Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Last Call For PG, Rated

With former Ohio Dem Gov. Ted Strickland now in the race for Senate in 2016 against GOP Sen. Rob Portman, it seems Buckeye Dems are rallying around old Ted and not really too keen on anything like a primary challenge from Cincy Councilman PG Sittenfeld.

In a rare move on Tuesday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced its support for Strickland in the primary. It's uncommon for a national party committee to weigh in on a primary with no incumbent.

"[T]here is no question that he is the strongest candidate to defeat Rob Portman," DSCC Executive Director Tom Lopach said in a statement. "We look forward to supporting Ted Strickland’s campaign and are confident that he will be a great Senator."

The nod toward Strickland came a day after Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) endorsed him. Last week Strickland rolled out the endorsements of Ohio Democratic U.S. Reps. Marcia Fudge, Tim Ryan, and Joyce Beatty.

Sittenfeld has vowed to stay in the race, saying in an email to supporters last week, "I am more committed than ever to running for the United States Senate to provide new ideas and new leadership for the people of Ohio."

Now, I'd rather see Sittenfeld in Portman's seat, he's been a pretty decent liberal voice on the Cincy City Council for a while now   Sittenfeld's about face on the Cincy streecar was the pivotal moment that kept Mayor John Cranley from killing the project outright.

The problem is Sittenfeld brought this all on himself, saying in February that he would get out of the race if Strickland got in.  Strickland announced his candidacy late last month, and Sittenfeld suddenly decided he was in it to win it.

Now everyone's pissed off at Sittenfeld, and Strickland is sucking up all the oxygen in the room. I wish the guy luck, because frankly he's going to need it.

Bibi's Boomerang Bust

Been a rough couple of days with this flu over the weekend, but I’m in an even better mood this morning upon seeing that Benjamin Netanyahu has a whole mess of roosting chickens riding boomerangs to deal with back home.

For all the vitriol in the U.S. surrounding Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech last week to Congress, it was nothing compared with what the Israeli prime minister faced upon his homecoming. Israeli politics are generally more vicious than their American parallel, and Netanyahu returned to face what is almost a perfect storm raging around his re-election campaign. 
It began with comments by Meir Dagan, a former director of Mossad, who said that the prime minister’s conduct of the conflict with the Palestinians would lead Israel to being either a binational or an apartheid state. Dagan has long been critical of Netanyahu, but former Mossad chiefs have virtual demigod status in Israel, so his accusation (which he repeated in front of an estimated 80,000 people at an anti-Netanyahu rally Saturday in Tel Aviv, where he also said that Netanyahu has brought Israel to its worst crisis since its creation) clearly stung
The Likud itself brought on the second phase of the storm with an undeniably stupid and offensive TV ad that showed people in a self-help group, all there due to Netanyahu’s policies. There was the mobile-phone company executive who can no longer charge customers through the nose, the port worker who can no longer get away with working only three hours a week, and a Hamas terrorist complaining about Netanyahu’s war on terrorism. In a country with deep socialist roots, the nasty portrayal of lazy workers was edgy enough. But depicting a Hamas terrorist in the same group as laborers went way too far. Israelis woke up Monday morning to a YNet headline noting that a Likud candidate, the head of Israel’s Airport Authority, said publicly that his workers are telling him they will not vote Likud because of the ad in which Netanyahu compared them to the enemy. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, long known as a straight shooter, said Netanyahu didn’t know about the content of the ad. Given that the prime minister was filmed reciting lines clearly meant for the ad, though, people found even Yaalon hard to believe this time. 
The third blow was a leaked document allegedly indicating that the prime minister had agreed in principle to return to the 1967 lines in a deal with the Palestinians, something he has said publicly he would never do. Avi Issacharoff, one of Israel’s leading political commentators, wondered whether the leak originated with U.S. President Barack Obama and was payback for the speech to Congress— an indication of how damaging he thought it might prove. On Sunday night, apparently seeking to prove that Netanyahu has not softened, the Likud announced that the prime minister no longer supports the two-state solution. Hours later, Netanyahu denied he ever said that. The Likud is desperate, struggling to keep the ship afloat in a storm that keeps growing stronger

I’m just so totally torn up to hear that Netanyahu may get stuck with a unity government riding herd on him and his Likud pals, even more torn up to hear how terrible political campaign advisers aren’t just an American affectation. Not doing anything crazy like counting the guy out, but it’s good to see he may not exactly win in a landslide either.

We’ll see how this shakes out, but the notion that the guy might not win is now starting to pick up steam.

Disrespecting The Office

Paul Waldman notes that at this point in the Obama presidency, Republicans aren't even pretending that the office of President of the United States of America even matters anymore. Some 47 GOP Senators signed on to a letter directly to Iran's leadership, threatening to undermine any nuclear deal, and to tell the world that Barack Obama no longer determines foreign policy in the US, but the GOP-controlled Senate.

It’s one thing to criticize the administration’s actions, or try to impede them through the legislative process. But to directly communicate with a foreign power in order to undermine ongoing negotiations? That is appalling. And just imagine what those same Republicans would have said if Democratic senators had tried such a thing when George W. Bush was president.

The only direct precedent I can think of for this occurred in 1968, when as a presidential candidate Richard Nixon secretly communicated with the government of South Vietnam in an attempt to scuttle peace negotiations the Johnson administration was engaged in. It worked: those negotiations failed, and the war dragged on for another seven years. Many people are convinced that what Nixon did was an act of treason; at the very least it was a clear violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits American citizens from communicating with foreign governments to conduct their own foreign policy. 
This move by Republicans is not quite at that level. As Dan Drezner wrote, “I don’t think an open letter from members of the legislative branch quite rises to Logan Act violations, but if there’s ever a trolling amendment to the Logan Act, this would qualify,” and at least it’s out in the open. But it makes clear that they believe that when they disagree with an administration policy, they can act as though Barack Obama isn’t even the president of the United States. 
And it isn’t just in foreign affairs. In an op-ed last week in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Mitch McConnell urged states to refuse to comply with proposed rules on greenhouse gas emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency. Never mind that agency regulations like these have the force of law, and the Supreme Court has upheld the EPA’s responsibility under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions — if you don’t like the law, just act as though it doesn’t apply to you. “I can’t recall a majority leader calling on states to disobey the law,” said Barbara Boxer, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “and I’ve been here almost 24 years.” 

At this point the massive (and generally racist) disrespect for the President has become direct disrespect for the office itself.  Republicans have decided, probably correctly, that there's no price that the American people will make them pay when it comes to treating President Obama like he's invisible, irrelevant, and unnecessary to the country.

After all, we rewarded these fools with the Senate when two-thirds of us decided that voting was no longer necessary last November.  Why shouldn't Republicans act like Obama doesn't matter? He certainly doesn't matter to the 85% plus of Americans that either stayed home or voted for the Republicans in 2014.

Meanwhile, the White House isn't standing idly by.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said the senators were trying to “essentially throw sand in the gears here” in a way that went beyond the role envisioned for Congress in foreign policy by the authors of the Constitution. He said the White House wanted to send a “forceful” rebuttal to the letter because it seemed intent on torpedoing the talks.

“Writing a letter like this that appeals to the hard-liners in Iran is frankly just the latest in a strategy, a partisan strategy, to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy and advance our national interests around the world,” Mr. Earnest said. He linked it to the decision by Speaker John A. Boehner to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel without consulting the White House to denounce a possible Iran deal in a speech to Congress last week.

But again, until voters decide to punish this awful behavior, it will continue.


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