Democrats Looking At 25th Amendment Option For Removal Of Trump

Donald Trump’s bizarre behavior in his attacks on Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski has led to further talk about the possibility of removing Donald Trump from office if found to be mentally unfit. Twenty-five House Democrats are pursuing a bill to create a panel which could evaluate Trump’s mental competency under the 25th Amendment. Yahoo! News reports:

… 25 House Democrats, including the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, are now pushing an equally radical alternative: They are backing a bill that would create a congressional “oversight” commission that could declare the president incapacitated, leading to his removal from office under the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

At 12:56 p.m. Thursday, barely four hours after Trump tweeted attacks against MSNBC cable host Mika Brzezinski in crude, personal terms, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the chief sponsor of the bill, sent out an email to his colleagues, urging them to get behind the measure, writing it was of “enduring importance to the security of our nation.”

“In case of emergency, break glass,” Raskin told Yahoo News in an interview. “If you look at the record of things that have happened since January, it is truly a bizarre litany of events and outbursts.” Asked if Trump’s latest tweets attacking Brzezinski and her co-host Joe Scarborough — which were roundly condemned by members of both parties as beneath the dignity of his office — strengthened the grounds for invoking the 25th Amendment, Raskin replied: “I assume every human being is allowed one or two errant and seemingly deranged tweets. The question is whether you have a sustained pattern of behavior that indicates something is seriously wrong.” After Trump’s Thursday morning tweets, four more Democrats signed on to Raskin’s bill, his office said Friday. (Brzezinski and Scarborough’s response to Trump’s tweets ran in today’s Washington Post under the headline, “The President is not well.” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s tweets Thursday, saying he “fights fire with fire.”)

…Raskin, a former constitutional law professor, has seized on some largely overlooked language in Section 4 [of the 25th Amendment] as the basis for his bill. It turns out it doesn’t have to be the Cabinet that makes a finding of presidential incapacity. The section also permits “such other body as Congress may by law provide” — along with the vice president — to reach the same conclusion.

Yet in the 50 years since the 25th Amendment took effect, Congress has never set up such a body. Raskin’s bill would do so. It calls for the creation of an “Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity.” The commission would be a nonpartisan panel appointed by congressional leaders composed of four physicians, four psychiatrists and three others — such as former presidents, vice presidents or other former senior U.S. government officials. The commission, if directed by Congress through a concurrent resolution, would be empowered to conduct an examination of the president “to determine whether the president is incapacitated, either mentally or physically.”

Removal of the president under the 25th Amendment could be more difficult than impeachment. Impeachment requires the support of a simple majority of the House and then two-thirds of the Senate to remove the president. The 25th Amendment  requires the Vice President to support the process. If the president should be declared to be incapacitated, he could then challenge the action. It would take two-thirds of both Houses to agree in order to prevent the president from being reinstalled in office.

The advantage of this mechanism would be that it is much quicker than the full impeachment process, provided that the Vice President and super majorities of both Houses agree. It is far fetched that this could currently be done, but does provide an option if Trump’s behavior should deteriorate further to the point that there is agreement that he must be removed.

Joe Scarborough & Mika Brzezinski Respond To Donald Trump’s Mental State

Over the last couple of days Donald Trump has both advocated repealing Obamacare without a replacement, which would lead to 26 million people losing insurance, and has insulted Mika Brzezinski. Based upon the media response, the later appears to be the more important story. Therefore, rather than another post on the Republican plans to destroy health care (such as here and here), I’ll look at the more important story of the day.

In a pair of tweets, Donald Trump claimed:

I heard poorly rated speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came……to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

Subsequently Joe Scarborough accused Trump of blackmailing them, demanding an apology for their negative coverage, or else a negative story about Scarborough and Brzezinski would be published in the Enquirer. Trump mistakenly thought people would actually give a damn over what the Enquirer had to say about their relationship.

New York Magazine summaries what occurred:

According to three sources familiar with the private conversations, what happened was this: After the inauguration, Morning Joe’s coverage of Trump turned sharply negative. “This presidency is fake and failed,” Brzezinski said on March 6, for example. Around this time, Scarborough and Brzezinski found out the Enquirer was preparing a story about their affair. While Scarborough and Brzezinski’s relationship had been gossiped about in media circles for some time, it was not yet public, and the tabloid was going to report that they had left their spouses to be together.

In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment). Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirer published the story in print on June 5, headlined “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”

The Morning Joe co-hosts decided to talk about the episode a day after Trump inaccurately tweeted that Brzezinski attended a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” (A photo from that evening backs up Scarborough and Brzezinski’s denial of this.) While the Enquirer denies that Trump encouraged Pecker to investigate the MSNBC hosts, Trump himself has pushed the story publicly. Last August, he tweeted, “Some day, when things calm down, I’ll tell the real story of@JoeNBC and his very insecure long-time girlfriend, @morningmika. Two clowns!”

The most interesting thing in all of this is that the Enquirer is owned by a guy named Pecker who is a friend of Donald Trump.

While Trump’s ability to express himself is generally often limited to short forms like Twitter, Scarborough and Brzezinski are capable of more detailed expression of their views. They did this in an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled, Donald Trump is not well. Here are some excerpts:

The president’s unhealthy obsession with our show has been in the public record for months, and we are seldom surprised by his posting nasty tweets about us. During the campaign, the Republican nominee called Mika “neurotic” and promised to attack us personally after the campaign ended. This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.

The president’s unhealthy obsession with “Morning Joe” does not serve the best interests of either his mental state or the country he runs. Despite his constant claims that he no longer watches the show, the president’s closest advisers tell us otherwise. That is unfortunate. We believe it would be better for America and the rest of the world if he would keep his 60-inch-plus flat-screen TV tuned to “Fox & Friends.”

…It is disturbing that the president of the United States keeps up his unrelenting assault on women. From his menstruation musings about Megyn Kelly, to his fat-shaming treatment of a former Miss Universe, to his braggadocio claims about grabbing women’s genitalia, the 45th president is setting the poorest of standards for our children. We were heartened to hear a number of Republican lawmakers call out Mr. Trump for his offensive words and can only hope that the women who are closest to him will follow their examples. It would be the height of hypocrisy to claim the mantle of women’s empowerment while allowing a family member to continue such abusive conduct.

Fox cites anonymous sources to say that Scarborough’s claims are not true (which I point out only to demonstrate how low Fox can get).

Melania Trump defended her husband:

“As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,” her communications director Stephanie Grisham said in response to reporters’ questions.

Stephen Colbert had this rebuttal to Melania’s defense: “Yes, as the first lady says, ‘When they go low, we go 10 times lower.'”

Chaos In The Trump White House

The chaos continues in the Trump White House.

Michael Flynn is reportedly “on thin ice” after it came out that he spoke with the Russian ambassador about sanctions before Trump took office, and then liked to Mike Pence about having done so. Getting rid of Flynn would be a huge plus.

Reince Priebus’ job also isn’t very secure, with Kellyanne Conway describing his job as her dream job. In this case, I’d prefer Priebus over Conway.

Andrew Puzder, Trump’s anti-labor pick for Labor Secretary, is in trouble now that four Republicans are talking about voting against his confirmation. Another plus if he is blocked.

One member of the Trump administration who isn’t in trouble but should be is Stephen Miller, who sounded Steve Bannon-level crazy in this exchange on Face the Nation:

DICKERSON: When I talked to Republicans on the Hill, they wonder, what in the White House — what have you all learned from this experience with the executive order?

MILLER: Well, I think that it’s been an important reminder to all Americans that we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become, in many cases, a supreme branch of government. One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country. I mean this is just crazy, John, the idea that you have a judge in Seattle say that a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States is — is — is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.

The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.

Joe Scarborough tore him apart over this:

“No, they are questioned by young little Miller. They will be questioned by the court. It’s called judicial review,” Scarborough said, as his colleagues on set guffawed.

“Alexander Hamilton and James Madison wrote about it in the Federalist Papers,” Scarborough continued. “It was enshrined in Madison’s Constitution. Andrew Jackson — you go into your president’s office, you know that one, and you look on the walls, and there are all these pictures of Andrew Jackson — he talked of the importance of judicial independence.”

“And seriously, the White House has got to stop embarrassing themselves by putting this guy on,” Scarborough said.

The New York Times had an excellent background article on Miller yesterday.

Update: Michael Flynn has resigned as National Security Adviser.

How Negative Will Clinton Go Against Sanders and Biden?

Sanders Raise Money Clinton Super Pac

Considering how dirty her 2008 campaign was against Obama, there has been speculation as to how negative Hillary Clinton will get against Bernie Sanders, and against Joe Biden if he decides to run. The New York Times notes that Clinton must be cautious in debating Sanders:

Over the next week, Mrs. Clinton and her aides will look for the best way to explain to viewers why she is a better choice than her nearest rival without sounding condescending to Mr. Sanders, or dismissive of his views, so she does not risk alienating his growing army of supporters.

“I’ve seen every attack people have thrown at him, and none of them have worked,” cautioned Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, who supports Mrs. Clinton.

Not all of them have been exactly subtle. In 2004, the Republican challenging him for his House seat sought to deride him as a political oddball. “Crazy Bernie,” an advertisement called him, “a holdover from the Woodstock days of reefer and flowers.” But Vermont voters did not seem to mind…

For Mrs. Clinton, debating Mr. Sanders poses a challenge reminiscent of the more troublesome one she faced in 2008, when Senator Barack Obama’s criticisms of her were widely characterized as fair, but Mrs. Clinton’s efforts to counter them and defend herself often were not.

Already, a “super PAC” supporting Mrs. Clinton showed the risks that can come if an unsuccessful attack on Mr. Sanders blows back. As The Huffington Post reported, the super PAC, Correct the Record, in a document that was intended to be off the record, drew a connection between Mr. Sanders and Hugo Chávez, the socialist president of Venezuela who died in 2013, because Mr. Sanders supported a deal to bring low-cost Venezuelan oil to New England. Mr. Sanders, calling it “the same-old, same-old negative politics,” seized on the report and raised more than $1 million in two days.

More on how Sanders set fund raising records in response to this attack here. Clinton’s dirty campaign in 2008 led many Democrats, such as Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy  to ultimately endorse Obama instead of her, and any dirty tricks from Clinton this campaign might have the same effect.

Clinton might try to attack Sanders’ views but this will be difficult because of how often he has been right on the issues and Clinton has been wrong. Clinton has often avoided discussing the issues in this campaign, and she did not do a good job on education. Alternet reports Hillary Clinton Delivers a Lame Attack on Bernie Sanders’ Free College Tuition Plan. Just wait until they talk about Iraq during the upcoming debate.

Clinton’s attacks on Sanders have generally come through surrogates. Politico reports on how Morning Joe is responding to the use of surrogates:

There’s a mandate on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: No candidate surrogates or spokespeople can appear on the show until the candidate agrees to be interviewed. And it all started with the Hillary Clinton campaign.

“The rule was put in place for Hillary’s campaign because while just about every other candidate came on, the Clinton team kept trying to put out surrogates and staffers,” host Joe Scarborough told POLITICO. “We finally said ‘not until the candidate comes on herself.’ And then some suggested we have Jeb [Bush’s] people on a month or so ago, but we held to the same policy.”

Bush himself went on the show last week, meaning his surrogates and spokespeople can now appear as well. But Clinton, Ben Carson, John Kasich and Marco Rubio, none of whom has appeared on the show since they announced their campaigns, will have to wait.

“It applies to everybody. It just started with Hillary because her people were aggressive with getting pollsters and spokespeople on, but it applies to everyone,” Scarborough said. “That’s the fairest way to do it.”

While I often disagree with Joe Scarborough, this policy does sound like a good idea.

New York Magazine reports that Clinton’s usual hit-man, former Republican hit-man David Brock, will be leading the attacks on Joe Biden:

If Joe Biden jumps into the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton will be ready to go on the offensive. According to a source close to the Clinton campaign, a team of opposition researchers working on behalf of Clinton is currently digging through Biden’s long record in office to develop attack lines in case the vice-president runs. The research effort started about a month ago and is being conducted by operatives at Correct the Record, the pro-Hillary superpac founded by David Brock, which is coordinating with the Clinton campaign. According to the source, the research has turned up material on Biden’s ties to Wall Street; his reluctance to support the raid that killed Osma bin Laden; and his role in the Anita Hill saga as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The oppo-research project reveals how seriously Clintonworld is taking the prospect of a Biden candidacy. So far, Clinton hasn’t taken any direct shots at Biden herself. But behind the scenes, her loyalists are making moves to blunt Biden’s campaign should he run. “Even implicitly his campaign’s argument would be ‘I have integrity and you don’t,'” a Clinton ally said. “If that’s the message, this could be messier than Obama-Clinton ’08. At least Obama had the Iraq War vote and could make a case about generational change. This guy” — Biden — “is older than she is and just as conventional.”

A spokesperson for the Clinton campaign declined to comment.

Joe Biden might respond that while they voted the same on the initial Iraq vote, their views otherwise were quite different. Biden spent the next several months looking for alternatives to war while Clinton was one of the strongest advocates of going to war, including making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Biden often opposed Clinton’s more hawkish views as Secretary of State. Biden was pushing for Obama to “evolve” on same-sex marriage while Clinton was still opposed to it. Biden did not join up with the religious right while in the Senate as Clinton did. Biden didn’t spend his time in the Senate proposing to make flag burning a felony, or waging a war against video games as Clinton did. While Biden is not my first choice, he is certainly not as conservative as Clinton on social issues and foreign policy. Both Clinton and Biden have problems with regards to their ties to Wall Street and their hard line views on the drug war.

Clinton’s Electability Now Being Questioned

Projected 2016 electoral map

While it is far too early to make many meaningful predictions about the 2016 election, there is one safe bet–the media will concentrate on the horse race, as opposed to the issues, even at this early state. Eric Ham argues at The Hill that Jeb Bush as the edge in the electoral college over Clinton. David Atkins disagrees at The Political Animal blog, arguing that even if the Republican candidate picks up Florida and Ohio (map above) this still leaves them two votes short of victory. Adam C. Smith, the political editor of The Tampa Bay Times, argues that Florida is not a lock for either Bush or Rubio:

Part of what makes Florida such a challenging state politically is its fast-changing and ever-growing nature. Statewide candidates must constantly introduce themselves. Bush, for instance, won his two gubernatorial races by huge margins — nearly 11 percentage points in 1998 and 13 points in 2002 — but Florida is vastly different now.

The Florida Democratic Party still has the voter files from those Bush elections and can pinpoint which voters are still around and which aren’t. Only 28 percent of currently active Florida voters participated in either of Bush’s past two elections and only 13 percent of today’s registered voters are Republicans who voted in those 2002 or 1998 gubernatorial races.

“There has been so much growth in Florida, that 13 years since his name was last on the ballot, only around 18 percent of registered voters in Florida ever could have voted for Jeb,” Joshua Karp of the Florida Democratic party extrapolated.

Nor have Bush or Rubio ever run in a presidential election year, when Democratic turnout is far higher than in off-year elections.

Barack Obama narrowly won Florida in 2008 and in 2012 after mounting the largest and best-funded campaigns ever seen in the state. That Obama barely eked out a win against Mitt Romney, who had antagonized many Hispanic voters with his clumsy talk of self-deportation, might suggest Bush or Rubio at the top of the ticket would all but ensure Florida’s 29 electoral votes for the GOP.

“Nothing in life is a lock. But Jeb Bush beats Hillary Clinton in Florida hands down. I don’t care what the polls say today,” said former House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, suggesting Rubio would be formidable, too, but has less broad appeal.

What the polls say today is that Clinton vs. Bush is a toss-up. A Quinnipiac University poll released this week showed Clinton leading 45 percent to 42 percent, while a Public Policy Polling survey released last week found Clinton leading 47 percent to 44 percent. She led Rubio by 2 percentage points in both polls.

The problem for the Democrats is that beyond inevitability Clinton has little else going for her, and like in 2008 once her inevitability becomes questioned there is the risk of her campaign self-destructing. If nothing else, this is making Republicans such as Joe Scarborough more optimistic:

 I think she has a glass jaw, and I’ll be really blunt. I don’t think she’s going to be the next president of the United States. Everybody acts like she’s inevitable. But I know a lot of people very close to Hillary Clinton that are very worried right now that she has what it takes to win a general election. They think she’s going to win a primary, the Democratic primary, but they’re very worried. And think about it, Hugh. Everybody’s been talking for four years about how the Democrats are stacked against the Republican Party, there’s no way we’re going to win nationally again. All we need is somebody to win all the states Mitt Romney won, which is a pretty low bar for the Republican Party. And then you win Florida, Virginia and Ohio, which I think any of these major candidates can beat Hillary, and then you just have to pick up four electoral votes. And there are about ten states that Republicans can win there. I’m actually feeling very bullish on 2016 right now if we nominate the right guy or woman.

Jeffry Frank discusses the key fact of the Democratic race so far at The New Yorker–Clinton is essentially running alone:

Democrats, meanwhile, seem ready to cede the whole thing to Clinton, who, for all her experience and intelligence, may be a less-than-ideal candidate. Even her e-mail problems, which polls at first suggested could be shrugged off, aren’t going away. It didn’t help when her lawyer, David Kendall, in response to a subpoena from a congressional committee looking into the 2012 attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi, told the Times, “There are no hdr22@clintonemail.com emails from Secretary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate or legally authorized.” That her personal e-mail server has been wiped clean of any records from her years at the State Department erases the chance of anyone ever making an independent study of their contents and is bound to encourage the suspicion that there was something worth hiding. The investigation community is like a perpetual scandal-seeking machine, quick to seize on any hint of inconsistency, and both Clintons, understandably, are weary of being pursued by those who don’t wish them well. But the public may be getting weary of seeing the words “Clinton” and “lawyers” juxtaposed yet again with any sort of frequency, which could explain her slippage in the polls in three battleground states.

Not long ago, Ryan Lizza wrote about Clinton’s aura of inevitability and the historic failure of most challenges to strong front-runners. At this point, though, any insurgencies are more notional than real. Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, has been gently critical of her as he shyly contemplates getting into the race. The former Virginia Senator James Webb, who began exploring a run last November, is still hinting that he intends to run. But when you look for signs of the Webb campaign, which promised a fresh view of income inequality, military commitments abroad, and the terrible waste of lives—mainly black lives—caused by mass incarceration, what you’re likely to find is the status of the James Webb space telescope, which will replace the Hubble. (That Webb ran NASA in the years of the Apollo program.) Clinton, meanwhile, has not exactly announced her intentions, but her campaign, without coyness, has reportedly leased two floors of office space in Brooklyn Heights, and that, as Politico notes, may be regarded by the Federal Election Commission as the beginning of a campaign.

Four years ago, Democrats were amused by the Republicans battling through the primaries, and by debates that even Republicans considered a “clown show.” This year, Republicans may be cheered by the absence of battle on the other side, by the sight of a major political party diminished by timidity and the uncertain candidacy of a single contender.

We are still months away from the first primary. Clinton has not even announced her candidacy yet but, now that she has signed the lease on election offices in Brooklyn, campaign finance laws require  her to announce, or at least open an exploratory committee, in the next two weeks. Democrats should be concerned about the major errors she has committed during her book tour and in response to the revelations about her email, and her fall in the polls,

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush scrapes past Clinton with a three-point lead, still within the margin of error, in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup in Florida, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday. Clinton had a one-point edge in the Florida dead heat Quinnipiac reported in early February.

The last two months have also erased Clinton’s previously double-digit lead over every other potential GOP contender for the presidency in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Sen. Rand Paul, the libertarian-leaning Republican from Kentucky, is now the man to beat in Ohio after he narrowed his margin against Clinton to just a five-point deficit, according to Tuesday’s poll. Paul, who is expected to announce his bid for the presidency next week, trailed Clinton by 12 points in Quinnipiac’s early February poll.

Every potential 2016 Republican contender included in the February survey has since gained on Clinton in Ohio — even if by just two points, like in Bush’s case.

Paul is also winning over Pennsylvanians, trimming his 9-point deficit to a virtual tie, landing 45% of support to Clinton’s 44% in the state.

Clinton remains a strong favorite — especially so early on — against virtually every other potential Republican contender for president in the three battleground states.

But it’s clear Clinton’s email scandal — first that she exclusively used private email housed on a private server as secretary of state, and then that she deleted all the emails on that server — has leveled a hit to Clinton’s public image and trustworthiness, according to the Quinnipiac poll.

About half of voters in all three states say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy — by a 5-to-4 margin in Florida and Pennsylvania, with a closer split in Pennsylvania.

And Clinton’s favorability rating has also slipped in Florida — to 49% from 53% — and Pennsylvania — now at 48% from 55% — though she still gets more favorable reviews than all of her would-be Republican opponents, except for Bush and Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio in that state.

Despite denials over the significance of the email scandal by Clinton supporters , the poll found that, “Clinton has provided satisfactory answers on the e-mail issue, 38 percent of voters say, while 55 percent say serious questions remain.” This is also the sort of matter which most people are not currently paying attention to at this stage,  and could be much more harmful in 2016. Despite the attempts of Clinton supporters to claim this is a trivial matter, this is actually an important matter which gets to the heart of Obama’s efforts to improve transparency in government in response to the abuses during the Bush years. With so much communication now being by email rather than written memos, it is also important to the historical record that these records be maintained. Hillary Clinton’s integrity is tarnished by her failure to follow the rules placed in effect in 2009, her false claims at her press conference of following the rules, and her debunked claims of having failed to use government servers in order to avoid needing to carry two email devices, even though she actually did use two different devices. Clinton’s attacks on Republicans for shredding the Constitution when they used a server from the Republican National Committee, and the citing of use of personal email as one reason for the firing of an ambassador under her, strengthen the view that the Clintons believe that the rules do not apply to them. How many voters are really going to believe that Clinton was not hiding something after she not only violated the rules but wiped the servers?

While many Democrats have been willing to back Clinton, despite being out of step with liberals on the issues, because of the feeling she had the best chance to win. Now that she is looking like a weaker candidate there has been increased discussion of the possibility of other candidates taking on Clinton for the Democratic nomination, but so far there has been little action by other Democrats. Martin O’Malley is currently the only one making serious moves towards a candidacy. While the Clintonistas have begun their inevitable campaign against  him, he is starting to get favorable coverage. Some Clinton supporters deny how Clinton is to the right of O’Malley and most other Democrats, using flawed rating systems which do not mean very much when most Senate votes are along party lines. (Republicans used such bogus arguments to claim in 2004 and 2008 that John Kerry and Barack Obama were the most liberal Democrats.) Clintonistas have an even more difficult task when pitting O’Malley against Clinton based upon competence. A. H. Goodman argues at The Huffington Post that O’Malley or Elizabeth Warren, along with other possible Democratic candidates, can beat the Republicans. In Iowa, which has not been a strong state for the Clintons, some are seeing O’Malley as the nation’s new JFK.

Joe Biden has the advantage over other potential challengers in terms of name recognition against other potential candidate, but  has made only very preliminary moves. While he has not taken any actions towards organizing a campaign, a Draft Joe Biden site has started. If Biden plans to run I think he bypassed an opportunity this week. Biden was often the voice of reason, in contrast to Clinton’s hawkishness, in the first four years of the Obama administration. If he was interested in taking on Clinton, I would think he should have reminded voters of Clinton’s opposition to Obama’s desire to engage in diplomacy with Iran. This issue might still come up, being yet another example of how long it often takes for Clinton to learn from her mistakes.

With many months to go before the first primary, there remains hope that other candidates will emerge once it no longer looks like resistance to Clinton is futile. Sources from Salon to The Christian Science Monitor have offered suggestions as to alternate candidates for the Democratic nomination.

Political Polarization–How The Left and Right Follow Different Sources For News

The Pew Research Center has released a study on Political Polarization and Media Habits. Most of their findings, summarized below, are as would be predicted:

Overall, the study finds that consistent conservatives:

  • Are tightly clustered around a single news source, far more than any other group in the survey, with 47% citing Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics.
  • Express greater distrust than trust of 24 of the 36 news sources measured in the survey. At the same time, fully 88% of consistent conservatives trust Fox News.
  • Are, when on Facebook, more likely than those in other ideological groups to hear political opinions that are in line with their own views.
  • Are more likely to have friends who share their own political views. Two-thirds (66%) say most of their close friends share their views on government and politics.

By contrast, those with consistently liberal views:

  • Are less unified in their media loyalty; they rely on a greater range of news outlets, including some – like NPR and the New York Times– that others use far less.
  • Express more trust than distrust of 28 of the 36 news outlets in the survey. NPR, PBS and the BBC are the most trusted news sources for consistent liberals.
  • Are more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or “defriend” someone on a social network – as well as to end a personal friendship – because of politics.
  • Are more likely to follow issue-based groups, rather than political parties or candidates, in their Facebook feeds.

It certainly comes as no surprise that conservatives are likely to follow Fox, which essentially means they are receiving the talking points of the Republican Party, with little regard for facts. While only 47 percent specifically cite Fox, I often find that conservatives are reciting the exact same talking points even if they deny watching Fox. Most likely they are following other conservative media which repeats the exact same message.

It also is no surprise that liberals are more interested in finding objective information and turn to a variety of sources such as NPR and The New York Times. Conservatives distrust media which doesn’t echo their viewpoints (even though, as Stephen Colbert has explained, “reality has a well-known liberal bias”). It is also not surprising that, while conservatives follow outlets with more overt political propaganda, liberals do not show as high an interest in MSNBC, and paid even less attention to Air America before it went out of business. This is not to say they are a mirror of Fox. MSNBC is far more factual when presenting liberal views. The point is that liberals are much more likley to seek an objective news source as opposed to listening to opinion.

When media outlets are examined by the ideology of viewers and readers, MSNBC’s audience is barely more liberal than the audience for CNN and the broadcast networks. Conservative outlets such as Politico and The Economist have a more liberal following than MSNBC. This might be because, while we generally think of MSNBC’s liberal evening shows, the network carries more objective news during the day. In the morning it runs a show hosted by conservative Joe Scarborough and, until he moved to Meet The Press, Scarborough was followed by another conservative, Chuck Todd. MSNBC’s overall audience is presumably different from their evening audience.

Buzzfeed is the least trusted source, but I suspect that this is because of not being well-known, or perhaps not being taken as seriously, as opposed to an ideological divide. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck follow as the least trusted, and Ed Schultz’s show is the least trusted liberal program.

As the Republican Party is now an ideological conservative party, it is also expected that conservatives are more likely than liberals to follow a political party. The authoritarian mind set which is common on the right might also make them more likely to follow a party, although conservatives have never been shy about complaining when they think the GOP is not conservative enough. Lacking a consistent liberal party in this country, it is expected that liberals are more likely to follow issues as opposed to the Democratic Party.

Initially I was surprised to see that liberals are more likely to defriend based upon ideology, but it makes sense as I think about my own experiences. I have some conservative Facebook friends who I have no reason to consider defriending, but have defriended other conservatives (along with some on the left). While I have certainly run into some on the left who are every bit as obnoxious as those on the right, ideologues on the right are often more likely to attempt to spread their views with a religious fervor. Arguments coming from the right are less likely to rely on facts or logical arguments, and much more likely to resort to insults.

This difference extends to the real world. While I have never ended a true friendship over politics, there are neighbors who I could never be friends with due to politics. I certainly have no use personally for those neighbors who have told my wife that she would go to Hell for having a Kerry sign in our front yard, or who have harassed my daughter in parking lots due to the Darwin Fish sticker on her car. While the experience of others might differ, I don’t see this type of fanaticism from liberals.

Recap Of Live Blogging Of The State Of The Union Address

Last night, rather than posting on the blog, I utilized Facebook and Twitter to live blog the State of the Union Address.  (I wound up primarily using Facebook due to not having to cut back as much in  a status update as in a tweet, and the discussion was easier to follow). Before the speech I posted this comment to those on the left who were already critical of Obama:

I don’t care about the whining from those on the left who insist on ideological pure thought and speech. Improving competitiveness is a GOOD THING when used to push for spending more on education and to improve our infrastructure.

I started out primarily quoting from Obama (cutting back to Facebook’s allowed length) and later got more into commentary. The full text of the SOTU is available here. I am also proud to say that, contrary to the trend on Twitter, I didn’t resort to a single salmon joke.

“Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need.”

“We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

“Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success. But if we want to win the future if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.”

“Of course, the education race doesn’t end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within reach of every American. That’s why we’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students.” –

Does John Boehner realize this is being televised and everyone can see him?

A couple of the responses to this comment:

He can’t be still….he needs his smokes and a Rob Roy….16 hours ago ·

If smug were a source of energy, we could plug Boehner in and power DC for the next year.

Getting back to my own commentary, followed by more quotes: Will Fox attack Obama for playing the race card tonight (Race to the Top)?

“If we take these steps — if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they’re born until the last job they take — we will reach the goal I set two years ago: by the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

“Our infrastructure used to be the best — but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a D.”

“We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians.”

“Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble these efforts.”

“Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying — without the pat-down.”

“All these investments — in innovation, education, and infrastructure will make America a better place to do business and create jobs”

“When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them. But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe.”

“What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition.”

“I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.”

While Republicans greatly exaggerate the amounts, malpractice reform is one way to cut health care costs without limiting anyone’s care.

I’d love it if Obama ends by pointing to the Fox “News” cameras and shouts “You Lie.”

“And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break.”

“And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: if a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.” –

“And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family.”

“American Muslims are a part of our American family.” Wait until Glenn Beck splices this to claim that Obama admitted to being part of a Muslim family (from Kenya where he was born).

“We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution.” –Barack Obama. Unfortunately he is wrong here. For example, large numbers of Republicans deny separation of church and state and claim we were founded as a “Christian nation.”

“We believe, as our founders did, that the pursuit of happiness depends upon individual liberty, and individual liberty requires limited government.” –Paul Ryan in GOP response. If you guys mean this, stop trying to legislate morality and infringe upon reproductive rights.

Next we got into the two Republican responses, preceded by this advice via Twitter:

“To tweet about the President’s speech, use #SOTU. To tweet about Michele Bachmann’s response, use #STFU.” –Andy Borowitz

“We believe, as our founders did, that the pursuit of happiness depends upon individual liberty, and individual liberty requires limited government.” —Paul Ryan in GOP response. If you guys mean this, stop trying to legislate morality and infringe upon reproductive rights.

“,,,patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage” –Paul Ryan. No, his party’s reforms just increase insurance company profits and screw patients.

Why does Paul Ryan comb his hair just like Eddie Munster?

NBC got rid of Olbermann, and now they are having Joe Scarborough give commentary on the main network.

Why did I waste time with the GOP response when Big Ten Network/Classic College Football is airing Michigan’s victory over Michigan State from 2004?

The Conservative News Network (CNN) is now preparing to air the Tea Party response. I can’t believe people see CNN as a counter to Fox, as opposed to a less extreme and generally more fair and balanced conservative alternative.

When someone disagreed with the characterization of CNN as conservative, I added:  Keep an eye on who CNN hires. They’ve hired far more Republicans in recent years than Democrats. They are conservative but still far to the left of Fox, and they make an attempt at real journalism, so conservatives reject them.

Check out CNN just to see Michele Bachmann’s eyes. She looks possessed (and it is not by the spirit of the Founding Fathers who would tell this idiot to shut the fuck up if they ever encountered her).

Bachmann is wrapping up. Next CNN will have Joe the Plumber on.

CNN  turned to what they describe as the best political team on television. I commented: If you guys are really the “best political team” you will all say that Michele Bachmann is a fracking idiot.

If SNL aired Michele Bachmann exactly as CNN aired her we’d be laughing hysterically, thinking they were mocking Republicans.

When someone commented that “Michelle Bachmann is clearly out of touch with the Mother Ship” I responded: Maybe her Mother Ship was off to the right and is what she was looking at the whole time she was talking.

Those who are saying Obama is moving towards the center are missing the fact that Obama is redefining the center.

And this concludes tonight’s live blogging/tweeting of the State of the Union Address delivered by President Barack Obama and the televised responses of two morons.

Shorter Sarah Palin on Hannity And A Rational Conservative Response

Sarah (Reload) Palin’s appearance on Sean Hannity did nothing to satisfy those of us who remained shocked by the recent shootings in Tucson, along with many other acts of politically-motivated violence. Here’s Shorter Palin on Hannity:

“I will continue to speak out to promote hatred and division. I stand by my anti-Semitic slur. I was the real victim. My words never cause harm; words critical of me do.”

That, of course, was not Palin’s actual words, but is the message she conveyed to those beyond the fringe element who supports her. Most conservatives are unable or unwilling to understand what liberals have been saying in the aftermath of the shootings. Rather than responding to what we are saying, they falsely claim that liberals are placing the blame for the shooting on Palin and then respond to this instead of what is actually being said.

One exception is Joe Scarborough who has this message for conservatives:

We get it, Sarah Palin. You’re not morally culpable for the tragic shooting in Tucson, Ariz. All of us around the “Morning Joe” table agree, even if we were stunned that you would whine about yourself on Facebook as a shattered family prepared to bury their 9-year-old girl.

The same goes for you, Glenn Beck. You’ve attacked your political opponents with words designed to inspire hatred and mind-bending conspiracy theories from fans. Calling the president a racist, Marxist and fascist may be reprehensible, but it did not lead a mentally disturbed man to take a Glock to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s “Congress on Your Corner” event.

Good on ya, buddy. You weren’t personally responsible for the slaughter at the Safeway. Maybe you can put it on a poster at the next “Talkers” convention.

But before you and the pack of right-wing polemicists who make big bucks spewing rage on a daily basis congratulate yourselves for not being responsible for Jared Lee Loughner’s rampage, I recommend taking a deep breath. Just because the dots between violent rhetoric and violent actions don’t connect in this case doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore the possibility — or, as many fear, the inevitability — that someone else will soon draw the line between them.

Actually, someone already has. When you get a minute, Google “Byron Williams” and “Tides Foundation” to see just how thin a layer of ice Beck skates on every day…

Who, other than Palin’s most strident supporters, was not troubled by the bull’s-eye target over Giffords’s district? Or the political advertisement promoting the removal of Giffords from office with the firing of a “fully automatic M16” with her opponent? Or the gunned-down congresswoman’s own warning to NBC’s Chuck Todd that violent words have consequences?

And who on the right is really stupid enough to not understand that the political movement that has a near monopoly on gun imagery may be the first focus of an act associated with gun violence? As a conservative who had a 100 percent rating with the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America over my four terms in Congress, I wonder why some on the right can’t defend the Second Amendment without acting like jackasses. While these types regularly attack my calls for civility, it is their reckless rhetoric that does the most to hurt the cause.

Which brings us back to Palin and the GOP’s field of 2012 candidates.

In Palin’s Facebook manifesto last Wednesday, she didn’t condemn extreme speech and its potential for violence. Instead, she seemed to say, “Deal with it.” Then she proved it, ineptly and offensively naming herself the victim of a “blood libel,” which generations of persecuted Jews know carries connotations much more serious than a drop in the polls.

We know Palin won’t call out irresponsible language or lead the discussion back to civility, but who will?

Where was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who covets the moral authority to lead his party in 2012? Is there anything — anything at all — a member of his own party can say that offends this man?

Or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who refused to call out his state’s best-known congresswoman, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, for saying that the best way to oppose energy legislation is to be “armed and dangerous.”

Or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich? Oh, wait. Never mind.

From their defensive crouch, these candidates are clearly scared to do the right thing by calling out reckless rhetoric.

Mark Halperin Accuses Republicans Of “Willfully Misreading” Financial Reform Bill

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I’ve often been critical of Mark Halperin for describing what he calls the “freak show” in politics and then proceeding to parrot the claims coming from the “freak show.” I was pleasantly surprised to find that Halperin took a stand on Morning Joe yesterday (video above).

During a discussion of the Republican response to the financial reform legislation, Joe Scarborough asked Halperin to defend the Republican position. The Republican position on the financial reform legislation, as with most recent Republican positions, is counter to reality with Republicans falsely claiming that the reform bill will lead to a permanent bailout. Here is a portion of the discussion:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Just this once, defend the Republican position.

MARK HALPERIN: I cannot defend what they’re doing.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Oh, please.

SCARBOROUGH: Look at you! Look at you!

[CROSSTALK]

HALPERIN: They are willfully misreading the bill or they are engaged in a cynical attempt to keep the president from achieving something.

White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee summed up the Republican response:

Everybody knows a consultant just handed them that line and they’re just reading it. It doesn’t matter what’s in the bill. It could be a bill about breakfast cereal and they’re going to say this is a bailout bill.

Steve Benen points out the significance of Mark Halperin refusing to repeat the Republican claims: “Note to Republicans: when even Mark Halperin is calling you out for lying, the conventional wisdom is turning against you.”

Conservative Attempts to Defend Fox and Create a False Equivalency With MSNBC

Along with many other liberal bloggers, I’ve had numerous posts regarding how Fox not only gets the facts wrong on their news shows but outright makes things up to promote their beliefs. In response to members of the Obama administration  pointing out the truth about Fox, conservatives have tried to create a false equivalency between Fox and MSNBC.

To a limited degree the comparison is accurate. The evening shows on MSNBC such as those anchored by Kieth Olbermann and Rachel Maddow should be classified as opinion shows and not objective news shows. It is worth noting that, while which facts to concentrate on are influenced by their political views, the facts presented by Olbermann and Maddow are considerably more accurate than the falsehoods frequently stated by the hosts of the Fox opinion shows. In addition, MSNBC  balances this with a show hosted by conservative Joe Scarborough. Another significant difference is that MSNBC has actual news shows on during the daytime, while the “news” shows on Fox are biased and promote the same falsehoods as on their opinion shows.

Conservatives have come up with a number of absurd arguments to counter the criticism of Fox. Some act as if it is the Obama White House who initiated the attack when it  is Fox which is responsible for this conflict. Fox has even fabricated a story that they were denied the ability to interview an Obama administration official. Conservatives who ignored real violations of civil liberties, and generally ignore everything in the Bill of Rights other than the Second Amendment, make absurd claims of violations of the First Amendment. In reality members of the Obama administration are expressing their own freedom of speech to make observations which are as obvious as that the sky is blue, and are taking no action to limit Fox’s right to express their views. Fox’s viewership has even gone up, showing they are not being harmed. Some have even compared this to Nixon’s enemies list, perhaps oblivious to the differences such as the Nixon administration’s use of tactics such as wire taps and tax audits against their perceived enemies.

With all the false information being spread by Fox, conservatives would love to be able to build a case that Olbermann and Maddow are as inaccurate in their stories as the Fox talking heads. This certainly cannot be done, but conservatives are still trying. Via Memeorandum I found this ridiculous attempt.

There are at least two major problems with the argument against Maddow. First, rather than being wrong in her facts, the same post which attacks Maddow shows that Maddow had a guest on her show which presented the facts. They might not understand why a failure such as George Bush might be mocked for being a motivational speaker, regardless of how many former presidents have done the same, but there is no justification for saying that viewers of Maddow’s show were given false information after she completed her coverage of the story.

It is also rather ridiculous that they would cite something so trivial to falsely question Rachel Maddow’s accuracy considering how Fox has been wrong in their facts on so many major issues in recent years. This includes their falsehoods on what is contained in the health reform bills, their false claims that WMD was present in Iraq at the onset of the war, and their false claims of a connection between Saddam and al Quada.

Update: Keith Olbermann’s response