Special Bulletin. The Cubs Win and the Election Looms

Well, they finally did it!

As every reader must know by now, The Chicago Cubs ended 108 years of frustration by winning the World Series on Wednesday night. They defeated the Cleveland Indians in a 10-inning struggle that has been called epic but could also be described as a bit goofy. The game and the Series have been widely covered, so I will add only a few personal comments. […]

Blog No. 116. Standing With Paul Ryan and the Way Forward

On Monday, Speaker Paul Ryan told House members that he would not defend Donald Trump or campaign with him, and that members should act in their own best interests in their individual districts. Ryan did not withdraw his previous endorsement of Trump, but to many that seemed more a matter of form than substance. Ryan’s statements produced an angry reaction from hardliners in the House and, inevitably, a farrago of pre-dawn cyberbabble from the would be Tweeter-in-Chief: […]

Blog No. 113. Clinton’s Bad Week and The Attempt to Normalize Trump.

As readers will be aware, Hillary Clinton recently experienced a very difficult few days.  At the same time, the Trump campaign was working strenuously to normalize their candidate with a view to getting voters to ignore his more outlandish pronouncements and to focus on the failings of Secretary Clinton. There has in fact been a shift in the [national?] polls leaving Clinton only slightly ahead of Trump, or in a virtual tie with him. It is a matter of speculation as to whether, or to what extent, the polling reflects the candidates’ recent maneuvers and missteps or is more of a coincidence. Either way, however, it is a cause for anxiety for those of us who regard the possible election of Trump as a catastrophe in the making. […]

Special Bulletin. The Convention Is Over: Trump and Lincoln

Bill Mauldin was a celebrated cartoonist whose memorable figures of Willie and Joe chronicled World War Two in the pages of Stars and Stripes. After the war, Mauldin was a cartoonist for the Chicago SunTimes, and in 1963 he marked the assassination of President Kennedy by a poignant drawing of the figure at the Lincoln[…]

Special Bulletin. A Respite From the GOP’s Continuing Trainwreck?

The Thursday night Republican debate came as a distinct relief. In terms of substance, there were claims and assertions with which one could agree or disagree, but we will reserve comment on those for a later blog. At least, however, the debate presented four serious adults avoiding personal insults and discussing serious issues. One can only wish that the earlier debates had been conducted similarly. […]

Special Bulletin. Kim Davis and the GOP.

We had not intended to post anything about Kim Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk now in jail for defying a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Earlier, Ms. Davis had declined an offer of release on a condition of non-interference with her Deputy Clerks, but licenses are now being issued by her Deputies without her sanction. Although Lyle Denniston, a respected commentator for Scotusblog, has noted that the validity of such licenses could be questioned, we doubt that they will be successfully challenged. In the meantime, The New York Times reported on Friday that Davis was continuing to stand her ground, and that Kentucky politicians were pondering possible legislative solutions. One way or another, it is inevitable that, at some point, the embarrassing controversy will be resolved with same-sex couples continuing to be issued licenses, and the matter will mercifully disappear from the front pages. […]

Blog No. 31 GOP in the Desert: Looking for a Lawrence of Arabia

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) took place in Maryland last week, producing little heat and less light. Although some speakers acknowledged the need for the Republican Party to broaden its base, or to focus more on winning elections and less on ideology, concrete examples of either were in short supply. Given the sponsorship of the event, it is perhaps not surprising that stale pieties from the conservative canon were the carte du jour.

A more interesting picture of the Republican Party emerged from a February 25 article in The National Interest by Henry Olsen, “The Four Faces of the Republican Party.”  Based on a detailed analysis of primary elections in the past several years, Mr. Olsen refuted the notion that the fate of the Republican Party will lie in a contest between the Tea Party and the “establishment.” Rather, according to Olsen, there are four major factions within the Republican Party. The largest faction, and the one most likely to yield the Party’s nominee, is “slightly conservative.” Mr. Olsen’s essay was sufficiently cogent that it has already been summarized in full columns by two major pundits: Dan Balz in The Washington Post and Ross Douthat in The New York Times. Because it provides a useful counterpoint to CPAC, it deserves some further mention here. […]

Blog No. 18 A Good Day for the Republican Party – and its Coming War with the Tea Party

Tuesday was a good day for the Republican Party because it brought the resounding victory of Governor Chris Christie. Christie demonstrated convincingly that, even in a decidedly “blue” state, a Republican can win with an appeal that crosses economic and ethnic boundaries. As the Wall Street Journal argued, Christie is a “conservative” and not a “moderate:”

The Governor has by and large governed as a conservative reformer. He vetoed a tax increase on millionaires and capped property taxes. He pushed tenure reforms that will make it easier to fire bad teachers, and he extracted far more pension reform out of a Democratic legislature than did Democratic Governors Jerry Brown in California or Andrew Cuomo in New York.

Good Day for Republicans


Blog No. 16 The Patty and Paul Show: Let’s Make a Deal?

Senator Patty Murray and Representative Paul Ryan have drawn the short straws: they chair the Conference Committee that is charged with reaching a budget agreement that will avert a second round of crises over a government shutdown (January 15) or a collision with the debt ceiling (February 7). The entire committee, totaling 29, consists of the entire Senate Budget Committee  (12 Democrats and 10 Republicans) and 7 House members (4 Republicans, 3 Democrats).Lets Make a Deal logo

No one, it is fair to say, is overly optimistic about the outcome. If the Grinch does not steal Christmas, he will be hovering not far away. It is a positive sign that Senator McConnell has expressly ruled out the use of a shutdown, and by implication a threat of default, as bargaining chips. As he put it rather colorfully, “One of my favorite sayings is an old Kentucky saying, ‘There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.’ ”  Nevertheless, Ted Cruz and his cohorts in the Senate, and the Tea Party Oozlums in the House appear to have an appetite for mule kicks that is not easily satisfied. Moreover, the Conference Committee itself is hardly lacking in gritty conservatives: 9 of the 14 Republicans, including Ryan, voted against the bill that ended the just concluded crisis. (As noted in a prior blog, however, their votes were “free” in the sense that they were not required for the passage of the bill and may not reflect a tolerance for shutdown or default.) […]