Archive for February 15, 2016

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.

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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.