as a chance to throw a nationwide temper tantrum.”

But this does set up an interesting dynamic to the 2016 presidential election, as Marcotte explains:

This is especially delicious since the only Republican candidate who has a chance to walk away from this unscathed — maybe even finding a way to turn it to his advantage— is Donald Trump. The two candidates who are currently best positioned to unseat Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, are both senators and both have indicated their willingness to join their fellow Republicans in the Senate in blocking whoever Obama nominates, just because he nominated them. The bad loser vibe, where Republicans punish not just Obama but the whole country because they refuse to accept he won the 2012 election fair and square, will rub off on them.

Trump, however, has a real chance here to score some points. Vague promises that he will straighten up D.C. and end all this pointless bickering and gridlock— because he’s a winner who gets things done or whatever empty braggadocio he wants to throw out— and he can set himself apart from Cruz and Rubio, all without actually having to commit to either offending the Obama-hating base or having to endorse the astounding immaturity that has infected every last member of the congressional Republican caucus.

All of which is simply fantastic for whatever Democrat wins the nomination, of course, but there will likely be down ticket effects, too. Every single Democrat running for Congress will be able to point to this story about Republican-caused gridlock and promise that electing them will help ungum the works. It’ll be a simple, effective pitch that happens to have the benefit of being completely true.

Anyway, more folks weigh in on who they think President Obama will nominate for the vacancy caused by the death of Antonin Scalia.

Robert Reich claims to have inside information as to the administration’s thinking:

My mole in the White House tells me Obama will nominate 46-year-old Judge Sri Srinivasan, an Indian-American jurist who Obama nominated in 2013 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — and the Senate confirmed unanimously. Having confirmed him unanimously just three years ago, it would be difficult (but hardly impossible) for Republicans to oppose him now. (Twelve former Solicitors General, including Republican notables as Paul Clement and Kenneth Starr had endorsed his confirmation. Moreover, the D.C. Circuit has long been a Supreme Court farm team – Scalia himself, along with John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were judges there before ascending to the Supreme Court.)

But is Srinivasan progressive? He had been Obama’s principal Deputy Solicitor General before the nomination, arguing Supreme Court cases in support of affirmative action and against Indiana’s restrictive voter ID law, for example. But this record doesn’t prove much. (Having once worked as an assistant Solicitor General, I know the inhabitants of that office will argue whatever halfway respectable arguments the Justice Department and, indirectly, the President, wants made.)

Before the Obama administration, Srinivasan worked for five years in George W. Bush’s Justice Department. Prior to that, as an attorney in the private firm of O’Melveny & Myers, he defended Exxon Mobil in a lawsuit brought by Indonesians who accused the company’s security forces of torture, murder, and other violations against their people; successfully represented a newspaper that fired its employees for unionizing; and defended Enron’s former CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, later convicted for financial fraud. But in these instances, too, it could be argued he was just representing clients. Another clue: After graduating Stanford Law School in 1995, Srinivasan clerked for two Republican-appointed jurists – Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor – both of whom were considered moderate.

Since he became a judge on the D.C. Circuit, he hasn’t tipped his hand. But I discovered one morsel of information that might interest you: In 2000, he worked on Al Gore’s legal team in the infamous Supreme Court case of “Bush v. Gore.”
My suspicion is Obama couldn’t do better than Srinivasan. No other nominee with get a majority of Senate votes. What do you think?

Then there’s the outside-the-box theory that Obama should nominate Nevada Republican governor Brian Sandoval:

Sandoval began his political career in Nevada’s state assembly, before serving on the state gaming commission and as attorney general. He was nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court by President George W. Bush, on the recommendation of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — who may have worried that Sandoval was plotting a bid for Reid’s Senate seat. Sandoval won confirmation by an 89-0 margin; four years later, he quit to run for governor.

The first Hispanic governor in Nevada’s history, Sandoval won re-election in 2014 with more than 70 percent of the vote, after Democrats failed to find a serious candidate to take on the long-shot challenge. He has the political experience of Earl Warren, and the combined political and judicial experience of Sandra Day O’Connor, both of whom were nominated for the high court by Republican presidents — albeit in very different eras.

But Sandoval does not fit the mold of traditional Republican, even in Western states where the party embraces a more libertarian bent. He is unabashedly pro-choice, and he was the only Republican governor to both expand Medicaid and establish a state-run health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Though he opposed Obama’s signature domestic achievement from the start, Sandoval has said that it became the law of the land after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.

In choosing Sandoval, Obama would have the opportunity to cement another part of his legacy. The candidate who ran under the banner of hope and change is also the candidate who paid for more negative advertisements than any other in history. His fundraising ability virtually single-handedly rendered irrelevant the system of federal campaign-matching funds. Obama is, without doubt, as political as most of his predecessors.

And picking a Hispanic Republican who would likely be blocked by a Republican Senate would have starkly political consequences, especially in the months leading to a presidential election. Republicans are already on thin ice with Hispanic voters, who have voted increasingly for Democrats in recent years: George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. Mitt Romney won just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012.

We’ll get to SCOTUSblog, but first, Hugh Hewitt:

Lame duck presidents don’t get to make successful nominations for lifetime appointments in an election year. Not in 2016. Not for the past 80 years.

Hmmm. What is the definition of a “lame duck president”? The president in office after the next one has been elected, but before he (or she) assumes office? The president in office during an election year? Two years before the election year? Any time in the second term? The first term? Who knows? Hewitt obviously doesn’t, and he doesn’t care.

And presidents don’t get to make a successful nomination in an election year in the past 80 years? Well, that just isn’t true. There is no genuine precedent for the senate refusing to act on a nomination. As Amy Howe writes at SCOTUSblog, “he historical record does not reveal any instances since at least 1900 of the president failing to nominate and/or the Senate failing to confirm a nominee in a presidential election year because of the impending election. In that period, there were several nominations and confirmations of Justices during presidential election years.”

So Hewitt can’t hide behind “the past 80 years,” or act as though he has the authority of the Constitution. No, he’s just being nakedly political, and that’s really what replace of Justice Scalia is all about. Everyone understands the stakes, and they are high.

That said, Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblug has an excellent rundown of the politics, and what he thinks is the likely path forward. It’s a good read, but I’ve excerpted the part in which Goldstein describes what he thinks will be the likely nominee:

Overall, in 2012, the white proportion of the voting population decreased to 71.1% and the minority proportion increased to 28.9% (22.8% black and Hispanic). For that reason, many attribute President Obama’s reelection to minority turn-out.

The best candidate politically would probably be Hispanic. Hispanic voters both (a) are more politically independent than black voters and therefore more in play in the election, and (b) historically vote in low numbers. In that sense, the ideal nominee from the administration’s perspective in these circumstances is already on the Supreme Court: Sonia Sotomayor, the Court’s first Latina.

On the other hand, I think the President personally will be very tempted to appoint a black Justice to the Court, rather than a second Hispanic. His historical legacy rests materially on advancing black participation and success in American politics. The role Thurgood Marshall previously played in that effort is inescapable. The President likely sees value in providing a counterpoint to the Court’s only black Justice, the very conservative Clarence Thomas.

For those reasons, I think the President will pick a black nominee. I’ve long said that the most likely candidate for the next Democratic appointment was California Attorney General Kamala Harris. She is fifty-one. A female nominee has significant advantages as well. That is particularly true for the candidacy of the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. For reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere, I think her nomination is difficult to oppose ideologically, given her history as a prosecutor.

If Harris wanted the job, I think it would be hers. But I don’t think she does. Harris is the prohibitive favorite to win Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat in the 2016 election. After that, she is well positioned potentially to be president herself. If nominated, she would have to abandon her Senate candidacy and likely all of her political prospects. So I think she would decline.

But Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who is fifty-six, is a very serious possibility. She is known and admired within the administration. At some point in the process, she likely would have to recuse from her current position, but the Department of Justice could proceed to function with an acting head. Her history as a career prosecutor makes it very difficult to paint her as excessively liberal.

Perhaps Lynch’s age would give the administration some hesitancy. They would prefer to have a nominee who is closer to fifty. But because the nomination would principally serve a political purpose anyway, I don’t think that would be a serious obstacle.

The fact that Lynch was vetted so recently for attorney general also makes it practical for the president to nominate her in relatively short order. There is some imperative to move quickly, because each passing week strengthens the intuitive appeal of the Republican argument that it is too close to the election to confirm the nominee. Conversely, a nomination that is announced quickly allows Democrats to press the bumper sticker point that Republicans would leave the Supreme Court unable to resolve many close cases for essentially “a year.”

I think the administration would relish the prospect of Republicans either refusing to give Lynch a vote or seeming to treat her unfairly in the confirmation process. Either eventuality would motivate both black and women voters.

No matter what happens, this election cycle has just gotten a lot more interesting, hasn’t it?

Tom Goldstein, How the politics of the next nomination will play out, SCOTUSblog (Feb. 14, 2016, 5:47 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2016/02/how-the-politics-of-the-next-nomination-will-pay-out/

*UPDATE*

National Review chimes in with valuable–and I’m sure, sincere–advice for President Obama: “The President’s best course of action is to simply leave the seat open and allow the American people to have a voice in the future of the Court.” LOL

*UPDATE 2*

And more deep thoughts from Blogs For Victory founder, Matt Margolis:

See? President Obama is an illegitimate president who shouldn’t have the power to do anything. Honestly, this is what people like Margolis think.

David Brooks, of all people, states what has become painfully obvious so far in the 2016 presidential election cycle: “I miss Barack Obama.” Not his policies, of course, because Brooks is to the right philosophically of the president. But as Brooks says, “Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.” I particularly like the line about this year’s candidates “wallow[ing] in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse.”

Do any of today’s candidates project an air of optimism? Maybe Trump comes close, but only in the sense that this country is already so monumentally stupid, weak, and screwed up that it will take a bully like himself to fix it. Christie? Same story, but more articulately expressed. Rubio? A wannabe. Cruz? As Brooks asks, would you want Cruz on the board of your community groups or charities? Carson? He might have once been a brilliant brain surgeon, but he’s simply out of his depth as a national politician, eagerly gobbling up every conspiracy theory put in front of him. Bush? He had the potential to come across as an actual compassionate human being, but he got steamrolled by the rest of the bullies. Sanders? Sadly, he also sounds a one-note symphony of pessimism, only from the left.

In any event, I’m post the rest of the article because it’s worth reading.

The first and most important of these [traits of character and leadership] is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.

We’ve had very little of that from Obama. He and his staff have generally behaved with basic rectitude. Hillary Clinton is constantly having to hold these defensive press conferences when she’s trying to explain away some vaguely shady shortcut she’s taken, or decision she has made, but Obama has not had to do that.

He and his wife have not only displayed superior integrity themselves, they have mostly attracted and hired people with high personal standards. There are all sorts of unsightly characters floating around politics, including in the Clinton camp and in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. This sort has been blocked from team Obama.

Second, a sense of basic humanity. Donald Trump has spent much of this campaign vowing to block Muslim immigration. You can only say that if you treat Muslim Americans as an abstraction. President Obama, meanwhile, went to a mosque, looked into people’s eyes and gave a wonderful speech reasserting their place as Americans.

He’s exuded this basic care and respect for the dignity of others time and time again. Let’s put it this way: Imagine if Barack and Michelle Obama joined the board of a charity you’re involved in. You’d be happy to have such people in your community. Could you say that comfortably about Ted Cruz? The quality of a president’s humanity flows out in the unexpected but important moments.

Third, a soundness in his decision-making process. Over the years I have spoken to many members of this administration who were disappointed that the president didn’t take their advice. But those disappointed staffers almost always felt that their views had been considered in depth.

Obama’s basic approach is to promote his values as much as he can within the limits of the situation. Bernie Sanders, by contrast, has been so blinded by his values that the reality of the situation does not seem to penetrate his mind.

Take health care. Passing Obamacare was a mighty lift that led to two gigantic midterm election defeats. As Megan McArdle pointed out in her Bloomberg View column, Obamacare took coverage away from only a small minority of Americans. Sanderscare would take employer coverage away from tens of millions of satisfied customers, destroy the health insurance business and levy massive new tax hikes. This is epic social disruption.

To think you could pass Sanderscare through a polarized Washington and in a country deeply suspicious of government is to live in intellectual fairyland. President Obama may have been too cautious, especially in the Middle East, but at least he’s able to grasp the reality of the situation.

Fourth, grace under pressure. I happen to find it charming that Marco Rubio gets nervous on the big occasions — that he grabs for the bottle of water, breaks out in a sweat and went robotic in the last debate. It shows Rubio is a normal person. And I happen to think overconfidence is one of Obama’s great flaws. But a president has to maintain equipoise under enormous pressure. Obama has done that, especially amid the financial crisis. After Saturday night, this is now an open question about Rubio.

Fifth, a resilient sense of optimism. To hear Sanders or Trump, Cruz and Ben Carson campaign is to wallow in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse. That’s simply not true. We have problems, but they are less serious than those faced by just about any other nation on earth.

People are motivated to make wise choices more by hope and opportunity than by fear, cynicism, hatred and despair. Unlike many current candidates, Obama has not appealed to those passions.

No, Obama has not been temperamentally perfect. Too often he’s been disdainful, aloof, resentful and insular. But there is a tone of ugliness creeping across the world, as democracies retreat, as tribalism mounts, as suspiciousness and authoritarianism take center stage.

Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/09/opinion/i-miss-barack-obama.html

A “deep bench” update…

I didn’t watch the entire Republican debate last night, but I watched enough. Most people are talking about the poor showing of Marco Rubio, particularly his moment of “flat out panic and mental paralysis,” repeating the same phrase over and over: “Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.” As far as repetition, many observers have noted for a while that Marco’s debate performances mostly consist of regurgitating the same old talking points he uses in his stump speeches, which also vary little from one giving to the next.

But let’s also remember that Rubio used to claim that President Obama didn’t know what he’s doing. Now, he can’t stop himself from repeating that Obama does know what he’s doing. Marco, Marco, Marco… Do you have any convictions that you will stick to? Of course, this is the fundamental problem of conservative Obama hatred: They can’t decide whether he’s an incompetent, bumbling fool, or a devious, brilliant schemer bent on intentionally destroying the United States. They don’t even bother acknowledging their inconsistency; that would require some introspection on their part.

Anyway, I’ve long thought that Rubio comes across as a poor imitation of Barack Obama–leaving aside their ideological differences, of course. I mean, let’s face it, the absurd conservative criticism of Obama–not vetted, uses a teleprompter–just falls apart in the face of Rubio. And David Frum, in a series of tweets last night, made that point devastating clear. Below are the tweets in text form, but you can go here to see them in their original form.

Rubio’s 4x repeat was not an act of excessive message discipline. It was a display of panic at a moment of uncertainty.

Faced with a genuinely new situation, Rubio could not figure out what to do… and so stumbled into doing precisely the wrong thing.

The bug question about Rubio is: can this untested novice cope with the demands of the presidency?

Voters have pitifully little information about hi. In this way, Rubio is NOT like Obama at all.

The question D[emocratic] voters were asking in 2008 was: who’d opposed the Iraq war? Obama had little record – bit was the right record for Ds.

On the central question of 2016, immigration, Rubio go the answer massively wrong from a Republican point of view.

Phyllis Schlafly here massively documents how wrong (from an R point of view) Rubio was http://www.eagleforum.org/immigration/rubio-record.html

Worse, Rubio’s explanations re immigration raise questions about how well he ever understood what he was doing.

Was he merely a personable front man? Was he outwitted by Chuck Schumer? What did he learn from what he himself now describes as error?

Rubio has gotten away with his glibness because of persistent R under-estimation of Barack Obama.

Candidate Obama in 2008 was dangerously untested yes, but he was obviously a man of profound depths.

Obama had laid out his whole philosophy of life in a massive, highly self-aware and very revealing memoir.

But yes, the lack of experience in Obama was grounds for worry. That’s why Obama added Biden to the ticket.

With Rubio, though, Republicans are asked to nominate an unknown quantity – wrong by his own admission on his most important decision.

Republicans are asked to nominate an unknown quantity who has not offered useful information to predict the kind of president he’d be.

Last night, they got a maybe unfair glimpse of the kind of president he’d be when the pressure was on.

It was unnerving – and what has Rubio offered over this campaign to calm those nerves when they twitch?

The world instantly tests new presidents. Nobody can be fully read. But some are more read; some are less – and less is dangerous.