Saturday, April 11, 2015

The idea of Scott Walker

By Richard K. Barry

Everything is going to be about Hillary Clinton this weekend, but there are other things going on.

A new poll was released on Friday that shows the union-bashing governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, leading all GOP challengers in New Hampshire.
The NH1 poll released Friday shows Walker, the Wisconsin governor, leading Bush, 23 percent to 17 percent – outside the margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Paul, the first-term Kentucky senator, is at 15 percent.

The three leaders are the only candidates to register in double figures. The next tier is led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (9 percent), who entered the race last month, and businessman Donald Trump (8 percent), who is toying with a potential candidacy for the second consecutive election cycle.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is expected to join the race next month, is next with 7 percent, following by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 6 percent. Rounding out the field are former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (6 percent), businesswoman Carly Fiorina (2 percent) and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (2 percent).

We all know that if Jeb falters, Walker could be the guy to take advantage. He may be acceptable to establishment Republicans and remain attractive to hard-core conservatives, thus squaring the circle.

The problem is that we simply have not seen enough of Walker to know how he will perform. And the more he opens his mouth, the more core constituencies will have an opportunity to judge him.

As an idea, the man has legs. As a real flesh-and-blood candidate, we don't know yet.

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Oh, Governor O'Malley, your words are so beautiful

By Richard K. Barry

Hello, central casting? We need someone to
play a presidential candidate.

Though former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley hasn't made a decision about whether he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination, he's out and about talking like a candidate. This week he was in Iowa.
“For 30 years we’ve followed this trickle-down theory of economics that said, ‘Concentrate wealth at the very top, remove regulation and keep wages low so we can be competitive – whatever the hell that means,” O’Malley says.

“What it led to was the first time since the Second World War where wages have actually declined, rather than going up – where almost all of the new income earned in this recovery has gone to the top 1%,” he says, invoking the famous phrase from the Occupy Wall Street protests.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” he continues, arguing, “these things are not effects that blew in on a gulf stream or on a polar vortex – these are the products of the policy choices we made over these 30 years.”

O’Malley says the system is rigged “in many ways” – a concern pressed by the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of the Democratic Party – and contends middle class priorities should be “at the center of our economic theory.”

The crazy thing is that in American politics talk like that makes you a lefty radical, instead of what it should it make you, which is a person who understands reality. 


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It's in Hillary Clinton's interest to get a viable nomination challenger

By Richard K. Barry

You see? I too can check my BlackBerry
in a cool sort of way.

Well, viable. What does that mean? Hillary Clinton is not going to lose the Democratic nomination this time so "viable" apparently means someone who can stand on the stage with her so voters pay some attention to the nomination process.

Politics is theatre and lack of competition, any competition, is not good box office.

Even aside from a challenge from the left to make Hillary talk about the kinds of things her Wall Street backers won't appreciate, there is the issue of a good show, something the Democratic Party should care about.

So who are we talking about?

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, former Virginia senator Jim Webb, and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders — the trio who have shown the greatest interest in mounting a challenge to Clinton — face a steep path, Democratic operatives say, while the two most famous names mentioned as potential challengers — Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren — seem increasingly far from running.

Lincoln Chafee, the former Rhode Island senator and governor, emerged in the last few days to stake a possible claim to be the Clinton alternative, raising Warren-like concerns about Clinton’s closeness to Wall Street. But he’s a maverick whose shift from Republican to independent to Democrat is unlikely to excite the progressive base.

[ . . . ]

Nonetheless, Clinton aides point to O’Malley as the most viable alternative candidate, believing he will eventually pick up support from many of the liberal activists currently urging Warren to run. The silver lining in his low name recognition is that he has an opportunity to introduce himself to the American people on his own terms.

Okay, it's O'Malley, whom I suspect is being pressured to run even from those who want Hillary to win. Is it really a bad thing for Clinton to gently beat back a challenge from the left to show moderate voters she's a serious person, not at all a flaky lefty? And are so-called progressive voters, such as they are, really going to abandon her in November of 2016? Don't think so.

Again, the Democratic Party, and Clinton's campaign, should be thinking about how to keep interest high, and how not to cede all the media coverage over the next year to the crazy goings on that will characterize the Republican primary process.

Isn't that the important thing?

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Behind the Ad: The RNC starts the Hillary attacks

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Republican National Committee

Where: Swing states: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina and Iowa.

What's going on: On Sunday, Hillary Clinton will announce her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president. Republicans will start slinging mud as soon thereafter as they possibly can. Ya gotta love 'em.

In a series of web ads, the GOP will do their Fox News best to sully the reputation of the former first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of state by "
highlighting controversies while Clinton was secretary of state and questions about foreign donations to her foundation."
"From the East Wing to the State Department, Hillary Clinton has left a trail of secrecy, scandal and failed liberal policies that no image consultant can erase," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. "Voters want to elect someone they can trust and Hillary's record proves that she cannot be trusted. We must 'Stop Hillary.'"

Thank you Eddie Munster, I mean Reince Priebus. 

Partisanship aside, nothing about these ads strikes me as effective. The second in particular seems like frat house humour. You can almost hear Priebus and his pals giggling as they screen the rough cuts. 

So much of how Republicans campaign is to pitch the message to the already convinced. They won't win that way. 

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)


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Hillary and Bill in a post-Citizens United world

By Richard K. Barry

Well, that’s a frightening thought. And, in fact, according to a piece in The Daily Beast, “the nascent campaign will embark on a fundraising push that the Clinton camp says will dwarf anything seen in the history of presidential politics.”

“They are going to raise in one week what some Republican presidential candidates are going to raise the entire cycle,” said one Clinton aide.

[. . .]

Bill and Hillary Clinton have always been prodigious Democratic fundraisers, but they will enter the 2016 election cycle as newcomers to the post-Citizens United world of campaign finance. Super PACs associated with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), for example, have raised $31 million since he announced his campaign last week. And former Florida governor Jeb Bush has embarked on a “shock and awe” fundraising blitz to overwhelm his Republican rivals.

If you’re in the game, you have to play by the rules such as they are. It’s still depressing to imagine who the Clintons will owe when the moving van pulls up to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Hillary Clinton is a damn fine politician - full stop

By Richard K. Barry

According to the Washington Post, when Hillary Clinton announces her intentions to seek her party’s presidential nomination, she is expected to “go small – real small.”
When the presumed Democratic front-runner announces her 2016 bid in the coming days, expect a Facebook post, a video, maybe some tweets. Then it’s off on the trail to meet one-on-one and in small groups with voters in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

The approach — described by Democratic strategists and advisers familiar with her plans — is intended to address some of the key shortcomings of Clinton’s 2008 run for the White House, when she often came off as flat and overly scripted before large crowds. The go-slow, go-small strategy, these advisers say, plays to her strengths, allowing her to meet voters in intimate settings where her humour, humility and policy expertise can show through.

People have been asking for some time if Hillary Clinton is any good at running for office.

Although I have my issues with her , particularly the right-ish ideological slant, I think the hand-wringing is bullshit. She’ll do fine, particularly in comparison to some of the clowns that are presented as having campaign skills, especially among GOP pretenders.

It may be a good idea to start off slow if only because the media will be looking to criticize her every move as soon as things start, so why not give them a smaller target?

The fact of the matter is that she is the best option the Democrats have, at least in terms of electability. She will campaign well and she will make a fine president. Those who are as frightened as I am of what has become of the GOP should get behind her early and enthusiastically.

And one more thing: The misogyny is going to be very annoying, just like it was in 2008. Count on it.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Thursday, April 09, 2015

On the Hustings


Business Insider: "Hillary Clinton will announce her 2016 campaign this weekend" (Hunter Walker)

Quinnipiac University Poll: "Paul blooms as Clinton wilts in Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, swing state poll finds"

Washington Post: "Lincoln Chafee, exploring 2016 run, says Clinton’s Iraq vote should disqualify her" (Phillip Rucker)

New York Times: "2016 ambitions turn Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush protégé, into rival" (Michael Barbaro)

Associated Press: "Top Dems seek alternative Pennsylvania Senate candidate" (Marc Levy)


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Does Rand Paul have any idea how this is done?

By Richard K. Barry

Zero, zip, nada 

As Marina Koren at the National Journal writes, "One day into his presidential campaign, Rand Paul is building a reputation that could be hard to shake: When he's confronted by reporters—especially women reporters—about things he doesn't want to talk about, he gets antagonistic."

In an appearance on NBC's Today show Wednesday morning, Sen. Paul got rather huffy with Savannah Guthrie, which you can see below.

If you are a Republican and you think Sen. Paul is doing well by standing up to an aggressive reporter, you don't get it. In any case, Guthrie's opening question was not that confrontational. Reporters are going to ask questions about anything that looks like a change in position over time. That's all she was doing.

If Sen. Paul can't handle something this easy, he's going to melt down when things really get tough. And they will get tough.

Yes, he will appeal to the true believers among his supporters when he pushes back against the lame-stream media, but there are never enough true believers to go around to win anything significant, at least not at the national level.

I wouldn't vote for the man under any circumstances, but it's sad to see this kind of amateur hour so early in the game.

And let's not forget the condescending way he speaks to women. That's not going to help either.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

On Gov. Christie's style, such as it is

By Richard K. Barry

There you go. That's the attitude voters love so much.

According to the Wall Street Journal, NJ Gov. Chris Christie is defending himself against charges of general douchebaggery by arguing that he intentionally avoids saying "the blandest, most vanilla thing." Sure, he risks offending voters, but that's a good thing.

As he says, "I try to reach a balance. That's going to lead to good moments and some not-so-good moments."

Perhaps someone should inform Gov. Christie that the opposite of bland is not obnoxious.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)


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Behind the Ad: An attack on Rand Paul from the right as he launches his campaign

Who: The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America (a 501(c)4 group)

Where: On Fox News this week in the first four early primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

What’s going on: The New York Times reports that “it is unusual for an outside group to try to swamp a candidate’s announcement day, but Mr. Paul has been viewed with deep concern by foreign policy hawks for his noninterventionist views.”
“The Senate is considering tough new sanctions on Iran,” the ad’s narrator intones. “President Obama says he’ll veto them and Rand Paul is standing with him. Rand Paul supports Obama’s negotiations with Iran. But he doesn’t understand the threat.”

The audio then cuts to a recording from a 2007 interview in which Mr. Paul, talking about Iran as he defended his father’s world views, said, “You know, it’s ridiculous to think that they’re a threat to our national security.”

The ad uses the tried-and-true imagery of a nuclear explosion with the narrator saying “Rand Paul is wrong and dangerous. Tell him to stop siding with Obama because even one Iranian bomb would be a disaster.”

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Cue the all-out media assault on Hillary Clinton

By Michael J.W. Stickings

What else is new?
As of course you know, if you pay even the slightest attention to American politics, and probably even if you don't, Hillary Clinton is running for president. She just hasn't announced it yet.

But the announcement is coming soon. Perhaps very soon.

And so you know what's coming, right? Not just an escalation of the Republican assault on Hillary, Bill, and all things Clinton, but a media hit job as well.

And I'm not just talking about the usual suspects over on the right-wing noise machine. No, it's the "lamestream" media, so much itself the target of cynical right-wing attacks, that will be right in the middle of this all-out assault, aiding and abetting Republicans and their own media mouthpieces as they do everything they can to bring the Clintons down and derail Hillary's frontrunning campaign, much as they did back in the '90s when they did everything they could to derail Bill's presidency.

Not that this will be much of a change. The anti-Clinton campaign has been in swing for some time now, and one could argue that it's been going on for many years now. But the swing will turn full.

And, indeed, it has already begun. Cue Politico, of course:

The Secret Lives of Hillary and Bill in the White House

Broken lamps, shouting matches, sneaking away to the pool—and other scenes from the Clinton residence during the Lewinsky scandal.

Read it for yourself, if you must, but I assure you it's a shameless piece of sensationalistic gossip and hearsay, mostly quoting anonymous "domestics," household staffers, that seeks to tear down not just Bill and Hillary but Chelsea as well (who apparently called Secret Service agents "pigs," explaining that that's what her parents called them -- the article actually ends with that, as if there's nothing else to say, as if there's no other side to the story, as if there's no doubt that that happened and that the Clinton's are awful).

But I would recommend avoiding it, because it's nothing new, this hit job, and if you pay even the slightest attention to American politics leading up to the 2016 election you'll no doubt hear much more just like it, such is, and will be, the seeming ubiquity of the effort to destroy Hillary.

It may be the surest thing, even surer than Hillary winning the Democratic nomination, of the 2015-16 Crazy Season.

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On the Hustings

Chicago Tribune: "Chicago mayoral race: Garcia concedes defeat to Emanuel"

New York Times: "Rand Paul announces presidential run" (Jeremy M. Peters and Alan Rappeport)

New York Times: "Rand Paul's challenge: Libertarians are still a small minority" (Nate Cohn)

The Hill: "Bill Clinton plans to be 'backstage adviser' to Hillary's 2016 run" (Bill Kamisar)

Huffington Post: "Dick Cheney takes on Obama in new book"


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Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Sen. Rand Paul announces with a platform sure to fail

By Richard K. Barry

As expected, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky declared himself a candidate for the Republican nomination for president on Tuesday hoping, as the New York Times writes, "to disprove those in his own party who doubt that a fiercely libertarian conservative can be a serious contender."
“I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government,” Mr. Paul wrote in a post on his website on Tuesday.

Funny thing is that conservatives don't really believe in libertarianism as such. They believe in libertarianism when it means limiting the ability of their opponents to achieve their political goals. Think reproductive rights or gay marriage. And conservatives certainly don't believe in limited government if it means curtailing the ability of the United States to kick ass and take names around the globe.

Sen. Paul is going to get spanked by his own party.

Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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What do you do with a problem like Bill (Clinton)?

By Richard K. Barry

Sorry, I can't make him stop.

The Hill is reporting that staffers hired for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign “have been told that they must be ready to start their campaign roles at any moment — starting Monday.”

Given that Clinton signed the lease for a campaign office a few days ago and thus “started the clock on the 15 days the Federal Election Commission gives candidates from starting campaign activity to announcing their candidacy,” this is hardly news.

What I do find interesting is mention in the same story that “she will not be accompanied by her husband former President Bill Clinton” when “she launches her campaign and begins traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire.”

Bill is a legendary campaigner, but his baggage is considerable. And you never really know what he might say, not to mention that he could overshadow almost anyone.

Maybe a good problem to have, but still a problem.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Monday, April 06, 2015

Rand Paul: A gag-worthy campaign slogan

By Richard K. Barry

Hmmm, how stupid do I think voters are?

Politico is reporting that Rand Paul will soon announce a new campaign slogan: “Defeat the Washington machine. Unleash the American dream."
The slogan, beneath the RANDPAC logo of a torch flame, will be unveiled tomorrow as the senator kicks off a five-day, five-state announcement tour – starting in Kentucky and then going to New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa and Nevada (plus a Friday night fundraiser in Newport Beach, Calif.). The slogan is designed to set a theme that would work in both the primaries and the general election.

Has American politics really become so simple minded and devoid of analysis? All we need do is get government out of the way and the American dream will become a reality for everyone. Right.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Hillary Clinton: The art of faking sincerity

By Richard K. Barry

While I’m on the topic of a presidential candidate’s likeability, do you remember when then-Sen. Obama said “You’re likable enough, Hillary” on the campaign trail in 2008?

The obvious point was that Hillary Clinton was more than a little out of touch with the average American voter after years as political royalty.

The question now, as Ben Kamisar at The Hill asks, is how will Hillary Clinton formally announce her candidacy in a way that makes her attractive or, sorry for this, “relatable” to the American people?

Peter Fenn, a Democratic consultant, says, “[p]eople want to know their candidate for president, they want to feel them, see what makes them tick, that’s what she did when she ran for Senate in New York.”
A Democratic strategist added that the quest to paint Clinton as relatable starts as early as the announcement video. He called her 2008 announcement video, which had her sitting alone in a living room, “tone deaf.”

“The knock against Hillary in the last campaign was: Can she convey some humanity and feeling and concern for other folks?”

It’s not her strength. We’ll see how it goes. And it all starts with the announcement.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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