Among the folks I didn't expect to meet in Concord, New Hampshire this weekend? Former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle, last seen falling flat in her campaign against Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—a race Republicans almost certainly would have won had the party nominated anyone but Angle.
Angle has been traveling the country this summer with the Tea Party Express, the organization that put together Sunday's rally. She's not riding on the bus, though; she's been following the group's tour bus across the country, from Napa to New England, in a retrofitted SUV-and-trailer she calls "The Team Hobbit Express." The sides of the vehicle are plastered with messages from supporters, Graceland style, urging Angle to give it another go against Reid. The name was inspired by the Wall Street Journal's assertion, parroted by Sen. John McCain, that tea partiers are battling Obama like they're hobbits facing off against Sauron (this is, apparently, a bad thing.) "The hobbits are the heroes of the story and they win," Angle told me. "We're taking a winning vehicle to Tampa Bay, Florida."
Angle was hawking copies of her new memoir, Right Angle, along with lapel pins ($5) and bumper stickers, in the hopes of building up support for her political action committee, Our Voice. "As soon as I get my PAC up and running, then I can turn it over and then I can run," she told a supporter who approached her to tell her he had donated anonymously to her campaign. (Our Voice is a super PAC, which means it can accept unlimited contributions; it can finance independent expenditures but cannot coordinate with any specific candidate—although you would expect Sharron Angle's super PAC to be generally pretty supportive of whatever she does.)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States created a net total of zero jobs in August. The 17,000 jobs that were added in the private sector were offset by the 17,000 jobs that were lost in the public sector—which, as Kevin Drum notes, means we actually had negative job growth because the population continued to grow.
So what's to be done about all this? Kevin has some ideas for what Obama should do if he were a dictator (a $1 trillion investment in our crumbling infrastructure), but as has become pretty clear to everyone but this guy, Obama is not a dictator. Congress, meanwhile, is set to embark on another lengthy debate about reining in the deficit and "living within our means," in the form of a bi-partisan "Super Committee." On Friday, Ezra Klein suggested a way out of the mess we're in:
[T]he supercommittee has a design flaw: it's directed to return recommendations on deficit reduction, but not job creation. That doesn't make sense from an economic perspective and it doesn't make sense from a political perspective. If the supercommittee succeeds and a deficit-reduction package passes Congress, Washington will have nevertheless failed to make any progress on the issue that economists consider most important in the near-term and that the American people have named, in poll after poll, as their top priority.
Rep. John Larson is introducing a bill to add a jobs component to the supercommittee's mandate. His legislation suggests three possible ways of doing so: either the existing supercommittee should commit to returning recommendations on jobs, or it should add four new members and create a subsupercommittee on jobs, or it should create a parallel supercommittee on jobs. In all cases, Larson says, failure to return and pass job-creation legislation would mean the trigger goes off.
Larson, a Connecticut Democrat, has since introduced his bill. But even if it does gain traction, I'm not totally sure I share Ezra's optimism that anything will come of it. That's because Congressional Republicans' ideas for job creation are more or less the opposite of Larson's (or Kevin's, for that matter)—if you listen to Paul Ryan and his fellow GOPers, you'll realize that slashing government spending is their job creation strategy.
Tea partiers don't really seem to like Mitt Romney. This isn't all that difficult to understand: He is from Massachusetts, has said some pretty liberal things over the years, and was at one point proud of a piece of health care legislation that was eerily similar to the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama in 2010. Those aren't the kinds of things that sell really well at tea party rallies, and Romney, recognizing this, has for the most part avoided those kinds of events.
Until Sunday. The former Massachusetts governor addressed a crowd of about 150 here at a Tea Party Express rally in Rollins Park. Things went, well, better than they could have. Romney, joined by his wife, Ann, spoke for about 15 minutes, delivering a speech that managed to appeal to the crowd without pandering to them too brazenly. He noted—twice—that he's not a career politician (a not-so-veiled shot at fellow candidate Texas Governor Rick Perry) and touted his business experience and work with the 2002 Winter Olympics. He cracked a joke about enticing Californians to move to Massachusetts to enjoy its superior business climate (Perry says the exact same thing about Texas), and he offered up some patriotic red meat by telling the story of the time he received a fallen soldier at Boston's Logan Airport and looked up to see an entire terminal with their hands on their chests. The event's most memorable line might have come from Ann, who said of her initial reluctance for another presidential run, "Mitt knew not to listen to me because I said that after every pregnancy."
Texas, as Amanda Marcotte artfully put it, "is a really big state with a lot of different people in it"—something people often forget when they write about Texas politics. Along the same lines, Rick Perry is a long-serving governor who has done a lot of different things. Many of those things are questionable—his support for the repeal of the 16th and 17th Amendments, for instance, or his penchant for hooking up big-time donors with jobs and contracts.
But some of the stuff he's done has been pretty good. Over at the excellent blog Grits for Breakfast, Scott Henson (who I spoke with for my story on Perry's dubious prison health care privatization scheme) has a helpful roundup of some Perry-approved reforms, mostly on the criminal justice front, that progressives might actually like:
2001: Signed bill requiring local law enforcement to gather racial profiling data, including information on stops and searches. Authority was later given to a state agency to gather them all and publish them online.
2001: Became the first governor to sign the DREAM Act allowing children of illegal immigrants to attend college at in-state rates.
And so on. More recently, he's signed some pretty progressive sentencing legislation designed to prevent overcrowding in state jails (by about 17,000 beds), and placing a greater emphasis on treatment versus incarceration for drug users. If this seems incongruous, there's a method to it all.
"Perry will focus his energies on supporting policies if, number one, it's not controversial, or number two, somebody who has been directly impacted manages to get his attention," explains Ana Yanez-Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. "So for example you have the Tim Cole family [Cole was posthumously pardoned by Perry after being executed for a crime he didn't commit]. Well, his family had talked to the governor so it hit home for him... The same thing for the DREAM Act kids. In 2001, Texas was the first state to pass a DREAM Act version and Perry has defended his stance on the DREAM Act. But he's actually seen these kids that are valedictorians. So if it hits home to him...he'll be like, 'okay, let's do it."
There might be something to that. As one longtime Perry-watcher explained to Jonathan Martin for his SEO-optimized "Is Rick Perry Dumb?" story, the GOP frontrunner has a pretty linear approach to knowledge: "If he should know about John Locke, he'll know about John Locke... If it's not on his schedule, it's irrelevant to him." The difficulty is in getting him to pay attention.
On the other hand, given Perry's widely condemned record on the death penalty (presiding over the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was likely innocent, and then squashing the ensuing investigation), and his cozy relationship with private prison lobbyists (see here and here), these bright spots on criminal justice do have a sort of "How was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?" quality to them.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has presided over more executions than any governor in modern American history.
Update: On Monday afternoon, despite a late push for a retrial from a prosecutor who helped convicted him, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Duane Buck's petition for clemency. Buck will be executed as scheduled on Thursday, unless Perry or the district attorney intervene to grant a 30-day stay of execution. This post was originally published on September 2 and updated on September 13 with new information.
Update II (September 15): On Thursday evening the US Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of execution, giving it time to review the case, Reuters reported.
A Texas inmate sentenced to death—in a racially charged case that now-Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said was inappropriately decided—has petitioned Gov. Rick Perry and his state parole board for clemency, giving the GOP presidential candidate two days to decide whether to commute the sentence or grant a temporary stay of execution. Last week, one of the Harris County prosecutors who helped secure Buck's conviction wrote a letter to Perry urging him to grant a retrial. In 10 years as governor, Perry has presided over 234 executions, more than any other governor in modern history; only once has he granted clemency in a case where the Supreme Court hasn't already mandated it. Now, just as he steps onto the national stage, Perry will have to make what looks like a tough call—with GOP primary voters watching.
The inmate, Duane Edward Buck, is set to be executed by lethal injection on September 15 for murdering two people at the home of his ex-girlfriend in 1995. The issue at hand isn't Buck's innocence, but the means by which his death sentence was obtained. Prosecutors firmly established Buck's guilt, but to secure a capital punishment conviction in Texas they needed to prove "future dangerousness"—that is, provide compelling evidence that Buck posed a serious threat to society if he were ever to walk free. They did so in part with the testimony of a psychologist, Dr. Walter Quijano, who testified that Buck's race (he's African American) made him more likely to commit crimes in the future. (Quijano answered in the affirmative to the question of whether "the race factor, [being] black, increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons.")