How the GOP Congress Killed it’s Majority

I admit I’m not much of an affecianto of Breitbart; however they had a story that caught my eye this week

“The House GOP leadership is responsible for blocking a pro-American immigration reform package which was backed by President Donald Trump, a top House chairman said Tuesday.

The GOP leadership let the House immigration reform die in June by allowing a critical bloc of GOP legislators to split their votes between two rival reform bills, said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the retiring chairman of the House committee on the judiciary.”

This more or less confirms what I’ve suspected the past two years: that the GOP House leadership was every bit in opposition to the Trump Presidency as any roundtable on MSNBC, and has been in opposition to him and his issues, even if it cost the Republicans the House majority.

The Paul Ryan strategy was summarized at the time fairly well here:

Well, it worked.  Ryan, as Speaker of the House, spent two years sabotaging not only any Trump friendly bills, such as the Goodlatte bill, but, with the exception of the tax cuts, all other GOP priorities.  Ryan’s legacy amounts to a bunch of massive spending bills and a tax bill that won’t survive a Democrat majority in the House and Senate.  But at least his donors will be happy.

Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed Ryan’s perfidy. The multiple versions of the House “repeal and replace” health care plans seemed like they were designed to fail, and they certainly did, giving Trump the first of many failures in dealing with Congress.

With control of all three branches of government, the GOP accomplished virtually nothing and gave not a single reason to motivate GOP voters.  If the Democrats had not gone Kavanaugh crazy, I wonder what the damage to the GOP House would have been.  Of course, Goodlatte could have said something about this a lot earlier, instead of waiting until he’s out the door, but that, like any Republican chances for immigration reform, is water under the bridge.

So two years wasted and no chance in Trump’s first term to accomplish anything on immigration or again, anything else now.  If any party deserved to lose, it’s the House Republicans.

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Thoughts on the 2018 Mid-term

I wanted to take some time to take in the results of the mid-term elections before I came to any sort of conclusions since immediately afterwards there is a lack of real data, and in this election, lack of real election results.  However I finally set down to note a few thoughts on the results.

Turnout

The turnout for this midterm was unprecedented, with 113 million people voting, compared to 83 million in 2014. My prediction on the GOP winning the House was based on the assumption that the Democrats would not be able to do much to increase turn out in a midterm election.  That has been a constant problem for the Democrats, allowing the Republicans to play catch up on those off year elections with no President at stake.  This time however, the Democrats finally cracked the turn out code, by another tactic that I’ve consistently underestimated; the ability to keep the outrage at Trump’s election turned up to eleven more or less consistently since November 9, 2016.  If they can bottle this it’s a game changer, and bad news for future Republican prospects.

Demography Is Destiny

California:  One thing I did anticipate is that I didn’t see much chance of retaining most of the GOP seats in California, especially ones in which a Republican incumbent was retiring. Daryl Issa’s district, CA-49, was a good example.  He won his 2016 re-election by one percentage point, saw the handwriting on the wall, and retired this term, leaving the seat to be won by a Democrat.

Ohio:  On the other hand, Ohio is moving (albeit slightly) in the other direction.

Florida Florida Florida!

The big national news about Florida was all about two corrupt Democratic counties still being corrupt Democratic counties and trying to redo the election post voting, however that was just a minor snag.  To me the real story is that the Democratic Candidate for governor, Andrew Gillum, the corrupt mayor of Tallahassee, under FBI investigation, with the baggage of Bernie Sanders style socialism, plus the promise of massive tax increases, only lost by 33,683 votes, 49.18% of the vote to DeSantis’ 49.59% of the vote. It’s a stark example of where the Democratic Party is right now; comfortably abandoning any pretense of moderation and fully embracing what was radical yesterday as the new party mainstream.

This seems to be a telling portent for the future.  Whoever the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate is, chances are his or her positions will resemble Bernie Sander’s far more than Hillary Clinton’s. And Democratic and Independent voters won’t be scared away by that.  The Republicans, if they were smart, would start strategizing how to deal with a radical opponent in which possibly a majority of the electorate shares and supports those views.  Unfortunately, the Republicans aren’t smart and will probably only start thinking about that after Election Day in 2020.

About that Morning Joe Mid-Term Prediction

June 13th seems like a few years back, not merely a few months, however it stuck out for me because that day’s show had Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough go into a rant promising a massive Democratic wave this fall.” Joe even held up a newspaper to confirm the date, just like a hostage video; which in some ways describes Morning Joe fairly well.

As I had posted at the time: Challenge accepted.

In service to keeping Joe honest on his prediction, I watched the entire three hours of his show this morning.

Please thank me for my service.

As I suspected, Joe did not mention his June prediction once, although he did show a clip from the show made on the same day, one of Mark Sanford pouting after he lost his primary race, but reminding everyone of his big “massive democratic wave?”  No chance.

Of course I had made my own predictions about how the mid-term races were going to play out; the Republicans would maintain control of the House and the Senate.  So how did I do?  Well I only got that half right. The Democrats took the House, gaining 34 seats, while the Republicans maintained control, and gained seats, in the Senate.

As a point of comparison to other recent mid-term elections:

President Obama (D):

2014: 13 Democratic House seats were lost, from 201 to 188

2012:  62 Democratic House seats were lost, from 256 to 193

President Bush (R):

2006:  30 Republican House seats were lost, from 232 to 202

2002:  8 Republican House seats were gained, from 221 to 229

President Clinton (D):

1998:  5 Democratic House seats gained, from 206 to 211

1994:  54 Democratic House seats lost, from 258 to 204

So based on recent history, it’s pretty obvious that there was an opposition party “wave” in 2012 and 1994 for the Republicans.  Democrats have made up for that in Presidential year elections, but even in bad years for Republicans, the Democrats have not been able to reproduce a mid-term wave.  But a 34+ gain for Democrats this year is fairly equivalent to the damage Republicans took in 2006.

In other words, it was a fairly normal mid-term election.  It seems that normalcy was the biggest surprise of all.

 

“Screw the Optics:” Thoughts on the Pittsburgh Shooting

Last Saturday, watching the breaking news of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, I reached a point where I just had to cut it off, it was dragging on me, and with the “breaking news” essentially over, I decided I could wait for the details, without being under the cloud that the news brought with it.  Getting the details later hardly helped.  The shooter, Robert Bowers, 46, was simply a hate filled nut.  But then again, it wasn’t that simple at all, since his level of hate seems to be off the charts.  Posting on social media before the shooting, he wrote, “Screw the optics, I’m going in.”  Then apparently he did just that, seemingly getting up from the computer, grabbing his guns, and shooting up Saturday morning services, shouting, “All Jews must die!”

Eleven dead, six wounded.

I’ve written about the inanity of anti-Semitism before, again noting that of all of the various hates, bigotries, and prejudices of mankind, anti-Semitism seems to be the most obsessive.  Maybe that’s why I find it so difficult to understand.  Having few obsessions myself, it’s hard to put myself in the place of someone who can literally think of just one thing, all day, every day, and apply that obsession to every single situation.

Given the various websites and forums that I visit, I decided to visit one that I knew had its fair share of anti-Semites to gauge the reaction to the shooting.  What was I expecting?  Not what I got.  On one site (I won’t identify it) there is a regularly anti-Semitic poster who’s every post was, no matter the topic, was something-something Jews.  Given that, I had long ago learned to skip his posts because of his single minded obsession.  But this time…

Well he didn’t disappoint. His reaction (and I’m paraphrasing here) was, maybe this will wake up the normies as to why Jews are being targeted.  Maybe there’s a good reason…

That is so over the topic Bonkers that it might well put him in Bowers territory.  The idea that the shooting might be a good opening conversation starter for why Jews should be shot is in a territory of hatred all its own, and seems to be the exclusive domain of the anti-Semite.  Sure, there are plenty of people who hate other groups of people.  That fuels half the wars in undeveloped world, but even the Hutus had reasons (to them) to genocide the Tutsi; or the Serbs and the Croatians.  Maybe not good reasons and certainly not reasons that could justify what they did, but there were at least a track record of grievances.

What grievance did Bowers have against Jews?  I suspect we’ll learn a lot about his motivations in the coming weeks.  Clearly he has a story to tell, but I suspect that in the end, we’ll still not understand a thing as to what drove him to mass murder.

In human experience, anti-Semitism seems to be its own thing.  There isn’t a human bigotry, prejudice, or hatred that comes close.  It’s a bizarre mind virus having to do with a specific group of people.  And I suspect I’ll never have an understanding of it.

 

The Trump Doctrine

At times I feel like the only person in the country not emotionally invested in the likely death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, killed, apparently, in quite the gruesome manner in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Instanbul, Turkey.  OK I get it, terrible story, but why exactly does this require a diplomatic response from the United States?  The US government doesn’t get involved in every foreign Coca-Cola employee in the third world who gets dragged away by a death squad.  And the death of a dissident to a despotic regime isn’t exactly breaking news.  It’s fair to say that this happens every day somewhere in the world, without the accompanying MSM hysterics.

The answer of course, is that he was employed as a journalist at The Washington Post, and in an age in which the West has abandoned religion, a new priestly caste has emerged, the MSM journalist.  That’s why the MSM has turned a minor story into a US foreign policy crisis.  This has already occupied the breaking news and top story for a week, and the new rule is if Eugene Robinson and the table at the MSNBC set are outraged, then everyone has to be.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for a sympathizer of the Muslim Brotherhood and someone who was a friend of Osama Bin Ladin, who mourned his death.  You really need to make a much stronger case to me on why his death shouldn’t be cheered, rather than causing spasms of outrage.  If there is a reason for outrage in this story, its how such a person got a green card in the first place?  Let’s investigate that.

Trump’s initial instincts on this seem to have been correct, dismissing it as not that big a deal, before the media blew it up into THE STORY of the week.  No doubt the view that this is THE STORY reflected the view of many of Trump’s advisors.  After all, doesn’t everyone seem to accept the judgement of the Post and other news outlets as to what is news, and what is major news?  It is interesting though that Trump’s default position is quite different from what the current White House line is…

Over at the Lion of the Blogosphere a few months ago, Lion did a post describing the “Trump Doctrine.

“If there is a Trump doctrine, it is that we have to accept foreign countries the way they are, and not turn them into copies of Western democracies. Russia has never had a democratic government like the United States, but the Trump doctrine is that we can still be friends instead of trying to sabotage their government for not being exactly like America or Germany.”

As a working definition, it’s not a bad one.  And why shouldn’t he define it?  It’s not as if Presidential “doctrines” are released as a White Paper or press release.  They are discovered by observing the administration in action.  Most famously the “Bush Doctrine” was ham-handedly used by Charlie Gibson in a rather famous gotcha interview with Sarah Palin in which she described the Bush Doctrine, just not the way Charlie Gibson wanted.  However the actual author (or discoverer) of the Bush Doctrine, the late Charles Krauthammer, defended Palin’s take.

But I had been thinking of this for a while.  Back in 2014, I had started, but never finished, a draft of a post called, “Realpolitik,” to describe what I thought should be the style and direction of US foreign policy.  Inspired, of all people, by neo-con former Wall Street Journal columnist and current New York Times official Never-Trumper Bret Stephens, in a column he wrote for the WSJ called, Relearning Republican Foreign Policy.  With the line, “A policeman is not a priest,” Stephens made the case for a muscular foreign policy without the moralizing and messaging of either George Bush’s freedom agenda or Obama’s “reputation of a faithless friend and feckless foe.”  This line, though, is the killer:

“Someday, maybe, a Republican will be in the White House again. If that’s to happen, Americans will need some reassurance that the GOP knows how to steer a straight course between the temptations of Barack Obama’s strategic timidity and George W. Bush’s idealistic excess.“

In probably the greatest Monkey’s Paw wish of all time, Stephen’s got exactly what he asked for in this 2014 op-ed with the election of President Donald Trump.

Stephens must be exhausted from all of his spinning around and changing positions, since in this week’s NYT post, Khashoggi’s Killing Isn’t a Blunder. It’s a Crime, Stephens is back to his neo-con roots, ready to lead a new moralistic crusade against the Saudi’s.

It’s actually fair to say that a more moralistic foreign policy has a time and place.  It was integral to Reagan’s policy initiatives in fighting the Cold War, but Reagan didn’t shy away with allying with some less than savory folk in order to oppose what he saw as the graeter evil: the Soviet Union.  But we are in a different time and place, and our foreign policy challenges are totally different than the bi-polar cold war steady state which occupied US foreign policy for decades.

In the current era it seems clear to me that not every struggle around the world is our struggle, and not every fight all over the world is our fight.  We have limited resources, not just of military might or money, but time and attention.  Time wasted on this Khashoggi matter is time not spent on other foreign policy issues like trade, or domestic ones, like immigration.  And no outcome in running down every Saudi royal guard is likely to benefit US foreign policy in the slightest.

Trump’s instincts, the “Trump Doctrine,” are Realpolitik; a foreign policy based on US national interests and practical benefits rather than ideology or faux outrage.  If the GOP picks this up as a foreign policy template, that’s yet another Trump “win.”

Screw Puerto Rico

I barely noticed the imbroglio over the Harvard and George Washington studies that contradict the official Hurricane Maria death toll for Puerto Rico by raising the deaths to several thousand, 4,645 for the Harvard Study and over 3,000 for the George Washington University study.  I figured that they were in some way phony, and were just a grab for federal cash, and my checking the methodology of the George Washington University Study showed I was right:

“We implemented the project as three studies, each with specific yet complementary methodologies. Our excess mortality study analyzed past mortality patterns (mortality registration and population census data from 2010 to 2017) in order to predict the expected mortality if Hurricane María had not occurred (predicted mortality) and compare this figure to the actual deaths that occurred (observed mortality).The difference between those two numbers is the estimate of excess mortality due to the hurricane. “

In other words, the studies were simply statistical analyses, with no examination of the actual causes or mortality.  Living in a hurricane zone, I’m well familiar as to how hurricane deaths are actually counted, and that’s through death certificates; the actual causes of death.  Imagine its three days after a hurricane and a family runs their generator inside their home and die of carbon monoxide poisoning (it happens after every hurricane):  That’s a hurricane death.  Choke on a peanut?  Not a hurricane death.   It’s not difficult and doesn’t add up to a requirement to run a statistical analysis of any sort.  Just look at the death certificates.

So in spite of the running around by Puerto Rican officials shopping around these fake reports as a way to say screw Trump and Trump please send us more money, I ignored the issue until I happened to catch this interview with Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló on Morning Joe last week.

Most of the interview is Rosselló making the case for the studies, and the various needs of the island for disaster preparation but there was a point in which I found myself, as the kids say, triggered, by Rosselló’s comments.  Starting around 6:28, “legendary” journalist Mike Barnicle asked Rosselló to make his case for statehood. Rosselló went on to blabber that the only reason that Puerto Rico’s recovery was different from other areas was because Puerto Ricans are treated as second class citizens and Puerto Rico is a colonial possession of the United States, and the “root cause” of the problem is colonialism. He phrased it thusly, “Do you want the United States to be the standard bearer of democracy while carrying colonial territories in the 21st Century? How can you go to Cuba or Venezuela and preach democracy while you have over 3 million US citizens disenfranchised?”

This is his case for statehood?  That the United States is an oppressive colonial power, therefore let us join it?

Throughout history, there has been one solution to imperialism for a colonial territory, independence.  If Rosselló really has a vision of the United States as an imperial boot on the necks of freedom loving Puerto Ricans, that actually really isn’t different from the views of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments toward the United States, and it’s not that different from the view the old Soviet Union for that matter. Why the hell is he serving as governor of a territory that’s, in his view, is an occupied territory?  That makes him no better than a Quisling.

If Rosselló and Puerto Rico feel so damn oppressed by the imperialist colonial running dogs of the United States, I feel the only and correct solution to such an injustice is for Congress to act and grant immediate independence to the “colonial’ territory of Puerto Rico.

Good luck with your next hurricane.

The Long #resist Funeral

John McCain died Saturday, August 25th.  His funeral was yesterday, September 1st, and today, the news and talking head shows are still talking about him.  I can’t think of any American politician who has this kind of death coverage, not Ronald Reagan, and not Ted Kennedy, each whom had extensive news coverage of their death and funeral, but nothing like this.

In some ways this was far worse than the Paul Wellstone funeral, which is looked on as ground zero by the right of the left politicizing the most sacred and solemn rituals in our culture.  However the leftist protest march that the Wellstone funeral became was spontaneous, or at least not planned by the family.  Of course Wellstone died in a plane crash so he probably hadn’t been thinking of the details of his funeral arrangements. John McCain, on the other hand, had been staring down the barrel of a death sentence for over a year.  He had plenty of time to think about the end, and what sort of message and legacy he wanted to leave.

And the message was revenge.

I find it hard to grasp the kind of hatred that McCain had for Trump that he dedicated his death to him.  In a similar situation, I can’t imagine I would spend my final days trying to get back at someone for some long ago insult.  And yet John McCain, a man who had been extensively tortured by the North Vietnamese for years, was able to forgive them for what they did, but couldn’t begin to put behind him the insult of man who simply said he wasn’t a hero.

That’s an interesting window into McCain’s character; make of that what you will.