Sunday, June 14, 2015

Politix Update: GOP Wannabes Against Big Gubberment 'Til They're For It

Republican presidential wannabes like to whine that government needs to be made smaller, and in the meantime Washington should get off our fricking backs.  After all, we get taxed -- and regulated -- through the nose and get practically nothing in return, right?  This complaint is especially loud and persistent when it comes to Texas pols with their eye on the big prize.  Were talking Senator Ted Cruz and former Governor Rick Perry here.  And so I have a plan to finally get serious about this nagging problem: Let's first pull the federal air traffic controllers from the towers at Texas airports and replace them with militiamen, municipal swimming pool monitors or Eagle Scouts, or something, and then go from there in downsizing the federal presence in the Lone Star State.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
This scenario isn't as crazy as it seems.  It's the politicians who complain about Washington until their constituents really need Washington who are crazy. Take Ted Cruz.  Please! 

The Tea Party darling is only the most recent inductee into the army of small-minded, two-faced politicians who harrumph about going it alone without the feds breathing down their necks until their tassel loafers get wet.  Cruz, you may recall, voted against aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but there he was the other day calling for relief from Big Bad Washington in the wake of devastating floods and storms that have ravaged his home state.
Speaking of Texas, big gubberment and that other Lone Star wannabe, a most extraordinary story appeared in the liberal media the other day: A piece in Slate that argues Rick Perry is not an idiot.

You've got a big problem when you're running for prezdent and people think you're dumb, and that happens to be the albatross hanging around Perry's neck in his second bid for the nomination.  This is because his inaugural run in 2012 became fodder for stand-up comedians when he embarrassed himself spectacularly during a debate by being unable to name the third of the three federal agencies he would try to abolish as president.

Writes Reihan Salam:

"Having served as governor of Texas for an impressive three and a half terms, during which the Lone Star State thrived economically, you'd think that Perry would immediately be considered a top-tier candidate. So why isn’t he being taken as seriously as Jeb Bush, a man who hasn't run for office since 2002, or Scott Walker, a governor who has accomplished far less, or Marco Rubio, a first-term senator who’s never really run anything? There is a simple explanation. Basically, people think he’s not very bright. But that’s simply not true. Perry is extremely socially perceptive, a quality that has helped him connect with people from many different backgrounds. He’s demonstrated superb political judgment, and he’s proved to be a pragmatic and creative policy thinker. Though no one would mistake Perry for an intellectual, he has the kind of smarts voters should be looking for in a chief executive."
Although I don't think many people would consider Bush, Walker or Rubio to be rocket scientists, I initially was willing to give Salam a pass, but a nagging feeling sent me on a Web search that coughed up articles from 2008 in which Salam declared Sarah Palin to be really smart and, uh . . . . misunderestimated, to borrow a malapropism from another Texan.
"Months before Palin was selected as McCain's running mate, I told anyone who’d listen that she'd be the shrewdest pick," Salam wrote breathlessly in one piece. "When she addressed the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, I was utterly electrified."

Despite boasting that this is my 12th presidential campaign, I still, uh . . . misunderestimate the ability of some politicians to let their massive egos get in the way of doing the right thing.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is toast as a contender for the Republican nomination.  In fact, he's burned to a crisp, but less because he's a moderate gussied up in conservative drag and would flunk the party's right-wing litmus test with flying colors than his own serial missteps as governor, as well as his inability to control a proclivity for bullying.

"If you’re ready to start offending people in order to achieve a greater goal, you’ve found the right guy," he said last week in the clearest sign yet that his ego is winning out. "I’m here to help offend people with you."
In a term and a half as governor of by some measures the wealthiest state -- and despite an economic rebound nationally -- New Jersey's bond rating has been downgraded a record seven times, the state faces a $7.3 billion structural deficit going into the new fiscal year, and he has used money under the control of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as a personal piggy bank to bail out the state's debt-ridden highway and bridge fund.  That's just for starters.  Then there's Bridgegate, the scheme to plunge the George Washington Bridge approach at Fort Lee, New Jersey into four days of gridlock as payback to a Democratic mayor who wouldn't endorse Christie for re-election, agreeing to a legal settlement with mega-polluter ExxonMobil that will pay mere pennies on the dollar, and news last week that the heavy-handed governor repeatedly and casually broke federal law in revealing grand jury proceedings he had overseen when he was a U.S. attorney.

I noted in the last installment of Politix Update that Iowa had lost its luster as the first stop on the presidential primary campaign trail because a small bunch of white Republicans wearing itchy flannel shirts had an outsized influence on an already flawed process.
In tacit recognition that what happens in the state generates far more interest from the national media than it does voters, let alone candidates, the Iowa Straw Poll was put out of its misery the other day.  Few candidates in the record-large GOP field were even bothering to campaign for the August event, which has preceded the January party caucuses since 1979.
While the straw poll was long on carnival atmosphere, it was short on relevance.  To wit: The 2011 winner was Michele Bachmann.
Any politician is going to bend reality a little to fit better with their message, but Carly Fiorina is in world-record territory in staking out feminism as a conservative cause.
"It’s been 95 years since women got the right to vote. Fifty years since The Feminine Mystique.  Sixteen years since I was named the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company,” the Republican candidate for president declared.  Washington D.C. liberals' "version of feminism isn’t working. It’s time for a new definition."
If that definition comports with contemporary conservatism, which is to say the Republican brand, then it means limiting or denying reproductive rights, cutting rape victims no slack, unequal pay for equal work, and no paid maternity leave.  And that's just for starters.
To be fair, Fiorina does support making birth control available without a prescription and allow women to go back to work after childbirth without losing benefits.  But for unequal pay, of course.
Politix Update is an irregular compendium written by veteran journalist Shaun Mullen, for whom the 2016 presidential campaign is his (gasp!) 12th since 1968.  Click here  for an index of previous Politix Updates.

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