Chuck Norris endorses Newt Gingrich at the very last minute possible, I mean seriously dude if you’d waited any longer you would have missed the South Carolina primary

Mitt Romney, this is your future.

So, whoever is writing Newt Gingrich’s tweets: kudos, this was funny.

Personally, I can’t imagine a worse endorsement, but then again I’m not running in the South Carolina Republican primary any more than Gingrich will be running in the Virginia Republican primary.

Norris is, of course, the action-star-turned-raving-rightwinger who believes that progressives and icky gay people are ruining –ruiningour public school system through systematic brainwashing and some other nonsense:

The impact of progressivism is being experienced by students across this land, hundreds of thousands of whom already have cried out with complaints of academic inequity. A sampling of the hundreds of student grievances from across the academic spectrum can be found on Students For Academic Freedom’s website.

It is also no surprise that an average of 6,000 students every year are leaving the approximately 94,000 public schools in America. If the powers-to-be over our public schools, such as government and unions, continue to oppose conservative curricula and impose overarching liberal educational revisions and laws, public schools will continue to experience an exodus.

To be fair, this fits nicely with Gingrich’s own platform of racist remarks about food-stamp recipients and his reference to the Civil War recently as “The War Between The States” and other totally crazy panderings to what he imagines the Southern contingent of the GOP want to hear.

Romney may have no soul, but Gingrich has no honor. Not that he needs much for his line of work.

In any case, South Carolina looks like it’s going to Newt. We could all be surprised, but as Jim Newell argues:

Newt Gingrich is going to win the South Carolina presidential primary tomorrow. Not just because he yelled at two debate moderators for asking him debate questions this week, which brought him up about 20 percentage points in the polls. That wasn’t enough to close the deal. But now that television survivalist Chuck Norris has endorsed him in a meditative World Net Daily piece, Romney’s got no chance.

I can’t even tell if I’m joking anymore. Newt Gingrich is a viable contender for the presidency in 2012. If that sentence isn’t a joke, then there are no jokes.

Yes, these tears are from laughter.

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Chris Christie’s welcome sanity on the war on drugs

I have mixed feelings about the governor of New Jersey, but this does make me like Chris Christie just that much more:

Andrew Sullivan has part of the transcript up:

[L]et us reclaim the lives of those drug offenders who have not committed a violent crime. By investing time and money in drug treatment – in an in-house, secure facility – rather than putting them in prison. Experience has shown that treating non-violent drug offenders is two-thirds less expensive than housing them in prison. And more importantly – as long as they have not violently victimized society – everyone deserves a second chance, because no life is disposable. I am not satisfied to have this as merely a pilot project; I am calling for a transformation of the way we deal with drug abuse and incarceration in every corner of New Jersey.

The rest is here. If only more people on the left and the right would start talking this way.

Reihan Salam writes:

I want all politicians, and in particular all conservatives, to pay careful attention to this: Christie highlighted a dangerous gap in the system that limits the discretion of judges to keep violent offenders behind bars. Yet he also made the case that nonviolent drug offenders should be given treatment rather than imprisoned because (1) it is cost-effective, (2) it is decent and humane, and (3) it recognizes that we can’t afford to waste human potential.

By leading with a “punitive” strategy (actually, a commonsense strategy — it’s about preserving discretion) and then pivoting to a measure that will help members of a marginalized population, Christie demonstrates his political sophistication, his strategic vision, his guts, and his decency. This is a big deal.

Possibly. It’s certainly a welcome brand of conservative politics. But will it really appeal to other conservative politicians? In states where the drug war is far more popular than in New Jersey, I doubt this line of reasoning is going to resonate. Furthermore, most politicians aren’t Christie and can’t pull off the tough and sincere thing the way Christie can.

Salam points out that “Christie evidently doesn’t believe that taking this stand will limit his political future” writing that “his brand of conservatism can form the foundation of a coalition that captures centrist voters even in a heavily urban, diverse northeastern state.” Which is exactly why he doesn’t think this will hurt his political career. The fact that Christie is working to appeal to New Jersey voters means he doesn’t think it will hurt him with said voters. And national voters are going to be a lot more sympathetic to this line of thinking, if polls are to be believed, should Christie run for president someday.

Salam guesses that one reason Christie didn’t run for president this time around was the work he has remaining in New Jersey, noting that “ building a solid foundation there could be a great help if he does indeed pursue a national career.”

I think it’s more likely that Christie is simply very good at reading the political winds. He knew he’d be up against a formidable opponent in Romney and an even more formidable opponent in Obama. It’s harder to go after an incumbent than it is to run at the end of the other party’s two terms. Any sensible observer would see how bad the odds are in 2012 and Christie is nothing if not a savvy politician. 2016 is a better year for Republicans, and I think Gingrich and/or Romney will learn this the hard way.

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Stephen Colbert On Morning Joe

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy Stephen Colbert?

He may be wrong about Citizens United but he’s right about so many other thing and, more importantly, he does it so damn well. If I could be half this funny I think I could be actually content in life.

Just a reminder, in case you somehow missed it amidst all my shameless self-promotion, my piece in The Atlantic deals with Colbert’s candidacy and the power of big media.

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Not The Reagan They Have In Mind: The Real Lessons Conservative Candidates Learn From The Gipper

Ronald Reagan's legacy isn't all that conservative, not that it matters.

In his 1966 campaign for governor of California, Ronald Reagan issued what he termed the Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign had capsized two years earlier when Nelson Rockefeller effectively slammed the Arizona Senator as too extreme. The division, Reagan believed, had led to the Republican defeat.

Although he was attempting to unseat a fellow Republican, Reagan followed his own advice in his primary bid against Gerald Ford. After losing the first five states he abandoned the strategy in North Carolina, winning his first victory of the campaign. Attacking one’s opponent, it turns out, is good politics even if it’s a fellow Republican.

This is a lesson that Reagan-admirer Newt Gingrich learned the hard way in Iowa after his campaign took a beating from the Romney campaign.

Gingrich has compared himself to Reagan many times, and like Reagan 1976 switch in North Carolina, Gingrich has gone negative in South Carolina despite promising to run a positive campaign. Gingrich is known for changing his positions, however, and in many ways this is also in keeping with the Reagan legacy. The Republican icon is often evoked by modern-day GOP aspirants to higher office. The complex politician, however, is hardly the conservative saint he’s made out to be on the campaign trail.

As Senator Lindsay Graham told Howard Kurtz earlier this primary season, “Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today.”

Either that or he’d be forced to take Mitt Romney’s route and walk back half the things he did as governor of California, and abandon his record as president.

Here are five more Republican “Commandments” that Reagan broke, and why it really doesn’t matter that Reagan live up to his own legacy – or that any Republican candidates live up to his legacy either.

1.  Thou Shalt Not Support Amnesty: Ronald Reagan Signed An Amnesty Bill For 3 Million Undocumented Workers

It’s no surprise that Republicans are struggling to make inroads with Hispanic voters these days. Although the last three Republican presidents have been strong proponents of immigration reform and the positive role immigration plays in this country, the GOP as a party and as a cultural movement is extremely hostile to immigrants. Nativism has been more popular than ever during the recession, with bills like Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 aimed at cracking down on undocumented workers popping up across the country.

At a debate earlier this year Jon Huntsman said that if “President Reagan was here he would speak to the American people and he would lay out in hopeful, optimistic terms.” But Reagan was more than optimistic about immigrants describing America as a shining city on a hill where all who yearned for freedom could come and prosper.  In 1986, he signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which legalized close to 3 million undocumented immigrants.

In today’s GOP race, virtually every candidate has bandied about the phrase ‘amnesty’ as though it were a dirty word, pandering to the nativist sentiment in the GOP rather than looking at the economic benefits of increased immigration to the United States or discussing seriously the ways we could reform our immigration system.

2. Thou Shalt Not Promote Class Warfare: On Economics, Reagan Advocated Low Taxes and Free Trade but Supported Anti-Poverty Measures

Unlike Rick Perry, who has complained many times during the campaign that most Americans pay no taxes, Reagan was a major proponent of the very tax policies that helped get the working poor off the income tax rolls. As Derek Thompson points out, “Reagan repeatedly praised plans for booting the poor from federal income taxes.” He supported the Earned Income Tax Credit and worked to make low-income families entirely exempt from paying income taxes. And while Newt Gingrich’s food-stamp-king language mirrors Reagan’s welfare-queen rhetoric, Reagan wanted to help the poor not just demonize them.

Reagan was also a union leader and had a deep sympathy for workers that is nowhere to be found in much of today’s GOP. The Wisconsin battle over workers’ rights to collectively bargain illustrates just how far the Republican party has strayed from its roots. While Reagan was able to capture a large segment of working class Democrats thanks to his appeal to workers, today’s Republican party is better suited for the very rich and for social conservatives.

“Collective bargaining,” Reagan once said, “has played a major role in America’s economic miracle. Unions represent some of the freest institutions in this land. There are few finer examples of participatory democracy to be found anywhere.” Of course Reagan became union-buster-in-chief as president, but his message still appealed to working class voters.

3. Thou Shalt Not Raise Taxes: Reagan Raised Taxes Seven Out Of Eight Years In Office

These days, the Fourteenth Commandment of the Republican Party may as well be “Thou Shalt Not Raise Taxes.” Indeed, taxes have become as hot as any of the culture war issues from abortion to gay marriage, especially after the 2008 financial collapse. Reagan campaigned on low taxes and less government regulation, but over the course of his presidency he raised taxes 11 times.

Today’s GOP is much more anti-tax than Reagan was, largely thanks to the hard work of anti-tax crusaders like Grover Norquist. While Reagan promised to shrink government, famously quipping that government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem, his record is much worse than Democrats like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Carter doesn’t get much credit for the many industries deregulated under his tenure, but he did far more than Reagan to get government out of the economy. Carter deregulated everything from trucking to airlines to home brewing. Meanwhile Clinton’s welfare reform was much more effective at shrinking the role of the federal government than anything carried out under the Reagan administration.

4.  Thou Shalt Not Cut Defense Spending: Reagan’s Long-Term Goal Was Nuclear Disarmament

In his famous “Shining City” speech Reagan said, “We are not a warlike people. Nor is our history filled with tales of aggressive adventures and imperialism, which might come as a shock to some of the placard painters in our modern demonstrations. The lesson of Vietnam, I think, should be that never again will young Americans be asked to fight and possibly die for a cause unless that cause is so meaningful that we, as a nation, pledge our full resources to achieve victory as quickly as possible.”

While Reagan was not afraid to join the arms race against the Soviet Union, his long-term goal was to bring about an end to militarism and the threat of nuclear war. Disarmament loomed large in Reagan’s thinking, and he didn’t always make the best choices in his efforts to achieve that goal. Yet compared to modern-day Republicans, Reagan sounds like a peacenik.

Despite a few notable exceptions, few Republicans want to cut defense spending. Many have even advocated defense spending as a way to create jobs despite rhetoric claiming that government can’t create jobs.  A few GOP officials have called for a scaled back defense budget – Ron Paul first among them, though Tom Coburn and others have also made favorable recommendations to the idea. But by and large, the Republican party gives us little reason to believe that they care about disarmament or military prudence.

5. Thou Shalt Demonize Welfare At Every Turn: Reagan Saved Social-Security

Not only did Reagan add 61,000 jobs to the federal workforce – both Obama and Clinton have actually cut back federal jobs – he saved Social Security and raised the payroll tax. Faced with collapse, Reagan bailed out Social Security to the tune of $165 billion.

Compare this to Rick Perry who called the program a “monstrous lie.” Perry has also claimed that Social Security is unconstitutional. Republicans of all stripes have advocated privatizing the retirement insurance program, but it’s unlikely that after George W. Bush’s failed attempt any will give it a real try in the future, despite the fantasy budgets of men like Paul Ryan.


So what should Republicans take from Reagan’s spotty record of flip-flops and broken promises? The presumptive front-runner in the current GOP primary is Mitt Romney, a man with his own record of switching political views to catch favorable political winds. Newt Gingrich is like Reagan only in that he has promoted far more often the expansion of government rather than the shrinking of the state, whatever his over-the-top rhetoric would suggest.

In the end, Reagan’s far more liberal-than-reported legacy will mean only one thing to GOP hopefuls: it doesn’t matter what they do or say or what policies they support. As long as they say the right things to drum up support from the conservative base, their records are as unimportant as Reagan’s. If Reagan can raise taxes, expand the federal government, save the New Deal, and work to bring about nuclear disarmament, disappointing countless conservatives in the process, and yet still become the president who conservatives admire most, why should Republican candidates today act any differently?

George W. Bush certainly learned the lessons of Ronald Reagan, running up the federal deficit by over $4 trillion dollars during his term. He also abandoned anti-immigration advocates and social conservatives, doing as little as Reagan to overturn Roe v. Wade and failing to enact any sort of meaningful immigration reform.

Of course, the fact that Republicans only talk about shrinking government and then fail to do so when in office doesn’t really bother me. The dishonesty rankles, but the failure to scale back the federal government is way down on my list of priorities. What bothers me, and what should bother conservative and liberal voters alike, is not that this anti-government rhetoric isn’t matched with small government actions. The real problem is that Republicans have learned so much disdain for government on the campaign stump that they’ve forgotten how to actually do the hard work of governing once elected to office.

If nothing else, the eight years of Bush help illustrate how an administration more concerned with playing war abroad than actually governing here at home can at once expand the federal government, wrack up trillions of debt, and make the state far less efficient all at the same time.

The lesson of Reagan’s gilded legacy is clear: the talk is far more important than the walk for today’s GOP. As long as you abide by the talking points, the troops will fall in line. How else to explain the success of Mitt Romney, or the unexpected popularity of the once-disgraced Newt Gingrich? The spirit of Reagan does indeed live on in the modern Republican party. It’s just not the Reagan they have in mind.

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Does Romney Have Offshore Accounts On Another Planet?

Is Romney actually an alien with super powers? I'm only asking questions here…

This would explain so much: Romney doesn’t want to release his tax records because he’s hiding money in an off-planet bank account on the planet Zorkon (or something to that effect.)

He’s actually an alien that just looks a lot like a human – think Superman but LDS. Newt Gingrich is his Kryptonite (or Zorkonite or whatever) and instead of a cape, super strength, and flight, Romney has the super power of taking large, struggling companies and devouring them, sucking out their last remaining resources, and then spitting out their bones.

It makes sense to me – at least as much sense as the GOP nominating a guy who basically came up with Obamacare just two short years after the Tea Party craze brought a whole new batch of crazy to Washington, D.C.

Am I missing something here?

(P.S. No, I’m not accusing Romney of being an alien. I’m only asking a question…)

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Newt’s CNN Debate Win in South Carolina – Will It Be Enough?

Newt won his second South Carolina debate in a row.

Politico has Newt Gingrich seven points behind Romney among likely voters at 30%. After tonight’s debate, Gingrich may close that gap further. Romney floundered once again on the issue of his tax returns. He took a beating on both Romneycare and abortion. His confidence seems diminished.

Meanwhile Newt has this incredible way of segueing between attacks on Obama and attacks on Romney. Once again Newt is showing off his debating skills and his ability to sound reasonable while saying seriously crazy things all at the same time. His arrogance is galling but the crowd loves him.

I personally loved how Ron Paul took the issue of government healthcare and segued into military spending. He was the only one of the four who seemed to actually care that real people do actually depend on government benefits whether or not he believes in those programs.

Santorum did fine, but he didn’t rile up the crowd. He’s very good at sounding sincere. He has a certain maudlin folksiness to him that the GOP base enjoys. But they enjoy Newt more. Santorum rambles, Newt cuts right to the quick. Romney was on the defense almost all night, even in his pleas for Republican unity. Newt managed to call for unity while going on the offense.

This was a bad night for Romney and another win for Newt. Paul wasn’t at his best, but it doesn’t really matter. South Carolina is obviously not Paul territory. The real question is whether this and the last debate can propel Newt into fighting territory against Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has never looked so weak.

As Andrew Sullivan notes, “Every minute he speaks about this in this forum he loses votes.” Can Romney lose the electability race to Gingrich – a man who is on his third marriage, spent years lobbying for the housing industry just before the crash, and wracked up an absurd credit line at Tiffany’s?

It’s almost inconceivable.

But the Bain Capital record isn’t going anywhere. There’s something fishy about these tax returns and Romney’s inability to just release them to the public. Something is rotten.

The difference between Romney and Gingrich is that we’re all pretty sure we know the details of Gingrich’s dirty laundry by now. Even his ex-wife’s tell-all interview isn’t going to shine any new light on the former speaker.

Romney, on the other hand, remains something of a closed book. I bet that makes some voters nervous.

The devil you know can be a comfortable vote, and at this point I think a lot of conservatives are taking a second look at Gingrich whose warts they’ve basically come to terms with. His response to the accusations leveled at him by his ex-wife on ABC had the audience in a standing ovation, effectively turning a damning revelation into just another reason to go after the mainstream media.

One has to admire Gingrich’s tenacity at moments like these even if 90% of what he says is absolute garbage.

We know who Newt Gingrich is – but what lies beneath Romney’s slick exterior? Republicans can’t be certain. Will it give them pause this Saturday in South Carolina?

Update. Josh Marshall describes Gingrich’s performance and especially his broadside against debate moderator John King quite well:

It all started (and in a sense ended) with Newt’s ferocious broadside against John King for raising the “open marriage” story. The whole thing was a put-up job in reality. But for his intended audience, it was a masterstroke. And it was classic Newt. Take the mammoth offensive whether you have a leg to stand on or not and just go with it. It turned the whole thing into an outrage drama against the “mainstream media.” The cynicism of Newt’s tirade was on display post-debate when he complimented King for doing a great job moderating the debate. But again, doesn’t matter. He nailed it. That set the tone for the debate, virtually ensured that no one would touch the issue for the next two hours and instantly drew off all the Newt-tension hovering over the debate.

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What the booing of Ron Paul says about the Republican Party

The Republican Party isn't going to be home for non-interventionists any time soon.

I have a deep and abiding fondness for Ron Paul if only because he’s willing to stand before a crowd of conservatives and tell them that no, what the hawk-dominated conservative movement has been doing these many years is not actually a very conservative or Christian thing; Big Defense is still government and spending trillions of dollars on foreign wars of intervention and nation-building is still spending trillions of taxpayer dollars. I’m not a conservative and I don’t think I could vote for Paul, but to hear him make his case for non-interventionist foreign policy and an end to the war on drugs and so forth is to breathe a deep breath of fresh air in an otherwise stifling room of conservative boilerplate.

So when Ron Paul was booed for his unorthodox foreign policy views it came as little surprise. The conservative movement and the Republican Party are united in their love of a strong and aggressive military, a fully neoconservative and interventionist foreign policy, and a continuation of the war on drugs, police militarization, and so forth. There are a few dissenters closer to the mainstream of the party than Paul – Tom Coburn is one and even Rand Paul is more mainstream than his father – but by and large the GOP is exactly the place one might suspect to find a peacenik like Paul booed.

It’s unfortunate, of course, but it is what it is.

Mike Dwyer engages in some wishful thinking over at The League:

If I were to describe what I think young Republicans will look like in 10 years I would suggest they will be moderate on social policy, mainline conservative on fiscal policy and libertarian on civil liberties and foreign policy. They will be pro-life but also believe people have a right to smoke weed in their own home. They’ll pretty much ignore gay marriage. They will believe in a strong world economy but be isolationist about wars and having our troops in foreign lands.

I’m willing to concede that on social issues the GOP will become more moderate but not go so far as to say that they will be fully moderate. On gay rights issues the Republicans have already shifted left. Evangelicals are not happy about this, however, and it’s quite likely that a tension will still exist between modernist and traditionalist camps in the GOP in ten years. On civil liberties the Republicans will be just as bad as they are now; on drug policy I expect no better; and on foreign policy I expect a new crop of young hawks to take up the reins. There is absolutely no chance that they become isolationist, though I wouldn’t be surprised if a more protectionist domestic policy becomes more popular on the right.

Either way, the party has very little room for men like Ron Paul. His popularity is fierce and his followers are passionate – but his politics are of a time long since past when the Republican Party was home to advocates of a more sober foreign policy than the one the neoconservatives devised.

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The moral calamity that is Newt Gingrich

Newt is “within striking distance” of Mitt Romney in South Carolina, Politico is reporting. Perry’s exit stage left and subsequent endorsement of the former speaker should give him some fuel heading into tonight’s debate. I imagine if Santorum, the newly declared Iowa winner, were to drop out and endorse Newt that he’d have a fighting chance of toppling Mitt Romney in Saturday’s primary.

Of course, the ABC interview with his former wife – the one he had a six-year affair on – won’t help.

She said when Gingrich admitted to a six-year affair with a Congressional aide, he asked her if she would share him with the other woman, Callista, who is now married to Gingrich.

“And I just stared at him and he said, ‘Callista doesn’t care what I do,’” Marianne Gingrich told ABC News. “He wanted an open marriage and I refused.”

Marianne described her “shock” at Gingrich’s behavior, including how she says she learned he conducted his affair with Callista “in my bedroom in ourapartment in Washington.”

“He always called me at night,” she recalled, “and always ended with ‘I love you.’ Well, she was listening.”

Damning stuff, to be sure, but the words of a spurned lover are never given as much credence as they maybe ought to be. And this is old news. Gingrich may indeed be a moral failure, a man whose vanity obscured his many vows and promises. But we all already know this, and he is playing the reformed Christian now, insisting in his own personal regret and redemption. Perhaps it’s true.

All I know is that I hope he wounds Romney in this primary. I started this election off thinking Romney was a decent moderate – not in any way my own pick for president, but not particularly scary either. I no longer believe this. Romney, I’m quite certain now, has no soul. Gingrich may have made bad choices – his soul may be black in a few spots – but he has one. He’s a human being at the very least, warts and all. Romney is a machine at best, a blank slate willing to say and do anything to get elected.

I never thought I’d line up in Gingrich’s defense at all, but the man has more character than Mitt Romney which, I realize, isn’t saying much. At least I know there’s a mind and a person and a very, very big ego underneath Newt’s exterior. With Romney, I have a hard time seeing the man behind the mask.

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Why I’m Rooting For Gingrich In South Carolina

Aspiring child janitors everywhere will not forgive Gingrich if he drops out after South Carolina.

Newt, this is not the former speaker we know and love. You don’t give up on politics, just on marriages!

Newt Gingrich came clean Tuesday afternoon, admitting that if he can’t win this state’s primary on Saturday, he probably can’t win the Republican nomination at all.

“If I don’t win the primary Saturday, we will probably nominate a moderate,” the former House speaker said, referring to Mitt Romney. “And the odds are fairly high he will lose to Obama.”

The question is whether Gingrich endorses Santorum if the frothy ex-Senator stays in the race after a South Carolina loss.

I suppose that depends on whether or not all this bad press actually puts a dent in Romney’s titanium exoskeleton. The fact that Perry, Santorum, and Gingrich all failed to get on Virginia’s GOP primary ballot may be a moot point if they all run out of money by March.

Obama must be sleeping like a damn baby these days. All these Super PACs are doing his job for him as the Republican field shreds itself to pieces. They’ll all line up like good soldiers behind Romney in the end (Ron Paul is a wild card on this point) but the damage will have been done.

Perhaps I just have a morbid fascination with Republican primaries, but I really do hope Gingrich or Santorum beats Romney so that this whole lovely mess gets dragged out even further.

(P.S. Totally unrelated random thought: why should we settle for just one president? We pay the president way too much. We could hire like 2,000 kids to do that job instead and teach them about hard work and responsibility all at the same time. Extend this logic to congress and you’ve not only saved money, you’ve dragged thousands of kids out of unemployment.)

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