Extreme-Right House Faction Is Revolting

[ Posted Wednesday, June 7th, 2023 – 16:33 UTC ]

[Editorial Note: OK, guilty as charged. Sometimes the temptation to run a double-meaning "...Is Revolting" headline is just too much for me to resist. Hence today's title. Mea culpa and all that sort of thing. Ahem.]

It's hard not to poke at least a little bit of fun at Speaker Kevin McCarthy's problems with the most fractious and unruly members of his caucus right now, since the whole episode is such weak tea compared to the strength the Freedom Caucus and the whole MAGA faction were supposed to have leveraged over McCarthy. They haven't exactly turned into paper tigers, but I've read more than one article in the past 24 hours which used the term "defanged," which seems about right.

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Christie Ready To Storm Trump's Beaches

[ Posted Tuesday, June 6th, 2023 – 15:58 UTC ]

Seventy-nine years ago today, the forces of the free world attacked the fascist Nazi regime in northern France. This year, the Ukrainian military is marking the anniversary of D-Day by starting their own counteroffensive against occupying Russian forces. Back here at home, Chris Christie will be announcing his bid to take on Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. There are obvious moral parallels that can be drawn between these events, but today we're going to leave that to others (for the most part).

Instead let's take a look at what Christie's chances are for either winning the nomination or at least successfully taking Donald Trump out of the running. Others are also examining this today, but from what I've read so far, most of them are getting a few things wrong in their analysis.

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Pence Makes It Official

[ Posted Monday, June 5th, 2023 – 16:02 UTC ]

Mike Pence made it official today by filing his paperwork to launch his 2024 presidential bid. He will hold a public announcement event on Wednesday, in Des Moines, Iowa. Pence has close to a zero percent chance of winning the Republican nomination, with his chances for possibly reprising his role as vice president hovering at somewhat less than zero. There doesn't seem to be any viable path forward for Pence, which seemingly everyone but Pence can clearly see.

Pence won't be running a vanity campaign. Everyone already knows his name, after all. The only possible explanations for him believing he has a shot at the nomination are that he is either completely delusional, or perhaps chasing some "divinely-inspired" pipe dream. To put this another way, I could see Mike Pence thinking that God is thinking that Mike Pence should be the next president of the United States. Other than those two, though, there doesn't seem to be any explanation for Pence being in the race.

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Friday Talking Points -- Crisis Averted

[ Posted Friday, June 2nd, 2023 – 16:57 UTC ]

And so it all ended with a whimper and not a bang. President Joe Biden will sign the bill passed by both houses of Congress to increase the debt ceiling until after the 2024 elections. The bill is a clear victory for Biden, since it contains very little (virtually any) of the initial Republican budget-slashing demands. But Biden couldn't come out and say how good a deal he got from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy until now, because if he had done so it would have fed into the resistance by the farthest-right members of Congress, but now that the bill has safely been passed Biden has scheduled an Oval Office address for later today (7:00 PM, Eastern Time). We should note this is too late for anything he says to be addressed or included here in this column, but we will definitely be watching Biden speak later on today. [Editorial Note: we did listen to Biden's address, and we know it may be hard to believe, but we had picked out our "Crisis Averted" headline before Biden used the phrase tonight.]

All week long, the hurdles were cleared. Over the Memorial Day weekend the deal was announced and then publicly revealed, then after the week began the House voted and the Senate followed. The parliamentary stumbling blocks were easily cleared during the entire process. The most remarkable thing about the week was how downright low-key it was, at least looking back on it. Two party leaders hammered out a deal, both sides claimed it was as good a deal as they were going to get, and then the votes were impressively bipartisan in both houses. In the House, the vote was 314 to 117, with 149 Republicans voting for it (over two-thirds of them). More Democrats voted for it than Republicans, showing that Biden was successful in getting a good deal for his party. The Senate vote was 63 to 36, with only 17 Republicans voting for it, but for these days that's still pretty impressive.

One thing we would bet our bottom dollar will be included in Biden's address tonight: bragging about how he has fulfilled one of his campaign promises in a big way, by bringing bipartisanship back to Washington. Even with divided control of Congress, Biden still got a fairly good deal that all the centrists in both parties wound up supporting. He will doubtlessly present this as a very good thing for the country at large, and he'll mostly be right.

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It's Not How Many Get In, It's When They Get Out

[ Posted Thursday, June 1st, 2023 – 16:08 UTC ]

Can Donald Trump be defeated in the Republican presidential primaries? The safe answer, if one were inclined to place a bet at this stage of the game, is a pretty clear "No." Trump is absolutely dominating the GOP field, and only one challenger has made any sort of splash in the public polling. In what will no doubt become a recurring theme, I read today the first article bemoaning how many challengers are now jumping in the race to try to de-throne Trump (titled, amusingly enough: "Return Of The Republican Clown Car"). Dire warnings that the 2024 race could mirror the 2016 race are already being muttered, as more and more Republican hopefuls either officially toss their hats in the ring or just contemplate a run from the sidelines. But to me, the crucial question which will determine if any one Republican can beat Trump or not won't depend on how many of them run, but how many of them are still left running when the voters start to head to the polls. Because if Trump is to be beat, the only way it will happen is if there are only a few candidates left standing by Super Tuesday. Ideally: Trump and one other. Any more added to the mix would reduce the chances of any one of them would have of actually besting Trump.

The problem, of course, with this facile reading of things is the political ego necessary to launch a presidential run in the first place. The qualities that convince a person that they are the best GOP choice to run are not conducive to selflessness and "doing what's best for the party" in the midst of a fierce campaign. Imagining several candidates altruistically deciding: "Well, I gave it a good shot but obviously Candidate X has a much better chance of beating Trump, so I will withdraw from the race and throw my support behind them" is somewhat of a stretch, you'll have to admit. But that's the only way Trump could actually be beat, most likely.

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Let The Real GOP Nomination Fight Begin

[ Posted Wednesday, May 31st, 2023 – 14:35 UTC ]

The dynamics of the Republican presidential nomination race are about to drastically change, from a contest where one candidate punches down on all the others (who are all mostly terrified to punch back in any meaningful way) to an actual political fight where at least one candidate in the race doesn't quiver in his boots at the thought of attacking the frontrunner as forcefully as he can. Because Chris Christie is about to make it official and jump into the race.

Axios got the scoop today, reporting that Christie will announce next Tuesday, in New Hampshire. From their blurb (it really can't be called "an article," it is so short), here is how the Christie team plans to run:

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Coulda Been Worse...

[ Posted Tuesday, May 30th, 2023 – 15:38 UTC ]

The news broke in Washington over the holiday weekend that we finally have a deal. President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to a plan which will constrain the federal budget and raise the debt ceiling past the 2024 elections. Nobody's exactly thrilled with the parameters of the deal, with grumbles being heard from both from the MAGA right and the progressive left. At this point, though, the deal looks like it will likely garner enough support to pass the House, and the Senate likely won't kill it off at the last minute. That's where things currently stand at any rate.

Neither McCarthy nor Biden is having much success metaphorically spiking the political football, since the deal isn't an obvious big win for either side. Well, McCarthy is attempting to sell the deal to members of his own caucus as the most wonderful budget-cutting deal ever seen in Washington, but so far it's been kind of a hard sell (since it really isn't). Biden, on the other hand, is left to argue a negative -- that the deal he managed to get wasn't so much a win for his side as a loss for the other, and is therefore on balance a good thing. Biden is indeed right, but it's always a political hard sell to tell people: "It could have been so much worse!"

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Ukraine's Military Objectives

[ Posted Monday, May 29th, 2023 – 15:04 UTC ]

I realize that this is Memorial Day and I should really be writing a column honoring America's soldiers, but instead I thought I'd take a look at what the most impressive soldiers in today's world are gearing up to do. I speak, of course, of the Ukrainian army in their fight against the Russian invaders. The world has been watching and waiting for a while to see how much success the Ukrainians' "spring counteroffensive" could have, and it seems we're now on the brink of finding that out.

This will come as no surprise to anyone, since it might accurately be called "the most-telegraphed military campaign in history." There has been an astonishing amount of talk about the spring offensive for months and months, so there is approximately zero "surprise factor" remaining. In fact, the world's reaction to the start of the campaign might well be: "What took you so long?" After all, spring itself only has a few weeks left to run.

But for whatever reason, the big push was delayed. Ukraine got a lot of rain this spring, which turned all the ground that will be fought over into deep mud. This has long been a built-in defense for both Ukraine and Russia -- because spring mud after a brutal winter usually bogs down invading armies to the point of standstill. Both Napoleon and Hitler learned this (to their dismay), when they tried to conquer Russia. This year was rainier than most and the rains lasted longer than usual, which caused most of the delay. Tanks and heavy vehicles easily get bogged down in this sea of mud, so they had to wait for the ground to firm back up before the Ukrainians could even begin.

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Friday Talking Points -- The Waiting Game

[ Posted Friday, May 26th, 2023 – 16:31 UTC ]

We began the week waiting, and we are ending the week waiting. All week long, rumors have leaked out about the status of the budget negotiations between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden, with both sides spinning madly to impress their bases, but we end the week with no deal actually inked.

However, we may be close. At least, that's today's big leak. It seems like both sides have agreed to some topline numbers with various face-saving things thrown in so they can both claim at least a certain degree of victory. Whether this actually works or not is still an open question.

Members of both parties are doubtlessly going to howl when the details are publicly released, and then they'll accuse their own negotiators of "giving away the store." But others will accept the face-saving spin and push forward, most likely. That's usually the endgame for such sticky negotiations, at any rate.

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From The Archives -- The GOP Race At The Bottom

[ Posted Thursday, May 25th, 2023 – 17:16 UTC ]

Sorry folks, but there will be no new column today. I had to deal with some real-world stuff (car, etc.) and also will be preparing for tomorrow's column later, so I just didn't have the bandwidth to write a new one today. But there seem to be an adequate number of people commenting on how bad the Ron DeSantis "failure to launch" event was yesterday, and the temptation to write about it again would probably have been too much for me today, so I guess the rest of the internet already has that subject adequately covered.

Instead, just because I was curious, I went back eight years to May of 2015, just to see what I was saying about the state of the presidential horserace back then. I came across this column -- published eight years ago tomorrow -- where I reviewed the state of the Republican nomination race. Astonishingly, there was one prominent name missing. Which means I have to live down having written the following line, back then: "[Donald] Trump would be (quite obviously) nothing more than a vanity candidate...." We all had to eat a few words in 2015, and that was just one early embarrassing example from my own keyboard, I fully admit.

In any case, the reason I thought I'd re-run something from back then is for the object lesson: nobody now knows what is going to happen -- at least not at this point in the calendar. We've all got a long way to go. Eight years ago, we were all wondering if Jeb Bush had already wrapped it all up. Eight years from now, whatever we're all thinking now might be just as laughable. Just something to keep in mind, that's all....


Originally published May 26, 2015

Please note that today's headline does not refer to a GOP race "to the bottom," but rather "at the bottom." Examining Republicans racing towards the bottom (however you define that concept) would be an entirely different subject, but what I'm talking about today is what is likely to become the most fierce fighting within the Republican Party's primary campaign -- the race at the very bottom of the polling -- because it will soon have an outsized importance for the overall contest to see which Republican will become the presidential nominee.

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