The Oregon nuts

Great post, per usual, from Bill Ayers:

The chief question, one raised every time a group of citizens finds itself opposed to a government policy, is: how is opposition to be legitimately expressed? If I don’t like a government policy, what should (or shouldn’t) I try to do about it, and what are the limits to my opposition? …

Setting aside their views on the particular issues of federal land management and ownership, their strategy was both ridiculous and doomed to failure from the start. It was ridiculous in that no government and no society can function if the means of opposition is to take up arms and issue demands. If groups did this every time they didn’t like a policy decision, we would quickly become a country of armed camps. It’s an absurd way to conduct politics.

No government, of any kind, is going to give in to demands under such circumstances. To do otherwise would set a precedent in which groups would know that if they want to win on their pet issue, they need to arm themselves and find some federal building (or set of employees) to take hostage. The idea of any government – democratic, authoritarian, or anything else – meeting such a demand is extremely difficult to entertain.

What the Bundy boys did was not just misunderstand the law, or the Constitution. They misunderstood politics fundamentally. In any society, there is ultimately a choice to be made about how resources will be allocated and distributed and how rules will be established and maintained. Either there is a process for establishing those rules that involves consultation and assent from some (or all) of the population, or the rules are established and enforced by whoever has the most and biggest guns. Law and violence are the basic choices here. Either we agree on something, or we fight it out.

Good stuff.  Now let’s put these guys in prison for a long time.  I’m quite content to let out some non-violent drug dealers to make room.

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Democrats’ best friend? Jeb

Apparently, Bush’s “Right to Rise” pack has been working hard on trying to take down Rubio under the presumption that Jeb will be able to pull off his voters and be “the” establishment guy.  Seems unlikely to work, but as Rubio seems to clearly be far and away the most electable candidate with an actual chance at the GOP nomination, this is great for Democrats.  Ryan Lizza on the case:

As Bush sank and Rubio rose in the polls last fall, Bush’s theory of the race was that Rubio, the candidate many mainstream conservatives have championed as their best chance to defeat Trump and Ted Cruz, was his immediate obstacle. The Bush onslaught against Rubio may end up being the most expensive and sustained negative attack of 2016….

But, by late December, the group had mostly given up running pro-Bush ads or mentioning any candidate but Rubio. In “Briefing,” Rubio is depicted as an absentee senator who skipped crucial intelligence briefings after the Paris and San Bernardino terrorist attacks in order to raise money in California and New Orleans. “Politics first, that’s the Rubio way.” Then, in “Promotion,” the Super PAC continued the attack on Rubio’s missed votes, calling Rubio a “Washington politician” who “doesn’t show up for work but wants a promotion.”

Most recently, the group depicted Rubio as a weathervane who “opposed amnesty,” “flipped and worked with liberal Chuck Schumer to co-author the path-to-citizenship bill,” “threatened to vote against it,” “voted for it,” and then “supported his own DREAM Act” before “he abandoned it.” The tag line was the toughest yet: “Marco Rubio. Just another Washington politician we can’t trust.”

The funniest anti-Rubio ad, which reveals a bit of Murphy’s mischievous sense of humor, is called “Boots,” and features an actor wearing a suit and a pair of Rubio’s famous thick-heeled shoes—a Christmas present from his wife—dancing in front of a psychedelic backdrop to the music of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” The lyrics have been modified:

These boots are made for flippin’
And that’s just what they’ll do
One of these days young Marco’s
Gonna flip, flop, flip on you
You keep spinnin’ when you oughta be truthin’
You keep flippin’ when you shoulda not flop
You keep leavin’ when you oughta be votin’
Now what’s work is work, but you ain’t earned it yet.

Ahhh, good stuff!  And doing the Democrats work for them because it is really hard to see Jeb winning this thing:

Bush and his allies can hardly be faulted for pursuing what they believe is their best strategy to secure the Republican nomination, and recently Rubio’s allies have been returning fire with their own anti-Bush ads. But the two sides may end up in a murder-suicide pact similar to the one on the Democratic side, in 2004, when the Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean campaigns tore each other down before the Iowa primaries, allowing John Kerry to rise.

If Bush somehow gets his way and the Republican nominating contest does turn into a two-way race between Bush and Trump, Republican voters would be choosing from the two most unpopular candidates that the party has offered up this year. Trump’s average unfavorability rating is fifty-four per cent, just a point above Bush’s.

Even though it has taken a hit recently, there’s one Republican candidate’s unfavorability rating that has remained relatively low, at just forty per cent: Marco Rubio. It probably won’t stay there, and, each point that it goes up, the odds of a Trump nomination increase. At that point, a lot more Republicans are going to have to shift to an unfamiliar stage in the cycle of grief: acceptance.

Trump wins again

Damn this man is a master of media exploitation.  I guarantee you his decision to skip the latest debate is getting him way more press coverage than if had ever just participated in the latest of a series of debates of increasingly marginal value.  Drum gets it right:

Donald Trump has figured out yet again how to dominate the news cycle: he’s announced that he won’t participate in Thursday’s debate on Fox because host Megyn Kelly isn’t fair to him. It’s childish, but it’s probably a smart move. The debate likely wouldn’t help him much, but with everyone gunning for him there’s at least a chance it could hurt him. And since Trump’s appeal is mostly rooted in grievance culture, picking a fight like this probably goes over well with his base. Besides, as you can see, his announcement got him a ton of press.

As does Amy Davidson:

It could be that his exit from the debate stage was, from his perspective, perfectly timed—a second before he and the audience got bored. In the first debate, Trump’s presence on the stage with “real” politicians elevated him, but at this point the setting would diminish anyone. The debates are no longer what Trump might call a classy venue.  Fox’s announcement of the lineup, shortly before Trump stormed off, likely didn’t help. Rand Paul, who had been excluded last time because of low poll numbers, made it back onto the main stage, for a total of eight participants. In a well-run reality show, the field is quickly winnowed down. This one is getting bigger. And so Trump went off to look for a more exclusive club, at his own rallies in Iowa and, soon, everywhere.

Sure, some of the media coverage for skipping is negative, but since when has negative media coverage ever hurt Trump’s campaign? :-).

Marc Thiessen says this hurts Trump, but Thiessen is an idiot (and a foremost torture apologist) and claims that it makes Trump look weak and is insulting to Iowa voters.  Please, Trump’s supporter love his absurdly macho rhetoric and skipping a debate won’t change that.  And it’s hard to imagine insulting voters more than telling them you know they’d still support you even if you shot someone.

Anyway, more evidence that although he may be a dangerous blowhard, Trump is a master at playing the media in this campaign.

Photo of the day

Another from the animals riding on animals gallery.  This is amazing:

Terrapins take a break and rest on the back of a hippo in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Terrapins take a break and rest on the back of a hippo in Kruger National Park, South AfricaPicture: Stephen Earle / Barcroft Media

What do you want a president to do?

Interesting piece from Dave Roberts on who would be a better president between Clinton and Sanders.  Here’s what he comes up with:

Clinton and Sanders are not nearly as far apart on policy as both sides would currently have us believe, as Jonathan Cohn argued in a recent column. And the differences between them pale next to their shared differences with any Republican in the race (hence electability becoming the dominant question).

What’s more, Cohn points out, both would spend their time in office staving off Republicans, not passing their dream bills.

The last point is worth expanding.

In 2016, barring some truly disruptive political event (which, who knows, Trump may prove to be), Republicans are going to keep control of the House of Representatives. They may keep control of the Senate as well, though that’s less certain, but all they need to block any hope of an expansive legislative agenda is the House, something Obama has learned over and over again.

So there will be no single-payer health care, no national carbon tax, no free college, no reparations. Given the current disposition of the Republican Party, it will be a miracle if regular-order business like budgets and debt ceiling bills can get through — if the government can keep functioning at all.

On legislation, the next Democratic president (if there is one) will mostly play defense, using the filibuster or, if necessary, the veto pen.

What progress there is on domestic policy will come from inventive, assertive use of executive power and smart appointments, both judicial and administrative… [emphases mine; big bold fonts/headings in original]

What it takes to succeed as a Democratic president these days

Obama’s success has required two things. One is the self-possession and confidence to weather the disapproval of VSPs and the mau-mauing of Republican opponents. (A big part of this is settling on the right advisers for the inner circle.)

The second is a good sense of the executive machinery and how it might be deployed to positive effect. Most of Obama’s second-term domestic victories have been bureaucratic: getting the military to sign off on LGBTQ soldiers and female combat troops, finding new ways to extend the Clean Air Act, raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers, and the like…

Time to compare the candidates based on how well they’d do what they could actually do

Which brings us back to Clinton and Sanders. If they are both serious candidates for president, then they should be treated like job candidates, evaluated on the qualities that are likely to affect their performance.

How liberal they are willing to talk during a primary is not one of those qualities. Their opinions on single-payer health care are not hugely relevant, nor are their stances on breaking up big banks, carbon taxes, serious gun control, or reparations for slavery.

How they talk about these aspirational issues can tell us something about their priorities, of course. But in practice, they are going to be hemmed in to the point that circumstances, more than priorities, will dictate opportunities.

Success, then, will come from seizing those opportunities when they arise, and making the most of them. It will come from understanding and manipulating the levers of the bureaucracy, from being ruthless about taking incremental wins wherever they can be found, from taking the long view and not overreacting to the hysterical, endless fluctuations in elite DC opinion…

Even though idealistic Democratic primary voters may not want to hear it, when it comes to domestic policy, the Democratic contest is about who will be best at securing Obama’s accomplishments against Republican attack, exploiting incremental advances when they become possible, and manipulating the personalities and power centers inside Washington.

It’s about who will be the best grinder. That’s not the job the candidates, the media, and the public are talking about, but it’s the job Democrats are hiring a president to do.

You read through that, up and until the last sentence, and you are just sure that Roberts’ endorsement of Clinton will follow.  Yet, somehow he comes down on “who knows.”  Seriously?  How can you write that and argue that Sanders could possibly be better suited for the type of presidency Roberts describes.  Give me strong Democratic majorities, and maybe we’ve got a different story.  But in this scenario?  Please, it’s almost hard to imagine a Clinton supporter didn’t write all that.

In a similar and more concise vein, Drum:

Bottom line: given the realities of American politics, they’d both be highly constrained in what they can accomplish in the White House. It doesn’t matter what’s in their hearts. What matters is (a) whether they can win in November and (b) what kind of deals they can broker with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

Anybody who’s read my blog for a while can guess where I fall on this. I think Bernie has done a great job of pushing Hillary a bit to the left and demonstrating that she can expect continued pressure on that front. But the truth is that Hillary wins on both points A and B. She’s not the most charismatic politician in the world, but as we all like to say, we’re voting for president, not someone to have a beer with. What’s more, I’ve long admired her tenacity; her ability to withstand decades of crude invective and political destruction derby; and her very obvious, lifelong commitment to using politics as a way of improving people’s lives. There have been a million noxious compromises along the way, but that’s how politics works in the real world. Plus I’d love to see a woman in the White House.

I like Bernie. I like what he says. If I believed he could do all the stuff he talks about, he’d have my vote. But I don’t.

Pretty much totally agree.  There’s a reason that Drum has long been my favorite blogger.

Anyway, I’ve got no great PS insight on this matter.  The truth is, PS doesn’t really have a lot to offer on what it takes to make a good president.  That said, it does offer a hard-headed analysis of likely political situation as described by Roberts and Drum (and many others).  And it’s hard for me to see the case that Sanders is somehow better suited to this situation than is Clinton.

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