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Mr. Sullivan wants a candidate as warm & poetical as M. Thatcher

[ 153 ] July 29, 2016 |

The unofficial motto for 2016 has been What fresh hell can this be? And that was before Andrew Sullivan stepped back into blogging. I had managed to forget about that particular pet hair on the foundation brush until I saw on the Twitter feed of Mr. Elon Green, the following:

It didn’t connect with me. It was a theme-free pudding delivered by someone you can respect but not exactly warm to. She’s not really at ease speaking in public, and it shows. I get that this is actually her appeal to some: that she’s a detail-oriented pol who works best off the public stage. But a president does need to connect, to inspire and to rally. She may well grow more into this role, or we’ll simply have to deal with prose rather than poetry from here on out. But it didn’t do it for me. And I’m not gonna lie.

Oh for the love of fuck … Where to start when it’s too early to start drinking? Basically, his criticism comes down to Clinton – a person everyone has known for more than two decades, a person who has recently been in the public eye as only a woman running for president for the second time can be – didn’t deliver whatever he was expecting even though he had no right or reason to expect whatever he was expecting.

In short, it is a very male criticism. You didn’t read my mind and do what I wanted you to do! he shouts, or snarls, or snivels at the non-male who displeases him. And this criticism can be delivered at any time, even when delivering it gives the impression that he hasn’t been paying any attention to current events: That was far from the first speech Clinton has given, and apparently her style inspired and rallied enough people that she was the one who accepted the nomination last night.

To view this as a valid criticism, I’d have to believe that he thought she was holding back the good stuff until her acceptance speech last night and still failed to deliver. However, I’m inclined to think the criticism was preordained. But don’t worry, Sullivan takes a lurching step and:

I should address the gender thing.

[Brief break to allow people to knock back a big glass of Lethe water, run away or click to the next post]

Readers lambasted me for every criticism of her speaking style on feminist grounds. And I understand how Clinton carries an enormous weight as the first woman presidential candidate that makes the usual criticisms of her – that she’s pedestrian, uninspiring, and hectoring at times – sound sexist.

But there were many, many women in this convention who spoke far more memorably than she did, who held the crowd in more rapt attention, who were able to modulate their speeches in ways that helped people understand their message better. This is not, in other words, a woman problem; it’s a Hillary Clinton problem. She simply doesn’t have certain gifts of oratory and connection with people that other more natural politicians do. It’s a weakness in a presidential candidate.

Two things.

1. I do not think it is at all inappropriate to suspect the man who was obsessed with proving Bristol Palin was Trig Palin’s mother and who has defended Gaters is being a sexist.

2. He addresses the gender thing in response to people who did not care for such comments as this:

10:41 p.m. And we head into a thicket of prose … and she keeps looking as if she’s sternly correcting a school-room.


10:48 p.m. A smile! Almost a human one!

Ah right. He invokes the image of the mean school marm when talking about a woman and criticizes here smile. People reply with a raised eyebrow and a Really? He starts yakin’ and quackin’ about how some other women did it better. (But not Chelsea, booooring!)

There will be a gender gap in this election of possibly huge proportions. I suspect Trump will turn off more women than Clinton turns off men. But it will be close.

This is one of those statements I would expect from someone who really hates men with the heat of a thousand Hothead Paisans. Or someone who is attempting to justify bad behavior by men.

Because women are turned off by Trump for a number of reasons, some of which are gender neutral (he’s a sack of orange assholes) and some of which are not (he’s a sexist sack of orange assholes). According to Sullivan, however many women are turned off by Trump (and I have to assume he means women who have or intend to vote Republican to make any sense of this),  a “close” number of men who have or intend to vote Democrat, are such fussbudgets that they’ll be turned off because Clinton is too much of a wonk or is otherwise insufficiently entertaining.

Maybe this is all leading up to the publishing of a pre-written article: Why I stayed home on Election Day.

[Update – Thanks (?) to Junker for bringing this to my attention. Fortunately it is now late enough to drink!]


The Garland Silence

[ 124 ] July 29, 2016 |


To expand on Paul’s post below, there is obviously no chance that Merrick Garland is going to get a hearing — let alone be confirmed — before the election. And even if Clinton wins with a Democratic Senate, it is still highly, highly unlikely that he would get confirmed by a lame duck Senate. To give you the tl; dr version, the argument that he will be confirmed is superficially plausible — Garland is the best Republicans could get, so why not confirm him? But the problem is that it’s flatly inconsistent with how the Republican Senate conference has consistently acted in the McConnell era. Again and again and again, they’ve passed up the chance to make marginal policy gains in favor of total obstruction. Any Republican who voted to confirm Garland would be subject to attacks within the party and be vulnerable to a primary challenge. There’s no reason to believe that the typical Republican senator would be willing to take that risk to get a justice who votes with Ruth Bader Ginsburg 87% of the time rather than 95% of the time. And remember also that in the very tight time frame of the lame duck session there would have to be a near-consensus among the Republican Party to allow the nomination to proceed. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that such a consensus exists, and it would be remarkable for the the Senate GOP to break with their long-standing practices for a relatively minor substantive benefit.

I do, however, think that the radio silence at the DNC about Garland is interesting in itself. It’s striking that the Democrats didn’t even try to make an issue out of the unprecedented obstruction of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. But I don’t think this has anything to do with signaling Congress or anything. Rather, what it tells you is that Merrick Garland has no particular constituency within the party. I can’t prove the counterfactual, but I find it hard to believe that if Paul Watford or Tino Cuellar had been the nominee nobody would have tried to make an issue of it. The Republicans obstructing Watford or Cuellar would have allowed the Democrats to combine several themes — the diversity of their coalition, the intolerance of the Republicans, the importance of the Supreme Court — to create a narrative that might have been useful to the candidates in marginal Senate races. With Garland, however, the only story you can tell is a procedural one about obstruction — and nobody actually cares about that. Since there was never any chance that Obama could get a replacement for Scalia confirmed, the only thing that mattered was the politics. And the politics didn’t make sense at the time and they still don’t.

Between Kaine’s inept flailing on the Hyde Amendment and the absence of Garland from the DNC, I wouldn’t say this has been a great week for theories about the political benefits that allegedly accrue from picking bland white guys.

Was Merrick Garland’s name ever mentioned during the DNC?

[ 59 ] July 29, 2016 |


This guy says it wasn’t, and he has a theory as to why:

[R]ight now the conventional wisdom is that Republicans are blocking Garland’s nomination on the outside chance they can win the presidency and fill Scalia’s seat themselves; and if Clinton wins, they’ll just confirm Garland after the election, during the lame duck session. This plan will work, even if the Republicans lose the Senate, because they’ll still hold the majority until their replacements take office in January. The only way this doesn’t work is if Garland’s nomination is withdrawn. So what if the Garland nomination is withdrawn?

Look, I believe Obama nominated Garland because Garland is who he actually wants on the Court. But the Republican pitch on filling Scalia’s seat is “the voters should decide.” I’ve already explained why that doesn’t make any sense—the voters decided who should fill Supreme Court vacancies when they elected Obama. But a pitch that’s good for the goose is good for the gander. The GOP has handed Obama an excuse to withdraw Garland’s nomination the morning after the election. (Obama: “Guys, guys, you wanted to let the voters decide, and the voters have decided they want Hillary Clinton to fill this seat.”)

Do I think Obama would actually withdraw Garland’s nomination? I didn’t a week ago. But that was before we witnessed an entire week of the DNC, packed with speeches about Democratic goals and priorities—with plenty of talk about Supreme Court decisions that need overturning and plenty of promises to nominate justices who will overturn them—but not a single mention of confirming Merrick Garland.

My theory: If we get deep into August and the polls are showing not only a strong lead for Clinton but also promising leads in enough of those senate races, it will take only credible whispers of withdrawing Garland’s nomination to make the Republicans nervous enough to go ahead and confirm him before the election. And how do you create a credible threat of withdrawal? By taking the stage before millions of viewers for a week to talk about goals and priorities, and the importance of the Supreme Court, without mentioning Garland. There was an effort to rally Democratic voters behind the importance of appointing the right people to the Supreme Court—but no effort to rally Democratic voters behind Garland. Why? Because absenting Garland from the DNC was a signal. The Party didn’t commit itself to Garland. Clinton didn’t commit herself to Garland. Even Obama didn’t push for Garland. The signal: after this week, the possibility of withdrawing Garland on November 9 is real.

This is superficially plausible — and it’s certainly noteworthy that Garland wasn’t mentioned, assuming he wasn’t — but I can’t see the GOP folding on Garland right before the election even if the polls look dismal for them. That sort of show of weakness would just enrage the base further, assuming that particular dial won’t already be cranked up to 11 by then.

For It After He Was Against It After He Was For It

[ 137 ] July 29, 2016 |


As a follow-up to my piece yesterday, Tim Kaine has decided to change his changed position on the Hyde Amendment:

You can see the interview from this morning here. The quote in Quigley’s tweet isn’t unfairly taken out of context; it’s not preceded or succeeded by him saying that “of course I will support the party’s platform irrespective of my personal views” or something like that.

A few implications of this:

  • Substantively, as vice president it doesn’t matter at all. He’s not going to have any effect on Hillary Clinton’s abortion policy and he’s not going to have any effect on how the public views abortion policy. In terms of the direction of the party, Clinton’s stated views are obviously vastly more important than Kaine’s.
  • If he becomes president because Hillary Clinton has to leave office and the Republicans retain at least one house of Congress, it doesn’t matter at all. Because it’s not a stand-alone provision it’s nearly impossible to veto, so all a president can do to affect abortion policy is nominate Supreme Court justices. And when picking nominees, Kaine’s views on the Hyde Amendment will matter about as much as Obama’s nominal opposition to same-sex marriage mattered.
  • It matters if he becomes president and the Democrats somehow assemble a governing majority before 2024. Very unlikely, given the Republican structural advantage in the House, but not impossible. Given what some of the marginal members of the House would look like if the Democrats were to take it back I suspect the president’s views would be the least of the problems with putting together a majority to get rid of the Hyde Amendment, but it certainly doesn’t help.
  • It’s a reason to oppose him for the Democratic nomination even if he runs for president in 2024. Even if he adopts the position on the party’s platform now, he won’t be trusted and shouldn’t be. (Obama took too long to come out for same-sex marriage, but he didn’t flip back after 2 days.)
  • This is really bad form from Kaine. If he wanted to just say something like “whatever my personal views, our nominee for president and the party platform support repealing the Hyde Amendment,” and stick with it, OK. His comments on the 27th, although not the 29th, are acceptablish. But this immediate flip-flop and miscommunication with Clinton’s staff, while not the biggest deal in the world, is a thumb in the eye to an important part of the Democratic coalition. When the rationale for picking someone is that he’s a boring but experienced politician, he’s not supposed to make mistakes like this.
  • The case for Perez over Kaine was obvious — he’s more progressive than Kaine, he represents a crucial and growing Democratic constituency, and he doesn’t but a crucial Senate seat at risk. Against Perez was the idea that because of the magic of his having held statewide elected office Kaine would be much less likely to make political mistakes. Hmmmm. I don’t really see the basis for this — experienced pols commit blunders all the time. (Cf. Joe Biden, who worked out fine anyway.) I still think the idea that Perez wouldn’t the minimum standards of a vice presidential nominee is baseless and insulting.

Dr. Jill Stein Has a New Biggest Fan!

[ 38 ] July 29, 2016 |


Screenshot 2016-07-29 11.59.53

“Have You Even Read the United States Constitution?”

[ 286 ] July 29, 2016 |

I thought Clinton was as good as she needed to be, maybe a little better — started a little slowly, but got a lot stronger as it proceeded. But my opinion doesn’t matter — we’ll see how the polls shake out.

But we shouldn’t forget what’s at stake here.

The children of the revolution. Now with Won’t get fooled again update.

[ 103 ] July 28, 2016 |

The DNC Attention Seeking Committee – entrants in the Most Ridiculous Use of the Black Power Fist contest – have a new and even more cunning plan to save America and the world from treasonous traitor Hillary Clinton. One more cunning than farting their way to freedom: A citizen’s arrest.

Citizen’s arrest worked so well for the right wing shoutbots that kept threatening to come here and arrest treasonous traitor Obama and the rest of the administration, so I can definitely see why DNCAC wants to give it a try. But to show they have a 12 rubber cement jar a day habit how very peaceful and lawful they are, the DNCAC asked les flics and the Secret Service to help them out.

Like, could we borrow some handcuffs?

Like, could we borrow some handcuffs?

It’s a new way to stick it to The Man. Get The Man to help you do the sticking. Or maybe it’s the sort of plan one concocts when one has a cup of cold watery grits where normal people keep their brains.

And on the topic of people who need to contract a chronic case of the shut ups, here’s Dr. Stein.

“Putting another Clinton in the White House will fan the flames of this right-wing extremism,” she said. “We have known that for a long time, ever since Nazi Germany.”

Only 352 gajillion days until the election!

Update – Never mind. Apparently Ida Know, who was probably acting on orders from  Der Hillderbiest, gained access to DNCAC’s Facebook account and posted the citizen’s arrest thing. Now the DNCAC is the real victim for the 1,500th time this week because the press believed something that sat on the group’s Facebook page for several hours.

No word yet on whether they’ll protest this fresh outrage by tying themselves to Wolf Blitzer.

The DNCAC's current position. Until the next one.

The DNCAC’s current position. Until the next one.

This Thing Is Finally Ending: DNC Open Thread

[ 178 ] July 28, 2016 |


Probably less to talk about tonight, but the Clinton speech is as important as such things can be, so we should probably have another one. And I’m burying the lede: tonight will also feature the epochal fart-in that will surely lead to the nearly instantaneous demise of American capitalism. (Will Jonah Goldberg be the keynote speaker?)

A couple people have flagged this Yglesias piece, which is indeed good. Whether or not you buy the argument about Clinton, this is always worth highlighting:

The presidency is the most powerful office in the most powerful political system in the the most powerful country in the world, so in the grand scheme of things, the president of the United States is probably the single most powerful politician in the planet.

But viewed in comparison to the powers wielded by other heads of government, the American presidency is actually an extraordinarily weak office. Our federal system diffuses power down to the states and to myriad small-time local elected officials. We further diffuse power out to America’s unusually powerful judicial branch. The president’s legislative powers are sharply circumscribed by a bicameral legislature whose Senate even has the power to reject the president’s executive appointments.

Within the sphere of appointed executive officials, a wide range of important jobs — from the Federal Reserve chair to the FBI director — enjoy fixed terms of office and cannot be operationally controlled by the president on a day-to-day basis. Many other important executive functions are farmed out to an alphabet soup of semi-independent commissions — SEC, FCC, FTC, FEC — whose leadership the president only partly selects.

The upshot of this is that a successful president needs to govern collaboratively.

We have a mental model of decisive leadership in a crisis — the president snapping quick commands, making the hard choices no one else will — but what effective presidenting generally requires is coordination across diffuse centers of power. Most of the people whose acquiescence the president needs to get big things done genuinely can’t be forced to do it. He — or, more to the point, she — needs to convince a lot of prickly stakeholders that even if they can’t all get what they want, it’s better to get something done rather than fall apart in a sea of bickering.

I allude to this briefly in the Hyde Amendment piece from today, but the way supporters of LBGT rights gained power as the Obama administration proceeded is one relevant example of how the dynamic plays out. Any president will have a few big priorities, but apart from that the direction of administration isn’t just a case of the president imposing his or her will on the rest of the political system.

Scott Adams 2020!!

[ 116 ] July 28, 2016 |

As some of you may know, Scott Adams is voting for Hillary Clinton because his tinfoil-ensconced head is telling him to. But his heart is clearly with Trump.

Or maybe he has political aspirations of his own? I figure it’s too late for him to run this year…but think of all the topics he can master in four years!!! Scott Adams 2020!!!!

Chomsky on the Voter-As-Consumer

[ 279 ] July 28, 2016 |


Granted, in terms of his lefty credentials Noam Chomsky is no Jill Stein or H.A. Brogan deBragman. But his recent piece on the voter-as-atomistic-consumer model beloved by blowhards all over the intertubes is very well-turned indeed:

1) Voting should not be viewed as a form of personal self-expression or moral judgement directed in retaliation towards major party candidates who fail to reflect our values, or of a corrupt system designed to limit choices to those acceptable to corporate elites.

2) The exclusive consequence of the act of voting in 2016 will be (if in a contested “swing state”) to marginally increase or decrease the chance of one of the major party candidates winning.

3) One of these candidates, Trump, denies the existence of global warming, calls for increasing use of fossil fuels, dismantling of environmental regulations and refuses assistance to India and other developing nations as called for in the Paris agreement, the combination of which could, in four years, take us to a catastrophic tipping point. Trump has also pledged to deport 11 million Mexican immigrants, offered to provide for the defense of supporters who have assaulted African American protestors at his rallies, stated his “openness to using nuclear weapons”, supports a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and regards “the police in this country as absolutely mistreated and misunderstood” while having “done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order.” Trump has also pledged to increase military spending while cutting taxes on the rich, hence shredding what remains of the social welfare “safety net” despite pretenses.

4) The suffering which these and other similarly extremist policies and attitudes will impose on marginalized and already oppressed populations has a high probability of being significantly greater than that which will result from a Clinton presidency.

5) 4) should constitute sufficient basis to voting for Clinton where a vote is potentially consequential-namely, in a contested, “swing” state.

The End of the Democratic Defensive Crouch on Abortion Rights

[ 118 ] July 28, 2016 |
WASHINGTON, :  US Representative Henry Hyde, R-IL, Chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee conducts impeachment hearings 01 December on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Committee is hearing testimony on the consequences of perjury and related crimes.  AFP PHOTO/Luke FRAZZA (Photo credit should read LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, : US Representative Henry Hyde, R-IL, Chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee conducts impeachment hearings 01 December on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Committee is hearing testimony on the consequences of perjury and related crimes. AFP PHOTO/Luke FRAZZA (Photo credit should read LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images)

Tim Kaine coming out against the Hyde Amendment is a yooooge deal:

Kaine did indeed sign some bad anti-abortion legislation and take some bad anti-abortion stands when he was governor of Virginia. He’s a Roman Catholic who has said that he’s personally pro-life. But as Caplan-Bricker and Robin acknowledge, he has also had a flawless pro-choice record since becoming a U.S. senator, earning A grades from both NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Should we be concerned that Kaine will backslide—that the state-level politician is the real Kaine?

This is not actually a difficult question: Kaine’s record as a senator is far more relevant.  “[I]t’s hard to know,” says Caplan-Bricker, “whether Kaine’s new look reflects his own changing attitudes, or the changing shape of the Democratic Party.” But since he is the party’s nominee for vice president, the distinction doesn’t actually matter. He is going to represent the party’s strong consensus on the issue, which is reflected in the most strongly pro–reproductive justice plank in the history of national Democratic platforms. To what limited extent the vice president can influence abortion policy, he will follow this party line. What he “really thinks” about abortion isn’t relevant to how he’ll act in office.

To underscore this, before speaking at the DNC on Wednesday, Kaine came out in opposition to the Hyde Amendment, which prevents public funding from being used to obtain abortions (and hence represents a substantial barrier to poor women attempting to attain them). He’s not just defending Roe v. Wade, in other words, but coming out in favor of broadening abortion access. Representing a national Democratic constituency, Kaine is going to act differently than he did representing a state constituency in Virginia. He’s not going to change back unless the national party itself changes dramatically.

It’s worth pausing to reflect on how remarkable and welcome this change is. During the Clinton and Bush years, pro-choice national Democrats were often on the defensive, defending abortion rights in cautious rhetorical terms. There was a national epidemic of pundits calling on the Democratic Party to deemphasize abortion rights, and perhaps even give up on upholding Roe v. Wade altogether. The fact that supporting the restoration of federal public funding for elective abortions is now the minimum acceptable position for someone on the Democratic presidential ticket is a big deal—and the fact that Kaine had a prior history of compromise on the issue just makes the transition all the more striking. It’s hard to imagine NARAL’s Hogue’s quietly radical speech from Wednesday—in which she openly talked about having an elective abortion—being given at a national convention 20 years ago.

Unlike Kaine, Hillary Clinton hasn’t changed her positions, but she has changed her rhetorical emphasis in ways that show the power of the movement for reproductive rights within the party.

This is how politics works. In general, ambitious national politicians follow their coalitions rather than impose their will on them.

As anyone who was around then knows, this is really just a major step forward from where abortion politics were in the 90s. Remember when almost every pundit in America attacked the Democrats for not letting a governor who had literally sued to get Roe v. Wade overruled denounce abortion rights at the Democratic National Convention? That was really stupid. (Oddly, I don’t remember anyone arguing that the Republicans are obligated to have speakers denounce upper-class tax cuts.)

And to echo what I said about the death penalty yesterday, doing away with the Hyde Amendment is very doable. Obviously, it’s not happening with Republican control of either house of Congress, and even with a Democratic Congress it would be a heavy lift. But the Democratic president coming out against it is the kind of thing that signals to judges on the Democratic team that overruling the Hyde Amendment should be on the agenda of liberal constitutionalism. If Hillary Clinton is able to replace Scalia’s vacant seat, the Court could and should rule the Hyde Amendment unconstitutional. Over to you, Justice Stevens:

The federal sovereign, like the States, must govern impartially. The concept of equal justice under law is served by the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process, as well as by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

When the sovereign provides a special benefit or a special protection for a class of persons, it must define the membership in the class by neutral criteria; it may not make special exceptions for reasons that are constitutionally insufficient.


These cases involve a special exclusion of women who, by definition, are confronted with a choice between two serious harms: serious health damage to themselves on the one hand and abortion on the other. The competing interests are the interest in maternal health and the interest in protecting potential human life. It is now part of our law that the pregnant woman’s decision as to which of these conflicting interests shall prevail is entitled to constitutional protection.

Hey It Could Happen…

[ 58 ] July 28, 2016 |
USS Wisconson collision.jpg

By Source – enWiki, first uploaded by Ahseaton, Public Domain,

Just gonna leave this here…

Let us not tarry on the question of how the 2020 edition of USS Zumwalt would encounter and engage the 1991 version of USS Wisconsin.

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