It seems like such a long time now, but it was only four and half years ago that America was introduced to Sarah Palin, who came down from the wilds of Alaska to set conservative hearts aquiver. Long after she ceased to be listened to for any other reason than that she said something offensive, Sarah Palin's star has faded so far that even Fox News has no more use for her.
Her umbilical cord to influence—the connection between the studio Fox built in her house and the network's headquarters in New York—has been severed, her contract not renewed. Some of Palin's allies anonymously informed reporters that the decision was hers and not the network's, but I don't believe that for a second. Roger Ailes is not a sentimental man, and when necessary he won't hesitate to cut loose an asset whose usefulness is exhausted. And if you've ever seen her talking to Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity, you know that she was actually terrible at TV commentary. Neither articulate nor insightful, she stumbled her way through a hundred appearances as a "Fox News Contributor," offering viewers nothing more than her presence, as if that were enough. In the end, it wasn't. But that doesn't mean we won't miss her.
On Friday, a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that President Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board—the U.S. agency charged with remedying unfair labor practices—were unconstitutional. The opinion—written by highly partisan Reagan appointee David Sentelle—would effectively remove the president's power to make any recess appointments at a time when counterbalances to an obstructionist Senate are more necessary than ever.
Apparently every Democrat automatically despises the troops, even when those Democrats once volunteered to serve in the armed forces. It's a trope Republicans have pulled out ever since the Nixon years. The Obama era--replete with drone strikes, Libyan intervention, and the death of Osama bin Laden—has robbed Republicans of a bit of their bluster. But on Saturday Ted Cruz, the newly elected U.S. Senator from Texas, breathed new life into the old smear when he tarred two highly decorated former veterans.
For all the successes of his first term, Barack Obama had a number of notable failures, some of which got more attention than others. One of the less-noticed is the fact that Obama has been slow to fill vacancies on the federal courts. Granted, Republicans in the Senate have resisted the appointments he has made, but in many cases, Obama has barely tried. For instance, right now there are three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles lots of important issues involving the working of the federal government and the separation of powers.
The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin has kind words for Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s immigration proposal, which would create a path toward legal residence—but not citizenship—for undocumented immigrants.
Over the last twelve years (since the Florida debacle of 2000), I've argued repeatedly that politics in America is characterized by an Audacity Gap. It may not hold in every situation and every controversy, but most of the time, Republicans are willing take actions both small (shouting at the president that he's a liar during the State of the Union) and large (filibustering everything or holding the economy hostage over the debt ceiling) that Democrats are far too timid to even consider. Often it occurs when Republicans decide to violate a norm of how business had been done previously, safe in the knowledge that since what's at issue is a norm and not a rule, there's really nothing to stop them. As I put it some time ago, Republicans are the party of "Yes we can," while Democrats are the party of "Maybe we shouldn't." It doesn't always work to Republicans' advantage, but much of the time it does.
When it works, it's often because the public doesn't know, doesn't understand, or doesn't care. This is probably the case with the dramatic increase in filibusters over the last four years. Republicans surely understood that there was a risk that they'd look like obstructionists and be punished at the polls, but they saw that risk as minimal compared to the benefits to be gained by thwarting Barack Obama's agenda. And the 2010 election seemed to prove them right. And now, they're hoping they can rig the entire presidential election.
Since the Virginia GOP moved forward with its bill to allocate the state’s electoral votes by congressional district, there have been several great analyses of what effect this arrangement would have on a national level. At the Crystal Ball, for instance, Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz finds that if every state distributed electoral votes by congressional district, Mitt Romney would have won the presidency with 276 electoral votes, despite losing the popular vote by 4 points.
With due respect to Barack Obama, his second inaugural address—containing not a single phrase likely to end up chiseled in stone, but a tactical masterpiece in its GOP-marginalizing, progressive redefinition of what the traffic will bear—wasn't the best political TV of the week. The best political TV of the week was Hillary Clinton's testimony in front of the Senate and then House Foreign Relations Committees on Wednesday. After licking their chops for weeks at the prospect, Republicans eyeing 2016—specifically, potential contenders Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, both of whom were among her quizzers—may be wondering why they didn't play it safe and summon Beyonce to grill her about lip-synching our furshlugginer national anthem instead.
Poking holes in the arguments that appear on TheWall Street Journal’s editorial pages bears a close resemblance, I admit, to shooting fish in a barrel, but an op-ed in Thursday’s Journal makes points so idiotic I cannot restrain myself.
On Saturday, just a few days after President Obama put forth 23 executive actions to curb gun violence, approximately 1,000 gun-rights activists gathered at the Texas state Capitol to show their opposition. The protest was one of 49 organized around the country by pro-gun group Guns Across America, but the one in Texas was among the biggest. Signs pronounced assault weapons “the modern musket” and quoted the Second Amendment. Speakers including Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and state Representative Steve Toth argued that gun control had no place in America. “The Second Amendment was an enumeration of a right that I already had received from God,” speaker Ralph Patterson, the McLennan County Republican Party chair, told the crowd. “God gave me the right to defend myself.”
Yesterday, a bunch of silly Republicans pretended to be mad at Hillary Clinton, then got genuinely mad when she replied to them sharply. Today some of the same Republicans pretended to be mad in the general direction of John Kerry, who was testifying in support of his nomination to be secretary of state. Tempers stayed in check for the most part, though, and despite their distress at the fact that Kerry is likely to support the policies of the president who appointed him, Republicans will let Kerry slide through without too much of a fight.
Hillary Clinton making a point to Republicans at a hearing on Benghazi yesterday.
Today, Republicans are wondering why exactly they didn't manage to make Hillary Clinton fall whimpering into a fetal position of the floor of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing room, then get up and admit that the Obama administration had engaged in a massive cover-up of their terrible crimes in Benghazi. Senator Ron Johnson, one of the most intellectually challenged members of that august body, with whom Clinton had an exchange that ran on all the news programs, triumphally told a reporter he had got "under her skin," and said, ""I think she just decided before she was going to describe emotionally the four dead Americans, the heroes, and use that as her trump card to get out of the questions. It was a good way of getting out of really having to respond to me." Diabolical indeed, that she managed to evade your skillful cross-examination. John McCain, on the other hand, blamed an "adoring media" for not helping the Republicans really stick it to Clinton.
Could be. Or it could be that when you trump up some inane faux outrage over something, and then the person at whom you're directing said outrage actually has a chance to respond directly and decides to call bullshit on you, you don't end up looking too good.
To follow up on yesterday’s post on the Virginia GOP and it’s attempt to gerrymander presidential elections, ThinkProgress reports that one Republican—State Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel—abstained from the initial vote, sending it to the Privileges and Elections Committee without full recommendation.
Her abstention was more procedural than anything else—she chairs the redistricting subcommittee—but she has announced her opposition to the proposal. If the bill reaches the floor, and Vogel joins the Democratic opposition—it will fail to win passage, on account of the Virginia Senate’s even split between Republicans and Democrats.
The consensus around debt reduction is beginning to crumble. Some straws in the wind are more careful attention to the actual numbers, as well as public conversions by such key players as Larry Summers and Peter Orszag, two former top aides to President Obama, who only yesterday were key members of the deflate-your-way-to-recovery club.
Summers wrote a piece in Wednesday’s Financial Timestitled “End the Damaging Obsession with the Budget Deficit,” pointing out that the more serious deficits were in jobs, wages, and infrastructure.