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.@mikiebarb all but declares Christie over http://t.co/...
@blakehounshell
NY Times:
No matter how Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey spins the George Washington Bridge scandal as he eyes a run for president, one thing should be clear: These are his people, charged with a conspiracy to exact revenge against a local mayor by closing lanes to one of the world’s busiest bridges.
There have been plenty of pundits refusing to admit Chris Christie is toast (I'm not one of them.) But the end game is upon us.

NY Times:

Brigid Harrison, a professor of political science at Montclair State University who has studied Mr. Christie closely for years, said the indictments of Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, once two of the governor’s most loyal and trusted lieutenants, spelled the death knell for his national aspirations.

“Even if he is not directly connected to the indictments,” Professor Harrison said, “he is guilty of creating a political culture in which corruption was allowed to flourish.”

Mr. Christie faces the specter of a lengthy and embarrassing criminal trial overshadowing the 2016 presidential campaign, in which the star witness — David Wildstein, a onetime Christie loyalist who pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts of conspiracy — still maintains the governor was aware of the lane-closing plot as it happened.

Nate Cohn on Bernie Sanders' political issues:
The presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont and self-described socialist who will most likely champion the liberal cause, won’t change that fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton is poised to win the Democratic nomination without a serious contest.

That’s true even though the Democratic Party’s liberal activist base, which strongly opposed her bid in 2008, has considerable reservations about her ties to Wall Street, her foreign policy, the recent allegations about foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation and the revelations about the private email account and server she used when she was the secretary of state.

This is mainly because of Mr. Sanders’s own weaknesses as a candidate and Mrs. Clinton’s strengths. But there is another, strangely simple reason Mrs. Clinton will have an easy road to the nomination: The left wing of the Democratic Party just isn’t big enough to support a challenge to the left of a mainstream liberal Democrat like Mrs. Clinton.

I love Bernie, and I'm glad he's running. But political reality is what it is.

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NY Times:

In an unusually impassioned speech, Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a pointed assessment of race in America on Wednesday, lamenting the recent deaths of young black men and calling for overhauling the “out-of-balance” criminal justice system on display on the smoke-filled streets of Baltimore.

In her first major policy speech since announcing her presidential run, Mrs. Clinton spoke forcefully about the damage done, ticking off the names of the unarmed African-American men who have died at the hands of white police officers in recent months.

“From Ferguson to Staten Island to Baltimore, the patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable,” she said.

“Not only as a mother and grandmother, but as a citizen, a human being, my heart breaks for these young men and their families,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America.”

Reuters:
Independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described socialist and one of the most outspoken liberals in Congress, will seek the 2016 Democratic nomination for president, he told U.S. media on Wednesday.

"I believe (voters) want a fundamental change so that government works for ordinary Americans and not just billionaires," Sanders told USA Today. He said he would make the announcement official on Thursday.

Sanders also told the Associated Press in an interview he was running for president.

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"The problem there is that Yahweh v. Sodom is not binding legal precedent." @kurteichenwald http://t.co/...
@DemFromCT
I'm not the only one who turns to SCOTUSBlog when big cases are on the docket. Here's a round-up by Andrew Hamm of some of the best commentary from Tuesday's Obergefell v. Hodges oral discussion:
Early commentary on the arguments comes from ACSlaw, which has posts from Samuel A. Marcosson and Amy Bergquist. At The New York Times, Joseph Landau explores why Chief Justice Roberts might support same-sex marriage. At the New York University Law Review Online, Ryan H. Nelson discusses what he calls the “third nail” in the “proceed with caution” argument against same-sex marriage. Other early commentary comes from Ilya Shapiro at Cato at Liberty, Daniel Fisher at Forbes, Mark Joseph Stern at Slate, Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress, German Lopez at Vox, and Garrett Epps at The Atlantic.
The Ryan Nelson (.pdf) piece from above:  
“We  must  proceed  with  caution”  remains  a  clarion  call  of  marriage  equality  opponents.  Courts  have  previously  rejected  this  argument  on  two  grounds:  

First,  states  cannot  save  an  otherwise  unconstitutional  law  by  raising  the  specter  of  theoretical  harms  that  may  run  rampant  if  the  law  were  struck  down.  And  second,  such harms are inapplicable in the context of same-sex marriage bans because there  is  no  harm  caused  by  allowing  same-sex  couples  to  wed.  A  number  of  jurists,  most  notably  Justices  Alito  and  Thomas,  nonetheless  embrace  the  “proceed  with  caution”  argument.  

To  that  end,  this  Essay  explains  a  third  reason  why  the  “proceed  with  caution”  argument  should  fail  when  the  Supreme  Court  takes  up  the  issue  of  marriage  equality  this  spring;  specifically,  a  state  should  not  be  allowed  to  proceed  with  caution  unless  it  explains  how  it  plans  on  doing  so.  The  states  defending  their  same- sex  marriage  bans  before  the  Court  this  spring—Kentucky,  Michigan,  Ohio,  and  Tennessee—have failed to identify how they plan to proceed with caution. They offer  no  plans,  timetables,  or  rubrics  by  which  they  intend  on  analyzing  the  effects  of  same-sex  marriage  elsewhere,  extrapolating  those  effects  to  their  states,  and  taking  action  as  warranted.  As  these  states  have  presented  no  such  evidence,  the  Court  should reject the “proceed with caution” argument they advance.

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chart of Chris Christie's dropping poll numbers
Adam Nagourney/NY Times:
Once a winning primary issue as well as a powerful wedge issue wielded against Democrats, opposing same-sex marriage has grown far more complicated for Republicans. While it could offer conservative candidates a way to break through a crowded primary field, it looms as a liability with general election voters, particularly independent ones, who are more supportive of same-sex marriage than more conservative Republicans.
Maggie Haberman/NY Times:
Ian Reisner, one of the two gay hoteliers facing boycott calls for hosting an event for Senator Ted Cruz, who is adamantly opposed to gay marriage, apologized to the gay community for showing “poor judgment.”

Mr. Reisner put the apology on Facebook, where a page calling for a boycott of his properties, the gay-friendly OUT NYC hotel and his Fire Island Pines holdings, had gotten more than 8,200 “likes” by Sunday evening.

“I am shaken to my bones by the e-mails, texts, postings and phone calls of the past few days. I made a terrible mistake,” wrote Mr. Reisner.

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The Nation:

A piece today in Bloomberg View headlined the fight between the Israel lobby and the Republican über-hawks as "Aipac vs. Pro-Israel Republicans." But it would more accurately be called "AIPAC vs. the Neocons." And we shouldn't forget for a moment that the bankrupt ideology of neoconservatism is behind these efforts; the line between leading neocons and this obstructionism is too easy to trace—and too laughably reminiscent of their misadventure in Iraq.

[Sen. Tom] Cotton, after all, is a protégé of neoconservative don Bill Kristol. And Kristol has come out firing at the Corker-Cardin compromise. In a Weekly Standard editorial later distributed by his attack-dog letterhead group the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), Kristol labeled the compromise bill "at worst misleading, at best toothless," denouncing Corker and "the leading establishment pro-Israel lobbying group"—AIPAC—for their support of it.

Shaun King had a lot to say on twitter about on Rekia Boyd. Read it here.
30. The injustice that States Attorney Anita Alvarez did to the family of #RekiaBoyd is unfathomable, tragic, infuriating, and criminal.
@ShaunKing
Politico:
It’s not hard to get political reporters started on how pols and their flaks deny the press access, feed us talking points and, in some cases, flat-out lie. But every story has two sides (or a few), so in fair journalistic tradition, we asked a handful of outspoken politicians to critique the political press corps and tell us exactly what their beef is with the fourth estate. Does the relationship between politicians and the press need to be so confrontational? And when are reporters in the wrong? Here are four takes, from politicians who know the media’s spotlight well.
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discussion of carly fiorino
Richard Hasen:
In February, the Campaign Legal Center, a group which works on campaign finance reform issues, released a “white paper” contending that many of the leading potential presidential candidates were likely breaking federal law by not declaring their candidacy or setting up a “testing the waters” committee for a presidential election run. Such a declaration, among other things, limits donors to giving only $2,700 to the (would-be) candidate for the presidential primary season. It was an excellent report, but many shrugged off its findings as just one more way in which the campaign finance system has begun to unravel since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

But news this week that Republican (pseudo-non)candidate Jeb Bush intends to outsource much of his campaign to an allied super PAC reveals that Bush’s decision to delay declaring his candidacy has allowed him to undermine one of the last rules in campaign finance law. Worse, his approach will be the new model of presidential funding in future elections and greatly increases the threat that large donors will have even greater influence over electoral and policy outcomes than they already have.
The idea that Jeb Bush is not “testing the waters” for a presidential run is absurd. He is appearing at presidential candidate forums, traveling to early primary and caucus states, and leading the Republican field in fundraising.

Life is for the 1%. Just more proof. And remember, this Supreme Court said that was just fine by them (a reminder of what the election is really about).

WaPo:

A record-high 6 in 10 Americans support same-sex marriage and a similar share say individual states should not be allowed to define marriage as only between a man and a woman, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
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CNN:
President Barack Obama's approval rating is shifting back toward positive territory, as the public's take on the economy hits a new high mark for Obama's tenure, according to a new CNN/ORC poll.

For the first time since May of 2013, more Americans polled say they have a positive impression of how Obama is handling the presidency than a negative one: 48% approve of the way Obama is handling his job, while 47% disapprove.

While the share saying they approve is not significantly larger than the share disapproving, it's a notable shift in perceptions of Obama's presidency.

Obama's numbers are on the rise at the same time the public gives the economy the highest ratings of his presidency.

The poll finds 52% describe the U.S. economy as very or somewhat good, while 48% call it very or somewhat poor. That marks the first time since Obama took office that significantly more people describe the economy as "good" than "poor," and only the second time since then that a majority has described the nation's economy as "good.

Mark Blumenthal:
Favorable impressions of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act have increased slightly in recent months, showing the highest positive rating in a key tracking poll since the autumn of 2012.

While the change is small, the reasons behind it hint at shifts in the political environment that may foreshadow better news for the ACA in the months and years to come.

The latest monthly survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds 43 percent of Americans reporting a favorable opinion on the "health reform bill signed into law in 2010." Forty-two percent reported having an unfavorable opinion, and 14 percent said they were unsure.

While some headlines emphasized the nominally net positive rating, "the [1-point] difference is within the survey’s margin of sampling error and is not statistically significant," according to Kaiser's report.

Far more important is the trend that shows views of the ACA narrowing to what the Kaiser analysts described as "the closest margin in over two years." Where negative views exceeded positive views by an average of 10 percentage points in KFF tracking during 2014 (47 to 37), the two categories have essentially drawn even over the past several months. This change represents a gain of roughly 5 percentage points in favorable opinions about the health care law as compared to those measured by the Kaiser Foundation surveys, on average, during 2014.

Basically, expecting older Republicans to support Ocare is like waiting for them to vote to raise local taxes to fund schools. Ain't gonna happen, so just go ahead and do it anyway.

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WaPo:

“When I took over as governor of New Jersey, my predecessor, Governor Jon Corzine, had left us a mess — record deficits . . . the highest top tax rates and overall tax burden in America,” the Republican governor said. “People said New Jersey could never be turned around. But we took action.”

Christie’s remarks, laced with blunt criticism of President Obama’s record, were reflective of the image that he has spent years cultivating — that of a bipartisan broker dedicated to fixing long-standing fiscal problems once and for all. That image is also one that would serve as the centerpiece of a 2016 run by Christie for the White House.

An examination of Christie’s record by The Washington Post and ProPublica, however, paints a more complicated story of his fiscal stewardship of one of the biggest state budgets. It’s a story that will probably face far greater scrutiny should he declare himself a presidential candidate.

Why wait? And if his henchmen and cronies are indicted, why treat him like a contender?

Chris Cillizza:

Chris Christie sat down with "Today" host Matt Lauer to talk about his political future on Wednesday. And, Lauer, to his credit, got right to it -- asking the New Jersey governor: "[Has] your moment passed?"

Christie gave the answer he was supposed to give. "I don't know and neither do you," he told Lauer. "We'll see."

It's a really, really good question though -- and one I've been thinking a lot about lately.

As well you should.

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NY Times:
Mayor Bill de Blasio, dismayed by a Democratic Party that he believes has moved too slowly to embrace a populist platform, arrived in the Midwest on Wednesday with an audacious mission: leading the nation leftward.

On a two-day tour of Nebraska and Iowa — more than 1,200 miles from the New York City Hall where he has presided for 15 months — Mr. de Blasio is seeking to transcend his relative obscurity and jump-start a countrywide movement to promote liberal policies like raising taxes on the rich.

Already, the mayor’s effort is drawing scrutiny. His refusal this week to endorse the presidential candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton, his former boss, spurred criticism from more centrist Democrats, who questioned whether the mayor had earned the credibility to drive an insurgency within his party.

Think Progress:
On Wednesday, fast food workers walked off the job in 230 cities, staging the largest-ever strike in their movement aimed at a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union.

The movement began with a single strike in New York City at the end of 2012 but has grown increasingly larger as the Fight for 15 movement has staged nine other days of coordinated strikes since then. Wednesday’s actions took place in cities on both coasts, the south, and the midwest, and it even went global, with strikes in Italy and New Zealand.

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Eugene Robinson:

That was quick. Strike up “Happy Days Are Here Again,” and cue the balloon drop. Better yet, Democrats could skip the whole primaries-and-convention thing and let Hillary Clinton get to work on picking a running mate.

Barring the political equivalent of an asteroid strike, it’s over. The slick video Clinton released Sunday was both campaign announcement and acceptance speech. I’m tempted to say the Democratic presidential nomination is hers to lose, but I have trouble imagining any plausible way she could lose it.

Jonathan Chait:
Unless the economy goes into a recession over the next year and a half, Hillary Clinton is probably going to win the presidential election. The United States has polarized into stable voting blocs, and the Democratic bloc is a bit larger and growing at a faster rate.

Of course, not everybody who follows politics professionally believes this. Many pundits feel the Democrats’ advantage in presidential elections has disappeared, or never existed. “The 2016 campaign is starting on level ground,” argues David Brooks, echoing a similar analysis by John Judis. But the evidence for this is quite slim, and a closer look suggests instead that something serious would have to change in order to prevent a Clinton victory. Here are the basic reasons why Clinton should be considered a presumptive favorite:

...

The argument for Clinton is that she's the candidate of the only major American political party not run by lunatics.

Here's the current Oddschecker, with Hillary in the lead (use this converter for implied probability. Hillary's 11/10 odds is at 47.6%, Jeb's at 22%, Rubio's 8%) and Marco Rubio leading Scott Walker.

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most Americans support negotiating with iran
HuffPost:  
Last week, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. and Iran had reached a framework for a historic nuclear agreement. Standing in the White House Rose Garden, Obama stressed that the tentative deal is America's best option and that it is "not based on trust." But his attempt to reassure the public has had limited success.

An Economist/YouGov poll conducted this past weekend found that while Americans support the nuclear negotiations, they still distrust Iran and many doubt that any good outcome will be reached.

Sixty-one percent -- including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents -- back negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

NY Times:
It has been falsely predicted many times in the last year, but now it seems to be true: The federal investigation into the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge appears to be coming to a head, with an announcement of indictments as early as next week.

In recent weeks, people close to the case say, federal investigators have interviewed members of the Borough Council in Fort Lee, N.J., the town gridlocked when its three lanes accessing the bridge were narrowed to one for several days in September 2013 — a move at first bewildering, and later revealed to be the result of orders from aides and allies of Gov. Chris Christie.

The interviews were said to be largely perfunctory, the kind of t-crossing that investigators would do before wrapping up.

What hasn't been falsely predicted is that Chris Christie is burnt toast.

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Chris Cillizza:

You might have heard that Rand Paul has officially entered the presidential race.

"I have a vision for America," the GOP senator from Kentucky said, kicking off his campaign in Louisville on Tuesday. "I want to be part of a return to prosperity."

The announcement surprised no one since Paul has made clear for the better part of the past two years that he was going to run for president in 2016. But his announcement is a nice peg to try to answer this key question: Can he actually win?

The answer, I think, is yes -- although to do so Paul would not only need to overcome a crowded and talented field of rivals but also be on the leading edge of a transformation of the Republican Party, the likes of which we haven't seen in more than three decades.

Nate Cohn:
The libertarians remain too young and too few to present Senator Paul with a realistic path to the nomination. He has to win over a much larger share of more reliable Republican primary voters, who will have considerable reservations about Mr. Paul’s policies. The other problem he faces: Many of the voters most receptive to libertarian views tend not to vote.
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