Lord of the Idiots

The 2016 Presidential election has officially entered silly season. There are plenty of political issues on which, no matter how heated and recalcitrant my positions may be, I can understand that there are two realistic answers to the question. On others, however, the same simply cannot be said. Natural selection occurs, the world is more than 5000 years old and vaccines do not cause Autism. Just for good measure, the earth is also round and the sky is blue.

Unfortunately, two serious candidates for president from the Republican Party are having some serious problems accepting one of those axioms, specifically the one about vaccines. First, as The New York Times reports, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) defended parents who irresponsibly opt out of vaccinations such as measles for their children, saying that parents “need to have some measure of choice” in the matter. In doing so, he broke with President Barack Obama’s position, which is that all children should be vaccinated against preventable diseases.

Christie unsurprisingly received a barrage of criticism for his remarks, and despite attempts to walk back the remarks, the damage was done. But suddenly, a new contender has emerged: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).

In an interview with NBC News, Paul spoke frankly about his views on immigration. A reputed civil libertarian, Paul took exception with the alleged individual liberty violations inherent in mandatory inoculations. Most troubling, Paul lent his support to the deleterious hoax that vaccines can cause profound mental disorders such as autism.

“I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” he said in his CNBC interview.

This doesn’t happen. He would have been better off saying that a magical unicorn deposits gold ingots in his backyard; at least, that way, nobody would have their health put at risk because of his baldfaced lies. There was one study linking Autism and vaccines (specifically the MMR one). It was discredited, many times. The doctor in question had his license revoked, and eventually retracted the entirety of his findings. It has since come out that he just fabricated the whole thing.

Why Paul, a medical doctor, would support such preposterous dribble is beyond comprehension.

Mandatory vaccinations should be self-explanatory. Individuals with compromised immune systems or other serious ailments often cannot manage the stress of receiving a vaccination (which is minimal for those with functional immune systems), so they must rely on herd immunity. Those who can vaccinate but do not selfishly put those who cannot at risk. It is not just foolish, it is negligent and hurtful.

I never thought we would actually have to defend the validity of the measles vaccine in a presidential election. What century is this? Say what you want about Rick Perry, but his unequivocal and succinct response to all this silliness was absolutely spot-on. His partisan compatriots should learn a thing or two.

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Jeb Bush 2016

The New York Times reports that former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) has taken the first decisive step toward running for president in the upcoming 2016 election. Bush created something called a “leadership PAC” that actively explores the possibility of running for president. It is tantamount in all but name to an Exploratory Committee, and few — if any — serious observers contend that there is a realistic chance he would not follow through and run at this time.

Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush and son of former President George H.W. Bush, is largely seen as the continuation of a quintessential Republican establishment dynasty. While the family may have been, in some circles, considered on the rightward periphery of the party in 2000, times have markedly changed since that time. Specifically, since the advent of the Tea Party, Bush has been lambasted by the base of his own party as insufficiently conservative on immigration-related issues. Earlier this year, he even suggested unauthorized border crossings were an “act of love,” drawing the ire of the right-wing. Bilingual and the husband of a Mexican-immigration (additionally the father of Land Commissioner-elect George P. Bush), Bush is seen as a uniquely formidable Republican opponent for Democratic presidential contenders, namely former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Prompted by Bush, a few other names have clamored to reiterate their longstanding almost-campaigns. The serious politicians who belong in that category include Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), among other less glamorous options.

Last month, I prognosticated that Cruz has the best chance of the pack to be nominated, and I reiterate that comment again tonight. Make no mistake, the ultra-conservatives (Tea Party) are in firmer control of the party now than they were four years ago. They have only been enraged over the years as their preferred candidates have been cast aside in favor of comparable-pragmatists, such as John McCain and Mitt Romney, who then fell in the general election. Bush — or Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), for that matter — will be shunned because he will be seen as a continuation of the “play it safe” strategy.

Of course, the success of a presidential candidate has little to do with ideology, because the American public does not care enough to understand said ideology. They care about the charisma and soundbites of the messenger. That is why Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in a way that Gerald Ford likely would not have, even though Reagan was significantly more conservative.

Much in the same respect, Cruz is a phenomenal messenger in a way that none of the other candidates are. Not since Joseph McCarthy have the Republicans had a national figure so comfortable with making things up and completely disregarding the truth without so much as a modicum of shame. The only difference is that the media is so impotent and feckless nowadays that there is no Edward R. Murrow to call him out. Cruz is confident, assured and smart, so the base in his party goes along for the ride, even though I think it is fairly obvious he would sell them out in an instant to further his own interest. When the time comes, I believe, the general public will similarly fall for him.

If the Tea Party is looking for a knight in shining armor, they will be sorely disappointed just about any way. Cruz may be appealing, quoting Cicero and all. But in the end, his most rapid supporters will just be muttering “Et Tu, Theodore?” At least Bush puts his cards on the table.

Let’s talk about 2016! (Republican primary, Part 1)

Yesterday, I reviewed the upcoming 2016 Democratic primary fight. Generously speaking, the contest is Hillary Clinton versus a series of progressively less interesting pretenders to the throne. It’s not a fair fight, more like US v. Grenada lopsidedness. The fight for the Republican nomination, on the other hand, is quite another story.

While an old adage is that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line, the reality is somewhat more complex. Democrats have surely had their share of idealistic primaries (2008, for one), with three of the last five being utter snooze fests. Either a President ran for re-election (1996 and 2012) or a Vice-President ascended to the nomination gracefully (2000). Republicans, on the other hand, have only had one such contest in the last five Presidential cycles (2004). While the original frontrunner often ends up winning (2008 and 2012), the fights are regularly nasty and brutish. 2016 looks to be another such ugly brawl.

I have split up the prospective Republican candidates into four main categories: Establishment Conservative, Establishment Tea Party, Fringe Tea Party and Outcast. In making these distinctions, I admittedly use the term Establishment freer than most others would. Instead of what many others do, which is to say make a distinction between business interests and grass roots evangelism, I use the term to simply denote one who has climbed up the ladder in national politics. Tonight, I will delineate the first category.

ESTABLISHMENT CONSERVATIVES

1. Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida
The son of President George Bush, the brother President George W. Bush and the father of Texas Land Commissioner Republican nominee George P. Bush, this Bush is comparably open minded on a wide array of issues. He made headlines a few months ago when he noted that many undocumented immigrants crossed the border in what he considered an “act of love.” But that’s not all! Bush has also gone on record advocating for the Federal Government to stay out of the gay marriage debate (in a huge departure from his brother’s administration).

All this makes Bush a formidable foe against any of the Democratic contenders (read: Clinton), if he somehow were going to emerge from a Republican primary. Personally, I have some major doubts.

2. Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey
Christie, much like Bush, is an openly pragmatic Republican. He is willing to compromise, and has some centrist positions on issues. He freely acquiesced to a State Court order legalizing gay marriage in his State. He has even become a modest proponent of Medical Marijuana.

However, Christie has largely been seen as damaged goods. Since the beginning of the year, his Presidential prospects –no, his entire political career– have been put in jeopardy because of the scandal called “Bridgegate.” In its simplest explanation, the scandal revolves around some of Christie’s closest aides –who have now all resigned or been fired– scheming to artificially augment traffic in a town whose Mayor did not endorse Christie’s re-election efforts last year. Progressives were overjoyed by this revelation, and relished in the opportunity to call Christie an evil, vindictive, nefarious, Nixonian monster.

For his part, Christie has been inconsistent on whether or not Bridegate affected his willingness to run for President. In May, Christie said that he was “thinking” about running for President. Just the other day, however,  Christie was far more dismissive about the whole thing.

3. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas
Wait, Rick Perry is not among the Tea Party crowd? I was skeptical of such an assessment for many years as well, but I think that Paul Burka’s recent article in Texas Monthly finally convinced me otherwise. Perry is a creature of the times, but he is not a Tea Party rabblerouser. His path into State Government was honorable. Furthermore, in a contrast of Perry to Greg Abbott (the Republican gubernatorial nominee), I have always said that Perry, for all his faults, is a straightforward guy. His political views are not as malleable as the sands in the wind, much like Abbott’s are.

This has been shown remarkably well in the last year, as Perry has seemingly become the voice of reason on many issues. Perry’s big pot reveal is probably the best example.

Perry, for his part, is doing everything he can to not only stake out his own ground in the middle, but preserve his conservative bona fides. Definitely sounds like a Presidential candidate to me.

4. Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana
Pence is best known as a pragmatic Midwestern Governor. The Washington Post reports that many in the party are “wooing” him and that he is “listening.” He has a bipartisan mindset, and his administration chose to expand Medicaid through Obamacare. Not good for a primary campaign.

5. Jon Huntsman, former Ambassador to China
Huntsman has been super open about his interest in another campaign. In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Huntsman was warmly interested in the idea. For his part, he has began to make trips around the country, including a keynote appearance at the 2014 Texas Tribune festival later this year.

A former Governor of Utah, Huntsman likely permanently disenfranchised himself from Republicanism when he accepted a job to serve as Obama’s Ambassador to China, a position he held from 2009 to 2011.

PART 2 TOMORROW!

Terrible, terrible poll

The Texas Tribune has released its newest poll, and the results continue to paint a bleak picture for the campaign of State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor. The poll has her down 12 points to Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate. The poll also examined Statewide races up and down the ticket and found that Democrats were doing miserably bad in all of them. Most all of these polls included Libertarian and Green candidates, for what it is worth. Additionally, undecideds boasted pretty good showings in all of these races, and the number only got bigger the further down the ballot one traveled.

As many will remember, the Tribune commissioned an extensive poll in February that was not worth the non-existent paper that is was not printed upon. Among the many terrible predictions it made was that Kesha Rogers and Debra Medina led the plurality in their respective primaries. Rogers barely squeaked into a runoff and Medina came in a distant last place in a race where one candidate (Hegar) won outright. I went after the Tribune with a wrench in the Daily Texan a couple days after the preliminary primary completely discredited their polling, noting that we should not waste our breath analyzing something so unreliable anymore.  As my friend Charles Kuffner noted yesterday, the Tribune polls should be “in time-out,” meaning that we have to very look at what they have to say quite critically.

Click here to read more!

2014’s first big poll

The Texas Tribune reports on a very comprehensive poll they conducted over just about every competitive primary in the State. The poll has a fairly substantial margin of error (upwards of 6% in the Democratic primary, specifically), so that is something to bear in mind when analyzing the results.

Simply put, the results paint a bad picture for the Democrats. Back at that time, Greg Abbott lead Wendy Davis by only five points; today, Abbott’s lead has grown to Eleven points. Other polls paint a similarly bleak picture for the Democrats, especially considering that these Texas Tribune polls have historically been overly generous to the Democratic candidate. Just a few days after that original Tribune poll, Public Policy Polling (a historically very accurate pollster) estimated Abbott’s lead at a whopping fifteen points. Accordingly, I am eager to see just how bad off the Democrats are doing when PPP releases its triannual February poll any day now.

Also of note here is that these polls were largely conducted before the Ted Nugent scandal really blew over regarding Greg Abbott’s campaign. Therefore, one could plausibly assert that this poll overvalues Davis’ problems emanating from “Trailergate” while simultaneously not taking to account Abbott’s recent woes. Among other issues with this poll was a misleading discrepancy between “registered” and “likely” voters. Additionally, the polls completely disregarded the portion of the electorate still undecided. I have recreated these polls with the undecideds built into the poll, as well as only taking note of the “registered” voters.

Click here for full results and graph!

Senate goes Nuclear

The New York Times reports that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate Majority Leader, has followed through on a longstanding promise to reform the filibuster. Colloquially, any tactic that involves changing the filibuster –wherein a Senate minority may logjam any progress until cut off by a cloture vote of 60 votes– has been referred to as the “nuclear option,” because much like the first strike in a nuclear war, it could quickly lead to retribution and escalation that brings about the end of the filibuster in general.

The proposal that was passed 52-48 yesterday, all with Democratic votes, eliminates the filibuster in all Executive appointments except for Supreme Court justices. In addition, filibuster threats will still remain for bills and other pieces of legislation. The action actually mirrors some of the proposals floated during George W. Bush’s second term in office.

It is, of course, worth noting that many Democrats (including then-Senator Obama) vehemently opposed such a proposal during the Bush administration. In both cases, the charge was the same: needless obstruction of Federal Judges (specifically those on the DC Appeals Court). However, what varies is the severity of the obstruction. I even wrote a column on this topic last year, wherein I was adamant that Democrats should not overplay their hand and scrap the filibuster.

Click here to read more!

Perry prepping for another Presidential run

The Dallas Morning News reports that, while Rick Perry may be starting retire himself from Texas politics, this has not stopped a key group of his supporters from raising massive amounts of money to underwrite a potential Rick Perry 2016 campaign.

The new Super PAC, named Americans for Economic Freedom, will be modeled after Perry’s previous Super PAC, Make Us Great Again. The Morning News already notes that Perry stalwarts Mike Toomey and Brint Ryan have signed onto the team for this group. The group will help Perry in his transition past the gubernatorial office and into his long-expected exploratory committee. Only at that point will Perry decide whether or not he wants to test the waters yet again in 2016.

The most convincing evidence yet I received for how this affects Perry’s presidential prospects come straight from the Morning News article, directly from Hoppe. The first paragraph of the article reads:

“Top supporters of Gov. Rick Perry have started to build the infrastructure that will help the governor spread his message and test the waters of another presidential run.”

As I have stated before, Rick Perry will not be able to win the Republican primary, all other things remaining equal. This is because the 2016 crop will be significantly better than last year’s candidates. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Rand Paul are much, much more formidable.

That being said, Rick Perry has surprised me in the past. He certainly has a talent for outperforming expectations both Democrats and Republicans set for him. Sure, Perry being a moron, a hatemongerer or perhaps even a drunk, had something to do with his failure, but I do still think a big part of it was how late he entered the field. Perry did not officially throw his hat into the Presidential election until August 2011, whereas people like Mitt Romney had basically been perpetually running since the last election.

Perry will not make the same mistake this time (well, maybe the drunken rants will continue, at least I hope so). He has previously noted that he would make an announcement by the end of the year. This would mean he would get going on the Presidential run a full 18 months earlier than last time.

https://i2.wp.com/www.fldemocracy2012.com/files/2011/11/Perryhands1.jpg

Let’s hope we still get these gems