Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Chicken Hawk Ted Cruz Smears Kerry and Hagel

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Flickr/Gage Skidmore U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz 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. Cruz appeared in Washington, D.C., at a forum hosted by the National Review Institute, the non-profit arm of the conservative magazine. "We've got two pending nominations, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel. Both of whom are very prominently [pause] less than ardent fans of the U.S. military," Cruz said to chuckles from the crowd. A quick refresher about the two men he claims somehow oppose the U.S. military. In 1966, secretary of state nominee John...

You Snooze, You Lose

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. Today, Obama is probably wishing he had been more aggressive about filling those seats. A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit—Republican appointees all—ruled that the president has no power to make recess appointments when Congress is in a recess, but can only do so during the recess that happens but once a year between congressional sessions. And yes, they expounded in some detail about the critical difference between "a" and "...

Why Immigration Reform Won't Save the GOP

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr 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: Why is Rubio having great success so far? I think there are a variety of explanations, only some unique to Rubio. For starters, conservatives are really tired of losing elections; the demographics are compelling and more right-leaning pols and activists are therefore trying to find a solution. Second, Rubio came up with a detailed plan that gives conservatives some comfort in knowing that border issues will come first and there may be a substantial delay between some form of provisional legalization and green-card status or possibly citizenship. This diminishes the concern about encouraging more immigration. Third, this is a good time to tackle the problem since net immigration (thanks to a falling birthrate in Mexico and economic recession) from Mexico is at...

Will the GOP Vote-Rigging Effort Invite a Backlash?

This must not stand.
Over the last 12 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...

Republicans Decide Voter Fraud Is the Only Way They Can Win

Huffington Post
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. If you adopted the exact provisions of the Virginia bill—which gives the state’s remaining electoral votes to the winner of the most districts, and not the winner of the popular vote—you’d have an even larger reversal. This map , from the Huffington Post , gives you a good sense of what the election would have looked like under these new rules: If the rules had been in effect in the six largest battleground states—Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, and Michigan—Obama would...

The Peak of Her Game

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, listens to questions from lawmakers during her testimony on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, January 23, 2013, before Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. W ith 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...

Equality, Brought to You by U.S. Airways?

Flickr/Robertsharp
Poking holes in the arguments that appear on The Wall 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. Its thesis, as woozily argued by Donald Boudreaux, a George Mason University economics professor, and Mark Perry, a University of Michigan economics professor, is that the decline and stagnation of the American middle class is a myth. Careful analyses of American income distribution by economists like U.C. Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez—who has found that 93 percent of U.S. economic growth since the trough of the recession has gone to the wealthiest 1 percent of our compatriots – are not even considered in the Boudreaux-Perry manifesto. Rather, they note that Americans’ life expectancy has increased in recent decades (though they fail to grapple with the recent report from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, which found that...

What Killed Filibuster Reform?

Flickr/theqspeaks
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator McConnell reached an agreement yesterday that will be called "filibuster reform" by some reports. But as The Washington Post 's Ezra Klein summarizes it , "The deal is this: The filibuster will not be reformed." There were some minor changes in the deal that will streamline the confirmation process for nominees to federal district courts (although not appeals courts), but overall the deal is a fizzle for supporters of filibuster reform. The failure to reform the filibuster is a very bad thing . The question is why so many Democratic senators—including some blue-state representatives like Vermont's Patrick Leahy and California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer—showed so little inclination to act in the interests of progressive values. One issue is that some senators may not accurately perceive the damage that the filibuster does to Democratic interests. One Senate staffer wrote Talking Points Memo to defend the non-reform: I have...

Fighting Firearms with Firearms

Flickr/Marcin Wichary, Keary O.
Flickr/Marcin Wichary O n 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.” Three days after the rally, on Tuesday, Texas was in the national headlines when a shooting occurred at a Houston community college. After the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut, Aurora...

Why People Hate D.C.: Exhibit A, B, and C

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. Meanwhile, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell reached a deal on filibuster reform, agreeing that actually reforming the filibuster in any meaningful way would be a bad idea (more details below). So we can look forward to another Congress in which every piece of legislation more momentous than declaring August to be National Snap Pea Awareness Month will require a supermajority of 60 votes in order to pass. Not that much of anything would pass the House...

Republicans Puzzled as to Why They Didn't Slay Hillary Clinton Yesterday

Hillary Clinton making a point to Republicans at a hearing on Benghazi yesterday.
Today, Republicans are wondering why 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 stick it to Clinton. Could be. Or it could be that when...

Will the Virginia GOP's Electoral Vote Rigging Pass?

James Madison University
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. One thing worth noting about this is how much it’s a just an admission of electoral defeat. Last year was only the second time in over 40 years that Virginia voted for a Democratic presidential candidate, and even still, it remains more Republican than the 270th electoral vote—any Democrat close to winning Virginia has already cleared the hurdle for the White...

Deficits: The End of an Obsession

AP Photo/Alan Diaz
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 Times titled “End the Damaging Obsession with the Budget Deficit,” pointing out that the more serious deficits were in jobs, wages, and infrastructure. His former colleague Orszag wrote a piece pointing out that the rest of the budget is in decent shape—the huge outlier is federal health care costs, projected to rise from 5.5 percent of GDP now to 12 percent by 2050. President Obama, in his second inaugural address, had little to say about deficit-reduction as some kind of panacea and more about broadly-shared recovery. In the era of the Bowles Simpson Commission, the Peterson Foundation’s regular...

The Glory of Earned Media

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
A few years ago, the political operatives whose job it is to handle press coverage decided that the traditional dichotomy between "paid media" (ads you buy) and "free media" (press coverage you get) was insulting to their efforts. So they stopped using the term "free media" and began referring instead to "earned media." Because after all, when their boss got a glowing write-up in a newspaper, it didn't come for free, that press secretary and her staff earned it! And somebody sure as heck earned this piece in The Washington Post about Louisiana governor and likely 2016 hopeful Bobby Jindal. "Bobby Jindal Speaking Truth to GOP Power," reads the headline, establishing Jindal as outsidery, honest, and brave. The subject is a speech he'll be delivering to the RNC tonight, helpfully previewed to the Post 's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake, who could be guaranteed to run their "scoop" without the barest shred of skepticism. Shield your eyes, lest the bright light of his truth-telling blind...

Don't Go Chasing Reagan Myths

AP Photo/Peter Southwick
AP Photo/Peter Southwick President Ronald Reagan gives the thumbs up gesture during his acceptance speech at the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas. T he verdict from pundits is in: Barack Obama’s Inaugural speech signaled his ambition to be the “liberal Reagan,” and the Big Question about his second term is whether he’ll achieve that goal. People mean different things by what Ronald Reagan achieved as president, and therefore what it would mean to be a “liberal Reagan.” The Prospect ’s Paul Waldman says that to be like Reagan, Obama would need to “define an era that continues even after he leaves office.” At The New York Times , conservative columnist Ross Douthat talks about “a long, Reagan-like shadow over subsequent policy debates.” T he Washington Examiner ’s Philip Klein considers whether Obama will match Reagan as “a president who not only wins elections (as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did), but one who ideologically shifts the nation in his direction.” I think,...

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