Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rove thinks Palin will run (maybe)

Byron York writes:

Former Bush advisor Karl Rove says he believes former Alaska governor Sarah Palin will enter the Republican presidential race sometime around Labor Day. Appearing on Fox News Saturday morning, Rove said Palin "has a schedule next week that looks like that of a candidate, not a celebrity." Rove also cited a new campaign-style video Palin has released on her recent visit to the Iowa State Fair as evidence Palin is gearing up for a run.

Palin will be the keynote speaker at the Tea Party of America's "Restoring America" event in Iowa September 3. The event location was recently moved from Waukee, Iowa, to Indianola, Iowa to accommodate a larger crowd.

"This is her last chance," Rove said. "She either gets in or gets out [after the Iowa visit]. I think she gets in."

I think it's a mistake ever to take Rove at his word. There's always something else going on, something between the lines, some agenda he's pushing. So what's going on here?

In Republican terms, Rove is certainly anti-Palin, just as he is anti-Perry. With the latter, most of it seems to have to do with old Texas rivalries between Perry and the Bushies. With the former, most of it has to do with the fact that she's a joke. In each case, though, Rove the strategist is concerned about electability, something neither one has much of, particularly Palin. (He's not big on Bachmann either -- and of course Romney isn't a terribly popular candidate among conservatives. It's not a good time to be a smart Republican strategist. And, yes, Rove is certainly politically smart.)

But does Rove really think Palin will jump in, that's she's effectively in pre-campaign mode? Sure, she's acting like a candidate, but she's done that a lot already. Think back to the bus tour. What she craves is not so much political office but attention (and an enhancement to her celebrity status, and, of course, money), and she gets a ton of attention by tantalizing us with a possible presidential run. It's an old story by now, and we shouldn't be taken in by it. Palin can appear to be on the campaign trail, can go to Iowa and steal the spotlight, and can offer herself as GOP kingmaker -- for Perry, one would think, who gives her a way out, as she has said all along that she wouldn't run if someone else suitable were to run instead, and the two are very much on the same page. That doesn't mean she's running, just that she's being herself.

So is Rove being taken in? No, surely not. Instead, Rove's words can be taken as a warning to Palin: This is your last chance. Stop messing with Republicans. We need to get on with it. Get in the race by Labor Day or get the hell out of the way.

Sure, he says he thinks she'll do it, but she doesn't exactly have a lot of time to make up her mind, and Rove knows there's a big difference between acting like a candidate and actually launching a presidential campaign. Maybe she'll do it, but it's hard to know if Rove is actually being serious, or how serious.

But here's another possibility: Maybe Rove actually wants Palin to run as a way to split the right even further. With Palin, Perry, and Bachmann dividing conservative support, a more electable figure like Romney would have an even better shot at the nomination despite whatever low ceiling of support he may have in the party generally.

Who knows what Rove really thinks? Who knows what he's really up to?

It's all a big mystery.


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Chris Christie isn't completely awful (revisited)

He isn't just not an anti-Muslim bigot and isn't just not cruel to rape victims, as we've seen, he's also not a global warming denialist:

In case anyone had any doubts on where Gov. Chris Christie stands on climate change, he made his position crystal clear this afternoon: It's real and it's a problem.

In vetoing a bill (S2946) that would have required New Jersey to stay in a regional program intended to curb greenhouse gases — a program Christie plans to leave by the end of the year — the governor said "climate change is real."

He added that "human activity plays a role in these changes" and that climate change is "impacting our state."

Well, okay. That's a lot to acknowledge -- for a Republican.

Still, it's not clear that Christie actually intends to try to do something meaningful about climate change. He appears to have put his skepticism behind him, seems to respect climate science (and the clear consensus within the scientific community), and for the most part acknowledges the problem ("we know enough to know that we are at least part of the problem"), if not the full extent of the crisis -- and all that certainly distinguishes him within his head-up-the-ass party -- but words, needless to say, even truthful ones, aren't enough. They're a start, and for that he deserves some credit, but the test is whether he puts the state's money where his mouth is.

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Chris Christie isn't completely awful

He's a bully and a blowhard, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has actually done a couple of admirable things recently.

First he appointed a Muslim judge, rejecting fears of the imposition of sharia law and slamming those -- on the right, of course, and distinctly Republican -- who opposed the appointment on ignorant and bigoted grounds:

It's just crazy, and I'm tired of dealing with the crazies. It's just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background. I'm happy that he's willing to serve after all this baloney.

That's awfully refreshing coming from a Republican, that is, from a prominent member of a party that seems to run on bigotry these days. Indeed, it's like he was rejecting his own party, or at least a huge part of it. See the clip below.

Health care providers in New Jersey can no longer bill sexual assault victims for forensic evidence collection.

Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law Thursday that prevents victims from being bill directly for medical screenings, medications for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy tests after an incident.

Christie says sexual assault victims must be treated with respect and compassion. He says this will help ensure their needs are met.

This was a pretty easy call, to be sure, given that victims aren't supposed to be billed directly. But they often are, and, needless to say, that's hardly what a rape victim needs.

Still, as easy as it may have been, or should have been, to sign this bill, the fact is that rape victims all too often aren't treated with respect and compassion, including by those in the political arena, and especially by some on the right.

At least this time, as with his rejection of anti-Muslim bigotry in appointing a Muslim judge, Christie did the right thing.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Eli Manning's 25 INTs in 2010, with hope for better things to come

By Richard K. Barry (with Michael J.W. Stickings)

From time to time this year we are going to amuse ourselves and hopefully others by writing about football (the American variety) at The Reaction. (You may already have noticed that we are also writing about that other game that many call football.)

And though it is still August, the National Football League regular season is really only a few weeks away. If you visit this site at all, you may know that I am a New York Giants fan. I have suffered with them over the years and celebrated when appropriate. (It seems as well that a Pittsburgh Steelers fan posts here every now and then, but he's not around this week so we don't have to worry about that).

Actually, I got back from vacation yesterday evening -- just in time to watch the Steelers trounce the detestable Eagles, a team both of us loathe. (And I'll get back to regular blogging soon.) -- MJWS

I like the Giants' quarterback, Eli Manning. I don't love him. But I like him well enough and think he is a solid, top-tier quarterback. Maybe no Tom Brady, but top-tier.

Wait... what? Top-tier? He's not even top-tier at a family reunion. I can name 28 QBs who are better than he is. Okay, maybe not that many. But he's not top 15 for me, or maybe just barely.

Last year Eli had 25 interceptions. That's a pretty big number. A bunch of these were tipped balls and blown routes, but a bunch more were just bad decisions.

Bad, very bad. Same old story, year after year.

Some helpful soul put together a video of all 25, which I post below. If you dislike the Giants, you may enjoy it for that reason. If you are a fan, it may remind you that with fewer INTs and fumbles in 2011, the G-Men should contend.

I don't dislike them all that much, but I'll certainly enjoy this, being not a fan of the Mannings.

I hope and pray.

Go Steelers!

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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Why should we respect politicians who don't answer the questions they are asked?

Among the many things wrong with how the media covers politics is the way they so often give up on fairly simple "yes or no" / "A or B" type questions when their first attempt to get a straight answer from a politician is batted aside.

Recently, CNN's Wolf Blitzer was interviewing Nikki Haley, the Republican Governor of South Carolina, about the current field of contenders for the GOP presidential nomination. One of the questions was about the "disagreement" between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry on whether or not climate change is man made.

Apparent front-runner Mitt Romney believes the world is getting warmer and that humans contribute to the pattern. Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday called that "a scientific theory that has not been proven."

Okay, Perry doesn't like science. He knows this view will appeal to a lot of idiots who also call themselves Republicans. I don't care.

But when Governor Haley was asked which side of this debate she came down on, she did what many politicians, of all stripes, do all too often. The way she answered was to say something like "what Americans really care about are jobs."

I know why she avoided the question. Giving a direct answer would have perhaps suggested support for either Romney or Perry, and she's not ready to go there. I don't even know if she has a stated opinion on the matter, which, if she did, would only make her answer more foolish.

It is well known that politicians are trained to say whatever they want to say no matter what question is asked. It even has a name. It's called "message discipline." I'm not sure, though, why any self-respecting journalist would embarrass himself by having a direct question ignored.

Think about how you'd feel if in the real world you asked someone what time it was and they answered by saying that it was supposed to rain this afternoon. Welcome to the world of politics.

Perversely, we even consider good message discipline to be the mark of a talented politician and the approach of answering questions too directly the sign of a political neophyte.

When Haley dodged the question, Blizter should have quickly said, "would you mind answering my question?" And then, every time she failed to answer, he should have stopped and respectfully asked that she try again.

I think we could even give this approach a name. It would be called "question discipline." Whenever a politician came on an interview program they would be told what to expect, that they answer direct questions or the interview would not move on.

I know some in the media already do this, but not nearly enough.

I also know I'm dreaming and that this will never happen, but our political discourse would be better if it did. And the only way it will ever change is if journalists start doing their jobs differently.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Photo of the Day: Canoeing on the Terrington Basin, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador (Canada)

I'd like to say that I am in one of those canoes, but I am not. My wife is, though, which is appropriate because she grew up in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador. I came along to see this beautiful part of Canada, but was otherwise engaged when the group took to the river at dusk in early August.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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This day in history - August 18, 1920: The 19th Amendment is ratified giving women the vote

It really is quite incredible to contemplate the fact that women have only been able to vote in the United States since 1920. Specifically, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibited United States citizens from being denied the right to vote based on sex.

Up to that point, most states, having the right to determine qualifications for voting, disenfranchised women.

Thanks in large part to the women's suffrage movement, and women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, women got the vote.

My parents were born in the 1920s. It was simply not that long ago. Positive change does come, just never fast enough.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Will the real GOP establishment ever be comfortable with Rick Perry?

Rick Perry has been in the GOP presidential nomination sweepstakes for all of three days and he already looks like he might flame out quickly. It is possible that everyone was wrong about the quality of his political skills and that this guy was always going to be joke?

First he strongly suggests that President Obama doesn't love his country and that the men and women in uniform don't respect him. Then he calls Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke "almost treasonous" for adopting quantitative easing policy. Three days and he's making a complete ass of himself.

It's been widely reported that there is no love lost between the Bushies and Perry, but it's still interesting to watch the last crowd who knew how to win the White House land on the current Texas governor with both feet.

Here's Karl Rove on the Bernanke comment on Fox News:
It's his first time on the national stage, and it was a very unfortunate comment. You don't accuse the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of being a traitor to his country and being guilty of treason and suggesting that we "treat him pretty ugly in Texas" - that's not, again, a presidential statement... Governor Perry is going to have to fight the impression that he's a cowboy from Texas. This simply adds to it.

And former Bush White House official Pete Wehner writing in Commentary had this to say:
People shouldn't throw around the words "almost treasonous" loosely; and certainly a person running for president shouldn't do such a thing. To say someone is treasonous means he is a traitor to his country. In the long catalogue of crimes an individual can commit, there are not many that are worse than treason...[W]hat the Texas governor said about the Federal Reserve chairman is the kind of blustering, unthinking comment that Perry's critics expect of him. Why he would play to stereotype is hard to fathom. Or, perhaps he's simply being himself. We'll find out soon enough. In the meantime, Perry ought to offer a retraction and apology - then offer a serious intellectual critique of why he believes Ben Bernanke is pursuing injurious policies.

Interesting to me is Wehner's comment that when Perry screws up maybe he's "simply being himself." Seems like that's exactly what Wehner thinks. When Perry is just being Perry, it ain't pretty.

Maybe the point is that this is the first candidate spewing the Tea Party bile who may truly have a shot at the nomination and the Republican establishment is freaking out at the thought. Finally someone who could seriously challenge for the nomination while simultaneously alienating every independent voter in every swing state.

Let Palin say what she wants to say. Who cares? Let Bachmann have Iowa. How much further could she go? Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul? Give me a break.

But Rick Perry? Here we have someone to keep the real campaigners in the Republican Party up at night, and they may have to do whatever they can to discredit this jackass as quickly as they can. Not that he seems to need the help.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A libertarian paradise: Peter Thiel, Seasteading, and the rejection of progress

Get a load o' this:

Pay Pal founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel has given $1.25 million to an initiative to create floating libertarian countries in international waters, according to a profile of the billionaire in Details magazine.

Thiel has been a big backer of the Seasteading Institute, which seeks to build sovereign nations on oil rig-like platforms to occupy waters beyond the reach of law-of-the-sea treaties. The idea is for these countries to start from scratch -- free from the laws, regulations, and moral codes of any existing place.

Details says the experiment would be "a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been unable to advance: no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons."

Oh, libertarians, they're so fucking stupid, aren't they?

I guess Singapore isn't good enough for them, maybe a little too tyrannical for them.

Obviously this sort of, er, community would be a paradise only for the select super-rich -- or, rather, only for a select group of super-rich douchebags. You know, the sort of people who don't give a shit about anyone but themselves, and who would rather live on their own in the middle of the ocean, far away from the rest of humanity. (Their poor children, though.)

Now, I could make a Waterworld joke, but I won't. (That's what we may end up with if the global warming denialists have their way. Maybe that's what these libertarians are preparing for -- that or some other apocalypse they're helping bring about.)

I could also make reference to Hobbes's state of nature, which is pretty much what you get when you take government (and law), including self-government, out of the picture. There, life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." But of course these douchebags would, at least for a time, live according to the conventions of the super-rich. There wouldn't be war "of every man against every man," at least at first.

But you know what? I say bon voyage. Let them try. They don't like the laws that have allowed them to become so rich? They long for the days of child labor? They don't want to be bound by any codes? They want to be completely free -- or at least as completely free as you can be on some small floating artificial island in the middle of the ocean?


But when their paradise turns to hell, when they start warring with one another (with all those guns at their unregulated disposal, with a class system inevitably arising, with humans being humans) or when their "islands" start sinking (or when future generations rebel and demand progress and a more human and civilized way of life), and when they then reach out for help...

Couldn't we then tell them to go fuck themselves?

While we watch the demise of the libertarian dream?

(Before that, though, perhaps we could convince Ron and Rand Paul to move there -- and to take the whole fucking Tea Party with them. Time for them all to walk the walk, it seems to me.)


For more on the whole Seasteading insanity, see here.


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Karl Rove on the perils of GOP radicalism

By Richard K. Barry 

Somehow Karl Rove has become my "go-to-guy" on assessing the relative radicalism and potential "un-electability" of GOP candidates. When Karl gets nervous, I'm having a good day. In fact, The Wall Street Journal is even a bit spooked by this Bachman/Perry surge, so I'm having a very good day, but I digress. 

As Karl said recently on Fox News:

You don't want these candidates moving so right in the Republican primary that it becomes impossible for them to win the general election, because it becomes a self-defeating message in the primary.

People want to win. They don't want somebody who goes so far to the extremes of either party that they lack a chance to carry a victory off in November. 
My point just after Rick Perry got in the race was that he will serve to pull Romney further to the right. This is simply because Romney will now have an opponent powerful enough to force him to defend his right flank. By the time Romney becomes his party's nominee, which he will become, there will be an extensive record of things said he will wish he could take back. 

Romney will have no choice but to rise to Perry's bait and Rove will have been proven right: extremism in the defence of the Tea Party view of the world is no way to win in November 2012. 

Here's Rove saying exactly what is quoted above, but he looks uncomfortable saying it, and I like that.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Rick Perry's ignorance about the meaning of patriotism

Andrew Sullivan cited a comment from Rick Perry recently that hit on one of the things I dislike most about this current crop of conservatives. It's the notion that to disagree with them politically means that one is unpatriotic, really not fit to be an American.

Here's what Perry had to say:
One of the reasons that I'm running for president is that I want to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on a uniform of the United States respects the president of the United States.

I don't think we need to doubt that Perry is saying that the man who currently holds the office doesn't deserve the respect of the men and women in uniform.

This really is unbelievable.

As Sullivan writes:
Putting the respect of troops for the commander-in-chief in question is yet another radical assault on existing traditions and institutions. There is nothing these people won't destroy for power.

No, there is nothing these people won't destroy to defend their ignorant view of the world.

There seems to be no end to the claim that we have to agree with every crackpot radical right-wing extremist about what it means to be an American or we are not, by their judgement, worthy to serve.

Speaking in Iowa on Sunday, Perry added this gem:
I think you want a president who is passionate about America - that's in love with America.

As Steve Benen commented, "Perry didn't explicitly say that the president doesn't love America, but the implication wasn't exactly subtle."

Sometimes they leave me speechless. Do they have any idea how much hatred is involved in their grand pronouncements about love of country?

Will they ever understand that wanting to make America a better place to live for everyone is the surest indication of patriotism?

Not likely on either count.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Wealth and sacrifice: Warren Buffett says the "mega-rich" should pay more in taxes

Warren Buffett's op-ed in today's Times is getting a lot of attention -- and deservedly so. Basically, he argues that the "mega-rich" haven't been asked to sacrifice anything, particularly with respect to taxes, even in this time of supposed "shared sacrifice":

Our leaders have asked for "shared sacrifice." But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks.

Indeed, Buffett says that the income tax he paid last year amounted to only 17.4 percent of his taxable income. That's astonishingly low -- reflective of a tax system that isn't only not progressive but that is designed specifically to benefit the rich above all.

And he actually asks for his taxes to be raised:

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn't mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering. 

I would like to think this is true. Surely the likes of Bill Gates and other of the more progressive mega-rich wouldn't mind paying more in taxes -- within reason, of course. Some, no doubt, would object, but, even then, would it really matter if they had to pay a bit more? They'd still be mega-rich. Taxation wouldn't take the "mega" away. They'd still have way more money than the rest of us.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice. 

Buffett is an admirable man with some admirable ideas, and what he proposes here makes a ton of sense -- just like letting the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire. Raising these rates would go a long way towards fixing America's fiscal mess.

Certainly, asking the mega-rich to make a few sacrifices really isn't too much to ask -- and, again, it's not like this would be a huge sacrifice, even if Republicans will scream at any such attempt to raise taxes, claiming that the "job creators" are being vilified. At a time when even a Democratic president is putting Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block, when cuts to key entitlement programs for the poor are likely to be part of any bipartisan "deal," and when middle class families are facing increasing difficulty making ends meet, the mega-rich should indeed contribute their fair share.

Republicans can scream all they want. Warren Buffett has more credibility than the whole lot of 'em.

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This day in history - August 15, 1969: The Woodstock Music and Arts Festival opens

I've been to Woodstock.
Actually, it was about five or six years after "the" Woodstock happened and I was just killing time with a friend on a bit of a day trip. I grew up probably about an hour and a half from where the festival was staged and thought it might be nice to see where it all happened. 

As you can imagine, by the mid-'70s there wasn't much to see. Nice area, though. 

But, between August 15-18, 1969, in the town of Bethel, New York in Sullivan County, about 43 miles southwest of the town of Woodstock, an event billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music" took place at Max Yagur's dairy farm. 

On these three days, 32 acts performed for around 500,000 people, when only between 150,000 and 200,000 were expected. 

Acts included: Richie Havens, Ravi Shankar, Tim Hardin, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Country Joe McDonald, John Sebastian, Santana, Canned Heat, The Grateful Dead, Credence Clearwater Revival, Janice Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, Joe Cocker, Ten Years After, The Band, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Johnny Winter, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and Jimi Hendrix. 

Pretty good lineup. 

The closest I got to Woodstock that weekend was when my father mentioned that he had been on the New York State Thruway and that a whole slew of beat up cars and vans were clogging up the road heading south (probably on August 18th) and they were completely full of mud. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

"In My Life" by Judy Collins for The Wonder Years

Music on Sunday @ The Reaction

If you grew up in the late '60s and early '70s, maybe went to high school in the early '70s, you might have enjoyed the The Wonder Years, a television program that aired from 1988 to 1993. 

It's not that you wouldn't enjoy the program otherwise, but they did a really good job of tugging at the old hear strings for those of us who could directly relate to this time and the themes depicted. I'm hugely sentimental about this sort of thing and don't care who knows it. 

Although they were never specific about the town depicted, I always assumed it to be a suburb of New York City given the fact that the main character, Kevin Arnold, was a New York Jets and New York Mets fan. Having grown up in the suburbs of New York, I could relate (although I was a Mets and Giants fan). 

All in all, they just did a fine job of getting the period right. 

One thing they did extremely well was to use music to set scenes and evoke emotion. Episode after episode provided yet another opportunity to showcase some of the best music of the period. 

In one scene, the producers used a version of the Beatles' "In My Life," sung by Judy Collins, as the soundtrack for a montage, as was typical for the show (using montages, that is). 

I've always loved this one.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Michele Bachmann wins Ames Straw Poll, cruises to Republican presidential nomination

What you are about to read is true. You know it.


Scene: 24/7 cable news, yesterday, August 13, just after the Ames Straw Poll results were announced.

As you have surely heard by now, because it's more important than 9/11, the first Moon landing, and Nipplegate put together, Michele Bachmann won the contest with 4,823 votes, just ahead Ron Paul with 4,671. Pawlenty finished third with 2,293 but dropped out of the race today. Rick Santorum and Herman Cain finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney came next, though neither one campaigned actively in advance of the contest. Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman the Formidable were even further back. Thad McCotter brought up the rear.

The takeaway, it seems, was clear.


Mainstream Beltway Media (MBM): (channelling Dick Vitale): It's over, baby! Awesome!

Dumb-Ass Regular American (DARA): What is?

MBM: The Republican nomination for president, baby! It's ooooverrrrrrr!!!

DARA: But it was just a straw poll, wasn't it? No one actually voted for anyone. The primaries don't start until... (racking the cobwebs in narcotized brain)... like... like... next year or something.

MBM: Michele Bachmann! She's for real, baby, the real deal! She's unstoppable. The people have spoken!

DARA: Well, just the people who took the time to go to Ames. They're the party fanatics, aren't they? They don't even represent Iowa Republicans, let alone Republicans nationally.

MBM: I can't believe it, baby! I can't believe it!

DARA: And Romney and Perry didn't even campaign for the straw poll. And (summoning something heard ad nauseam on CNN, or MSNBC, or Fox News, OCDically flipping through the channels with beer in hand) aren't they really the two frontrunners now, along with Bachmann? I mean, Perry just got in the race yesterday. Isn't it premature to declare a winner?

MBM: Uh-oh... uh-oh... uh-oh...

DARA: What?

MBM: Rick Perry, baby! The titan from Texas! I believe, baby, I believe! Awesome!

DARA: (cluing in) So basically it doesn't mean anything.
MBM: Oh yes, show... time! Give it up, give it up! Slam! Woooooo!!!!! Woooooo!!!!! Awesome, baby, awesome!!!!!

DARA: (switching from beer to something harder) I wonder if The Bachelor's on.

And so we slide further into the abyss...

(photo 1, photo 2)

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With writing all over the wall, Pawlenty drops out of GOP presidential race

It wasn't so long ago that Tim "T-Paw" Pawlenty was the darling of conservative and generally David Broderesque pundits on the inside, heralded as the sort of appealing "bridge" candidate with executive experience who could unite the GOP's corporatist establishment and Tea Party / theocratic extreme. He looked the part, presidential but also populist, and George Will et al. just couldn't get enough of him -- sufficiently conservative, unlike Mitt Romney, but not crazy, unlike Michele Bachmann. (In this way, he was presented and promoted, with the same punditocratic swooning, just as Mitch Daniels was, it's just that Daniels never jumped in.)

Well, the shine faded pretty quickly as Pawlenty proved to be a terrible candidate -- not charismatic, not arousing of the base -- and, while doing terribly in the polls, proved to be a desperate one as well, trying everything he could to catch on, passing himself off, despite a fairly technocratic record in Minnesota (where he was anything but an ideologue), as both a devout social conservative (anti-gay, anti-abortion, etc.) and a hardline fiscal one (anti-tax, anti-spending, etc.).

Quickly, the punditocracy jumped ship, with even Will beginning to say nice things about Bachmann. And, really, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable dropping out. Even his wife was saying implicitly disparaging things about his chances.

Basically, if he couldn't do well in the Ames Straw Poll -- that is, in Iowa, close to home, where once upon a time (pre-Bachmann) it looked like he had a shot -- that was it. The writing was going to be on the wall for everyone to see.

And he didn't, finishing third behind Bachmann and Ron Paul in a contest that didn't feature Romney and Rick Perry (or at least for which they didn't actively campaign). Which isn't all that bad, perhaps, but he needed to do a lot better, particularly after sinking so much energy into it.

But it wasn't just Ames. Pawlenty never once caught fire, never once looked like a serious contender. And while there may still be room for a "bridge" candidate to emerge between Romney and Bachmann/Perry, it was clear that he wasn't going to be it.

And why? Who knows? Maybe he didn't want it enough. Maybe there isn't much of a constituency for someone like him in today's Republican Party. Maybe he's just too small for the national stage. Maybe he never really found himself, hence his desperate struggle for attention. Whatever the case, he seemed to wither and shrivel up as the campaign went along, hanging on at the very bottom of a weak and embarrassing field with the likes of Rick Santorum. That's sad company, to be sure.

And now it's over. We won't have T-Paw to kick around anymore. Not that anyone was paying much attention anyway.


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Random thoughts on the GOP presidential field

Michele Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll. I understand that it's an important indicator of how a GOP presidential contender might fare over time. I get it. Although the fact that she barely beat Ron Paul, who is a perfect example of a crazy fringe candidate, doesn't exactly make the results unequivocally useful, as far as I can tell.

I understand that this will make it easier for her to raise money and to get some wind in her sails (and any number of other metaphors you might be able to think of).

But she is not going to win the Republican nomination. Conjuring up Dana Carvey's brilliant George Bush senior impersonation: "Not gonna happen."

It's still probably going to be Romney. I guess Texas Gov. Rick Perry's announcement complicates things, though I was intrigued by the assessment of a few pundits who thought that we would be able to tell very quickly if he was the real deal or not.

I'm not sure I know what that is supposed to mean. Does it mean that either all of the Tea Party /social conservative energy in the campaign comes to him more or less immediately, in which case he becomes the consensus choice anti-Romney? Or that a number of candidates continue to share the hard-right constituency, in which case his campaign never really takes off?

Maybe that's their point.

I must say that I loved Paul Begala's description of Perry as "the perfect candidate for those Republicans who viewed George W. Bush as just a little too cerebral."

But is that a problem?

Unkind as this may be, I could modify that famous H.L. Mencken quote to say that "nobody ever lost electoral ground overestimating the intelligence of the average Republican voter." So maybe being duller than George won't be a bad thing for Perry.

Judging from Perry's campaign launch speech, which contained every standard fare Tea Party / social conservative speaking point, he will not be doing anything to alienate the radical right and he will not be forcing anyone on that side of things to think outside the box they've made for themselves. No, no, no.

And as I suggested yesterday, if you base your campaign on pandering to the radical right, you might be able to win the GOP nomination, but the general election would be a much harder nut to crack.

So here's the radical prediction of the day:

Perry's candidacy will eventually force Bachmann out. They appeal to the same constituency and he's going to be a better standard bearer.

Palin will endorse Perry. She has been saying all along that she will only run if no one meeting her criteria steps forward. Perry will be her guy and that will matter.

Most importantly, this will become a Romney - Perry street fight and the campaign will move decidedly to the right as Romney attempts to counter claims from Perry that he is not sufficiently conservative.

And, the prefect storm for the Democrats will have just gotten perfecter. The Tea Party and fellow travellers will have found their candidate. And, even if Romney is the eventual nominee, as I still think he will be, he will have had to tack so far to the right that independents will no longer be available to him.

In the short term, the Democrats have needed one effective, theoretically electable, Republican presidential contender to force Romney to the far right. Bachmann was never that contender. She's not that serious. Perry is.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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