Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2009/02 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Europe Wants To Make Its Memory Hole Global http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/europe-wants-make-its-memory-hole-global <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Europe's infamous right to be forgotten is <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/eu-says-google-should-extend-right-to-be-forgotten-to-com-websites-1417006254?mod=WSJ_hp_RightTopStories" target="_blank">on track to become truly Orwellian:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Europe&rsquo;s privacy regulators want the right to be forgotten to go global. In a new set of guidelines agreed Wednesday in Brussels, the body representing the EU&rsquo;s 28 national privacy regulators said that search engines should <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_memory_hole.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">apply the bloc&rsquo;s new right to be forgotten to all of their websites.</p> <p>....Google may consider a way to apply the ruling on Google.com without applying it globally [...] by returning different results depending on whether the person is searching from an Internet Protocol address located within the EU. But it is unclear if such a move would satisfy regulators, as it would only make it harder to sidestep the ruling inside the EU, not globally.</p> <p>&ldquo;These are fundamental rights. My rights don&rsquo;t go away at the border,&rdquo; one data-protection official said of the idea of using IP addresses to apply the rule.</p> </blockquote> <p>I understand that the EU has a more expansive view of personal privacy than the US and other countries. What's more, I'm generally on their side in this battle when it comes to truly personal information. Both corporate and government collection of personal buying habits, internet browsing patterns, and so forth deserve to be reined in.</p> <p>But here we're talking about largely public information. It's bad enough that the EU is insisting that people not only have a right to control genuinely personal data, but also have a right to shape attitudes and perceptions that are based on public record. It's even worse that they're now trying to impose this absurdity on the entire planet. If they insist on having a continent-wide memory hole, I guess that's their business. But they sure don't have the right to foist their insistence on artificially altering reality on the rest of us. Enough's enough.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Tech Wed, 26 Nov 2014 16:51:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 265531 at http://www.motherjones.com Under Pressure From Obama, France Delays Warship Sale to Russia http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/under-pressure-obama-france-delays-warship-sale-russia <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I confess that I'm <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-france-warship-russia-20141125-story.html" target="_blank">surprised to read this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>France has put on hold a controversial deal to supply Russia with two high-tech amphibious assault ships following international concern over Moscow's military involvement in Ukraine</p> <p>....After months of wait-and-see messages from the French, Hollande's declaration Tuesday was at least clear: It would not be appropriate to deliver the control-and-command vessels given the current conflict between Moscow-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine, he said.</p> <p>....In June, Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, had insisted that the contract had been signed and sealed and had to be honored. <strong>On Tuesday, following months of pressure from the United States, Fabius appeared to have changed his mind.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Huh. I guess the weakling Obama really is working quietly behind the scenes on stuff like this, and really does still have some clout on the international stage. Who knew?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Obama Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:38:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 265521 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama Has Really Gotten Inside the GOP's Head http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/obama-has-really-gotten-inside-gops-head <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jeremy Peters writes in the <em>New York Times</em> today that the tea party has morphed from an enraged bunch of economic populists to an enraged bunch of anti-immigration zealots. And by cracky, they want Republicans to crush the tyrant Obama for his immigration insolence <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/26/us/obamas-immigration-action-reinvigorates-tea-party.html" target="_blank">and they want them to do it <em>now</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Satisfying the conservative base will be difficult. Tea Party activists are not likely to sit patiently while a lawsuit works its way through the courts. And many have already expressed skepticism about the Republican <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Party_Cranks.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">leadership&rsquo;s willingness to see through a fight over appropriations.</p> <p>....&ldquo;Yes, there&rsquo;s a risk to overreacting, but there&rsquo;s a risk to underreacting as well,&rdquo; said Rich Lowry, the editor of <em>National Review</em>. &ldquo;And I fear that&rsquo;s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.&rdquo; Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. &ldquo;If I were John Boehner,&rdquo; he said, referring to the House speaker, &ldquo;I&rsquo;d say to the president: &lsquo;Send us your State of the Union in writing. You&rsquo;re not welcome in our chamber.&rsquo; &rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh man, I can't tell you how much I wish they'd actually take Lowry up on his suggestion. Can you imagine anything that would strike middle America as pettier and more pointlessly vindictive than this? Anything that would seem feebler and more futile? Anything that could possibly be more evocative of a five-year-old throwing a tantrum?</p> <p>I guess you could if you put your mind to it. But it would be hard. Obama is really inside their heads, isn't he?</p> <p>(<a href="http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/will-the-gop-scrap-obamas-state-the-union-address" target="_blank">Via Steve Benen.</a>)</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Immigration The Right Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:50:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 265511 at http://www.motherjones.com GOP Takes Revenge Over Immigration Order in Tax Bill. Obama Tells Them to Pound Sand. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/gop-takes-immigration-revenge-tax-bill-obama-tells-them-pound-sand <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Danny Vinik describes the tax extender package <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120420/tax-extender-deal-handout-big-business" target="_blank">currently wending its way through Congress:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Imagine somebody asked you to imagine the worst possible deal on taxes. It'd probably have the following qualities:</p> <p>It would be bad for the environment.</p> <p>It would be bad for the deficit.</p> <p>It would give short shrift to the working poor.</p> <p>And it would be a bonanza for corporations.</p> <p>Unfortunately, you don&rsquo;t have to conjure up such a package. Congressional Republicans already have. And for some unfathomable reason, Senate Democrats including Harry Reid seem inclined to go along&mdash;although the White House <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pigs_trough.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">has vowed to veto such a deal if Congress goes ahead and passes it.</p> </blockquote> <p>Actually, there's nothing all that unfathomable about what's going on. The tax extender bill may be a dog's breakfast of legitimate tax provisions running interference for a long laundry list of indefensible giveaways and corporate welfare, but it's always been supported by both parties and it would have passed long ago if not for an outbreak of routine sniping over amendments and 60-vote thresholds last spring. That aside, the whole thing is a perfect bipartisan lovefest. Republicans and Democrats alike want to make sure that corporations continue to get all their favorite tax breaks.</p> <p>In fact, the only thing that's really new here is the nature of Obama's veto threat. He's made the threat before, but primarily because the extenders weren't being paid for and would add to the deficit. The fact that middle-class tax breaks might not also be extended was sort of an afterthought. Now, however, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/26/business/congress-nears-deal-on-major-business-tax-breaks.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">that's front and center:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The emerging tax legislation would make permanent 10 provisions, including an expanded research and development tax credit....a measure allowing small businesses to deduct virtually any investment; the deduction for state and local sales taxes....tax breaks for car-racing tracks....benefits for racehorse owners.</p> <p>....<strong>Left off were the two tax breaks valued most by liberal Democrats:</strong> a permanently expanded earned-income credit and a child tax credit for the working poor. <strong>Friday night, Republican negotiators announced they would exclude those measures as payback for the president&rsquo;s executive order on immigration,</strong> saying a surge of newly legalized workers would claim the credit, tax aides from both parties said.</p> </blockquote> <p>So there you have it. This bill is the first victim of Republican frothing over Obama's immigration order. As revenge, they left out Democratic tax priorities, and Obama is having none of it.</p> <p>This is all part of the new Obama we've seen since the midterm election, which seems to have had an oddly liberating effect on him. Over the course of just a few weeks he's been throwing sand in Republican faces with gleeful abandon: cutting climate change deals with the Chinese; demanding full net neutrality regulations from the FCC; issuing an executive order on immigration; and now threatening to veto a Republican-crafted bill unless they include expanded EITC and child tax credits. It's as though he's tired of their endless threats to go nuclear over every little thing and just doesn't care anymore. Go ahead, he's telling them. Make my day.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Corporations Economy Wed, 26 Nov 2014 04:59:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 265506 at http://www.motherjones.com A Nuclear Deal With Iran Probably Won't Happen http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/nuclear-deal-iran-probably-wont-happen <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over at <em>Foreign Affairs</em>, Aaron David Miller and Jason Brodsky run through four reasons that we failed to reach a nuclear deal with Iran by this weekend's deadline. <a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/11/24/4_big_reasons_the_iranian_nuclear_deal_didn_t_happen_zarif_kerry" target="_blank">This is the key one:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>An internal IAEA document that was prepared in 2009 detailed an April 1984 high-level meeting at the presidential palace in Tehran in which Khamenei&nbsp;&mdash; then president of Iran&nbsp;&mdash; championed a decision by then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to launch a nuclear weapons program. According to the account, Khamenei said that "this was the only way to secure the very essence of the Islamic Revolution from the schemes of its enemies, especially the United States and Israel."</p> <p>....The fact is that Iran knows what it wants: to preserve as much of its nuclear weapons capacity as possible and free itself from as much of the sanctions regime as it can. The mullahs see Iran&rsquo;s status as a nuclear weapons state as a hedge against regime change and as consistent with its regional status as a great power. That is what it still wants. And that&rsquo;s why it isn&rsquo;t prepared&nbsp;&mdash; yet&nbsp;&mdash; to settle just for what it needs to do a deal. Ditto for America. And it&rsquo;s hard to believe that another six months is going to somehow fix that problem.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is why I'm skeptical that a deal can be reached. Iran wants to have nuclear weapons capability. The United States wants Iran to verifiably abandon its nuclear ambitions. Everything else is just fluff, and it's hard to see a middle ground here.</p> <p>This doesn't mean an agreement is impossible. Maybe there really is some halfway point that both sides can live with. It sure isn't easy to see it, though. The disagreement here is just too fundamental and too definitive. One side wants to be able to build a bomb, and the other side wants exactly the opposite. How do you split that baby?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Tue, 25 Nov 2014 22:56:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 265501 at http://www.motherjones.com Is Obama Trolling Republicans Over Immigration? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/obama-trolling-republicans-over-immigration <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jonah Goldberg is unhappy with President Obama's immigration order, but he's not steaming mad about it. And I think this allows him to see some things <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-goldberg-obama-immigration-20141125-column.html" target="_blank">a little more clearly than his fellow conservatives:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Maybe President Obama is just trolling?</p> <p>....As Robert Litan of the Brookings Institution notes, Obama "could've done all this quietly, without making any announcement whatsoever." After all, Obama has unilaterally reinterpreted and rewritten the law without nationally televised addresses before. But doing that wouldn't let him pander to Latinos and, more important, that wouldn't achieve his real goal: enraging Republicans.</p> <p>As policy, King Obama's edict is a mess, which may explain why Latinos are underwhelmed by it, according to the polls. But that's not the yardstick Obama cares about most. <strong>The real goal is twofold: Cement Latinos into the Democratic coalition and force Republicans to overreact.</strong> He can't achieve the first if he doesn't succeed with the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_immigration_pros_cons.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">second. It remains to be seen if the Republicans will let themselves be trolled into helping him.</p> </blockquote> <p>Don't get me wrong. I'm pretty certain that Obama did what he did because he really believes it's the right thing to do. Goldberg just isn't able to acknowledge that and retain his conservative cred. Still, somewhere in the Oval Office there was someone writing down pros and cons on a napkin, and I'll bet that enraging the GOP caucus and wrecking their legislative agenda made it onto the list of pros. So far, it looks like it's probably working. But if Republicans are smart, they'll figure out some way to follow Goldberg's advice and rein in their worst impulses. If they go nuts, they're just playing into Obama's hands.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Immigration Tue, 25 Nov 2014 17:07:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 265441 at http://www.motherjones.com Economic Growth Starting to Show Real Signs of Life http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/economic-growth-starting-show-real-signs-life <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/gdpnewsrelease.htm" target="_blank">The latest numbers from the Commerce Department</a> show that GDP increased faster than we thought in the third quarter of 2014. Growth clocked in at 3.9 percent, an increase from the original estimate of 3.5 percent. "The economy expanded at its <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gdp_growth_moving_average_2014_q3.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">fastest pace in more than a decade," <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-third-quarter-gdp-revised-up-to-3-9-advance-1416922352?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTWhatsNewsCollection" target="_blank">says the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>.</a> "The combined growth rate in the second and third quarters was 4.25%, the best six-month reading since 2003."</p> <p>This is true, but a bit misleading since both quarters were making up for a dismal first quarter in which GDP fell by 2.1 percent. Still, even if you look at things in a more defensible way, economic growth is unquestionably picking up. The chart on the right uses a 5-quarter moving average to smooth out individual quarters that might be unusually high or low, and the trajectory of the economy is clearly on the rise. You still can't really say that things are booming, and it continues to be true that the labor market is loose and wages are pretty stagnant. Nonetheless, since 2011 growth has increased from about 1.8 percent annually to about 2.8 percent annually. Things are picking up.</p> <p>If Europe can ever manage to get its act together, we might finally start really digging ourselves out of the Great Recession. I'm not sure I see any signs of that happening soon, though.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:48:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 265431 at http://www.motherjones.com More Patents Does Not Equal More Innovation http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/more-patents-does-not-equal-more-innovation <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.aei.org/publication/us-patent-system-strangling-us-innovation/" target="_blank">Via James Pethokoukis,</a> here's a chart from a <a href="https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/49487-Innovation.pdf" target="_blank">new CBO report</a> on federal policies and innovation. Needless to say, you can't read too much into it. It shows the growth since 1963 of total factor productivity (roughly speaking, the share of productivity growth due to technology improvements), and there are lots of possible reasons that TFP hasn't changed much over the past five decades. At a minimum, though, the fact that patent activity has skyrocketed since 1983 with no associated growth in TFP suggests, as the CBO report says dryly, "that the large increase in patenting activity since 1983 may have made little contribution to innovation."</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_patents_productivity_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The CBO report identifies several possible innovation-killing aspects of the US patent system, among them a "proliferation of low-quality patents"; increased patent litigation; and the growth of patent trolls who impose a substantial burden on startup firms. The report also challenges the value of software patents:</p> <blockquote> <p>The contribution of patents to innovation in software or business methods is often questioned because the costs of developing such new products and processes may be modest. One possible change to patent law that could reduce the cost and frequency of litigation would be to limit patent protections for inventions that were relatively inexpensive to develop. For example, patents on software and business methods could expire sooner than is the case today (which, with renewals, is after 20 years), reducing the incentive to obtain those patents. Another change that could address patent quality, the processing burden on the USPTO, and the cost and frequency of litigation would be to limit the ability to obtain a patent on certain inventions.</p> </blockquote> <p>Personally, I'd be in favor of limiting software and business method patents to a term of zero years. But if that's not feasible, even a reduction to, say, five years or so, would be helpful. In the software industry, that's an eternity.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Regulatory Affairs Tech Tue, 25 Nov 2014 04:18:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 265416 at http://www.motherjones.com Are Term Limits a Good Idea? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/are-term-limits-good-idea <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jim Newton, a longtime local politics reporter in Los Angeles, wrote his final column for the <em>LA Times</em> today. In it, he offered up "a handful of changes that might make a big difference," and the one that resonates with me is his suggestion that <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-newton-column-government-fixes-20141124-column.html" target="_blank">both LA and California do away with term limits:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Elected officials who were popular with their constituents once held their seats for decades, building up experience and knowledge; now, with term limits in place, they're barely seated before they start searching for the next office. That's brought new faces but at great cost. Power has shifted from those we elect to those we don't, to the permanent bureaucracy and to lobbyists. Problems get kicked down the road in favor of attention-grabbing short-term initiatives that may have long-term consequences.</p> <p>Case in point: Why do so many public employees enjoy budget-breaking pensions? Because term-limited officials realize it is easier to promise a future benefit than to give raises now. The reckoning comes later; by then they're gone.</p> <p>Term limits locally were the work of Richard Riordan, who bankrolled the initiative and later became mayor. I asked him recently about them, and he startled me with his response: It was, he said, &ldquo;the worst mistake of my life.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Term limits always sound good. The problem with the idea is that being a council member or a legislator is like any other job: you get better with experience. If your legislature is populated solely by people with, at most, a term or two of experience, it's inevitable that (a) they'll have an almost pathologically short-term focus, and (b) more and more power will flow to lobbyists and bureaucrats who stay around forever and understand the levers of power better.</p> <p>For what it's worth, I'd recommend a middle ground. I understand the problem people have with politicians who win office and essentially occupy sinecures for the rest of their lives. It's often a recipe for becoming insulated and out of touch with the real-world needs of constituents. But short term limits don't solve the problem of unaccountable power, they simply shift the power to other places. The answer, I think, is moderate term limits. Something between, say, ten and twenty years. That's long enough to build up genuine expertise and a genuine power base, while still preventing an office from becoming a lifetime of guaranteed employment.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Mon, 24 Nov 2014 18:44:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 265351 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama's Immigration Order: Lots of Sound and Fury, But Not Much Precedent http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/obamas-immigration-order-lots-sound-and-fury-not-much-precedent <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In the <em>New Republic</em> this weekend, <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120382/obamas-immigration-executive-order-gift-republican-presidents" target="_blank">Eric Posner warns that President Obama's recent executive action on immigration may come back to haunt liberals.</a> Obama's order was perfectly legal, he says, but "it may modify political norms that control what the president can do." And since most of the regulatory apparatus of the government is fundamentally liberal in nature, a political norm that allows presidents to suspend enforcement of rules they don't like benefits conservatives a lot more than it does liberals.</p> <p>This is not something to be taken lightly, and Posner makes his point pretty reasonably&mdash;unlike a lot of conservatives who have been busily writing gleeful, half-witted columns about suspending the estate tax or dismantling the EPA. Political norms matter, as Republicans know <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_regulation.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">very well, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/07/how-game-played-0" target="_blank">since they've smashed so many of them in recent years.</a> Still, there are a couple of reasons that there's probably less here than meets the eye, and Posner acknowledges them himself.</p> <p>First, although the core of Obama's authority to modify immigration law lies in his inherent power to practice prosecutorial discretion&mdash;which is rooted in the Constitution&mdash;the <em>specific</em> actions he took are justified by statutory language and congressional budgeting priorities that are unique to immigration law. <a href="http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/on-immigration-obama-may-be-cynical-but-hes-not-breaking-the-law/article/2551807" target="_blank">As conservative lawyer Margaret Stock reminds us,</a> "The Immigration and Nationality Act and other laws are chock-full of huge grants of statutory authority to the president." <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/view_from_chicago/2014/08/why_obama_has_the_power_to_stop_millions_of_deportations_without_congress.single.html" target="_blank">And Posner himself agrees.</a> "The president&rsquo;s authority over this arena is even greater than his authority over other areas of the law." He reiterates this in his TNR piece, explaining that immigration law "falls uniquely under executive authority, as a matter of history and tradition."</p> <p>So Obama's actions may be unusually broad, but that's largely because immigration law is written to give the president considerable latitude. That's much less the case for things like the tax code or the Clean Air Act. So even though it's true, as Posner says, that most regulatory statutes "contain pockets of vagueness," there's less precedent here than it seems, and less breaking of political norms than Posner imagines.</p> <p>But there's a second reason that Obama isn't seriously breaking any political norms: they were already broken years ago. Posner himself tells the story:</p> <blockquote> <p>In 1981, Ronald Reagan entered the presidency vowing to deregulate the economy. But because the House was controlled by Democrats, Reagan could not persuade Congress to repeal as many regulatory statutes as he wanted to.</p> <p>So Reagan sought to undermine the regulatory system itself. He forced agencies to show proposed regulations to the Office of Management and Budget, a White House agency, and empowered the OMB to block or delay regulations that did not satisfy a cost-benefit test. Although OMB was told to obey the law, liberals howled that the effect of the cost-benefit test was to undercut regulation since no such test existed in the statutes under which agencies issued regulations. And when the Reagan administration could not change or repeal the rules, it cut back on enforcement. The Justice Department famously reduced enforcement of the antitrust and civil rights laws. More howls ensued.</p> <p>But the Reagan administration exhausted itself fighting against political distrust of an imperial executive and overreached by trying to deregulate in areas&mdash;like the environment&mdash;that people cared about. Republican successors&mdash;the two Bushes&mdash;did not pursue deregulation through non-enforcement with such zeal. Obama&rsquo;s deferral actions, by further normalizing non-enforcement, may reinvigorate the Reagan-era push for deregulation through the executive branch.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's become traditional that when a new president takes office he immediately suspends any of his predecessor's executive actions that have been recently implemented. At the same time, his own team begins beavering away on regulatory changes that are part of his campaign agenda. At a different level, orders are written that make it either easier or harder for agencies to implement new rules and enforce old ones. And while Reagan may not have gotten all the deregulation he wanted, the OMB has become a permanent part of the regulatory landscape, which is yet another avenue for presidents to affect the enforcement of rules. It may not get a lot of attention, but when you fiddle with the cost-benefit parameters that OMB uses, the ripple effect can be surprisingly extensive.</p> <p>In other words, agency regulations and executive orders are already major battlegrounds of public policy that are aggressively managed by the White House, regardless of which party is in power. Has Obama expanded this battleground? Perhaps. But I don't think the change is nearly as great as some people are making it out to be. Immigration law is fairly unique in its grant of power to the executive, so we don't really have to worry about President Rand Paul rewriting the tax code from the Oval Office. We do need to worry about all the other executive actions he might take, but for the most part, I don't think that's changed much. The kinds of things he can do are about the same now as they were a week ago.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Obama Regulatory Affairs Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:28:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 265346 at http://www.motherjones.com Finland Starting to Think Hard About Joining NATO http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/finland-starting-think-hard-about-joining-nato <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_finland_map.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Behold the results of Vladimir Putin's brilliant strategy of scaring the hell out of <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/finland-feeling-vulnerable-amid-russian-provocations/2014/11/23/defc5a90-69b2-11e4-bafd-6598192a448d_story.html?hpid=z4" target="_blank">every single country within bomber range of Russia:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As Russian-backed separatists have eviscerated another non-NATO neighbor this year &mdash; Ukraine &mdash; <strong>Finnish leaders have watched with growing alarm.</strong> They are increasingly questioning whether the nonaligned path they navigated through the Cold War can keep them safe as Europe heads toward another period of dangerous standoffs between West and East.</p> <p>....The palpable anxiety in this country that many in the West consider a model of progressive and stable democratic governance reflects how unsettled Europe has become since Russia&rsquo;s annexation of Crimea in March. Many in Helsinki are convinced that Russia will not remain deterred for long and say Finland needs to fundamentally rethink elements of its security policy that have been bedrock principles for decades.</p> <p>....<strong>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s going in a terrifying direction,&rdquo; said Elisabeth Rehn, a former Finnish defense minister who favors NATO membership.</strong> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s only been 100 years since we gained our independence from Russia. Crimea was a part of Russia, too. Will they try to take back what belonged to them 100 years ago?&rdquo;</p> <p>Rehn said she doubts Russia would go that far but said the fear of Russian military aggression is real.</p> </blockquote> <p>Will Finland join NATO? Probably not anytime soon. But just think about what Putin has accomplished here. Finland stayed out of NATO for the entire four decades of the Cold War, but is now so unnerved by Russia's actions that it's seriously thinking about joining up. If Putin is truly afraid of Russia being fully surrounded by the West, his worst fears are about to come true thanks to his own actions. No one wants to be the next eastern Ukraine, and right now NATO membership is probably looking mighty appealing to a lot of people who were OK with the status quo a few years ago.</p> <p>Putin's bellicose nationalism may play well at home, but it sure isn't doing him any favors anywhere else.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Mon, 24 Nov 2014 16:05:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 265341 at http://www.motherjones.com One Man Should Not Dictate Immigration Policy http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/one-man-should-not-dictate-immigration-policy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>You know, the more I mull over the Republican complaint about how immigration reform is being implemented, the more I sympathize with them. Public policy, especially on big, hot button issues like immigration, shouldn't be made by <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tyranny.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">one person. One person doesn't represent the will of the people, no matter what position he holds. Congress does, and the will of Congress should be paramount in policymaking.</p> <p>Now don't get me wrong. I haven't changed my mind about the legality of all this. The Constitution is clear that each house of Congress makes its own rules. The rules of the House of Representatives are clear and well-established. And past speakers of the House have all used their legislative authority to prevent votes on bills they don't wish to consider. Both the law and past precedent are clear: John Boehner is well within his legal rights to refuse to allow the House to vote on the immigration bill passed by the Senate in 2013.</p> <p>Still, his expansion of that authority makes me uneasy. After all, this is a case where poll after poll shows that large majorities of the country favor comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill over a year ago by a wide margin. And there's little question that the Senate bill has majority support in the House too. So not only is the will of Congress clear, but the president has also made it clear that he'd sign the bill if Congress passed it. The only thing stopping it is one man.</p> <p>That should make us all a bit troubled. John Boehner may be acting legally. But is he acting properly?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Immigration Sun, 23 Nov 2014 20:31:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 265321 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/chart-day-unauthorized-immigrants-united-states <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.vox.com/xpress/2014/11/23/7269313/unauthorized-immigrants-map" target="_blank">Matt Yglesias linked today</a> to a map from the Pew Hispanic Center showing which states had the highest populations of unauthorized immigrants. It was interesting but unsurprising: the biggest states (California, Texas, Florida, New York) also have the most unauthorized immigrants. This got me curious about which states had the highest <em>percentages</em> of unauthorized immigrants&mdash;which the Pew map also provides. The answer is in the chart below.</p> <p>For what it's worth, I thought the most striking thing was the fact that for all the sound and fury illegal immigration provokes, it turns out that there are only seven states in which unauthorized immigrants make up more than 4 percent of the population. In the vast majority of the country, they're a vanishingly small group.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_unauthorized_immigrant_share_population.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 5px 1px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Immigration Sun, 23 Nov 2014 17:19:44 +0000 Kevin Drum 265316 at http://www.motherjones.com Benghazi Is Over, But the Mainstream Media Just Yawns http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/benghazi <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>After two years of seemingly endless Benghazi coverage, how did the nation's major media cover the report of a Republican-led House committee that debunked every single Benghazi conspiracy theory and absolved the White <a href="http://intelligence.house.gov/sites/intelligence.house.gov/files/documents/Benghazi%20Report.pdf" target="_blank"><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_house_intelligence_benghazi.jpg" style="margin: 33px 0px 15px 30px;"></a>House of wrongdoing? Long story short, don't bother looking on the front page anywhere. Here's a rundown:</p> <ul><li><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/house-panel-finds-no-intelligence-failure-in-benghazi-attacks/2014/11/21/0749a070-71dd-11e4-ad12-3734c461eab6_story.html" target="_blank">The <em>Washington Post</em></a> briefly moved its story into the top spot on its homepage this afternoon. In the print edition, it ran inside on page A12.</li> <li><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/world/middleeast/republican-led-benghazi-inquiry-largely-backs-administration.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">The <em>New York Times</em></a> ran only a brief AP dispatch yesterday. Late today they finally put up a staff-written story, scheduled to run in the print edition tomorrow on page A23.</li> <li><a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/house-report-cia-military-acted-properly-in-benghazi-attacks-1416616698?KEYWORDS=benghazi" target="_blank">The <em>Wall Street Journal</em></a> ran a decent piece, but it got no play on the website and ran in the print edition on page A5.</li> <li><a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/11/21/house-panel-debunks-benghazi-theories/19367265/" target="_blank"><em>USA Today</em></a> ran an AP dispatch, but only if you can manage to find it. I don't know if it also ran anywhere in the print edition.</li> <li>As near as I can tell, the <em>LA Times</em> ignored the story completely.</li> <li>Ditto for the US edition of the <em>Guardian</em>.</li> <li><a href="http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/11/22/leading-republican-wants-senate-to-join-house-probe-benghazi-attack/?intcmp=latestnews" target="_blank">Fox News</a> ran a hilarious story that ignored nearly every finding of the report and managed to all but say that it was actually a stinging rebuke to the Obama administration. You really have to read it to believe it.</li> </ul><p>I get that the report of a House committee isn't the most exciting news in the world. It's dry, it has no visuals, it rehashes old ground, and it doesn't feature Kim Kardashian's butt.</p> <p>Still, this is a report endorsed by top Republicans that basically rebuts practically every Republican bit of hysteria over Benghazi spanning the past two years. Is it really good news judgment for editors to treat this the same way they would a dull study on the aging of America from the Brookings Institution?</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Late tonight, the <em>LA Times</em> finally roused itself to run a <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/africa/la-fg-house-benghazi-20141123-story.html" target="_blank">non-bylined piece</a> somewhere in the Africa section. <strong>MORNING UPDATE: </strong>Actually, it turned out to be just a condensed version of the AP dispatch. It ran on page A7.</p> <p>I should add that the stories which <em>did</em> run were mostly fairly decent (Fox News excepted, of course). In particular, Ken Dilanian's AP report was detailed and accurate, and ran early in the morning. The problem is less with the details of the coverage, than with the fact that the coverage was either buried or nonexistent practically everywhere.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress International Media Sun, 23 Nov 2014 04:42:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 265311 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Finally Admit There Is No Benghazi Scandal http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/republicans-finally-admit-there-no-benghazi-scandal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>For two years, ever since Mitt Romney <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/09/romney-campaign-attacks-obama-over-mythical-apology-embassy-attackers" target="_blank">screwed up</a> his response to the Benghazi attacks in order to score campaign points, Republicans have been on an endless search for a grand conspiracy theory that explains how it all happened. Intelligence was ignored because it would have been inconvenient to the White <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_house_intelligence_benghazi.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">House to acknowledge it. Hillary Clinton's State Department bungled the response to the initial protests in Cairo. Both State and CIA bungled the military response to the attacks themselves. Even so, rescue was still possible, but it was derailed by a stand down order&mdash;possibly from President Obama himself. The talking points after the attack were deliberately twisted for political reasons. Dissenters who tried to tell us what really happened were harshly punished.</p> <p>Is any of this true? The House Select Intelligence Committee&mdash;controlled by Republicans&mdash;has been investigating the Benghazi attacks in minute detail for two years. Today, with the midterm elections safely past, <a href="http://intelligence.house.gov/sites/intelligence.house.gov/files/documents/Benghazi%20Report.pdf" target="_blank">they issued their findings.</a> Their exoneration of the White House was sweeping and nearly absolute. So sweeping that I want to quote directly from the report's summary, rather than paraphrasing it. Here it is:</p> <ul><li>The Committee first concludes that the CIA ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi....Appropriate U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions that night, and the Committee found <strong>no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support....</strong><br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Second, the Committee finds that there was <strong>no intelligence failure prior to the attacks.</strong> In the months prior, the IC provided intelligence about previous attacks and the increased threat environment in Benghazi, but the IC did not have specific, tactical warning of the September 11 attacks.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Third, the Committee finds that a mixed group of individuals, including those affiliated with Al Qa'ida, participated in the attacks....<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Fourth, the Committee concludes that after the attacks, the early intelligence assessments and the Administration's initial public narrative on the causes and motivations for the attacks were not fully accurate....There was no protest. <strong>The CIA only changed its initial assessment about a protest on September 24, 2012, when closed caption television footage became available on September 18, 2012 (two days after Ambassador Susan Rice spoke)....</strong><br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Fifth, the Committee finds that the process used to generate the talking points HPSCI asked for&mdash;and which were used for Ambassador Rice's public appearances&mdash;was flawed....<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Finally, the Committee found <strong>no evidence that any officer was intimidated, wrongly forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement or otherwise kept from speaking to Congress, or polygraphed because of their presence in Benghazi.</strong> The Committee also found no evidence that the CIA conducted unauthorized activities in Benghazi and no evidence that the IC shipped arms to Syria.</li> </ul><p>It's hard to exaggerate just how remarkable this document is. It's not that the committee found nothing to criticize. They did. The State Department facility in Benghazi had inadequate security. Some of the early intelligence after the attacks was inaccurate. The CIA should have given more weight to eyewitnesses on the ground.</p> <p>But those are routine after-action critiques, ones that were fully acknowledged by the very first investigations. Beyond that, every single conspiracy theory&mdash;without exception&mdash;was conclusively debunked. There was no stand down order. The tactical response was both reasonable and effective under the circumstances. The CIA was not shipping arms from Libya to Syria. Both CIA and State received all military support that was available. The talking points after the attack were fashioned by the intelligence community, not the White House. Susan Rice followed these talking points in her Sunday show appearances, and where she was wrong, it was only because the intelligence community had made incorrect assessments. Nobody was punitively reassigned or polygraphed or otherwise intimidated to prevent them from testifying to Congress.</p> <p>Read that list again. Late on a Friday afternoon, when it would get the least attention, a Republican-led committee finally admitted that every single Benghazi conspiracy theory was false. There are ways that the response to the attacks could have been improved, but that's it. Nobody at the White House interfered. Nobody lied. Nobody prevented the truth from being told.</p> <p>It was all just manufactured outrage from the beginning. But now the air is gone. There is no scandal, and there never was.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress International Military Sat, 22 Nov 2014 06:02:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 265306 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 21 November 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/friday-cat-blogging-21-november-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here in Drumland we have a new version of the Second Commandment. Here's the rewrite:</p> <blockquote> <p>Thou shalt not bow down thyself to any other cats: for I, the Lord thy Hilbert, am a jealous cat.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's the backstory. Last week I got slightly concerned that Hopper was getting a bit less sociable. It was nothing big. She was still perfectly friendly, but she never jumped into our laps anymore. She's always had too much energy to be much of a lap cat, but when we first got her she'd occasionally get tuckered out and curl up with us.</p> <p>Long story short, my concern was completely misplaced. It turns out the reason she was avoiding our laps was because of Hilbert. Even if he was three rooms away, his spidey sense would tingle whenever she curled up with us, and he'd rush over to demand attention. Eventually he'd push her off completely, and apparently Hopper got tired of this. So she just stopped jumping into our laps.</p> <p>But as soon as we began restraining Hilbert, it turned out that Hopper was delighted to spend a spare hour or so with her human heating pads. This was easier said than done, since Hilbert really, really gets jealous when he sees Hopper on a lap. There's always another lap available for him, of course, but that's not the lap he wants. He wants whatever lap Hopper is sitting in. Keeping him away is an endless struggle.</p> <p>But struggle we do, and we figure that eventually Hilbert will learn there are laps aplenty and Hopper will realize that sitting in a lap isn't an invitation to be abused by her brother. Peace and love will then break out. Someday.</p> <p>In the meantime, here's this week's catblogging. On the left, Hopper is curled up in a sink that just fits her. Like so many cats, she's convinced that we humans might not know how to use the bathroom properly, so she always likes to come in and supervise. On the right, Hilbert is upstairs surveying his domain. Probably checking to ensure that no one else is sitting in a lap.</p> <p><img align="left" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2014_11_21_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 5px 4px 5px 0px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2014_11_21.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 5px 0px 5px 4px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:55:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 265266 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Finally Sue Over Obamacare -- And There's Even a Surprise Included http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/republicans-finally-sue-over-obamacare-and-theres-even-surprise-included <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>House Republicans finally filed their long-awaited lawsuit against President Obama today, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/22/us/politics/obamacare-lawsuit-filed-by-republicans.html" target="_blank">and it actually contained a surprise:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The suit also challenges what it says is President Obama&rsquo;s unlawful giveaway of roughly $175 billion to insurance companies under the law. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the administration will pay that amount to the companies over the next 10 years, though the funds have not been appropriated by Congress. The lawsuit argues that it is an unlawful transfer of funds.</p> <p>....If the lawsuit is successful, poor people would not lose their health care, because the insurance companies would still be required to provide coverage &mdash; but without the help of the government subsidy, the companies might be forced to raise costs elsewhere. The subsidies reduce the co-payments, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs that consumers incur when they go to doctors and hospitals.</p> </blockquote> <p>Long story short, it turns out there are two parts to the suit. The first part challenges Obama's delay of the employer mandate, and it's entirely symbolic. After all, it's only a delay. Even if Republicans win, by the time the case makes it all the way through the court system it will be moot. The delay will be over by then and the employer mandate will be in place.</p> <p>But this second part is unexpected. Republicans are arguing that a provision of the law called Cost Sharing Reduction wasn't automatically funded, as were most parts of the law. The law <em>authorizes</em> CSR, but no appropriation was ever made, so it's illegal to actually pay out these funds.</p> <p>Do they have a case? This is a brand new allegation, so I don't think anyone has yet had a chance to look into it. But if I had to guess, I'd say it's probably about as specious as every other allegation against Obamacare. Unfortunately, though, that doesn't mean the Supreme Court won't uphold it. You never know these days. In the meantime, conservatives are likely to be dizzy with excitement over the whole thing since (a) it involves a clear constitutional question about appropriating funds, and (b) it would hurt poor people. That's quite a twofer.</p> <p>Of course, the suit still has to survive challenges to Congress' standing to sue in the first place, and that might kill it before any court even begins to judge the merits of the case. Wait and see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Health Care Obama Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:55:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 265286 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama's Immigration Plan Is Both Good Policy and Remarkably Shrewd Politics http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/obamas-immigration-plan-both-good-policy-and-remarkably-shrewd-politics <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>There are questions about whether President Obama's immigration plan is legal. There are questions about whether it's good policy. And then there are questions about whether it's smart politics. On the latter point, I'd say that Obama has been unusually shrewd, almost single-handedly <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/21/us/politics/in-immigration-fight-some-in-gop-fear-alienating-latinos.html" target="_blank">demolishing the plans of Republican leaders for the next two years:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>All but drowned out by Republicans' clamorous opposition to President Obama's executive action on immigration are some leaders who worry that their party could alienate the fastest-growing group of voters, for 2016 and beyond, if its hottest heads become its face.</p> <p>They cite the Republican Party's official analysis of what went wrong in 2012&hellip;"If Hispanics think that we do not want them here," the report said, "they will close their ears to our policies."</p> <p>&hellip;"Clearly with Republicans not having gotten to a consensus in terms of immigration, it makes it a lot more difficult to talk about immigration as a unified voice," said David Winston, a Republican pollster who advises House leaders. "There are some people &mdash; because there's not a consensus &mdash; that somehow end up having a little bit louder <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_steve_king_canteloupe.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 25px;">voice than perhaps they would normally have."</p> <p>Among them is Representative Steve King of Iowa&hellip;</p> </blockquote> <p>Ah yes, Steve King of Iowa. The odds of shutting him up are about zero, and with primary season approaching he's going to become the de facto leader of the anti-immigration forces. In the same way that Republican candidates all have to kiss Sheldon Adelson's ring and swear eternal loyalty to Israel if they want access to his billions, they're going to have to kiss King's ring and swear eternal hostility to any kind of immigration from south of the border&mdash;and they're going to compete wildly to express this in the most colorful ways possible. And that's a big problem. Expressing loyalty to Israel doesn't really have much downside, but effectively denouncing the entire Hispanic population of the United States is going to steadily destroy any hopes Republicans have of ever appealing to this fast-growing voting bloc.</p> <p>And that's not all. Republican leaders are not only fearful of next year's primaries branding the GOP forever as a bunch of xenophobic maniacs, they're afraid it's going to wipe out any chance they have over the next two years of demonstrating to voters that they're a party of adults. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-immigration-fight-20141120-story.html" target="_blank">Here's the <em>LA Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The strong reaction by Republican leaders has less to do with opposition to the nuts and bolts of the president's immigration policy and more to do with fear and anger that the issue will derail the agenda of the new Republican majority before the next Congress even convenes.</p> <p>Republican leaders who had hoped to focus on corporate tax reform, fast-track trade pacts, repealing the president's healthcare law and loosening environmental restrictions on coal are instead being dragged into an immigration skirmish that they've tried studiously to avoid for most of the last year.</p> <p>&hellip;To many, stark warnings from Boehner and McConnell sound more like pleas to the president to avoid reenergizing the GOP's conservative wing, whose leaders are already threatening to link the president's immigration plan to upcoming budget talks.</p> </blockquote> <p>For what it's worth, I think Obama deserves credit for an unusually brilliant political move here. Some of this is accidental: he would have announced his immigration plan earlier in the year if he hadn't gotten pushback from red-state Democratic senators who didn't want to deal with this during tough election battles. Still, he stuck to his guns after the midterm losses, and the result seems to be almost an unalloyed positive for his party.</p> <p>The downside, after all, is minimal: the public says it's mildly unhappy with Obama using an executive order to change immigration rules. But that's a nothingburger. Outside of the Fox News set that's already convinced Obama is a tyrant bent on shredding the Constitution, this simply isn't something that resonates very strongly or for very long. It will be forgotten in a few weeks.</p> <p>The upside, conversely, is potentially huge. Obama has, indeed, waved a red flag in front of congressional tea partiers, turning them into frothing lunatics who want to shut down the government and maybe even impeach him. This has already turned into a huge headache for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, who really don't want this to be the public face of the party. In addition, it's quite possibly wrecked the Republican agenda for the next year, which is obviously just fine with Obama. And it's likely to turn next year's primary season into an anti-Hispanic free-for-all that does permanent damage to the GOP brand.</p> <p>And that's not even counting the energizing effect this has on Democrats, as well as the benefit they get from keeping a promise to Hispanics and earning their loyalty for the next few election cycles.</p> <p>Is there a price to be paid for this? If you think that maybe, just maybe, Republicans were willing to work with Obama to pass a few constructive items, then there's a price. Those items might well be dead in the water. If you don't believe that, the price is zero. I'm more or less in that camp. And you know what? Even the stuff that might have been passable&mdash;trade authority, the Keystone XL pipeline, a few tweaks to Obamacare&mdash;I'm either opposed to or only slightly in favor of in the first place. If they don't happen, very few Democrats are going to shed any real tears.</p> <p>That leaves only presidential appointments, and there might be a downside there if you think that initially Republicans were prepared to be halfway reasonable about confirming Obama's judges and agency heads. I kinda doubt that, but I guess you never know. This might be a genuine downside to unleashing the tea party beast.</p> <p>So: the whole thing is politically pretty brilliant. It unifies Democrats; wrecks the Republican agenda in Congress; cements the loyalty of Hispanics; and presents the American public with a year of Republican candidates spitting xenophobic fury during primary season. If you're President Obama, what's not to like?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Immigration Obama The Right Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:29:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 265256 at http://www.motherjones.com Has Obama Gone Too Far? 5 Key Questions Answered About the Legality of His Immigration Plan http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/obama-immigration-legal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I've been paying only moderate attention to the whole issue of President Obama's executive order on immigration, and it's only over the past few days that I've started trying to learn more about the legal issues involved. And I confess that I've been a little surprised by what I've discovered. As near as I can tell, both liberal <em>and</em> conservative legal scholars&mdash;as opposed to TV talking heads and other professional <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Immigration_Sign.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">rabble-rousers&mdash;agree that Obama has the authority to reshape immigration enforcement in nearly any way he wants to. Here are answers to five key questions about the legality of the immigration plan Obama announced tonight:</p> <ol><li><strong>The linchpin of Obama's executive action is the president's inherent authority to engage in prosecutorial discretion,</strong> and just about everyone agrees that this authority is nearly unconditional. Speaking to a meeting of the conservative Federalist Society, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/18/federalist-society-obama-immigration_n_6182350.html" target="_blank">Christopher Schroeder said:</a> "I think the roots of prosecutorial discretion are extremely deep. The practice is long and robust. The case law is robust." <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120328/obama-immigration-executive-action-why-it-will-be-legal" target="_blank">Erwin Chemerinsky and Samuel Kleiner agree:</a> "It has always been within the president&rsquo;s discretion to decide whether to have the Department of Justice enforce a particular law. As the Supreme Court declared in <em>United States v. Nixon</em>, 'the Executive Branch has exclusive authority and absolute discretion to decide whether to prosecute a case.'"<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>OK, but exempting entire categories of people from prosecution?</strong> It turns out that current immigration law explicitly recognizes this. <a href="http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/on-immigration-obama-may-be-cynical-but-hes-not-breaking-the-law/article/2551807" target="_blank">Margaret Stock,</a> a Republican immigration lawyer and a Federalist Society member, says: "The Immigration and Nationality Act and other laws are chock-full of huge grants of statutory authority to the president. Congress gave the president all these powers, and now they are upset because he wants to use them. Other presidents have used the same authority in the past without an outcry."<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>But are those grants really broad enough?</strong> Apparently so. In fact, immigration law provides the president an unusually <em>broad</em> scope for executive action. <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/view_from_chicago/2014/08/why_obama_has_the_power_to_stop_millions_of_deportations_without_congress.single.html" target="_blank">Eric Posner writes:</a> "The president&rsquo;s authority over this arena is even greater than his authority over other areas of the law....In 2012, the Supreme Court recognized the vast discretion of the president over immigration policy. In the case <em>Arizona v. United States</em>, the court struck down several Arizona laws that ordered state officials to enforce federal immigration laws, on pain of state penalty....As [Adam] Cox puts it, in a recent academic article, the court&rsquo;s reasoning "gives executive branch officials near complete control over the content of immigration law.'"<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Still, even if this is true in theory, is it really true in practice?</strong> As it turns out, yes, there's plenty of prior precedent for exactly this kind of thing. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-immigration-executive-order-one-of-many-20141117-story.html" target="_blank">As the <em>LA Times</em> reports,</a> "Obama would not be the first president to push through immigration reform by working outside of Congress." In fact, presidents from FDR through Bill Clinton have issued executive orders that deferred deportation for various categories of undocumented immigrants. And while it's true that Obama's action will likely affect more people than any of the previous ones, that's a political issue, not a legal one. From a strictly legal viewpoint, Obama is doing something that has plenty of past precedent.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Finally, what about work permits?</strong> Even if Obama can legally defer prosecution&mdash;a right conferred by both constitutional authority and statutory language&mdash;does that also give him the right to issue work permits to immigrants affected by his order? Surprisingly, perhaps, that has a long pedigree too&mdash;one that goes back not just to DACA (Obama's 2012 mini-DREAM executive order), but well before that. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/08/06/how-far-can-obama-go-on-deportations/" target="_blank">David Leopold,</a> former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, explains: "The federal regulations governing employment under immigration law existed well before DACA. Under those regulations, any undocumented immigrant granted deferred action &mdash; under programs that preceded DACA or coincide with it &mdash; had already been able to apply for employment authorization....The president&rsquo;s authority to grant work status long precedes DACA, and while it does apply to DACA and would apply to its expansion, it is not a direct outgrowth or creation of either."</li> </ol><p>It's an open question whether Obama's actions are politically wise. It might force Republicans into an uncomfortable corner as they compete loudly to denounce Obama's actions, further damaging their chances of appealing to Hispanics in future elections. Alternatively, it might poison any possibility of working constructively with congressional Republicans over the next couple of years, which might further degrade Democratic approval ratings. There's also, I think, a legitimate question about whether liberals should be cheering an expansion of presidential power, whether it's legal or not.</p> <p>That said, Obama's actions really do appear to be not just legal, but fairly uncontroversially so among people who know both the law and past precedent. Republicans may not like what Obama is doing, and they certainly have every right to fight it. But they should stop spouting nonsense about lawlessness and tyranny. That's just playground silliness.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Immigration Fri, 21 Nov 2014 05:27:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 265211 at http://www.motherjones.com No, the Culture Wars Haven't Heated Up. It Just Seems Like They Have. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/no-culture-wars-havent-heated-it-just-seems-they-have <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Andrew Sullivan cogitates today on the seemingly endless outpouring of outrage over <a href="http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/11/20/quote-for-the-day-433/" target="_blank">relatively small lapses in decent behavior:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I wonder also if our digital life hasn&rsquo;t made all this far worse. <strong>When you sit in a room with a laptop and write about other people and their flaws, and you don&rsquo;t have to look them in the eyes, you lose all incentive for manners.</strong></p> <p>You want to make a point. You may be full to the brim with righteous indignation or shock or anger. It is only human nature to flame at abstractions, just as the awkwardness of physical interaction is one of the few things constraining our rhetorical excess. When you combine this easy anonymity with the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_outrageous.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">mass impulses of a Twitterstorm, and you can see why manners have evaporated and civil conversations turned into culture war.</p> <p>I&rsquo;m as guilty of this as many....</p> </blockquote> <p>Why yes! Yes you are, Andrew.</p> <p>On a more serious note, I actually disagree with his diagnosis of the problem, which has become so common as to be nearly conventional wisdom these days. Here's why: I have not, personally, ever noticed that human beings tend to rein in their worst impulses when they're face to face with other human beings. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Most often, they don't. Arguments with real people end up with red faces and lots of shouting constantly. I just flatly don't believe that the real problem with internet discourse is the fact that you're not usually directly addressing the object of your scorn.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>So what <em>is</em> the problem? I think it's mostly one of visibility. In the past, the kinds of lapses that provoke internet pile-ons mostly stayed local. There just wasn't a mechanism for the wider world to find out about them, so most of us never even heard about them. It became a big deal within the confines of a town or a university campus or whatnot, but that was it.</p> <p>Occasionally, these things broke out, and the wider world did find out about them. But even then, there was a limit to how the world could respond. You could organize a protest, but that's a lot of work. You could go to a city council meeting and complain. You could write a letter to the editor. But given the limitations of technology, it was fairly rare for something to break out and become a true feeding frenzy.</p> <p>Needless to say, that's no longer the case. In fact, we have just the opposite problem: things can become feeding frenzies even if no one really wants them to be. That's because they can go viral with no central organization at all. Each individual who tweets or blogs or Facebooks their outrage thinks of this as a purely personal response. Just a quick way to kill a few idle minutes. But put them all together, and you have tens of thousands of people simultaneously responding in a way that <em>seems</em> like a huge pile-on. And that in turn triggers the more mainstream media to cover these things as if they were genuinely big deals.</p> <p>The funny thing is that in a lot of cases, they aren't. If, say, 10,000 people are outraged over Shirtgate, <em>that's nothing</em>. Seriously. Given the ubiquity of modern social media, 10,000 people getting mad about something is actually a sign that almost nobody cares.</p> <p>The problem is that our lizard brains haven't caught up to this. We still think that 10,000 outraged people is a lot, and 30 or 40 years ago it would have been. What's more, it almost certainly would have represented a far greater number of people who actually cared. Today, though, it's so easy to express outrage that 10,000 people is a pretty small number&mdash;and most likely represents nearly everyone who actually gives a damn.</p> <p>We need to recalibrate our cultural baselines for the social media era. People can respond so quickly and easily to minor events that the resulting feeding frenzies can seem far more important than anyone ever intended them to be. A snarky/nasty tweet, after all, is the work of a few seconds. A few thousand of them represent a grand total of a few hours of work. The end result may seem like an unbelievable avalanche of contempt and derision to the target of the attack, but in real terms, it represents virtually nothing.</p> <p>The culture wars are not nastier because people on the internet don't have to face their adversaries. They're nastier because even minor blowups <em>seem</em> huge. But that's just Econ 101. When the cost of expressing outrage goes down, the amount of outrage expressed goes up. That doesn't mean there's more outrage. It just means outrage is a lot more visible than it used to be.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>I'll concede that this is potentially a problem with a very specific subset of professional troll. Even there, however, I'd note that the real world has plenty of rough equivalents, from Code Pink to the Westboro Baptist Church lunatics.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tech Thu, 20 Nov 2014 19:15:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 265196 at http://www.motherjones.com A Follow-Up: Why the Working and Middle Classes Don't Like Obamacare Much http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/follow-why-working-and-middle-classes-dont-obamacare-much <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's an interesting chart that follows up on <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/can-we-talk-heres-why-white-working-class-hates-democrats" target="_blank">a post I wrote a few days ago</a> about Democrats and the white working class. Basically, I made the point that Democrats have recently done a lot for the poor but very little for the working and middle classes, and this is one of the reasons that the white working class is increasingly alienated from the Democratic Party.</p> <p>I got various kinds of pushback on this, but one particular train of criticism suggested that I was overestimating just how targeted Democratic programs were. Sure, they help the poor, but they also help the working class a fair amount, and sometimes even the lower reaches of the middle class. However, while there's some truth to this for certain programs (unemployment insurance, SSI disability), the numbers I've seen in the past don't really back this up for most social welfare programs.</p> <p>Obamacare seems like an exception, since its subsidies quite clearly reach upward to families in the working and middle classes. Today, however, <a href="http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/the-aca-is-working-so-why-is-the-opposition-to-it-so-strong-and-persistent/" target="_blank">Bill Gardner</a> points me to <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2014/01/potential%20effects%20affordable%20care%20act%20income%20inequality%20aaron%20burtless/potential%20effects%20affordable%20care%20act%20income%20inequality%20aaron%20burtless.pdf" target="_blank">a Brookings paper from a few months ago</a> that suggests just the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_winners_losers_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">opposite. The authors calculate net gains and losses from Obamacare, and conclude that nearly all its benefits flow to the poor. If I interpolate their chart a bit, winners are those with household incomes below $25,000 or so, and losers are those with incomes above $25,000.</p> <p>The authors are clear that their estimates are not definitive, thanks to difficulties in performing some of the calculations. And obviously they're just averages. Quite plainly, there are some families with higher incomes that benefit from Obamacare.</p> <p>Still, there are fewer than you think&mdash;partly because the subsidies decline at higher incomes and partly because people with higher incomes already have employer insurance and don't need Obamacare. That said, I don't want to make too much of this single chart, especially given the measurement difficulties it presents. But I do think it's illustrative. If you think of Obamacare as something that benefits the working and middle classes, you're probably wrong. It may benefit a few of them, but overall it's a cost to them&mdash;or, under more generous assumptions, perhaps a wash.</p> <p>Obviously there's more to this, and Gardner discusses some of the other electoral implications of Obamacare in his post. It's worth a read. But the bottom line is simple: like most of the social welfare programs championed by Democrats, Obamacare is primarily aimed at the poor. Once again, the working and middle classes are left on the outside looking in.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> I'm sure many people will point out that middle class folks benefit from Obamacare in other ways. If they lose their jobs, for example, they can stay insured even if they have a preexisting condition. That's a benefit! However, as Gardner points out, an awful lot of middle-class voters don't know about these kinds of benefits, so it doesn't register with them. Basically, they take a look at who's getting the cash, and for the most part, it's not them.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Health Care Thu, 20 Nov 2014 16:51:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 265181 at http://www.motherjones.com It Turns Out That Ferguson Is Pretty Typical of America http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/it-turns-out-ferguson-pretty-typical-america <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_irvine_arrest_rate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The Ferguson police department famously arrests blacks at a rate three times higher than other races. A <em>USA Today</em> investigation shows <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/11/18/ferguson-black-arrest-rates/19043207/" target="_blank">just how commonplace that is:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>At least 1,581 other police departments across the USA arrest black people at rates even more skewed than in Ferguson, a <em>USA TODAY</em> analysis of arrest records shows. That includes departments in cities as large and diverse as Chicago and San Francisco and in the suburbs that encircle St. Louis, New York and Detroit.</p> <p>Those disparities are easier to measure than they are to explain. They could be a reflection of biased policing; they could just as easily be a byproduct of the vast economic and educational gaps that persist across much of the USA &mdash; factors closely tied to crime rates. In other words, experts said, the fact that such disparities exist does little to explain their causes.</p> </blockquote> <p>Curious to know how your city fares? <a href="http://www.gannett-cdn.com/experiments/usatoday/2014/11/arrests-interactive/" target="_blank">Click here</a> and check out various places in your state. My hometown, it turns out, beats out Ferguson easily, arresting blacks at a rate nearly four times higher than other races. The difference, of course, is that Irvine is only 1.7 percent black to begin with, so there's hardly anyone here to complain about it. That makes it easy to ignore, but that's about all it means.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Race and Ethnicity Wed, 19 Nov 2014 17:40:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 265051 at http://www.motherjones.com Voter ID Laws: Terrible Public Policy, But Probably Pretty Feeble http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/voter-id-laws-terrible-public-policy-probably-pretty-feeble <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Republican-led voter-ID laws may be pernicious, but Nate Cohn says there are three reasons to think their <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/20/upshot/why-voter-id-laws-dont-swing-many-elections.html" target="_blank">actual electoral impact is overstated:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>To begin with, <strong>the true number of registered voters without photo identification is usually much lower than the statistics on registered voters without identification suggest</strong>. The number of voters without photo identification is calculated by matching voter registration files with state ID databases. But perfect matching is impossible and the effect is to overestimate the number of voters without identification.</p> <p>....<strong>People without ID are less likely to vote than other registered voters.</strong> The North Carolina study found that 43 percent of the unmatched voters &mdash; registered voters who could not be matched with a driver&rsquo;s license &mdash; participated in 2012, compared with more than 70 percent of matched voters.</p> <p>....There&rsquo;s no question that voter ID has a disparate impact on Democratic-leaning groups....<strong>[But] voters without an identification might be breaking something more like 70/30 for Democrats than 95/5.</strong> A 70/30 margin is a big deal, and, again, it&rsquo;s fully consistent with Democratic concerns about voter suppression. But when we&rsquo;re down to the subset of unmatched voters who don&rsquo;t have any identification and still vote, a 70/30 margin probably isn&rsquo;t generating enough votes to decide anything but an extremely close election.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/voter-suppression-kevin-drum?page=2" target="_blank">When I looked into this a couple of years ago,</a> I basically came to the same conclusion. Only a few studies were available at the time, but they suggested that the real-world impact of voter ID laws was fairly small. I haven't seen anything since then to suggest otherwise.</p> <p>None of this justifies the cynical Republican effort to suppress voting via ID laws. For one thing, they still matter in close elections. For another, the simple fact that they deliberately target minority voters is noxious&mdash;and this is very much <em>not</em> ameliorated by the common Republican defense that the real reason they're targeted isn't race related. It's because they vote for Democrats. If anything, that makes it worse. Republicans are knowingly making it harder for blacks and Hispanics to vote <em>because they vote for the wrong people</em>. I'm not sure how much more noxious a voter suppression effort can be.</p> <p>These laws should be stricken from the books, lock, stock and extremely smoking barrel. They don't prevent voter fraud and they have no purpose except to suppress the votes of targeted groups. The evidence on this point is now clear enough that the Supreme Court should revisit its 2008 decision in <em>Crawford v. Marion</em> that upheld strict voter ID laws. They have no place in a decent society.</p> <p>At the same time, if you're wondering how much actual effect they have, the answer is probably not much. We still don't have any definitive academic studies on this point, I think, but Cohn makes a pretty good case. It's possible that Kay Hagan might have lost her Senate race this year thanks to voter ID laws, but she's probably the only one.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:47:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 265041 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Scott Walker Might Be Our Next President http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/why-scott-walker-might-be-our-next-president <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In 2012, I basically considered Mitt Romney a shoo-in for the Republican nomination. I figured that he'd hoover up most of the moderate votes&mdash;and despite all the breathless press accounts, moderates still account for at least half of GOP voters&mdash;plus a share of the tea partiers, and that was that. The rest of the field would destroy each other as they fought over their own sliver of the tea party vote, eventually leaving Romney battered and unloved, but triumphant.</p> <p>Sure enough, that's what happened. But I don't see a strong moderate in the field right now. I suppose Jeb Bush and Chris Christie come the closest, but even if they run, they strike me as having some pretty serious problems. Romney was willing to adopt tea party positions across the board, even as he projected a moderate, adult persona, but neither Christie nor Bush will kowtow in quite that way. That's going to cause them problems, and Christie's fondness for showy confrontations is going to be an additional millstone around his neck. Either one might win, but neither seems like an especially likely nominee to me.</p> <p>All this is a long way of explaining why I think Scott Walker is the frontrunner. He has a record of governance. His persona is generally adult. He doesn't say crazy stuff. Relatively speaking, he's attractive to moderates. But at the same time, <a href="http://nypost.com/2014/11/18/a-walker-16-boom-he-looks-great-on-paper/" target="_blank">the tea partiers love him too.</a> The big strike against him, of course, is that he's lousy on TV. He's a terrible public speaker. And he's just boring as hell. However, Ed Kilgore perfectly explains why this <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2014_11/walker_16_death_by_vanilla052997.php" target="_blank">doesn't make him another Tim Pawlenty or John Kasich:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>This is why Walker is so very commonly compared to Tim Pawlenty in 2012; the Minnesotan was perfectly positioned to become the most-conservative-electable-candidate nominee in a large but shaky field. And he wound up being the first candidate to drop out, before a single vote (other than in the completely non-official Ames Straw Poll) was cast. His sin was congenital blandness, and the defining moment of his campaign was when he all but repudiated his one great zinger: referring to the Affordable Care Act as "Obamneycare."</p> <p>But TPaw's demise does point up one big difference between these two avatars of the Republican revival in the Upper Midwest: <strong>nobody suspects Scott Walker may be too nice for his party. He may be bland, and a bad orator, but his bad intent towards conservatism's enemies is unmistakable.</strong> He's sorta Death by Vanilla, or a great white shark; boring until he rips you apart. I think Republican elites get that, and it excites them. But how about voters?</p> </blockquote> <p>Mitt Romney managed to base nearly his entire campaign on hating Barack Obama more than anyone else. It worked. Whenever someone started to score some points against his sometimes liberalish record in Massachusetts, he'd just launch into an over-the-top denunciation of Obama and the crowd would go wild. Walker can do the same thing, but without the artifice. Unlike Romney, he really has been fighting liberals tooth and nail for the past four years, and he has the scars to prove it. This will go a long, long way to make up for a bit of blandness.</p> <p>Besides, it's worth remembering that people can improve on the basics of campaigning. Maybe Walker will turn out to be hopeless. You never know until the campaign really gets going. But if he's serious, he'll get some media training and start working on developing a better stump speech. A few months of this can do wonders.</p> <p>Predictions are hard, especially about the future. But if he runs, I rate Walker a favorite right now. If his only real drawback is Midwestern blandness&mdash;well, Mitt Romney wasn't Mr. Excitement either. Walker can get better if he puts in the work. And if he does, he'll have most of Romney's upside with very little of the downside. He could be formidable.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Top Stories Scott Walker Wed, 19 Nov 2014 15:38:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 265026 at http://www.motherjones.com Today's Winner in Washington: The Filibuster http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/todays-winner-washington-filibuster <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today, Democrats blocked action to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. A few minutes later, Republicans blocked a bill to regulate the bulk collection of phone records by the NSA.</p> <p>Both bills had majority support. Both failed thanks to filibusters. It's good to see that life is back to normal in Washington DC.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Climate Change Congress Energy Wed, 19 Nov 2014 01:24:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 265006 at http://www.motherjones.com