Monday, May 25, 2015

Cruising the Web

Dan Balz has read the advice of Republican pollster Whit Ayers for the GOP. Ayres is now the pollster for Marco Rubio and before that had written a book of advice for Republicans on how to win future elections, 2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America. Ayres has meticulously studied poll data and demographics to advise Republicans that Republicans can't win in 2016 if they just capture the same percentage of the white vote that they've captured in previous elections. As Balz recapitulates,
Put another way, if the 2016 nominee gets no better than Romney’s 17 percent of the nonwhite vote, he or she would need 65 percent of the white vote to win, a level achieved in modern times only by Ronald Reagan in his 1984 landslide. Bush’s 2004 winning formula — 26 percent of the nonwhite vote and 58 percent of the white vote — would be a losing formula in 2016, given population changes.

Ayres also points out that the GOP’s support among whites is not evenly distributed across the country. He notes that Romney won “overwhelming margins” among whites in conservative Southern states, but won fewer than half the white vote in Northern states such as Maine, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire and Oregon. More importantly, Romney won fewer white votes than he needed in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

To Ayres, this isn’t an either-or choice for the GOP. As he puts it, “For Republicans to become competitive again in presidential elections, Republican candidates must perform better among whites, especially in the overwhelmingly white states of the upper Midwest, and much better among minorities.”
For Balz, it is not a coincidence that a pollster with this viewpoint would end up working for Marco Rubio. It is not just Rubio has a Hispanic background that makes him the obvious candidate to take advantage of the roadmap that Ayres has laid out. I'm not even sure how much a Cuban-American candidate would appeal to the wide diversityamong Hispanic voters. There might be a large percentage of Hispanic voters who would prefer Hillary Clinton's positions on policy to those of any Republican even if he is fluent in Spanish and can tell inspirational stories about his parents' efforts to bring up their family in America.

On the other hand, the NYT reports that "a Hillary Clinton match-up with Marco Rubio is a scary thought for Democrats."
They use words like “historic” and “charismatic,” phrases like “great potential” and “million-dollar smile.” They notice audience members moved to tears by an American-dream-come-true success story. When they look at the cold, hard political math, they get uneasy.

An incipient sense of anxiety is tugging at some Democrats — a feeling tersely captured in four words from a blog post written recently by a seasoned party strategist in Florida: “Marco Rubio scares me.”
The Democrats and their Super PACs are busy attacking Rubio as a typical Republican and portraying him as young and inexperienced.
Still, when many Democrats assess Mr. Rubio’s chances, as nearly a dozen of them did for this article, they put him in the top tier of potential candidates who concern them the most, along with former Gov. Jeb Bush, another Floridian who is courting Hispanics, and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

Mr. Rubio’s heritage and his youth could be particularly dangerous to Mrs. Clinton, they said. Each of those points could help neutralize one of her biggest strengths: the opportunity to help elect the first female president, and the experience Mrs. Clinton gained as secretary of state.

Mr. Rubio already appears to be pursuing that strategy. By calling himself a candidate of the “21st century, not the 20th,” he seeks both to turn Mrs. Clinton’s long career against her and to entice voters who may desire a change of direction.

In Florida, Democrats who have watched Mr. Rubio’s rise warn against playing down his strengths...

Steve Schale, the Florida strategist who wrote the “Marco Rubio scares me” blog post, said that when he worked for the Democratic leader of the Florida House of Representatives, his boss, Dan Gelber, had a saying about Mr. Rubio’s effect on crowds, and about his sincerity: “Young women swoon, old women pass out, and toilets flush themselves.”

And Mr. Gelber himself recalled the day in Tallahassee, Fla., in 2008 when he and Mr. Rubio, then the speaker of the State House, gave their farewell speeches. He spoke first, followed by Mr. Rubio, as Mr. Gelber’s wife looked on.

“She’s sitting there weeping,” Mr. Gelber recalled, still incredulous. “And I look up, and I mouth, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ”
Remember that winning Florida will be key to winning in 2016 and you can see why some Democrats worry about Rubio. I think he would be much more of a threat to them nationwide than Jeb Bush would be with all the baggage that he would carry as a member of the Bush family.

Admittedly, some of my political perceptions are slanted because I spend so much time with teenagers. So I'll pass along three observations from the teen world of political thought. I overheard some of my female 10th graders talking about next year's election. One girl said that she really wanted to see a woman president but she just couldn't like Hillary all that much. The other girls signed and agreed. Their attitude made me wonder how much Hillary would appeal to younger women as well as how Rubio might appeal.

Back in 2010 my students had an assignment to work in small groups to follow a senatorial contest for several months and then report back to the class how the campaign they'd followed matched what we had learned in class. The groups drew the contests they'd followed and the group of girls who happened to be 12th graders and had picked Florida were complaining because they hadn't heard of any of the candidates. As I projected up on the screen pictures of the candidates for each race, they immediately perked up when they saw Rubio's picture and started making jokes about how now they were a lot more interested in following that campaign. And when they made their presentation a couple of months later they were still quite enthralled with Rubio. It's silly and immature, but then that is how a lot of teenagers think. His looks caught their interest and, from then on, they were sympathetic to his message. And it didn't hurt that Charlie Crist was so very repellent.

Those students were the same sort of voter that was sighing dreamily about Barack Obama. And believe me, I saw plenty of my students fully ensorcelled by Obama in that election when all they could say to explain why they liked him was because he was young, inspirational and good-looking. Well, that also describes Marco Rubio. He may just steal some of that youth vote away from Hillary.

One other observation I've had for the past few years concerns how young people regard Bill Clinton. I've long noticed that there are certain politicians or countries that I can just mention in class and the kids will start giggling. For some reason they'll start laughing if I mention Canada. And France gets the same treatment. When Bob Dole and John McCain ran in 1996 and 2008, the mere mention of their names would get kids cackling because they were, like, old. Well, Bill Clinton gets the same response. Just this past week, my AP US History students were reporting on their long research papers that they'd written on any subject in American history. So one boy starts out and said, "I wrote my paper on Bill Clinton," and immediately, the rest of the class started giggling. They didn't know what else that boy had researched, but they knew that Bill Clinton was a joke to them. Interestingly, that boy had started out thinking that his argument was going to be that Clinton shouldn't have been impeached, but he ended up changing his mind after doing the research and argued that the impeachment was the correct decision.

Remember that that a voter who is 18 in 2016 was a toddler when the Clintons were last in the White House. That is history to them, not current events. And they don't know much about that history, but they all seem to know who Monica Lewinsky is. Hillary might be a female, but she's also very old-seeming to them. And for those with an immature approach to politics, which sadly many of them have, all they might have to see is a picture of Hillary next to one of Rubio and their minds might be made up.

John Hinderaker argues that the real damage to Hillary from Benghazi isn't the murder of four Americans and the administration's deceptive reaction to attempt to portray that attack as the result of anger over a video. What will really damage Hillary Clinton is that the administration policy in Libya was her baby from the get-go and it's been a terrible failure.
In my opinion, Hillary’s biggest problem isn’t Benghazi per se, it is the broader issue of Libya. Why were Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans murdered? Because by September 2012, Libya was a terrorist playground. Since then, things have only gotten worse. Libya has become a failed state, a 21st century source of boat people, as refugees from ubiquitous violence stream across the Mediterranean. Libya is now a haven for ISIS and other terrorist groups; it was on the Libyan coast that ISIS beheaded 30 Christians. Some of the “refugees” now making their way into Europe are, in fact, ISIS agents. In short, Libya is a disaster.

Whose disaster? Hillary Clinton’s. It was Hillary who, more than anyone else, pushed to overthrow Moammar Qaddafi. Why? No compelling reason. Qaddafi had been tame ever since the Iraq war, which he interpreted as a threat to his rule. Almost incredibly, Clinton and her cohorts in NATO overthrew Qaddafi (who was subsequently murdered by a mob) without having a plan for what would come next.

Who says Hillary Clinton is responsible for the Libya fiasco? She does. In fact, at one point she was poised to claim Libya as the notable accomplishment of her term as Secretary of State.
Hinderaker points to one of the released emails about how to give Clinton credit for her "leadership.ownership.stewardship of this country's libya [sic] policy from start to finish." Of course, that was back in 2011 before it became clear that Libya would not be the masterpiece of Hillary's accomplishments at State.
Hillary’s problem is not primarily the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, outrageous as those murders were. Rather, her real problem is that she bears primary responsibility for a policy that was not just a failure, but a disaster. Further, it was a policy that, as you can see from Sullivan’s email, she intended to be a crown jewel of her years as Secretary of State and, no doubt, a chief credential in her run for the presidency. Instead, it blew up in her face–worse, in ours–like an exploding cigar.

The Benghazi murders are of course important. But it is critical to recognize that they resulted not just from a lack of adequate security or other misjudgments that may have been made at the time. Rather, the fact that terrorists were largely in control of Benghazi by September 2012 was the direct result of Hillary’s bad judgment in leading the overthrow of Qaddafi while having no plan for what would come after, and no ability to influence events on the ground. It is that poor judgment that disqualifies her as a candidate for the presidency.

Karen Tumulty ponders what we can learn about Hillary's management style from the few e-mails that she has given over to be released and the even smaller subset of those emails that were released on Friday. As Tumulty, no right-wing stooge, notes, Hillary is just as paranoid and ineffective as an administrator as she has always been.
For those who have worried that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign would be a repeat of the chaotic operation she ran eight years ago, her advisers have often pointed to her time in between at the State Department — which by comparison was an archetype of crisp managerial efficiency.

But a trove of newly released e-mails suggests that one of Clinton’s tendencies persisted during her time as secretary of state — an inability to separate her longtime loyalties from the business at hand.

The e-mails from her private account reveal that she passed along no fewer than 25 memos about Libya from friend and political ally Sidney Blumenthal. Blumenthal had business interests in Libya but no diplomatic expertise there.
So why keep corresponding with Blumenthal and passing along his advice on Libya to State Department officials who were decidedly unimpressed with his insights?
Blumenthal fits a pattern of allies to whom Clinton has long been drawn — those who share her view that she is surrounded by enemies and dark conspiracies.

“She’s not a paranoid person, I don’t think, but she wants some paranoid people around her,” said one former aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of Clinton’s distaste for those who speak to reporters when not authorized to do so.

Another former high-ranking staffer said that Clinton prizes “a combination of loyalty, blind devotion, willingness to stand up and fight for her — somebody who doesn’t back down from a fight on her behalf and who doesn’t flinch.”

On that score, Blumenthal had more than proven himself over the years. Indeed, one of the reasons that the White House objected to putting him at the State Department was that many there believed he had spread toxic rumors about Barack Obama during the lengthy primary battle with Clinton in 2008.
Tumulty poins out how similar her secretive relationship with Blumenthal while she was at State is to the backdoors relationship she encouraged with Dick Morris to help her husband get reelected. She liked him because he was a tough campaigner who didn't object to doing the unsavory stuff necessary to win. So she encouraged Bill to bring him into his campaign plans but to hide the communications from his other aides. And it worked. And her 2008 campaign built on that same pattern of having all sorts of contradictory advisers.
Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential operation was similarly dysfunctional. Veterans of that campaign recall that there were too many advisers elbowing each other on important decisions and no one empowered to tell them to stop.

Her 2016 organization has been built with those mistakes in mind. Relatively few of those who were involved in 2008 remain; in their place is a new generation of data-driven operatives, few of whom have long or deep ties to the candidate herself.

Her new campaign chairman, John Podesta, was picked in part for his willingness to act as an enforcer.

“With Podesta in charge,” said a longtime Clinton friend, “it’s a new game in the sense that Podesta’s big skill is the ability to tell people to go to hell.”

In other words, they are building a different kind of Clinton campaign. The question is whether the candidate can be a different kind of Clinton.

It's not a good sign for Carly Fiorina when her former staffers from her Senate campaign have such a negative opinion of her. Not being able to pay staffers for what they did for her five years ago is no way to trumpet her managerial competence.
Twelve of about 30 people who worked on Fiorina’s failed 2010 California Senate campaign, most speaking out for the first time, told Reuters they would not work for her again. Fiorina, once one of America's most powerful businesswomen, is now campaigning for the Republican nomination in 2016.

The reason: for more than four years, Fiorina - who has an estimated net worth of up to $120 million - didn’t pay them, a review of Federal Election Commission records shows.

On the campaign trail, the former Hewlett-Packard (HPQ.N) CEO has portrayed herself as a battle-hardened business leader who possesses the best financial skills among fellow Republican presidential hopefuls. But some former staffers on her Senate campaign are now raising questions about that portrayal.

Federal campaign filings show that, until a few months before Fiorina announced her presidential bid on May 4, she still owed staffers, consultants, strategists, legal experts and vendors nearly half a million dollars.
Of course, it's not unusual for candidates to finish off campaigns in the red and campaign operatives and vendors are used to being owed money. But the length of time those Fiorina staffers went unpaid is a real black mark against a woman who is a multimillionaire.
A number of former campaign workers said they were upset that Fiorina paid them only once she had decided to run for president. They also complained that around the time she lost her campaign, Fiorina repaid herself $1.2 million of the $6.78 million she had loaned her campaign.

Another source of pique: nine months after she lost the election, Fiorina paid $6.1 million for a 5-acre (2. hectare) waterfront estate in Virginia, near Washington, D.C. The house has no mortgage, property records show.

James Taranto marvels at the narcissism of Barack Obama's approach to public policy. After reading through Obama's interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, Taranto notes the passage in which Obama tells Jews not to worry about what will happen to Israel if the Iran deal goes through because Obama recognizes that his "name will be on this" so he has "a personal interest in locking this down." Taranto comments,
n the next two paragraphs, Goldberg restates the argument in his own (considerably more numerous) words. Clearly he finds it persuasive, or at least he wants to. By contrast, we find it rather terrifying.

The question at hand involves the proliferation of nuclear weapons by a regime that not only is anti-Semitic but also describes America as “the great Satan.” And the president of the United States wants to talk about . . . himself—his reputation, or, to use the political-class buzzword, his “legacy.”
And Obama gave almost the same answer to questions about his trade agreement.
That argument, like the one he makes in the Goldberg interview, evades completely the substance of the dispute. It is a pure appeal to personal authority—not to Obama’s authority as president but to his ideological credibility as one who is “focused on how do we make sure the middle class is getting a fair deal,” that is, a liberal. In this context, the argument can be reduced to this: I’m a liberal, therefore liberals should trust me.

The logic is faulty—Warren is also a liberal, and Obama has offered no reason why liberals shouldn’t trust her—but at least the premise is true: Obama is a liberal, which is to say that he has been largely (albeit not completely) consistent in supporting liberal priorities.

The Iran argument, also an appeal to personal authority, is even less convincing than the trade one. It can be reduced to this: I am concerned about my legacy, therefore Americans should trust me. (In our mind, Goldberg’s awkwardly particularistic formulation, “many Jews—and also, by the way, many non-Jews,” amounts to “many Americans.”)

Obama’s argument here rests not on his ideology—he doesn’t mean to appeal only to liberals—or on his record. Rather, his claim is that he is trustworthy because as a future ex-president with a perhaps unusual preoccupation with his own legacy, he will spend his old age living with the consequences of his decisions—and thus he has an incentive to make wise ones....

Note further that the president frames his argument not in terms of how “history” will view him but how his future self will (“20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing”). In other words, the putative incentive depends crucially on the expectation that Obama will acknowledge error or failure.

Eli Lake dissects Obama's interview with Jeffrey Goldberg and the President's puffery about how much he admires Golda Meir. As Lake points out, Meir was much more harsh towards Palestinian than Netanyahu. Obama really doesn't know anything about Israeli history, but why should that surprise us? He frequently has displayed his ignorance of American history.
The national character of Israel is not shaped by a desire to be a light unto nations, as Obama says, but by the ordinary desire to survive. Zionism, at its core, is the recognition that Jews and only Jews can be counted on to save themselves from the people who will inevitably try to destroy them.

All of this brings us to Obama's relationship with Netanyahu. In Obama's telling, he has an obligation -- as a great friend of Israel -- to criticize Israeli policies that he sees as undermining the nation's long-term security. This is why Obama treated construction of buildings in East Jerusalem as settlements. It's why he said he was re-evaluating the U.S. relationship with Israel after Netanyahu said, in a last-minute campaign message, that he wouldn't see a Palestinian state during his government. Friends don't let friends drive drunk.

Obama doesn't muster this kind of tough love for the Palestinians. When Kerry tried to restart peace talks in 2013, the Palestinians demanded the release of prisoners as a precondition for their participation. Israel and Kerry went along with it. These were not political prisoners. These were not men jailed for advancing the national aspirations of Palestinians. Many of them committed heinous crimes, such as Atiyeh Salem Abu Musa, who was arrested in 1994 for murdering a holocaust survivor, Isaac Rosenberg, with an axe. When Musa returned to the West Bank, he was given a hero's welcome.

Obama also professes to be a good friend to the Palestinian people. This might have been a good time for him to use his rhetorical skill to remind them that in their struggle for statehood, there is no place for the celebration of axe murderers. He could have told them how counter-productive the celebration of anti-Semitic violence is to their national cause, or how it makes his job defending them in the international community difficult when they provide official stipends to the families of suicide bombers. But Obama chose not to say anything about the prisoner release and the celebrations that followed.

In his interview with Goldberg, Obama said he rejected the idea that if you publicly criticize Israeli settlements or express empathy with Palestinians, you are automatically considered "anti-Israel." But this logic goes both ways. What does it make you if you indulge the Palestinian celebration of violence against Jews as a short-term proposal to restart peace negotiations? At the very least, it doesn't make you a very good friend of the Palestinians.

The "Affordable" part of the Affordable Care Act is becoming more and more ironic. As IBD reports on how Obamacare premiums are spiking on average 18.6% next year with some states increasing rates even more. Why is this happening? For exactly the reasons predicted before the law passed.
First, insurers now have claims experience on which to base premiums, and what these market leaders are finding is that enrollees are older, sicker and more expensive to cover than they'd anticipated.
Second, federal bailout programs meant to cushion insurance industry profits in ObamaCare's first couple years are starting to end.

The Washington Examiner notes the revolving door aspect of Hillary Clinton's time at the Department of State and the money she has earned from organizations that lobbied the administration on the Trade Promotion Authority issue.
So what does Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee for president in 2016, think about the issue? Funny you should ask. While serving as secretary of state, Clinton was an enthusiastic supporter of free trade, and especially of the deal Obama is still negotiating with 11 other countries around the Pacific Rim. Lately, she has avoided taking a clear position on this issue, but the latest smoke signals out of her camp, from last month, came in the form of a statement from an aide that suggested a "wait-and-see" attitude.

Meanwhile, journalists have made a curious discovery in Secretary Clinton's financial disclosure forms. Since January 2014, Clinton has been paid $2.7 million in speaking fees by at least 10 organizations that are specifically lobbying the Obama administration right now on the issue of trade....

How is this not a classic case of "the revolving door?"

The revolving-door concept is simple: Today's officeholders and bureaucrats, from the lowliest to the mightiest, make decisions in the knowledge that someday the people subject to their decisions today may well end up showing them some gratitude — perhaps in the form of a paycheck for lobbying or "consulting," or perhaps in the form of one-time speaking fees.

Again, the question here is not whether money has changed, obscured or otherwise affected Clinton's position. The question is whether Clinton has taken way too much easy money from people involved in this issue. The answer is yes.