Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Cruising the Web

Josh Kraushaar ponders what will happen when Democrats "run out of candidates who can excite their diverse base."
No, the main reason why Clinton is a near-lock for the nomination is that Democrats have become the party of identity. They're now dependent on a coalition that relies on exciting less-reliable voters with nontraditional candidates. President Obama proved he could turn out African-American, Hispanic, and young voters to his side in 2012 even as they faced particularly rough economic hardships during a weak recovery. As the first female major-party nominee for president, Clinton hopes to win decisive margins with women voters and is planning to run on that historic message—in sharp contrast to her campaign's argument playing down that uniqueness in 2008.

It's part of why freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren inspires excitement from the party's grassroots, but former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, whose progressive record in office set liberal benchmarks, isn't even polling at 1 percent nationally. It's why Sherrod Brown, a populist white male senator from a must-win battleground state is an afterthought in the presidential sweepstakes. It's why Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a runner-up to be Obama's running mate in 2008, quickly jumped on the Clinton bandwagon instead of pursuing any national ambitions. On Bernstein's list of 16 possible challengers, 15 are white and nine are white males. That makes many of them untenable standard-bearers in the modern Democratic Party.

Just look at the party's (few) competitive Senate primaries of recent vintage for an illustration of this dynamic. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, whose tenure as Newark mayor drew considerable scrutiny and occasional mockery, coasted to victory in a 2013 special election primary against Rep. Frank Pallone, a respected 25-year veteran of the House who had been angling for a promotion for many years. With Democrats lacking a single African-American senator at the time, Booker's election to the Senate was fait accompli.
As Kraushaar goes on to detail how the Democrats are having more problems with white male candidates despite their liberal credentials.
But while nominating a diverse slate of candidates is a laudable goal, there's great risk when a party becomes obsessed with identity over issues. It fuels racial polarization, where one's party label or positions on issues becomes synonymous with race or ethnicity. There's less coherent connection among their constituents' interests—beyond gender or the color of one's skin. If Clinton runs a biography-focused campaign, it will require her to be more open and authentic—traits she has never demonstrated in her long career in public life.

For all the GOP's recent internal struggles, the dividing lines within the party have primarily been over policy: tea-partiers against the establishment, Chamber of Commerce rank-and-file versus social conservatives, hawks against Paulites. Among Democrats, the dividing lines are much more personal. If Clinton wins a third straight Democratic presidential term, it will reaffirm the power of identity in American politics. But if she loses, Democrats will find themselves in a messy identity crisis, without many leaders left to turn to.

Eva Moskowitz details how Mayor Bill de Blasio's policies are leading to more violence in New York's schools.
Eighth-graders in a Queens, N.Y., public elementary school recently organized a “fight club” for first-graders, beating up those who wouldn’t participate. This disgraceful episode comes at a time when many across the country are engaging in a misguided campaign to diminish the school discipline needed to ensure a nurturing and productive learning environment.

Leading the pack is New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed a disciplinary code due to take effect this month in the city’s district schools. The code is full of edu-babble. For example, the code promotes “restorative circles.” What is that? It’s a “community process for supporting those in conflict [that] brings together the three parties to a conflict—those who have acted, those directly impacted and the wider community—within an intentional systemic context, to dialogue as equals.”

This is nonsense. If student A “impacts” student B with a fist, they shouldn’t “dialogue as equals.” Student A should be disciplined.

“Collaborative problem solving” is another strategy. Teachers “articulate the adults’ concerns about the behavior and engage the student in a collaborative process,” the code explains, to “decide upon a plan of action” that is “mutually acceptable to both.”

You read that correctly. Teachers’ views on proper conduct are mere “concerns” that must be explained, and students get to decide what resolution is “acceptable” to them.

The new disciplinary code also undermines principals. Under the old code, they could give out-of-school suspensions of up to five days; only a superintendent could impose longer suspensions. Under the new code, a principal can only impose a pretend suspension in which the student receives “alternative instruction” at school. Previously such instruction would be provided at an alternative location, which is preferable.

Suspensions convey the critical message to students and parents that certain behavior is inconsistent with being a member of the school community. Pretend suspensions, in which a student is allowed to remain in the school community, do not convey that message. Many students actually feed off the attention they get for misbehaving. Keeping these students in school encourages that misbehavior.

Proponents of lax discipline claim it would benefit minority students, who are suspended at higher rates than their white peers. But minority students are also the most likely to suffer the adverse consequences of lax discipline—that is, their education is disrupted by a chaotic school environment or by violence.

So now we're finding out that the administration was working with billionaire Tom Steyer just as conservatives suspected.
Federal officials in February disclosed a document detailing ways in which the Treasury Department might cooperate with billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer.

The document, a previously unreported briefing memorandum provided to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew released after months of unsuccessful efforts to prevent its public disclosure, lays out the agenda of a June meeting on U.S. climate policy with Steyer and a number of White House officials.

The event focused on the Risky Business Project, a joint effort by Steyer, former treasury secretary Hank Paulson, and other public figures to get the business community on board with restrictions on carbon emissions.

The memo suggested that Lew ask how the project could “best help the Administration generate support for its climate initiatives” and what federal policies could force “investors and other private actors internalize the risks that are outlined in this report.”

According to the memo, “expected U.S. government participants” in the meeting included senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and John Podesta, the president’s senior climate and energy aide and the former president of the Steyer-backed Center for American Progress.

Four other White House officials were expected to attend. It was not immediately clear which of the officials ended up at the meeting. The Treasury Department referred requests for comment to the White House. The White House did not respond to a request for comment by press time. The Risky Business Project also did not respond to a request for comment.

Treasury initially refused to release the memo when the conservative Patriots Foundation requested it under the Freedom of Information Act last June. The Foundation sued in September to force its release.

In January, Treasury agreed to furnish the document, but it redacted the entire memo. After additional legal wrangling, the department released another copy that also included significant redactions, including suggested questions for Lew to pose to Steyer and other attendees.

It blacked out Steyer’s headshot.

On February 18, Treasury finally produced a less-redacted version of the memo that the Foundation said satisfied its FOIA request. It settled with Treasury and the suit was dismissed.

The document’s release provides additional details on a meeting that drew criticism even from Democrats over the optics of inviting a high-dollar Democratic donor to a closed-door meeting with senior White House staffers.

“If a Republican president did the same thing with the Koch brothers, we would skewer them,” a House Democrat told the Washington Examiner in June. “If you’re going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.”

At the time of the meeting, Steyer was racking up more than $73 million in political expenditures designed to maintain Democratic control of the U.S. Senate. He was by far the largest contributor to independent political groups during the 2014 cycle.

While Steyer put up big bucks to support the president’s party, he received extensive access to Obama and other White House officials. Logs show that he has visited the White House 14 times since 2009, including a number of visits in 2014.

“It shows Tom Steyer has not just got the ear of the president, but he clearly has the president’s attention,” Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the left-wing group Public Citizen told E&E News in January. “That’s what money does buy; it buys access.”

Ed Rogers has some good advice for presidential candidates to be doing now.

I'm not excited about Rand Paul and his candidacy. John Podhoretz looks at what Paul's candidacy will tell us about the Republican Party.
Paul was so interesting precisely because the presidential candidacy for which he had been preparing was clearly going to be driven by his neo-isolationism. “The GOP has definitely taken a turn toward non-interventionism,” in the words of the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake.

But then something happened: The world melted down. ISIS rose. Iran and Afghanistan began to collapse. Putin ate Crimea.

Polling over the past year has seen a reassertion of Republican hawkishness among the party’s base. And Paul has responded. The man who called for absolute cuts in the defense budget is now calling for a $190 billion increase, and says we should ­attack ISIS.

“Rand Paul wants it both ways,” writes libertarian analyst Brian Doherty. It’s still the case, though, that Paul’s only true distinction as a candidate is his non-interventionist beliefs.

So that is why he is the most important candidate. If he does not catch fire, it will put an end to the idea that the GOP has turned its back on its Reaganite foreign-policy roots.

If he does catch fire, the party will be making a revolutionary, and suicidal, shift.

A freshman Republican congressman is trying to pick up where Senate Tom Coburn left off.
Rep. Steve Russell featured more than $117 million worth of failed government efforts in the first of a "Waste Watch" series dedicated to exposing the squandering of taxpayer money.

The freshman Republican from Oklahoma took up the mantle of another Oklahoman, retired Sen. Tom Coburn, whose annual "Wastebook" publication also chronicled flagrant examples of frivolous, illegal and wasteful government spending.

"I intend to scrutinize all areas of the federal budget," Russell said. "I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to dig into these and other issues to identify ways to save taxpayer money," he said. Russell is a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Among the 10 failed projects in Russell's first edition of Waste Watch were $1.1 million in parties and conferences billed to the U.S. Agency for International Development by a contractor, $207,297 of State Department funding that accidentally backed an anti-American film, and $456,669 on walls in an Afghan training facility that melted in the rain.

Bill Clinton is now acknowledging that perhaps, maybe they might have to reform the Clinton Foundation if Hillary were to get elected. What about when she was Secretary of State or as she campaigns for the presidency?

The federal judge hearing the states' case against Obama's amnesty plan slapped down the administration.
President Obama’s new deportation amnesty will remain halted, a federal judge in Texas ruled Tuesday night in an order that also delivered a judicial spanking to the president’s lawyers for misleading the court.

Judge Andrew S. Hanen, who first halted the amnesty in February, just two days before it was to take effect, said he’s even more convinced of his decision now, particularly after Mr. Obama earlier this year said he intends for his policies to supersede federal laws.

Judge Hanen pointed to Mr. Obama’s comments at a February town hall when the president warned immigration agents to adhere to his policies or else face “consequences.”

“In summary, the chief executive has ordered that the laws requiring removal of illegal immigrants that conflict with the 2014 DHS directive are not to be enforced, and that anyone who attempts to do so will be punished,” Judge Hanen wrote.

“This is not merely ineffective enforcement. This is total non-enforcement,” the judge continued, saying that Mr. Obama’s own descriptions of how he is carrying out his policies have hurt his case.

And this is not the only smackdown to Obama. Obama supporter and Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe is fighting against the EPA for going beyond its powers in limiting CO2 emissions. As the NYT observes, Tribe's arguments against the EPA are startling from such a liberal. But Tribe isn't backing down.
“You know, I’ve cared about the environment ever since I was a kid. And you know, I taught the first environmental course in this country, and I’ve won major victories for environmental causes. But I’m committed to doing it within the law,” Tribe said.

“Burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy,” he added.

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Harry Reid wasn't the only one happily lying about Mitt Romney during 2012. Now Harry Reid proudly admits that he lied about Romney and it doesn't matter because Obama won. Mission accomplished. The entire Obama campaign was happy to go along with Reid's dirty tactics.

The National Journal notices how some Democrats running for Senate are having to move to the right in order to appeal to blue-collar voters.

Sean Davis smacks down Sally Kohn.
While the Indiana religious freedom debate raged on last week, I joked that many same-sex marriage supporters had moved the goalposts from “if you don’t like gay marriage, then don’t have one” to “if you don’t like having your conscience violated, then don’t have one.” I didn’t expect to be proven right in less than a week, but Sally Kohn is a charitable person who decided that I needed to be vindicated in short order.

“Don’t like following the laws that apply to businesses,” Kohn asked at the end of her column for TPM. “Then don’t start a business. That’s your choice.”
Meanwhile, Ramon Lopez has a good essay on how one can support both gay marriage and religious freedom laws.