Wednesday, September 30, 2015

GOP Clown Car Part 3: Lindsey Graham

  While he may not be as out there as Jim Gilmore or George Pataki, the idea of Lindsey Graham of running for president is a bit odd. Even though he is a beltway fixture and played a prominent role in the 2008 run of Senator John McCain, he did not seem like someone who would run for the office himself. It may have been a surprise but we know exactly why Senator Graham wanted to be president, because he has said so in no uncertain terms. Like his good friend McCain it's all about Commander in Chief. The military and foreign policy is by far the biggest issue for Graham. Heck, he might work in some of that other presidential stuff, too.

  Outside of Rand Paul, the current crop of GOP share the same attitudes on foreign policy, it is more of what degree of aggressiveness they want to take. They all want massive increase in military spending and bigger footprint in the world especially the Middle East. Most of them are at least saying they would go back and fix, redo, or ignore the much hated Obama Iran deal. The motivation for this position is nothing short of hilariously wrong. Their theory seems to be foreign policy under W had a rough start but by the end was going great. The surge worked and we got rid of Saddam and restored peace to Iraq, we beat the Russians, and while the Middle East could be better was in good shape. Obama became president and it all went to hell. Iraq plunged into chaos because we left, Iran rose up because Obama was so weak, and in general Obama wasn't strong enough and his naivete caused massive problems world wide. I am ready to be Commander in Chief day one is one Graham's favorite lines. At the Reagan Library debate, all the candidates took turns blaming Obama for the current state of our foreign policy and, at best, there were some admissions of mistakes made during W's years, but it was nothing compared to unmitigated disaster Obama has been. Jeb! went so far as to use the tried and true line my brother kept us safe when Trump said that W's mistakes opened the door for Obama. Graham is at the forefront of these positions and it is clear that is by far his number one priority.

  Graham is currently polling at 0.0 in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, so it is a massive understatement to say Lindsey has no chance to be president. However, if he had actually did have a shot at being president, we would probably see a kinder gentler version of McCain. Before Ted Cruz brought the House Tea Party crazy into the Senate, John McCain was the pain in ass go against grain guy in the Senate. While Graham and McCain have definite ideas on foreign policy especially in the Middle East, their domestic agendas tend to be more mainstream Republican. Most importantly based on exchange with Bobby Jindal at the second kid's table debate, he is conservative but wants to work within the structure of government. Jindal was pressing Graham on why they were not trying harder to defund Planned Parenthood, and the response was that with the math in Senate and Obama with the power of the veto it is not worth it to shut down government over a losing plan and would probably hurt the party next November. So he is not for the chaos of the Ted Cruz style of governance. While you have the same fear of President Graham that you would of a President McCain as far as what trouble their uber muscular foreign policy would cause, they would have at least have a semi-sane domestic approach and would probably work with Democrats to get actual legislation done.

  Unlike Gilmore or Pataki I at least think I have an idea of why Lindsey Graham is actually running for president. While I think he would really like to president specifically commander in chief I think the real goal is to be Secretary of Defense or State in the next Republican administration. By having a position like that he can focus on foreign policy which seems to be his true area of interest. Although the idea of President Cruz with Secretary of Defense Graham is enough to keep you up at night, and thank goodness that seems unlikely. The question is will hang around until the South Carolina primary. He is not polling well and it might be embarrassing to lose badly in your home state. No matter what Lindsey Graham will be fine in the long run. He will continue to be a favorite of cable news and the Sunday talking head shows. He often gets labeled a RINO, but seems safe in his Senate seat for now. While I am not even remotely a fan Graham on a policy basis, Washington needs more pragmatic Republicans who believe in the system and are trying to actually get something done and not to burn it all down.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

GOP Clown Car Part 2: George Pataki

  I would include George Pataki in the Jim Gilmore WTF category. He seems to be running for a party that simply doesn't exist right now. George H. W. Bush was the last old school New England Republican to win the presidency, and he largely rode Reagan wave into the White House. Bush not only lost to a more dynamic Bill Clinton, but in a sign of things to come, was seen as not being conservative enough and was challenged from the right by Ross Perot. John McCain was forced to chose Sarah Palin over his bff Joe Lieberman to help with conservatives. Mitt Romney who had to completely reinvent himself because of what he did as governor of Massachusetts especially in the realm of healthcare - which was suddenly seen as  a negative in a post Obamacare race. Romney never seemed to comfortable as the conservative warrior and adding conservative superstar Paul Ryan didn't help.

  Pataki seems to be a better fit in the Massachusetts Romney mode of Republicanism. Very pro business and lower taxes and either more moderate on social issues or it's not the focus of what he wants to do in government. At the Reagan Library debate Pataki kept talking about the things he was able to do as governor of New York and was trying to play up his credentials as a true conservative. If you are Pataki all you have to do is look at the news from this past weekend about John Boehner being forced out of the House by the far right Tea Party movement simply for being more interested in doing the basic job of governing over what appears to be a plan to run the government into the ground. In a world where John Boehner is too soft or not conservative enough there is no way that Pataki is going to get a lot conservative love. I am not saying George Pataki is a horrible candidate for president, but like Romney, he is the wrong candidate for this version of the GOP. Romney won the nomination more because of positioning from 2008, money, and a comically bad 2012 field and he still ended up struggling for longer than he should have. Pataki had no chance from the start and now is more of a question when, not if, he will drop out. I will be surprised if he makes to the end of the year and seems to be the odds on favorite along with Bobby Jindal as the next to drop out.

  So given the fact that it appeared almost from the start that Pataki had little chance of getting anywhere in the nomination process and doesn't appear to be cashing in on the run - why is he running for president in 2016? He just seemed to completely misjudge the state of his party and a base that is more interested in anger and toughness than in accomplishments in blue state like New York. Firebrand Donald Trump is currently leading based on attitude more than anything else while several conservative but less combative candidates like Jeb! Bush and John Kasich are struggling and Scott Walker is out. Sounding like or trying to sound like reasonable guy in the room just doesn't seem to be working for these guys. Heck for all the kooky things Rand Paul has said, he does not have a chance of winning because he says things like maybe we shouldn't be in constant war with the Middle East. I am sure Pataki will still pop up on cable news from time to time as a talking head, but as far as his run for president - it seems more like a complete waste of time and money.

Monday, September 28, 2015

GOP Clown Car Part 1: Jim Gilmore

  The GOP 2016 started with 17 candidates, but now is down to 15 thanks to implosion of Scott Walker and Rick Perry unable to make people forget what a terrible candidate he was in 2012 even with his fancy smart guy glasses. In reality it is going to come down to handful of people who actually have a shot at getting the nomination, but I have thoughts on all of these guys. With the lowest tier one percent guys I am going to focus more on the why I think they are running and what I think they really want out of this.

  Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, and Lindsey Graham are all running for president, but none of them have even the remotest chance of winning. Jindal is probably the only one of this group that has been considered a contender at any point even if that was a few years ago. I think Jindal and Santorum are running more to keep their profile up for monetary reasons, not sure about Pataki, and Lindsey Graham just likes telling people how much he wants to bomb and fight with countries in the Middle East.

  Then there is the 2016 GOP WTF candidate former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore. At the time he filed there was already 16 other people that were in, but he said what the heck and jumped in anyway. He announced he was in without much fanfare other than maybe who the heck is that guy. At some point he will drop out and will anybody even notice that either? In 2008, he tried to legitimately to run for president, but he couldn't raise enough money and promptly dropped out. This time there seems to be little evidence of an actual campaign. On his Wikipedia page it says little more than he has filed to run for president in 2016. He did not poll well enough to make the kid's table debate in front of the cool airplane at Saint Ronnie Cathedral and he is not even listed in a lot of polling. Stephen Colbert's joke runs at president got more attention than the Gilmore campaign. The Donald has caused problems for several of the other candidates, but how can you do worse than asterisk.

  Overall I would say there are 3 groups of people running. Actually running for president, running for Veep, and those looking to make money on the right wing gravy train. Most of these guys are pretty easy to figure out on this front, but I have no idea why Gilmore is running, what his strategy is, and how long he plans to hang around. The beauty of not really an actual campaign is you don't have to spend much money. Let the other guys run around Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina spending money of staffs, fancy consultants, offices, signs, mailers, and expensive ads. Perhaps he is just waiting for all of these guys to implode and drop out. At that point he will just step and take the nomination. It makes about as much sense as what Jindal, Santorum, Pataki, and Graham are doing. Two down fourteen more to go.