Jeb…That was your 47% moment.

Sorry Jeb. I’m not sure if your advisers didn’t prepare you correctly or you flubbed this one yourself, but you stepped it in it.  Big time.  We are not the overreact to the 24 hour news cycle types here either.  But we seriously believe you may have lost your shot at this thing, or at the very least did substantial damage to it.

Jeb Bush’s number one liability is his brother.  Everyone knows this.  George Bush himself has said it.  Thus, any question about anything that happened during the George Bush years has to be prepped, rehearsed, and nailed down.  Especially on Iraq.

It is nearly universal Iraq is perceived as a mistake. (By 75% of the public in a June 2014 CBS News/New York Times poll).  Any defending of the decision to go into Iraq or even how the war was conducted will lean right into Jeb’s number one liability, the thought that he would follow the same path again.

A gaffe isn’t catastrophic if it doesn’t hit square in the eye of your largest liability.  This did.  It may be terminal without some quick fixing.

Jeb is trying to walk back the comment with the classic “misheard” maneuver and “clarify” his position.   Probably the best he can do at the moment, but he better get right on a substantive fix.  We would suggest a few more things.

  • First, lay out a foreign policy that is clear, succinct, and differs from George Bush.  It doesn’t need to completely repudiate his brother, but it needs to come darn near close.  People want concrete assurance we aren’t going to get the act first think later method of the Iraq war again.  Take some shots at the NeoCons drumming up war against Iran.  It’s a bit hard to say you’ll create another Iraq when you hit hard against the NeoCons looking for a war with Iran.
  • Second, dump the NeoCon advisers. More Baker, less Wolfowitz.  Putting aside the fact anyone who got us into the war in Iraq should never be qualified to lead a presidential foreign policy again, it’s a huge liability.  Imagine Hillary Clinton saying:

I’ve learned from my mistakes, has Jeb Bush?  Just a few months ago he said he still would have gone into Iraq knowing what we know now….and then he misheard the question.  Why hasn’t he fired all the same advisers who lead his brother into the war in Iraq who now make up his team?  Sorry Jeb,  we heard you loud and clear, you are not different than your brother, if you want four more years of a Bush president, vote for George Bush 2.0.

That’s sticking a shiv straight into the heart of his campaign.  We just wonder if it’s going to already be off life support by then.  He better get moving to fix this mess.

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Rubio nails it with his tax plan….pretty much.

Presidential candidate tax plans are much like a presidential budget, a pie in the sky wish-list that rarely reflects reality.  But it is a statement of purpose and ideals.  Budgets and tax plans are always trade-offs between competing things.  Money is a zero sum game.  Thus, voters rightfully will judge where a candidate stands with these trade-offs.

Rubio unveils a tax plan that just a bit of a sister souljah moment to the supply siders.  Middle class focus.

Rubio plans to campaign hard on the complex plan he introduced this year with Utah Sen. Mike Lee that would use the tax code to reward families with children while slashing levies on business and investment income but keeping a top rate personal income rate of 35 percent, far higher than many Republicans would like.

I’ve been banging on the GOP to have an actual tax plan that isn’t oriented under the “We’ll give more money to your boss to make you richer” it has been stuck on from the 1980’s. Putting aside the fact it does not work, it’s date philosophy that ignores middle class tax issues directly.  The attempt to help the middle class indirectly by helping the wealthy isn’t a winning play. Rubio seems to recognize this and is smartly making a play for the middle.  Don’t get me wrong, his plan still is a supply sider’s dream with giant cuts for the rich with just a small focus on direct benefits for the middle class.  But even this small focus has the GOP tax orthodoxy in a tizzy:
The Wall Street Journal editorial page declares Rubio “strong on foreign policy, less so on taxes” and disparagingly calls him the leading GOP proponent of the idea “that the Reagan tax-cutting agenda is a political dead end, and that the party now must redistribute revenue directly to middle-class families.”
This ideological nonsense from the WSJ is an excellent example of outdated GOP tax policy that has them stuck in the past.  The WSJ is literally arguing that tax cuts/credits to the middle class are “redistribution” of money that is to be attacked.  Only large tax cuts to the wealthy are to be championed.  Is it any wonder why GOP candidates who follow party orthodoxy on taxes get destroyed in the general election? Imagine that’s the WSJ’s reaction when other critics tear his plan apart for being more of the same big cuts for the wealthy.
For most middle-class Americans, capital gains don’t even register as a share of income. (That may be why Romney never got much traction with his plan to eliminate those taxes for people who earn up to $200,000 a year.) For Americans earning more than $500,000 a year, capital gains are a significant source of income. For those making more than $5 million, they’re almost a majority of income.
I agree with the WaPo.  Go bolder Rubio.  Start with a tax credit that is aimed at start-up businesses, aim for the millennial with that message.  Address student loan debit in your tax reform (the limits on the deduction are absurd).  Talk about lowering payroll taxes where people see more money in their actual check.  Let the rest of the field continue with their delusional flat tax and insane rate cuts for the top. Rubio has a lot of work to do, but this was a very good step today.  Keep it up.

Hillary as Romney? Fat chance

Politico is reporting that the grand plan of the grand ole party is to paint Hillary as the out of touch rich gal who cannot related to the common man. Basically, the attack on Romney that worked to a reasonable degree (with much help from Romney himself).

Politico reports:

“The most potent message against Clinton is that she doesn’t live an average life, she’s out of touch and doesn’t play by the same set of rules,” said the RNC’s research director, Raj Shah. “[T]hat resonates more deeply than some of the policy hits, the ethical hits.”

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/gops-plan-attack-hillary-clinton-as-mitt-romney-116943.html#ixzz3XKC1Tnm9

Bad play. Romney has vast wealth that was obtained, in part, through corporate takeovers, has overseas accounts, a car elevator, and basically looked like a character out of the Monopoly game. He stepped into it multiple times with the 49% comment, etc. In other words, the table was already set, Romney just had to fall into the trap, which he did.

While Hillary has considerable wealth and has made numerous missteps in characterizing it, Americans are never going to see the Clintons as the Romneys. It’s a losing play, that looks like sour grapes over the 2012 election by the GOP.  Clinton is politically savvy enough not to play into it.

The GOP should get over the 2012 election and play on Clinton’s true weakness, it is a Clinton again. There is heavy resistance to be overcome simply because Americans want new blood, not the same political dynasties. The problem is with Jeb Bush out there, the GOP neutralizes this argument, and creating a scenario where moderates pick a Clinton over a Bush, in a generic family name sense.

Run a Rubio against Clinton however, and she would be having flashbacks about another young upstart senator who torpedoed her chance as the presidency. There is reason to believe that line of attack could work again.

Hint for the GOP field – Think before you respond.

In the 24 hour news cycle, everyone wants an immediate comment on everything.  This doesn’t mean you need to provide the immediate comment, especially when you have not even declared as a candidate.  I know it is asking too much for a politician to stick to their principles, but at minimum, wait to see what the political reaction from the middle is going to be.

It was an easy prediction that the Indiana law was going to be a bad play for the middle.  The culture warrior play against gay and lesbians only plays to the hard right.  In 2012, it was probably seen as something that did not do to much damage to a GOP candidate but in 2015, I wouldn’t be so sure. See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/page/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2014/03/05/National-Politics/Polling/release_301.xml?uuid=MCZgxKQjEeO4ZTiyVNkgYw 

Its fair to say the middle will push back pretty hard against this stuff.

At a minimum, a GOP contender should attempt to balance this request for equal rights with religious rights.  A statement that says something to the effect of “I support laws that protect religious freedoms of all Americans, and such freedoms should be protected along with equal treatment and rights of all Americans.”  Simple.  Yet, Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal (or their advisers) think the old generic play to the hard right is the way to go.  Ask Romney how that worked out.

Jeb goes all in with appealing to the hard right:

“There are many cases where people acting on their conscience have been cascaded by the government,” Bush said. “This law simply says the government has to have a level of burden to be able to establish there has been some kind of discrimination. We’re going to need this. This is really an important value in our country, where you can respect and be tolerant of people’s lifestyles but allow for people of faith to exercise theirs.”

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/mar/31/gop-2016-contenders-indiana-religious-freedom-law

Bad play.  Be ready for Hillary to jump on this stuff like Obama did to push these guys so far to the right they cannot come back again.  The first test of the 2016 field was failed.

What is a “good” deal with Iran?

It’s a simple question.  If Obama is negotiating a “bad” deal, what is the goal post for “good deal”?  The NeoCons either do not answer the question or state “no enrichment.” In essence, the only “good” deal is where Iran folds and gives up in negotiations.  Something the Bush administration concluded would never happen:

In public, Israeli officials complain about what Yuval Steinitz, the minister of intelligence and strategic affairs, called the United States’ general approach to the negotiations, which is to give up on the idea of dismantling all of Iran’s nuclear enrichment capability. In fact, even the George W. Bush administration had given up on that idea, conceding that there was no way to reach a deal without Iran retaining at least a face-saving amount of enrichment capability.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/18/world/fear-of-israeli-leaks-fuels-distrust-as-us-and-iran-hold-nuclear-talks.html

The NeoCons need to be pushed to define their definition of a “good” deal.  Odds are, they won’t answer because their fundamental criticism is they want no deal.  If they respond with no “enrichment”, they need to be confront with the assessment from prior administrations that Iran would never agree, hence their deal is no deal.  The press still is failing to push back on this point and letting them peanut chuck at a possible deal we have yet to even learn of the terms.

On another note, James Baker is striking back at the NeoCons:  http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/james-baker-blasts-benjamin-netanyahu-116338.html

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The NeoCons are back – What’s old is not what’s new.

The NeoCons are back.  Whether it’s the GOP’s push against the Iranian deal or the battle cry to put “some” boots on the ground against ISIS, they are back. Back in droves.   And they are following the same “strong on defense” mantra that has been “conventional wisdom” in American politics for some time.  It’s a bad play and political opponents (on both sides of the aisle) are foolish for being fearful of exploiting the bad play.  Let me explain.

After the war in Afghanistan, two wars in Iraq (and dealing with the subsequent aftermath), Americans are leery about what the NeoCon’s are selling.  It’s the same script.  Vague references of needing to be “strong”, which almost always involves rejection of any diplomacy and upping military commitments.  No actual plan is ever proposed.  No exit strategy.  No strategy whatsoever.  Here lies the weakness of the NeoCons, and how they can be refuted.

  • Step One  –  Press for the plan

All questioning should lead to the exact alternative plan.  NeoCon fervor lives within the grey area of criticism that obscures a clear alternative.  Expose it.   For example, we should walk away from Iranian negotiations, and then do what?  (Waiting for them to fold isn’t a plan, what’s the plan if they don’t fold?).  You want ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq, what is your plan for those troops to fight, win ground, and hold such ground among a Sunni/Shiite conflict?  Conventional media and politicians let the NeoCons get away from specific plans, because they do not want to admit the end result of their strategy.

  • Step Two  –   Call out the Consequences and True Motive

War.  Call a spade a spade.  The end result of these NeoCon positions is war.  The goal in Iran is regime change.  The goal with ISIS is Iraq 3.0.  Call it out specifically, stating their “plan” is not a plan.  For example, the end result of a conclusion that Iran can never be dealt with diplomatically, is war.  Calling out the plan would result in an honest answer of, the NeoCons are banking on regime change before the time strikes are necessary, or strikes and then regime change is fundamentally a call for war.    Say it.  It is the plain logical conclusion from a no negotiation strategy, yet they are not being called on it.   Same with ridiculous demands, such as no enrichment.  Call them out for demanding things they know the Iranians will reject to scrap a deal.  Similarly, calls for “some troops” in ISIS without any plan to hold ground and solve the Sunni/Shiite conflict is a call for endless occupation and war.  Say it.

  • Step Three  –  Marry the NeoCons to their Past Poor Decisions

This should be the easiest part.  Link them to their decision with Iraq.  Remind the American public these people called for us to get involved in Iraq 2.0, spent American lives and treasure on a blunder we are still paying for.  Ask if these people should be trusted to give advice on Iran and ISIS.   Say they want Iraq 3.0 and to slay dragons around the world again without even attempting a diplomatic alternative.

  • Step Four  –   A reasonable path forward – Insulation from the Counter-Attack

This is the thing most conventional politicians are worried about.  It is why you aren’t hearing enough push back against the NeoCons.  The thought of being “soft” on defense.  This isn’t 1980, heck it isn’t 2001 anymore.  This is old thinking, and the public will support rejection of it.

Sample:  I know those who beat the drumbeat of war will try to paint criticism of their position as weakness, as lack of resolve.  They are wrong.  The same voices that led us into the war in Iraq are beating the drums of war again.  They are wrong again.   Military action is not something I would hesitate to vote for if it is our last and only option.  We must exhaust all chances for a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue, which includes diplomacy with all the major players in the world.  Right now the world is united with the us in seeking resolution of this issue. Even those countries we have profound disagreements with on other issues, such as the Russians, are united in a coalition to obtain a verifiable solution to the Iranian issue that prevents a path to a bomb.

We are working hard to see if an agreement is possible.  A fair, strong agreement with the world community on board.  Yet, there are those in Congress who seek to reject the chance of even trying to reach a deal.  They want to throw away the years spend building a coalition that brought the Iranians to the table in the first place.  Diplomacy is never an option they say.  We should never try to talk with the Iranians.  We should make demands we know they will not accept.  We know where their path leads.  America is stronger when we act with the world in efforts to solve things through diplomacy, and if we are unable to, use force only after no other alternative is presented.  It is often said, when sending our brave men and women into military action, how do I explain to a mother in Kansas, Texas, or California the reason I am sending your son or daughter into harms way.   Should that ever become necessary, the explanation will be because we had to in order to protect the United States and there was no choice.  I refuse be forced into action where war was the first choice.

So I support the diplomacy with full force.  It may not be successful.  It may not bear fruit.  But the notion that we should not try and those who seek to torpedo it for pure political gain is a game too dangerous to play.  I won’t play it.

It’s not the most articulate, but I think it gets the point across.  Pressure to speak out against the NeoCons is supported by the public http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/17/politics/iran-negotiations-gop-letter-poll/ so, opposition to this tactic must be a typical in the beltway thinking.  Even Rand Paul is damaging his brand by failing to take this opportunity.  The Neocons would be put back on their heels a bit and explaining why they aren’t trying to lead us to war.  Yet their alternatives can be exposed time and time again as seeking just that.  Let’s home someone is smart enough to hit back.

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The Immigration Trolling of the GOP

The art of deliberately, cleverly, and secretly pissing people off…using dialogue…The most essential part of trolling is convincing your victim that either a) truly believe in what you are saying, no matter how outrageous, or b) give your victim malicious instructions, under the guise of help.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=trolling&defid=4250942

A lot of ink is being spilled about Obama’s forthcoming immigration plan and who it will include, will it go far enough, etc.  This, in my opinion, is academic in a political — obviously not in a real life — sense.   The greater issue is what this is setting up for 2016 and how it brilliantly is making sure 2016 is more like 2012 than 2014.  Let me explain.

The greatest threat to Hillary is a moderate GOP candidate who can appeal to both the base and the middle.  Democrats know this.  The GOP knows this.  It was unlikely such a unifying candidate would emerge from the GOP, but the Democrats are not taking any chances.  Especially after the drubbing in the midterms.

The question becomes, how do you marry the GOP candidates to the extreme base?   The Democrats have calculated this in three steps.

  • Outrage the GOP Base to Extreme Levels
  • Force all the GOP Candidates to Adopt Base Positions on the Subject
  • Make Sure the Subject Damages the GOP in the General Election

Obama’s Immigration order nails all three.  It is not just red meat for the GOP base, it’s the entire cow.  Executive action and immigration.  The GOP base will be whipped up into a frenzy.  Next, all the candidates will have to take a position, and appease the base.

This is where the third factor comes into play.  How does the GOP condemn the action without alienating the middle and Latinos?  If the action is what I expect it to be, cleverly not deporting family members of citizens, the criticism will be difficult and have to be nuanced.   The base won’t take nuanced answers.  They want hard condemnation.  The incentives to give in, issue broad condemnations, an fund raise on the issue with be overwhelming for the GOP.  Silly comments will slip out and be tagged to the entire GOP.

It has been only a day and you see Rick Santorim getting this danger, trying the frame the issue differently:

Rick Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012 and is likely to run again in 2016, said the GOP should focus on the economic implications for blue-collar workers, emphasizing that Obama is trying to legalize 5 million new workers as the economy and wages are stagnant.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/11/obama-immigration-plan-112993.html#ixzz3JYqI34ze

Yet, Michelle is biting hard on the trolling:

“The social cost will be profound on the U.S. taxpayer — millions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals coming into the United States who can’t speak the English language,” Bachmann told reporters at the Capitol. “Even though the president says they won’t be able to vote, we all know that many, in all likelihood, will vote.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/11/19/bachmann-obama-turning-illiterate-immigrants-into-democratic-voters/

Can the GOP keep the crazies under control for this one?  I doubt it.  While I personally disagree with what Obama is doing here, it’s brillant politically.  Expect the Hillary commercials highlighting all the top GOP candidates saying how they will reverse the order and deport immigrant children mom and dads to run on a continuous loop.

2016 is really starting to look like 2012.

 

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