Posts by Matt Bai
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News5 days ago
Hillary Clinton gave a political speech in Pennsylvania last weekend, which, in case you missed the coverage, pretty much locked up the 2016 nomination. Don't be surprised if they hold the Democratic convention over Skype sometime this month, just to dispense with the tiresome formalities of an actual campaign. Maybe they'll throw in the 2020 nomination, too, while they've got everyone on the line.
I've written many times now that I'm less convinced of Clinton's inevitability than, you know, everybody. But leaving that aside for the moment, assuming she runs, the talk in Washington is about to pivot to the question of who runs with her. The elbowing for second position has already begun with a series of high-profile endorsements, most recently by Joaquin Castro, the Texas congressman whose brother, Julian, is considered a vice presidential contender.
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News13 days ago
When you think about crazy and unpredictable states where anything political can happen, you think about places like California or Florida or Louisiana. Kansas does not come to mind. Kansas is flat and quiet. Kansas is where Oklahomans go to get away from the madness.
And yet here we are, a month from the midterm elections, and Kansas is the most interesting state on the map. I recently wrote about Paul Davis, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate whose campaign was roiled by the revelation that he once walked into a strip club. And now I turn your attention to Greg Orman, a former business consultant and clean energy entrepreneur, who is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent against the state's powerful Republican incumbent, Pat Roberts.
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News19 days ago
So I've been catching up on all the latest accumulation of Washington wisdom — or, at least, all the wisdom that I can accumulate in a Twitter feed — and now I totally get why no one other than Rand Paul or Ted Cruz or the reincarnated Pat Buchanan can possibly win the Republican nomination in 2016. (Actually, Pat's alive and well — it's just that he's on the McLaughlin Group. My bad.)
You see, the party's base voters — the ones who turn out to vote in primaries and caucuses — are too completely off the rails to nominate a mushball like Jeb Bush or Chris Christie! Get real — those guys can't make it through the primaries talking about immigration reform and bipartisanship and blah-blah-blabbedy-blah. They'd get dismantled in the early states, just like that "maverick" John McCain and that liberal Mitt Romney!
Oh. Hang on.
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News26 days ago
Take a minute to consider the most reckless or embarrassing thing you've ever done. Think about that shameful moment or period in your life you choose not to revisit because it makes you wince. And then ask yourself: Should that moment be the measure of your character? The only thing anyone remembers about you?
These are the questions some Kansans might fairly ask themselves this week, after the Coffeyville Journal (I'm not making that up) revealed to the world that the Democratic candidate for governor Paul Davis had once been caught in a strip club while police were raiding it. That happened back in the late '90s, when Davis was 26, unmarried and not running for anything. (He's now 42, a dad and a state legislator.) Davis wasn't charged with a thing; he was just there, doing things that were legal if not especially ennobling.
If you missed Mark Sanford's tortured, meandering Facebook post about his various relationship and family troubles last weekend, I'm afraid you're out of luck. The Republican Party's Lord Byron apparently thought better of it and decided to take the post down.
Maybe Sanford's sons impressed upon him that he had become the single most embarrassing parent in America. Or maybe the South Carolina congressman suddenly realized that he wasn't actually 15 and was under no compulsion to vent his conflicted emotions on social media. (If I knew how to do it, I'd insert a little "unamused" emoji face here.)
Or perhaps Sanford took down the post because it occurred to him, too late, that his digital soliloquy constituted a thoroughly reckless act — not just for himself or for his family, but also for all of Washington, where the last thing any of us really needed was to further erode the boundary between private lives and political careers.
Maybe as the midterm elections grow closer this fall, we'll see the signs of another electoral wave. Such waves, which sweep one party into power while washing the other one out to sea, have become almost routine over the past decade, and the swamis who obsess over such things have long predicted that another one would deliver the Senate solidly into Republican hands this November.
And yet, to this point anyway, the anti-Obama wave looks more like a gently rolling surf. In states where the president's standing has plummeted, a bunch of Democratic senators have managed to at least stay close into this pivotal phase of the campaign, raising hopes among party leaders that somehow they may yet be able to ride this one out.
The question is what's keeping these Democrats afloat. And a big part of the answer is that in a lot of states, as in presidential politics these days, it turns out there's still plenty of power in a family name.
It's past Labor Day in a midterm election year, which means we've reached the point when chaired foreign policy professors at our finest universities are urgently summoned by governors and junior senators eyeing the presidency so they can answer all kinds of questions like "What is ISIS?" and "Where is Gaza?" and "Is it true the Soviet Union no longer exists?"
According to The New York Times, Chris Christie is getting tutorials after causing a minor calamity by using the term "occupied territories" in a speech. (What's he supposed to know about Jewish voters? He's only the governor of New Jersey.) Rick Perry's been boning up on the various terrorist groups, too, which is impressive for a guy who struggled so mightily to remember the Energy Department.
If you've been at the beach and missed the latest world news, let me briefly catch you up. Terrorists in Syria and Iraq have been overrunning the countryside, pausing to savagely murder an American journalist. Pakistan is reeling from political crisis. The Russians just made an incursion into Ukraine, the Israelis have been blowing up every other building in Gaza, and Ebola's rampaging through West Africa.
All of which has led to some of the most blistering criticism of Barack Obama's presidency — and not just because he found time to golf. Republican leaders have called Obama feckless and incompetent, a man without a grand plan. Hillary Clinton dismissed Obama’s internal mantra of "Don't do stupid stuff" — "stuff" being the G-rated term — as a lame excuse for a foreign policy.
There's some politics at work here, of course, but at the core of these criticisms is a much deeper question that divides Republicans from Democrats, and some Democrats from one another. Should such a thing as a foreign policy even exist? Or do world events defy some unifying theory?
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News2 mths ago
The problem with Barack Obama, people are always telling me these days, is that he just doesn't love the full contact sport of politics. He has no capacity for the inside machinations or tactical brutality we associate with a more sophisticated and celebrated president like Lyndon Johnson.
What we really need, I guess, is an executive in the mold of a Chris Christie or an Andrew Cuomo or a Rick Perry, all of whom are more extroverted and more brazen about wielding their power as governors than Obama is — and all of whom, not incidentally, are now fending off prosecutors and investigations while scrambling to keep their national ambitions afloat.
And this illustrates an interesting paradox of modern politics: We love this idea of the ruthless and effective political operator, right up until the moment we're confronted by the reality.
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News2 mths ago
The most corrupting force in politics, we are repeatedly told, is big money — super PACs, corporate lobbyists, rapacious oligarchs. And there’s plenty of evidence to support the claim.
But let’s be clear: It wasn’t big money that drove Republican House members, before they left town last week, to approve the first-ever Congressional lawsuit against a sitting president, when they should have gotten serious about a pressing border crisis. And it wasn’t big money that had gleeful Democrats doing backflips in the streets at calls from the conservative fringe to impeach Barack Obama.
What’s really fueling the hyperbole and dysfunction in Washington now isn’t one privileged special interest or another, but rather the mouse clicks of ordinary, angry Americans whose $25 contributions add up to a mountain of influence. And in this way, at least, American politics has finally caught up to where the rest of society is going.
We have met the true enemy of rational debate, and, what do you know: It’s us.