Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Trump Now Has His Joseph Goebbels. As Nominee for Attorney General.

I do not believe that this man will be confirmed.  Even despite this.

Things of this sort can change, bigly, once confirmation hearings begin.  And not just because of his brazen, lifelong white supremacism.  Also because, well, among other things, Florida voters just adopted an amendment to the state constitution legalizing medical marijuana.  Buy a yuge margin.

Read through the NYT editorial I’ve linked to.  No one—and I do mean no onewants this kind of thing.  Outside of Alabama and Mississippi, of course.

This choice is beyond-belief vile.  And by the end of his confirmation hearing, everyone will know the specifics. And that Donald Trump thought it would be fine to reward this man in this precise way for being the first member of Congress to endorse him.

So Jeff Flake, Joe Manchin and Susan Collins think he’s fine.   Then again, presumably they don’t plan to run for president.  Marco Rubio likely does, though.  And his own state, the largest swing state, just voted to legalize medical marijuana. And there’s also that large-Hispanic-population thing in his state.  Just one example.

Here’s betting that McCain won’t vote for him either.  He doesn’t plan to run for president, having already been there and done that, but there’s that little thing about Sessions’ support for torture of various kinds, including waterboarding.

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UPDATED: Be sure to read this article published Friday at Yahoo News.  I didn’t see it until just now.

Updated 11/20 at 3:25 p.m.

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The Most Effective Ad for Clinton and Congressional Dem Candidates?

One showing Trump’s plane taking off or landing, and a voice and written message saying: You help pay the salaries of the air traffic controllers who ensure Donald Trump’s safe travel in his private Boeing 747 (or whatever it is). BUT DONALD TRUMP DOES NOT.

Okayyyy. Since you haven’t been living in a cave the last few days—and even if you have been—you’re aware of the news events of the last 48 hours.  And of the reaction to them among, say, blue-collar whites in Toledo.

The reactions are three-fold: that Trump was a really awful businessmanAnd that Trump is the Ultimate Welfare King.

And that the U.S. Tax Code is really, really, really appalling.  And that Trump proposes to change the tax code to further increase his and his children’s wealth.*

But, still.  With a very effective ad campaign, the Dems could with the Whole Game.  So here’s my entry for what would be the coolest ad ever (okay, in a long time):

One showing Trump’s plane taking off or landing, and voice and written message saying: You help pay the salaries of the air traffic controllers who ensure Donald Trump’s safe travel in his private Boeing 747 (or whatever it is).  But Donald Trump does not.

The ad should end with: Help end the Citizens United campaign-finance regime.  And help force the restructuring of the Tax Code. VOTE DEMOCRATIC FOR SENATE AND HOUSE.

In Ohio: How would Ted Strickland vote on these?  And how would Rob Portman vote on them?

In Florida: Ever check out Marco Rubio’s suggestions for changes to the Tax Code—and which way those changes would go?

Etc.

Etc.

Bernie and Elizabeth could accomplish this, I think.

Go. For. It. Dems.

There’s no time like the present to start THE REVOLUTION.

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*I’ve been pleading with Clinton for many months now here at AB to campaign intensely on the specifics of Trump’s tax plan.  She’s finally doing that, thanks to the NYT’s weekend revelation. 

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Two Must-Read Columns in the NYT Today

Nicholas Kristof’s and Linda Greenhouse’s.  They’re on different subjects but, in my opinion, part and parcel of the same thing.

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ADDENDUM: Reader Sandi and I exchanged these comments in the Comments thread here this morning:

Sandi

February 19, 2016 9:03 am

One way Kristoff didn’t mention that amasses huge fortunes is our tax laws, as pertains to inheritance.

It’s beyond obscene that not only are families like the Scaifes and Kochs able to set up trusts to pass the loot to their kids, that, are structured so that after a few years of giving the proceeds of the trust to charity, the kids then get the whole enchilada with no inheritance or gift tax consequences.

The really brilliant bit is using that generated cash to set up 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4)s to further your political agenda, much of which is to keep the tax laws bent in your direction……………
Power is great, but anonymous power really keeps your enemies on their toes. They never know where you’ll strike from next.

 

Me

February 19, 2016 9:57 am

Sandi, it absolutely dismays me that the news media and the Republican Establishment think Rubio could beat Clinton or Sanders. The two seminal parts of Rubio’s tax plan are to end the capital gains tax and end the estate tax.

The public, of course, doesn’t yet know this, and it does not occur to the media and Republican Establishment folks that once they learn of it Rubio couldn’t defeat a monkey in the general election.

Yet they all—the pundits of all ideological stripes—keep saying that Sanders’ current strength against the Republican candidates in polls pitting them against Sanders and against Clinton don’t mean much this early, yet the polls showing Rubio’s strength do. But the key thing that supposedly makes Sanders unelectable—that he’s a SOCIALIST—is actually the thing that virtually everyone who’s heard of him knows. Yet the key thing that actually would make Rubio unelectable—his tax plan—has yet to break through to most of the public. Literally; it’s extremely likely that almost no one knows of it.

I’ll add here that it is to Paul Krugman’s tremendous credit that he keeps making that point about Rubio.

Added 1/19 at 10:14 a.m.

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Apparently there’s a special place in hell for Democratic politicians who criticize Barack Obama as insufficiently progressive. And a special place in heaven for politicians who have accepted $133,246 from the private-prisons industry but tell Black and Hispanic voters at a debate shortly before the Nevada caucuses and South Carolina primary that they want to end the private-prison system.

Nicholas Kristof 

✔@NickKristof

Clinton is accusing Sanders of being anti-Obama. Feels fake and contrived to me, and rather nasty.

10:47 PM – 11 Feb 2016 Twitter

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What worries me more than anything else about a Clinton general election campaign is her propensity to say obviously silly things. Elsewhere in that speech, in Clinton, IA on Friday, she again repeated her (and her daughter’s) complaint—without any hint of recognition of irony—that Sanders’ single-payer healthcare insurance plan would kill Obamacare.  As if it weren’t the very purpose of a single-payer healthcare insurance system to eliminate private healthcare insurance for the benefits that the single-payer plan provides.  As if the purpose of Obamacare was to create some living monument to Obama, rather than to provide healthcare insurance to people who had no access to it, and provide decent insurance to people who had policies that provided almost no coverage. [Italics added.]

Is it just me, or is the Clinton campaign’s take on how to appeal to African-American voters really demeaning, Me, Feb. 3, quoting myself in a Jan. 24 post.

Okay, good.  It’s not just me.  It’s also New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.  And David Strauss of Politico, who at 9:57 last night posted a short article titled “Clinton namechecks Obama over and over again.”  There was still an hour left in the debate then, so make that “Clinton namechecks Obama over and over and over and over and over again.”

But, hey.  All three of us are white.  And Black folk might not get what she’s doing.  And any who think they do would be wrong.  Like all of us women who mistakenly thought Clinton had, throughout her campaign, bludgeon-like, been asking women to vote for her because she’s a woman.

All those incessant Pavlovian references to women?  And last week, her declaration that Sanders must be the only person who thought she was a member of the political and economic establishment, because she’s running to be the first woman president and by dint of that fact clearly has no connection whatsoever to the politically and economically very, very powerful?  Or even to the slightly powerful?  She disabused us last night of the misconception that she was asking women to vote for her because she’s a woman.  Instead she was asking us to vote for her because she has no connection to the politically and economically powerful.

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Do Voters Who Want ‘Change’ Really Care More About the Age of the Candidate Than About the Age of the Candidate’s Ideas? REALLY?

The Marco Rubio debate moment that worries Democrats: When Marco Rubio cast the election as a ‘generational choice,’ he took a page out of the Obama playbook to portray himself as the candidate of future. It could work.

– Title and subtitle of an article in today’s Christian Science Monitor, by Linda Feldman (via Yahoo Politics)

Yup.  Voters are downright clamoring for a return to 1920s economic and social policies—which, point by point by point, actually is what he wants to do.

All those young voters who so enthusiastically supported Obama in 2008 are chomping at the bit, and the ones who have turned 18 since then are so gullible that they think a 44-year-old Ronald Reagan/George W. Bush on steroids is the real candidate of change because, well, y’know, he’s 44.*

So what the Democrats should do, I think, is nominate a 43-year-old Communist Workers Party candidate if one were to run.

I mean … whatever.

Maybe some major polling organization will test out this theory that the age of the candidate rather than the age of the candidate’s ideas is what matters to voters, by including a question about it in its next survey.  The margin of error would be 30 years—the difference in the ages of Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders.

Seriously, of all the asinine canards that political consultants and political journalists sell, this surely rates among the most transparently ridiculous. Although maybe it didn’t really matter after all that Obama ran in 2008 not merely as the youngest candidate but (except for John Edwards) the most progressive.  Or maybe people thought John McCain was the progressive.

Yeah.  That’s it.  People thought John McCain was the progressive.

And they think Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’ ideas are old hat.

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*Sentence typo-corrected 11/11 at 6:15 p.m.

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ADDENDUM: Don’t miss this terrific piece by Adele Stan on the American Prospect website.  (H/T Paul Waldman.)

Although she doesn’t mention Rubio’s age, so maybe it’s not such a terrific piece.  Doesn’t she know that Rubio is 44 years old?

Added 11/11 at 7:03 p.m.

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Clinton is Running as the Un-Elizabeth Warren. The Tactic is Succeeding. For now. (And btw, what DO those polls on gun-control laws show about rural-vs.-urban-area views?)

Marco Rubio spoke today to a large group of Iowa Republican activists and urged them to “turn the page on outdated leaders of both parties“. They agreed to do that, and started chanting “Feel the Bern.”

Senator, You’re No John Kennedy.  You’re Just Clumsily Appropriating a Campaign Line of His [from his 1946 run for Congress], Me, Nov. 1

Rubio, whose policy proposals entail returning to 1920s economic and regulatory policies (presumably because they worked so well)—and, regarding such matters as antitrust law, returning to the pre-Teddy Roosevelt era—claims that what determines whether a candidate would be an outdated leader is the age of the candidate, not his or her proposed policies.  As I said in the above-referenced post, Rubio is 44 and probably would support a 43-year-old Communist Workers Party candidate if one were to run, and step down himself as a candidate.  Policy proposals being irrelevant to the datedness of the candidate, and all.

Okay.  But he’s actually right about one of the older candidates.  Not about her policy proposals, but about her campaign itself.   Hillary Clinton as a candidate is the un-Elizabeth Warren.  She’s running an absurdly retro campaign that employs asinine allegations of sexism, racism, and Commie-ism against her main primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, as her go-to misdirection tactics to avoid talking about the issues that Warren and Sanders both have made their trademark, their political raison d’être: the thoroughly rigged power game that has so thoroughly rigged the economics game. And the legal game.  [Trust me on this.]

We all know by now about Clinton’s claim, repeated on six occasions within a few days, that all of the 76 members of the National Rifle Association’s Board of Directors are women—er, that Bernie Sanders told her, and only her, to stop speaking in a literally loud voice and that he said this because she is a woman. The initial reaction to Clinton’s claim was a bonanza for her among non-millennial women—that is, women who are of a generation in which being a feminist requires automatic adoption or acceptance of any charge of sexism (or for that matter rape).

Having been a victim of sexual harassment myself, I don’t take lightly the real deals—sexual harassment, sexism, rape. Which may be why it so offends me when a career feminist, which is what Clinton is, cries ‘wolf’ about sexism, knowing its Pavlovian pull among fellow feminists.  Especially career ones. And baby boomer ones, for whom it will always be the 1992 election cycle. As it always will be for her.  But the allegation quickly was shown as false.  As was part of her substantive charge against Sanders in the exchange at the Oct. 13 debate in which Sanders had made the comments that she claimed were sexist: a 2005 statute called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which she criticized Sanders for supporting and which she as a senator from New York voted against, doesn’t provide what she said it provides.  And the state of liability law at the time, and the state of liability now, that pertains to manufacturers and retailers of products other than guns and ammunition is the opposite of what she claimed.

But not to worry.  Having milked all she could from sexism—she also had claimed that a joke by Sanders’ campaign manager that Clinton would make a fine vice presidential nominee, a standard line that presidential primary candidates use about their nearest competitor, and one that Clinton used about Obama in 2008, was, you guessed it, sexist! —and now being limited to talking about actual gun-control proposals, past and present, she went back to the trumped-up ism well.  (I mean, seriously, good grace; she thought Obama was a woman.  But that was then and this is now.)  She accused Sanders of racism for a comment he made at the debate during, you guessed it, the gun legislation exchange.   William Saletan of Slate, who wrote the most thorough article I’ve read on the sexism smear, wrote in an article yesterday titled “Hillary Clinton Is Stepping Up Her Smear Campaign Against Bernie” by now accusing him of, um, racism!  Seriously.  Saletan reports:

Clinton was in Charleston, South Carolina [on Friday], addressing the local NAACP. She spoke against a tragic background: the massacre of nine black people in a Charleston church by a white racist. Naturally, she talked about guns. But she added a new line: “There are some who say that this [gun violence] is an urban problem. Sometimes what they mean by that is: It’s a black problem. But it’s not. It’s not black, it’s not urban. It’s a deep, profound challenge to who we are.”

The idea that urban is code for black has been around a long time. It’s often true. And it’s not necessarily derogatory: In 1920, the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes shortened its name to the National Urban League. But why would Clinton suddenly bring up, in a damning tone, people who call guns an urban problem? Who was she talking about? It can’t be the Republican presidential candidates: They haven’t disagreed enough to debate the issue at that level of granularity. The only recent forum in which guns have been discussed as an urban concern is the forum that inspired Clinton’s initial accusation of sexism: the Oct. 13 Democratic debate in Las Vegas. Pull up the transcript of that debate, search for “urban,” and you’ll see whom Clinton is talking about: Sanders.

Actually, though, Sanders didn’t say that gun violence is an urban problem.  He said that people in rural areas are strongly against gun-control legislation.  Here’s Saletan again:

In fact, [Sanders’ comments are] from the same moments of the debate that Clinton had already seized on. In the debate, Sanders began by saying, “As a senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton [is] that all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want.” A couple of minutes later, Sanders told former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley: “We can raise our voices, but I come from a rural state, and the views on gun control in rural states are different than in urban states, whether we like it or not.” O’Malley insisted that the issue was “not about rural and urban.” Sanders replied: “It’s exactly about rural.” Only one other candidate used the word “urban” during the debate: former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb. A week later, on Oct. 20, Webb quit the campaign. So when Clinton, on Friday, spoke scathingly of people who call guns an “urban problem” but mean it’s a “black problem,” it’s obvious to whom she was referring.

Which is why I’m wondering what the actual poll numbers are on gun-control legislation in, say, Montana, and Maine, and Vermont.  And what the poll numbers are in Illinois, New York, California, and Maryland.  Since hunting is the primary divide, I’m also wondering what the poll numbers are in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula, northern Lower Penninsula, and “Thumb” region (rural; lots and lots of hunters).  And how they compare to southwestern Michigan (urban, suburban).  Because while there is, of course, some cross-over—some urban dwellers oppose gun-control legislation; some rural residents support universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and huge-capacity magazines—it is, very largely, exactly about rural.  Sanders needs to get the poll numbers on this.  And use them.  There aren’t many hunters in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Chicago or San Francisco. There are a lot of hunters in Vermont, Montana and Wyoming.

But he also needs to suggest that Clinton is willing to cheapen the issues of sexism and racism in order to avoid talking about issues concerning the basic power structure in this country and its clear consequences.  And about Republican plans for further, dramatic imbalance.  And about the havoc that the pro-corporate takeover over government beginning more than three decades ago has wreaked on huge swaths of Americans.  In language that does not consist of soundbites and that actually discusses and explains specifics.

I wasn’t kidding when I said Clinton is the un-Elizabeth Warren.  In her campaign tactics at least, Clinton is far more Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson and Donald Trump than she is Elizabeth Warren.  Far more.  Notwithstanding the gender difference.  Swap out the-debate-moderators-are-biased-and-asking-improper-questions for Bernie-Sanders-said-“shouting”-to-me-when-talking-about-women-and-men-who-take-opposing-sides-on-gun-legislation, and Bernie-Sanders-said-“urban”-as-code-for-African-American-criminals!”.  And … voila!

Is it just a coincidence that it’s the candidates, Democrat and Republican, with the zillionaire backers and consequently the army of political consultants, who employ these misdirect tactics?  Just askin’.

But really, isn’t Clinton’s gender-and-race fraud more pernicious than the Republicans’ media/moderator-bias gimmick?

It’s a safe bet that Sanders doesn’t think Warren is shouting.  But then, maybe that’s because it’s Warren and female politicians like her—whose gender is not their defining political identity and who in fact never mention it, but who do discuss intricate fiscal, economic and regulatory issues—who are the actual feminists.

Saletan’s article, which is fairly long, goes on to say this:

This line of attack is rich in irony. When Clinton ran for president in 2008, she explicitly used race against Obama. She told USA Today that she should be the Democratic nominee because “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.” Clinton cited an article that, in her words, showed “how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in [Indiana and Pennsylvania] who had not completed college were supporting me.” A reporter asked Clinton whether this argument was racially divisive. “These are the people you have to win if you’re a Democrat,” Clinton replied dismissively. “Everybody knows that.”

Now Clinton accuses others of playing the race card. In Charleston, she told the NAACP, “Some candidates talk in coded racial language about ‘free stuff,’ about ‘takers’ and ‘losers.’ And boy, are they quick to demonize President Obama. This kind of talk has no place in our politics.”

Clinton, too, speaks in code. But in this election, her coded phrases—“some people think we’re shouting,” “some who say that this is an urban problem”—aren’t designed to veil racism. They’re designed to veil her meritless insinuations that her Democratic opponent is sexist and racist. You can argue, based on power or privilege, that playing the race card or sex card from the left isn’t as bad as playing it from the right. But even if you believe that, Clinton’s smears bring discredit on the whole idea of bigotry. If accusations of misogyny and racism are casually thrown at Sanders, voters will conclude that these terms are just rhetoric.

Seven years ago, when Clinton’s own campaign was accused of prejudice, her husband was outraged. “She did not play the race card, but they did,” Bill Clinton said of the Obama campaign. The former president went on: “This is almost like, once you accuse somebody of racism or bigotry or something, the facts become irrelevant.” Three months later, Mr. Clinton was still fuming. “They played the race card on me, and we now know from memos from the campaign and everything that they planned to do it all along,” he protested. “This was used out of context and twisted for political purposes by the Obama campaign to try to breed resentment elsewhere. … You really got to go some to try to portray me as a racist.” Now Hillary Clinton is doing to Sanders what her husband said was done to her. She’s taking Sanders’ remarks out of context and twisting them to breed resentment. You’ve got to twist the facts pretty hard to portray Sanders as a racist or sexist. But politically, it’s easy, because once you start throwing around charges of bigotry, the facts become irrelevant. You’re just another beautiful baiter. And you won’t be silenced.

I remember these incidents well.  I especially remember the “Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in [Indiana and Pennsylvania] who had not completed college were supporting” her” comment, because my jaw dropped when I first heard about it.  And because this is exactly what she’s doing again, with her incessant “hardworking families” cliché, repeated again and again by her on the campaign trail this year.

The difference between the “harworking” dog whistle and Sanders’ comment that the level of support for gun-control legislation is very different in rural areas than it is in urban ones is that tSanders’ comment is accurate and is borne out in the polls. And would be borne out in informal converations between Clinton and people in rural areas, should she take another listening tour, one that doesn’t prescreen attendees and keep unscreened folks on the other side of a rope line.

Clinton reaped a poll bonanza from her debate and her Benghazi-hearing media successes.  But only among Democrats.  Her ratings on honesty and trustworthiness, and her general favorability, rose substantially among Democrats, but remained about the same among the public overall.  Which means that among non-Democrats, her ratings decreased.

Which may in turn mean that Democrats who now support her because they think, in light of those performances, that she would be the stronger candidate in the general election may begin to waver.  And others may catch on that there’s a reason why she wants to talk about anything other than what progressive Democrats and many others want most to hear about.

The Saletan article mentions the uber outrage at Sanders that some prominent feminists have expressed as his employing of–gasp!–gender stereotyping about women shouting, and their equally rote outrage at Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, for suggesting that a woman could qualify for vice president but not for, y’know, the actual head of the federal government.

Yup. Good ole Bernie Sanders never would have supported a presidential primary run by Elizabeth Warren, and not run himself, had Warren decided to run.  Uh-uh.  No, Ma’am. No how.  And no way.

Two of the three women have made careers out Feminism, and one of them has never met a sexism or rape allegation that she thought just possibly could be false.  Or, regarding sexism, ridiculous. But really, how many millennial women think it’s a good idea for the first woman who has a real chance to be elected president to engage some sort of word game, trolling for a word or phrase whose meaning, alone or in the context in which it was used, could be tortured to suggest gender stereotyping?  Marco Rubio is right about Hillary Clinton.  And in her instance it does appear to be age-related.  She’s running a ridiculously retro campaign.  And only partly to regain the support of women.  Mostly, to reiterate, it’s in order to avoid addressing the economics-related issues that Sanders, and Warren, raise.

Gun violence is a tremendously important issue.  But it is not the only tremendously important issue. It’s just the only tremendously important issue that seems to offer opportunities for false sexism and racism allegations against Bernie Sanders.

And therefore opportunities to then, in the light of day, reveal Clinton for who she really is after all.

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Senator, You’re No John Kennedy. You’re Just Clumsily Appropriating a Campaign Line of His.*

Marco Rubio spoke today to a large group of Iowa Republican activists and urged them to “turn the page on outdated leaders of both parties“. They agreed to do that, and started chanting “Feel the Bern.”

Returning to 1920s economic and social policies—which, point by point by point, actually is what he wants to do—is indated leadership, according to Rubio.  Or else he thinks that policies don’t matter; only the age of the candidate does.

I’m guessing it’s the latter. Rubio is 44 and probably would support a 43-year-old Communist Workers Party candidate if one were to run, and step down himself as a candidate.

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*CLARIFICATION: I want to make clear that the JFK campaign line I’m referring to was not from Kennedy’s presidential campaign.  I was from his 1946 campaign for Congress.  The actual slogan was: “A new generation offers a leader.”  Kennedy, 29 years old at the time of the general election, based his campaign largely upon his experience as captain of his PT boat that was hit by a torpedo, and his rescue of (I believe) two injured crew members although he himself was injured.

Obviously, given the types of things Rubio used his position as leader of the Florida House of Representatives for, he needed to alter Kennedy’s line somewhat.

Added 11/2 at 12:02 p.m.

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FOLLOW-UP TO: “Instead of nominating Marco Rubio, the Republicans should just cut out the pretense and nominate his doppelgänger: Charlie McCarthy”

[Rubio] turned a question about his finances into an opportunity to retell his compelling family narrative, and then, into even sweeter lemonade: “I’m not worried about my finances, I’m worried about the finances of everyday Americans who today are struggling in an economy that is not producing good paying jobs while everything else costs more.”

Nicely played. But there are legitimate issues involving Rubio’s personal and campaign finances. At some point, “my father was a bartender” isn’t going to be a sufficient answer, especially if the debate helps turn this into Rubio’s moment, and Rubio’s nomination.

This strange, worrisome GOP race, Ruth Marcus, Washington Post, today

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A common refrain about Rubio is that he’s a man in a hurry.  A refrain that I trust is about to become common is that he also is a man on the take.  Which he is.  Pure and simple.  This spade needs to be called a spade, and will be, whether it’s Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders—or a massive swell from the news media of the sort that, finally, is occurring in the wake of Wednesday’s debate calling all but one member of the entire cast (Kasich was the exception) grifters, scam artists, fraudsters, liars on a truly grand scale—that begins it loudly enough to be heard.

Instead of nominating Marco Rubio, the Republicans should just cut out the pretense and nominate his doppelgänger: Charlie McCarthy, me, yesterday

According to a post-debate NBC News/SurveyMonkey post-debate poll of 3,387 Republican or Republican-leaning registered voters, including 1,226 who watched the debate, there is … virtually no change in the status of the various the respective candidates from their pre-debate status.   With the exception of Cruz, who has bounced to third place.

Trump and Carson tie at 26 percent, Cruz has 10 percent, Rubio 9 percent, Jeb Bush 5 percent), Fiorina 4 percent, and the other four tied at 2 percent.

In the comments thread to my post from yesterday, AB reader William Ryan and I had this exchange:

William Ryan

October 31, 2015 11:00 am

Lets all face the fact Marco Rubio is not presidential material. I think if I read correctly this morning in the Daily Kos. com they did call him a liar. Please go see and read that story about his personal financial situation . This guy to me is too young and inexperienced that makes him in my mind’s eye very unpresidential material. He needs much more experience in lying and should take lessons from the Clintons.

Beverly Mann

October 31, 2015 12:22 pm

I beg to differ, William. It sure looks like Rubio has had loads of experience lying. And loads of experience doing shady things under the radar.

The radar now has him in its sights. Can’t wait till he gets the nomination and the Dems start running ads with adult children of bartenders, maids and other blue collar workers, who have mortgages, retirement funds and college tuition funds without having exchanged government favors for salaries for themselves and their spouses paid by billionaires, and without arranging for nine-figure government contracts in exchange for massive financial but quiet political support, and who didn’t improperly use an organization’s credit card for personal travel and home-improvement projects. Or who get by without luxuries or retirement funds or college tuition funds, because their jobs don’t pay enough to allow it.

One thing that struck me about the my-father-was-a-bartender excuse is how really demeaning of people who come from working class families it is. If you’re from a working class family, you’re entitled to act unethically because, y’know, how else can you support your family in style?

Another thing that struck me is something really obvious: That Rubio wants to further undermine collective bargaining, is against raising the minimum wage, and wants to end government assistance in making healthcare insurance available. Because those things make us weak as people, see.

I’m guessing that some Republicans had a similar reaction to mine.  Minus the Medicare-and-Social-Security-make-us-weak-as-people part, since that wasn’t mentioned specifically at the debate.

As Steve Benen wrote on Thursday (I linked to it also in my earlier post), Rubio’s big moments all came in what were patently memorized lines and responses.  And Benen appears to be on to something.  Here’s an excerpt:

RUBIO: No Jeb, I don’t remember – well, let me tell you. I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s vote record. The only reason why you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.

If it was boxing, someone would have intervened to stop the fight. It was the confrontation everyone knew was coming – Jeb telegraphed his punch for days – but the intended target knew exactly what to say. It led to headlines about Rubio being “spectacular.”

And to a degree, the gushing praise is understandable. Rubio looked as if he’d practiced that soliloquy in front of a mirror for hours, and then delivered his scripted lines nicely. Later, the far-right Floridian referenced entitlements – Rubio is on record condemning Medicare and Social Security for “weakening us as a people” – and said to laughter, “Nothing has to change for current beneficiaries. My mother is on Medicare and Social Security. I’m against anything that’s bad for my mother.”

It’s the sort of quality that impresses debate scorers: candidates who memorize their carefully crafted lines and hit their marks are seen as the “winners.”

But it’s also true that we saw two very different Marco Rubios last night. The scripted senator excelled, dazzling pundits and earning hearty audience applause. The unscripted senator struggled in ways careful observers shouldn’t overlook.  [Italics in both sentences in the original.]

I suspect that we’re actually in a post-political-consultant period in presidential campaigns, in that sizable swaths of the electorate is repulsed by, or at least resistant to, the packaged, scripted crescendo lines that so many politicians think is the ultimate in campaigning.  But most of political journalists haven’t quite caught on yet. Kathleen Parker, who’s a Bush cheerleader, writes today:

While Bush’s attempted takedown [of Rubio about Rubio’s Senate attendance record] may be a worthy discussion — at what point are missed votes a firing offense? — Bush’s jab boomeranged. Just minutes after he had identified his central weakness as not being able to “fake anger,” Bush attempted to fake anger — or at least disgust. In an odd little flourish, he tossed a little leftover red meat to the fragment of the GOP base that still hates all things French.

“The Senate,” he said, “what is it — like a French workweek? You get like three days where you have to show up?”

Like, not really. Although France officially has a 35-hour workweek, French Ambassador Gérard Araud tweeted, “The French work an average of 39.6 hours a week compared to 39.2 for the Germans.” And Fortune magazine reports that French workers are about as productive as Americans.

No “fact” goes unchecked these days.

Though not exactly crucial to the global flow of things, this speck of a moment was nonetheless revealing. Bush’s snark attack obviously wasn’t spontaneous and came across like a committee-produced “laugh line.” Someone apparently forgot to cue the audience and it collapsed like a Roquefort souffle.

Parker’s exactly right about Bush, but missed the same point about Rubio.

Trump and Carson don’t memorize scripts written for them by consultants.  So, tacitly, they won the debate.  Just as Bernie Sanders’ appeal is based somewhat on his own refusal to memorize scripts and zingy soundbites prepared for him by consultants.  In dramatic contrast to Clinton, who’s downright addicted to zingy soundbites prepared for her by consultants.

Clinton has the advantage of being extremely familiar to, and popular with, older Democrats, especially female ones.  And her campaign, unlike Trump’s and Carson’s, is based on normal, coherent policy proposals, in addition to the ad nauseam I AM WOMAN! theme of it.  Unlike Trump and Carson, Clinton’s not crazy. She’s just wedded—welded, I think—to an outdated mode of campaigning for president.  I don’t think she can change that.  And it’s one reason why I think that in this election, Clinton is not the Democrat in the race who has the strongest potential general election appeal.

I just don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.  Y’know?

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Instead of nominating Marco Rubio, the Republicans should just cut out the pretense and nominate his doppelgänger: Charlie McCarthy

Bill Clinton had a line during his 1992 campaign that he said, mantra-like, so often in fact that eventually it lost its meaning and was just a cringe-inducing song-like chorus.  The line, the slogan, was, “People who work hard and play by the rules.”  It was—until he repeated it to a point well beyond when people actually would think of its meaning when they heard it, rather than just cringe or role their eyes—a very effective campaign mantra and also one that said something meaningful.  And it’s a line that I’ve thought of repeatedly since Thursday night’s debate.

Marco Rubio neither works hard nor plays by the rules.  Except, of course, the rules that politicians these days play by, although Rubio has throughout his political career—which is to say, virtually throughout his adult life once he graduated from law school—been jaw-droppingly adept at it, finding two billionaires to sponsor his political career and shore up his personal finances. One of them is human, the other is a corporate person.

The corporate person is GEO Group, the second-largest private, for-profit prison company in the United States—is there another country that has a private-prisons industry?  I have no idea—and whose company’s only client is government entities.  Including the State of Florida, thanks to Rubio during his tenure as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives (of billionaires, human and corporate).  The other is Miami billionaire Norman Braman.

A common refrain about Rubio is that he’s a man in a hurry.  A refrain that I trust is about to become common is that he also is a man on the take.  Which he is.  Pure and simple.  This spade needs to be called a spade, and will be, whether it’s Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders—or a massive swell from the news media of the sort that, finally, is occurring in the wake of Wednesday’s debate calling all but one member of the entire cast (Kasich was the exception) grifters, scam artists, fraudsters, liars on a truly grand scale—that begins it loudly enough to be heard.

Regarding GEO-Group-as-Rubio-family-financier, the first article about it (to my knowledge) in a major national publication was by Staten Island-based freelance writer Michael Cohen published in the Washington Post on April 28 of this year.  Its title is “How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about.”  Its subtitle is “Sen. Marco Rubio is one of the biggest beneficiaries.”  Among its paragraphs about Rubio is this one:

Marco Rubio is one of the best examples of the private prison industry’s growing political influence, a connection that deserves far more attention now that he’s officially launched a presidential bid. The U.S. senator has a history of close ties to the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, GEO Group, stretching back to his days as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. While Rubio was leading the House, GEO was awarded a state government contract for a $110 million prison soon after Rubio hired an economic consultant who had been a trustee for a GEO real estate trust. Over his career, Rubio has received nearly $40,000 in campaign donations from GEO, making him the Senate’s top career recipient of contributions from the company. (Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment.)

The statute of limitations has run on potential public corruption charges under the federal criminal code.  But many public officials have been charged and convicted for conduct that bears, let’s just say, a resemblance to Rubio’s. Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell would dispute that his was one such case, since McDonnell contends that when he pushed that vitamin supplement in exchange for $165,000 (or whatever the amount was) in gifts and sweetheart loans, he did so not in his official capacity but as a private individual.

Then there is the curious case of Norman Braman, Florida tax policy when Rubio was speaker of the Florida House, and Rubio’s job teaching Political Science at a Florida public university courtesy of a newly created and paid for in full by Braman after Rubio left the Florida House in order to run full-time for the U.S. Senate.  (Full time except for that adjunct teaching position, of course.)  In an article published Monday on Alternet, Lou Dubose of the Washington Spectator summarized the details as revealed earlier by The New York Times:

In an interview with The New York Times, the senator described Norman Braman, a Miami billionaire who once owned the Philadelphia Eagles and now sells BMWs, Rolls-Royces, Cadillacs, Audis and Bugatis, as “a father figure who had given him advice on everything, from what books to read to how to manage a staff.”

Braman, the Times reported, gave Rubio more than advice.

He contributed $255,000 to an advocacy group Rubio formed to lobby for one of his signature-mark initiatives while he was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives: a dramatic reduction of property taxes and increase in the state sales tax.

When Rubio left state government, he got a job teaching at Florida International University, committing to raise his salary from private donors. Braman contributed $100,000 to the university, earmarked for Rubio’s salary.

Braman donated to Rubio’s U.S. Senate campaign, and hired Rubio as a lawyer for seven months while he campaigned. He hired Rubio’s wife, and her company, to work for his charitable foundation. And he is reported to have committed $10 million to Rubio’s presidential campaign.

The New York Times reporters suggested that Rubio’s involvement with Braman will lead to a more thorough examination of the Florida Senator’s personal finances as the presidential campaign continues.

Dubose’s article is titled “Marco Rubio’s Financial Messes” and subtitled “Fishy financials don’t make for a great campaign.”  And, really, they don’t.

Rubio’s debate riposte—not about any of this, which he wasn’t asked about, but to a question about problems with his and his wife’s handling of their family’s cash flow—was that, well, he unlike Bush and Trump comes from a family of very modest means, and as an adult he received no financial assistance from his parents.  This presumably will do double duty as a response to questions about what the conduct that many people, I suspect, will view as amounting to public corruption.  But it’s a line that will continue to work only until someone other than me—to reiterate, e.g., Trump, Sanders, Clinton, or journalists—points out that many, many people who come from families of very modest means actually do work hard and do play by the rules.

Many of them, like Rubio’s mother, whom he mentioned during the debate in reference to Medicare and Social Security—he said she relies on them—are weak as people.  So, too, is he, by his own admission, for allowing his mother to rely on those federal programs rather than supporting her, including paying her healthcare costs.  Like people did in the old days. I was unaware of this admission by him, and in fact was unaware that he thinks Medicare and Social Security weaken us as people, until I read Steve Benen’s post yesterday on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC blog (h/t Paul Waldman):

Later, the far-right Floridian referenced entitlements – Rubio is on record condemning Medicare and Social Security for “weakening us as a people” – and said to laughter, “Nothing has to change for current beneficiaries. My mother is on Medicare and Social Security. I’m against anything that’s bad for my mother.”

That same record (video, actually) includes, specifically, Rubio’s statement that Medicare and Social Security have made us as a people lazy.

It will be a relief to many that as long as Mrs. Rubio is alive, Medicare and Social Security will be safe under a Rubio presidency.  Enabling the lazy Rubio to avoid having to support her.

The Democrats can only hope that Marco Rubio will be the Republican nominee for president.  Our current campaign finance system reduces most American politicians to ventriloquists’ puppets, but Rubio is unmistakably Charlie McCarthy reincarnate.  To the point of comedy.  Like the original Charlie McCarthy.  Next time you hear or see him speak, just think of how comfortably he would fit on Edgar Bergen’s lap.*

A week or two ago I read—I don’t remember where—that there is a Super PAC tied to Rubio that has a huge amount of funding but only one donor, whose identity is anonymous.  Rubio indeed would fit perfectly on Edgar Bergen’s lap, but here’s betting that that donor isn’t Edgar Bergen.

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*Link to Paul Krugman’s blog post from this morning titled “Policy and Character” added. 10/30 at 11:01 p.m.

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Why Does Hillary Clinton Think We Want Elizabeth Warren to Be Vulnerable?

Hillary Clinton says women are “held to a totally different standard” in politics — and that it’s been that way since she first ran for office.

“You’re expected to be both strong and vulnerable at the same time,” Clinton said in BuzzFeed’s “Another Round” podcast that was published online Sunday. “That’s not easy to do.”

The Democratic frontrunner said it’s “frustrating” for women in “any profession” to be criticized for being themselves.

“It’s just so hard to get people to realize that, you know, we’re all different,” Clinton said. “We may all be women, but we all have our strengths, we all have our weaknesses. We get up every morning and do the best we can. And eventually people either get you or they don’t.”

Clinton said she faced similar sexist questions when she first ran for Senate in 1999 and again during the 2008 presidential campaign — but, interestingly, not during her time as secretary of state.

“Because I wasn’t in politics, people were really nice,” Clinton said. “They said all kinds of nice things about me, which, you know, I appreciated.”

But that changed when she announced her 2016 presidential bid.

“How is a woman supposed to behave? Well, how about the way she is,” Clinton said. “And then people have to figure out her as opposed to her having to figure out everybody else.”

Hillary Clinton: ‘How is a woman supposed to behave? Well, how about the way she is’, Dylan Stableford, Yahoo Politics, yesterday

Yup.  We definitely expect Elizabeth Warren to be both strong and vulnerable.  And since she’s only one of those things, we Democrats are darned lucky that she’s not running for the presidential nomination!

Heck, I’m not sure Warren will even be reelected to the Senate, unless she adopts Barbara Mikulski’s or Debbie Stabenow’s feigning-vulnerability thing. They did it so well that they have both had a cakewalk to reelection.  Mikulski, repeatedly!  And Stabenow, in a swing state!

What concerns me most about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is that she believes, obviously unshakably, that what really matters in this election is herHer personality.  Her gender.  Her ongoing, decades-long war with the Republican Party, not about policy but instead about her.  It permeates every single thing about her campaign.  Because ultimately, yes, it does show, to use her words, the way she is.

One of the ways she is is a politician who is paying consultants exorbitant fees to advise her that she should be a guest on one after another comedy-skit show or women’s daytime interview show, and talk about herself and act silly.  But who apparently don’t advise her that, maybe, her actual problem is that she never actually engages in a back-and-forth discussion publicly about policy specifics and their impact, and that her vaunted toughness toward Republicans has almost nothing to do with the specifics their economic and fiscal policy proposals but instead in defending herself against their allegations of misconduct.

See?  She can go toe-to-toe with those Republicans!  Just not in explaining that, contrary to their incessant claims, this country’s most successful and creative period was when income taxes were far more progressive, and far higher for higher-income individuals and for corporations, than they have been during periods of slow economic growth.  And that it was during those decades that most of this country’s dramatic upward mobility occurred.

And that while, say, Marco Rubio makes patently ridiculous claims like that Uber couldn’t exist in any other country because only in the United States is it not banned by regulations instituted at the behest of taxicab drivers and taxicab company owners.  And even here in the United States it didn’t exist in Miami when it did exist in New York City because of those of those regulations that taxicab drivers had managed to successfully lobby the city’s government to kill Uber’s plan to that city.

Mm-hmm.  Only the likes of taxicab drivers lobby for favorable legislation and contracts.  Not, say, private prison corporations.  Although, of course, private corporations taking over government functions in exchange for payment to them of huge public funds and payment by them to, say, Marco Rubio’s campaign funds is capitalism!  And democracy!  Unlike taxicab driver and labor union lobbying.

And Uber operates not just in the United States but in cities all over the world.  Even in Scandinavia.  And also in Miami.  But it didn’t start in Miami.  Probably because of the strength of the taxicab driver lobby there.

For months and months after Clinton announced her candidacy, as it started to become clear that it wasn’t quite taking off as they’d expected, her campaign engaged in an intense attempt via political journalists to characterize her as a wonk. Repeatedly, sometimes several within a few days, there were articles describing her as a wonk.  Which, it turns out, now means, simply, a claimed interest in policy.  (Jeb Bush began to borrow the he’s-a-Wonk-campaign campaign strategy, also with some success.  Jeb Bush is not a wonk, but he is a Wonk.  Then again, he can explain why the left wants slow growth; it’s that it means people are more dependent upon government.”  The thing is, though, that he can’t explain why his brother wanted slow growth.  Or at least wanted much slower growth than lefty Obama has wanted.  Or, if he’s wonkish enough to know why, he has so far kept it to himself.)

After reading yet another Hillary-Clinton’s-a-wonk article, circa July, shortly after she made political headlines with an addition to her website in which she assured small-business owners and people who aspire to be one that she fully understood that the biggest problem in starting and then in owning a small business is federal regulation, and that she planned to get right on that as soon as she’s inaugurated, I said to myself:

Yep.  She’s a wonk.  It’s just that she’s a wonk who thinks small businesses are regulated mainly by the federal government, and  thinks that the locale and the nature of the business are irrelevant to the type of regulations required to start and then operat a small business.

It didn’t occur to her, apparently, to not condescend to small-business owners and aspirants, and state that most small-business regulation is not by the federal government but by states and municipalities. Much less did she think that maybe she should point out that, regarding small businesses, federal regulation usually supports them as against mega-businesses that control such things as credit/debit card payment methods and fees, and as against business-sector monopolies.  That’s what the Durbin Amendment and the Sherman Antitrust Act respectively do.

Then again, in order for her to do that she’d have to have the ability to do that, as well as the willingness to do it.  Bernie Sanders has the ability to do that.  And does do it. So does Clinton’s husband, even now; he did it, extemporaneously, on some complex subject—I can’t remember what, but I read about it—when he appeared recently on some interview show.  Granted, they’re both men.  But Elizabeth Warren is a woman, and she can, and does, do it too.

Hillary Clinton speaks only in soundbites because, apparently, she thinks only in soundbites.  And because, maybe after all, and for all her feminism talk, she believes that complex discussion of such things as the Sherman Antitrust Act and the level of its enforcement (or lack of it), and of Keynesian economics, and of the actual history of federal taxation, spending, and regulation—and the actual nature of federal regulation—are subjects only for male politicians to discuss with journalists for the enlightenment of the hoi polloi.

Clinton doesn’t have to show she’s vulnerable.  But, oh, she does.

And she doesn’t realize that it is she who is really the one with the gender bias.  Or at least for whom it will forever be the 1990s.

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