If congressional Republicans have any chance at all of derailing the international nuclear agreement with Iran, they're going to need quite a few Democrats -- or more specifically, red-state Democrats who are most inclined to break party ranks.
That strategy is already unraveling. This week, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) of Indiana, one of Congress' most conservative Democrats, announced his support for the diplomatic solution. This morning, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) of Missouri, widely seen as an on-the-fence member, also backed the deal. The Kansas City Starpublished the senator's endorsement.
"I've spent weeks digging into the details of this agreement. And I've had extensive conversations with both those countries who are part of the negotiated agreement, and those countries currently holding Iran's sanctioned money.
"It is clear to me that there is no certainty that Iran's resources will be withheld from them if America rejects the agreement. Instead, I believe it likely that the sanctions regime would fray and nothing would be worse than Iran getting an influx of resources without any agreement in place to limit their ability to get a nuclear weapon."
McCaskill is convinced that it is "more dangerous to Israel, America and our allies to walk away in the face of unified world-wide support" for the agreement.
At this point, the arithmetic is hard to ignore. As we've discussed, congressional Republicans, no matter how intense their zeal, cannot kill the policy on their own. GOP lawmakers will need no less than 44 House Democrats and 13 Senate Democrats to partner with far-right members to crush the international agreement.
As of now, the grand total of Senate Dems opposed to the deal is two, while in the House, there are 12 Democrats siding with Republicans.
Are there enough undecided Democrats remaining to possibly tilt the scales in the right's favor? Not really.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* A new Quinnipiac poll shows Vice President Biden doing about as well as Hillary Clinton against leading Republicans in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
* According to a newly released invitation, Jeb Bush will headline a fundraising event in Texas this fall along with his former president brother and former president father. The "I am my own man" rhetoric from the spring seems almost quaint now.
* Steve Deace, an influential conservative Iowa radio host, announced his support yesterday for Ted Cruz's presidential campaign. "In my view, he's what we've been waiting for," Deace told his audience. "He's an end to the false choice between principles and electability."
* As Rachel noted on the show last night, Ben Carson is apparently willing to make deadly drone strikes over American soil, targeting undocumented immigrants along the border.
* Hillary Clinton's campaign released a new television ad yesterday, emphasizing her focus on economic inequality. "When you see that you've got CEO's making 300 times what the average worker's making, you know the deck is stacked in favor of those at the top," Clinton says in the spot.
When the Affordable Care Act was first approved, the law's Republican critics made a series of predictions about failure and catastrophe. Just about every one of those predictions turned out to be wrong.
But in fairness, there is one thing GOP officials said that turned out to be correct. The right argued -- it was more a fear than a predication -- that once "Obamacare" was in place, and American families and consumers came to rely on the system's benefits, it would be awfully difficult, if not impossible, for Republicans to simply take those benefits away. And five years later, that sounds about right.
In Arkansas, for example, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), soon after taking office earlier this year, had to decide whether to scrap the state's Medicaid-expansion policy. The Republican was vague on the issue during his 2014 campaign, but in January, Hutchinson announced he wanted to see the policy remain in place, at least for a while, to prevent public suffering.
Yesterday, as the Arkansas News reported, the governor suggested he's prepared to make the policy permanent.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday he is open to continuing to accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion if the federal government grants the state increased flexibility in shaping its health-care programs.
"As governor, I will accept the continued expansion dollars from the federal government if we can achieve the (Medicaid) waivers that are needed," Hutchinson told a joint meeting of the Health Reform Legislative Task Force and the Governor's Advisory Council on Medicaid Reform.
In fairness, the governor has a whole bunch of ideas about how to make the policy as conservative as possible, but there's no getting around the fact that Hutchinson has no interest in scrapping Arkansas' Medicaid expansion.
"We're a compassionate state. We're not going to leave 220,000 without some recourse, without some access to care," he said.
As the race for the Republican presidential nomination continues, the right's anti-immigration rhetoric is growing louder and more ferocious. It's hard not to wonder, is there some kind of ceiling? Will we soon reach the limit on conservative extremism?
I can't answer that with confidence, but I certainly hope that pro-slavery arguments represent the right-wing cliff.
[J]ust this week, Media Matters reported that well-known conservative radio host Jan Mickelson said that any undocumented immigrant that does not self-deport by a certain time-frame should become "an asset of the state."
"Well, I think everybody would believe it sounds like slavery?" said one listener who called in to challenge Mickelson.
"Well, what's wrong with slavery?" he responded.
This is, alas, quite real. Earlier this week, Mickelson, an influential conservative in Iowa, told his radio audience that he has a bold, new plan to deal with undocumented immigrants. Under the host's vision, those who don't deport themselves voluntarily after 60 days' notice would automatically become "property of the state" and forced into "compelled labor."
That labor would include -- you guessed it -- building a wall along the U.S./Mexican border.
"We will compel your labor," Mickelson said. "You would belong to these United States. You show up without an invitation, you get to be an asset. You get to be a construction worker."
When a listener raised the question of slavery, the radio host not only asked "Well, what's wrong with slavery?" he soon after added, "You think I'm just pulling your leg. I am not."
The number of Republican presidential candidates opposed to birthright citizenship -- the 14th Amendment's constitutional principle that if you're born in the United States, you're a citizen of the United States -- just keeps growing.
[Sen. Ted Cruz], in an interview on the Michael Medved radio show, made his position clear: "We should end granting automatic birthright citizenship to the children of those who are here illegally."
The presidential candidate acknowledged that a change in the law would be a heavy lift, saying "I think it is possible, but any constitutional amendment by its nature is difficult to achieve."
Acknowledging Donald Trump's role in adding the issue of birthright citizenship to the fight for the Republican nomination, the Texas senator said, "I welcome Donald Trump articulating this view. It is a view I have long held."
It's worth clarifying, though that Cruz seems to believe it's time to amend the Constitution to alter the 14th Amendment's guarantee, while Trump believes in passing laws that challenge the 14th Amendment in the courts.
Stepping back, and referencing this helpful piece from Bloomberg Politics, we can start breaking up the massive GOP 2016 field into some factions on the issue of birthright citizenship.
1. Those who've expressed unambiguous opposition to birthright citizenship: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal
2. Those who were opposed, but who've since hedged a bit: Scott Walker
3. Those who are open to changing the law related to birthright citizenship: Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina [updated, see below]
4. Those who support birthright citizenship: Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Jim Gilmore, and George Pataki
5. Those who just don't want to talk about it: Rick Perry
Realistically, will Republicans actually be able to scrap the constitutional principle?
With the international nuclear agreement picking up increased support from congressional Democrats, opponents are not only discouraged, they're also looking for something to help derail the deal's progress. Yesterday, at least for a little while, the right seemed to think it had found new ammunition against the diplomatic solution.
An Associated Press report said the agreement it obtained would allow Tehran to use its own inspectors to investigate a military site where Iran is suspected to have worked on developing a nuclear weapon, which the nation has denied.
[Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)] blasted the reported arrangement. "Why should Iran be trusted to carry out its own nuclear inspections at a military site it tried to hide from the world? How does this not set a precedent for future inspections at suspicious military sites in Iran?" he said.
The Republican leader added, "The Obama administration has a lot of explaining to do."
Soon after, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) pointed to the same AP report as damning proof of how right Republicans are about the international agreement. "This revelation only reinforces the deep-seated concerns the American people have about the agreement," Cornyn said in a statement.
Well, that certainly sounds serious. What's this all about?
Chris Hayes noted yesterday that the term "anchor baby" is "disgusting and dehumanizing." He added, "I can't believe anyone in 'mainstream' American politics uses it."
For quite a while, there was some consensus on this point. We'd occasionally hear far-right congressional Republicans like Tom Tancredo and Louie Gohmert using the phrase, but most avoided the label as overly crass and offensive.
But Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has embraced it, and as MSNBC's Amanda Sakuma noted last night, even Jeb Bush is now using the phrase.
Speaking on Bill Bennett's conservative radio show "Morning in America" Wednesday, Bush went as far as using the derogatory term "anchor baby" to describe his support for tighter enforcement on children born in the U.S. to immigrant parents.
"If there's abuse, people are bringing -- pregnant women are coming in to have babies simply because they can do it, then there ought to be greater enforcement," Bush said in the interview, which was written about by POLITICO. "That's [the] legitimate side of this. Better enforcement so that you don't have these, you know, 'anchor babies,' as they're described, coming into the country."
An audio clip of Bush's comments, recorded by American Bridge 21st Century, is online.
It wasn't long before Hillary Clinton, responding to Bush on Twitter, replied simply, "They're called babies." Ouch.
Given the reaction, I have a hunch the former governor will probably avoid using the phrase again, but that brings us back to the larger concern about Jeb Bush's clumsiness as a candidate. The Weekly Standard's John McCormack, a conservative writer, two weeks ago asked the question on the minds of many: "Isn't one benefit of an establishment candidate supposed to be that he's not going to make gaffes like this?"
Political scandals that matter tend to have clear allegation. Even if the charges prove baseless, controversies of consequence are built on a foundational question. Did Nixon order the break-in? Did Reagan sell weapons to Iran to finance an illegal war? Did Clinton have sexual relations with that woman?
The clarity adds definition. Scandals can grow and expand, but legitimate controversies still have an accusation at their root that people can either confirm or deny, believe or not believe, prove or disprove.
The Hillary Clinton email "scandal" isn't nearly as ... clean. Ask the typical person what the former Secretary of State is accused of, specifically, and you'll probably hear a mishmash of the words "emails" and "servers." Republicans seem excited -- some GOP presidential candidates are talking publicly about Clinton going to jail -- and quite a bit of the media is heavily engaged --- Bob Woodward compared the story to Watergate this week -- but nailing down the root allegation is proving to be surprisingly difficult.
Politicoreported yesterday that there are "accusations swirling that the former Secretary of State put national security secrets at risk by using a private email server." Oh. So the "scandal" is about proper email server management? That's what the political world is worked up about?
Mother Jones' Kevin Drum had a good take on this that rings true.
I'm perfectly willing to believe that Clinton's use of a private server was unwise. It probably was, something that I think even she's acknowledged. And Clinton has certainly provided some dodgy answers about what she did, which naturally raises suspicions that she might have something to hide. [...]
That said, even when I do my best to take off my tribal hat and look at this affair dispassionately, I just don't see anything.... [W]hat exactly is being investigated at this point? If you just want to argue that Clinton showed bad judgment, then go to town. That's a legitimate knock on a presidential candidate. But actual malfeasance? Where is it?
That need not be a rhetorical question. I'm eager to know, too. After months of coverage, the fact that the allegations themselves are ambiguous isn't a good sign about the merits of the "scandal."
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