Friday, May 27, 2011

Who's Afraid of Sarah Palin?

Lots of people according to Rush Limbaugh (Being interviewed by the always scary-looking Greta Van Susteren).

You know the effect that she has on establishment Republicans. They are just as frightened in their own way as the Democrats are of Palin. And I -- one thing I think that is inescapable, particularly with when looking at the Democrats. The Democrats will always -- and the media -- will always tell us who they are afraid of by virtue of who they spend time trying to destroy . . . Bottom line is she scares them. She also scares the Republican establishment.

I can see where Sarah Palin and the Tea Party might scare some Beltway Democrats. They're pretty much scared of everything, including people like me. But progressives are part of the Democratic establishment as well and progressives would think they've died and went to heaven if the GOP nominated Palin next year.

I know I would.

Maybe It Would Be Better to Pair Turner with Bachmann

Washington insider Ed Rogers is floating the idea of a Jon Huntsman/Michele Bachmann presidential ticket. Here's the fluff Rogers wrote about Huntsman.

Former governor and ambassador Jon Huntsman is an articulate, attractive, cerebral, urbane internationalist. He’s a proven conservative with a reassuring, moderate tone and a model family. His vast experience in state and federal government, including service as a diplomat, clearly makes him qualified to be president.
I have a hard time understanding anybody in the Republican elite would push Jon Huntsman. A moderate Republican who served as Obama's ambassador to China, Huntsman isn't any more likely to be win the GOP nomination than a socialist/atheist like me.

Michele Bachmann is another matter. Somewhere between rising star on the right and joke candidate with terminal foot-in-mouth disease, Bachmann is flirting with a long-shot presidential run and would be an attractive VP candidate because of her ability to fire up the GOP base.

The GOP would be better off nominating Paul Ryan for pres and pairing him with Bachmann. Ryan would represent the economic wing, Bachmann the religious conservative wing. It would be a balanced ticket and probably a lot more honest than what the Republicans will actually do.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sarah Palin vs Republican Elites: Advantage Palin

America is soon going to find out if Sarah Palin still matters. After more than four months out of the limelight, Palin is embarking on a historical tour of the Northeast.

The first stop will be at the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally. Palin will then travel up the East Coast in a trip that will include her first stop in New Hampshire since running as the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2008.

Palin will also be stopping at other spots of symbolic national significance on the East Coast, including the Civil War battlefields at Gettysburg and Antietam, and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

For Palin's sake, I hope she knows the Revolution better than Michele Bachmann, the Constitution better than Herman Cain, and the Civil War better than your average Confederate re-enactor. If Palin celebrates the Confederacy during her visits to Civil War sites and ignores the hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers who gave their lives to defend the union and emancipate the slaves, she'll have hell to pay.

But the main question is whether Palin's re-emergence matters for the Republican presidential nomination. Steve Kornacki of Salon thinks that GOP elites have squelched any expectation of a Palin victory.

. . . an unofficial "stop Palin" campaign was launched by opinion-shaping GOP "elites" in the months after the midterm. Conservatives with credibility with the GOP rank-and-file -- including Charles Krauthammer, Andrew Breitbart and even Bill Kristol . . . -- began delivering the message in subtle and not-so-subtle ways: Let's find someone else . . . As a result of all of this, Palin will enter the GOP race -- if she does decide to run -- as a marginalized figure. She has plenty of fans among the party's grass roots, universal name recognition, and probably the ability to raise some serious money in small donations. But the most influential voices on the right are almost universally opposed to her now, and are committed to communicating this to the rank-and-file.
Kornacki goes on to say that GOP elites have "this one under control."

But nothing's farther from the case.

Sure, elite figures like Krauthammer, George Will, and Ann Coulter pushed Palin's poll numbers down from the low 20's into the teens and that Palin became radioactive after her "blood libel" comments on the Tucson shootings.

But Palin has basically played Republican elites to a draw.

After the "blood libel" fiasco, Palin did the smart thing and lowered her public profile. Outside supporting Scott Walker in Wisconsin and a brain-dead tweet about the bin Laden hit, Palin stayed so far out of public view that everyone started thinking that she no longer wanted to run.

Meanwhile, Republican elites were embarrassing themselves with their feckless search for the "Great White Alternative" to Romney and Palin. It's important to emphasize that Republican elites don't like Mitt Romney any more than they like Sarah Palin and Romney's numbers have been pushed down by all the carping about his work on health care in Massachusetts.

But the elite search for an alternative to Romney and Palin has been a complete debacle. Not only did John Thune, Jeb Bush, Haley Barbour, and Mitch Daniels have no chance of winning the nomination, they all had even less chance of beating Obama than Romney and Palin. It's been so bad that people like Rich Lowry of the National Review are ready to throw up their hands and start shouting "No Mas! No Mas!" before the first primary vote is cast.

And it's getting worse. Now people like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor are mooning over the currently toxic Paul Ryan and the obnoxious to the nth degree Chris Christie. The Jewish Cantor has as much hope to be raptured as he has of Paul Ryan winning the nomination.

So, where does the Republican field stand now? With the withdrawal of Mike Huckabee, the first tier is now Romney and Palin, but their numbers have been beaten down to 17% and 15% over the last six months. Romney has more money, organization, and self-discipline; Palin has more campaign charisma, a more ferocious approach to attacking Obama, and the prospect of uniting social conservatives and the Tea Party behind her. If Romney wasn't so vulnerable to negative advertising on health care and abortion, he would have the edge. But the Tea Party faction has made it clear that the GOP primaries are going to feature brutal attacks on Romney's "RINO" record.

Advantage Palin.

That is, unless another joke candidate like Donald Trump surgest to the front by making the most extravagantly stupid claims about Obama.

That's how little control Republican elites actually have.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Brief Comment on Netanyahu's Speech

Agreeing more with the protester than the standing ovations, I'd like to see the Israelis give up their illegal and brutal occupation of the West Bank.

GOP 2012: Looking for Charlie Sheen

I don't know how sincere this is, but Republican possibilities now say that they're dropping out because they fear the possibilities of WINNING.

The conventional wisdom on Mitch Daniels was that his family didn't want to revisit the story of Cheri Daniels leaving the Indiana governor, getting married in California, and then coming back. Personally, I can see why she left. Given that Daniels comes off as a workaholic, policy wonk, it's not surprising that his wife might leave him in order to be more independent and have a more vital and interesting life.

It's not like it hasn't happened before.

But an adviser to Mitch Daniels is putting out the idea that the Daniels family was more worried about the impact of winning a presidential election on their future.

"It wasn't just about a campaign and it wasn't just about serving in office, but it was about the potential of enduring a campaign and then one to two terms in office, and then the rest of your life."

Daniels seems to be asking himself "what the hell happens if I win the nomination? That means I'd be campaigning for the next 18 months when you consider the primaries and general election. Then, I'd not only be stuck in the White House for at least four years if I beat Obama, but I'd be defined as an "ex-president" for the rest of my life with the inevitable 800 page memoir, a bored to death Secret Service detail, and the news papparazzi treating me like I'm the political version of Lindsey Lohan. It's just not worth it. I'm sorry but I don't want to be president."

That's the same as Haley Barbour talking about not wanting to "make a ten year commitment" by running for president.

Winning would be horrible.

Where's Charlie Sheen when you need him. Charlie knows WINNING. He embraces WINNING. He enjoys the perks that go along with WINNING.

Of course, Charlie Sheen is bi-polar and doing a lot of drugs.

But if Republican candidates really think the country is going down the tubes (and that's a big "if"), they need to be more enthusiastic about being elected president.

Monday, May 23, 2011

NY Times Super-Bad On Mitch Daniels

I've never been a big fan of the New York Times, but the Jeff Zelenzy/Jim Rutenberg "story" on the Mitch Daniels decision not to run for the Republican nomination is a particularly poor example of political journalism.

The biggest weakness of the article is that it conveys an impression that the Republican primary field is just about set with Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Jon Huntsman.

“The field is largely now settled, and Republican activists and donors will begin increasingly choosing between those who are declared,” said Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and an adviser to President George W. Bush. “The process will accelerate now.”

That's just idiotic.

For anybody interested in reality, there are two big stories with the Republican primary field. Most importantly, establishment conservative manipulators failed again to come up with a candidate who can credibly unify the business establishment, neo-cons, and the religious right. George W. Bush was a nearly perfect prop for the Republican establishment in 2000. Relatively new to politics, Bush was a fresh-faced politician who could campaign as a "compassionate conservative" for general election voters but also be absolutely orthodox and willing to aggressively attack the Democrats.

No doubt Karl Rove, Ed Rollins, and Whit Ayers are still pining for those days.

But the conservative establishment couldn't come up with another version of George W for 2008. The manipulators have a dual problem. They've found it extremely difficult to find any body who combines conservative orthodoxy with the ability to make that orthodoxy new and exciting. In 2008, neither of the two major candidates were orthodox conservatives. John McCain was a lone wolf who couldn't stand business conservatives, neo-cons, or the religious right. Sure, he was a popular guy who could tack right for the primaries, but he couldn't galvanize the Republican Party for the campaign. Also outside the establishment, Mitt Romney tried to fake orthodoxy but couldn't do so in a credible manner. The Great White Hope of the conservative establishment, Fred Thompson, lost traction because he wasn't willing to campaign.

The establishment types haven't been able to find a Great White Hope for 2012 either. For one reason or another, potential candidates like Gen. David Petraeus, Bobby Jindal, Charlie Crist, and Chris Christie didn't pan out. Fox News boss Roger Ailes even made a big play to get Christie to run. So they started fantasizing over secondary figures like the non-charismatic Mitch Daniels, budget guru Paul Ryan, and former Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio, but they really didn't want to run.

I imagine they're will probably be one more push to get Christie to run.

As a result, the conservative establishment is stuck with Mitt Romney as their best hope. At best, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman can only provide token competition for Romney. However, Romney just isn't strong enough to be the establishment standard bearer. He looks like a sure loser to Obama in the general election. Even worse, he might lose to somebody from the Religious Right/Tea Party faction and thus threaten Establishment control of the GOP.

And that's the second big story for the GOP, the emergence of a religious right/Tea Party faction that is a real threat to the conservative establishment. The problem for the Religious Right/Tea Party is that they haven't come up with a viable candidate either. At one point, the Religious Right/Tea Party looked like it was one step ahead of the Establishment because it appeared that Sarah Palin was going to be a charismatic standard bearer. But Palin was over-exposed in 2009, stumbled badly in her response to the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords and proved to be vulnerable to criticism and thin-skinned. Right now, Sarah Palin is all question marks and no answers.

Unfortunately for the right, the Religious Right/Tea Party doesn't have a viable alternative to Mitt Romney any more than the Establishment. Mike Huckabee was a possibility but he didn't like the Tea Party and didn't want to run. Michele Bachmann could unify everybody in the Religious Right and Tea Party factions, but is probably too green to beat Mitt Romney. People like Rick Santorum and Herman Cain are too marginal to make much impact.

The major question for the Republicans at this point is whether Sarah Palin is going to run and whether she would be a strong enough figure to threaten Establishment control of the Republican Party is she does run.

Not having come up with a viable candidate for two election cycles in a row, the conservative Establishment is in danger of losing control of the Republican Party.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Running for Mr. Roarke: The Conservative World Becomes Fantasy Island

One of the things that's always made Slate annoying was that so many Slate writers got their kicks out of pretending to take Republican arguments seriously and then showering the left with little gestures of contempt even though 95% of the staff was voting for Obama.

But it appears those days are over.

Slate editor Jacob Weisburg came out with an article today accusing the Republican Party of being a "Fantasy Island" in which "educated" people like Chris Christie have to choose between being viable presidential contenders and denying the reality of evolution, climate change, the fact that Obama was born in Hawaii, and the need to raise taxes to address the deficit. Weisburg could have mentioned the Republican denial of torture being a crime against humanity, the delusional arguments against gay marriage, the new nullificationism, the denial of the crisis in health care, and the rapture as other examples of Republicans living in fantasy land.

Moments like this point to a growing asymmetry in our politics. One party, the Democrats, suffers from the usual range of institutional blind spots, historical foibles, and constituency-driven evasions. The other, the Republicans, has moved to a mental Shangri-La, where unwanted problems (climate change, the need to pay the costs of running the government) can be wished away, prejudice trumps fact (Obama might just be Kenyan-born or a Muslim), expertise is evidence of error, and reality itself comes to be regarded as some kind of elitist plot.
And it's not just Republican voters either.

Weisburg is probably good friends with a lot of people in the right-wing media, but the denial of reality among conservative constituencies is actively promoted by Fox News, talk radio, the Weekly Standard, and the National Review among other outlets.

Because the conservative media presents reality denial as the only reality, it's hard for conservatives in South Carolina, Texas, and Utah to know any differently.

In the final analysis, all of the Republican presidential candidates are running to be Mr. Roarke, that is, when they're not angling to be Tattoo.