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

GAG. (And Paul Krugman is just so, so mystified that so many progressives support Sanders. Be mystified no longer, dear professor.)

Dan Crawford gave me the news this morning before I’d already learned of it. He emailed me with the subject title: “Merrick Garland…here we go!” He linked, without comment, to the NYT article on the announcement.

I responded:

UGH. I guess the idea is that there just aren’t enough super-establishment Supreme Court justices already. We definitely need one more.

And Krugman is just so, so mystified that so many progressives support Sanders.

I WANT TO SCREAM.

Beverly

I’ll post at more length later today; I don’t have time right now.  But at the risk of drawing attention to the attention of the Secret Service, in an unpleasant way, I will take the time right now to say to Obama: Drop dead.*

And I’ll take the time to note this: The title of the NYT article is “Obama Chooses Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.”  Its subtitle? “Appeals Court Judge Is Respected by G.O.P.”  Well, the G.O.P. that the Washington in-crowd hasn’t noticed isn’t all that popular right now with, um, some of the G.O.P.

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*Na-na-no; this is said facetiouslyThe  drop-dead part, that is. Please, Secret Service. Really.  I don’t like Joe Biden all that much, either.

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UPDATE:  This blog post in Slate by someone named Michael Gerhardt, whom I’d never heard of before and who is not identified there by anything other than his name, makes me cringe.

This guy’s bottom line: Yup, can’t be a merit nominee to the Supreme Court unless you’ve been an intrinsic part of the Centrist Establishment in Washington for, say, several decades.

And interestingly narrow definition of merit, wouldn’t you say?

Okay, well, actually he is identified by more than his name.  He’s a Centrist Establishment person.  Just an educated guess, but still ….

Fittingly, the post title is, “Merrick Garland deserves to be on the Supreme Court.”  Because what matters is what Merrick Garland deserves, not what the multitude millions of people whom the Supreme Court pretends don’t exist.  Or just aren’t worth the time of such an august group.  Or even a moment’s thought.

Then again, there is this hopeful note, also from Slate.  It’s by Jim Newell, Slate’s main political analyst.

Added 3/16 at 6:32 p.m.

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UPDATE TO UPDATE:  Calmer now.  Reread Jim Newell’s awesome article and agree with every word of it.  Including why Obama almost nominated Garland to fill John Paul Stevens’ seat for real. Which pretty much sums up why I can’t stand Obama and don’t want a third Obama term in the person of a chameleon.

Added 3/16 at 7:10 p.m.

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PS: Greg Sargent writes:

I’ll bet that a big part of his selection was that Garland was willing to go through the process knowing he probably won’t get to actually serve on the court, while a younger judge who could have another chance later might not want to.

In thinking about it more, I’m betting that that was a very big part.  As in, none of the others would accept the nomination, and told Obama so.

Repubs apparently now think they can have the last laugh.  Senate Repubs reportedly now are considering whether to confirm during the lame duck session after the election if Clinton wins.  But of course, then Garland would be expected to withdraw if Obama does not withdraw his name saying that Clinton and the new (Democratic-controlled) Senate should handle it.

This post is starting to feel not like a blog post but like a blog.

Added 3/16 at 8:36 p.m.

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PS TO PS:  Yup.  It’s been officially confirmed by go-to-Centrist Ruth Marcus: Garland resoundingly (her word) deserves to be confirmed, and what really matters is what Garland deserves.

Her piece is titled “A Supreme Court nominee too good for the GOP to ignore.”  I’m not kidding.  That’s its title.  You really have to read this thing.  The whole thing; you don’t want to miss the part about her running into him on the street after she became a well-known Washington Post journalist.  Her piece apparently is not intended as a parody of a Washington insider’s view, although it does double duty as that.

Yup. This post is a blog unto itself.

Added 3/16 at 9:02 p.m.

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Do Canadians and Scandinavians Really Not Work and Really Have No Children? (This is a rhetorical question for Kathleen Parker. Or maybe not rhetorical; you decide.)

Socialism has always appealed to the young, the cure for which isn’t age but responsibility. This usually comes in the form of taxes and children, both of which involve working and sacrificing for the benefit of others, the extent of which forms the axis upon which all politics turns. That Sanders never outgrew his own socialist-rebellious tendencies — We’re going to have a revolution! — is vaguely interesting, but not his best recommendation for commander in chief, among other presidential roles.

What Steinem, Albright, and Clinton don’t get about millennial women, Kathleen Parker, Washington Post, today

Okay, well, taxes and children, and healthcare insurance premiums and healthcare bills not covered by insurance, and day care and college costs for those children—all of which involve working and sacrificing for the benefit of others.

The extent of which forms the axis upon which all politics turns.  Well, post-trickle-down, Great-Recession, stagnant-wages, wildly-escalating-healthcare-and-college-costs, Citizens-United, politics anyway.

At least that seems to be the main message of this presidential primary election season. Although the message is encrypted and therefore indecipherable to a good many political opinion writers.

A fun parlor game for me (okay, I don’t have a parlor, so I play this game usually sitting in a rocking chair in my bedroom, laptop on my lap) has been reading the contortions that center-left or center-right political columnists employ by way of pretending that Bernie Sanders is a Communist, and trying to guess whom they think they will convince.  Most fun of all to read are the Washington Post’s cadre, and Kathleen Parker has been especially prolific in the last week.  A few days ago, in a column titled “The fight over Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees is ridiculous,” she wrote:

Unfortunately, the Democratic base has been electrified by the notion that the poor are poor because the rich are rich. To this zero-sum interpretation of income inequality, a friend always responds: How many poor people has Oprah created?

None, I’m sure.  But if Oprah were currently taxed at the rate she would have been during the Reagan administration—not to mention the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson or Nixon ones—there likely would be far fewer poor people in this country, some of them, for example, having been able to afford to get a college degree at a public university funded primarily through taxes rather than by tuition and legacy donations that dramatically impacted admissions into the freshman class.

Actually, the Democratic base has been electrified by the notion that higher taxes on the wealthy will give them (and many others) a shot at entering or remaining in the middle class. And of having access to health care without fearing bankruptcy or having to forget about paying their kid’s college tuition this year. And of being able to afford good child care and be able to get the roof replaced.

That Parker never outgrew her own Commie-baiting tendencies is vaguely interesting, but not her best recommendation for another Pulitzer Prize.

Then there is Ruth Marcus, a Yale University and Harvard Law School alum, who in a column about Sanders late last month said that the proposition that “helping Americans get ahead with more skills, more jobs and more wealth,” and the proposition that “the deck is stacked against everyday Americans and we need to focus on breaking up Wall Street banks and raising taxes on the wealthy,” are mutually exclusive.  In referencing a recent poll by the self-styled centrist group Dumb Way—er, Third Wayshe wrote:

Given the choice of a candidate who promotes “helping Americans get ahead with more skills, more jobs and more wealth,” or one who emphasizes that “the deck is stacked against everyday Americans and we need to focus on breaking up Wall Street banks and raising taxes on the wealthy,” voters chose the growth message over the deck-stacked argument, 66 percent to 21 percent.

Because of course proposals to break up Wall Street banks and to raise taxes on the wealthy have nothing to do with helping Americans get ahead with more skills, more jobs and more wealth.  Those proposals are just for the sake of breaking up Wall Street banks and raising taxes on the wealthy.  As a hobby.  And if I had gone to Yale and Harvard I’m sure I would see this.  But I didn’t, so I stupidly think proposals to break up Wall Street banks and to raise taxes on the wealthy have everything to do with helping Americans get ahead with more skills, more jobs and more wealth.

Shows you what I know.  Silly me.  I even thought that Scandinavians and Canadians work and have children.  Instead it turns out that Scandinavians and Canadians are children. Who will grow up one day and finally begin working and having children of their own.  At which point they will no longer need healthcare.  Or want to avoid bankruptcy if they do.

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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

—-

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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How the Democrats Should Deal With the AnthemBlueCrossCare Issue. Really.

Today, the House of Representatives will take up GOP Rep. Fred Upton’s proposal to ”fix” Obamacare by undermining it, and the vote is being widely cast on a referendum on whether Dems will continue distancing themselves from the law. Meanwhile Senate Dems are also still considering fixes of their own that could undermine it, though that’s subsided.

The Morning Plum: For Democrats, it’s gut check time, Greg Sargent, Washington Post, this morning

The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus is not among my favorite political pundits, but the apt title of her column today–Obama’s political malpractice–sums up not just the current Obamacare-related debacle but my abiding assessment of Obama dating almost to the outset of his presidency.  Marcus’s column makes the point that Obama’s attempts, such as they have been, to gain control of this spiraling situation just make the situation worse. But that’s par for his course.

Actual smart and competent congressional Democrats and party leaders–four senators who come quickly to mind are Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, and Dick Durbin–need to grab the reins and use Democratic Party funds to establish a massive phone bank, and rent small neighborhood offices, where people who have received cancellation notices of their teensy-coverage plans can get quick easy assistance in learning of their actual options.  These Dems need to get the word out, loud and clear, that insurance agents are engaging, en masse, in misleading these people by, most conspicuously but not exclusively, telling them that the particular “replacement” policy they are offering or suggesting is the individual’s cheapest option.

I call it AnthemBlueCrossCare, because nearly every one of these misleading cancellation letters that I’ve read about is from one or another state’s Anthem Blue Cross or Blue Cross company; I keep wondering whether that is the only company that has been offering these teensy-coverage policies, or whether instead this company has just perfected the strategy to a science.

Occasionally, some diligent journalist will actually investigate the situation and will find that the individual or family actually has options that provide better coverage at about the same or less cost.  The 46-year-old woman, for example, who chafes at being forced to buy a plan that includes maternity care can get a plan for that costs the same or less than the one being cancelled that does not.  But by now, largely thanks to mainstream news media organizations such as the New York Times that have credulously published the Anthem-Blue-Cross-is-canceling-my-policy-and-only-offering-one-at-a-500%-increase-in-premiums-and-I’m-forced-under-pain-of-prison-to-not-look-elsewhere-for-health-insurance anecdote–and thanks (surprise, surprise!) to Obama’s failure to inquire into the actual options of these anecdotal victims–journalists’ refutations of these stories is, as my mother would say, like pushing back the sands.

But surely actual smart congressional Democrats and party leaders recognize that what matters to these people is not being able to keep their current plan but in not having to pay more, or a least not a lot more, to get acceptable coverage.  The 46-year-old woman who doesn’t want to pay for maternity coverage or, as she complains, coverage for stage-four-cancer treatment, or for sex-change surgery (surely something that represents most of the additional 500% increase in premiums from Blue Cross that this woman inferred was her only option since Blue Cross didn’t mention any other, because of the commonness of this surgery), might be happy to pay, say, an extra $100 a month for doctor and hospitalization coverage–which apparently her soon-to-be-cancelled policy does not include, since if it does it would have been the best-kept-secret-about-the-best-insurance-for-the-price-in-this-entire-country; hospitalization coverage for $100 a month!–in case, y’know, she needs an appendectomy or surgery for a broken ankle.

Okay, well, Obama apparently recognizes this too.  He just can’t trouble himself to assign a few people within the administration to, maybe, look into these anecdotes and report on their accuracy.  But the Democratic Party can pick up the slack, and the actual smart and competent congressional Democrats need to start aggressively picking up the slack and making that happen and getting out the word.

I’m sure they recognize by now that the next three years must be devoted to aggressively picking up the slack on a veritable slew of important policy matters and presenting facts and policy proposals clearly, loudly, and often, to the public.  Sure it would be nice to have the president do this, but the president won’t do this, probably because he can’t do this. I mean that literally; he lacks not only the desire but also the ability to do it.  But it’s critical that it be done.

And that it start en force immediately.

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