Lead-up to U.S. 2016 elections – Republicans

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(The Guardian) Dark Money review: Nazi oil, the Koch brothers and a rightwing revolution
New Yorker writer Jane Mayer examines the origins, rise and dominance of a billionaire class
to whom money is no object when it comes to buying power

(CBC The National)The Koch Brothers’ “Dark Money” | Jane Mayer
Investigative journalist Jane Mayer explains how the Koch brothers
have used their billions to shift American policies to the far right.
BLISS! Tina Fey is back
Bizarre Marco Rubio ad depicts Vancouver, B.C., as “America”
President Obama and the Supreme Court /2

28 February
(The Guardian) Donald Trump on Sunday declined to condemn David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader who this week urged sympathizers to vote for the billionaire in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. … He also did not condemn the KKK, as he was asked to during the interview. … On Friday, Trump told reporters that he disavowed the endorsement. Two days later, however, he was asked on State of the Union whether he does in fact condemn Duke and the KKK. “I don’t know anything about David Duke. I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists,” Trump said.
27 February
Mitch McConnell Promises Trump Will Be Rejected By His Own Party If Elected (VIDEO)
Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell and other establishment Republicans are beginning to sweat over the rise of Donald Trump. In a private meeting with his colleagues, McConnell said that the GOP will drop Trump “like a hot rock” if he wins the nomination. Here’s a video report via Raw Story.
Inside the Republican Party’s Desperate Mission to Stop Donald Trump
(NYT) Despite all the forces arrayed against Mr. Trump, the interviews show, the party has been gripped by a nearly incapacitating leadership vacuum and a paralytic sense of indecision and despair, as he has won smashing victories in South Carolina and Nevada. Donors have dreaded the consequences of clashing with Mr. Trump directly. Elected officials have balked at attacking him out of concern that they might unintentionally fuel his populist revolt. And Republicans have lacked someone from outside the presidential race who could help set the terms of debate from afar.
The endorsement by Mr. Christie, a not unblemished but still highly regarded figure within the party’s elite — he is a former chairman of the Republican Governors Association — landed Friday with crippling force. It was by far the most important defection to Mr. Trump’s insurgency: Mr. Christie may give cover to other Republicans tempted to join Mr. Trump rather than trying to beat him. Not just the Stop Trump forces seemed in peril, but also the traditional party establishment itself.
26 February
New Jersey Gov. Christie endorses former Republican rival Trump
“The best person to beat Hillary Clinton in November on that stage last night is undoubtedly Donald Trump,” Christie said
Trump’s march stirs growing sense of dread among Republicans
(Reuters) Trump has vowed to scrap U.S. trade deals, slap a tariff on imported goods and raise taxes on hedge-fund managers, as well as retain some sort of mandate to purchase health insurance – clashing with the free-market principles that have long underpinned Republican economic policy.
Some Republicans in Congress, such as [Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona] and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said a Trump nomination would do enormous damage to the party and predicted a heavy election defeat in November to the eventual Democratic nominee. …
Privately, lobbyists, economists, and analysts expressed deep concern about having Trump, who has proposed building a wall along the southern U.S. border and banning Muslims from the country, as the face of the party. …
A high-ranking official at a conservative think-tank, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his job requires him to steer clear of partisan politics, said: “Every serious student of American strategy is sick to their stomach about the possibility of Trump being the Republican nominee.”
Robert Kagan, a conservative foreign relations expert at the Brookings Institution think tank, said in a column for the Washington Post on Thursday that he would vote for Clinton rather than Trump.
How Marco Rubio Could Lose Every State on Super Tuesday and Still Win
(NYT) … it will be difficult on Super Tuesday for Mr. Trump to amass a significant majority of delegates if the other two major candidates — Mr. Rubio and Ted Cruz — clear the thresholds (at highest 20 percent) for earning proportional delegates. It seemed quite possible a few weeks ago that Mr. Trump could build a big lead on Super Tuesday, but Jeb Bush’s exit from the race and the big bump in Mr. Rubio’s poll numbers make it far less likely that Mr. Trump can pull that off.
Surprise — Trump, Cruz and Rubio aren’t all that different
By Catherine Rampell
(WaPost) On policy matters, there just ain’t much daylight between Trump and the supposed mainstream alternatives. They’re all pretty far to the right.
You could argue that the others have shifted their original positions rightward to pitch-match Trump’s belches of outrageousness. (Cruz only recently endorsed mass deportation, for example.) But regardless of where on the ideological spectrum the candidates started, the fact remains that today the three of them are largely indistinguishable from one another on most major policy stances.
What differentiates Trump from the others is not substance, but salesmanship.
21 February
Jeb Bush Bows Out of Campaign, Humbled and Outgunned
(NYT) Jeb Bush dropped out of the presidential race on Saturday, ending a quest for the White House that started with a war chest of $100 million, a famous name and a promise of political civility but concluded with a humbling recognition: In 2016, none of it mattered.
Mr. Bush’s campaign had rested on a set of assumptions that, one by one, turned out to be flatly incorrect: that the Republican primaries would turn on a record of accomplishment in government; that Mr. Bush’s cerebral and reserved style would be an asset; and that a country wary of dynasties would evaluate this member of the Bush family on his own merits.
11 February
Nicholas Kristof: The G.O.P. Created Donald Trump
He’s smarter than critics believe — he understood the political mood better than we pundits did — but I can’t think of any national politician I’ve met over the decades who was so ill informed on the issues, or so evasive, or who so elegantly and dangerously melded bombast and vapidity.
… today the leading candidate for president in the party of Lincoln is an ill-informed, inexperienced, bigoted, sexist xenophobe. And he’s not a conservative at heart, just a pandering opportunist.
Donald Trump is the consequence of irresponsible politicking by Republican leaders, the culmination of decades of cultivating unrealistic expectations within the politics of resentment. It’s good to see leading Republicans standing up to him today, but the situation recalls the Chinese saying, qi hu nan xia — when you’re riding a tiger, the hard part is getting off.
David Rothkopf: What Is Scarier Than Donald Trump?
(Foreign Policy) We can laugh at Trump. But we cannot and must not laugh at what is fueling his candidacy. Parties that evolve from feelings of disaffection and alienation like those in Europe today and in the past are capable of horrors as they have so often proven. For that reason no American should see the recent Trump victory as anything less than a call to arms to stop the further degradation of U.S. democracy by thugs. We must recognize that if we don’t hear the concerns that are fueling the rise of this group, if we don’t see and challenge the missteps by media elites and pundits who have enabled the legitimization of their views, then we are inviting the rise of forces that are a greater threat to our country — and its values — than any of the terrorists or foreign bogeymen that have dominated the conversations in our presidential debates to date.
As Trump Wins, the Mainstream G.O.P. Is Left to Muddle On
Republican leaders had aimed to bring a swift and orderly resolution to the party’s presidential primaries, avoiding a long and costly fight that could stretch well into the spring.
Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary dashed those hopes.
Despite strenuous efforts to overtake Donald J. Trump, none of his mainstream Republican opponents stood out from the pack. Now, they are left to muddle forward with no particular momentum into the next contests in South Carolina and Nevada.
If any strong alternative to Mr. Trump is to emerge, senior Republicans say, it will most likely come only after a long nomination fight, spanning dozens of states and costing many millions of dollars. At this stage, his most formidable rival appears to be Ted Cruz, the hard-right Texas senator who won last week’s Iowa caucuses, and who is even less acceptable to traditional party leaders than Mr. Trump. What about Ted Cruz?
8 February
MARCO’S REBOOT How the senator’s debate disaster could alter not just the primary race in New Hampshire, but also the race as a whole. Here’s what to look for in tomorrow’s primary. . . . And could this be John Kasich’s moment? [Howard Fineman and Scott Conroy, HuffPost]
Debate slip-up seems to halt Rubio’s momentum
(WaPost) Marco Rubio’s robotic debate performance Saturday night sparked an all-out offensive on the campaign trail here Sunday over his authenticity and experience, momentarily halting the momentum of the senator from Florida and further muddling the presidential nomination battle.
The episode interrupted Rubio’s week-long effort to build on his impressive third-place showing in the Iowa caucuses and consolidate donors and party officials behind him. It also appeared to give new life to the struggling candidacies of Christie, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, while improving Donald Trump’s chances of winning the New Hampshire Republican primary.
6 February
A Panic-Inducing Night for the GOP Establishment
At Saturday night’s debate, Republicans wanted Marco Rubio to soar and Donald Trump to stumble. The opposite happened.
(New Republic) The single biggest spoiler wasn’t Trump, or even Ted Cruz, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who—let’s not euphemize—humiliated Rubio in an exchange about Rubio’s dearth of experience and accomplishments. Christie became the first Republican presidential candidate this cycle to weaponize Rubio’s grating habit of pivoting to relevant portions of his stump speech rather than answering the questions posed to him.
Christie performed well tonight. So did Jeb Bush and John Kasich. If they weren’t so prohibitively behind Trump, it would be worth considering whether they might still pull off an upset in Tuesday’s primary. But the upset they might pull off is to deny Rubio a second-place finish in New Hampshire, and send the GOP establishment into disarray once again.
4 February
ted_cruz6Ted Cruz — The man in the ostrich-skin boots
Who is the victor of Iowa, and what sort of president might he make?

(The Economist) for him, as for the Founding Fathers, Americans’ rights are bestowed by God—and by his background. Before he fled Cuba, Rafael Cruz was tortured, which helps to explain why, for his son, freedom is always imperilled and government constantly on the verge of despotism. To hear him tell it, Obamacare is not just regrettable but tyrannical; gun controls are the high road to the gulag. That vigilance over liberty is widespread in Texas, where he spent most of his childhood (he was born in Canada, which Mr Trump says might disqualify him). He was among a group of teenagers who learned a mnemonic version of the constitution and regurgitated it at clubby lunches. [See also Rolling Stone, December 2015 Ted Cruz Isn’t Crazy – He’s Much Worse]
1 February
Ted Cruz wins Iowa’s GOP caucuses
(AP) — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a fiery conservative loathed by his own party’s leaders, swept to victory in Iowa’s Republican caucuses Monday, overcoming billionaire Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Cruz’s victory over Trump was a testament to his massive get-out-the-vote operation in Iowa and the months he spent wooing the state’s influential conservative and evangelical leaders. It was also a harsh blow to Trump, the supremely confident real estate mogul who has riled the Republican field for months with controversial statements about women and minorities.
Also worth watching and keeping, the PBS Newshour coverage, especially the segment with David Brooks and Michelle Cottle, contributing editor to The Atlantic.
The remarkable declines of the last two Iowa caucus winners: Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum
27 January
It’s not only The Donald who should be a cause for concern
(Raw Story) “The fact checkers say you’re wrong,” Wallace told Cruz. “Since that law went into effect, the unemployment rate fell from 9.9% to 5% as 13 million new jobs were created, and 16.3 million people who were previously uninsured now have coverage.”
“There are plenty of problems with Obamacare, but more people have jobs and health insurance,” the Fox News host added.
Cruz, however, argued that the fact checkers were wrong because they were biased.
Is Ted Cruz Really an Awful, Terrible Jerk?
Well, terms like “pompous asshole” and “backpfeifengesicht” tend to come up.
(Mother Jones) “I don’t know anyone who had a decent relationship with Cruz.” And when Bush became president, his top campaign aides agreed Cruz should not be offered a job in the White House. “No one wanted to work with him,” this source remembers. “George W. Bush couldn’t stand the guy.” This person adds, “It’s a real quandary for Bush campaign people: Trump versus Cruz, who to vote for? And it would be a big quandary even if it’s Cruz versus Hillary Clinton. That’s how much they cannot stand him.”
FT: Murdoch v Trump: Fox and The Hair
The Republican frontrunner has made an unexpected enemy of America’s most watched cable news channel
Highlights of the Donald Trump vs Megyn Kelly battle
23 January
The brief rise and lengthy fall of Sarah Palin
(WaPost) Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) is on the national political scene again, using the English language and leveling charges against Obama in ways that really only she can.
It has been a week of classic Palin: Big speeches about dark things and fears, delivered in the form of cheery aphorisms studded with malapropisms, and a public relations-driven effort to try to move past or distract from a family crisis.
It almost feels like 2008 again, when debating and discussing Sarah Palin, what she represents and what she means (philosophically and literally) was still fresh and new and people across the political spectrum seemed convinced that Palin was a figure poised to upend the established political order.
21 January
Right-Wing Media Lash Out Over Sarah Palin’s Donald Trump Endorsement
(Media Matters) Right-wing media figures are lashing out over Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. They say the endorsement amounts to “nothing but opportunism and ego,” and that it abandons Palin’s conservative Tea Party ideology because Trump is “neither a committed conservative nor an anti-establishment rogue.”
17 January
Trump brands Cruz a ‘nasty guy’
The fracas between the Republican presidential front-runners escalated Sunday as Donald Trump went after Ted Cruz’s likability, calling the Texas senator a “nasty guy.”
“Nobody likes him, nobody in Congress likes him, nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him,” Trump said in an interview airing on ABC’s “This Week.”After weeks of the candidates circling each other, the gloves came off in Thursday’s debate, as Trump questioned Cruz’s birthright citizenship and Cruz attacked Trump’s “New York values.”
Marco Rubio anti immigrantRubio: Law-abiding undocumented immigrants could stay
Rubio’s somewhat fluid position on immigration has been a target for his opponents because he was part of the Gang of Eight lawmakers who worked on the 2013 immigration reform bill, which included a path to citizenship.
“If circumstances change or you learn something along the way, it’s reasonable to say, ‘Maybe a different approach will work better,’” Rubio said. “So, for example, on immigration it is clear no comprehensive solution to immigration is going to pass.”

What you didn’t see on TV: Behind the scenes of the sixth GOP debate
You wouldn’t know it from looking at them spar on camera during the sixth Republican presidential debate, but behind the scenes, a few of the candidates appeared to actually get along quite well (though others looked rather uncomfortable making small talk.) POLITICO takes you behind the scenes.
4 January
Donald Trump’s new TV ad: Make America great by keeping the dark hordes out
(WaPost) Now, it remains unlikely that Trump will actually win the nomination. But even if he doesn’t, the question then becomes: Whither the forces Trump has unleashed inside the GOP? Trump’s candidacy — and to a somewhat lesser extent, that of Ted Cruz — is framed around the idea that the way to win the White House is by unleashing the power of white backlash. This is plainly obvious in Trump’s case, but Cruz, too, has repeatedly suggested a GOP victory must be powered by evangelicals and “Reagan Democrats,” i.e., culturally conservative blue collar whites. Cruz has engaged in more sophisticated demagoguery about Muslims and has flatly ruled out any form of legalization for undocumented immigrants.
By contrast, Marco Rubio’s long-term strategy seems to be framed broadly (though he has diverted from it at times) around the idea that the way to win is to make peace with diversifying, culturally evolving America, in hopes of cutting into Dem voter groups. (Demographics expert Ruy Teixeira’s hard look at the numbers suggests this may be the better course.) Which will GOP voters choose? We’ll soon find out. And if it’s the latter, and Rubio wins the nomination, how far he has to go in pandering to the forces Trump and Cruz are unleashing in order to get there will also bear watching.

2015

30 December
GOP ESTABLISHMENT TARGETS EACH OTHER As Jeb Bush trades barbs with Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, the race looks to New Hampshire independent voters as the potential key to the whole primary race. [WaPo]
GEORGE PATAKI DROPPED OUT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE If you didn’t know the former New York governor was in the Republican primary, then you probably understand why he had to drop out. [Amber Ferguson, HuffPost]
23 December
Geoorge F. Will: If Trump wins the nomination, prepare for the end of the conservative party
(WaPost) Certainly conservatives consider it crucial to deny the Democratic Party a third consecutive term controlling the executive branch. Extending from eight to 12 years its use of unbridled executive power would further emancipate the administrative state from control by either a withering legislative branch or a supine judiciary. But first things first. Conservatives’ highest priority now must be to prevent Trump from winning the Republican nomination in this, the GOP’s third epochal intraparty struggle in 104 years. …
In 2016, a Trump nomination would not just mean another Democratic presidency. It would also mean the loss of what Taft and then Goldwater made possible — a conservative party as a constant presence in U.S. politics.
It is possible Trump will not win any primary, and that by the middle of March our long national embarrassment will be over. But this avatar of unfettered government and executive authoritarianism has mesmerized a large portion of Republicans for six months. The larger portion should understand this:
One hundred and four years of history is in the balance. If Trump is the Republican nominee in 2016, there might not be a conservative party in 2020 either.
15 December
Republican Debate Offered Several Standouts and More Substance Than Fireworks
By MAGGIE HABERMAN
(NYT First Draft on politics) The Republican debate featured mostly national security concerns and was more substantive than previous forums. But there were still plenty of heated moments from the candidates, and attempts to get under one another’s skin.
Several candidates had strong performances, primarily Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida. They repeatedly tussled, partly on their own and partly at the nudging of the CNN moderators. But the split-screen repeatedly showing the two men signaled where many in the news media believe the campaign will ultimately end up.
Mr. Cruz fared better than Mr. Rubio, in part because he never seemed to let anything irritate him. He deflected questions from the moderator Dana Bash about his private criticisms of Donald J. Trump at a fund-raiser in New York last week, refusing to repeat them and risk giving Mr. Trump justification to pounce. He insisted he had never favored legal status for undocumented immigrants in 2013, despite video showing him at a hearing that year arguing in favor of an amendment to the immigration reform bill.
He made his lawyerly argument in a confident way, despite Mr. Rubio’s prodding. And in an election cycle in which truth has never seemed less relevant to the political discourse, the particulars about what Mr. Cruz did years ago may not matter as much. Mr. Rubio also survived his first real debate-stage pressure this year over his work on that 2013 immigration bill, a subject that is deeply unpopular with conservatives.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey had a standout performance. But so did Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has been something of a nonfactor for the past several months. Mr. Paul came out swinging at several people, including pointing to the “Bridgegate” scandal that has dogged Mr. Christie. To the extent that Mr. Christie does well, it could affect how Mr. Trump fares in New Hampshire.
Jeb Bush had one of his sharpest performances to date and came extremely close to making Mr. Trump lose his cool. But he pulled back just before that happened.
Finally, there was Mr. Trump, who had relatively little speaking time. He offered a reminder of his lack of an ideological follow-through when he talked about the need to shut down the Internet in certain parts of the globe before bemoaning the cost of the Iraq war, money that he said could have been spent on infrastructure at home.
Not that it will probably matter, of course. Mr. Trump has been said to have had performed weakly in the past, only to gain strength afterward. And so the race remains focused on Mr. Trump, Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio as the campaign pauses for the holidays.
Ben Carson threatens to quit the Republican Party
His complaint comes from reports that republican party leaders have begun meeting to plot out convention hijinks to make sure that neither he nor Donald Trump can win the nomination. Trump, the clear frontrunner, might have an objective beef. But Carson, whose support has plummeted to the point that it’s coming close to time for him to drop out anyway, is merely threatening to give the republicans exactly what they want: rid of him.
14 December
A leading presidential candidate embracing the fringe? That’s nuts — and new.
By Rachel Maddow
(WaPost) In the three years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., one of the more inexplicable aspects of its aftermath has been the persistence of the insane conspiracy theory that the killings never really happened. … As far as I can tell, the main reason it’s still with us today is because it has been embraced by America’s industrial-size factory farm of conspiracy theories: the radio show and Web empire of Alex Jones.
It may not be that crazy that Trump is embracing Jones, and it may not be that crazy that Trump is leading the Republican presidential field. But to have the leader of the Republican presidential field embracing someone like Jones?
Acceptable affiliations and positions in that party are now effectively being set by a candidate who still maintains that President Obama is secretly foreign, who apparently seriously intends to hang a “No Muslims Allowed” sign on all U.S. borders and who finds “amazing” America’s foremost trafficker in the almost-too-disgusting-to-repeat lie that the grieving families of all those little 5- and 6-year-old boys and girls in Newtown faked their children’s deaths for some nefarious political cause. Amazing indeed.
24 November
The Lifelong Republicans Who Love Bernie Sanders
Some conservatives are defying expectation and backing the Vermont senator.
(The Atlantic) These Republicans for Sanders defy neat categorization. Some are fed up with the status quo in Washington, and believe that Sanders, with his fiery populist message, is the presidential contender most likely to disrupt it. Others have voted Republican for years, but feel alarmed by what they see as the sharp right turn the party has taken. … Anger and alienation have turned conventional wisdom upside down in this presidential election. Self-styled outsider candidates like Donald Trump and Ben Carson have surged in the polls. And as Republican candidates debate their conservative credentials, support for Sanders shows how difficult it can be to pin down what exactly it means to be conservative. … In some cases, longtime Republican voters who have decided to support Sanders are rethinking their political affiliation entirely. (“I’m inclined to say I might stay with the Democratic Party because the Republican Party has changed and it’s not the way it used to be.”) Far from claiming to have experienced a political conversion, other Republicans argue that Sanders actually embodies conservative values.
20 November
If the Tea Party Is Dying, Why Is Trump Winning?
(Bloomberg) If the Tea Party is collapsing, what’s filling the void? Only 22 percent of Republicans in the Bloomberg poll described themselves as “mainstream.” That may explain why the spectacularly unprepared Ben Carson and the flagrantly divisive Donald Trump are currently dominating the Republican presidential field. “Mainstream” has simply switched places with “fringe.”
Republican Campaign Against Refugees Is Just Beginning
(Bloomberg) The House passed a bill Thursday to severely restrict the admission of refugees from Syria and Iraq. President Barack Obama has promised to veto it. Behind the scenes, Republicans are preparing several bills that are more drastic, aiming to close American borders to asylum seekers. These measures set up a much longer political battle.
The most severe of the Republican proposals would suspend all U.S. government support for resettling refugees in the U.S. and would aim to guard against certain refugees entering the U.S. through the southern border who are suspected of ties to terrorism, designating them “special interest aliens.”
The four sponsors said in a press release that all services in the Office of Refugee Resettlement should be suspended, including the health services, legal services and social services “that help refugees become self-sufficient as quickly as possible after their arrival in the United States.”
17 November
Christian groups break with GOP over Syrian refugees
Evangelical Christians, as well as Christians more broadly, are a core group in the Republican electoral base and are among the most passionate advocates for aiding refugees.
(Politico) A push by Republican presidential candidates to ban Syrian refugees “does not reflect what we’ve been hearing from our constituencies, which are evangelical churches across the country,” said Jenny Yang, vice president for advocacy at World Relief, an evangelical organization that helps resettle refugees. “Most of the people have been saying we want to continue to work with refugees, that what happened in Paris … doesn’t reflect who refugees are.”
12 November
(NYT opinion) When the dust settled after the Republican presidential debate on Tuesday, two lesser-followed figures were part of the next day’s discussion – Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Carly Fiorina.
Mr. Christie performed ably in the so-called undercard debate against Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana; Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor; and Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator.
His message was not dissimilar to that of both Jeb Bush and Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio during the prime-time debate: Electability is of signature importance against Hillary Rodham Clinton in a general election.
But the question of electability is running up against deep anger among Republican base voters, and it ultimately did not matter in 2008 either, though Mr. Giuliani was a far less conservative candidate than many of those who took the stage last night.
Then there’s Ms. Fiorina, who was well received in some quarters for her handling of foreign policy questions during the prime-time debate.
“When Fiorina involved herself in an ongoing foreign policy debate that was taking place on stage, she didn’t just upstage Trump, she upstaged Jeb Bush and John Kasich and a vital campaign issue,” said Craig Robinson, a former Republican Party of Iowa executive director and the man behind the conservative news site the Iowa Republican.
Where it may take Mr. Christie and Ms. Fiorina is unclear. But they made their presences felt.
30 October
RNC suspends partnership with NBC in fallout over chaotic CNBC debate
(WaPost) The RNC has faced increasingly vocal — and active — dissatisfaction with the debate process from presidential contenders in the wake of Wednesday night’s face-off, with candidates and their campaigns complaining that CNBC conducted the debate in “bad faith” and asked questions in an attempt to spark infighting.
Republican Crybabies Cancel NBC Partnership Over Hard Questions At CNBC Debate
(Politicus USA) There is little question that the CNBC debate was a disaster and that the CNBC moderators were ill-prepared and often asked silly questions. However, Priebus is overlooking the fact that part of what made the debate, and the two GOP debates that preceded it bad jokes, was the candidates themselves.
The Republican field is chock full of ill-prepared candidates who can’t answer even the simplest questions and who are unable to explain how their ideas will help the American people. National Review debate moderators may lob softball questions at Trump, Carson, Rubio and Cruz, but that won’t save the candidates from looking foolish, because it is their answers and not the questions that have turned the GOP primary debate schedule into a traveling circus.
28 October
Ben Carson and Donald Trump Lack Electricity in a Charged Debate
What a curious, fascinating spectacle: The two men in the lead got lost in the pack.
Frank Bruni
Coming into Wednesday night, much of the talk about the third Republican debate focused on Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who were trading places at the top of the polls, two outsiders with no business running for president and significantly more support from Republican voters than any of the conventional candidates could muster.
Which of the two would stand out?
Neither.
Would either of the two seal the deal?
Nope.
For the first hour of the debate, which was staged by CNBC, Trump largely disappeared. His rivals and the moderators demonstrated less interest in him than they had in the past, and a Trump without attention is like a petunia without water and light. It fades. It droops.
And while that presented a window of opportunity for Carson, he lacked the pep to get through a window or, for that matter, an extremely wide set of sliding doors. His eyelids sometimes went to half-mast as he swayed through an answer, making a sluggish voyage to an uncertain destination.
13 October
David Brooks: The Republican Party is producing “leaders of jaw-dropping incompetence”
(Vox) In a blistering New York Times column, Brooks accuses today’s Republican Party of betraying the actual tenets of conservatism. “By traditional definitions,” he writes, “conservatism stands for intellectual humility, a belief in steady, incremental change, a preference for reform rather than revolution, a respect for hierarchy, precedence, balance and order, and a tone of voice that is prudent, measured and responsible.”
Today’s Republicans, he continues, have abandoned all that. The GOP is increasingly driven by a faction that “regards the messy business of politics as soiled and impure. Compromise is corruption. Inconvenient facts are ignored. Countrymen with different views are regarded as aliens. Political identity became a sort of ethnic identity, and any compromise was regarded as a blood betrayal.”
Paul Ryan weighs pros, cons of becoming next House speaker
(AP) — Maybe Rep. Paul Ryan doesn’t feel like a character in the classic film “The Godfather,” weighing an offer he can’t refuse. But with Republican Party elders practically begging him to become the next House speaker, the pressure on him to seek the post is immense.
Yet with the House tumbling through a chaotic period as hard-right conservatives make the chamber nearly unmanageable, there are plenty of compelling reasons to decline the job, too.
Uncle Ben'sDr. Ben Carson, Crackpot
The craziest thing about the Republican presidential contest isn’t that Donald Trump is in the lead. It’s that Dr. Ben Carson — who truly seems to have lost his mind — is in second place and gaining fast.
Trump may be a blowhard, but Carson has proved himself to be a crackpot of the first order. Of all the GOP contenders, he’s the scariest.
I say this as a longtime admirer of Carson for his stellar medical career. As the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, Carson not only saved lives in the operating room but also inspired countless young people to overcome rough beginnings and reach for the stars.
alas, he is running for president. And despite spouting more utter nonsense than the law should allow, Carson has the support of 18 percent of GOP voters, according to the Real Clear Politics poll average — five points behind Trump and miles ahead of the rest of the field.
His most recent burst of blather was over gun control in the wake of the Oregon massacre. As recently as Sunday, on “Face the Nation,” Carson was defending his assertion that the Holocaust would have been “greatly diminished” if Jews had been able to keep firearms in their homes. Gun control laws enacted by the Nazi regime, he contends, were a prelude to genocide.
27 September
It is time to get very afraid: Extremists, authoritarians now run the GOP — and no one can stop them
Boehner and McConnell weren’t conservative enough for them. Nor Eric Cantor. Right-wing purists won’t stop here
(Salon) Trump is not an outlier. Jeb! says that black people vote for Democrats to get “free stuff.” Mike Huckabee insists that the United States is criminalizing Christianity. Bobby Jindal promises to “fire” Congress. Ted Cruz hints that President Obama is a Muslim and warns that no Muslim should be president. All of the candidates demonize undocumented immigrants.
And Carly Fiorina makes the outrageous claim, on national television, that political opponents murder babies to harvest and sell their brains. Think about that.
The fantasy world of Movement Conservatives is no longer fringe talk. The leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination embrace it. They are playing to a chorus of true believers, and they are preaching what that choir wants to hear. They are following the same pattern Eric Hoffer identified as the path to authoritarianism. Last week, 43 percent of Republicans polled said they could imagine a scenario in which they would back a military coup. This week, Movement Conservatives in Congress knocked off a conservative speaker because he refused to sacrifice the American government to their demands.
We should be very frightened indeed. If we are not careful, John Boehner’s will not be the only head on the block.
(Salon) Movement Conservatives just claimed the head of House Speaker John Boehner. His political death was the price of preventing a catastrophic government shutdown after Movement Conservatives in Congress tied the very survival of the United States government to their determination to defund Planned Parenthood. Movement Conservatives are gunning for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell next. We should be very afraid. Boehner and McConnell are not wild-eyed lefties. They are on the very far right of the American political spectrum: fervently pro-business, antiabortion, opposed to social welfare legislation. But they are old-school politicians who still have faith in the idea of American democracy.
Movement Conservatives do not. They want to blow up the government and remake America according to their own radical ideology.
In 1951, a young William F. Buckley, Jr., came up with a blueprint for destroying the American consensus. Rational argument was a losing strategy, Buckley wrote in “God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of ‘Academic Freedom.’” If voters were presented with facts, said Buckley, they would choose government regulation. So a new breed of Movement Conservative leaders must start from the premise that what Buckley called “individualism”—that is, an economy in which individual action was untouched by the state—was as sacrosanct as the Ten Commandments [emphasis added]. Buckley gave this same untouchable status to Christianity, another fundamental that could not be questioned. People could quibble about the details of society based on an unregulated economy and Christianity, he allowed, but those bedrock principles could not be compromised. Individualism and Christianity were under attack, he insisted, from New Deal apologists and secular thinkers who had wormed their way into all levels of government and education. The secular New Dealers, Buckley claimed, threatened America’s very survival.
25 September
US Speaker John Boehner to leave Congress
(BBC) Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, will resign from his leadership position and give up his seat at the end of October.
Carly Fiorina Makes a Lot of Stuff Up About Everything
From her time at HP to abortion and assault weapons, Fiorina has an adventurous relationship with the truth.
[See also Fiorina’s falsehoods: Ms. Fiorina may have deeply felt objections to abortion. That doesn’t excuse her use of mistruths to justify her willingness to shut down the government, which by the way she seems to consider no big deal. “I’m not aware of any hardship to anyone, other than the veterans trying to get to the World War II memorial,” she said of the last shutdown. When it comes to character and capability, that kind of blithe ignorance is another worrying sign. (WaPost, 26 September)]
Insiders: Rubio wins in Walker’s demise
‘The body wasn’t even cold yet and Rubio’s New Hampshire staff was picking off dazed Walker supporters,’ says one New Hampshire Republican.
(Politico) One New Hampshire Republican, who also saw Cruz as best-positioned to benefit from Walker’s departure, added: “Walker made a fateful strategic decision to try to win the right-wing primary within the primary, and he lost. Cruz will end up winning this contest, which will make him a player in February. Lord help us: By the time Trump is a nonfactor, we’ll have to deal with Cruz.”
23 September
Walker’s campaign manager unloads
(Politico) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pulled the plug on a bloated campaign that was headed into debt and was being undermined by furious donors, a warring staff and — at the root of it all — a candidate who was badly out of his league.
16 September
At G.O.P. Debate, Carly Fiorina Effortlessly Bats Away Trump’s Sexism
14 September
Republicans think Donald Trump is trustworthy, empathetic, and well suited to presidency REALLY!
The new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds Donald Trump way ahead of his rivals with 33 percent support among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents. But perhaps the most remarkable finding in the poll is how highly Republicans and GOP-leaners rate Trump on a range of personal attributes:
1) Republicans say by 64-35 that Trump is “qualified to serve as president.” By contrast, Americans overall say by 60-37 that he is not qualified.
4 September
Pulitzer Prize Reporter Exposes Trump’s Lack of Wealth, Mob Ties, Failure to Support Charity, and Much More
David Cay Johnston is an author, lecturer, and investigative reporter who has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting who has presided over the board of the non-profit organization Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. His areas of expertise include tax law, accounting, economics, business and finance. He is also an outspoken Progressive whose thoughts and ideas echo those of Bernie Sanders. Since 1988, Johnston has been watching Trump closely. Recently, he came up with a list of questions that would reveal much about the GOP’s “Golden Boy” – assuming Trump would provide frank and forthcoming answers, as he claims to do
28 August
Stephen Blank– U.S. election: Notes on the circus to the South
How a divided Republican vote will likely mean another fragmented government to come
(Open Canada) The battle for control of the party has gone on since Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964, but it’s now all-out war. Donald Trump’s arrival has made the struggle more bizarre, but the underlying essentials haven’t changed. The splintering of the conservative terrain remains the most defining force in U.S. politics today with the grappling of religious, ecclesiastical, social, establishment, libertarian, Obama-haters and now, Trumpist elements under the GOP tent. A split in the party, between far-right fundamentalists and conservatives, must be seen as a real possibility.
The electoral system has become more rigid, with fewer swing constituencies. Continued divided government is almost assured.
Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. Lacking major disturbances, they are likely to win the majority of votes in 2016. That doesn’t mean the Dems are assured to win the presidency. Only Electoral College votes count and these do not necessarily tally with the popular vote. Nonetheless at this moment, the Presidency is for the Democrats to lose.
The Republicans, however, are certain to maintain control of the House of Representatives. This is the result of the way Congressional districts are laid out (by state governments) and by the crowding of Democratic Party voters into fewer urban electoral districts. So Republicans can win more Congressional seats in a state and still lose the Presidential vote
21 August
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson on the response to Donald Trump’s immigration policy and his effect on Republican race, whether Hillary Clinton can defuse the attention paid to the investigation into her handling of email, plus bad health news from former President Jimmy Carter.
MICHAEL GERSON: Well, what we have seen is his first policy initiative. He set out an immigration policy. It was thin, six pages. It was not very detailed, but it included changes to the protections of the 14th Amendment on birthright citizenship and mass deportations.
So this is a person, Trump, who, three years ago, which is not very long ago, criticized Mitt Romney’s self-deportation plan as maniacal and mean-spirited. And now we’re going to from self-deportation to forced mass deportation.
This is crossing a lot of lines in the Republican Party. I think it’s quite serious and I think it could damage the Republican Party for decades to come to be associated with this approach.
19 August
Donald Trump Just Stopped Being Funny
Win or lose, Trump’s campaign threatens to unleash the Great American Stupid
(Rolling Stone) Those of us who think polls and primaries and debates are any match for that are pretty naive. America has been trending stupid for a long time. Now the stupid wants out of its cage, and Trump is urging it on. There are a lot of ways this can go wrong, no matter who wins in 2016.
12 August
Shallow Jeb
The former Florida governor was supposed to be the GOP’s next foreign policy statesman. He just proved he’s not.
(Slate) Most presidential candidates who deliver a “major foreign policy address” have something original, potent, or insightful to say. On Tuesday night, as with most other aspects of his campaign to date, Jeb Bush defied expectations
9 August
Ohio Governor Kasich: Do Nothing On Climate Change Because It’s An Unproven Theory
Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) is the rare GOP presidential candidate who has acknowledged that climate change is a real problem requiring us to “protect” the “creation that the Lord has given us.” But just days after earning plaudits for his relatively moderate-sounding approach in Thursday’s GOP presidential debate, Kasich adopted a climate-change denialist approach on Sunday.  “I think that man absolutely affects the environment, but as to whether, what the impact is… the overall impact — I think that’s a legitimate debate.”
10 Reasons Why John Kasich Is As Rabidly Right-Wing as the Rest of the GOP Presidential Candidate Pack — Kasich is no moderate, but a hit man for the rich.
7 August
Maybe NOT
John Kasich Could Be the GOP’s Pope Francis CandidateHis inclusive language during the debate stood in stark contrast to that of many of his rivals
NYT wins this week’s prize for statement of the obvious: Fear That Debate Could Hurt G.O.P. in Women’s EyesSeveral candidates took hard-line stances on abortion, and Donald Trump refused to renounce his past descriptions of women as “fat pigs.”
Donald Trump’s ‘blood’ comment about Megyn Kelly backfires
(CNN) Donald Trump’s feud with Megyn Kelly escalated Friday night when he said the Fox News host had “blood coming out of her wherever” at this week’s Republican debate, resulting in swift condemnation from conservatives and a major political event pulling its invitation to him.
The RedState Gathering, meanwhile, will go on without Trump. This year, the annual event features fellow GOP presidential candidates Fiorina, Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker.
As for the newly vacant spot at the RedState Gathering, Erickson has invited Kelly to replace Trump.
7 August
Shields and Brooks on GOP debate standouts
Mark Shields: FOX News is the validator, it’s the gatekeeper for Republican, particularly conservative voters. And you don’t go after — it is not like you’re attacking Chuck Todd or Judy Woodruff or some of the liberal elite establishment. You’re attacking the mother church when you go after FOX. I think he [Donald Trump] hurt himself. I really do.
David Brooks: Rubio has a message. The message is, America is changing fast. I’m surrounded by a bunch of old guys who don’t get it. And I get it. I get Amazon. I get Airbnb. That’s actually a pretty good message. And it goes with his belief system. And he presents very well. And he’s very articulate and well-spoken and smart. And so he has a message.
Kasich has a different message, which is unique and I think reflective also of the times, which is we need growth, but we need compassion. And so he defends some of the New Deal social programs, even Great Society social programs. But he said we got to grow. And then once we grow, we got to share.
Candidates spar in lively GOP debate as Trump disappoints
(Brookings) The first Republican debate was anything but dull. It started with a bang when Donald Trump refused to pledge to support the nominee of the Republican Party, whoever it might be, and left open the possibility of running as an independent if the nominee left him unsatisfied. It proceeded through a rapid-fire series of well-prepared questions carefully tailored to individual candidates. It reached its emotional peak in a vituperative confrontation between New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul over the bulk collection of individuals’ communications as a tool in the war on terror.
The disagreement on other issues was more muted. While former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush stood his ground on immigration reform and Common Core education standards as did Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich on his decision to expand Medicaid, the other candidates spent their time laying out their own agendas rather than confronting these dissenters from party orthodoxy.
Although it is hard to know the limits of what Trump’s supporters are willing to tolerate, my hunch is that the debate damaged his prospects. When challenged about numerous statements that seemed on their face to be demeaning to women, he had no effective response. His defense of bankruptcy declarations by several of his corporations was cynical and self-interested. If his debate strategy was to modulate his tone and convey more gravitas than usual, he failed to stick to it.
Marco Rubio steps out of Jeb’s shadow
In the first 2016 primary debate, ‘Luke Skywalker beat Obi Wan-Kenobi.’
(Politico) After a summer in which he lost ground to Bush, Rubio suddenly created an opportunity to close the gap between them. In a rare convergence, many elite conservative and mainstream media analysts designated Rubio as the winner of the 10-candidate debate — or at least the clear victor over Bush.
The GOP debate: 7 takeaways
The first Republican debate of 2016 turned out to be an empty-calorie joy ride
(Politico) If the nearly three hours of two-tiered GOP hopefuls proved anything, it was that the 17-candidate field is not only historically huge but uncommonly deep. It’s not clear if Republicans are getting tired of The Donald’s every-man-for-himself campaign … but beneath his overbearing presence the contours of a more conventional race, with lots of compelling characters jockeying for position in an unpredictable campaign, began to take shape.
John Kasich Could Be the GOP’s Pope Francis Candidate
(TIME)  It isn’t just Kasich’s words that connected him with the 78-year-old Bishop of Rome. Kasich’s policy decisions during the past five years have reflected the pope’s plea that politicians be “genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.” Most noteworthy was the governor’s courageous decision to break with his Republican colleagues and support Medicaid expansion in the state of Ohio. When conservatives pushed back on his decision, Kasich asked his fellow Republicans to understand that poverty is real. “When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.”
6 August
republican debate_closingstatement_080615
Trump roils first debate among GOP contenders
[Explore an annotated transcript of the debate]

(WaPost) Donald Trump landed on the Republican debate stage like a hand grenade here on Thursday night — serving notice that he may run as an independent if he does not get the party’s nomination, dismissing criticism of his insulting comments about women as “political correctness” and flatly calling the nation’s leaders “stupid.”
The current leader of the GOP pack drew boos and cheers from the audience and set the tone for a raucous two-hour debate. But other candidates acknowledged that Trump, a celebrity billionaire known for his showman’s flair, has tapped into a genuine current of public outrage and exasperation.
“Donald Trump’s hitting a nerve in this country. He is. He’s hitting a nerve,” said Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “People are frustrated, they’re fed up, they don’t think the government’s working for them. People who want to tune him out are making a mistake.” …
Trump appeared to be setting the tone for a debate that was combative throughout on a range of issues.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee disagreed sharply over changes to Social Security and other entitlements. Christie argues that fiscal realities make cutbacks inevitable, while Huckabee has insisted that the safety net for the elderly must be preserved.
Christie also sparred with Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) over the National Security Agency surveillance program authorized under the USA Patriot Act.
The New Jersey governor said the federal government needs more tools, not fewer, to root out terrorism and protect the homeland, while Paul cited the Bill of Rights in calling for scaling back spying programs.
Fouls, rebounds and slam dunks at first 2016 U.S. political debate (Reuters)
Fox News Couldn’t Kill Trump’s Momentum and May Have Only Made It Stronger (Bloomberg)
4 August
The first GOP debate is Thursday: Here’s what you need to know
(CNN) Republican primary voters will get more insight this week into the presidential candidates vying for their party’s nomination as the contenders prepare to square off in the first primary debate. And with the rise of Donald Trump and the drama his surge has provoked, the first debate is arguably the most anticipated 2016 election event to date. Fox News announces GOP debate field
Why Thursday’s Debate Matters (But Most Don’t)
(Real Clear Politics) First, this debate will be an important part of the “invisible primary.” There are lots of good articles and books out there on the invisible primary, but here are the basics: In the invisible primary, “party elite” (defined broadly as anyone who uses their time, money or influence to advocate for their preferred candidate – which means everyone from Iowa door-knockers to governors of key primary states) attempt to reach consensus on which candidate to support. These party actors then use their resources and influence to give their preferred candidate a boost before primary voters head to the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. The party elite are not all-powerful – candidates who have won the invisible primary have gone on to lose or nearly lose the nomination, and sometimes the party is too fractured to give any candidate a clear invisible primary win – but the support of these elite actors does seem to matter.
Right now the invisible Republican primary is completely unsettled. … Much of the GOP elite tend to gravitate towards candidates who share their ideology, have a good record of advocating for that ideology in public office and are plausible general election candidates. It would be an understatement to say that Trump fails to meet these requirements. …  There are large, powerful elements of the Republican Party with a keen interest in finding a candidate who can at least stop Trump in his tracks, if not go on to win the nomination and the presidency. And Thursday’s debate is one of the party’s first good opportunities to scout out the field for such a contender.
20 July
GOP Criticizes Trump, Insulting Hispanics Againdonald-trump-portrait
(Bloomberg opinion) If Hispanics distinguish Trump from his party, or never quite grasp which party he belongs to, Republicans shouldn’t suffer much for his behavior. But the margin of error for Republicans with Hispanics is very small. It’s great that veterans now see the party standing up for one of their own. Hooray for John McCain. But Hispanic voters might like to see Republicans muster the same outrage in their behalf. It hasn’t happened yet.
13 July
Alex Shoumatoff, author of The Thistle and the Bee, the detailed account of Donald Trump’s battle for the Menie dunes in Scotland writes this about The Donald. “Re Trump and the havoc he is wreaking with the Republican’s efforts to appear Latino-friendly, I know the guy. He also anti-black. Someone needs to provoke him into showing that side of him, then his work for this election cycle is done. It’s all about reminding America that he’s the Trumpster and he doesn’t march to anybody else’s drum. It’s amazing that no one in either party has pointed out that a couple of years ago he got all these rich Mexicans to plunk down a $350,000 deposit for a condo in a new resort cum golf course he was going to build in Baja California. He collected quite a few million then never built it and never refunded the rich Mexicans just to teach them a lesson about how things are done in the big-time.”
28 June
John Kasich to announce presidential bid July 21
(Politico) Ohio Gov. John Kasich will jump into the crowded Republican presidential field on July 21 at the student union at his alma mater, The Ohio State University, in Columbus, advisers tell POLITICO.
Kasich, 63, who was overwhelmingly reelected in November, will aim to appear less scripted and guarded than the leading candidates. Advisers say he combines establishment appeal with a conservative record going back to his stint as House Budget Committee chairman, during his 18 years as a congressman from Ohio.
Despite his late start, Kasich will be one of the most closely watched candidates — partly because Ohio is such a crucial presidential state, putting Kasich on many short lists for vice president.
3 June
Kevin Drum: Why Do So Many Obvious Losers Think They Can Be President?
There just aren’t very many candidates who have a serious chance at winning the nomination. So why are so many running? When guys like Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul ran, I understood why. They just wanted a chance to present their views to a national audience. But that can’t be what’s motivating everyone on this list. So what is it? What is it that’s somehow convinced so many obvious losers that they actually have a shot at becoming the next president of the United States?
20 May
Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum does not mince words
Marco Rubio Is a Moron
I’m seriously beginning to wonder if he has a 3-digit IQ. After Jeb Bush’s weeklong debacle trying to answer this question, every Republican candidate ought to have their own answer figured out. And not just figured out: by now their answers ought to be poll-tested, cut down into nice little sound bites, and so smoothly delivered you’d never even know this was a tricky issue in the first place.
But no. Rubio sounded like this question came as a total surprise.
19 May
But will this be a ballot question? We somehow doubt it.
Jeb Bush Says His Brother Was Misled Into War by Faulty Intelligence. That’s Not What Happened.
He and other Republican presidential contenders have a new and bogus spin on how the Iraq War began.
(Mother Jones) Last week, Jeb Bush stepped in it. It took the all-but-announced Republican presidential candidate several attempts to answer the most obvious question: Knowing what we know now, would you have launched the Iraq War? Yes, I would have, he initially declared, noting he would not dump on his brother for initiating the unpopular war. “So would almost everyone that was confronted with the intelligence they got,” Bush said. In a subsequent and quickly offered back-pedaling remark—on his way to saying he would have made “different decisions”—Bush emphasized that a main problem with the Bush-Cheney invasion was “mistakes as it related to faulty intelligence in the lead-up to the war.” … But here’s the truth Jeb Bush and the others are hiding or eliding: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, & Co. were not misled by lousy intelligence; they used lousy intelligence to mislead the public.
13 May
This does not bode well.
The Jeb Bush Adviser Who Should Scare You
Paul Wolfowitz not only championed the Iraq War—he obsessively promoted a bizarre conspiracy theory.
Wolfowitz and all his senior-level colleagues in the Bush-Cheney administration got Iraq wrong. They each were guilty of wishful thinking and arrogantly believed they knew better than area experts in various government agencies. But within this crew, as a ferocious advocate of a wacky and paranoid conspiracy theory, Wolfowitz went further in denying reality.
(Mother Jones) Last week, Jeb Bush, the all-but-announced GOP presidential candidate, stirred up a fuss when he privately told a group of Manhattan financiers that his top adviser on US-Israeli policy is George W. Bush. Given that Jeb has tried mightily to distance himself from his brother, whose administration used false assertions to launch the still highly unpopular Iraq War, this touting of W.—even at a behind-closed-doors session of Republican donors—seemed odd. But perhaps more noteworthy is that Jeb Bush has embraced much of his brother’s White House foreign policy team. In February, his campaign released a list of 21 foreign policy advisers; 17 of them served in the George W. Bush administration. And one name stood out: Paul Wolfowitz, a top policy architect of the Iraq War—for the prospect of Wolfowitz whispering into Jeb’s ear ought to scare the bejeezus out of anyone who yearns for a rational national security policy.
7 May
(NYT First Draft) A Distant Finish Line in a Crowded Republican Race
Republican strategists, donors and, yes, candidates are bracing for a potentially brutal nominating slog that lasts well into May 2016 thanks to “super PACs” and a field that feels like a cast of thousands.
At least 19 Republicans have started or are considering campaigns for 2016. Not all will run, but many who do will have super PACs that could help their candidacies survive early losses.
After the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee changed the voting calendar to try and avoid repeats of the brutal and long-lasting fight between Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
The previous calendar – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, followed by Florida — no longer exists. Instead, a slew of states moved up their votes to March 1, before Florida’s vote. Such compression, and so many candidates, could produce the opposite effect of what was intended, prolonging both the duration and the intensity of the process.
That means that Florida, which is crucial to its former governor, Jeb Bush, and to a current senator, Marco Rubio, might not be the same firewall as in previous years. That raises the significance of South Carolina and the other states that vote before Florida’s contest on March 15.
20 April
The Koch Brothers Are Reportedly Ready To Back Scott Walker
(Reuters) – Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, the influential conservative donors, have settled on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as their top choice to win the 2016 Republican nomination for U.S. president, the New York Times reported on Monday.
David Koch said at a fundraiser for the New York State Republican Party on Monday that he and his brother would support the party’s eventual nominee in the general election, but that it should be Walker, the paper reported, citing two people in attendance.
13 April
Marco Rubio tells supporters he is running for president
(WaPost) Aides said early Monday that 3,512 people requested tickets before registration for the event closed on Friday. Requests for tickets came from every state except Vermont.
Ted Cruz Just Disqualified Himself for President
(HuffPost) Being President of the United States is the toughest, most high-pressured job in the world. The great ones in the 20th Century, like FDR and Ronald Reagan, have at times managed to deviate from their ideological predispositions in order to “safeguard” the security interests of the United States. And the country has been better because of those choices. As Ted Cruz begins his formal campaign for the same historical office, we should all question whether he will be able to go outside his comfort zone by sacrificing dogmatism for realism when needed.
23 March
Ted Cruz Announces He’s Running For President In 2016Ted Cruz campaign
(HuffPost) Cruz, a favorite among conservatives and a frequent agitator of the GOP leadership in Congress, had been expected to declare his presidential bid for more than a year. He scoped out office space for a campaign headquarters in Houston, Texas, and terminated his Canadian citizenship in preparation.
The first-term senator has made multiple trips to the early presidential primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire and traveled across the country to campaign for conservative candidates in the midterm elections. Someone also created a super PAC, the Stand for Principles PAC, with the goal of helping Cruz win the nomination.
8 March
Any bets that one or more Republicans will ignore this good advice?
A Message to my Fellow Republicans: Let’s stay out of the way of Hillary Clinton’s email fiasco.
(Politico Magazine) the press is waiting breathlessly for (and in some cases, actively trolling for) Republicans to blow it. An intemperate remark from Congressman Jackass would fit the bill perfectly. Don’t be the squirrel. Don’t give them a shiny object. Don’t give them an excuse to turn this into “Krazee Republicans Sure Hate Hillary Because She’s a Woman.” For God’s sake, candidates, take a deep breath and skip talking about your favorite social issue for just a few days. The media is desperate for another riff on evolution or vaccines or gay marriage or prison sex from a GOP contender so they can turn their undivided attention to the Republicans.
22 February
Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush Foreign Policy Adviser, Plays Up Reagan Influence
Paul Wolfowitz, who is advising former Florida Governor Jeb Bush as a foreign-policy expert, is seeking to deflect criticism that Bush is overly influenced by figures from his father and brother’s administrations by pointing out many Bush advisers’ ties to former President Ronald Reagan.
In an interview airing Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, host Gloria Borger asked Wolfowitz how Bush could “be seen as his own man when the people who are advising him promoted a foreign policy that in retrospect has largely been regarded as flawed and unpopular.”
Rudy Giuliani’s sad self-destruction: How “America’s mayor” became just another GOP sidewalk lunatic
There is an important lesson here for us all: How often genuine political promise coexists with puerility and worse
White House press secretary Josh Earnest wasn’t just being diplomatic or clever yesterday when he said he feels sad and sorry for Rudy Giuliani, the former “America’s mayor” who’s been raging like a sidewalk lunatic at President Obama. There actually is something sad about Rudy’s long self-destruction, which began before his disastrous presidential primary bid of 2008. Sad, but possibly instructive to the future sidewalk lunatics among today’s Republican presidential wannabes. Maybe you had to be with Giuliani at the start of his electoral career to learn what they and the rest of us should learn from this spectacle: not to gloat or cluck our tongues, but to consider how often genuine political promise coexists with puerility and worse.
18 February
Jeb Bush’s speech today really had nothing to do with his family
The headline before, during and after Jeb Bush’s foreign policy speech on Wednesday in Chicago was his insistence that he was his “own man” — a not-so subtle declaration of independence from the policies of his father and brother aka the 41st and 43rd presidents of the United States. … His people are smart and, therefore, were well aware that the lines about his family would dominate coverage and overshadow a speech decidedly light on specifics. Jeb Bush vows to set his own course while tapping longtime family advisers
The 21 names announced by his campaign-in-waiting as supporters and advisers on foreign policy did not provide much indication of what direction Bush would take.
The list represents the full spectrum of views within the Republican foreign policy establishment — from relative moderates, including former secretaries of state George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III, to staunch neoconservatives such as Iraq war architect Paul D. Wolfowitz.
9 February
I don’t know under what heading to put this particularly stupid debate over President Obama’s comments at the National Prayer Breakfast – comments with which I agree – but it seems more political than anything else, given those who are most vocal in their criticism. Thank you Slate for stating my case. 
For Christ’s Sake
Some Republicans would rather defend Christianity from all criticism than stand clearly against religious violence.A few days ago, at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama asked people of all faiths to reflect on the perils of religious arrogance. He began with terrorists who “professed to stand up for Islam.” But he cautioned his fellow Christians:

Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. … So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.
Obama continued:
I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt—not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.

This message of humility has infuriated the GOP. Several past and current Republican presidential candidates—Rick Santorum, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Jim Gilmore—have attacked the speech. So have dozens of conservative commentators. They reject the suggestion that Christianity has anything to apologize for. Many go further. They claim that Islam sanctions violence, that Islam is our enemy, or that Christianity is the only true faith. In issuing these declarations, Obama’s critics validate the propaganda of ISIS and al-Qaida. They’re not just pandering to the Christian right. They’re aiding the Islamic right.
30 January
Mitt Romney Won’t Run For President In 2016
(NPR) Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney isn’t running for president in 2016, he told supporters in a statement.
“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” he said in the statement and in a conference call with supporters.
William Marsden: Koch brothers gear up to buy the 2016 presidential elections
The announcement this week that the political network run by the billionaire Koch brothers plans to spend an unprecedented $900 million US to promote conservative candidates in the 2016 presidential election cycle has sent shock waves through the capital.
This massive spending goal establishes Charles and David Koch, whose combined wealth of $80 billion makes them the richest twosome on the planet, as a political force that rivals that of the Republican and Democratic parties.
It also raises the ultimate question: can billionaires buy elections.
That’s exactly what is happening, Darrell West, an expert on big money and politics at the Brookings Institute, claims.
America, he says, is heading towards an oligarchy run by the richest one per cent of the one per cent of the one per cent.
10 January
Jeb Bush and Mitch RomneyFor Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, a history of ambition fuels a possible 2016 collision
(WaPost) Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney have much in common. Both were pragmatic as governors, mild-mannered as candidates and more comfortable balancing budgets at their desks than clinking glasses at a political dinner.
The two Republican leaders’ personal rapport is cordial. But they are hardly chummy — and at moments their relationship has been strained, with each man’s intertwined political network carrying some grievances with the other’s.
“We’re seeing the first shots of the war between clan Romney and clan Bush,” said Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist who has worked for both men. “Both bring to the battle incredibly powerful fan clubs as well as wounds they have to heal. How ugly could it get? You’re only competing to lead the free world.”
7 January
Republican 2016 hopefuls face unexpected resistance from their own statehouses.
(Politico) Scott Walker is scrambling to avoid another bruising showdown with organized labor. John Kasich is locked in a stare-down with conservative state legislators over taxes. And Chris Christie is once again battling the Democratic-controlled statehouse as it tries to reform the agency at the center of the scandal that nearly derailed him.
The skirmishes underscore a central challenge for the governors: Simultaneously waging a campaign for national office while presiding over states at a time of intense partisanship and economic uncertainty.

2014

Koch brothers freak out in response to Rolling Stone expose
Tim Dickinson’s fantastic expose of the Koch brothers in the latest issue of Rolling Stone has gotten plenty of attention. For very good reason: it’s a well-sourced, deep dive into the very toxic—literally toxic—business that earned the Kochs enough money to buy up an entire political party. That and the wrongful death judgement, six felony and numerous misdemeanor convictions, the tens of millions of dollars in fines, and the trading with Iran are all included in the story, well worth your time. See story Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire — Together, Charles and David Koch control one of the world’s largest fortunes, which they are using to buy up our political system. But what they don’t want you to know is how they made all that money (September 2014)

13 July
What’s the American political landscape looking like?
(WaPost) As we head into this break, it’s worth pausing to review and figure out exactly what we’ve learned about the American political landscape — as it relates to the 2014 midterm and 2016 presidential elections, the hopes (or lack thereof) for legislative accomplishments, and the fate of President Obama’s second term.
Here are eight things I’ve learned.
1. Obama and Republicans in Congress are done dealing with each other.
2. Nothing is getting done in Congress.
3. Obama is likely to be a drag on his party this fall.
4. Republicans are favored to retake the Senate.
5. Hillary is running.
6. The Republican field is a jumble.
7. The GOP’s demographic problems are getting worse.
8. Being in party leadership ain’t what it used to be.
2 July
Deadlock in Congress Appears to Worsen as Midterms Loom
With immigration legislation dead for the year, Congress has a very short must-do list as relations between the two parties, already miserable, seem to be getting worse. (NYT)
19 June
House Republicans Elect Kevin McCarthy To Replace Eric Cantor As Majority Leader
(HuffPost) McCarthy, who until now held the third most powerful post in GOP leadership as the majority whip, won his seat after a secret ballot election. His only challenger was conservative Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who failed to gain traction after launching his bid late in the game. Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, won his bid to replace McCarthy as majority whip. His victory over Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), McCarthy’s chief deputy whip, marks a victory for the more right-wing faction of the party, given that some viewed Roskam as an establishment candidate.
13 June
Cantor Loss May Temper House Leaders
(NYT) If Representative Kevin McCarthy rises to Mr. Cantor’s majority leader spot, the result would elevate a Californian with a less conservative voting record than the man he would replace.
12 June
Elizabeth Warren Hits the Road for Her Student Loan Bill
Warren will campaign for Sen. Mitch McConnell’s Democratic opponent in Kentucky.
(Mother Jones) Democrats are clearly banking on Warren’s bill as a wedge issue for the 2014 midterm elections, when they’ll be struggling to hold onto their Senate majority against an unfavorable map (the party has to defend a host of seats in traditionally red states that they won along the first Obama wave in 2008). “I think it is time to come back louder than ever,” Warren said in an e-mail to supporters Wednesday night. “I think it is time to show up at campaign events and town halls and ask every single Republican who voted against this bill why protecting billionaires is more important than giving our kids a chance to pay off their loans. I think we need to ask, and ask again, and ask again.”
10 June
“House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) lost his seat in Congress Tuesday in a shocking upset to Dave Brat, a college professor backed by the tea party. With nearly all of the votes counted, Brat had 56 percent of the vote to Cantor’s 44 percent.” Watch Cantor’s concession speech. Forget the death knell of the tea party. This graphic breaks down how Cantor lost the election. And meet Dave Brat, the economics professor who raised just $231,000 and pulled off the political upset. [HuffPost]
10 June
Eric Cantor Loses GOP Primary. Wait, What!?
(Mother Jones) On Tuesday, in the biggest political upset of recent memory, Cantor, the House majority leader who was considered next-in-line to be House speaker, lost his Republican primary by double digits to David Brat, a college professor he’d outspent down the stretch by a factor of 12.
It was never supposed to be close. After Cantor flooded the district with nearly $1 million in advertising and direct mail, a leaked internal poll showed the incumbent with a 34-point lead over Brat. Cantor became the first majority leader to lose a primary in 115 years.
So who is Brat?
A libertarian economist—but not a Randian. Per Betsy Woodruff’s January profile in National Review:
He chairs the department of economics and business at Randolph-Macon College and heads its BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism program. The funding for the program came from John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T (a financial-services company) who now heads the Cato Institute. The two share an affinity for Ayn Rand: Allison is a major supporter of the Ayn Rand Institute, and Brat co-authored a paper titled “An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand.”
Politico: 5 takeaways from Eric Cantor shocker
Cantor’s defeat will trigger a major reassessment of what until now had been seen as a promising 2014 primary season for the Republican establishment.
Much will be written in the coming days on the reverberations, but here are five quick takeaways from Tuesday’s stunner in Virginia’s 7th congressional district:
23 May
Someone Just Spent $1.5 Million on a GOP Senate Candidate. We’ll Probably Never Know Who.
(Mother Jones) Political groups frequently organize as 501(c)(4)s because this type of tax-exempt organization is not required to disclose its donors. So no one in the public knows who gave the $1 million to the Government Integrity Fund that it passed to the Government Integrity Fund Action Network to underwrite these pro-Cotton ads.
If this seems complicated, it’s supposed to be. Political operatives on both sides raise and spend money through 501(c)(4)s and other tax-exempt groups with vague-sounding names to avoid disclosure. Watchdog groups maintain that this is a violation of IRS law. And the Government Integrity Fund already has a spotty record.
4 March
Americans Think Republicans Are Out Of Touch, But Plan To Vote For Them Anyway
(HuffPost/Politics) Americans overwhelmingly consider Republicans to be out of touch, and they trust them less than Democrats on the issues — but that doesn’t mean the GOP is in bad shape for the 2014 elections.
That’s the takeaway from a Washington Post/ABC poll released Tuesday morning, closely echoing a New York Times/CBS survey last month that found Americans saw the GOP as divided, pessimistic and “out of step with the public on a range of issues,” but planned to vote for them regardless.
Respondents to the Post/ABC poll evenly trusted both parties on the economy, and gave the GOP a slim edge on its ability to handle the federal budget deficit. Democrats, however, had a 13-point advantage on helping the middle class, and an 8-point edge on handling health care, energy policy and immigration, according to the poll.
31 January
Another Nevada Republican Leaves The GOP
HuffPost Pollster’s latest compilation of 57 publicly available polls shows that the Republican Party’s favorable rating has decreased steadily over the past two years. Back in January 2012, 43.3 percent viewed the GOP unfavorably. As of January 27, 2014, that number ballooned to 66.4 percent.
28 January
Almost Half The Country Wants To Boot Their Own Member Of Congress
(HuffPost) The poll shows anger at Congress, which peaked after October’s government shutdown, isn’t going away. A HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted during the shutdown had results nearly the same as the new poll, with 25 percent saying their own member of Congress deserved reelection and 47 percent said saying he or she did not. Another HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted in November had similar findings.
The new poll isn’t the only one to show members of Congress in trouble with their own constituents. A Gallup poll released Friday found that the share of Americans saying their own member of Congress deserves reelection (46 percent) and that most members of Congress deserve reelection (17 percent) were both at record lows since Gallup began tracking the measure in 1992. Thirty-six percent of respondents to that poll said their member of Congress did not deserve reelection.
24 January
Politico reports that the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are convening some of the country’s richest Republican donors on Sunday at a resort near Palm Springs, Calif., to raise millions of dollars for efforts to shape the political landscape for years to come. It’s the cash that can possibly kick Democrats out of the Senate majority this fall and shape the philosophy and agenda of the GOP conference – not to mention the 2016 presidential field.

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