Hillary’s choice in 2016

This is a little more inside baseball than I usually go for here, but if you know who Mark Penn is (Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign manager, among other things) this is brilliant so I felt the need to share:

It’s a good one:

The question for someone considering whether or not to support Clinton in 2016 is, will a Clinton 2016 campaign pass the Mark Penn Test? The Mark Penn Test, which I just invented, determines whether or not a person should be trusted with the presidency, based solely on one criterion: Whether or not they pay Mark Penn to do anything for their campaign. Paying Mark Penn means you’ve failed the Mark Penn Test.

And failing it is an expensive one, above and beyond giving away the White House in 2008:

Fired, but still well compensated. Since Clinton’s 2008 campaign ended, she has milked her donors — and Obama supporters — for millions of dollars to pay off her campaign’s debt. $5.4 million of the debt — all of it, that is — was owed to Mark Penn’s firm Penn, Schoen & Berland. Anyone donating money to Clinton since 2008 has essentially been paying off the man who did more than anyone outside the Obama campaign to prevent her from becoming president. The debt was only just paid off in full in January, just as Clinton left the State Department and shortly before the new pro-Clinton SuperPAC began operating.

Hillary Clinton blew the Democratic nomination in 2008 because she learned exactly the wrong lesson from the 1996 election. The real lesson was “fundamentals are so important that a relatively popular peacetime incumbent can win fairly comfortably even if he turns his campaign over to profit-seeking utter dumbshits like Mark Penn and Dick Morris.” Alas, the lesson that both the Clintons and too many members of the media seemed to learn was “Mark Penn and Dick Morris are political supergenuises. Let’s throw another pander to lacrosse security 12-burner grill no Dijon mustard moms.” To paraphrase Bill James, sometimes you eventually pay a price for believing things that aren’t true.

Pretty much spot-on to my reading.  Hillary Clinton may be a very skilled politician, but putting so much faith in a buffoon like Penn shows a definite weakness.  I have literally no doubt that if in 2008 Obama had relied on Penn and Clinton on Axelrod and Plouffe, we’d be looking at President HRC right now.  Campaign managers can get way too much credit.  But in a primary campaign, they can really, really matter and that’s certainly the case in 2008.

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Photo in the day

Zebras in black and white (recent National Geographic Photo of the Day):

Picture of zebras gathered at the edge of a river in Tanzania

Zebras, Serengeti

Photograph by Giulio Zanni, My Shot

This Month in Photo of the Day: Nature and Weather Photos

Image taken in the Serengeti in Tanzania during the migration period. Zebras and wildebeest were gathering on the edge of the river, waiting for the right moment to cross.

What’s broken in Washington

Not the system– the Republican Party.  Enjoyed this Bernstein piece in Salon for both nicely stating the conventional PS take on what’s gone wrong and explaining why it fall short:

The key question, however, is the nature of the problem. Hasen sees it, as many do, as a mismatch between partisan polarization on the one hand and the U.S. Madisonian system on the other:

The source of these deadlocks over budget reform is hardly a mystery: It is the mismatch between highly ideological political parties and our divided form of government, which makes passing legislation difficult even in the absence of partisan deadlock. The partisanship of our political branches and mismatch with our structure of government raise this fundamental question: Is the United States’ political system so broken that we should change the United States Constitution to adopt a parliamentary system, either a Westminster system as in the United Kingdom or a different form of parliamentary democracy? Such a move toward unified government would allow the Democratic or Republican parties to act in a unified way to pursue a rational plan on budget reform on other issues.

I think the emphasis on partisan polarization is misplaced. There’s nothing about strong partisanship that makes effective government in the U.S. impossible. That Hasen highlights budget problems makes this, in my view, especially clear. Budgets are, by their nature, fairly easy to cut deals on! Indeed: I suspect the game theorists might actually find that it should be easier for two well-organized parties to cut those deals, even if their ideal points are quite distant, than it would be to reach a deal between unstructured, factionalized parties, even if there are no extremists among them. During the current 113th Congress, all that should be needed is for the captains of both teams to find an agreeable midpoint, and budget issues can be solved.

And yet: dysfunction, crises, threats of shutdown and irrational outcomes no one claims to want.

My conclusion? It’s not partisanship. It’s not polarization. It’s not even extremism.

It’s the Republican Party. The GOP is broken. Not too conservative; not too extreme. I have no view of where the GOP “should” be ideologically, and I don’t think there’s much evidence that being “too conservative” per se is losing elections for Republicans.

But broken, nonetheless…

At any rate, there’s no way to solve the problem unless the diagnosis is correct. The problem isn’t partisanship or polarization. The problem is the GOP.

If you want the details of the diagnosis, click the link.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you already know a lot of the problem.  I would love to see the Republican Party “fixed.”  We’re always going to have disagreements about the proper role of government and such things and always need at least two robust, healthy political parties to fight over these things.  Unfortunately, right now one of our two major parties seems to have gone completely off the rails and a well-functioning democracy will not be back until the Republican party is.

Where the gun violence is

Correlation is not causation, but it seems safe to say having lots of people own lots of guns does not actually make most people any safer.  Via Tomasky:

Pooh-poh this if you like, since it comes from the Center for American Progress, but the group just released a big study showing that–across 10 measures like the number of firearms homicides, number of total firearm deaths (including accidents etc.), law enforcement agents killed by firearms, and so on–the deadliest states are those with the most lax gun laws.

The “top” 10: Louisiana, Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, New Mexico, Missouri, Arkansas, and Georgia.

Now I know conservatives are thinking: No way these places are deadlier than New York and other states with big cities that have very violent neighborhoods. But according to CAP, New York and New Jersey, for example, rank 46th and 47th in gun violence. The full “bottom” 10: Nebraska, Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Iowa, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii. That’s basically a combination of sparsely populated states and states with strong gun laws.

My guess is that culturally speaking these Southern states “value” violence and chivalry which causes both more guns and more gun violence.  Anyway, you look at it, though, seems like a fairly strong rebuttal to the NRA’s idea that if we were all just armed there would be less gun violence.

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