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U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) during the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, October 24, 2013.

It's always 1938

03/13/15 12:50PM

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) turned to a familiar comparison to condemn international nuclear talks yesterday. "I believe we are hearing echoes of history," the senator said. "I believe we are at a moment like Munich in 1938."
 
Of course he does.
 
Right-wing critics of the talks have been talking like this for months, though conservatives seem to be pushing the thesis with increased vigor now that an agreement appears more likely. Last week, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial speech to Congress, Mike Huckabee even celebrated the Israeli leader as "a Churchill in a world of Chamberlains."
 
I'm reminded of a Peter Beinart piece from a while back.
Over the past quarter-century, there's hardly an American or Israeli leader the Kristol-Netanyahu crowd hasn't compared to Chamberlain. In 1985, Newt Gingrich called Reagan's first meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev "the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Neville Chamberlain in 1938 in Munich." When Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, hawks took out newspaper ads declaring that "Appeasement is as unwise in 1988 as in 1938."
 
Then, when Israel moved to thaw its own cold war with the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yitzhak Rabin assumed the Chamberlain role.... Then it was Bill Clinton. "The word that best describes Clinton administration [foreign] policy is appeasement," explained Robert Kagan and Kristol in 1999. Then, of course, it was the opponents of war with Iraq. "The establishment fights most bitterly and dishonestly when it feels cornered and thinks it's about to lose. Churchill was attacked more viciously in 1938 and 1939 than earlier in the decade," wrote Kristol in a 2002 editorial, "The Axis of Appeasement."
Simon Maloy had more along these lines today, taking a closer look at the right's "ridiculous Neville Chamberlain obsession" and "all the times conservatives accused Barack Obama of appeasing the world's many Hitlers." It's not a short list.
 
With this in mind, the latest nonsense from Cruz and Huckabee isn't just wrong and offensive; it's lazy.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 3.13.15

03/13/15 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:
 
* Gov. Scott Walker (R) yesterday expressed delight that President Obama criticized his decision to sign "right-to-work" legislation in Wisconsin this week. "Well, it suggests maybe we're the front-runner," told a far-right website.
 
* Confirming suspicions, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is using footage from his recent congressional address in a new campaign ad. Netanyahu had previously said the appearance was not related to his re-election effort. Israeli elections are next week.
 
* We learned this week that one of Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) longtime aides was the editor-in-chief of a neo-Confederate magazine. The adviser, Richard Quinn, says he no longer holds his previous beliefs.
 
* In the latest Gallup poll, released this week, Hillary Clinton enjoys the highest favorability ratings of any likely presidential candidate in either party.
 
* Appearing on msnbc yesterday, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) joked about his standing in recent polls. "Am I really up to 11 percent?" he said. "Who did this poll? Was this my mom?"
 
* In Connecticut, the latest Quinnipiac poll shows Scott Walker and Jeb Bush tied among Republican voters in the state, each generating 18% support. Rand Paul is third with 12%, followed by Chris Christie at 11%.
Loretta Lynch listens during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Jan. 28, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

Loretta Lynch's A.G. nomination goes down to the wire

03/13/15 11:36AM

As of this morning, Loretta Lynch was nominated to serve as U.S. Attorney General 125 days ago. By some measures, the federal prosecutor, the first African-American woman ever to be nominated to the post, has waited longer than any previous Attorney General, for reasons Senate Republicans have struggled to explain.
 
What's more, it's been more than two weeks since Lynch cleared the Judiciary Committee, a move that ordinarily prompts the Senate leadership to schedule a confirmation vote on the floor soon after. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, delayed the vote for no reason, and still hasn't said exactly when the vote will be, other than a vow to bring the nomination to the floor "next week."
 
Will she prevail or not? At this point, the votes are probably in place -- there are 46 Senate Democrats and four Senate Republicans who support her (Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake, and Orrin Hatch). That's 50, with Vice President Biden breaking the tie.
 
Roll Call's David Hawkings noted this week that this will very likely be the closest-ever vote for an A.G. nominee.
As the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, Lynch has earned just the sort of tough but fair reputation that's customarily made for bipartisan smooth sailing in the Senate. But at least three-quarters of Republicans are going to oppose her anyway, mostly because of a single position she's taken as the nominee: Obama was on solid legal ground in deferring deportations of as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants.
 
For essentially the first two centuries under our Constitution, senators afforded the president free rein to stock his Cabinet as he chose, except in the most extraordinary circumstances.... It would not have been newsworthy at all -- let alone a rationale for disqualification -- for an attorney general nominee to take the same position as the president who nominated her in a balance of powers battle with Congress. (In fact, it would have been much more problematic for a nominee to openly break with the president in such a dispute.)
It's almost as if Senate Republicans believe if they defeat Lynch, Obama will nominate an A.G. who opposes the White House's immigration policy. (He won't.) But as Hawkings added, "The single biggest reason Republicans oppose Lynch is that she disagrees with them on a single matter of public policy."
 
The Senate simply isn't supposed to work this way. Indeed, it's never worked this way before, and it arguably can't effectively work this way now.
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (L) holds a bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) on the second straight day of talks over Tehran's nuclear program in Vienna, on July 14, 2014.

GOP generates the wrong kind of global attention

03/13/15 10:55AM

In late 2010, President Obama and much of the foreign-policy establishment around the world eagerly waited for the U.S. Senate to ratify the New START nuclear treaty. The agreement, reached earlier in the year after lengthy negotiations with Russia, was championed by Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Bush administration veterans, but Senate Republicans were prepared to kill it.
 
At the time, Pierre Vimont, the then-French ambassador to the United States, noted that he and other diplomats warned European officials that Congress might very well reject the treaty. "People ask us, 'Have you been drinking?'" Vimont said.
 
It seemed implausible to believe American officials would deliberately derail a treaty that advances America's interests, and eventually, the Senate did ratify the proposal (though most Republicans voted against it). But what I remember from the debate is the degree to which the world watched with astonishment -- observers around the globe found it hard to believe just how radical congressional Republicans had become.
 
More than four years later, 47 Senate Republicans reached out to Iran, urging officials in Tehran not to reach an agreement with the United States, all in the hopes of sabotaging American foreign policy. And once again, much of the world seems aghast -- including the officials Republicans hoped to push away from the negotiating table.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, said the letter warning that any nuclear deal could be scrapped by a new president was "a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within." [...]
 
"All countries, according to the international norms, remain faithful to their commitments even after their governments change, but the American senators are officially announcing that at the end of the term of their current government, their commitments will be considered null and void," Ayatollah Khamenei wrote.
In case it's not obvious, Iran's highest leader has an incentive to make the United States look bad, so his criticisms should be taken with a grain of salt.  Khamenei has plenty of domestic political reasons to tell Iranians that the American establishment is, as he put it, "disintegrating."
 
But it's not just the Iranians who are unimpressed with the radical Republican stunt.

Paul Ryan 'quietly' keeps a high profile

03/13/15 10:05AM

In late 2013 and early 2014, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) invested a fair amount of time and energy talking about poverty and visiting low-income communities. We know this to be true, of course, because the congressman made a point of letting people know.
 
In November 2013, for example, the Washington Post ran a big, front-page article about the far-right lawmaker's interest in "fighting poverty." The piece said Ryan was "quietly visiting inner-city neighborhoods." A month later, BuzzFeed ran a similar, lengthy piece on the subject, noting that the congressman "has spent the past year quietly touring impoverished communities across the country."
 
There was a certain awkwardness to the pitch. For example, Ryan has taken a leading role in trying to gut the nation's safety net at the federal level, demanding deep cuts to social programs that benefit struggling families, making it tough to see him as an anti-poverty crusader.
 
But the fact that both articles used the word "quietly" also stood out -- if the congressman was really interested in being "quiet" about his visits to struggling areas, he probably wouldn't be eager to let the Washington Post and BuzzFeed know about his trips.
 
All of which led to this amusing claim in a Yahoo News piece the other day.
Ryan's critics have complained that these expeditions were part of a politically calculated vanity project designed to soften the GOP's image and set the congressman -- who was the GOP's vice presidential nominee in 2012 -- up for a bid for higher office.
 
But on March 17, Ryan will issue a rejoinder to that accusation in the form of a documentary film on the people he met during his travels to impoverished communities.
I'm not sure how well the second sentence follows the first. To prove his efforts aren't a vanity project, Paul Ryan is releasing a movie to promote his efforts?
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker gestures while speaking during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 26, 2015. (Photo by Cliff Owen/AP)

Scott Walker and the 'home-state haters' problem

03/13/15 09:23AM

As he makes the case for his national candidacy, Gov. Scott Walker (R) frequently touts his success in his blue-ish home state. When it comes to presidential elections, Wisconsin is considered a key battleground, but it has voted Democratic in seven of the last seven races, including two easy wins for President Obama. And yet, as Walker is eager to remind folks, he's also won twice -- three times if we count the recall election.
 
The point is obvious: the Republican governor has demonstrated an ability to appeal to voters in a state that leans in Democrats' direction. That's the kind of quality that should matter, the argument goes, as GOP voters weigh their 2016 choices.
 
The problem with the pitch, though, is that Wisconsin doesn't seem too keen on Walker's White House bid.
Gov. Scott Walker may be soaring in national presidential polls, but his job performance rating in Wisconsin has dropped to its lowest point since the 2011 protests, according to the latest Wisconsin poll from Public Policy Polling. [...]
 
Those who say they approve of the job Walker is doing fell to 43 percent, while those who disapprove increased to 52 percent. In late October, the same Democratic-leaning poll found 49 percent approved of Walker's job performance, while 47 percent disapproved.
In a hypothetical general election match-up against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the poll shows Walker trailing in his own state by nine points.
 
This is obviously just one poll, and the governor hasn't even formally announced his presidential campaign just yet, but at this point, the governor has been in office for over four years -- he was just re-elected last fall -- and the fact that his constituents aren't exactly rallying behind his national ambitions has to be a little discouraging.
 
But what I find especially interesting is how increasingly common this is among the other Republican presidential candidates. It doesn't look great for Walker that his own state's voters are skeptical about his White House campaign, but he can take some comfort in the fact that so many of his GOP rivals are in the exact same boat.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at an event on Sept. 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty)

Cruz presses NASA to ignore climate crisis

03/13/15 08:41AM

It's a pretty serious problem that most congressional Republicans choose to reject climate science, but that problem is compounded by the fact that GOP lawmakers also urge others to bury their heads in the sand,
 
Last year, for example, House Republicans tried to force the Pentagon to stop working on the national security implications of the climate crisis. Among the House GOP lawmakers who voted for this were seven Republicans who won U.S. Senate races last year and now serve in the upper chamber.
 
But it's not just the Defense Department feeling pressure. National Journal reported yesterday that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wants NASA to shift its focus away from the environment, too.
Ted Cruz and Charles Bolden would probably agree that the core of the Earth is a mass of molten metal as hot as the sun. But as for the core of NASA's mission, the senator from Texas and the former astronaut split ways. [...]
 
Cruz has been pushing the agency to adopt a "more space, less Earth" strategy. The Republican lawmaker argues that the Obama administration is wrongfully neglecting the country's space exploration operations -- like potential missions to Mars and beyond -- in favor of global-warming research. And he wants to know if Bolden, NASA's administrator, thinks so, too.
During a subcommittee hearing yesterday on NASA's budget, Cruz asked Bolden to explain the agency's core mission. Our core mission from the very beginning has been to investigate, explore space and the Earth environment, and to help us make this place a better place," Bolden replied.
 
Cruz, true to form, balked at the "Earth environment" part.
 
And why does this matter? Because after Americans elected a Republican Senate in the 2014 midterm elections, the GOP leadership put Ted Cruz in charge of NASA oversight, giving him the chairmanship of the Senate Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee.
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her Blackberry from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya on Oct. 18, 2011. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Pool/AP)

The Republicans who did 'exactly what Hillary did'

03/13/15 08:03AM

One of the under-appreciated angles to the story about Hillary Clinton's email problem is that Hillary Clinton isn't the only one with an email problem. In fact, in an ironic twist, some of the former Secretary of State's leading Republican critics have also relied on personal email accounts and shielded selected messages from public scrutiny.
 
Aliyah Frumin explained this week, for example, that "several potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates are facing email and transparency issues of their own" and they "also leaned heavily on private emails during their time in office -- and have been criticized in the past for not releasing other documents -- just as they skewer Clinton for not being forthright with her personal emails."
 
The Wall Street Journal today, for example, takes a look at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's (R) record.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a likely Republican presidential candidate, primarily used a personal email account on his own computer server when he was in office from 1999 to 2007. In December, he posted online hundreds of thousands of emails from both the private and government accounts. Mr. Bush's spokeswoman said that emails from the private account unrelated to government business weren't turned over to the state or preserved. [...]
 
But much like with Mrs. Clinton, the decision over which emails should be considered official and which remain private was made by Mr. Bush. It is unclear how many emails Mr. Bush withheld because he deemed them unrelated to state business.
Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, told the WSJ that Jeb Bush "did exactly what Hillary did." The former governor and his aides "went through those emails and decided what were public-record emails and what wasn't."
 
By some accounts, the messages Team Bush chose not to share related to "politics" and "campaign donors asking for favors" -- topics that may be relevant in a presidential campaign.
 
Bush is hardly the only one among the likely GOP presidential candidates with this email problem. Indeed, most of the Republican field should probably hope this issue goes away quickly:

Decryptomaddowlogical #115

03/12/15 07:51PM

Tonight we'll see some follow-up reporting on the latest Secret Service scandal.

We heard last night from Carol Leonnig, national reporter for The Washington Post, about yet another investigation into misconduct by Secret Service agents. In this case two agents are the focus of the investigation, one a senior supervisor in the Washington field office, and the other a top member of the group assigned to protect President Obama.

Since one agent is part of a set of agents with direct access to the president, the investigation will likely be...

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