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22
A wise old Democrat notes, “Don’t forget this about Hillary Clinton: She’ll have two of the best politicians in America helping her - Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.”
 
Between them, Bill and Barack have won four presidential elections. One more than the Bushes and four more than the other wanna-be’s.

 

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21
A TAPster more knowledgeable than me offers a word of praise for one thing the legislature is doing:
 
The legislature this week will continue its napalm assault on long-standing policies and practices in the civil war to create a conservative nirvana in North Carolina. And, while most Republican efforts have hurt the poor, the sick and the feeble, raised tax payments and irritated Democrats, one target actually is getting what it deserves.
 
The so-called Map Act needs to be fixed. DOT obviously must retain its ability to buy rights of way and build roads. But DOT has abused its authority when, in essence, it condemns private property by proposing a highway through it, and then takes years or decades to actually obtain the property and compensate the property owner. This isn’t a partisan issue, because property owners of all political flavors are being screwed.
 
It’s a surprisingly good week on Jones Street when the honorables take a break from carpet-bombing history and tradition to work on something worthwhile.

 

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20
It happens just about every day: You open the newspaper, read about a politician, and shake your head thinking, That’s just plain crazy.
 
Not long ago the Senate proposed that, prior to Congress approving an agreement with Iran, the President should certify Iran is not supporting “terrorist attacks against Americans.”
 
Oddly that didn’t sit too well with White House Press spokesman Josh Earnest – who shot back it was a bad idea because the provision would make “the agreement contingent upon Iran renouncing terrorism.”
 
Yes, it would.
 
But do we really want an agreement that allows Iran to build a nuclear bomb – if it doesn’t renounce terrorism?


 

 

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16
Supporters of gay marriage figure it’s time to change two things: First, to change the legal definition of marriage to allow a man to marry another man.
 
The other change is even knottier: Discriminating against a man (or woman) because of race is illegal; gay rights supporters want to make it equally illegal to discriminate against a man because of his sexual orientation. Which, in a way, sounds reasonable. But, in another way, is the legal equivalent of giving government a knife to hold to the throats of people who disagree with gay marriage.
 
Under the current law, even if the state of Indiana changes the definition of marriage, Ms. Crystal O’Connor of Memories Pizza can say no to catering a gay wedding. It’s her choice. It’s not discrimination.
 
But if gays become a protected minority that changes. And not catering a gay wedding becomes illegal. And Ms. O’Connor lands in the soup.
 
Twenty-five years ago two Native American drug rehabilitation counselors who worked for the government got fired for smoking peyote. That sounded logical. But the Indians argued peyote smoking was part of their religion so firing them violated their freedom of religion. That sounded a bit odd. But Congress agreed. And New York Senator Charlie Schumer passed a law saying firing the Indians was wrong.
 
Liberals also like to say government has no business telling people what they can or can’t do in the privacy of their bedroom – but what about government walking into Ms. O’Connor’s pizzeria and telling her what to do?
 
Shouldn’t she be allowed to practice her religion – just like an Indian smoking peyote?
 


 

 

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15
Paul Krugman’s column runs twice weekly on the far-right side of The New York Times’ op-ed page, which is ironic given how far left his opinions are. He’s more liberal than me!
 
But he had a good one this week on the vast differences between any Democrat and any Republican in the Presidential race. He gave Democrats who yearn for a Democratic challenger to Hillary Clinton much food for thought.
 
Krugman decried what he called “personality-based political analysis,” a debatable stance, but his real point was:
 
“There has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less. As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other. The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.
 
“For example, any Democrat would, if elected, seek to maintain the basic U.S. social insurance programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — in essentially their current form, while also preserving and extending the Affordable Care Act. Any Republican would seek to destroy Obamacare, make deep cuts in Medicaid, and probably try to convert Medicare into a voucher system.
 
“Any Democrat would retain the tax hikes on high-income Americans that went into effect in 2013, and possibly seek more. Any Republican would try to cut taxes on the wealthy — House Republicans plan to vote next week to repeal the estate tax — while slashing programs that aid low-income families.
 
“Any Democrat would try to preserve the 2010 financial reform, which has recently been looking much more effective than critics suggested. Any Republican would seek to roll it back, eliminating both consumer protection and the extra regulation applied to large, ‘systemically important’ financial institutions.
 
“And any Democrat would try to move forward on climate policy, through executive action if necessary, while any Republican — whether or not he is an outright climate-science denialist — would block efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.”
 
No matter how-many-angels-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin internal debates Democrats have, this is the real debate in 2016.
 
Let’s get on with it. As Krugman says, “American voters will be getting a real choice.”

 

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13
Hillary Clinton’s announcement was so damn good it ought to end all the hand-wringing and bed-wetting in the Democratic Party. It won’t, of course, Democrats being Democrats. But she puts a stake down right on the ground where Democrats can win big in 2016 – from the White House all the way down the ballot in North Carolina.
 
She puts it more smoothly than this, but her message is blunt: It’s all of us against them, them being the 1 percent at the top and the Republicans who are their handmaidens.
 
Before we descend into the coming 19 months of over-analyzing, over-thinking and under-listening, let’s frame the presidential race the way most American voters will: Who understands ME and who will really be on MY side?
 
That’s what the video hits squarely: the myriad lives and concerns of real people and families – people starting out in life, people (yes, including same-sex couples) starting a marriage, people retiring, people starting a new career, people starting a new business and even people who just want to keep their dog from eating the trash.
 
The political media hates this sort of thing, of course. As The New York Times noted archly, Clinton “finally” appeared at the 1:33 mark of her 2:18-minute video, titled “Getting Started.” The Times failed to note that, in her first screen shot, she’s listening, not talking. Now we’ll have to endure endless media commentary about whether she’s said enough yet about where she stands and whether she’s done enough yet to make the media happy.
 
The video’s contrast with the Republicans who have so far announced for President was striking. Both Ted Cruz and Rand Paul had the traditional Big Speech at a Big Lectern to a Big Crowd. Their events screamed “Politician!” Clinton’s video said “People!” As of 9 am this morning, her video had been viewed 2.2 million times on YouTube alone. How many people saw Cruz’s and Rand’s announcements?
 
(By the way, Cruz staked out his turf as the reddest red-meat Republican there is. His real base is a handful of billionaires who care about one thing only: not paying taxes. Paul’s target constituency appears to be, as one TAPster noted, white males between the ages of 18 and 20. Which is fitting for a candidate who looks like a cross between a hobbit and one of Harry Potter’s classmates.)
 
Let’s do something radical here. Let’s actually pay attention to what Clinton said, and not just what the big feet and big mouths say about it:
 
“I’m getting ready to do something, too. I’m running for President.
 
“Americans have fought their way back from some tough economic times. But the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.
 
“Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion. So you can do know more than just get by. You can get ahead, and stay ahead. Because when families are strong, America is strong.
 
“So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote — because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”
 
Here’s how one wise old North Carolina Democrat sized it up: “People in this country are getting pretty damned fed up with struggling to get by while the top 1 percent take everything and tell the rest of us to go to hell.”
 
That’s the ground where 2016 can be won, and won big. That’s why Democrats who yearn for an Elizabeth Warren to get in the race are wrong. As California Governor Jerry Brown said, “the primaries get into all the little nuances and small differences of candidates of the same party. What Hillary needs is a good debate drawing the distinctions between where she stands and where all these Republicans, these wannabes running around, (stand).”
 
Those differences are big. And that debate is on.

 

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10
As Hillary Clinton gets ready to announce, Republicans are obsessed with attacking her and the media is obsessed with her emails, her husband and her relations with, yes, the media. But voters are more likely to care about the fundamental strengths she brings to 2016: she’s a Woman, she’s Older and she’s White – the WOW factor.
 
Jill Lawrence in Politico put it this way: “…for all her challenges, self-made and otherwise, Clinton has demographic advantages that could swing decisive battleground states her way. She is not young; she is not black; and she’s not a guy. All of which gives her an edge in her quest to succeed the young, black guy now occupying the Oval Office.
 
Continuing, “For reasons that are not pretty, nominating Clinton could stanch the flow of white seniors and white working-class voters, particularly men, away from the Democratic Party. ‘She’s white,’ one national Democratic strategist says simply. ‘That’s going to make it easier for her in some places. The reality is race is still an issue in our society. We certainly see that in the way people vote.’ Another party operative, a veteran of several presidential campaigns, was even more emphatic: ‘The race thing cannot be overstated. It’s like a shark. It’s so close to the surface in some places that you can see its fin’.”
 
“See its fin,” hell. You can see the whole damn great white shark of Race hurling itself into the boat and grabbing you by the leg, just like in Jaws.
 
Lawrence’s article reminds us that Americans usually want a President whose main qualification is that he (or, now, she) is different from the last guy – often, but not always, including being a member of the other party: Ike was old, JFK was young. Nixon was a crook, Carter was honest. Carter was weak, Reagan was strong. Bush was a Republican like Reagan, but kinder and gentler. Bush was clueless about the economy, Clinton felt your pain. Clinton was a rake, both Bush II and Gore were (then) fine family men. Bush was a doofus, Obama was smart.
 
Ironically, Republicans who worship Ronald Reagan now say Clinton is too old. She’s 67, which is young (see my blog this week, Get Your Kicks at Age 66). She’ll be 68 on Inauguration Day, more than a year younger than Ronald Reagan when he took the oath. But that’s another story.
 
Probably, Republicans won’t be able to resist being ageist, which will alienate us older voters. And they’re proven over and over they can’t help being sexist and patronizing.
 
We’ll see how Hillary’s rollout goes. My guess is that she’ll run a far better campaign than in 2008. You learn a lot when you lose. She has a better team around her and gets better advice. Last time, her pros wanted her to act tough and downplay being a woman.
 
This time, the real Hillary could be exactly what Americans really want

 

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08
The debate in the Democratic Party isn’t even whether Hillary Clinton should be the nominee. It’s whether anyone should even have the audacity to challenge her.
 
This is truly remarkable, when you think about it. Democrats always want a fight. Every year in modern times when no incumbent Democratic President was running for reelection, there was a fight: 1960, 1972, 1976, 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2008. Sometimes there was a fight even when there was an incumbent: 1968 (before LBJ pulled out) and 1980 (Ted Kennedy challenged Carter).
 
Two old Democratic heads have taken the two sides of this debate: the ever-contrary Gary Hart (for a challenge) and one-time Clinton tormentor Jerry Brown (against a challenge).
 
Hart, who almost knocked off Establishment choice Walter Mondale in 1984, says there should be and will be a challenger, former Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland, who happens to be a former Hart campaign staffer.
 
Hart said, “The job of a challenger is to force specificity: Here is my plan, now let’s see her plan.” He decried dynasties: “If you’ve got to have a billion dollars to run for president, how many people can do that? Only the Clintons and the Bushes and one or two others. This country is 330 million people, and we should not be down to two families who are qualified to govern. … When you create dynastic networks, you shut a lot of people out.”
 
On the other side is Brown, the past and present Governor of California. Brown ran against Bill Clinton in 1992, famously angering Clinton in a debate when he accused Hillary Clinton’s law firm of benefiting from its relationship with the-then Governor of Arkansas.
 
But now he says, “I can’t think of anything I’d rather have less if I were running for president than to have a competitor in the primary. The primaries get into all the little nuances and small differences of candidates of the same party. What Hillary needs is a good debate drawing the distinctions between where she stands and where all these Republicans, these wannabes running around, (stand).”
 
“There’s some big differences, and they’re more with the Republicans. So let’s have the debate and let’s see where America wants to be. I don’t think running some couple of Democrats would illuminate the process.”
 
Brown, always good for a good quote, also took a shot at Republicans who oppose President Obama’s immigration executive actions, calling them “at best troglodyte, and at worst, un-Christian.”
 
For now, while a new Republican candidate announces every week, Clinton has four unannounced but real opponents: her own perceived shortcomings as a candidate; Bill Clinton, who is like one of those flashy basketball players who can keep both teams in the game at the same time; her huge campaign team’s potential for discord and dysfunction; and the media, which seems suspicious and even hostile to her.
 
She has enormous strengths: experience, a proven record, toughness and the historic momentum behind electing a woman to the Presidency.
 
The question for Democrats is whether a challenge would make her stronger or expose real flaws

 

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31
Thanks to a TAPster who remembers the 1980s for this one:
 
 
“(North Carolina Congressman) Patrick McHenry is listed as an organizer of a new joint fundraising committee named – drum roll – Whip It Good PAC.  At first I thought it was a joke, but apparently not.”
 
 
For those not familiar with the Devo song and video “Whip It,” enjoy.
 
 
Whip it, Patrick.

 

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27
After capturing the capital the rebels are now hurtling toward Aden.     
 
The President’s fled. No one knows where he is. Or if he’s in the country.
 
And the rebels have put a $100,000 bounty on his head.  
 
Our Embassy’s been shuttered. Our troops have been evacuated.
 
Saudi Arabia’s making airstrikes but it looks like it’s too late.
 
Last fall, President Obama hailed Yemen as a prime example of his success in the battle to stop terrorists like ISIS.
 
Now, in Yemen, the terrorists have all but won.
 
In Washington, the best President’s press spokesman can do is say, ‘We call on them to stop the instability and violence.’
 
And we’re a pretty long way from the days when Presidents ‘walked softly and carried a big stick.’


 

 

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