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Potential Republican 2016 presidential candidate US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, N.H., April 18, 2015. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Lindsey Graham's odd definition of 'never'

05/22/15 04:40PM

Perhaps more than any member of Congress, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is preoccupied with fear. And the South Carolina Republican regularly paints a terrifying picture for Americans -- "The world is literally about to blow up" -- apparently because Graham wants you to be preoccupied with fear, too.
 
Take the senator's message today, for example:
"We have never seen more threats against our nation and its citizens than we do today."
Ahistorical nonsense like this is a little too common, particular from his wing of the party. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) loves to tell anyone who'll listen that there's "greater turmoil" in the world now than at any time "in my lifetime."
 
McCain's lifetime includes the entirety of World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War.
 
And perhaps that's the root of the problem. I don't think Graham and McCain are being disingenuous -- their state of near-panic about national security seems sincere -- but I do think their understanding of history is alarmingly poor.

A new day for the culture war

05/22/15 03:07PM

It may be a while before the overall number of self-identified American liberals catch up to American conservatives, but a new Gallup report points to unseen ideological parity on social issues.
Thirty-one percent of Americans describe their views on social issues as generally liberal, matching the percentage who identify as social conservatives for the first time in Gallup records dating back to 1999. [...]
 
The broad trend has been toward a shrinking conservative advantage, although that was temporarily interrupted during the first two years of Barack Obama's presidency. Since then, the conservative advantage continued to diminish until it was wiped out this year.
Among Republican voters, there hasn't been much of a change over the last decade, and the views espoused by the party's voters in 2015 are practically identical to the Gallup results from 2001.
 
But among Democrats, there's been a revolution of sorts. In 2011, a plurality of Dems described their views on social issues as "moderate," while only a third considered themselves "liberal." This year, however, those totals have reversed -- and then some. Now, a 53% majority of Democrats are social liberals, while about a third are moderates.
 
So, for the left, that's the good news. What's the bad news? Americans' views on economic issues. From the Gallup report:
US Capitol Police stand guard in front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, Feb. 12, 2013. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

GOP hostility towards compromise runs deep

05/22/15 12:42PM

When an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found earlier this year that a plurality of Republican voters believe GOP lawmakers compromise too much with President Obama, it seemed hard to believe. Congressional Republicans have refused to work with the Democratic White House on anything, literally since Day One. Maybe respondents didn't understand the question?
 
No, that's not it. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent noted yesterday that rank-and-file Republicans just want as much confrontation as humanly possible. The latest report from the Pew Research Center makes this clear:
The survey finds deep differences in how Republicans and Democrats want President Obama and GOP leaders to deal with issues. Fully 75% of Republicans want GOP leaders to challenge Obama more often; just 15% say they are handling relations with the president about right and 7% say GOP leaders should go along with Obama more often.
 
Fewer Democrats (49%) want Obama to challenge Republicans more often; 33% say he is handling this about right while 11% want him to go along with GOP leaders more often.
That's quite a bit of asymmetry. In the overall population, the number of Americans who want GOP lawmakers to go along more with the White House is roughly identical to the number of Americans who want Republicans to "challenge" the president more often.
 
But among GOP voters, the results are lopsided. This actually explains a lot.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.22.15

05/22/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
 
* Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) began selling "Filibuster Starter Packs" to supporters yesterday for $30, raising questions about the sincerity of his 10-hour stunt on the Senate floor this week.
 
* Rick Santorum is not at all pleased with Fox News' debate criteria, which may exclude him from participating. The former senator noted, among other things, that national polling is a poor standard -- four years ago, he won the Iowa caucuses despite poor showings in national polls.
 
* Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) presidential campaign now has four endorsements from Republican members of Congress, and all four are from the senator's adopted home state. Among the latest supporters announced yesterday: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).
 
* While several Republican presidential candidates have struggled of late to finesse their position on the war in Iraq, retired right-wing neurosurgeon Ben Carson took a position that breaks with GOP orthodoxy: "I've said definitively that I was never in favor of going into Iraq."
 
* Scott Walker told an audience yesterday that Americans have reason to fear immigrants: "There's a good number from Indonesia, there are from Morocco, and other places around the world, many of whom aren't looking for work in the United States. They've got other motives and we need to wake up to that."
 
* In a bit of a surprise, Jeb Bush seemed to suggest at a campaign event yesterday that border security is better under President Obama than it was during his brother's tenure.
Potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at a business roundtable in Portsmouth, N.H., May 20, 2015. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Jeb once again turns to his Apple Watch

05/22/15 11:31AM

Jeb Bush caused a bit of a stir last week, telling an audience that he intends to destroy the Affordable Care Act, replacing it with a "consumer-driven" system, part of which includes his new Apple Watch.
 
"On this device in five years will be applications that will allow me to manage my health care in ways that five years ago were not even possible," he said. "I'll have the ability, someone will, you know, because of my blood sugar, there'll be a wireless, there'll be, someone will send me a signal.... We'll be able to guide our own health care decisions in a way that will make us healthy."
 
Yesterday, campaigning in New Hampshire, the Florida Republican returned to the same subject:
"We're on the verge of a revolution in this regard, where we'll be able to know all sorts of things with, you know, devices like this. I got beat up by the left because I showed my, you know, Apple Phone -- this device will have the ability to measure your sugar content, to measure your heartbeat, to measure whether you're taking your drugs in the proper way. And you'll be able to wirelessly send text messages to your health care provider or to your loved one, or whatever, so that you can get back on track."
It seems the former governor isn't entirely clear on why he "got beat up."
Elizabeth Warren

What hypocrisy is (and what it isn't)

05/22/15 10:40AM

A couple of years ago, President Obama attended a fundraiser with some wealthy donors. The Republican National Committee said it was "the definition of hypocrisy" for the president to "run against" the wealthy while seeking campaign contributions from wealthy contributors.
 
The trouble, of course, is that this isn't the "the definition of hypocrisy" at all. Having a policy agenda that focuses on lifting up working families, while asking more from the very wealthy, does not preclude seeking contributions from those who also support that agenda.
 
This week, Hillary Clinton was accused of being "hypocritical" for criticizing the existing campaign-finance system, even while raising money within that system. But again, that's not what "hypocrisy" means -- there is no contradiction when a candidate plays by the rules while hoping to someday change those rules.
 
And today, it's apparently Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mas.) turn. Politico reported:
Elizabeth Warren is trying to kill President Barack Obama's trade agenda by raising the specter that foreign companies could use an investor-friendly arbitration system to circumvent the U.S. court system.
 
But she hasn't discussed her own role 15 years ago in the arbitration system she opposes -- as a paid expert witness earning as much as $90,000 from the U.S. government.
Once again, this isn't what hypocrisy what means. Vox's Matt Yglesias explained:
Republican presidential hopeful Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks during the 2015 Southern Republican Leadership Conference on May 21, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

The one thing Scott Walker has that his rivals lack

05/22/15 10:17AM

If it seems like there's a confab for Republican presidential hopefuls about once a week, it's not your imagination. The series of "cattle calls" is practically endless, including the Southern Republican Leadership Conference that began yesterday in Oklahoma City, drawing much of the GOP field.
 
Most of the rhetoric was roughly what one might expect, but there was something Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said that stood out for me.
"There's a lot of great people out there who are thinking about, or are currently in the race, for president on the Republican side. Now, there are some people, there are some of those folks, particularly those in Washington, who are really good fighters -- they're fighting the good fight, they're waving the flag, they're carrying the banner -- but they haven't won a whole lot of victories yet.
 
"And then there's some other folks out there that they have done a really effective job of winning elections -- a lot of friends of mine, governors or former governors who got elected and they got re-elected. They won a lot of elections, but they haven't taken on a lot of those fights.
 
"I gotta tell you, ladies and gentlemen, part of the reason why I'm even thinking about what I'm thinking about -- we haven't announced anything yet, won't until after the end of June when our state budget is done -- I have yet to see anyone in the field or in the emerging field who's done both."
And that, in a nutshell, is Scott Walker's core 2016 pitch. What's more, it's largely true.
A sign at an Affordable Care Act outreach event in Los Angeles, California, September 28, 2013.

Republicans experience cognitive dissonance over ACA

05/22/15 09:32AM

The latest report from the Kaiser Family Foundation offers plenty of good news for those hoping to see the American health care system succeed. For example, a combined 74% of consumers who purchased coverage through an exchange consider their coverage either "good" or "excellent," which is up a couple of points from last year.
 
This is exactly the kind of numbers proponents of the Affordable Care Act hoped to see. For all the predictions that consumers would avoid the exchanges and hate their ACA-backed coverage, we now see largely the opposite.
 
But the same survey found that Republicans, many of whom like the coverage they've received through "Obamacare," continue to hate the law anyway. Mother Jones' Kevin Drum thinks this is "crazy" and he raises a fair point.
This isn't a general survey of all Americans. It's a survey specifically of people who don't have group coverage. Most of them (probably more than two-thirds) have actually purchased Obamacare plans and therefore have personal experience with them, but favorability is nonetheless still driven mostly by party ID. You can buy an ACA plan on the marketplace, get a subsidy, and be happy with your plan -- but if you're a Republican you still overwhelmingly hate Obamacare by 74-25 percent.
 
Folks, that is hardcore.
Agreed. For years, we've seen polls showing Americans expressing general support for the provision that make up the ACA, even if they claim not to like the ACA itself, but this is just a little worse. We're looking at a group of folks who received coverage through the system, like the coverage they received, but still reflexively oppose the law that gave them the coverage they like.
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie speaks at an event in Tyson's Corner, Va., May 1, 2015. (Photo by Cliff Owen/AP)

In the wake of scandal, Christie sees himself as a victim

05/22/15 08:47AM

There was quite a bit of attention overnight to Gov. Chris Christie's (R) expletive-laced speech at the annual New Jersey media roast this week, and it's understandable why. We're not generally accustomed to hearing a presidential candidate tell reporters to "clean the s**t out of your ears" and "get the f**k away from me."
 
But in fairness, the remarks were not intended for the public, and there's an expectation at the roast that speakers are going to use vulgar language. By all accounts, no one at the event was shocked by Christie's use of profanity -- given the event, it would have been more surprising if he didn't deliver an expletive-laced speech.
 
Far more interesting were the New Jersey Republican's on-the-record comments yesterday in which he characterized himself as some kind of victim. Politico reported:
Chris Christie says the media owes him an apology over the Bridgegate scandal.
 
"I do believe there's an absolute bias and a rush to judgment. You all know this, you saw the coverage of me 15 months ago. I was guilty, I had done it," Christie said on CNBC Thursday morning. "Now we're 15 months later, where are the apologies pouring in? Not one thing I said the day after the bridge situation has been proven wrong."
He added that news coverage of his scandal was too intense as compared to reporting on the IRS. "At the time Bridgegate was outgunning, six or seven to one the IRS scandal," Christie said.
 
The editorial board of the Newark Star-Ledger said this week, in reference to a separate matter, that the governor seems to have "lost his marbles." After seeing his comments yesterday, the criticism seems apt -- Christie's whining about his own scandal is simply bonkers.
US President George W. Bush, followed by

Jeb Bush finds area of disagreement with his brother

05/22/15 08:00AM

Jeb Bush seems to realize how awkward his position is in the 2016 race. He's the brother of a failed president, which creates some understandable resistance to his candidacy, and which puts some pressure on the Florida Republican to distance himself and his brethren -- even as he surrounds himself with his brother's staff and espouses his brother's ideas.
 
For the most part, the former governor has tried to carefully thread a needle, passively acknowledging that "mistakes were made" during the Bush/Cheney era, even while refusing to say who made the mistakes or what they were.
 
It was an unsustainable posture, and as msnbc's Benjy Sarlin reported, Jeb Bush finally tried a different course while campaigning in New Hampshire yesterday.
Bush was responding to a question from a voter at sports bar in Concord, who asked – in light of his reluctance to criticize the last Republican president on Iraq last week – for "an example of an issue where there is big space" between the two siblings.
 
"Are there differences? Yeah, sure," Bush replied. "I think in Washington during my brother's time Republicans spent too much money."
The former governor added, in reference to his brother, "I think he could have used the veto power, he didn't have line item veto power, but he could have brought budget discipline to Washington, DC. Now, that seems kind of quaint right now given the fact that after he left, budget deficits and spending just went up astronomically, but having constraints on spending across the board during this time would have been a good thing."
 
It's important to note that when it comes to the fiscal details, Jeb Bush is badly confused. After George W. Bush left office, budget deficits got smaller, not bigger, and federal spending has increased slower, not faster. The fact that Jeb Bush has the entire picture completely backwards is a little unsettling -- these are supposed to be basic details that a credible national candidate understands.
News gods are testing your outrage tolerance

News gods are testing your capacity for outrage

05/21/15 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow shares recent news stories that are pushing her outrage-o-meter into the red zone, including a Colorado law that requires the family of an Aurora mass-shooting victim to pay $220,000 in legal fees to the ammunition maker they tried to sue. watch

Thursday's Mini-Report, 5.21.15

05/21/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* What a catastrophe: "Crews are working around the clock to clean up the site of an oil spill in Santa Barbara County that has sent tens of thousands of [gallons of] crude into the Pacific Ocean and left even more saturating the soil."
 
* Related note: "Two days after a ruptured oil pipeline spewed crude into the waters off of California -- tainting 9 miles of ocean teeming with coastal creatures -- environmentalists are scrambling to assess how mucked up the ecosystem is."
 
* Syria: "ISIS militants executed 17 people, some by beheading, in their first day in control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, a monitoring group said Thursday.... It also said that ISIS killed 49 people around Palmyra as it advanced toward the city."
 
* Trade-promotion authority: "The Senate voted 62-38 to move forward on a bill that would give Obama 'fast track' authority to negotiate, without the threat of congressional filibusters or added amendments, a massive 12-nation trade pact known as the Trans Pacific Partnership."
 
* A story to watch: "The Chinese navy repeatedly warned a U.S. surveillance plane to leave airspace around disputed islands in the South China Sea, a sign that Beijing may seek to create a military exclusion zone in a move that could heighten regional tensions."
 
* Overdue: "Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates said on Thursday that the organization's existing ban on gay leaders 'cannot be sustained' and urged for an eventual change of course in order to avoid potential litigation."

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