Not Quite Ready to Govern

It’s going to be a long two years, or a little less than two years now, but this was predictable. We’re in the sixth year of a two-term president, who can’t run again, after a midterm election that gave him a Congress he’ll have to deal with for those last two years. Everything is locked in. There will be no further referendums on President Obama – there’s nothing the Republicans can do about him now – and he now faces a solidly Republican House and Senate – and there’s nothing he can do about them either. He will veto that Keystone Pipeline thing, and the Republicans don’t have anywhere near the votes to override that veto. That issue is moot, even if there will be a lot of shouting back and forth after the veto. The nation will yawn. That’s over.

The Republicans may shut down the Department of Homeland Security unless Obama agrees to immediately deport all eleven million undocumented workers in the country, every one of them, right now. Obama has to rescind his administrative directives to the appropriate enforcement agencies, to start with the criminals and deadbeats, and then, later, get around to the folks who are here working hard, raising a family, and not hurting anyone. If he doesn’t rescind those directives, well, there will be no more money for the Department of Homeland Security – not one penny. That’s not a full government shutdown, but cutting off funds to the agencies that keep us safe, day to day, hour by hour, to stop Obama from being so uppity, would be interesting. Who would get the blame if someone hijacks a few airliners and flies them into a few other tall buildings in Manhattan?

There’s the gamble. The Republicans set up the confrontation, with DHS funding legislation that had their unrelated immigration demands embedded in the thing, so one could blame them. The two issues are not related, but then all Obama has to do was enforce immigration law, to the letter of the law, and rid us of all these pesky brown people, so it would be Obama’s fault. Someone has to take the blame for all the dead people in Manhattan, or maybe Chicago this time, if it comes to that.

This might not be the ideal way to govern the country, and the Republicans, who set up this particular confrontation, seem to sense no one is impressed with their clever trap. It’s the dead-people thing. They should have known better, and some of them are admitting it:

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk said Wednesday that his party made a mistake by picking a fight over President Barack Obama’s immigration actions, and said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) should bring up a “clean” bill to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded.

“I generally agree with the Democratic position here. I think we should have never fought this battle on DHS funding,” the Illinois senator said in the Capitol. “I think it’s the wrong battle for us at the wrong time.”

Does the GOP share blame for the impasse over DHS?

“It does,” Kirk said. “Had I been consulted, which I wasn’t, I don’t think we should have ever attached these issues to DHS funding. I always thought the burden of being in the majority is the burden of governing.”

Yes, there is that, but old habits are hard to break:

House and Senate GOP leaders are at an impasse – with each saying it’s incumbent on the other chamber to make the next move to avoid a partial shutdown of DHS on February 27. Conservative activists are keeping up the pressure on Republicans not to blink. Anxieties are growing that Congress will fail to act in time.

Kirk’s comments reflect a marked change in tune from one day earlier, when he excoriated Democrats over their handling of the issue. “The Republicans – if there is a successful attack during a DHS shutdown – we should build a number of coffins outside each Democratic office and say, ‘You are responsible for these dead Americans,'” he said Tuesday, as quoted by Politico.

Kirk must have realized how stupid that sounded. The dead Americans would still be dead. People don’t like that sort of thing. They like even less some politician asking them, now their husband or wife or son or daughter is dead, if it isn’t time to join them in ridding America of these pesky brown people, the ones without papers – not Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, of course. Their folks came here from Cuba, to escape Fidel Castro and all that, and were fast-tracked for citizenship because of Fidel, so folks like Cruz and Rubio are the good ones. That would be the real point of all this, and Kirk must have imagined himself making that argument. He’d rather not. He’d rather not be a total asshole, and he just warned his party not to be the asshole at the funeral asking for campaign contributions. The Republican Party has a little less than two years to prove they can govern. This sort of thing doesn’t cut it. It’s time to knock it off.

But what cuts it? None of them seem to know at the moment, and the two frontrunners, for now, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, are in the process of figuring that out. Imagine each as president. President Scott Walker would make sure America isn’t ruined by American workers, messing things up for big business – there would be no labor unions and no minimum wage – and he’d make sure that as many colleges and universities as possible went under. Those produce folks who command high salaries, so he just cut three hundred million dollars from the University of Wisconsin and will spend five hundred million on a new NBA arena – a surprise move. That was something he never even mentioned in any campaign. It was bold, and he would be an interesting president – he’s all for what the general public, not his party’s base, is adamantly against. Can he make that stuff sound reasonable?

And then there’s Jeb Bush, the pro-immigration Republican, and all for Common Core, the national basic standards for public schools, so kids at least learn the basics, even if his party finds both positions appalling. The public doesn’t, so that might prove he’s not a total asshole, but he is a Bush. His father couldn’t get elected to a second term – four years of him was more than enough – and his brother was a disaster. Here’s a rundown of his brothers disasters – and Jeb will have to defend it all. What will he say about Iraq? What will he say about the collapse of the economy? What will he say about how his brother handled Hurricane Katrina, when all those folks died down in New Orleans?

Jeb Bush needs to change the subject. This cannot be about his family, about the past. This is a new century, and if his brother George started the century off badly, with eight years of neoconservative nonsense, and economic policies that ruined the economy for a generation, or more, Jeb could get all hip and high-tech and be a cool sort of ePresident, starting off by being a way-cool eCandidate. Jeb could be our first wired president, but this isn’t going well:

The newly hired chief technology officer of Jeb Bush’s Right to Rise PAC resigned Tuesday amid controversy over inflammatory comments he had written on Twitter and a blog for a college radio show.

“The Right to Rise PAC accepted Ethan Czahor’s resignation today,” a Bush spokesperson said in a statement. “While Ethan has apologized for regrettable and insensitive comments, they do not reflect the views of Governor Bush or his organization and it is appropriate for him to step aside.”

Damn! And the guy was totally hip:

Czahor, a co-founder of Hipster.com, originally came under fire for tweets he made from 2009 to 2011 that referred to women as “sluts” and disparaged homosexuals at his gym. The tweets were originally reported by BuzzFeed News.

Tuesday, The Huffington Post used the Internet Archives’ Wayback Machine to unearth comments Czahor had made on a website for his college radio program, “The Ethan Show,” that praised Martin Luther King Jr. for not speaking in “slang” or “gibberish,” and not wearing his “pants sagged to his ankles.”

There’s much more – a lot of talk about nerdy women being sluts and so on – and there’s also a rule that Jeb’s folks ignored. Anyone who says they’re hip isn’t – the claim refutes itself. Those who are hip do not actually believe in hip – the whole notion is tiresome – and of course any site called Hipster.com is a pretentious scam, unless the site is deeply ironic. Ethan Czahor seems immune to irony.

Millennials rolled their eyes, and there was also this:

The political action committee for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is redacting Social Security numbers in the public release of his emails after the document dump revealed constituents’ private information, according to ABC News.

Bush, who is mulling a presidential bid in 2016, publicized hundreds of thousands of emails from his time as governor in an effort at transparency. But tech bloggers and others immediately criticized the release after discovering that Bush’s Right to Rise PAC did not redact Social Security numbers, health insurance plan identification numbers and personal stories of Floridians in the emails.

But it wasn’t their fault:

The committee told ABC News on Wednesday that Bush’s attorney asked the state to review the emails before releasing them to ensure that Social Security numbers and other private information were removed before the release.

“Our site contains the public records that were made available by the State of Florida,” Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell told ABC in a statement.

Yeah, but they didn’t see the problem right in front of them. They don’t get this wired stuff at all. Some things just don’t go out, whatever the source, so this is just sad:

Bush called himself the “eGovernor” in a short book released online with his emails. As governor, he released his personal email, jeb@jeb.com, and asked constituents to email him. He added that he spent around 30 hours a week answering those emails.

“After a long day of meetings or travel, answering emails is sometimes what actually energized me,” he wrote.

“They allowed me to stay connected and get first-hand knowledge from Florida’s citizens.”

Yeah, he was wired and connected and hip – and he loved it – and now a lot of folks in Florida are going to discover they’ll have to pay for a weekend in Cannes that they never took, or they have a mortgage on a second house in Aspen they’ve never seen. Oops. Someone needs to explain this new century to Jeb.

As for Scott Walker, he’s still working on what he wants the rest of us to think of him:

In a speech short on policy and long on restraint, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addressed Great Britain’s most prominent think tank Wednesday, avoiding questions on foreign affairs and evolution while emphasizing the “special relationship” between the two English-speaking countries.

The Republican governor sought to bolster his foreign policy credentials ahead of his likely presidential run even as he evaded question after question on international affairs. In his last response, Walker ducked a question and follow-up from his interviewer about whether he believed in evolution, saying politicians were better off steering clear of that issue.

“I’m going to punt on that one as well,” Walker said. “I’m here to talk about trade, not to pontificate about other things.”

The event’s moderator, Justin Webb of BBC Radio 4, responded by saying he believed any British politician would answer by readily accepting evolution.

That got to Walker, but he couldn’t fix that:

The governor later Wednesday issued a statement through his campaign that again avoided stating where he stands on the issue.

“Both science and my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God,” Walker’s statement said. “I believe faith and science are compatible, and go hand in hand.”

It was the same on other matters:

Taking international affairs questions from his audience, Walker largely avoided giving answers outside of his area of expertise by saying he subscribed to the “old-fashioned” approach of not criticizing the U.S. president or the host country while outside the United States.

“I just don’t think you talk about foreign policy while you’re on foreign soil,” Walker said, adding later, “I don’t think it’s wise to undermine your own president” in such situations.

That left Walker talking about his own record in the state Capitol and Wisconsin products including Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Colby cheese.

James D. Boys, a visiting fellow at King’s College, professor at Richmond College in London and specialist on American foreign policy, left Chatham House after the speech unimpressed.

“I know he’s your governor and I wouldn’t want to be rude, but he’s flown thousands of miles to talk about cheese,” Boys said later in a phone interview. “Nobody in that audience was there to hear about cheese or the Wisconsin economy. Full stop.”

This didn’t go well, but things can go badly over there:

Walker’s evolution dodge came a week after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another likely GOP presidential candidate, drew controversy during a visit to England by saying parents need to have choice on whether to vaccinate their children.

For his part, Walker criticized journalists during his Chatham House talk for focusing on Christie’s immunization comments and afterward tweeted that the media had opted to “politicize this issue (evolution) during our trade mission.”

If only it were that easy:

Walker attends Meadowbrook Church in Wauwatosa, a nondenominational church, which says on its website that its members believe that the Bible is “without error” and that “man was created in the image of God but fell into sin.”

Ronald Numbers, a UW-Madison emeritus professor who has studied the teaching of creationism, said that suggested a preference for that view of human development.

But he stressed that wasn’t enough to definitively identify the views on evolution for either Walker or his church. Calls to Walker’s church were not returned Wednesday.

So, do we want a president who thinks science is bunk, and God made everything long ago, as is? That may not be exactly what Walker thinks, be no one knows what he thinks, really. And presidents can’t punt.

Then, from David Fahrenthold in the Washington Post, there’s this background:

Scott Walker was gone. Dropped out. And in the spring of his senior year.

In 1990, that news stunned his friends at Marquette University. Walker, the campus’s suit-wearing, Reagan-loving politico – who enjoyed the place so much that he had run for student body president – had left without graduating.

To most of the Class of 1990 – and, later, to Wisconsin’s political establishment – Walker’s decision to quit college has been a lingering mystery.

Not even his friends at Marquette were entirely sure why he never finished.

He just left, but people do remember him:

Walker was known for something else: his political ambitions. If you met him, they were as plain as the photo of him with Ronald Reagan on his dorm-room desk.

“He would comment that, you know, ‘I’m going to be president of the United States someday,’ ” said Patrick Tepe, a former dorm mate who is now a dentist.

As a freshman, Walker was elected to the student senate. He plunged into the job, leading a hard-charging impeachment inquiry into charges of misspent money.

So far so good, but on the other hand:

In his classes, some professors said they never saw the same level of focus on schoolwork. In introductory French, for instance, Walker routinely barged into the room after the lesson had begun, loudly making excuses.

“He would talk to me, you know, say, ‘I’m very sorry, I had very important business'” with the student government, instructor Marc Boutet recalled. “I’m like, ‘En francais! En francais!'”

Boutet said the other students tired of the daily disruptions. They started preemptively stealing Walker’s favorite desk, so he had nowhere to sit when he arrived.

“I think I gave him a D-minus,” Boutet said, adding that he saw Walker years later, and the two laughed about the class. French, Boutet said, “was not his thing.”

He had other priorities, or he didn’t:

Even in politics class, Walker could appear disengaged.

“He seemed utterly bored,” said Michael Fleet, who taught him in a class on the politics of the Third World. Fleet said he’d hoped to get Walker into debates with the liberals in the room. But it didn’t work. Walker would only give occasional short speeches that made conservative arguments.

“It wasn’t always on key. It wasn’t always in response to anything,” Fleet said. “He wasn’t engaged. It was like he came in with a script.”

Campaigning, on the other hand, was something Walker seemed to enjoy. But he had trouble winning. As a freshman, for instance, he ran for a higher office in student government and was defeated by a write-in candidate.

“I remember walking out and thinking, ‘Oh, we’ll never have to worry about that guy again,’ ” said Glen Barry, who had helped organize the write-in campaign. He was one of the people Walker had investigated for impeachment, and he was still upset about how he’d been treated. “We used to call him ‘Niedermeyer,'” Barry said, after the power-mad ROTC leader in the movie “Animal House.”

Some things don’t change, and Jason McDaniel, an assistant professor of Political Science at San Francisco State, looks at where Walker is now:

Walker is well to the right end of the conservative spectrum, residing in the ideological neighborhood of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul… It is not a stretch to argue that if nominated, Walker would be the most conservative Republican nominee since Barry Goldwater in 1964…

In contrast, Jeb Bush’s ideological position closely resembles previous Republican nominees. Bush most closely resembles John McCain in 2008… In Scott Walker versus Jeb Bush, party elites and primary voters are presented with clearly contrasting visions of the future direction of the Republican Party… If the recent history of Republican nomination contests is any guide, the party is likely to decide that Scott Walker is too ideologically extreme to be the Republican nominee in 2016.

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum isn’t so sure of that:

Walker may be as conservative as, say, Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, but he doesn’t seem as conservative. He doesn’t have Cruz’s bombast and he doesn’t go around hinting that we should go back to the gold standard, like Rand Paul. In practice, that may put him closer to the center of the field than his actual positions warrant.

Still, McDaniel’s data is worth taking note of. If Walker remains hardnosed in his views, it may be hard to hide this from the voters. Eventually he’s going to say something that will cause the Jeb Bushes and Chris Christies to pounce, and that might expose him as too much of an ideologue to win the mainstream Republican vote. It all depends on how well he learns to dog whistle and tap dance at the same time. But then, that’s true of everyone running for president, isn’t it?

Of course that’s true, but there’s Mark Kirk’s warning. Don’t be a total asshole about things. Show that you’re ready to govern. That’s simple advice, but it’s harder than it seems.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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One Response to Not Quite Ready to Govern

  1. Rick says:

    On the subject of Scott Walker, Kevin Drum offers us a faint glimmer of hope:

    Eventually he’s going to say something that will cause the Jeb Bushes and Chris Christies to pounce, and that might expose him as too much of an ideologue to win the mainstream Republican vote.

    I’d like to agree, but the problem here is that what makes Jeb Bush so attractive as a candidate is he’s not a pouncer, and the fact that Chris Christie is such a pouncer is why he’s been largely sidelined by everybody. So unfortunately, Walker just may be in the clear.

    I think the Washington Post glimpse of Walker as a typically power-hungry, suit-wearing campus young Republican, too busy wasting time on honing nascent political skills to even graduate from an institution where he could have been learning about the actual world he’s so anxious to run, fills out his profile nicely.

    Also, of course, the fact that he paid virtually no attention to his studies might help to explain why he’s not smart enough to believe in evolution. I know avoiding that issue might buy him some time with the nutcase right, but I suspect that the time will come when most voters, even most Republicans, would like to dispose of the whole question as to whether Walker is a closet ignoramus, before moving on to discussing his other qualifications for the job.

    But what’s a bit scary is that he’s picked up certain Nixonian political skills along the way, such as the capability of doing some real damage in his home state (to labor unions, among others), and yet cleanly escaping having to pay the price (side-stepping recall, and after that, even getting re-elected). One can only hope his ability to smooth-tongue all those conservatives in Iowa recently doesn’t translate into impressing any normal people elsewhere on the campaign trail.

    What’s scary is not just that this guy is a jerk, it’s that he’s gotten so very good at it.

    Rick

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