Friday, October 30, 2015

The Role of a Moderator In a Debate

So the RNC announced it has "suspended" its partnership with NBC. Funny, I wasn't aware that they had a partnership with anybody other than AM radio and a few Fox News' hosts. The reason for the suspension, according to a letter drafted by Reince Priebus, was to "ensure that our candidates are given a full and fair opportunity to lay out their vision for America's future." In other words, the GOP wants to make sure their candidates have a safe forum to peddle their snake oil to the country without being challenged by those pesky facts that moderators tend to bring out.

Look, I'll admit it. The CNBC debate was a debacle. Fortunately, I didn't watch it. I was too busy watching another debacle that night: the Mets getting pummeled by the Royals. But from the reports I've seen, it wasn't John Harwood's finest moment. The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway wrote that Harwood "has no business moderating a GOP presidential debate." The operative word here being GOP. Apparently, Harwood can moderate all the Democratic debates he wants, but dibs off the Republicans.

This sort of us against them meme has deep roots within the Republican Party going all the way back to Barry Goldwater. They've never had any use for anyone outside their own private Idaho confronting them on their bullshit. Whether it's Candy Crowley fact checking Mitt Romney over the Benghazi attack in the 2012 presidential debate or Harwood challenging Donald Trump and Marco Rubio on their respective tax plans, the simple truth is that Republicans - particularly conservative Republicans - can't stand it when their "facts" are rebutted. They even had harsh words for how they were treated in the Fox News debate.

Excuse me for stating the obvious, but I thought moderators were, first and foremost, journalists and, as such, they had a moral and ethical responsibility to make sure that questions asked of a candidate were answered truthfully by that candidate and not ignored and deflected. It's a debate, not an infomercial. You're running for president, not top Ginsu knife salesman.

Perish the thought that a moderator might interrupt a candidate in mid fib and push back. Well, Heavens to Betsy, we can't have any of that. That would take too long and, besides, it would completely undo all the preparation that went into the false narrative of that candidate. Politicians, you see, have a vested interest in making people believe that two plus two equals five. If I'm not mistaken, that's the thrust of the Rubio tax plan. Slash taxes, magically grow the economy, all without adding a penny to the deficit. Frankly, I'll take the Ginsu knife. At least I can do something with it that's useful. About all I can do with Rubio's tax plan is line the bottom of my bird cage. And I don't even own a bird.

Seriously, journalists are supposed to be the gate keepers when it comes to the truth. They aren't there just to go along for the ride. Whether they take the role of moderator or not, when a false statement is made, it is their job to expose it. Failure to do so is a dereliction of duty.  It's time the lame-stream media they did its job instead of buckling under to pressure.

As far as I'm concerned, Reince Priebus and the RNC can take their ball and go home if they want. If they can't handle a few tough questions during their primary debates, just wait till they get to the general election debates. Hillary will clean their clock and laugh all the way to the finish line.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cleaning the Barn: John Boehner's Parting Gift to Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan can say this "process stinks" all he wants, but the simple truth is John Boehner, his soon to be predecessor, just did him the biggest favor of his political life. Faced with a looming debt-ceiling default, Boehner didn't just take a bullet for him, he took the whole damn firing squad.

The budget deal now being worked out by Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the White House doesn't just take the threat of debt default off the table, it takes it off through March 2017. It also provides $80 billion of sequester relief that will be split evenly between defense and domestic spending, thus ensuring that there will be no government shutdown during what will undoubtedly be a tightly contested presidential election.

The wingnuts on the Right are already screaming bloody murder - what else is new - but the deal on the whole is a good one that both parties can live with. Indeed, it's the kind of deal that used to get done all the time before Washington became ground zero for gridlock. If anyone should be squawking, it's the Democrats. They were hoping they could use the threat of both a government shutdown and debt default against Republicans in 2016. Now those issues have been taken off the table.

It's still not a given that the deal will even pass the House, even with Democratic support. Forget the Freedom Caucus, many establishment Republicans are pissed that they were bypassed by leadership. Still, if I were a betting man, I'd say between both parties there should be enough votes for it to pass. The real test will come in the Senate where McConnell will have to contend with the likes of Ted Cruz, et al.

The lesson here, if there is one, is that government CAN work when it wants to. This is good news for many who had given up hope that this town could accomplish anything significant. And make no mistake about it, passing a two-year budget deal that removes the threat of a debt default is not only significant, it's practically earth shattering. When I first heard about it, I thought someone was pulling my leg.

I'm sure a large part of why this deal got consummated was that Boehner was on his way out. There's something liberating about knowing you don't have anything more to fear from your opponents. Kind of like when an employee puts in his two-week notice. What's the worst that can happen? They can't fire you, you're already leaving. Boy, what I wouldn't give to be able to read Boehner's mind. Since taking over the House in 2011, the Tea Party has made his life a living hell.

Payback's a bitch, ain't it?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Send In the Clowns

Watching the Republicans' interrogation of Hillary Clinton this week, I was reminded of that scene in the movie Animal House where a fraternity freshman gets his butt paddled with a stick and says, "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" The only difference is that in this instance the GOP has been both the giver and recipient of the paddling.

For eleven hours, Trey Gowdy's henchmen took turns bending over and smacking themselves in the ass in front of an entire country. And they looked like fools the whole time. Even people not normally sympathetic to Clinton couldn't help but remark she had a pretty good day. Good day? Her campaign announced that donations on Thursday - the day of the inquisition - were flooding in and most of them were under $250. Even more encouraging was that a majority of them were from new donors. If that's a good day, I'd love to see what a great day would look like.

I've heard of death wishes, but this is ridiculous. Think about it. The Republicans have chaired nine investigative committees on Benghazi to the tune of $20 million in taxpayer money and all they've accomplished is making Hillary Clinton look like a victim. In the process they've turned a national tragedy into a three-ring circus. If I were Hillary, I'd volunteer to testify for the next round of hearings in advance, say sometime in the summer, right about the time Ben Carson or Donald Trump is wrapping up the GOP nomination. Who knows, if her campaign gets an early enough heads up, they can schedule their own pay per view event.

And now, having thoroughly made a mockery of this whole process, these rocket scientists are planning on holding a select committee on, you guessed it, Planned Parenthood, led by Michele Bachmann wannabe and Captain Video space cadet Marsha Blackburn. I swear somebody must be spiking the punchbowl over at the RNC. Normal people aren't this consistently stupid, or self destructive.

The more I think about, the more I realize John Boehner may be the sanest Republican in Washington. He had the good sense to get out while the getting was good. What I can't figure out is why Paul Ryan would knowingly sign up to take his place, especially since the loonies who forced Boehner out don't think he's a true conservative. Ryan is many things, but a moderate isn't one of them. Apparently the litmus test for purity with the Freedom Caucus is a willingness to take the whole nation with you off the cliff.

Well in a few days Ryan may get that opportunity. The debt ceiling needs to be increased by November 3 in order to avoid a default. Assuming Boehner punts, which he might, it will fall to the new Speaker to decide whether he wants to play Russian Roulette with the full faith and credit of the United States.

Twice before in the last four years, these clowns have played with fire and damn near burned down the whole joint. Will the third time prove to be the charm or will Paul Ryan have the courage to disappoint them just like his predecessor did on so many occasions?

We'll have to wait and see; with bated breath.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bernie Sanders' Education Problem

Did you catch the Bernie Sanders' interview on Bill Maher's Real Time show this past Friday night? I did, and two things struck me. One, it was one of Maher's better interviews; and two, Sanders spent most of it explaining what socialism is and isn't. Keep in mind, he was speaking to a mostly sympathetic audience who was completely on board with what he was proposing.

Now let's suppose for a moment that instead of a sympathetic audience, ol' Bernie ends up speaking in front of an audience who has no freaking idea what socialism is, or worse, gets their information on what socialism is from your friendly "fair and balanced" or lame-stream media cable news channel. How long do you think it would take him to "explain" the facts about socialism to that crowd? Starting to get my drift?

It is an axiom of all sales professionals that you avoid overtaxing potential customers with minutia that could distract from the ultimate goal: getting a sale. It is no less true for politicians. Eschew the complicated, embrace the simplistic. Every successful politician from FDR to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton has employed this axiom. Reagan, incidentally, didn't get the title as great communicator for nothing.

Conversely, unsuccessful politicians like Jimmy Carter ignored it. Remember how brave many of us thought Carter was when he confronted America on its fossil fuel addiction? The voters sure remembered. They elected Reagan in a landslide in 1980. Turns out voters don't like getting lectured to. They tend to get insulted.

Bernie Sanders is that lecturer who has lit a fire under his base and opened up one helluva pandora's box for the Democratic Party. No, he's not a Communist. I majored in sociology and I studied all the major theorists from Marx to Weber to Durkheim. If Sanders is a Communist, I'm a Vulcan.

None of that will make any difference. The moment Sanders starts yapping about European socialism and countries like Denmark, it's over. Every single policy initiative he supports will go out the window. The electorate won't be focusing on income inequality, free college tuition and universal healthcare, which are the themes of his campaign; they'll be focusing on two hundred plus years of fairytale American exceptionalism. George and Martha, Cowboys and Indians, John Wayne, the charge up San Juan Hill, apple pie and Chevrolet. The whole nine yards. The GOP will have Bernie Sanders looking like one of Stalin's henchmen from the motherland. And every minute Sanders spends trying to rebuke - er, "educate"- the public will be one less minute he'll have to lay out his proposals to them.

Fait accompli, as they say in France. In tennis, they have another expression: game, set and match. Think I'm being overly pessimistic? Think again. Why do you think Republicans are now saying they'd rather run against Hillary Clinton than Bernie Sanders? The Party that has been pulling shit out of its ass for years is praying Bernie wins the nod. The last thing they want is to run against Hillary. She'd clean their clocks in the general and they know it.

Don't pay attention to the national polls that show Sanders ahead of potential GOP opponents. When you break it down state by state, Clinton is stronger in the all-essential swing states against any Republican than Sanders, especially if the GOP ticket should end up being, say Kasich / Rubio.

Take it from someone who's made a living in sales for twenty years. You don't educate your customers at the cash register. You close them. Period. Political candidates who spend the better part of their campaigns educating the electorate typically don't fare well come election day. Conversely, candidates who keep it simple, prosper at the ballot box. In an election that might well be decided by less than 3 percent in some states, every vote counts. If even one out of twenty potential Sanders' voters has second thoughts when they go into the voting booth, that could turn the whole election.

I've seen all the FDR comparisons and, yes, they called him a socialist too. The difference is, FDR never called himself a socialist. Bernie wears the title like its a badge of courage. Look, when it comes to the issues and integrity, there's no one better than him. In a perfect world, he'd be the ideal choice to lead the nation forward. But this is hardly a perfect world and his opponents are unlikely to give him the platform he needs to make his case to an electorate that, more often than not, lives down to its worst expectations.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Winning By Not Losing

The one take away from the first Democratic debate should be crystal clear to anyone who saw it. Bernie held serve as the outsider candidate, but Hillary did what she had to do. She reestablished herself as the party's likely nominee. How? By not playing it like she did eight years ago.

If you remember, Hillary was the heir apparent of the Democratic Party. Her husband, Bill, was a successful two-term president and left office with a $300 billion surplus. George Bush took that surplus and turned it into a $1.4 trillion deficit. It was the logical assumption by many that another Clinton would restore the country to where it was when Bill ran the show.

The problem for Hillary was that a young, charismatic, first-term senator named Barack Obama stole her lunch money on the way to the cafeteria and Hillary didn't take it too well. She was very combative and looked anything but presidential. The fact is, Obama owed his rise to power as much to Clinton's inept conduct on the campaign trail as his seemingly flawless strategy.

This time around, facing stiff opposition from another charismatic - though considerably older - opponent, Hillary did a 180. She played it low key and spoke about who she was and what she wanted to accomplish as president. But more importantly, she didn't get personal. Indeed, the only time she went after Sanders was on gun control, where he was, quite frankly, very vulnerable. Aside from that, she took the high road.

This strategy - I call it winning by not losing - is one that many shrewd investors use, and I believe it is the only way Hillary can beat Bernie for the nomination. The two candidates are very similar on the issues. Bernie's more gung ho on breaking up the banks and Hillary is for stiffer gun regulation, but aside from that, the two might as well be kissing cousins. Yes, it's true she's been pushed to the left by Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. So what? Bill had to be pushed to the left.

The deciding factor for most voters will come down to personality. And this time around, Hillary didn't shoot herself in the foot. She was, dare I say it, presidential. It's clear she's learned a thing or two from how Obama has conducted himself both as a candidate and as commander in chief. It's also clear she's taken a page out of her husband's playbook. Play nice with the other kids. Voters like that in a candidate. Makes you wonder what might've happened had she done that eight years ago. Alas, we'll never know.

What we do know is this: Hillary needed a strong performance to quell the anxiety of her supporters and she came through. She didn't go for the knockout punch the way she tried to do with Obama eight years ago. She looked cool and collected and far more prepared than I've ever seen her. Bernie still has the edge in passion, but passion alone doesn't win elections. If it did, Howard Dean would've been elected president in 2004.

Look, I'm not saying Hillary Clinton is home free. There are more debates to come and plenty of time for her to blow this thing. Then there's that stupid congressional committee that she'll be testifying in front of. Anything can happen, as anybody who's ever followed politics will tell you. But one thing's for certain: If you are a Hillary supporter, you can now exhale. She did good. In fact, she did damn good. Better than that, she didn't lose.

And that counts loads.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What Jonathan Chait Doesn't Get About Al Gore and Hillary Clinton

In a recent piece in New York magazine, Jonathan Chait compares the problems of the Hillary Clinton campaign to those that plagued Al Gore's in 2000. Chait cites two major similarities: Clinton fatigue (as in Bill) and the trustworthiness of both. Regarding the latter, Chait writes the following:

The mechanism that transferred Clinton’s well-known moral failings onto his vice-president was an exceedingly technical fund-raising scandal. Gore made fund-raising calls for the Democratic Party from the White House, which did not violate either the letter or the spirit of the law (the Pendleton Act, which was intended to prevent shaking down potential officeholders for donations). But reporters found Gore’s performance untrustworthy anyway. The vice-president, reported the New York Times in 1997, “used legalistic language, which he repeated verbatim several times, to say he had not violated another law that prohibits anybody from raising campaign money in the White House.” As a result, scandal-tinged themes came to dominate news coverage of Gore. His attempts to create new narratives merely resulted in chortling reporters mocking him for trying too hard to reshape his image, reinforcing their theme that he lacked “authenticity.” 
The email scandal currently dogging the Hillary Clinton campaign has played a similar role. The charges are more serious than the accusations against Gore — Clinton’s use of a private email server undeniably amounted to a violation of protocol and poor judgment. It has served as grist for the news media to fixate on a process story upon which it can build larger narratives about her character. Those narratives feed into long-standing ethical concerns dating from the Clinton administration and the Clinton post-presidency, during which the former president profited immensely from relationships with figures who had a clear interest in currying favor, then or in the future, with his wife. The Obama administration has managed to avoid any significant scandals with credibility in the mainstream media (only partisan Republicans still cling to the belief that Benghazi or alleged IRS targeting of opponents were real). Ironically, both Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton today inherited much of their reputation for shadiness from the same person: Bill Clinton.

While Chait does have a point in that both Gore and Clinton have had issues with what he referred to as "authenticity," he is incorrect in his basic premise about what did Gore in back in 2000 and what threatens Clinton in 2016. 

Contrary to the popular narrative that he and other political pundits have subscribed to, Gore did not lose the 2000 presidential election because of either Clinton fatigue or his lack of trustworthiness. He lost for two major reasons: One, he ran a lousy campaign from the start; and two, he lost progressives in droves to Ralph Nader, who ran a mainly spoiler campaign that ended up costing Gore Florida.

Regarding the former, the Gore campaign ran as far away from the President as was possible. This was a strategic blunder. Even with all the problems besetting Bill, he continued to have strong approval ratings. The impeachment proceedings that the Republicans initiated against him in 1998, far from damaging him, seemed to have backfired on the GOP.  In fact, it was the Republicans who lost political capital, as the '98 midterms revealed all too clearly. Rather than running away from Clinton, Gore would've done better running towards him. It also would've helped immeasurable if he didn't look so programmed. Standing next to George Bush on the debate stage, Gore looked like a mannequin.

But regarding the latter, it was progressive indifference and, in some cases, animosity towards Gore that proved particularly fatal. Put succinctly, they simply didn't believe he was one of them. While they tolerated Bill, who at least kept the Republicans out of the White House, they never really warmed to Al. The correct analogy that Chait might have referenced was that of George H.W. Bush running in 1988. No true conservative really believed that Bush was a disciple of supply-side economics. Hell, he called it voodoo economics back in 1980. But they looked the other way in '88, especially when Bush did everything but dry hump Ronald Reagan throughout the campaign. Without someone they could rally behind, progressives turned their hopes toward Nader in 2000, and Gore didn't so much as put up a fight to win any of them back.

This is the primary reason why Hillary Clinton has moved so far to the left on issues like trade and the Keystone pipeline. Yes, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren had a lot to do with that, but credit her for at least paying attention to the winds swirling around the Democratic Party. She might be arrogant, but, unlike Gore, she isn't stupid.

She's also doing her best to have her cake and eat it too. While she continues to throw red meat at her base, she's careful not to throw her former boss under the bus. The big mistake Democrats made in the 2014 midterms was distancing themselves from Obama. Give this much to Clinton: she took good notes. I'm also guessing that her husband might've had a hand in this. It's no secret Bill's not exactly a fan of Obama, but he is a fan of winning. At some point, he probably said to her something to the effect "Don't bite the hand that feeds you." If Gore had only heeded that wisdom, he might well have won the 2000 election.

And this is where Chait's argument runs off the rails, so to speak. The fact is, as I said in an earlier piece, Hillary Clinton's biggest threat will not come from anything the GOP throws at her, but from her base. Indeed, the latest revelations from Kevin McCarthy's slip of the lip on Sean Hannity's show and a whistle blower who was fired from the Benghazi committee for not focusing enough attention on her, bears this out. Even with the proverbial kitchen sink being thrown at her, she is still leading Sanders in the national polls. And she is holding her own against most of her potential GOP opponents. Even Chait admitted that by 1999, "Gore's campaign had taken on water. Polls showed George W. Bush crushing him" in a landslide.

There is no evidence of anything like that happening to Hillary Clinton. In fact, the opposite appears to be happening. Unlike in 2000, when Bush and John McCain were the only viable contenders for the GOP nomination, the Republican field this time around is very crowded and highly polarizing. It's hard to remember, but both Bush and McCain ran far more inclusive campaigns than their contemporaries are currently doing today. Indeed, during Bush's second term, he supported a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

The current GOP frontrunners have been anything but inclusive, taking some of the most extreme positions imaginable; positions that may be popular with their base and will likely carry them over the threshold for the nomination, but will provide the Clinton campaign with loads of ammunition in the general election. Trust me, the same thing that brought Mitt Romney down in 2012, will rear its ugly head again in 2016. If there's one thing we've learned about the Republican base over the last six plus years, it's that they can't help themselves.

When you compare the political landscape in 2016 to the political landscape in 2000, it's crystal clear that even with all the issues Hillary Clinton has, she is in much better shape than Al Gore was. The electorate is more progressive now than it was 16 years ago, not to mention more diverse. Conversely, the Republican Party is far more insular now than it was 16 years ago. That doesn't bode well for their prospects next year or in the future.

Far from reliving Al Gore's nightmare, Hillary Clinton appears poised to benefit from some pretty good timing and an opposition party that is stuck in the past and can't get out of its own way. That seems more like a wet dream, if you ask me.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Idiot Wind

Sometimes I think I must be dreaming. Just when you thought the Republican Party couldn't get any screwier, they go from the ridiculous to the unbelievable. It's like that scene in Space Balls when the ship jumps to Ludicrous speed. That's pretty much where the GOP is today, thanks to the announcement that Majority Leader and wonderkind Kevin McCarthy has decided NOT to seek the Speakership of the House.

Not that he had much choice. Thanks to the Freedom Caucus - a band of some 40 far-right zealots on a mission - McCarthy was about 18 votes shy of the 218 he needed to get elected. Yes, the group that forced John Boehner out as Speaker has now claimed his successor. At this rate, it's entirely possible that "the people's house" might not have a leader for quite some time. Wow, Nancy Pelosi's looking real good right about now.

All kidding aside, this is a travesty. The Republican Party isn't just rudderless; it's rudderless and running at full speed towards the abyss. The country has never seen anything like this. An entire party at war with itself and completely unable to govern. It is now all but certain that we are headed towards a government shutdown. The only question is when. John Boehner may have granted a stay of execution, but it was temporary at best. The next Speaker, if there is one, will almost certainly kowtow to the extremists in the party and those extremists are loaded for bear.

As I mentioned in an earlier piece, this moment was four years in the making. The Tea Party came to Washington with one thing on its mind: to burn down the joint. It never had any intention of governing. Like a spoiled child, it wanted what it wanted when it wanted it. It was all or nothing. Compromise was a four-letter word. This movement is now so deeply embedded in the Republican Party that no candidate can stand up to them. The Frankenstein monster that was created as a result of the 2010 midterm wave election is now running the show. And anybody that challenges it, is targeted for defeat.

Peter King and Charlie Dent can object all they want over the paralysis that has gripped their party; the truth is they and others like them are partly, if not mainly, responsible for that paralysis. Where were they when this faction shut down the government in 2013? Or for that matter damn near brought about a debt default in 2011? Talk is cheap, but the fact is had King and the establishment Republicans taken a much firmer stand, none of this would've happened. Had Boehner allowed an up and down vote on last-year's Senate immigration bill, the country would now have a much better immigration system than the one it currently has.

Face it, not one Republican House member has had the balls to put his money where his mouth is. They have allowed their party to be hi-jacked by this extremist faction and, in the process, allowed this once-proud institution to become the laughing stock of the world.

And it isn't just the House that has become a joke. Much as I despise him, Mitch McConnell has had his hands full as Majority Leader trying to keep the Senate from deteriorating into chaos. He and the establishment members of his caucus successfully thwarted an attempt by Ted Cruz to stop a clean funding bill from being voted on last month.

And on the campaign trail it seems that just about every candidate the GOP trots out has bought in to this insanity. Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are leading in the polls and all are saying the most outlandish things imaginable.  From Trump's Mexicans are rapists remarks, to Fiorina's misleading Planned Parenthood ad, to Carson's outrageous comments concerning the victims in the Oregon mass shooting, it seems the more unhinged these candidates are, the more popular they become with the base. Next to these people, John Kasich is practically Abe Lincoln. It's as though someone left the idiot bag open and out poured these morons.

In the short run, the Democrats will benefit from this freak show in 2016, provided they don't blow it. But in the long run, all of us will suffer. The political system of this country cannot survive when one of its two major parties is this certifiable. The truth is I see no way the GOP can extricate itself from this nightmare. They created this monster; it will be up to them to destroy it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Did Kevin McCarthy Just Save Hillary Clinton?

Mark down September 29 on your calendar and remember it. Because that's the date that could well end up proving to be the turning point in the 2016 presidential election. Kevin McCarthy went on Sean Hannity's show and said this:

"What you'e going to see is a conservative speaker, that takes a conservative Congress, that puts a strategy to fight and win. And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's unstrustable."

Okay, two things. One, there's no such word as unstrustable in the English language; or any other language that I'm aware of. I typed the word out three times and each time my spell check underlined it in red. Finally my computer typed out, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

Secondly, McCarthy had absolutely nothing to do with that committee. His soon to be former boss, John Boehner, was the one who set it up. You know, the guy nobody in the House conference thinks is conservative enough. Yes, that guy. So far as I can tell, McCarthy has done diddly-squat.

But getting back to his brain fart, and I use the word brain loosely. If Hillary Clinton ends up winning the election next year, she should buy Kevin McCarthy a car. A very expensive car! Because in his zeal to prove his bonafides - hint, he has none - to shit for brains, he just gave away his party's entire game plan.

Not that it was a big secret, mind you. Including this one, there have been eight investigative committees on Benghazi. And none of them turned up anything incriminating on then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Indeed a two-year investigation by the House Intelligence Committee exonerated the Obama Administration and the State Department of any wrongdoing. Of course, the fact that the report was released the week before Thanksgiving 2014 I'm sure was just a coincidence.

Seriously, for the better part of the last six and a half years the Republican Party has engaged in all kinds of fantastic conspiracy "scandals" from Fast and Furious to the I.R.S. Not once have they uncovered a smoking gun. They've wasted millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars all for nothing.

I don't know whether Kevin McCarthy will become the next Speaker of the House, but based on his performance so far, I'd have to say Mark Levin was right. He is Eric Cantor with ten less I.Q. points. Hell he'd make Jon Boehner look like Tip O'Neill.

Look, four Americans lost their lives in the Benghazi attacks that September evening in 2012. Their deaths should not be trivialized in this manner. Hillary Clinton, should she win her party's nomination, will be a formidable opponent for whomever the GOP nominee is. She and the nation deserve no less than a forthright and honest evaluation of her qualifications for the office of the presidency. Not this buffoonish charade.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Jeb Happens!

I take it back. Jeb really isn't the smart one in the Bush family. Turns out he's actually dumber than his brother George. And that's saying something given what Dubya put the country through for eight years in the Oval Office.

In a recent interview, Jeb said of the deadly shooting in Oregon, "Stuff happens." That's right, kids. The man who would be the trifecta in Bush presidencies actually reduced this tragedy to a bumper sticker. This guy isn't low energy; he's low I.Q.  Oh he did his best to clarify his remarks later by insisting he wasn't referring to the Oregon massacre.  Unfortunately for dear old Jeb, nobody was buying it.

The remarks came just days after Bush, who apparently didn't pay much attention to the 2012 election, pulled a Mitt Romney by saying he didn't want to give "free stuff" to minorities. Though to be fair to Jeb, this is a popular meme within the GOP. It seems they have convinced themselves that the only reason blacks and Hispanics don't vote Republican is because Democrats keep giving them freebees. Right, and enacting voter suppression laws and calling Mexicans rapists have nothing to do with it.

Even when Jeb actually makes a salient point, he still ends up sticking his foot in his mouth. At that very same "stuff happens" interview, he said, "A child drowns in a pool and the impulse is to pass a law that puts fencing around pools. Well it may not change it."  While governor of Florida, Bush signed a law that required pool owners to do just that. Oh, well.

And then there was that Fox News' interview with Megyn Kelly where she asked him if he would still have invaded Iraq based on what we now know. That was Jeb's moment to distinguish himself from his brother and tell the country he was different. But like a moth drawn to a flame, he couldn't resist and actually said yes, he would've invaded. Jesus, how many mulligans can one guy get?

From day one, we were fed this line over and over again. Jeb Bush wasn't his brother. He was thoughtful, intelligent and transformative. He was the only establishment candidate who could beat Hillary. And, best of all, he was willing to lose the primary in order to win the general.

So far, only the last claim has proven to be true. Jeb's poll numbers are so low, his financial backers are threatening to bail on him. At this point in the campaign, Mike Huckabee has a better shot at capturing the Republican nomination than Bush.

Funny isn't it. Two years ago, Barbara Bush was asked about whether her youngest son should run for president. She replied no. "We've had enough Bushes." Based on Jeb's performance over the last few months, I would say momma Bush has nothing to worry about. Her son should be home for Thanksgiving dinner next year.

Without the secret service detail, that is.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

How the Left Can Win the War on Gun Control

Once more a tragic shooting spree has taken the lives of innocent people and once more a nation reacts in shock and horror. President Obama addressed the nation tonight, just like he has done so many times during his two terms in office. Both sides of the political spectrum offer the usual answers. The Left says responsible gun control that would keep guns out of the hands of crazy people would solve most if not all of the problem. The Right maintains that more guns, not less, would deter these acts of violence.

Both are wrong. The Right's solution would only turn the country into a modern-day O. K. Corral. And as for the Left's solution, sadly, even passing a few gun laws wouldn't have stopped most of these heinous acts. The real problem isn't a lack of gun laws or an insufficient number of "good guys with guns stopping bad guys with guns." I submit that the real problem has been right under our nose and the Left's decision not to address it is the real culprit here.

Put succinctly, the problem is the Second Amendment itself. For most of our nation's history, the Amendment was understood to grant unfettered gun rights to those individuals who belonged to militias during the formative years of the Republic. Owing to the fact that America did not have a standing army until after the Civil War, militias were the only defense the nation had against a foreign invasion. Indeed President Lincoln had to rely on state militias to form the Union Army.

This is what the Amendment actually says:

"A Well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." 

Any honest and objective reading of that sentence would lead one to conclude that it was never the Founders intention that every citizen in the country should have unfettered access to guns.  And for the better part of two centuries, that was the prevailing sentiment of the Supreme Court, as well. Two landmark decisions are worth noting here.

The first is United Staes v. Cruikshank in 1876, which said that "The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence." It ruled the Second Amendment was limited to the federal government.

The second major decision was United States v. Miller in 1939. There the Court ruled that the federal government could limit or restrict those weapons that did not have a "reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia."

It was accepted as axiomatic that the whole purpose for the Amendment in the first place was to ensure that the country had the means with which to defend itself. Reasonably sane people all concurred. Guns were not so much a right as they were a necessary evil that allowed the nation to preserver against foreign attacks.

All that changed with the now infamous District of Columbia v. Heller decision in 2008. It was here for the first time that the Court ruled that the Amendment did in fact protect an individual's right to bear arms. Two years later, in McDonald v. Chicago, the Court doubled down on that decision by ruling that the right to "keep and bear arms" as stated in the Second Amendment was protected under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that it applied to every state in the country.

Both these decisions were staggering in their consequence. In effect, the Supreme Court reinterpreted and, as some have suggested, rewrote the Second Amendment, ignoring the part about well regulated militias, and deciding that every citizen was entitled to own a gun if he or she chose to do so. Not only that, it ostensibly outlawed any attempt at banning guns and severely restricted the means by which local governments could even regulate them.

And this is where we now stand. Two highly flawed Supreme Court decisions which have not only opened the flood gates to gun ownership in the country, but granted carte blanche to every gun toting idiot to beat his chest and fight against any reasonable restriction on his so-called rights. It is estimated that there are now as many guns in the United States as there are people. No other developed country on the planet comes close.

The Left must resist the urge to play on the enemy's turf. The answer to gun violence in America isn't to enact one or two anemic laws filled with loopholes wide enough to drive a truck through. If the Left ever hopes to win the war on gun control, it must do all it can to change the discussion from crazy people with guns back to where it belongs. It must challenge the very premise that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct. It must do all it can to reverse the damage done by the Supreme Court in both the Heller and McDonald decisions.

There is a reason the United States leads all developed countries in gun homicides. We have a gun culture that is enabled by selective renderings of history and upheld by flimsy judicial activism.  Until both are properly disposed of, we can expect this deadly trend to continue unabated.

This will not be an easy fight to win. Indeed, it may prove to be an impossible task. But reasonable gun restrictions have been successfully thwarted at every turn by the gun lobby. Even attempts at passing a common sense background check law failed miserably. There is no indication that future attempts will be any more effective. Face it, America is addicted to violence. It's in our blood. Our only hope is a blood transfusion.

And that transfusion must come politically through winning elections at the federal level. The next president will be in a position to nominate one, possibly two, Supreme Court justices. If it is a Democrat, it is possible that both the Heller and McDonald decisions could be revisited and reversed.

And if that were to happen, America could begin its long but necessary journey back towards a more genuine and accurate understanding of its history; back to a time when learned men wrote noble words that they fully expected their posterity to grasp.