Archive for 2016

Scalia’s Death Spotlights Essential Issue of 2016

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

scalianewSaturday night’s Republican debate in South Carolina, surprise, surprise, played out as yet another episode of “Survivor.” Oh sure, the harshest and most bitter debate exchanges to date made for pretty good political entertainment, but for our money CBS moderator John Dickerson would have done better by sticking to solely one issue: the implications of the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the nasty and spiteful leader of the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority.

Dickerson began the spirited, if ignorant, event properly, by asking each of the still-standing GOP wannabes whether they thought President Obama should nominate a replacement for the late Mr. Scalia, or leave that decision to his successor.

Delay, Delay Delay In a demonstration of just how singularly crucial the SCOTUS appointment power is to the presidency, all half-dozen basically (and infuriatingly, but we digress) said, ‘no,’ although Donald Trump and Jeb Bush said they would act if they were in the same position as Obama, but then quickly called for the Senate to reject whoever the president sent them.

The six also took turns slobbering over Scalia, and singing his praises to the heavens for being an “originalist,” i.e. a jurist who liked to play at living in the 18th century and sending down thunderbolt decisions more appropriate for an historic era featuring the stocks and leeching than smart phones and nanoscience. Typical was Marco Rubio:

He will go down as one of the great justices in the history of this republic. You talk about someone who defended consistently the original meaning of the constitution, who understood that the constitution was not there to be interpreted based on the fads of the moment, but that they were there to– it was there to be interpreted according to its original meaning. Justice Scalia understood that better than anyone in the history of this republic…

Someone on this stage will get to choose the– the balance of the Supreme Court. And it will begin by filling this vacancy that’s there now. And we need to put people on the bench that understand that the constitution is not a living and breathing document. It is to be interpreted as originally meant.

See, right there’s your problem.

News-ReporterABC: Always Believe Calbuzz. We consistently have criticized the political MSM for focusing on the urgent over the important in covering political campaigns, chronicling daily media events instead of pivotal issues of governance, while all ignoring every four years the most consequential matter of any presidential race, an argument we’ve made here, here and here.

They undercover what is important in favor of over-blowing the immediate. Hence: let’s hyperventilate about every daily national preference poll, while giving short shrift to what the surveys show about the status of the Electoral College, and excitedly inform readers and viewers that every bump in the road when actually not much is happening at all.

Campaign reporters, with the exception of the one or two who will ask dutiful questions in the debates, all but ignore the whys and wherefores of what is arguably the most significant power any president has: the appointment of Supreme Court justices, and how the differences in whom the candidate will choose as nominees shape the nation for decades into the future.

Before the late Mr. Scalia was found dead in his bed on Saturday morning, he was one of a quartet of serious geezers on the court.

Memo to Democrats now frisking and frolicking with Bernie Sanders: Any doubt about the seriousness of whether voters elect a Democrat or a Republican in November may be answered with three key facts: Stephen Breyer, age 77; Anthony Kennedy, 79, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 82.

As we wrote about five weeks ago:

HairWhile polling shows Clinton with a big lead over Sanders nationally, it’s still way past time for the so-called progressive Democrats to wake up. What’s most at stake is not health care, foreign policy, the economy, environmental regulation and civil rights – although all of them are certainly at stake. The big issue that should be driving Democrats to rally around Clinton is the United States Supreme Court…

On abortion rights, organized labor, voting rights, environmental policy, affirmative action, civil rights, health care, political reform and so much more, a Supreme Court with perhaps three more right-wing jurists could – and likely would – utterly destroy the hopes and dreams of moderate, centrist, liberal and progressive Americans, of women, minorities, gays and lesbians, the working class, poor and dispossessed.

In other news: Bush bashed Trump, Trump bashed Bush, Ted Cruz bashed Rubio, Rubio bashed Cruz, Cruz bashed Trump, and Trump bashed Cruz. John Kasich said he was above it all. Ben Carson was there too.

Read all about it.

The hilarious and insightful Calbuzz Twitter feed from the debate can be found here.

Barney on Bernie: 3 Reasons Sanders is Doomed

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

bernieanddonaldThat Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders won the Republican and Democratic primaries in New Hampshire was no surprise, despite all the hyperventilating among the beltway MSM. While Trump may now march on to victory (although NH has never been a great predictor of success), Sanders will have to demonstrate that he can attract something other than white liberals. As Barney Frank, the former congressman from Massachusetts, argues in the following piece, Sanders has a long way to go to attract actual Democrats who believe in preserving and expanding on the gains of the Obama administration.

barney_frank_ap-640x480By Barney Frank
From Politico

After Bernie Sanders’s near-miss in Iowa, his campaign believes a solid win in New Hampshire will give him strong national momentum going forward. Their view is plausible, but I believe it’s wrong.

I know my strong support for Hillary Clinton will lead some people to think my wishes are clouding my judgment, but the opposite is likelier to be true: I’m a congenital campaign pessimist, and spent much of the time during my tougher election campaigns expecting that I would lose.

Changing Demographics When it comes to Sanders, there are three reasons why things will get harder for him, not easier, even after a strong performance February 9. The first, which has drawn some attention, is that the rest of the electoral map is much less favorable to him, geographically, ideologically and demographically.

But two other equally important factors have gone largely unremarked—and indeed, the fact that we haven’t noticed them is a big part of why he’s gotten as far as he has.

Until recently, Sanders has experienced the great benefit of not being taken seriously. Between the focus on the unexpectedly entertaining Republican race, and the intense scrutiny on Clinton as the overwhelming Democratic favorite, the only aspect of Sanders’ record to have drawn any attention from outside his own campaign is his ambivalence on gun regulation.

What this has meant is that he has been enjoying one of the greatest gifts any politician can ask for: the ability to define himself as he wishes, without any inconvenient rebuttals.

Senate Democrats Hold Briefing On GOP Attack On Social SecurityBernie, the Insider In many ways his candidacy is deeply ironic. A senior United States senator who has held national office far longer than any other candidate in the race—25 years in Congress, including influential committee positions—has been the most successful in presenting himself as the quintessential outsider.

He presents himself as not only free of responsibility for anything that happened during his tenure, but vigorous in his insistence that nothing that was done while he was there had any value in addressing the problems that he discusses.

And his condemnation falls equally on Democrats and Republicans alike. When he leads his audience in the chant that Wall Street regulates Congress, he draws no distinction between Democrats who enacted crucial financial regulations like the Volcker rule, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the regulation of derivatives and the Republicans who fought all three and are now working to undermine them.

Nor does President Barack Obama escape. While he does not explicitly attack the president, nowhere in Sanders’ campaign rhetoric is there any positive assessment of his record. His listeners do not hear that the Affordable Care Act was a great advance and must be protected as he and others try to go beyond it. They don’t hear that getting the top tax rate back up to where it was before Bush lowered it meant a real increase in tax fairness.

Many congressional Democrats, myself included, feel deep resentment at this wholly negative portrayal of our efforts. First, it is a prime example of how inattention has helped Sanders until now. Commentators have made a point of noting the lack of congressional support for Cruz, legitimately drawing negative inferences from the fact that his closest colleagues are essentially rejecting him.

tedcruzLonely Bernie But little notice has been taken of the fact that Sanders does scarcely better: Cruz has one House supporter as I write; Sanders has two.

Why don’t their colleagues back them? In part, of course, it’s out of fear they’ll be weak in November. In Cruz’s case, this is also reinforced by a more strongly expressed personal dislike than I can remember attaching to any other member of Congress. With Sanders, the deeper problem isn’t personal; it’s the feeling that his approach to the very issue by which he defines himself—how to bring about fundamental progress toward a fairer society—makes it less likely that we will succeed in doing so.

This concern is as strong on the left wing of the congressional party as it is in the center. And it is deeply felt as well by the major advocacy groups that worked alongside us in achieving what progress we have won.

No, Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign are not resisters of change. Neither is John Lewis, or the other Congressional Black Caucus members who are campaigning for Clinton, nor Tom Harkin, the leader in fighting for the rights of those with disabilities, nor Henry Waxman and Sandy Levin, who chaired the committees that wrote the ACA in the House and who have written an article defending their work against Sanders.

And while I concede pride of authorship may influence me, when my 2010 opponent was greeted by cheers on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during our campaign, and major financial operators like Carl Icahn and David Einhorn maxed out to him to punish me for our legislation, I don’t think any of them agreed with Sanders that Wall Street had somehow been regulating us.

It’s not that liberals object because Sanders advocated—or advocates now—going further. Most of us agree, and are trying to do so. Our disagreement with him is on how to do it, and on what we believe to be the negative consequences of his approach.

Many of us would have liked to have gone further on some big issues. With the support of almost all Democrats, for example, we came close to a ten year drop in the Medicare age to 55, and we almost succeeded in charging the financial community for the cost of increased regulation. But we believe it is important not to let our disappointments lead people to lose sight of the significant gains we did make.

In sharp contrast, and in a way that weakens Democrats in the coming electoral fight, Sanders denigrates what we did achieve to the point of dismissal.

Sanders’s current response to the constraints that we face, in effect, concedes their power by calling for a political revolution to overcome them. Again, our objection is not to that revolution—I would be very happy to see it come about—but to the fact that it’s extremely unlikely, and to the blowback if it fails to materialize.

powerfistWhere Was Bernie? If you think Sanders can bring about the revolution he promises, there is an important question to ask: Why has he met with a complete lack of success in at least starting the revolution until now? True, he wasn’t president, but senators have exercised considerable influence in the past when they had strong, popular sentiment behind them.

I don’t personally remember his playing a meaningful role in moving either health care or financial regulation in the direction he favored when we were considering them. This isn’t a criticism of his work at the time, but it’s definitely an example of the scrutiny that should be given to his legislative work on the issues he’s campaigning on now. I’m skeptical—reluctantly so, but skeptical—that the public support needed to get fundamental social and economic change through Congress can be mustered as easily and as quickly as he has led his supporters to believe.

As Sanders enjoys more success, you can expect the quiet unease over the tone of the Sanders campaign to become outspoken in coming weeks. Why? The problem isn’t his call for revolution to bring single-payer health care, much tougher taxation of the wealthy, universal free higher education or breaking up big banks.

What troubles me and many of my former colleagues—among the most liberal members—is the belief that nothing short of this is worth fighting for.

In fairness to Sanders, I do not argue that he is himself saying this explicitly, but that’s the message coming through to his supporters loud and clear: Unless he does not win the presidency with his promise of political revolution, they believe, nothing of consequence will be done to make us a better country.

Defending the ACA, financial reform and a higher top tax rate from the lavishly financed assault from the right that is coming will be hard enough, without some on the left having been taught by Sanders that these hard-won progressive achievements weren’t all that valuable in the first place.

As more attention is paid to his record, and as the silence of his colleagues perhaps turns into active skepticism and uneasiness, Sanders is likely to face headwinds he so far has managed to avoid—no matter how well he does in New Hampshire on Tuesday.