Ringside

Ringside Seat: All Eyes on Kennedy

This week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two landmark cases on the question of same-sex marriage, one about California's Proposition 8 and the other about the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies hundreds of federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. The cases could go any of a number of ways, with many predicting that the Court will strike down DOMA but find some way to avoid saying that laws banning same-sex marriage in a particular state are unconstitutional. (Options include upholding Prop 8 and ruling that those defending the initiative have no legal standing to do so.) As usual, all eyes will be on Anthony Kennedy, presumed as always to be the swing justice whose opinion will determine the outcome. Regardless of how the Court decides, it's feeling more and more like this is a battle whose ultimate outcome is no longer in doubt. On our web site today, E.J. Graff marvels at how quickly things have changed; it was only ten years ago, after all,...

Ringside Seat: ICYMI: GOP Hates Obamacare

If at first you don't succeed, the saying goes, try, try again. But if you try again and fail, and then you keep trying until you've tried and failed 36 times, maybe it's time to just give up and find something more productive to do with your time. That's the advice one might give to Senate Republicans today, after an amendment offered by freshman Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed. Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat, said that by his count it was the 36 th such unsuccessful attempt; the tally in the House passed 30 last summer, so there it may be even higher by now. Look, Republicans, we get it: You really, really don't like Obamacare. If you could repeal it, you would. But you can't. Even if you could muster the votes in both houses of Congress, which you can't, President Obama would veto the repeal anyway. Because, as you may remember, he got reelected in November. So what's the point of having all these repeal votes? Whatever it is, they just can...

Ringside Seat: Bracket Racket

Let's be honest here: Congressional Republicans really, really dislike Barack Obama. Yes, they disagree with his agenda, and sometimes they engage in some half-sincere posturing against him for effect, but you can be pretty sure that deep down they just can't stand him. Which is fine—lots of us felt the same way about George W. Bush. But at times, their dislike only serves to make them look silly. Like today. As you may be aware, there's an intercollegiate athletics tournament about to begin, in which young people will take a break from their studies to play a few games of basketball. President Obama, who played on his high school team and is, like many Americans, a sports fan, takes a break from his own duties every year to let the public know his March Madness picks. Those picks tend to be somewhat conservative, with just enough upsets selected to let you know he has actually put some thought into it. How did Republicans respond to the presidential selections? By saying he's a fool...

Ringside Seat: Don't Cry for the GOP, Reince Priebus

If you paid attention to the 2012 election—at all—you probably have some idea of why Republicans lost. Their presidential primaries showcased the right-wing insanity of their base. Their candidate, Mitt Romney, couldn’t hide his contempt for ordinary people. Their policies were clear attempts to game the system for the wealthy, with massive tax cuts and sharp reductions in spending for the rest of America. Above all, they couldn’t provide a decent reason for jettisoning a president who—among other things—was presiding over a modest recovery from the worst economic disaster to hit the country since the Great Depression, a disaster exacerbated by the previous, Republican administration. None of this is hard to understand, but somehow, it has flown over the head of the man Republicans pay to understand national politics—Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee. When asked on MSNBC this afternoon whether or not the party is changing, he replied by offering a quick list of...

Ringside Seat: Don't Give Up on Gun Control Yet

In the wake of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December, it seemed that the time had finally come for some real restrictions on the kinds of firearms people can buy. After years of not even bothering to propose new laws, Democrats found their courage and put forward a number of proposals, none of which got more attention than a new ban on assault weapons. But now it looks like the assault-weapons ban is dead, or at least shunted indefinitely to the side. The ban's sponsor, Senator Dianne Feinstein, told reporters today that Majority Leader Harry Reid told her that while the assault-weapons ban may be offered as an amendment to a larger bill, it won't be a stand-alone measure, and it's unlikely to pass. So it looks like your God-given right to go down to the range and pretend you're G.I. Joe is intact for the foreseeable future. And that may not be such a disaster. The truth is that spectacular massacres like Sandy Hook and Aurora notwithstanding, almost nine in ten...

Ringside Seat: I'm Not a Wonk. I'm You.

After Democrats lost the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, many on the left argued that part of their problem was that they approached politics through an often bloodless perspective centered on issues, while Republicans knew it was all about character. As one of us used to say when talking about this problem, in one election after another, the Democrat would come before the voters and say, "If you read my ten-point plan, you will see that my solutions are superior." The Republican would then point at the Democrat and say, "That guy hates you and everything you stand for." Republicans understood that politics isn't about issues, it's about character and identity. Today, an RNC committee tasked with figuring out what the GOP can do to reverse its flagging fortunes in national politics released its report . "While Democrats tend to talk about people," the committee said, "Republicans tend to talk about policy. Our ideas can sound distant and removed from people's lives. Instead...

Ringside Seat: Live from CPAC

For 2013, the American Conservative Union tagged their annual CPAC conference with the slogan "America's Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives." Presumably the organizers realized that the GOP's demographic troubles from 2012 spelled future trouble for the conservative movement. But Friday afternoon the panel trotted out the same old broken horses who ruined the party in the last election. Rick Santorum was up first, the still-hard-to-believe runner-up for the GOP presidential nomination. Santorum briefly showed an air of compassion missing from his presidential campaign, centering the speech on his the death of his nephew yesterday. He even displayed a hint of erudition one doesn't often associate with the former Pennsylvania senator, quoting Buddha and Viktor Frankl. But the speech quickly devolved into a typical diatribe on how Obama has ruined America and "wants to exchange the 'why' of the American Revolution for the 'why' of the French Revolution." Rick wasn't the lone...

Ringside Seat: CPAC's Buried Lede

Today was the first day of CPAC, and thus another chance to see the GOP’s complete disinterest in reforming itself or its message. Each of today’s speakers, from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, to former Rep. Alan West and Dick Morris (world’s worst pundit), represents the right wing of the Republican Party. Indeed, from the panels to the speakers to the general tenor of the conference, CPAC gives no sign that Republicans are at all chastened by their loss in the 2012 elections. The agenda, it seems, is unchanged: Upper-income tax cuts, massive austerity at all levels of government, sharp attacks on reproductive rights, climate-change skepticism, and mounting efforts to limit voting rights through voter identification laws and other measures. For even more evidence the GOP has not abandoned its “severely conservative” positions of the last four years, look no further than Paul Ryan’s latest budget, which—as many commentators have pointed...

Ringside Seat: D.C.'s Hottest Club Is...

If you wear fanny packs unironically or think "Free Bird" should be America's national anthem, Stefon's got just the spot for you. D.C.'s hottest club is CPAC. The Republicans who bleed the reddest are back for four days only to answer the question, "Are we doing this rebranding thing wrong?" with a resounding " Huh?! " This " Woodstock for Conservatives " has everything: real Sarah Palin , fake Sarah Palin , a dark corner where people wearing Wal-Mart chic go to hide, dads quoting rap music , that thing where old white men dress up like zombies and do the robot, and look who just walked in! It's method actor Mitt Romney ! He's pretended to be Republican presidential material for years longer than Daniel Day-Lewis, but with no shiny prizes at the end of his run. Rumor is it's starting to infect his brain ... oh no, there he goes chasing the bartender again! That's not the party advice you we're looking for? Hmm, well then, D.C.'s hottest club is ... nope, that's all we've got. The...

Ringside Seat: Grand Blergain

The sequester cuts have begun to bite, and if Congress doesn't pass a continuing resolution by the end of the month, the federal government will shut down. With that deadline looming, talk has turned once again to the possibility of a Grand Bargain, in which Republicans and Democrats come together in the spirit of compromise, putting aside their differences for the good of the country. "Yeah right," you may be saying, and you have good reason to be skeptical. When Washington pundits who worship at the altar of centrism talk about a Grand Bargain, what they usually mean is that Republicans will accept a modest bit of tax increases, while Democrats will give in to the Republican desire to undermine the social safety net. This is usually referred to as "reining in entitlements," as all Serious People know we must. If you point out that Social Security is actually doing just fine, and that Obamacare already found enormous savings in Medicare, and that Medicare is much more cost-effective...

Ringside Seat: Lieberman Finally Among Friends

When Joe Lieberman left the Senate earlier this year, he probably muttered a final, "You won't have me to kick around anymore, you rotten hippies" under his breath. After all, there was no member of the Senate with a more openly hostile relationship with his own party than Lieberman. There are conservative Democrats who buck the party line as often, but all of them come from conservative states and tack right to maintain their electoral viability. Not Lieberman—he represented one of the most liberal states in the country. Lieberman did it for spite. So it wasn't too much of a surprise to learn today that Lieberman will be joining the American Enterprise Institute, where he'll chat by the copy machine with the likes of John Bolton, Lynn Cheney, Charles Murray, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz. Perhaps Lieberman deserves some credit for not cashing in and becoming a lobbyist like everyone else who leaves Congress, but it's hard to believe he didn't take the job feeling pleasure in the...

Ringside Seat: Drone On, Rand Paul

For years, most Americans have labored under the delusion that a "filibuster" is when a United States senator gets up in front of his or her colleagues and proceeds to talk, and talk, and talk some more, not stopping until the opposition crumbles or voices fail and knees grow weak. In truth, these days a filibuster actually consists of nothing more than the Senate Minority Leader conveying to the Senate Majority Leader his party's intent to stop a bill or a nominee, and the deed is done. That doesn't mean, however, that a senator can't do the endless talking thing if he so chooses. And yesterday, one senator did in fact so choose, as Rand Paul refused to give up the floor and allow the nomination of John Brennan to be CIA director to proceed. What ensued was a 13-hour discourse about Paul's uneasiness with the American government's use of drones to carry out targeted killings, including the possibility that they might one day be used against Americans right here at home. And what do...

Ringside Seat: A Plague of Slush

And lo, did the heavens open and pour down from above a wave of crystalline horror, and the people of the city did wail and moan and rend their garments in fear. Pillars of salt were spread on the byways to make them navigable by donkey and SUV alike, yet the people still cowered within their huts, Instagramming pictures of the newly alabaster land and spreading word through Twitter, with a million voices shouting, "Behold!" And parents did set their children in front of glowing boxes to quiet the incessant cries of boredom, and Madagascar 3 did unspool, and unspool again. And many looked skyward and cried, "Will this nightmare never end? Will we all die in frozen graves, our bones picked clean by the yeti and the saber-toothed tiger?" No answer came from above, but amidst the chaos, a child did emerge, and said unto the people, "It's snowing, you ninnies. That's what happens in winter. Get over it." And the people woke from their trance, gazed upon the ground, and saw that it was...

Ringside Seat: Thou Shalt Not Govern

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s snub from the Conservative Political Action Conference is dumb —he’s the most popular Republican governor in the country—but it makes sense: In the course of governing a blue state, he’s had to take positions that run counter to the national party. CPAC’s decision to exclude Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, on the other hand, makes no sense at all. No one will ever mistake McDonnell for a moderate; during his campaign, he faced questions over work he did for his graduate degree—arguing, in essence, that women were better served working in the home—and once in office, he rushed to implement conservative policies, from large budget cuts to new restrictions on abortion. By the end of his first year, he was hailed as a presidential contender and vanguard of the Republican right. Indeed, under his tenure, Virginia state politics have taken a sharp turn to the right—yes, Barack Obama won the state in 2012, but Republicans control the General Assembly as...

Ringside Seat: You Don't Know Jeb

Jeb Bush followed a time-honored tradition Monday morning, one set forth by past generations of sensible politicians contemplating a run for the Republican presidential nomination: He ditched his sane policy views to appeal to the far right. During a Today Show interview previewing his upcoming book, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution , Bush—the esteemed former Florida governor and older brother to the country's most disastrous president—said immigration reform should not include a path for citizenship. That's a sharp break from his past views, a full Mitt Romney-style pivot to right-wing ideology. Much like baby bro George W, Jeb has spent years shouting a clarion call that the GOP is on a path toward electoral doom unless they stop alienating Hispanic voters. He penned Wall Street Journal op-eds as recently as January advocating for citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Yet in his new book he writes , "It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system...

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