Off The Markley » Republicans /off-the-markley Redeye Blogs Thu, 22 Mar 2012 06:00:55 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.1 There Will Be No ‘White Knight’ for the Republican Field /off-the-markley/2012/03/07/there-will-be-no-white-knight-for-the-republican-field/ /off-the-markley/2012/03/07/there-will-be-no-white-knight-for-the-republican-field/#comments Wed, 07 Mar 2012 06:24:01 +0000 stephenmarkley /off-the-markley/?p=1944 Continue reading 'There Will Be No ‘White Knight’ for the Republican Field']]>

(Josh Sullivan, Getty photo / February 29, 2012)

With Super Tuesday a kind of Romney-leaning wash, it appears as if the Republican field will march forward on their snipe hunt. Even though I still think it’s mostly inconceivable that Romney won’t be the nominee, I’m done predicting anything about this cluster.

Well, except for this: there’s been a lot of chatter in political gossip circles about a “white knight” candidate coming in at the last second to join the field or a brokered convention in which an alternative to the Romney-Santorum-Gingrich-Paul fiasco snatches up the nomination in a shocking twist. Bill Kristol basically writes a column a week about how great it would be if another candidate entered the fray. Oodles of blog inches have been given to the weird delegate rules in several states because apparently these guys aren’t actually bound to vote for the candidate who won in their state (begging the question, why bother with a primary or caucus?). Way too many smart people have this fanciful notion that a candidate could shock the conventional wisdom by jumping into the race.

I promise you this will not happen for several reasons.

First of all, none of the candidates Republican apparatchiks like Kristol are talking about are any less flawed than a Romney or Santorum. New Jersey governor Chris Christie has near-liberal positions on several key issues (like immigration) and always looks like he just got done eating a hoagie. Indiana governor Mitch Daniels may have the political skills to win a couple of statewide races in a conservative state, but he’s a soft-spoken, unfiery guy–hardly someone the base will barnstorm for–and he made the downright heretical comment that Republicans should lay off the culture wars. Jeb Bush has his brother’s abysmal legacy to contend with, not to mention the Republican field has moved well to the right of Bush-era policy positions (Jesus, how weird is that to say?). Paul Ryan, the moment he got into the race, would face a bombardment of SuperPac ads that would tout his plan for Medicare as a way to pull the plug on granny.

Secondly, what people like Kristol and many in the punditocracy never acknowledge is that running for president is really, really hard. There is so little room for error. Every comment, every past screw-up, every action, thought, and word uttered faces an obscene amount of scrutiny. Take Rick Perry for example. There was a guy who looked perfect for this year’s Republican contest in every way. Even I thought he had the strongest chance of winning the field, and yet a few lousy debate performances later and he became a laughingstock. Or take little Timmy Pawlenty, T-Paw, as we call him. That guy had a few weak-kneed answers, lost the Ames straw poll to Michelle Bachmann and went down in flames because he couldn’t raise money.

That’s why candidates spend years learning to run for president, and especially why the Republican field usually nominates the guy who’s next in line. People rib Barack Obama for starting his run for president as soon as he got to the Senate, but in reality, most candidates spend years preparing to run, and to think that you can just hop in on a whim and grasp the enormity of the task is absurd.

Finally, one of the reasons the Republican field is having such a weird, tough, harsh contest is because of the consistent right-ward march of the base. The Republican Party base essentially exists in its own talk radio, Fox News reality where they all sit around repeating the same myths and falsehoods to each other about everything from the auto bailout to climate change to the housing crisis to contraception. They want purity, which is part of the reason they’re so hesitant to give it to Romney and why even a staunch Movement Conservative like Rick Santorum gets raked over the coals for some of his “big government” votes during the Bush era, which these whackos now imagine as some kind of liberal plot.

Everyone knows that if the Republicans were to nominate a hard-line candidate to the base’s liking it would spell total doom in the general election, yet their more electable candidates are considered heretics by the base. It makes finding the right nominee to take on Obama fantastically difficult, and it doesn’t matter if Ryan, Daniels, Christie, Bush, Rubio, Haley, and Huckabee all got into the race, they would still face the same conundrum.

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The One Possible Non-Romney Scenario /off-the-markley/2012/01/03/the-one-possible-non-romney-scenario/ /off-the-markley/2012/01/03/the-one-possible-non-romney-scenario/#comments Tue, 03 Jan 2012 03:35:05 +0000 stephenmarkley /off-the-markley/?p=1702 Continue reading 'The One Possible Non-Romney Scenario']]>

( Brian Snyder/ Reuters )

I’ve got some bad news for the giddy punditocracy: Mitt Romney will almost certainly be the Republican nominee.

The recent Rick Santorum surge (kids, please Google “Santorum surge” for an anatomy lesson that will delight you) in Iowa only highlights just how badly the Republican electorate wants to vote for almost anyone else, and Santorum is basically the last American-born citizen they’ve considered with the exceptions of Barack Obama and perhaps Jerry Sandusky. It turns out Newt Gingrich peaked too soon and whatever momentum Santorum carries out of Iowa will be quashed when everyone realizes it’s the only state he’s campaigned in.

This, is pretty boring, I realize, and I’m rooting for anything to upend that expectation, but it’s looking grim. Whoever wins Iowa, Romney will likely place second or third and then go on to win in New Hampshire. He will have a much tougher case to make in South Carolina with its heavily Evangelical electorate, but the Republican establishment–if there’s anything left of it–will fall in line behind him because there is no way in hell they will allow Ron Paul to get the nomination. That’s the doomsday scenario in Republican circles, and they will do anything to prevent it.

The one wrench in the gears will come from Paul, who’s organizing in caucus states, preparing to emulate the 2008 Obama campaign that outfoxed Hillary Clinton by wracking up delegates in states where organization matters. Changes to the rules also mean that there will be a lot of proportional allocation of delegates. As I’ve said before, this means Paul, with his well-funded campaign could presumably lose dozens of states to Romney and still walk away with nearly half the delegates. Given that Romney can’t seem to break 25% in any poll ever, Paul could deny Romney the nomination outright and become the kingmaker in the Republican convention in Tampa. This would be interesting as all hell.

Paul benefits from a spectacularly weak field of non-Romneys, and he’s the one candidate who could wreck unbelievable havoc in the 2012 election. Even if he fails at this, the scene is ripe for a third-party challenger to turn the dial up on this madness. Keep an eye on Americans Elect, a group that has secured a place on the ballot in all fifty states and naively assumes that because it won’t work through party machinery it cannot be co-opted by a passionate minority.

Anyway, the key to the nomination is not Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina but those caucus states where Romney’s organization is weak and Paul can wrack up a serious number of delegates.

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Do We Have a Mitt Romney Blind Spot? /off-the-markley/2011/12/06/do-we-have-a-mitt-romney-blind-spot/ /off-the-markley/2011/12/06/do-we-have-a-mitt-romney-blind-spot/#comments Tue, 06 Dec 2011 05:54:32 +0000 stephenmarkley /off-the-markley/?p=1593 Continue reading 'Do We Have a Mitt Romney Blind Spot?']]>

( Mandel Ngan/Getty Images / November 22, 2011 )

Earlier this year, I predicted that Rick Perry would be a formidable candidate for the Republican nomination, and likely the winner. I still think he would have waltzed to the nomination if he could manage even a 38% not-clueless factor in his debate performances and public appearances, but alas, he has been a gaffe manufacturer of staggering ability, and I don’t think there is a Republican voter in the country who actually wants to see what Barack Obama would do to him in a head-to-head debate.

The conventional wisdom–which I admit, I still subscribe to–is that Mitt Romney is going to walk away with this thing because he’s the only candidate left who’s not out of his everloving mind. Herman Cain went down in flames, Michelle Bachmann is no less a joke now then when she began, and Jon Hunstman is so left of the current Republican party that the only reason he hasn’t received any attention is because he’s polling at 2%.

That leaves Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. At the Michigan GOP debate I actually talked to Santorum for a while and asked him if he was frustrated that he seemed to have all the conservative credentials and actually knew what he was talking about, yet he could get no traction from voters while a demonstrably uninformd individual like Cain bathed in Tea Party adoration. Santorum said to me, “Don’t underestimate the ability of the American people to come to informed decisions.”

Had I been less polite, my retort would have been, “You’re in the Republican party. The entire premise of your movement lies in underestimating the ability of people to come to informed decisions.”

With Cain now gone from the race, this leaves only Gingrich, a reptilian dissembler, who lies or misrepresents facts almost every time he opens his mouth (for a truly absurd example of this, check out his assessment that the U.S. could cause a worldwide collapse in the price of oil if we started drilling enough domestic wells; this is so preposterous it boggles the mind that he’d have the audacity to say it). Believe me, no one wants Gingrich to be the nominee worse than Barack Obama. With his revolting personal history, abrasive personality, and clear megalomania, Gingrich would make the worst nominee by a major political party in the modern era.

So we’re back to Romney, but as many have pointed out over and over again, Romney makes for a pretty dreadful candidate himself. He basically used to be an Obama Democrat when he was governor of Massachusetts, only to change his position on pretty much everything–abortion, climate change, homosexuality, Ronald Reagan, pollution controls, health care–in less than a decade. Not to mention he’s Mormom, which has yet to be tested with the Evangelical Republican base that views that faith, at best, as apostasy. His hostile and tense interview with Brett Baier of Fox News–one of the few interviews he’s given this election–only underscores how deeply problematic he is.

Which is why I can’t help but wonder if we’ve all got a Romney blind spot and that this Republican nomination process could turn into the three-ring circus of the media’s ejaculatory dreams.

One of the still under-reported stories of this primary election is how many states have moved to proportional allocation of delegates, meaning even if Romney edges out a Gingrich or Perry, he may win 15 delegates to the other candidate’s 14. Furthermore, this opens the field up way more to a spoiler like Ron Paul, who with his money and adoring fans could conceivably take a 12-15% bite out of every single state. The ultimate endgame that political junkies, Democrats, and fans of bloodsport are hoping for is a brokered convention with the worst field of candidates in the GOP’s history.

All of the wrangling of this clown show has been highlighted and triple-underlined by the news that Donald Trump will moderate a debate between the candidates on Jan. 27. To understand what a total joke this nomination process has become, imagine if in 2008, Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards had agreed to sit down for a debate with Rosanne Barr because that’s approximately the level of discourse I’m expecting, and I admit, salivating just thinking about.

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Required Reading: Dickinson’s Summary of GOP Fealty to the Rich /off-the-markley/2011/11/17/required-reading-dickinsons-summary-of-gop-fealty-to-the-rich/ /off-the-markley/2011/11/17/required-reading-dickinsons-summary-of-gop-fealty-to-the-rich/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2011 06:09:20 +0000 stephenmarkley /off-the-markley/?p=1550 Continue reading 'Required Reading: Dickinson’s Summary of GOP Fealty to the Rich']]>

Recently, I found myself involved in a conversation with a friend of mine who works for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (yes, unbelievably I do have a friend who works for Paul Ryan), architect of the truly dreadful plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system.

Typical of most conversations I have with Republicans, I found myself attempting articulate big, complex ideas about economics and history–how we find ourselves where we find ourselves, is the phrase–while he wanted to talk about intransigent, ginned-up pseudo scandals like ACORN.

“Obama took money from Hamas,” my friend asserted.

Instead of articulating big, complex points, I let it all go and went back to drinking and talking Penn State shower scandals. Just now I looked up this point and found that, yes, a few Palestinians living in Gaza bought a bunch of Obama campaign merchandise in 2008 to sell on the streets (Note: living in Gaza does not make one a member of Hamas), and the money was returned as immediately as the Internet allows.

I’m pissed that I even looked this up because it’s non-scandals and baseless, unaccountable anecdotes like this that completely warps people’s perception of what has actually happened in this country and what continues to happen as a minority in one political party drives the financial system, the deficit, and the bottom 90% of income earners over a cliff.

This is why I’m begging you to read Tim Dickinson’s recent Rolling Stone article “How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich.”

I know, it’s kinda long, and no one likes reading, but this should be required for anyone who makes less than $250,000 a year and plans on voting next year. To be sure, none of it is breaking news. You don’t have to read it to remember that one of George W. Bush’s first acts as president was to kill Tax Harmonization, an effort by developed nations to put an end to off-shore tax havens like the Caymans or that economists within that administration warned Bush and Cheney over and over again that his tax cut plan would blow a hole in the deficit. You don’t have to read it to learn that Arizona Senator John Kyl held up an immensely important nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia (you know, one of those measures, unlike the Iraq war, which might actually lower the chance of nuclear material falling into terrorist hands) to keep the estate tax exemption up to $5 million instead of $1 million and the rate at 35% instead of 55% (as it was under Clinton).

First of all, in a personal aside, if you’re inheriting more than a million dollars, f*** you. You’re one of the luckiest people in the history of humanity’s existence on this planet. Pay your share and shut the f*** up.

Secondly, read that Dickinson article. It is not original reporting, but it is the most concise, step-by-step explanation of what has happened within the Republican party to turn it into the temple guard of the plutocracy. None of it is news but when told as a narrative, it paints a damning and irrefutable portrait of a how the political class has turned the tax code and the economy into a welfare system for the wealthy.

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Debt Debate Ignores History, Common Sense /off-the-markley/2011/07/20/debt-debate-ignores-history-common-sense/ /off-the-markley/2011/07/20/debt-debate-ignores-history-common-sense/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2011 06:26:28 +0000 stephenmarkley /off-the-markley/?p=1031 Continue reading 'Debt Debate Ignores History, Common Sense']]>

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks to the media after meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, right, about the debt limit. (Yuri Gripas / Reuters / July 15, 2011)

As if one needed further evidence that the Republican party and the conservative “movement” has completely left the planet, we get this fantastic debate about raising the debt ceiling. This is not so much a debate, as a group of either very misinformed or willfully ignorant right-wing yahoos putting a gun to the head of the economy.

The worst part being that there is certainly a minority of this minority, who doesn’t even want to hold a hostage. They just want to pull the trigger.

In all likelihood, we’ll get this fallback option of $1.5 trillion in cuts over ten years, yet that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to the insane contours of this debate.

To say the Republicans have turned their backs on common sense is an understatement. They have a Democratic president willing to make draconian cuts to every important program and agency run by the U.S. government from Medicare to Social Security to the E.P.A., and all they have to do in exchange is close some obvious tax loopholes (when was the last time Big Oil failed to turn a profit? Anyone?) and raise rates on millionaires and billionaires–or as they are sometimes hilariously referred to “Job Creators” (certainly leaving their taxes at historic lows for the last decade has paid off!).

Yet this deal is now unthinkable because it would mean violating a bizarre shibboleth of the right that no increase in government revenue of any kind can happen for any reason. For years, the left feared the religious right while misunderestimating the power of tax cut theocracy, which has proven just as frightening. It’s an article of faith along the lines of pernicious deregulation, which almost led the world to economic catastrophe just three years ago.

Furthermore, the debt-ceiling debate basically ignores any reasonable interpretation of American history. The current deficit is largely a creation of Republicans, who under George W. Bush and several Republican congresses put in place a tax cut geared largely toward people who will never talk to you unless you jump over the gate at their country club that cost $2 trillion over 10 years.

The 2003 Medicare prescription drug plan was another $500 billion tacked to the bill, which seems extra-silly when you consider how simple it would be to open the border to Canadian drugs, but that’s because the Republican party isn’t actually interested in the kind of free markets and competition that threatens its Pharma base.

And let’s not forget the Iraq War, which has cost roughly $1 trillion so far, but I guess that did create a lot of jobs for 18 year-old farm kids and prosthetic limb manufacturers.

And finally, the real reason we’re in this sinkhole is the recession spurred by a housing bubble and unregulated derivatives market, which could certainly be classified as bipartisan failures, but which also grew and came to shocking fruition under the leadership of mostly Republican politicians who have since been working tirelessly to gut even the most modest attempt at Wall Street reform, most recently by threatening to roadblock Elizabeth Warren’s nomination to head the new Consumer Protection Agency. Rumor has it she’s now considering a Massachusetts senate run (do it!).

The point being that the modern Republican party has almost no interest in actually constraining the size of government or they would have done it when they had the chance. If they were interested in deficit reduction they would take the “Grand Bargain” seriously. This isn’t Eisenhower holding the military in check while watching out for McCarthyites on his right flank. This is a bunch of hacks trying to score political points on issues they appear to not even fully understand.

Most bizarrely, some Republicans are even attempting to say nothing will happen if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, and if it does, it’s because Obama is scaring people. Yes, because banks don’t come and kick you out of your house when you don’t pay your bills. That’s just a scare tactic.

It’s also worth pointing out just how many terrible ideas Republicans want to wring from this hostage negotiation, the best example being the Balanced Budget Amendment. To the untrained ear, this may sound like a good idea: a constitutional amendment that says the government must have a balanced budget every year. Yet when you consider the endless moments in American history when deficit spending saved not only the Union (Civil War) but possibly the world (World War II), not to mention the political nightmare that would ensue each and every year (imagine the vitriol of this debt ceiling debate each and every twelve months) you begin to understand why that’s a terrible idea.

Yet in the end any vitriol toward those in Congress is pointless since we do live in a democracy. It’s probably better aimed at all the people who sat on their hands in 2010 while the lunatics took over the asylum.

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The Republican Primary Is My New “Lost” /off-the-markley/2011/06/01/the-republican-primary-is-my-new-lost/ /off-the-markley/2011/06/01/the-republican-primary-is-my-new-lost/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2011 06:05:49 +0000 stephenmarkley /off-the-markley/?p=865 Continue reading 'The Republican Primary Is My New “Lost”']]>

(Getty photo by Justin Sullivan)

“Lost” went off the air a while ago, likely ending the era of hour-long network dramas that I will watch, but this Republican primary might be just the ticket to replace it.

Think about it: both are bizarre, unfolding dramas where the lead characters don’t participate in a world even remotely resembling reality. Both have or will have moments of genuine drama mostly overshadowed by saccharin dialogue and unbelievable twists that may not make sense upon second glance. And both will end in major disappointment, mystical nonsense, and the creeping sense that even a feeble chimpanzee–ridiculed by all its fellow chimpanzees for his daftness–could have blindly chosen a better outcome than this.

The problem being that the field has devolved into Mitt Romney versus everyone else. This has much to do with the establishment’s searching need to have a “front-runner” at all times and due to name recognition, money, and the unexplained sense that “it’s his turn” everyone has decided this is Romney.

Which is hilaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarious in italics because as everyone knows Romney signed into law as Governor of Massachusetts the exact same health care reform Republicans have been foaming at the mouth about for two years. Like the exact same one as Obama. So forget the fact that he used to be pro-choice and pro-gay rights, Romney is also–by every Fox News standard anyone can find–a socialist.

It’s also amusing because all reporting indicates that in the 2008 election, Romney could not spend money fast enough and not be disliked more by voters and his fellow candidates. There was a moment reported in the book “Game Change” in which Romney walked into a bathroom before a Republican primary debate and all the candidates standing there pissing–McCain, Huckabee, Giuliani, etc.–suddenly shut up because they were all talking shit about what a two-faced dickhole Romney was.

On the other hand, the rest of the Republican field could not be any less impressive. Pundits have divided this crop into “first-tier” and “second-tier” candidates, which is a polite way of saying “lying about how crazy they are” and “actually batshit crazy.”

The first-tier includes dictionary-definition-of-”milquetoast” Tim Pawlenty and former Obama ambassador Jon Huntsman. Pawlenty is this election’s Mitt Romney (unexciting, willing to reverse his position on just about anything). And Huntsman, who believes in civil unions and climate change (and I think is a closet pro-choicer) has a better chance of proving the factual accuracy of the Book of Mormon than winning a Republican primary.

The second-tier candidates consist of Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul and Rick “Google It” Santorum–all mortally flawed, all political suicide in a general election against Obama.

The bee in the bonnet is obviously Sarah Palin, a second-tier candidate with first-tier appeal, who looked awful just months ago until she was stacked beside the likes of Santorum and Pawlenty. Since the most important issue to the average Republican primary voter is “That lady’s been on my TV before” Palin will have a shot, as unbelievable as that sounds.

Think of her as the Smoke Monster of the field.

The only way this could get any better is if Romney waltzes to the nomination and the right-wing Tea Party faction of the party rebels and nominates its own candidate in Bachmann or Palin, in which case this conservative splinter party could be known as–you guessed it–”the Others.”

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