STEPHANOPOULOS: The issue of waterboarding front and center last night as (INAUDIBLE). You said, I would bring back waterboarding and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.
What did you have in mind?
TRUMP: Well, George, you're not talking about what I said before that. I said we're living in a world where, in the Middle East, they're cutting people's heads off. They're chopping a Christian's head off. And many of them, we talk about Foley, James Foley, and you know, what a wonderful young man. Boom, they're chopping heads.
So then I went into this. I said, yes, I would bring back waterboarding. And I would make it a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.
What did you have in mind?
TRUMP: I had in mind going worse than waterboarding. It's enough. We have right now a country that's under siege. It's under siege from a people, from -- we're like living in medieval times. If I have it to do and if it's up to me, I would absolutely bring back waterboarding. And if it's going to be tougher than waterboarding, I would bring that back, too.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As president, you would authorize torture?
TRUMP: I would absolutely authorize something beyond waterboarding. And believe me, it will be effective. If we need information, George, you have our enemy cutting heads off of Christians and plenty of others, by the hundreds, by the thousands.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do we win by being more like them?
TRUMP: Yes. I'm sorry. You have to do it that way. And I'm not sure everybody agrees with me. I guess a lot of people don't. We are living in a time that's as evil as any time that there has ever been. You know, when I was a young man, I studied Medieval times. That's what they did, they chopped off heads. That's what we have...
STEPHANOPOULOS: So we're going to chop off heads...
TRUMP: We're going to do things beyond waterboarding perhaps, if that happens to come. The question was asked. I thought Ted's answer was very tentative, Ted Cruz. He gave a very tentative answer. If we have to, we're going to have to do more.
But when you have conditions like that, I would say absolutely, I would approve waterboarding and if you go beyond it, I'm OK with that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So let me just clarify this. Right now, the law says they have to follow the Army "Field Manual," which prohibits...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- waterboarding. You would try to overturn the law (INAUDIBLE)...
TRUMP: Well, no, you had to have it reclassified. You reclassify and you'll see what happens.
But I would certainly approve waterboarding. They laugh at us. Our enemies laugh at us, George. They say waterboarding, they don't even think it's a form -- you know, they don't even view that as real torture.
But they say waterboarding and they chop off heads. They think we are so stupid, you have no idea. The enemy that we are fighting -- and no wonder they're doing so well, because with this kind of thinking, that's why they're doing so well.
He sure sounded like he was open to using beheading.
I don't know why he thinks "reclassifying" torture means anything. But then he's not really conversant in the legal restrictions on the presidency. He clearly does not think there are any.
Rubio is so programmed that he came right back this morning and repeated his mistake. I would assume his programmers told him the only way out was to double down but it didn't help him at all. I'm not sure what would have though. This was an epic, campaign stalling gaffe.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio defended repeating an attack he made against President Obama during Saturday's Republican presidential debate, in which he said on four separate occasions that he wanted to dispel the notion the president doesn't know what he's doing.
“It's what I believe and it's what I'm going to continue to say, because it happens to be one of the main reasons why I am running,” Rubio said in an exclusive interview on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos” the morning after the debate.
Shown a video of his repeated remarks produced by the Clinton super PAC "Correct the Record," Rubio said he “would pay them to keep running that clip."
“That’s what I believe passionately,” he said. “It's one of the reasons why I'm not running for re-election to the Senate and I'm running for president. This notion and this idea that somehow all this is an accident -- Obamacare was not an accident, Dodd Frank was not an accident, the deal with Iran was not an accident.”
Rubio added his campaign raised more money in the first hour of the debate than he has at previous debates.
He can try to say that he meant to emphasize "what he believes passionately" but nobody will believe him. It was weird. Really weird.
There’s a Red’s house over yonder: Hail, Caesar! ***
By Dennis Hartley
Not that Hollywood ever tires of making movies about Hollywood…but “they” really seem to be on a roll lately. Arriving on the heels of Jay Roach’s Trumbo (my review), which depicted the Red Scare-induced fear and paranoia that permeated the film industry in the 1950s through the eyes of a slightly fictionalized real-life participant, we now have the latest effort from co-writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen…which depicts the Red Scare-induced fear and paranoia that permeated the industry in the 1950s through the eyes of a slightly fictionalized real-life participant (although in this case, its funnier side).
In fact, the Coens have gone into full “screwball” mode for Hail, Caesar! – leaving no gag unturned (think The Hudsucker Proxy or O Brother, Where Art Thou? ). That said, it wouldn’t be a Coen Brothers film without its Conflicted Everyman Protagonist; for this outing it’s Hollywood “fixer” Eddie Mannix, (the ubiquitous Josh Brolin). Not unlike his (wholly fictional) contemporary counterpart “Ray Donovan” (who I wrote about recently) he’s a responsible family man on the one hand, yet earns his living in a twilight world where he is required to bend whatever rules he needs to (moral and/or legal) in order to clean up after his clients. Also like Donovan, Mannix is racked by Catholic guilt.
When Mannix isn’t in the confession box (which provides some the film’s more drolly amusing scenes) he’s busy putting out fires; like the one that involves the kidnapping of Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), one of Capitol Studio’s biggest stars. Whitlock has been snatched off the set of his latest picture (a sword-and-sandal epic bearing a striking resemblance to Spartacus ) by an enigmatic organization called The Future…whose true identity I’m sworn to protect, in the interest of remaining spoiler-free. In the meantime, Mannix has to stave off a pair of persistent gossip columnists (twin sisters played by Tilda Swinton, who through no fault of her own has to follow Helen Mirren’s recent bigger-than-life, Golden Globes and SAG-nominated turn as Hedda Hopper in Trumbo).
Truth be told, the narrative is actually a bit thin in this fluffier-than-usual Coen outing; it’s primarily a skeleton around which the brothers can construct a portmanteau of 50s movie parodies. 1950s musicals provide fodder for several set pieces; including an Esther Williams sendup (with Scarlett Johanssen poured into a mermaid suit), and a takeoff of On the Town, featuring a nimble-footed Channing Tatum firing up a barroom full of hunky sailors and leading them in a winking, cheerfully homoerotic song and dance. Singing westerns are parodied via Alden Ehrenreich’s character, a hick who hit the big time based not so much on his acting abilities (which are nominal), but rather due to his looks and rodeo skills. And the main plot itself cleverly mirrors 1950s Red Scare films like Big Jim McLain and I Was a Communist for the FBI(I also found the kidnappers’ hideaway to be suspiciously reminiscent of the antagonists’ digs in North By Northwest ).
Brolin plays it straight, Clooney plays it broad, Ehrenreich is endearing, Johanssen is, uh, gorgeous, and Tatum proves quite adept at comedy (who knew?). Ralph Fiennes hams it up as a finicky “prestige” director, and you can have fun playing “spot the cameo” with the likes of Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, Clancy Brown, Christopher Lambert, and Dolph Lundgren. This is far from the Coen’s best work, but the film has just enough of their patented “little touches” (like a Communist who has named his dog “Engels”) that make it unmistakably Coen. Oh-and a character is repeatedly told to shut up; undoubtedly this is a callback to the catchphrase “Shut the fuck up, Donnie!” from The Big Lebowski .
Heather Anne Leavitt, the cake designer and proprietress behind Ann Arbor's boutique cakery, Sweet Heather Anne, makes a lot of high-end, super-detailed cakes, so she didn't blink when a woman met with her to place an order for an expensive cake to be delivered to The West End Grill for a private party.
She didn't find out until she and her assistant delivered the cake to the upscale Ann Arbor restaurant that the cake was to be one of the centerpieces of a birthday celebration that Governor Rick Snyder was throwing for his wife, Sue.
"The weird thing about it is we didn't know it was for them," said Leavitt. "We worked with a really nice woman - I'm not sure if she was a planner or what her position is. With birthday cakes we don't normally meet the recipient. They came in with some pretty specific ideas of the things they wanted in the cake and then I designed it based on what they wanted."
The designs included a bag from Chanel, a box from Tiffany & Co., a diamond necklace and a box from Nordstrom, which Leavitt rendered in cake and fondant. The cake took 30 hours to design, bake and decorate.
"The way we price, we break it down to a per-serving fee and then a labor fee," explained Leavitt, who declined to reveal the price of the cake. "Even though it looked big, it wasn't that big of a cake in terms of servings. It was only 60 servings. So most of what they were charged was for the labor."
Leavitt said that though much of the work they do at Sweet Heather Anne's is for weddings, where designs run the gamut from simple buttercream frostings to intricate fondant cakes, they also do a lot of work for The University of Michigan, which orders cakes with a similar level of detail for donors.
Leavitt said though she had no idea that the governor and his wife were to be the recipients of this cake, she was grateful that they had chosen to work with a very small, local business.
It's not enough that you have be prepared to take the LSATs in order to cast your vote these days. Now they're making sure that nobody can help people register either:
Republican lawmakers approved a measure Thursday that would make felons out of people who return the early ballots of others to the polls.
The 34-23 House vote, with every Democrat present opposed, was propelled by arguments that the current system is ripe for fraud. Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, also sided with foes
Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, cited testimony from Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne who spoke during a prior attempt to enact this provision. She told lawmakers there have been situations where individuals claiming to be county election workers have gone door-to-door trying to pick up ballots.
"This is a problem,'' he said.
Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, said allowing strangers to take someone's ballot would allow them to decide which ones to keep and which ones to throw away. In fact, he said someone might decide to throw away the ballots of all women.
By contrast, Rep. Debbie McCune Davis said the state should not be erecting barriers to voting.
HB 2023 makes it a Class 6 felony to handle anyone else's voted or unvoted ballot. There are exceptions for family members, those in the same household and professional caregivers.
"This bill criminalizes the act of assisting a person in casting a ballot unless they fit into a designated category,'' she said. "The practical impact of this legislation may be to suppress voting and should be examined.''
Rep. Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma, said it's not always easy for people to get their ballots back in the mail on time. She said there are many areas of the state where people have to go to the post office to get their mail.
And Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, put a number on that, saying it would affect at least 10,000 people in her district, largely in the San Luis area.
But Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, had no sympathy.
He noted the issue involves early ballots which voters specifically request be delivered to their homes as an alternative to going to the polls. Borrelli said there is plenty of time for people to review the ballots, fill them out and get them back in the mail.
And he rejected the contention that it's too difficult to mail it back. He said these same people have to find ways to get other things to the post office.
"I don't understand how you pay your bills out there,'' Borrelli said.
The measure now goes to the Senate.
Make it as cumbersome as possible to vote. That's the American way.
And keep in mind, that this all to prevent systemic voter fraud which is non-existent.
If Trump performs poorly in New Hampshire, the Koch network may be able to avoid a damaging showdown. But if he wins, it may already be too late to halt the runaway Trump train, especially if there's no Trump-targeting campaign in the can. So what happens if Trump seizes the nomination? Here's where things get very interesting.
If Trump becomes the nominee and he faces self-declared socialist Bernie Sanders in November, the senior Koch official explains, members of the donor network are likely to hold their noses and back Trump's candidacy. But there's another scenario that could prove far more controversial and possibly damaging for the network: a Trump-versus-Clinton matchup. There is absolutely no love between the Clintons and the Kochs, whose company experienced one of the most traumatic periods in its history as it fought off regulators during Bill Clinton's presidency. But, so strong is the dislike for Trump within Koch network, that a Clinton-Trump race is a tough call. "I could see the network not participating in the presidential election at all," says the senior Koch official.
This doesn't mean the Koch network would stand down in 2016 entirely. Under this scenario, donors would instead channel their resources into other races. If this were to occur—and it's a very big if—that would be a stunning development for a network of donors that has been amassing such a huge warchest for the presidential race.
Who knows if they'd actually do that? Trump would probably kiss their rings and pledge fealty to their agenda and they'd reluctantly support him. They do come from the same social cast of entitled heirs to their fathers' fortunes. They all know the secret handshake.
Still, it's fun to see the Big Money Boyz in such a quandary. They have spent decades and hundreds of millions to buy the GOP and they still can't control the outcome of hese elections. If only they could get those pesky voters out of the equation.
Why would he allow anyone to know this? He's supposed to be a Texas Republican. They go out to the back forty and kill something when they feel a little stressed. (Or at least clear a little brush.)That is if they feel stress at all, which no real man does.
Ted Cruz seems to appreciate at least one New York value.
For at least the second time in recent days, the Texas senator’s wife, Heidi, has described his method of relieving tension during anxious campaign moments: show tunes.
“He’ll call me and just sing me a Broadway tune,” Mrs. Cruz told a crowd here on Tuesday.
It can happen without warning, “right before one of these debates” or “in a stressful moment in a state,” she said.
It is usually well received — “he never ceases to defuse a stressful moment with a moment of levity,” Mrs. Cruz said — but not always.
“I’m thinking, ‘I’m on a finance call right now,’ ” Mrs. Cruz recalled. “Do you really need to be doing this?”
On Tuesday, Mrs. Cruz detailed neither the quality of her husband’s performances nor his favored song choices.
A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a message seeking Mr. Cruz’s theatrical preferences.
I think Mrs Cruz has gone off the reservations with that one. First of all, it makes him sound like one of those florists who is happy to provide flower arrangements for a gay wedding, if you know what I mean. The second is that she sounds like quite the uppity little lady with her "I'm on a finance call right now" as if her fancy career is important or something.
Cruz is a harcore conservative down to his bones. I even believe that he's sincerely evangelical. But perhaps one of the things that people find off-putting about him is that he's a total phony about his affiliation with southern, cultural conservatism. Obviously, he's a city boy with city boy tastes and habits. If he were as crude and disgusting as Trump maybe he could get away with it. But it just doesn't track for a Texas evangelical conservative to sing showtunes. It just doesn't.
Folks, this is your captain speaking. It looks like we've hit some unexpected turbulence and I'm going to turn on that seatbelt sign "DIIIIIING." Flight attenands please return to your seats. As soon as it smoothes out, we'll continue our service.
North Carolina last night hit a patch of turbulence in the form of a federal court ruling. This was still breaking last night (emphasis mine):
RALEIGH, N.C. — Three federal judges on Friday threw out the congressional voting maps the Republican-led General Assembly drew five years ago, ruling that two districts were gerrymandered along racial lines.
The ruling throws the March 15 primary into chaos, as the judges ordered state lawmakers to redraw the maps within two weeks and not to hold any elections for U.S. House until the maps are in place. A special session of the legislature would have to be called to approve new maps, and they might have to pass federal muster again.
Which is not to say that the clever, well-paid consultants who drew the districts for the GOP the first time won't get overtime and bonuses to redraw them within two weeks just as cleverly, if more subtly. Redrawing CDs 1 and 12 will cascade down to adjoining districts. Of course, the Republicans will appeal immediately.
Friday’s ruling was strongly worded in discounting the legislature’s claims that race played no part in drawing the new maps, saying the redistricting had fundamentally affected citizens’ rights to vote.
“The record is replete with statements indicating that race was the legislature’s paramount concern,” the ruling says.
"There is strong evidence that race was the only nonnegotiable criterion and that traditional redistricting principles were subordinated to race," 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Roger Gregory wrote for the court. "In fact, the overwhelming evidence in this case shows that a (black voting-age population) percentage floor, or a racial quota, was established in both CD 1 and CD 12. And, that floor could not be compromised."
The Washington Post gives a hint of the coming chaos:
North Carolina congressional primaries are scheduled March 15, with mail-in absentee ballots already being turned in. Other adjoining districts would have to be adjusted, too.
“The trial court’s 11th-hour decision that throws an election already under way into turmoil,” GOP Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Bob Rucho, chairmen of General Assembly redistricting committees, said in a release, suggesting a primary delay was possible without intervention. “This decision could do far more to disenfranchise North Carolina voters than anything alleged in this case.”
Rucho should know. He was in charge of the 2011 gerrymander.
[T]he ruling marked the first time judges had struck down specific districts drawn by GOP legislators during this round of congressional and legislative redistricting. There are two other pending legal cases alleging illegal racial gerrymandering. The 2011 lines, which were initially signed off on after review by the U.S. Justice Department, have helped Republicans expanded their majorities at the General Assembly and within the state's congressional delegation.
Rev. William Barber, head of the NC NAACP said in his statement, “This ruling by all three judges is a vindication of our challenge to the General Assembly of North Carolina writing racially biased ‘apartheid’ voting districts to disenfranchise the power of the African-vote.”
In my wallet I have a list of calls to return from people with absentee ballot questions ahead of the March primary. Those are going to be some interesting conversations.
Donald Trump says he loves the troops. He says it over and over again. Someone ought to ask him if he loves this guy:
Private First Class Andres De Leon, 72, signed up for the U.S. Army to fight in Vietnam when he turned 18-years-old at a time many were trying to avoid the war. He served for 12 years and spent two full years overseas before being honorably discharged. Like many veterans, he suffers from depression, that spiraled out of control when his mother passed away. But unlike most veterans, his depression led to him being deported.
De Leon may have moved to Madera, California with his family legally when he was 12-years-old but he was deported when he became addicted to heroin to medicate his depression and was eventually arrested for possession. Section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) lists this as a valid reason for deportation and three years into his sentence at Soledad State Prison, ICE came knocking.
By 2009, an immigration judge ordered De Leon back to Mexico where he hasn’t lived for over 50 years. He’s living in Tijuana today in a one room apartment after spending his first few weeks homeless and on the streets. With no friends or family and certainly no veterans benefits, his sister fears that his type-2 diabetes isn’t being taken care of.
“I got no choice,” he told a local TV station Fox40 back home. “I have to stay here but I’m doing the best I can.”
His story is sad enough and you would think that there aren’t many like him, but you’d be wrong. Once back in Mexico he met Hector Barajas, a former paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne who told De Leon there were dozens like them. In 2013, Barajas started a safe house for veterans from the United States that are deported to Mexico.
“We believe none of these men should be left behind,” he said. “We talk about supporting the troops, let’s keep supporting these men. Treat these men with honor.”
One in six veterans who served in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from a substance abuse issue. Those veterans who seek treatment for PTSD report alcohol-use disorders to the tune of 60 to 80 percent, according to the National Center for PTSD.
De Leon, Barajas and their friends are victims of cracks in a complicated system. Justice For Vets is an organization that works to help veterans that end up in the courts because of drug and alcohol abuse. They work with veteran treatment courts that require mandatory treatment and court appearances to help incentivize veterans to get clean and sober. But immigrants aren’t eligible if they break the law. They’re simply deported.
“I’ve been told the only way I can return is dead. So, if dead is the only way I can return, I would like to be buried with my friends in the Catholic Cemetery in Madera, California,” De Leon said.
“Why would they honor us only when we die? They’re going to give an American flag to our families and say, ‘Thank you for your service to your country,'” Barajas said. “If you want to honor our men, let them get their treatment. Let them live with their families.”
Everything about that is wrong. From Vietnam to the drug war to the immigration laws, this guy got it coming and going. There's no excuse for the US Government not taking care of him in his old age. None.
And while we're asking Trump about this, maybe we should ask all the other candidates about it too, including Sanders and Clinton. And President Obama too.
Ben Carson compared Ted Cruz's mea culpa for spreading rumors about his campaign to the "attitude" Hillary Clinton expressed after the Benghazi attacks, Buzzfeed reported.
Carson was asked by Todd Starnes on a podcast posted Thursday night about whether Cruz "handled himself as a Christian" in response to reports that the Cruz campaign circulated rumors among supporters the night of the Iowa caucus that Carson was suspending his campaign.
Carson took issue with Cruz failing to take what Carson called "corrective action."
"Not to take corrective action is tacitly saying it’s okay, or it’s sort of like, as Hillary Clinton said after Benghazi, ‘What difference does it make,'” Carson said.
Starnes followed-up with Carson on the comparison, to which Carson added, "I’m not saying that it rises to the level up Benghazi, I’m saying it’s the same kind of attitude."
He was leading or in second place for a good part of the primary season. He's still polling better than Bush, Kasich and Christie combined nationally.
A wooden cross and cowboy hat appeared on the side of a remote Oregon highway just days after Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was shot by a state police officer.
For weeks, Finicum was the public face of the armed occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, until his death marked the violent culmination of the standoff. Leaders of the occupation were arrested that day, and most of the people who hunkered down for nearly a month there trickled out as the FBI surrounded the compound.
The weeks-long standoff seemed to be winding down.
But rather than an end, the death of the Arizona rancher at the hands of state police has marked the continuation of a simmering anti-government movement that manifested in Oregon, and a rallying cry for a growing number of armed militias across the country.
Memorials for Finicum have since spread through social media. Facebook posts hail the rancher as a hero against government tyranny. Songs have been written about the Arizona rancher, and conspiracy theories about how his final encounter with police have swirled online after his death.
“The more radicalized individuals are going to look at Finicum as a martyr,” Robert Harris, a former case manager for the Federal Bureau of Prisons told BuzzFeed News.
I'm pretty sure this is exactly why all those guys did their suicide videos.
“He put things in plain English so that people could understand,” Jordan Page, a musician whose songs carry a strong political message of freedom, Second Amendment rights and limited government, told BuzzFeed News. “Whether you agreed with him or not, he lived a life based on principles.”
Hours after the shooting, Page wrote a song as a tribute to Finicum, called A Cowboy’s Stand For Freedom. He didn’t agree with the decision to take the refuge at first, but said he began to sympathize with their tactics when he learned more about their grievances on federal management of lands.
“Once I understood what they were trying to do I was more supportive,” Page said.
“He left his home to go and take a stand, his voice voice rang out across the deafening land,” he sings in a YouTube video shared more than 21,000 times. “In the end it was a bullet that exposed a lie. A truth remembered is a battle won, though his murder cannot be done.”
Page has viewed the video released by the FBI of the shooting, and like some, believes the use of force wasn’t justified.
“I think he was trying to draw the fire away from the truck because there were women and friends in the truck,” he said. “I think he probably knew it was his time”
Page doesn’t believe Finicum was reaching for a weapon, but instead grabbing a wound after being shot first. He also questions the FBI’s statement that Finicum reached for a gun on his left side, pointing out similar social media postings that the rancher wore a holster on his right side.
The FBI, however, states Finicum reached toward his left side at least twice before a state police officer fired. A video released by the agency seems to back up that claim.
“So many people in this country are distrustful of government, and scared of government, and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be,” Page said. “They’re supposed to be scared of us.”
“So many people in this country are distrustful of government, and scared of government”
After Finicum’s death, however, several militia leaders appeared to be doubling down on their efforts.
“I got pissed, in super capital letters,” Gary Hunt, of Operation Mutual Defense told BuzzFeed News. “I don’t know how many times they (law enforcement) said they wanted a peaceful solution.”
A network of regional militias, the group helps organize response to “assist patriots in the defense of lives, individual liberties and property.”
After the shooting, Hunt said he put out a call to militia members to flock to Harney County to support the remaining occupiers.
“Everybody said, ‘Yes, hell yes,’” he said. “There was an echo almost.”
Hunt decided to rescind the order when he realized the FBI was already surrounding the compound.
Still, he said similar standoffs are all but certain to continue to make sure Finicum’s life was not lost in vain.
He was actually armd and waving a gun around. You'd think these people who are so concerned about overzealous government authorities would be a little bit more concerned about them shooting unarmed black teenagers. But they don't appear to care about that. The Oath Keepers did show up in Ferguson. To protect the property owners.
GOP leaders in Washington, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), had grown increasingly concerned about how little Paul was raising for his Senate race while running for president. Paul raised just $156,000 for the reelection race at home in the third quarter, a paltry sum that would not be enough for a competitive House race.
They went to a lot of trouble in Kentucky to change the process so that Paul could run for president while also running for the Senate and now that he’s clearly going nowhere fast they would like to see him start to ding his supporters for money to keep himself in the job he already has. Undoubtedly, McConnell would like him to raise a few bucks for his fellow senators too. It’s bad enough that Cruz and Rubio are sucking the donors dry — and at least they have a chance to win the presidency.
There were many requiems for the Paul campaign yesterday and for good reason. There was a time when he was seen as the inevitable future of the Republican Party, a “different kind of Republican”who could appeal to “the youth” and bring a whole new constituency for what was assumed to be, for reasons never spelled out, an embrace of social liberalism and a return to isolationism among Republican voters. Where they got the idea that this philosophy transforming the GOP of 2015 remains a mystery.
Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress wrote one of the best “Rand, we hardly knew ye” pieces yesterday, in which he examined his strategy and explained something that many people may not have fully understood before. Despite his history of opposition to some of the most important civil rights laws in our history, including the Civil Rights Act itself, Paul was actually trying to recruit racial minorities to his side by offering a deal that nobody really understood on the left and nobody cared about on the right.
Millhiser describes it this way:
If you shrink the government, Paul promises, you will shrink the criminal justice system too. And Paul has offered more than simply rhetoric in support of his idea that less government is the solution #BlackLivesMatter is looking for. He’s also sponsored criminal justice reform legislation, including a bill that would restore voting rights to many people convicted of non-violent offenses.
Paul’s call for less overbearing police forces, however, comes at a high price — and not just to people of color who risk being excluded from hotels and lunch counters. In his speech praising the Buchanan decision, Paul also likened this case to another Supreme Court precedent that he would like to restore: the Court’s 1905 decision in Lochner v. New York.
Lochner is anti-precedent, a decision that is literally taught in law schools as an example of how judges should not behave. Relying on a fabricated “right to contract,” Lochner gave employers broad immunity from laws intended to protect workers from exploitation. The Lochner decision itself struck down a law limiting New York bakery workers to a 60 hour work week. Subsequent decisions applying this fabricated right invalidated minimum wage laws and laws protecting workers’ right to organize.
According to Paul, this is the way things should be.
Unsurprisingly, this bargain did not catch on with African-Americans or anyone else. It’s great that he would end the War on Drugs and support criminal justice reform. One hopes he continues to do so in the Senate if he wins reelection. But his desire to return to the antediluvian Lochner era, which allows businesses to exploit their workers at will and discriminate against anyone they choose is not an acceptable trade, particularly since no such trade is necessary. A decent society would simply end the War on Drugs and enact criminal justice reform while maintaining its commitment to workers; rights. This is not a zero sum game.
I wrote about Paul’s inevitable demise back in August when it was clear that he had bought into the Village hype about his presidential prospects and had thus decided to run as a hardcore Republican with a few eccentric quirks, rather than a principled libertarian. He was flogging the Planned Parenthood hoax videos as if they were proof of women’s inherent evil, and his alleged isolationism was nowhere to be found. He was being a regular old Republican “running to the right,” and it sunk him. Nobody’s quite sure where all his young male followers went but they sure didn’t show up for him.
Perhaps they recognized what Libertarian writer Justin Raimondo saw when he said,
“The “libertarian-ish” Senator from Kentucky is just another Ted Cruz, albeit less loud (and with less book sales) than the Canadian performance artist-cum-politician.”
The real Ted Cruz, as it happens, is doing quite well.
So Paul is now headed back to Kentucky, where he will be fighting to retain his seat against the mayor of Lexington, a self-financed gay millionaire, which should be fun.
The real question about Rand Paul is why so many political observers were convinced that he was leading a new Republican Party in the first place. Back in 2014, he was on the cover of Time magazine, touted as “The Most Interesting Man in Politics,” who has been embraced by his party because they realized that they would need to grapple with “emerging demographics, the young minorities, the urban shifting away from older generations and embracing of more libertarian views on privacy, drug sentencing and foreign intervention.” The New York Times Magazine published a piece by Robert Draper titled “Has the Libertarian Moment Finally Arrived?” in which he observed:
After eight years out of the White House, Republicans would seem well positioned to cast themselves as the fresh alternative, though perhaps only if the party first reappraises stances that young voters, in particular, regard as outdated. Emily Ekins, a pollster for the Reason Foundation, says: “Unlike with previous generations, we’re seeing a newer dimension emerge where they agree with Democrats on social issues, and on economic issues lean more to the right. It’s possible that Democrats will have to shift to the right on economic issues. But the Republicans will definitely have to move to the left on social issues. They just don’t have the numbers otherwise.” A G.O.P. more flexible on social issues might also appeal to another traditionally Democratic group with a libertarian tilt: the high-tech communities in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, whose mounting disdain for taxes, regulations and unions has become increasingly dissonant with their voting habits…
The party went in a different direction, to say the least. Their “fresh alternative” is a white nationalist billionaire. And his strongest competitors are hardcore social and economic conservatives of the kind who have populated the right wing of the party for decades. The libertarian moment, if it ever existed, turned out to be fleeting indeed.
And that’s really because there just aren’t very many libertarians out there. This Pew Poll from 2014 found that only 11 percent of Americans are libertarians. And the young millennials the libertarian moment was supposed to produce for the GOP turn out to be much more interested in the socialism of Bernie Sanders.
According to Michael Lind, Milton Friedman’s grandson Patri, reluctantly accepting that libertarians are such a small minority, has tapped billionaire Peter Thiel to fund something called the Seasteading Institute to create city-states at sea that could be colonized by libertarians running from the horrors of reasonable taxation. Apparently, this is just the latest on a long line of failed efforts over the course of many decades to create “Liberland,” a utopia somewhere in the world outside of existing governments.
If Donald Trump or Ted Cruz somehow make it to the White House, Liberland may end up dealing with a refugee crisis of its own. Libertarian exiles won’t be the only ones looking for a sanctuary.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren brushed off liberal efforts last year to get her to run for president in 2016. It is not hard to guess why. For one, she is smart enough to know that at this point she lacks the depth — especially in foreign policy — to do the job well. (After a quarter century in Congress, Bernie Sanders struggled with foreign policy in the Democratic debate last night.) Second, if she stays in the Senate, Warren can be a thorn in the side of all the right people as an advocate for working Americans for a couple of decades. It's what she does. She's very good at it. And it's fun watching Elizabeth Warren do what she is so good at.
In an interview with The Nation, Warren spoke again about the "rigged game" in Washington. In particular, the bipartisan effort to reform sentencing laws that some Republicans are using the bill as a means of protecting corporate criminals from even the nearly nonexistent prosecutions to which they are now exposed. On the floor of the Senate, Warren said,
[F]or these Republicans, the price of helping out people unjustly locked up in jail for years will be to make it even harder to lock up a white-collar criminal for even a single day. That is shameful, shameful. It’s shameful because we’re already way too easy on corporate lawbreakers.
“The Republicans think no one is looking right now, that all of the public attention is somewhere else, and that this is a chance to try to slip through an amendment to make it harder to prosecute white-collar criminals,” she said. “It’s like you can’t make this stuff up, right? The idea that the Republicans are trying to gut one of the main laws to prevent bank fraud—that’s their response to the 2008 financial crisis.”
Warren said she also believes the Republicans have overreached, and are inviting a serious public blowback during a crucial political year. “If the Republicans succeed in further undercutting the laws to hold big banks accountable, I think it will become a major issue by next November.”
Warren released a report last week detailing 20 cases where federal prosecutors caught big companies violating the law, but imposed only modest fines and did not require the offending corporations to admit guilt.
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein was feeling the heat enough to say Bernie Sanders represents a “dangerous moment” in American history. Sanders has called out Blankfein by name, and his company "a poster child for the greed and recklessness he says is endemic in finance," according to The Hill. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders called out the Koch brothers repeatedly in the Democratic debate last night. Blankfein apparently doesn't have the same stomach for the public heat that the Kochs do.
You can watch Elizabeth Warren's recent Senate speech below.