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Maine Gov. Paul LePage speaks to the media on July 28, 2014, in Lewiston, Maine.

Maine's LePage sees a success story in Kansas

06/02/15 10:41AM

How desperate is Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) to scrap his state's income tax? He's vowed to veto every Democratic-sponsored bill that reaches his desk -- regardless of merit -- until his tax plan is allowed to advance.
 
As we discussed, it's a deeply foolish approach. But Maine's far-right governor thinks he has evidence to bolster his argument: Maine needs to eliminate its state income tax, he's said, so it can duplicate the success seen in Kansas. Writing for the Bangor Daily News, Amy Fried noted yesterday:
An angered Gov. LePage, in a press conference last Friday, claimed that critics had it wrong on income taxes and Kansas. He said it simply wasn't true that Kansas was having trouble and, in fact, Kansas was experiencing the fastest economic growth.
It's really, really not.
 
Since Kansas cut taxes far more than the state could afford, job growth in the state has been far slower than the national average, and the state ranks near the bottom when it comes to adding new jobs.
 
Kansas' economic growth has been poor. Its budget crisis is among the worst in the country. The state has seen its debt downgraded repeatedly. In some cases, Kansas can't even afford to keep its schools open. State policymakers are now moving towards tax increases, realizing that Gov. Sam Brownback's (R) radical experiment hasn't worked.
 
It's against this backdrop that Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) believes his state should be more like Kansas. Confronted with evidence of failure, Maine's governor doesn't see a cautionary tale, so much as he sees success worthy of emulation.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) makes a speech where he announced his candidacy for a presidential bid at Liberty University on March 23, 2015 in Lynchburg, Va.(Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty)

Ted Cruz believes JFK 'would be a Republican today'

06/02/15 10:08AM

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made a campaign stop in, of all places, Massachusetts over the weekend, where he spoke to several hundred supporters in one of the nation's bluest states. As BuzzFeed noted, the far-right Texan even connected his message to one of the Bay State's favorite sons.
"I would point out that in the 1960s, one of the most powerful, eloquent defenders of tax cuts was John F. Kennedy. As JFK said, 'Some men see things as they are and ask why; I see things that never were and ask why not.'
 
"JFK would be a Republican today. There is no room for John F. Kennedy in the modern Democratic Party."
Ooh, boy.
 
We can quickly dispense with some of the minor details. The "some men see things as they are" quote, for example, originated with George Bernard Shaw, not the Kennedys. What's more, it had absolutely nothing to do with tax cuts.
 
For that matter, the notion that contemporary Democrats are reflexively hostile to tax breaks isn't true -- President Obama's Recovery Act included hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts, and it enjoyed overwhelming Democratic support. Indeed, by some measures, it was among the largest middle-class tax breaks in modern American history.
 
But that's not the important part. Rather, what matters here is the ongoing Republican confusion about Kennedy's tax cuts from the early 1960s.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), after speaking on the Senate floor about surveillance legislation, speaks to reporters after exiting the Senate floor on Capitol Hill, May 31, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

How Rand Paul assigns blame for terrorist attacks

06/02/15 09:20AM

During Sunday's Senate debate on provisions of the Patriot Act, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) made some provocative comments, some of which he's walked back. But while the first part of this quote made headlines -- for good reason -- there was something about the second part that also struck me as noteworthy.
"People here in town think I'm making a huge mistake. Some of them I think secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me. One of the people in the media the other day came up to me and said, 'Oh, well, when there's a great attack aren't you going to feel guilty that you caused this great attack?'
 
"It's like, the people who attack us are responsible for attacks on us. Do we blame the police chief for the attack of the Boston bombers?"
In fairness to Paul, the Republican senator has already moved away from the claim that his critics "secretly want" a terrorist attack just to spite him. It was an ugly thing to say, and the Kentucky lawmaker conceded yesterday that his emotions got the better of him "in the heat of battle."
 
But the other part of the quote is fairly compelling: when there's a terrorist attack, the first instinct should be to blame the terrorists themselves, not U.S. policymakers.
 
It's a perfectly defensible position, but does Paul actually believe it? I'm reminded of this piece from The Hill just two weeks ago:
U.S. President George W. Bush (L) is introduced by his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, at a fundraiser in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 17, 2006. (Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters)

Jeb Bush on his brother: 'He kept us safe'

06/02/15 08:40AM

Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" the other day, and is often the case, the Florida Republican fielded some questions about his brother. Jeb repeated a familiar line about George W. Bush: "My brother is not going to be a problem at all. I seek out his advice. I love him dearly. I have learned from his successes and his mistakes."
 
That's not bad, I suppose, but the word "successes" stood out. George W. Bush had successes? Ones that Jeb Bush has learned from and would try to duplicate? Like what?
"Well, the successes clearly are protecting the homeland. We were under attack, and he brought -- he unified the country and he showed dogged determination. And he kept us safe.
 
"And you can talk about a lot of stuff, but when you're president of the United States and you're confronted with that kind of event, to respond the way he did is admirable. And I have learned from that."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney used a similar line with the Wall Street Journal, arguing that the policies of the Bush/Cheney administration "kept us safe for 7 1/2 years."
 
I hate to sound picky, but if memory serves, the Bush/Cheney administration actually lasted eight years. Jon Chait added yesterday, "The 'he kept us safe' line has always been slightly tricky owing to the fact that foreign terrorist attacks killed more Americans during the Bush administration than every other presidency in history combined."
 
That's true, of course, but I think we can take this one step further. I've always interpreted the "he kept us safe" line to effectively mean, "Other than the one catastrophic counter-example, Sept. 12, 2001 to Jan. 19, 2009 was a period of safety and security for Americans."
 
Except, that's not quite right, either.
Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney talks about his wife Lynne Cheney's book "James Madison: A Life Reconsidered" on May 12, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty)

Dick Cheney: the man who just won't go away

06/02/15 08:00AM

If you're convinced that former Vice President Dick Cheney's biggest problem is that he's a shrinking violet, far too shy to express himself, don't worry. The Wall Street Journal reports this week that Cheney is finally ready to break out of his shell.
Few people noticed the 74-year-old in the tan Stetson at a high-school rodeo here [in Casper, Wyoming]. Dick Cheney was happy to blend in.
 
That is about to change. The former vice president is looking to make a splash on the national stage with a new book to be published in September and a group he and his daughter Liz launched to advance their views.
The highly flattering WSJ report sketches out an ambitious game plan for Cheney, in which the failed former V.P. intends to influence the 2016 presidential race, shape the debate over nuclear diplomacy with Iran, and complain incessantly about President Obama.
 
He's also apparently eager to share words of wisdom like these: "As we got further from 9/11, there was a tendency for a lot of people to say, 'Let somebody else do it, we've done our share.' Well, that makes no sense at all, if 19 guys with airline tickets and box cutters can take down the World Trade Center and Pentagon."
 
I've read that quote several times, trying to make sense of it. Unless there was an editing error and whole sentences were accidentally removed, it seems like an obvious non-sequitur.
 
Regardless, I don't begrudge Cheney's desire to "get back in the fray" -- he's a private citizen and he can engage in the political process as much as he wishes -- but there are two angles to this that shouldn't go overlooked.

'Run Warren Run' is done and other headlines

06/02/15 07:43AM

'Run Warren Run' campaign calls it quits. (MSNBC) But Ready For Warren isn't giving up yet. (Bloomberg Politics)

TSA head gets reassigned as Homeland Security to revise airport screening. (AP)

FBI behind mysterious surveillance aircraft over U.S. cities. (AP)

Sec. of State Kerry to have surgery on his broken leg today. (AP)

U.S. to meet with allies about ISIS. (USA Today)

Hundreds missing after boat capsizes in China. (AP)

Two World War I soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor posthumously today. (New York Times)

read more

Monday's Mini-Report, 6.1.15

06/01/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* An 8-1 ruling: "Abercrombie & Fitch likely broke the law when it refused to hire a Muslim teenager because she wore a headscarf, eight justices of the Supreme Court ruled Monday in an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia."
 
* Another noteworthy case: "The US Supreme Court said Monday that the government cannot base a prosecution for sending an Internet threat solely on how the message was perceived. Although the ruling was based on interpreting criminal law, and not on the First Amendment, it amounted to another strongly pro-free expression decision from the court under Chief Justice John Roberts."
 
* Yemen: "Houthi rebels in Yemen on Monday released an American freelance journalist who had been in their custody for about two weeks, the State Department and the journalist's family reported."
 
* ISIS: "Islamic State militants drove a tank rigged with explosives into a base south of the Iraqi city of Samarra on Monday, killing 38 policemen, military and police sources said."
 
* Iraq: "Iraq's security forces lost around 2,300 Humvees to ISIS when they retreated from Mosul last year, according to the country's prime minister."
 
* Police shootings: "The three are among at least 385 people shot and killed by police nationwide during the first five months of this year, more than two a day, according to a Washington Post analysis. That is more than twice the rate of fatal police shootings tallied by the federal government over the past decade, a count that officials concede is incomplete."
 
* Arraignment: "Former House speaker Dennis Hastert is set to be arraigned Thursday on a federal indictment stemming from allegations that he sought to cover up what prosecutors contend was a deal to pay $3.5 million to an acquaintance over 'prior misconduct' by the longtime politician."
 
* Ouch: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will fly to Boston for medical treatment on Monday after breaking his right femur while riding his bike over the weekend near Scionzier, France -- an accident experts say will likely involve months of recovery."
A view of the state capitol on March 6, 2015 in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)

Alabama's Confederate-rich calendar

06/01/15 04:20PM

Every January, Alabama is one of only three states to celebrate a statewide holiday honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's birthday.
 
Every April, Alabama is one of only three states to recognize Confederate Memorial Day as an official state holiday, complete with closed state offices.
 
All of which brings us today, and this report from Gawker:
Yes, it is another first Monday in June, which means it is Jefferson Davis Day, Alabama's official commemoration of the Confederate States' first and only president. A holiday still celebrated by two thirds of state residents. The only state holiday, in fact, to commemorate ol' JD. Offices are closed, just like they would be on Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee Day in Alabama!
 
It's a peculiar holiday, given that Jefferson Davis' birthday is actually on June 3, and also given that Davis was born in Kentucky, ruled in Virginia, fled through the Carolinas and Georgia, retired in Tennessee, and settled in Mississippi, with only the briefest of layovers in Alabama.
In case this isn't obvious, it's probably worth noting that this isn't a joke. Alabama journalist Leada Gore wrote in a piece this morning that if you need to do business with the state of Alabama today, "you're out of luck."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 2015 NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits on April 10, 2015 in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Tripling down? Walker misstates his own ultrasound policy

06/01/15 02:51PM

Over the last week or so, Gov. Scott Walker (R) has helped make one thing very clear: Wisconsin's law mandating medically unnecessary ultrasounds before abortions is tough to defend.
 
The Republican governor's recent troubles started 10 days ago, when he tried to defend the policy he signed into law by saying ultrasound images are "a lovely thing," and the technology itself is "just a cool thing out there." For Walker, this is apparently a justification for Wisconsin forcing women to undergo unwanted procedures for no medical purpose.
 
The governor dug a little deeper four days ago, suggesting the controversy itself is unnecessary. "Who's opposed to an ultrasound?" Walker asked, deliberately missing the point.
 
All of this led to yet another development, this time on Saturday at a campaign event in New Hampshire. The Concord Monitor reported:
Another questioner, Mary Heslin, put Walker on the spot for a Wisconsin law enacted during Walker's time as governor that requires pregnant women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion. Heslin initially questioned Walker by asking whether he understood how "invasive" transvaginal ultrasounds are, but Walker responded by saying those are not required under Wisconsin's law.
 
"It has to be offered for the individual," Walker told Heslin. "They can choose whether they want to see it or not or have it done or not, and it doesn't designate what form."
Right Wing Watch posted an audio clip, and there's no real ambiguity. In reference to the state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds, Walker told the voter, "The law says it has to be offered, it doesn't have to be done." He added that the woman "can choose whether they want to see [the ultrasound] or not, or have it done or not."
 
The problem, of course, is that this is plainly untrue.
Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham arrives onstage to formally announce his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in Central, South Carolina June 1, 2015. (Photo by Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters)

Lindsey Graham hopes voters overlook his track record

06/01/15 12:40PM

The massive field of Republican presidential candidates got a little bigger this morning, when the senior senator from South Carolina threw his hat into the ring. NBC News' Andrew Rafferty reported:
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham officially added his name to the growing list of Republicans seeking the White House in 2016 on Monday, focusing his message on the hawkish foreign policy positions that have made him a leading voice among the Senate GOP.
 
"I want to be president to defeat the enemies that are trying to kill us, not just penalize them or criticize them or contain them, but defeat them," Graham said in Central, South Carolina, his childhood home.
The rhetoric wasn't subtle. Indeed, arguably more so than any other candidate in either party, Graham is going out of his way to base his national candidacy on his foreign policy vision.
 
"I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race," the Republican senator insisted this morning. He quickly added, in reference to the Democratic frontrunner, "That includes you, Hillary."
 
That may not be a compelling enough pitch for a national Republican audience. Graham has maintained a fairly high profile for many years in GOP politics, but as his presidential bid gets underway, polls show him near the bottom of the crowded field, with poll support below 1%. His chances of even participating in candidate debates, barring unforeseen developments, are poor.
 
The fact that Graham hails from South Carolina is a relevant angle -- the Palmetto State holds the third nominating contest next year, following Iowa and New Hampshire -- but even here, his home-field advantage probably won't translate into an early primary victory.
 
What's more, Graham, after nearly a quarter-century on Capitol Hill, may pick up some support from the party establishment -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has already endorsed him -- but of the four sitting GOP senators running for the White House, Graham is likely to trail the other three in fundraising and endorsements.

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