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This article in the New Republic – an admittedly liberal publication – gives Rand Paul and his presidential aspirations a fair shake, and is worth reading either for its prescience, or so that years from now you can look back on 2013 and go, ‘How crazy was that?’ when discussing the dark and hopefully final throes of the Tea Party. Could be either, or, really, both.

When Paul launched his political career three years ago, he was viewed in much the same way as his father, or, as Senator John McCain once called him, a “wacko bird.” He was identified with the same marginal issues (drug legalization, neo-isolationism) and the same marginal constituencies (anarchists, goldbugs). But this year, Paul has emerged as a serious candidate. He has started actively campaigning for the nomination earlier than any of the other Republicans mulling a run. Already, he has racked up multiple meet-and-greets, dinners, and coffee gatherings in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. While his father may have been an also-ran, national polls show Rand Paul as one of the top contenders for the GOP nomination. In private, Paul has been meeting with key GOP power brokers, including the Koch brothers, and he has courted techies at Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook, and eBay. “We’re doing something that Ron never did; we’re reaching out to major donors,” says a Paul adviser. “Not everyone is giving us money, but there’s definitely some flirtation going on.” According to this adviser, in the last six months, RAND PAC, Paul’s national political operation, has raised more than a million dollars. “He’s very politically talented,” says a former senior official at the Republican National Committee. “He is absolutely a contender.”

In his efforts to court new audiences, or to bring what he calls “tough love” to friendly ones, Rand Paul is aiming for a bigger, broader base than Ron Paul—or, for that matter, Mitt Romney—ever captured. But though he has staked out more moderate or traditionally Republican positions than his father, at his core, Rand retains the same pre–New Deal vision of hyper-minimalist government and isolationist foreign policy. In other words, Paul has managed to take the essence of his father’s radical ideology—more radical than that of any modern presidential candidate—and turn it into a plausible campaign for the Republican nomination.

I have increasingly mixed feelings about Rand Paul as a Senator, or Rand Paul as a legislator, or Rand Paul as a Person of (Any) Influence. He’s very closely aligned with issues I personally support (the aforementioned drug legalization, his series of Verb the Noun bills “intended to make senators more diligent: the Read the Bills Act, the Write the Laws Act, and the One Subject at a Time Act”) and issues that I strongly oppose (the dismantling of the New Deal, the defunding of the federal government, institutional racism), and likewise with certain constituencies (Libertarians and Tea Partiers, respectively). So the idea of Rand Paul as President is a bit hard to muster.

Rand Paul as a candidate, however, is not hard to imagine – we are, after all, currently witnessing it – but it is hard to imagine him winning.

The biggest argument against Obama in 2008 – and one that has not faded too far from memory, as we are bearing witness to it as well – was his lack of experience, an argument made, I might add, by many people who may consider themselves Rand Paul constituents. Two terms in the Illinois State Senate, one term in the U.S. Senate, then president. Rand Paul, however, does not even have the pre-U.S. Senate experience Obama had. Before the current term – his first term – as Senator, Rand Paul was an ophthalmologist, a position that may or may not lend itself to governmental leadership (though I admit it does lend credibility to his anti-Obamacare stance). But it is not political experience, and it is a definite soft spot with a target painted on it for whoever his opponents will be, both in the primary and in the general. Hillary, particularly, if 2016 lines up that way, would tip the experience scales pretty drastically. So would Biden, though they almost certainly would not be pulling from the same pool of voters. The problem for Republicans, though, is that Paul could very possibly win the primary, based on current circumstances. His outsider, anti-government image could sufficiently rile up the base and build a new super-conservative, neo-Tea Party movement on which he rides to primary victory, essentially being to conservative Republicans what Obama was to Democrats in 2008. But nationally he is seen as too much of a symbol of the far-far-right, of the sort that both scares and infuriates liberals, while the whole of the country, as we’ve heard about with the rise of minority groups and young people, is swinging left. No time for a Rand Paul presidency. The Republicans would be best served, when the time comes, with nominating someone with much more broad popular support, who can win nationally, rather than trying to tern anti-Obama super-con fervor into its own party. If Republicans “fall in line,” as the saying goes, Paul is not the establishment candidate here to form up the ranks. It’s the wrong time.

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From Sally Kohn, in a post for Salon.com:

My friend John Fugelsang likes to say that the Democratic Party is like an S&M submissive who forgot his safety word. After the lame performance of Democrats in the immigration reform markup, I would say Fugelsang is being generous. Republicans are incredibly skilled at holding no actual power but nonetheless making wildly effective threats. Democrats on the other hand display the unique and vexing ability to have every political advantage and still cave on their own goals, more often than not preemptively.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would not be surprised if the modern Democratic Party’s strategy is secretly being bankrolled by Eli Lilly as a ploy to sell Prozac to liberals.

That’s pretty much the takeaway, full of enough colorful analogy to keep us all fat and happy, but if you require more substance, well, read on:

In the latest example of this disconcerting trend, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) proposed an amendment to the Senate immigration markup that would arguably harm American workers. In fact, it wasn’t just Democrats and labor unions that opposed this amendment; Republican Sen. Charles Grassley also opposed the amendment. But Democrats nonetheless backed the change in order to woo Hatch’s committee vote. Meanwhile, not only was Hatch’s committee vote not needed to approve the bill but Hatch has explicitly said he may still not vote for the legislation unless other changes are made. In other words, Hatch got to water down the legislation and Democrats got, er, well… nothing.

By comparison, the chair of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) proposed an amendment that would let lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans sponsor their same-sex spouses for purposes of immigration visas. Republicans threatened to pull their support for the entire legislation if this amendment stood. And so Democrats on the committee and, reportedly, in the White House, publicly and privately pressured Leahy to withdraw his amendment.

“I don’t want to be the senator who asks people to choose between the love of their life and the love of their country,” said Leahy, articulating the sort of principles for which Democrats recently purported to stand firm.

“I don’t want to blow this bill apart,” said Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.). “This is the wrong moment, that this is the wrong bill,” said Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).  Feinsten, Durbin and others articulated the cowering spinelessness that Democrats now seem to embody.

In case you didn’t know, there are ten Democrats and eight Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. And, by the way, Democrats hold the majority in the Senate. However, Democrats preemptively watered down their own legislation in the face of Republican threats and a fear that an immigration reform bill that actually reflects ideals of equality and inclusion might not be popular enough with the Republican-dominated House.

Sad but true.

The one thing missing from the Senate yesterday during the series of votes on various gun control proposals – seven in all – that was most important and crucial to the proceedings, the lack of which can be faulted for each bill’s defeat, and that which has indeed been largely missing from the entire gun control debate overall, is this: respect.

From Trevor Burrus, writing yesterday (before the vote) for the Opinion section at FoxNews.com:

This week the Senate is debating gun control, and we’ll see whether calmer heads can prevail. As I said in Fox News Opinion once before, the gun control debate is fundamentally a culture debate, dominated by extreme voices on both sides.

Very true. And both sides are guilty of, to put it politely, conduct unbecoming of, well, anyone:

Gawker illustrated this when it published a list of “all the a**holes who own guns in New York City.” Later, the upstate New York newspaper The Journal News printed a similar list.

The dramatic behavior of Gawker and The Journal News hurts the gun-control cause. Shaming gun owners will bolster resistance to all proposals, reasonable or not. As the culture debate rages on, Democrats and their supporters cannot continue to demonize and misunderstand gun owners.

The problem is predictably exacerbated by celebrities and those in the spotlight:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg laughably tried to bridge the culture gap with ads featuring a stereotyped gun enthusiast – identified by his rural setting, pickup truck, and Cabela’s-inspired wardrobe – whose finger is wrapped around the shotgun’s trigger, violating one of the fundamental tenets of gun safety.

Gun owners also feel exasperated when elected officials show their ignorance of guns. Recently, Diane DeGette (D-Co.) seemed not to know that gun magazines are reusable, echoing the famous description by Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) of a barrel shroud as the “shoulder thing that goes up.”

A few weeks ago, actor Jim Carrey released a satirical video called “Cold Dead Hand” on the website Funny or Die. Carrey places himself on the set of “Hee Haw,” resorting once again to the tired cliché that gun-rights supporters are ignorant yokels. He goes on to attack the size of gun-owners’ manhoods, and close the video with a one-finger salute.

Carrey previously established the communication baseline of this debate by taking to Twitter to call gun-rights supporters “heartless” and saying that those who purchased an “assault rifle” after Newtown have “very little left in their body and soul worth protecting.”

Carrey’s stereotyping of gun-rights supporters, and his rage at those who resist suggested reforms are perfect examples of “gun disgust,” the term I used in my previous piece to describe those who give guns the same emotional response as a dirty public restroom. Under this view, guns contaminate society, and thus deaths by guns are somehow worse than deaths by other instruments.

The message here also applies to the larger, more general divisions of the greater political scene – the very first step in getting anything accomplished, through any means, is coming to some level of mutual respect and understanding. We must be willing to believe that the other side may actually have good intentions, and maybe even common ground with us. This is the most important concept in bringing about an agreement.

In the case of guns, the gap is indeed largely cultural, as in rural versus urban, more so than it is rich/poor, black/white, liberal/conservative, or Republican/Democrat.

We cannot bridge the cultural divide until a respectful tone is adopted. That goes for both sides.

Gun-rights supporters need to stop characterizing all gun-control advocates as ultimately wanting to “ban guns.” Most do not. For gun control advocates, it would help to disavow the rhetoric of people like Jim Carrey and to treat gun-rights supporters with respect rather than elitist disdain.

If both sides can do this, some common ground might be possible. Expanding background checks and allowing for better mental health record-keeping could keep guns out of the hands of some dangerous people.

Though most of it is posted here, I recommend going back and reading this post through in its entirety. I, for one, was both glad and relieved to hear a like-minded voice and rational sentiment similar to my own coming from what I would normally perceive to be the “other side.”

If details need to be redacted, fair enough. But why fight wars both in court and on Capitol Hill to maintain secrecy about the law itself? Secret law, for good reason, is often regarded as no law at all.

– Garrett Epps, writing for the Atlantic (emphasis mine), in regards to the perplexing, ineffective, and poorly-advised way the Obama Administration has been releasing information on the parameters of the drone program, and how the law will impose regulation, after Rand Paul’s much-discussed filibuster before the Senate. Epps described the Administration’s approach as “ham-fisted” and also said, “The drone war may not be a cancer on the Obama presidency, but a wise doctor at this point would order more tests,” and I can’t help but agree.

Continuing the topsy-turvy, down-is-up cognitive dissonance perpetrated by the wagonload in Congress over the past few months, Lindsey Graham demands some consistency from his fellow Republicans, and proclaims his “disappointment” in them for criticizing the Administration’s continuation of Bush’s drone program. So, yes, he is, in effect, standing up for Obama.

It’s really quite something, and you should watch it.

As far as Epps’s point goes, I’d back him up by asking, “how can justice that has to be served in secret be justice?”

Gentlemen, start your engines.

Despite recent events widely seen as setbacks for and reasons to be doubtful of the GOP’s seemingly-inevitable and hopefully-inexorable Bataan death march toward positive change and a new amiable condition with certain majorities of the citizenry, and continuing an equally-improbable recent trend in good ideas coming from unlikely sources, Karl Rove, of all people, has had a good idea, and has done something very necessary that will better his party. This comes with many, um, caveats, of course. I’m sure he’s not doing it for the betterment of his party – he’s likely hedging his bets, so that he doesn’t get so thoroughly trounced again as he did in 2012, with his reported one percent return on investment outraging his American Crossroads donors – and it’s far from certain to work as planned. One potential downfall would be the new organization, the American Victory Project, turning into or being co-opted by the ultra-conservative fringe they’re trying to stop – or in some places, usurp. (If I was on the other side, that’s what I’d do.) Another is the likely amount of general trouble this will create, in the chaos of the GOP doing battle with itself. The civil war is beginning. Brother against brother. At least, I hope.

As reported by The Guardian:

Republican donors are setting up a multimillion-dollar war chest to help protect electable party candidates from primary challenges from “undisciplined” candidates from the fringe right.

The Conservative Victory Project, set up by the Karl Rove-backed Super Pac American Crossroads, seeks to become a bulwark against the kind of extreme views that have seen the party lose Senate seats in recent contests.

The people behind the idea said it is a push against indiscipline rather than any particular ideology. But it comes as the Republican party seeks to define itself after November’s presidential defeat amid an apparent battle for the heart of the party.

It is also being framed by some as a push against the influence of the Tea party, the likes of which have seen the GOP dragged to the right in recent years.

This move is purportedly more a reaction to the un-electability of the finge candidates and the new logistics of electoral politics that we saw in 2012 – Todd Akin, for instance, was supposed to be a shoo-in for his Missouri seat until he opened his mouth about rape – rather than a pushback against any specific ideology. And actually, if that turns out to be true, I think that’s good. It gives the GOP mainstream a practical, pragmatic reason to take action towards thwarting the extremists and against their primary candidacies, and a clearly defined goal to shoot for that everyone can get behind – nominating an electable conservative candidate with broad appeal – which gives the Project itself a likely broad base of support. It is a good first step, strategically, to bringing the party back toward electability if not common sensibility.

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