In mid-October Hillary Clinton was ahead of Donald Trump by 11 points, as of this morning, 11/6/16, most of that lead had dissipated thanks to the latest batch of e-mails, which may have been inappropriately released, many of which may in fact be duplications. That gnawing question about Clinton’s honesty and trustworthiness just won’t go away and with it the outcome of the election is no longer a given. Meanwhile the number of woman who have accused Trump of sexually inappropriate behavior has reached double digits. Serial adulterer Newt Gingrich harangued Meygn Kelly about her “obsession with sex” suggesting that her animosity towards Trump, founded on his poor behavior towards her during the presidential debates, impeded her ability to honestly cover his candidacy. Against this backdrop of tawdry and salacious news, Roger Ailes at Fox News is forced off the stage which has been the fountain of truth for America’s conservative rank and file for decades, and that as a result of his own sexual misconduct. Rudy Giuliani told us that Trump was a “genius” for not paying taxes for 18 years, leaving the rest of us to conclude that we’re just suckers.
If you’ve been watching Fox News it’s ironic to see Bill O’Reilly and Bret Baier have to swallow the reality of Trump as the conservative standard bearer even if he’s not even remotely close to being a genuine conservative. Barry Goldwater’s granddaughter, Carolyn Goldwater Ross, said that Trump violates all of her grandfather’s core values. Ironically Miss Ross made that statement while appearing onstage with Michelle Obama at a pro Clinton rally in Phoenix. Mr. O’Reilly went so far as to say that Trump was not “seasoned enough to understand the geopolitical world” while at the same time bemoaning “Clinton is too far to the left.” It’s safe to say that this acceptance of Trump is more a function of a deep seated disdain for all things progressive than it is for a true affinity for Trump himself. Fox News has apparently looked past Trump’s fact free messaging, his dishonest twisting of those facts that he does employ, his foreign policy ignorance and his baseless economic positions, apparently concluding that the election of Hillary Clinton would be the greater of two evils. Some have even suggested, sardonically, that we should return to being ruled by the British. I could go on with the examples but if you’ve been paying any attention to politics over the past year I think you get the point and that point is that this country is on the threshold of a very unsettling immediate future.
If Rand Paul had ever had the juice behind his presidential bid that Donald Trump had and then failed to perform I’d label his departure from the 2016 race a flameout. However in this case, as in many libertarian efforts in the past, it’s really just another fizzle. An analysis of Rand Paul’s political fortunes shows that he has been consistently mired in single digit support levels or low double digits at best. This can be verified by an analysis of the data in RealClear Politics and PollingReport.com going back to the beginning of the 2016 presidential campaign, referenced below.
Every time Americans become disillusioned or disenchanted with government, particularly the concept of “big” government, the country’s Libertarians seem to pop up like mushrooms after a spring rain touting their well worn, stock critique about how we currently govern ourselves. Every time this happens more than a few politicians suddenly voice support for Libertarian ideas, say that they are devotees of Ayn Rand or that they subscribe to the ideas of the Mises Institute with its the Austrian school of economics and libertarian political theory. Conservative media grabs onto the new found enthusiasm for Libertarian ideas with headline stories or an interview of some small band of college Libertarians who, like Pope Urban the Second, proclaim that we are on the verge of a great crusade to free people from the serfdom of modern government, one which will take us back to the realm of the unencumbered “noble savage’ who is free to do as he pleases, the public be damned. And every time, as in the past, this passing flirtation with Libertarianism fades as the dynamics of the American political process plays itself out. What is noteworthy about this latest Libertarian fizzle is that even during a time of great turmoil in the American political life where so many are searching for something new or revolutionary, the ideas of our current Libertarian standard bearer have been trampled underfoot in the melee of the 2016 presidential contest, left to bleed out on the field of political battle and largely ignored.
In what is shaping up to be a year of setbacks for the Republican Party’s far right, last Friday’s budget deal can only be seen as yet another defeat.
Senator Ted Cruz labeled the deal “a slap in the face to conservatives.” Thus conservatives on Capitol Hill and elsewhere will now have to come to terms with developments that are diametrically opposed to their long term goals. Sequester spending caps will be exceeded for both defense and social programs and overall government spending caps will move higher. The bi-partisan effort that affected the budget deal also resurrected the Export – Import Bank, long a target of the far right. Meanwhile the big winners coming out of the budget deal are among the far right’s most hated foes: President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and the entitlement programs of Medicare and Social Security. Another winner in the process is incoming Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.
Outside conservative think tanks were clearly losers as well: “It was a rough stretch for outside conservative groups that have frequently worked to flex muscle in the Capitol. Heritage Action and Club for Growth joined forces to blast the budget accord as it drifted away from spending caps — and put lawmakers on notice that they were watching the vote. But it ultimately was for naught.”
I’m not even remotely a fan of the Clintons, but with regard to how things are shaping up of late, one thing seems to be certain, 2015 has already been a bad year for America’s conservatives and the Benghazi Hearings could just become the latest setback in what is shaping up to be a year of setbacks. With two prominent Republican lawmakers and one staffer coming out and publicly declaring that the Benghazi investigation is nothing more than a anti-Hillary Clinton witch-hunt, to Ms. Clinton’s performance last week in her testimony, Republicans find themselves in the midst of another self inflicted predicament. Some of Fox News’s most vociferous critics: Charles Krauthammer, A.B. Stoddard and Tucker Carlson among them, appearing on Brett Baier’s Special Report Friday admitted that Clinton was the clear winner in last week’s Benghazi hearings. The moderately conservative David Books, commenting on Friday’s PBS News Hour, alluded to a “certain psychosis” that has held the G.O.P. in it’s grip since 1991 as it relates to repeated attempts to tie the Clintons to one scandal or another. His counterpart, the liberal Mark Shields added that, on every occasion, conservatives have overshot their mark only helping the Clinton’s grow stronger. Is this psychosis ridden G.O.P. capable of charting a viable path to America’s future, not likely.
This was to be the year that a new Republican Congressional majority was supposed to prove to the American people, in the run up to the 2016 presidential elections, that it could actually govern. Yet as we enter the 10th month of their new year, precious little has been accomplished. Instead of a track record of legislative accomplishments we have seen an inordinate amount of time spent chasing Hillary Clinton, voting to repeal the A.C.A., threatening to shut down government, avoiding coming to grips with the seismic shifts underway in modern day America, be it same sex marriage, climate challenges, guns, Obamacare or the festering problems of race and income inequality.
One can only scratch one’s head when it comes to the incredulous nature of the Fox News Network. On a day as momentous, after a week as momentous as this, the O’Reilly Factor’s nightly feature is on global terror, completely ignoring today’s SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage.
Is it any wonder why or how Media Matters found that those who watch Fox News are less informed than those who don’t follow the news regularly via any format? So much for mainstream conservative media.
The Court this week has delivered a series of devastating blows to America’s conservative movement with their second decision affirming the constitutionality of Obamacare, today’s decision on same sex marriage along with another decision on discrimination in housing.
It’s been kind of funny watching the Fox crew attempting to recover from the multiple blows sustained by conservatives this week. Conservatives have been looking with regard to upending Obamacare to additional cases wending their way through the lower courts and hoping that these cases will somehow undo what’s already been settled. Political commentator Amy Walter, appearing on Fox News last night, pointed out that many of those cases have already been dismissed and that now with a second affirmative decision on Obamacare, most of the rest will probably be dismissed too or the Court will agree not to hear them.
And conservatives shouldn’t take to much solace in the idea that Obamacare will be undone on Capitol Hill either. Let’s be honest about one reality. Conservatives on Capitol Hill have voted some 50 times to repeal the A.C.A to no avail. Their last presidential effort was based in part in undoing the A.C.A and that failed too. To date the G.O.P. has failed to come up with an comprehensive alternative to the A.C.A. Thus what will change now? Not much likely with regard to Obamacare.
After obsessing for the past year, or more, about whether or not the Obama administration will ever bring itself to utter the words “Islamic Terror” or “Radical Islam” one can only wonder when conservatives will wake up to the greater threat, that once again, is seen to be emanating from the far right. To wit: “In a survey we conducted with the Police Executive Research Forum last year of 382 law enforcement agencies, 74 percent reported anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdiction; 39 percent listed extremism connected with Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations. And only 3 percent identified the threat from Muslim extremists as severe, compared with 7 percent for anti-government and other forms of extremism.”
The recent racially driven terror shootings in Charleston once again bring to the fore the threat that I detailed below in “Coming Unhinged on the Far Right”. The Charleston tragedy shows that the underlying issues outlined in 2010 are still salient, relevant and no less dangerous today.
What is most interesting in the aftermath of Charleston is that even though folks on the far right, like Bill O’Rielly, admit that it was an act of terror, they cannot resist using the tragedy to promote an ongoing anti-progressive political agenda. The aftermath of the Charleston terror attack is seen by the talking heads on the far right as an opportunity for the “America haters” and “race hustlers” to launch a new round of attacks against our country. They ignore the fact that many of the alleged “America haters” and “race hustlers are merely pointing out the enduring shortcomings of race in American society and all the problems resulting there from.
Those who are heavily invested in the notion that it is the religion of Islam that is driving much of the terror in Syria and Iraq and beyond will find these new revelations by the German magazine Der Spiegel tough to swallow. Der Spiegel’s man found out, through an analysis of captured documents exhibited in the article, that ISIS is the creation of a former Iraqi Air Force Officer. This officer, Haji Bakr, who along with the many Iraqi officers kicked to the curb after the fall of Iraq, went on to formulate, lead and propagate ISIS as more or less a criminal enterprise, cloak it in religious form for recruitment purposes and launch it on its way. To date most of the captured leadership of ISIS have been linked to the Baathist Iraqi military of the prior regime.
What’s most ironic in all of this is that it the seeds of this problem can be justifiably found in the failures which took place during the Bush/Cheney administration and not with the arrival of Barack Obama in the White House. So much for all the “appeasement” prattle and whether or not the current administration uses the terms “Islamic Terror” or “Radical Islam”, which as it turns out in this case would be structurally and conceptually inapplicable.
Haji Bakr, wasn’t widely known. But that was precisely part of the plan. The former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein’s air defense force had been secretly pulling the strings at ISIS for years.
What Bakr put on paper, page by page, with carefully outlined boxes for individual responsibilities, was nothing less than a blueprint for a takeover. It was not a manifesto of faith, but a technically precise plan for an “Islamic Intelligence State” — a caliphate run by an organization that resembled East Germany’s notorious Stasi domestic intelligence agency.
ISIS has little in common with predecessors like al-Qaida aside from its jihadist label. There is essentially nothing religious in its actions, its strategic planning, its unscrupulous changing of alliances and its precisely implemented propaganda narratives. Faith, even in its most extreme form, is just one of many means to an end. Islamic State’s only constant maxim is the expansion of power at any price.
Another famous New Yorker, Yogi Berra, once said, “We may be lost but we’re making good time.” That pretty much sums up the current state of Rudy Giuliani’s political reality and doesn’t bode well for his future.
When it comes to Rudy Giuliani, I want to be upfront from the start. I’ve lived in New York City most of my adult life and I have greatly benefited from having lived here. I voted for Rudy Giuliani every time he ran for mayor. He used to live around the corner and down the block from where I’ve lived for the past 30 years. I had the misfortune, one weekend evening, of sitting two tables away from the Giuliani family in an Upper Eastside restaurant. I was more than taken aback when the man who had rid the streets of “squeegee pests” along with high and low priced hookers couldn’t control his own children as they ran riot about the dining floor. Giuliani was as oblivious to his children’s behavior as he was to the displeasure they caused the patrons trying to enjoy dinner that evening.
If you’re not a New Yorker of long standing or one who has resided in the greater metropolitan area for a number of years your opinion of Rudy Giuliani is more likely than not a function of your memories of the September 11 terror attack and his response thereto, which was undoubtedly heroic. His performance in the aftermath of 9/11 led many media pundits to portray Giuliani as an “American Churchill”, something my British friends, both liberal and conservative, roundly derided. However’ if you’ve been here awhile you know full well that the day before 9/11/2001 Rudy Giuliani was pretty much a political has been, having sunk to the level of a political afterthought. He was perceived, socially, as a bit of a buffoon. Prior to 9/11, Mayor Giuliani had made a spectacle of himself, in an unflattering way, by openly discussing his failed marriage in public even before he had completely done so privately with his wife. This was an affront to polite society in particular and viewed with disdain by the public generally. Thus in many ways his latest attack on the persona of Barack Obama is best viewed as Giuliani running true to form. In other words, Rudy Giuliani has regressed to his personal political mean.