At a campaign forum in Florida this morning, Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee didn't sound like he's a big fan of Social Security, but he nevertheless characterized raising the retirement age as "political suicide."
It's a reasonable point -- as "reforms" to social-insurance programs go, raising the retirement age isn't popular, and candidates pushing the idea have to realize they're going to face public resistance.
But former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is plowing ahead anyway, committed to his plan to increase the retirement age for Social Security eligibility.
"I think it needs to be phased in over an extended period of time," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
"We need to look over the horizon and begin to phase in, over an extended period of time, going from 65 to 68 or 70," he added. "And that, by itself, will help sustain the retirement system for anybody under the age of 40."
Part of the problem here is that Jeb Bush, who really ought to know better given his work in Florida, is flubbing some of the details. Under the current Social Security system, to retire with full benefits a worker has to wait until he or she is 66, not 65. For Americans born after 1959, under current law, retirement at full benefits must be delayed to 67.
All of this may sound picky, but the details matter. Bush has had quite a bit of time to get up to speed on the policy, and the fact that he seems unsure about the current retirement age isn't a good sign. As Richard (RJ) Eskow noted this morning at the Huffington Post, "If you're going to cut a program which affects the lives of most Americans, the least you can do is get the facts right. Jeb didn't. That's worse than a candidate getting the price of bread or milk wrong, or a president's wonderment at the fact that grocery stores have scanners."
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:
* In Florida today, Gov. Rick Scott (R) is hosting the latest cattle call for Republican presidential candidates, with Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and Jeb Bush scheduled to appear. Republican senators were invited, but were kept away by Senate business today.
* In a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, Scott Walker and Rand Paul lead the Republicans' 2016 field with 11% each, followed by Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio with 10% each. Or put another way, that's effectively a four-way tie.
* In the same poll, Clinton leads Bush by eight among all adults, 49% to 41%.
* In a new national CNN poll, Marco Rubio leads the Republicans' 2016 field with 14%, followed by Jeb Bush at 13%. Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker are tied for third with 10% each, followed by Ted Cruz and Rand Paul at 8% each.
* In the same poll, Clinton leads Bush by eight points, Rubio by three points, Paul by one point, Walker by three points, and Ted Cruz by nine points.
* In a bit of a surprise, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) announced yesterday that he won't take on incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) next year. Coffman was considered the NRSC's top recruit.
* The "Draft Elizabeth Warren" effort, launched six months ago by MoveOn.org and Democracy for America, is no more -- the campaign called it quits overnight.
By all appearances, Donald Trump is moving closer to an actual presidential campaign. He already has an exploratory committee; he's delivered remarks at a series of candidate forums; and as Rachel noted on the show last night, he's scheduled a "major" announcement for June 16 at Trump Tower in New York City, followed by an event in New Hampshire the next day.
It's easy to have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it cheapens the political process to have ridiculous characters seek important national offices. The country is confronted with real challenges and real candidates whose solutions deserve to be scrutinized carefully. When carnival barkers launch vanity exercises, it's an unwelcome distraction.
On the other hand, Trump is likely to be very amusing, albeit in an unintentional sort of way.
Consider, for example, his latest interview with the Des Moines Register, which is an amazing encapsulation of everything Trump brings to the table.
DMR: You're doing well enough in polls now to nab a spot in the televised presidential debates. In our latest Iowa Poll, however, 85 percent of likely GOP caucusgoers said they would "never" support you for president.
TRUMP: That's because they don't think I'm running. When they think I'm running, they go through the roof. I see it even on Twitter. I have millions of people on Twitter and Facebook, like 6 million people on Twitter and Facebook. They say: "Please run, but if you don't run, well, just leave me alone." You know, it's sort of interesting. But they want me to run.
Oh, I see. An overwhelming majority of Iowa Republicans would never vote for Trump, but they'll change his mind after he launches, as if they don't already know who he is. Trump knows this, of course, because many people follow him on social media -- which couldn't possibly have anything to do with morbid curiosity about a media personality known for saying ridiculous things through social media.
When a reporter for the Register asked a follow-up question about his public support, Trump interrupted. "I'm the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far," he said, apparently equating "success" with financial wealth. "Nobody's ever been more successful than me. I'm the most successful person ever to run. Ross Perot isn't successful like me. Romney -- I have a Gucci store that's worth more than Romney."
Just so we're clear, I'm not making any of this up.
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.
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."
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.
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:
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."
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 Journalreports 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 flatteringWSJ 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.
Kurt Meyer, Tri-County Iowa Democrats chair, talks with Rachel Maddow about the large numbers of people showing up for Bernie Sanders campaign events, and how his popularity is likely to shape the 2016 race and particularly Hillary Clinton's campaign. watch
Rachel Maddow reacts to the Vanity Fair cover coming-out of Caitlyn Jenner and the social and cultural impact the public attention and acceptance of her transition from Bruce Jenner will have on trans kids and trans adults dealing with that struggle. watch
Jen Moreno, staff attorney for the U.C. Berkeley Death Penalty Clinic, talks with Rachel Maddow about the legal battle over the death penalty and the illegal importation of execution drugs by states desperate for a means to kill prisoners. watch
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