The Ledes

Friday, May 6, 2016.

Washington Post: "Police said three people have been shot at Westfield Montgomery Mall at 7101 Democracy Blvd. in Bethesda on Friday morning and that a suspect is at large. Soon after, a woman was fatally shot at a grocery store several miles away, and authorities are investigating whether the incidents are linked." -- CW 

New York Times: "After months of gravity-defying gains, the American jobs machine cooled slightly in April, as employers took their cue from other signs that economic growth was slowing by easing up on new hiring. The 160,000 increase in payrolls in April reported by the Labor Department on Friday comes after the best two-year stretch for the job market since the tech-fueled boom of the late 1990s. The unemployment rate stayed at 5 percent." -- CW

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, May 5, 2016.

AP: "A massive wildfire raging in the Canadian province of Alberta has grown to 85,000 hectares (210,035 acres) in size and officials would like to move south about 25,000 evacuees who had previously fled north. More than 80,000 people have emptied Fort McMurray in the heart of Canada's oil sands." -- CW

Guardian: "The local police investigation into the death of Prince is being beefed up with staff from the US attorney’s office and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as a California doctor who specializes in prescription drug addiction revealed the singer’s representatives reached out for urgent help the day before he died.." -- CW

Public Service Announcement

New York Times: "Taking a stance sharply at odds with most American public health officials, a major British medical organization urged smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes, saying they are the best hope in generations for people addicted to tobacco cigarettes to quit. The recommendation, laid out in a report published Thursday by the Royal College of Physicians, summarizes the growing body of science on e-cigarettes and finds that their benefits far outweigh the potential harms." -- CW

Washington Post: "More than a third of advanced-melanoma patients who received one of the new immunotherapy drugs in an early trial are alive five years after starting treatment -- double the survival rate typical of the disease, according to a new study."

Zoe Schlanger of Newsweek: "If you are eating fast food, you're probably also eating phthalates,... a class of chemicals that have been linked to everything from ADHD to breast cancer, ...[which] are common in food packaging, drink containers, the tubing used to transport dairy and the equipment used to process fast food." --LT

Politico: "Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry will not be appearing on the channel for the time being, following a report in In Touch Weekly that he cheated on his wife with a Las Vegas hostess. 'We recently became aware of Ed’s personal issues and he’s taking some time off to work things out,' a Fox News spokesperson told Politico in a statement."

New York Times: “'Hamilton,' the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the nation’s founding fathers, has been nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history." ...

... Here's the full list of Tony Award nominees.

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

MIT News: "For the first time, an international team of astronomers from MIT, the University of Liège in Belgium, and elsewhere have detected three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star, just 40 light years from Earth. The sizes and temperatures of these worlds are comparable to those of Earth and Venus, and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. The results are published [Monday, May 2] in the journal Nature.... The scientists discovered the planets using TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope), a 60-centimeter telescope operated by the University of Liège, based in Chile."

Washington Post's Reliable Source: At an "afterparty hosted by MSNBC following the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner [Saturday, May 1]..., a scuffle broke out between Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters and Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief.... The two flailed around a bit, upending a table and bumping into several people. 'Punches were definitely thrown,' said one witness. Before any damage was done, several bystanders, including Sean Spicer, communications director at the Republican National Committee, separated the two."

New York Times: "... a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series [by Walt Whitman] called 'Manly Health and Training,' were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades."

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

Washington Post: "Late last week, Comcast announced a new program that allows makers of smart TVs and other Internet-based video services to have full access to your cable programming without the need for a set-top box.  Instead, the content will flow directly to the third-party device as an app, including all the channels and program guide. The Xfinity TV Partner Program will initially be offered on new smart TVs from Samsung, as well as Roku streaming boxes.  But the program, built on open Internet-based standards including HTML5, is now open to other device manufacturers to adopt. As video services move from hardware to software, the future of the traditional set-top box looks increasingly grim. With this announcement, Comcast customers may soon eliminate the need for an extra device, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in fees."

BBC: "Dame Judi Dench and David Tennant have joined other stars at a gala marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. Saturday's Shakespeare Live show in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon included play scene performances, dance and music." Then this:

New York Times: "The Pulitzers are in their centennial year, and the winners announced by Columbia University reflected in part the changes sweeping the media landscape." Here's the full list of the prize winners, via the New York Times.

CW: The AP produced this video in January 2015, but I just came across it:

New York Times: "James Levine, who transformed the Metropolitan Opera during four decades as its music director but has suffered from poor health in recent years, will step down from his post after this season to become music director emeritus, the company announced Thursday."

Politico: "Gabriel Snyder, editor in chief of The New Republic for the past 17 months, is leaving the magazine in the wake of its sale to Win McCormack.... The masthead change marks the first big move since McCormack, a publisher, Democratic booster and editor in chief of a literary journal called Tin House, bought TNR from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in February after Hughes was unsuccessful at turning around the money-losing magazine’s business during his four years of stewardship."

The Great Octopus Escape. Guardian: "An octopus has made a brazen escape from the national aquarium in New Zealand by breaking out of its tank, slithering down a 50-metre drainpipe and disappearing into the sea. In scenes reminiscent of Finding Nemo, Inky – a common New Zealand octopus – made his dash for freedom after the lid of his tank was accidentally left slightly ajar. Staff believe that in the middle of the night, while the aquarium was deserted, Inky clambered to the top of his glass enclosure, down the side of the tank and travelled across the floor of the aquarium."

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The Commentariat -- Feb. 24, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Kevin Liptak & Manu Raju of CNN: "President Barack Obama said Wednesday it would be 'difficult' for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to explain his decision not to consider a Supreme Court nominee without looking like he's motivated by politics. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid suggested a Republican, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, as a potential nominee. A source confirmed to CNN that the White House is vetting Sandoval." ...

... Here's President Obama's blogpost on ScotusBlog, outlining the criteria he intends to use in selecting a nominee.

Yamiche Alcindor of the New York Times: In Columbia, S.C., "Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont began his day of campaigning Wednesday by criticizing Hillary Clinton's support of welfare reform in 1996, accusing her of backing legislation that ultimately increased poverty levels and led more Americans to face economic anxiety. Mr. Sanders said Mrs. Clinton helped round up votes to pass the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, the welfare reform legislation that President Bill Clinton signed into law. The senator said the bill hurt Americans by punishing poor people rather than helping them."

Peggy Fikac & David Rauf of the Houston Chronicle: "Texas' highest criminal court on Wednesday tossed out the remaining charge against former Gov. Rick Perry in the abuse-of-power case against him. The court also affirmed a previous ruling for Perry that dismissed a second felony charge of coercion of a public official." CW: Like all candidates, Perry suspended, not ended, his presidential bid. Maybe he should get back in the race now that he's free of felony charges. I'll see you one "Oops!" for three "The American people ... people ... people."

Dana Milbank: "There is something amusing in watching Rubio and Donald Trump come to the shocking discovery that Cruz is a scoundrel.... Cruz has been smearing and fabricating since he arrived in Washington three years ago.... Back in the 1950s, Joe McCarthy rose during the Truman years with his smears about communists in the government. But when he began to go after fellow Republicans in the Eisenhower administration in 1953, he quickly lost support and within two years was censured by the Senate. Now that Republicans are suffering from Tricky Ted's smears, perhaps they will come to a similar conclusion about the damage he does."

Ariana Cha of the Washington Post: Antonin Scalia may have died because he forgot to activate a breathing apparatus that helps mitigate his sleep apnea, "a potentially life-threatening condition caused by either a blockage of the airway or a signaling issue from the brain regarding breathing during sleep."

Speaking from a goldplated, silk-wrapped Louis XV-style throne in a gilt & marble salon dripping crystal chandeliers -- which looks pretty much like most people's rec rooms -- Melania Trump says she keeps life "as normal as possible" for her son. The hard-hitting interviewer, natch, is Mika Brzezinski. Via Jessica Roy of New York. One thing I learned from listening to Mrs. T: Slovene doesn't have articles (like "the" and "a"). So the interview was educational.


Thanks again to everyone for the excellent commentary. I like most comments -- certainly all the ones from return commenters -- even when I disagree with them. It's a conversation; not a cheering squad. P.S. Possums? Other than Pogo, yech! -- Constant Weader

** We Will Not Do Our Jobs. We Will Not Perform Our Constitutional Duties. We Will Forswear Our Oaths of Office. P.S. Screw You, U.S.A. David Herszenhorn of the New York Times: "Senate Republican leaders ... said on Tuesday they would not even meet with President Obama's nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, urged the president to reconsider even submitting a name. At the same time, Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans issued a letter unanimously rejecting any confirmation hearings" ...

... Jason Noble of the Des Moines Register: "A White House invitation for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley to discuss the current U.S. Supreme Current vacancy with President Barack Obama has so far gone unanswered. Turning down the meeting would represent a break in protocol from two previous high court vacancies during Obama's presidency, when the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee as well as the Senate majority and minority leaders attended Oval Office meetings." Grassley's spokesperson said the Senator will take the President's invitation "under consideration." CW: Very white of you, Chuck. Very white. ...

... ** Jonathan Chait: "... never before in American history has the Senate simply refused to let the president nominate anybody at all simply because it was an election year.... They have asserted that they are merely following historical precedent. This is demonstrably false." ...

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: AND McConnell won't commit to allowing the next president to fill Scalia's seat -- or any other -- either. ...

... CW: Since I read over the weekend that Sandra Day O'Connor was too frail to attend Antonin Scalia's funeral -- tho that may have been an excuse inasmuch as she didn't like Scalia -- my next suggestion for a recess appointment is another GOP presidential appointee: David Souter. I think he's still serving as an Appellate Court judge, & he knows how to do the job; I'll bet Republicans would be ever-so-pleased to see Souter back on the top court. However, it is unlikely Senate Republicans will slip up & go into official recess at any time prior to January 20, 2016. ...

... John Cole of Balloon Juice helps us understand the Republican strategy on this & other moves: "Merely imagine the dumbest, most venal, and most cynical self-serving immediate choice, add in a heap of racism and a little bit of Jesus, and you have whatever the Republicans will propose." He goes on. ...

... Charles Pierce: "Could it be that the Republican Party's capacity to walk in lockstep off a cliff -- known to medical science as The Schiavo Syndrome -- has now surpassed the Democratic Party's capacity to step on its own dick when presented with a political opportunity? If the president has brought about that turn of events, his whole two terms have been worth electing him in the first place."

What you are seeing today in this Supreme Court situation is nothing more than the continuous and unprecedented obstructionism that President Obama has gone though. And this is on top of the birther issue -- which we heard from Donald Trump and others -- a racist effort to try and delegitimize the president of the United States. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders, Tuesday night

... Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "As the Supreme Court faces the increasing prospect of having an eight-member bench for a year or more, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said on Tuesday that 'we will deal with it,' noting that the court has had an even number of members in the past.... Asked about what sort of person should succeed Justice Scalia, Justice Alito demurred. 'We don't choose our colleagues,' he said. 'Presidents choose. I have enough trouble with the questions that I have to decide.' But Justice Alito did suggest that there were advantages to appointing a sitting judge, in light of the many kinds of legal issues that reach the Supreme Court."

Amy Brittain & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "A Texas sheriff's department released an incident report late Tuesday that revealed new details of the discovery of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's body, as well as the name of the friend who accompanied him on the hunting trip and the items found inside the ranch bedroom where the justice was found."

Charlie Savage & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama on Tuesday sent Congress a long-awaited plan for closing the Guantánamo Bay prison, beginning a final push to fulfill a campaign promise and one of his earliest national security policy goals in the face of deep skepticism from many Republican lawmakers. Unveiling the plan from the Roosevelt Room at the White House, the president made clear his frustration at how what was once a bipartisan goal shared by both his predecessor, President George W. Bush, and his 2008 Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, had become a partisan dispute. He urged Congress to give his plan a 'fair hearing,' saying the prison wasted money, raised tensions with allies and fueled anti-American sentiments abroad":

... CW: No worries. The GOP is on the Gitmo case already. Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "A House Republican introduced a resolution that would authorize a lawsuit against the Obama administration if it attempts to transfer detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison to the U.S., hours after the president outlined a plan on Tuesday to close the facility. Rep. Jeff Duncan's (R-S.C.) measure would give the House authority to file a lawsuit if the Obama administration violates the terms of the most recent defense authorization."

I do not believe in regulation for regulation's sake -- contrary to rumor. This idea that somehow I get a kick out of big government is just not the case. The truth of the matter is, if something is working without us being involved, we've got more than enough to do without getting involved in it. We really do. It's not like I'm waking up every morning thinking, "How can I add more work for me?" I don't think that way.... Even on some of the big regulations you hear about that you don't like, they're not issued unless we think that the benefits substantially outweigh the costs. And we have the numbers to prove it. So for those of you who think that I'm just a big government, crazy liberal, we're actually -- we crunch some numbers around here. We take it very seriously. -- Barack Obama, at a meeting with governors Monday

Republicans ... assume Dems see the world the same way they do, only in reverse. For the right, shrinking government is necessarily good. Why? Because it's shrinking government. But what makes that worthwhile? Because if government shrinks, it's, you know, smaller. And by this same reasoning, Republicans believe Democrats must see increasing government as an inherent good. Except, they don't. It's just not how Obama, or the party in general, approach problem-solving. -- Steve Benen

Eric Lichtblaum & Joseph Goldstein of the New York Times: "The Justice Department is demanding Apple's help in unlocking at least nine iPhones nationwide in addition to the phone used by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., attackers. The disclosure appears to buttress the company's concerns that the dispute could pose a threat to encryption safeguards that goes well beyond the single California case.... The existence of the other demands came to light in a drug-trafficking case in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, where prosecutors are seeking access to the data held in an iPhone linked to a methamphetamine distribution ring." ...

... Brett Molina of USA Today: "Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says he was 'disappointed'" in reports claiming he sides with the FBI in its battle with Apple over breaking into an iPhone. He says the reports did not reflect his view on the issue. During an interview with the Financial Times, Gates was quoted as downplaying concerns by Apple CEO Tim Cook that creating software to break into the phone used by one of the killers in the San Bernardino, Calif., shootings would establish a 'master key' -- in Cook's words -- for access to any iPhone. 'This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information,' Gates told the Financial Times. 'They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case.'"

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal judge has turned down a request to block a federal official's move allowing three states to enforce proof-of-citizenship requirements for people attempting to register as voters.U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon declined to issue the temporary restraining order civil rights and voting rights groups sought to block approval of changes the states of Alabama, Kansas and Georgia obtained recently to a federal form that can be used in lieu of state voter registration applications.... The judge is an appointee of President George W. Bush." And he's a winger, through & through.

Matt Lee-Ashley of Think Progress: "Less than two weeks after the arrest of Cliven Bundy and the armed militants who were occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider three bills that would dispose of vast stretches of national forests and other public lands across the country. The bills, which will be heard in a meeting of the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, represent an escalation of the political battle being waged by the Koch brothers' political network, anti-government extremist groups, and a small group of conservative politicians led by the committee's chairman, U.S. Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT)." CW: See, if you codify lawlessness, it isn't lawless any more. Thanks to forrest m. for the link. See forrest's commentary below.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Trump's Friends Are Just Like Trump. Hadas Gold of Politico: "CNN will no longer have Donald Trump ally and former adviser Roger Stone on air.... Stone had made disparaging remarks on Twitter about CNN political analyst Ana Navarro.... Stone sent out tweets over the past few days calling Navarro, who was a Bush supporter, 'Entitled Diva Bitch,' 'Borderline retarded' and 'dumber than dog s---.'... He also previously called Navarro and former contributor Roland Martin 'quota hires' for the network.... In an email, Stone said CNN's decision 'smacks of Soviet style censorship.'" CW: Yes, because only in the Soviet Union were there consequences for calling your colleagues names & making racist remarks about them.

Open Mic. Matt Taiibi of Rolling Stone: Comedian Harry Shearer caught Joe Scarborough & Mika Brzezinski on tape, cozying up to Donald Trump & more-or-less promising him softball questions in their Trump forum or whatever it was. "Trump, like the Chinese emperors of yore who surrounded themselves with eunuchs as palace guards, refuses to interact with anyone who threatens him in any way.... My idea is that [Joe & Mika] would be the royal media under the upcoming Trump monarchy/dictatorship. It's easy to imagine Joe in an official state journalist uniform, with epaulettes and a flying Trump-mane insignia."

Presidential Race

Via Politico.

Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump was declared the winner of the Nevada caucuses on Tuesday night, according to the Associated Press, gaining a third consecutive victory in an early-voting state and strengthening his position in the Republican presidential race before the wave of Super Tuesday elections on March 1."

And the Runner-up Is ... Marco gets his first second-place ribbon.

Margaret Hartmann on how chaotic the Nevada caucuses were, thanks to the disorganization of the "organizers." People weren't asked for any IDs, some claimed they saw people voting twice, ballots were left lying around, etc. The Las Vegas Sun liveblog also reports on chaos on the ground. CW: Gosh, hardly seems like the same party that requires D.A.R. credentials to cast a vote in a general election.

@ Midnight ET, CNN has projected Trump as the winner of the Nevada caucuses. The AP also has called the caucuses for Trump.

@ 11:50 pm ET, the Times liveblog is reporting that in the few precincts that have tallied results, Trump is winning "by a lot," getting as much 70 percent of the vote in some.

Maeve Reston of CNN: Nevada, a "state that has long embraced its reputation as the wild west of politics is expected to embrace anti-establishment candidate Donald Trump in a blowout in the Nevada Republican caucuses Tuesday night." ...

... Megan Messerly of the Las Vegas Sun: "A victory by ... Donald Trump in the Nevada caucuses today is all but certain, and Rubio and Cruz are expected to again vie for second place. But a decisive second place win could buoy either candidate up as the three spar over the Republican nomination." ...

... The Las Vegas Sun is liveblogging the caucuses. New York Times live updates are here.

Ah, for the Good Old Days. Nick Corasaniti & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "In his final rally on Monday before the Nevada caucuses, Donald J. Trump said he wanted to punch a protester, who had been ejected from the event, in the face.... As the man was being escorted away, Mr. Trump repeatedly told the crowd that he wished for the 'old days,' adding, 'You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher.'... Addressing another protester, a man holding a sign that read, 'Veterans to Trump: End Hate Speech Against Muslims,' Mr. Trump repeatedly said, 'Get him the hell out,' as the crowd booed the man's exit." ...

... Jamelle Bouie: "Trump's entire appeal is built around aggression and, yes, violence. To call for mass deportation, for example, is to entertain and endorse state violence. To back waterboarding and recite violent fantasies of wartime revenge against Muslims is to do the same. Donald Trump isn't just running as a man who 'makes deals,' he's running as a nationalist and a bully who will humiliate the nation's adversaries -- actual foes like Iran, as well as alleged ones like China and Mexico -- and restore America's symbolic manhood." ...

... Daddy Warbucks Lives! Jeet Heer of the New Republic: Donald Trump "has fashioned himself after comic-strip champions and masked crusaders." CW: I think Heer is onto something.

Sahil Kapur of Bloomberg: "'A number of the pundits said, "Well, if a couple of the other candidates dropped out, if you add their scores together it's going to equal Trump,'" he said in a mocking tone. 'But these geniuses -- they don't understand that as people drop out I'm going to get a lot of those votes also. You don't just add them together.' Trump has a point, and a close examination of Republican voter data shows that the "winnowing" theory has four serious flaws." ...

... Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "When Will Republicans Start Recognizing How Screwed They Are? There's almost nothing the GOP can do at this point to stop Donald Trump." ...

... Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News: "This spring, just as the GOP nomination battle enters its final phase, frontrunner Donald Trump could be forced to take time out for some unwanted personal business: He's due to take the witness stand in a federal courtroom in San Diego, where he is being accused of running a financial fraud. In court filings last Friday, lawyers for both sides in a long-running civil lawsuit over the now defunct Trump University named Trump on their witness lists." ...

Anna Palmer & Eli Stokols of Politico: "The Republican establishment has finally fallen in love with Marco Rubio, but it may be too late. With the specter of Donald Trump terrifying mainstream Republicans, Ted Cruz being Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush dropping out, lawmakers and party operatives are tripping over themselves to back the Florida senator's presidential bid."

Katie Zezima of the Washington Post: "Ted Cruz's presidential bid is in turmoil after repeated allegations of unsavory campaign tactics by his Republican rivals, leading some key supporters to call for a shake-up in the candidate's message and strategy a week ahead of the crucial Super Tuesday primaries." ...

... Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "As Mr. Cruz has elbowed into the top tier of candidates, his campaign has conspicuously reflected the brand of its principal architect: Jeff Roe, an operative with a reputation for scorching earth, stretching truths and winning elections.... Back home [in Missouri], Mr. Roe's allies and opponents alike have seen a familiar imprint in the Cruz campaign's recent exploits, which have included a Photoshopped image of Mr. Rubio and the misleading suggestion, on the night of the Iowa caucuses, that Ben Carson was leaving the race."

Marcobot. Driftglass: The Bill O'Reilly Comedy Hour runs a segment with a robot who gets "stuck in redirect loop again."

Steve M. reacts to a Boston Globe editorial urging Massachusetts Democrats to save the Republican party by voting in the GOP primary for John Kasich: "I say Trump should win the nomination. Let the party wallow in its own stink.... in some ways, he'd be a less dangerous president than Marco Rubio or John Kasich. Unlike Rubio, Trump is not promising the elimination of the capital gains tax, which could literally allow some billionaires to pay no income tax whatsoever. And unlike Kasich, Trump is not demanding a balanced budget amendment, which if it had been in effect in 2007, would have made it impossible for Presidents Bush and Obama to stimulate the economy enough to avoid a full-blown 1930s style depression. And that's just a small portion of what we have to fear from a mainstream Republican presidency in the era of the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson. Trump is a menace, but he's far from the only menace in his party." ...

     ... CW: I'm totally with Steve on this. The Globe editors are fools. ...

... In an earlier post, Steve notes that Trump's rivals imitate him only on his right-wing "policies"; they don't copy his views on Social Security or the Iraq War, for instance. "I think Trump's rage and hatemongering are just so satisfying to GOP voters that they give him a pass on deviations from right-wing orthodoxy and attacks on sacred cows.... Trump can get away with [some leftish-leaning] heresy, but I doubt the rest of them can, Look at what happened to Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, or Jon Huntsman four years ago." CW: In fairness, Bush, Paul & Huntsman are terrible public speakers; they just can't whip up a crowd. Trump is an awful public speaker, too, but I guess wingnuts find great satisfaction in his vehement validation of their hideous views. In the minds of the hateful, that's entertainment.

There Are Women & There Are Ladies. Emily Atkin of Think Progress: After John Kasich talks about what a great friend he is to women, students called him out for signing a bill Sunday defunding Planned Parenthood in Ohio. "Though a grand jury recently cleared Planned Parenthood of any unlawful acts, the lawmakers who authored the legislation used the videos as the main evidence for defunding the organization. On Monday, Kasich also appeared to use the videos as reason for defunding the organization, saying Planned Parenthood had 'discredited itself' and that other women's health centers would be funded instead." CW: Republicans are friends only to nice white ladies who give teas for candidates & consider sex a unpleasant wifely duty.

Finally, Elizabeth King, a self-described feminist leftist (to the left of Sanders!) reminds us that leftists are stoopid, too. In a piece Salon editors think worthy to publish, King self-righteously declares that she's sitting out the election because she's too fine & principaled a person to vote for anybody she "doesn't believe in." CW: You're a better woman than I am, Gunga King. Thanks for rolling out the welcome mat for President Trump & Justice Attila.

Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that State Department officials and top aides to Hillary Clinton should be questioned under oath about whether they intentionally thwarted federal open records laws by using or allowing the use of a private email server throughout Clinton's tenure as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. The decision by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of Washington came in a lawsuit over public records brought by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal watchdog group, regarding its May 2013 request for information about the employment arrangement of Huma Abedin, a longtime Clinton aide." CW: Bill Clinton appointed Sullivan. ...

... Spencer Hsu & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Clinton has struggled on the campaign trail to move past the issue of her email use. Republicans have made clear that they will make the subject a centerpiece of attacks against her should she win the nomination, with Marco Rubio saying her use of a private server 'disqualified' her to be president and Donald Trump telling Fox News this week that she 'seems to be guilty' of a crime before amending that to say it would be something he would look in to if elected."

Andrew O'Hehir of Salon reminds us that Hillary Clinton doesn't look like a very good candidate when compared to Donald Trump. "Her campaign largely rests on the idea that she has wide appeal to the demographic groups that make up the future of the Democratic electorate and the country, whereas Sanders' revolutionary crusade speaks largely to privileged white folks. If Clinton's victory in Nevada was built on low turnout and the support of older white voters, on the other hand, she is left with no story at all, facing a likely fall opponent who has nothing but stories, and spins a new one every day." CW: Clinton's whole campaign against Sanders is premised on the reality that a Democratic president can't really do much, but she'll do what little she can for ordinary Americans, & she'll do it competently. So, in Jeet Heer's construction, that would be Not-Wonder Woman v. Batman. If Trump's fans are any indication, Americans will choose Batman.

Dan Diamond & Rachana Pradhan of Politico: "Hillary Clinton wants to bring back the public option, offering a competing vision to Bernie Sanders' support for a more progressive health care system. Clinton's campaign has updated its website to note her continued support for the government-run health plan that was dropped from Obamacare during the law's drafting. The idea was popular among progressives who prefer a single-payer plan -- like the one Bernie Sanders is touting. Clinton supported the public option in her 2008 presidential campaign.... But Clinton has hardly referenced her previous support for the idea during the 2016 campaign, and instead has called for building on President Barack Obama's health care law. A new version of Clinton's campaign website suggests she won't try to push the public option through Congress, but instead will work with governors using existing flexibility under Obamacare "to empower states to establish a public option choice."

Once again, the New York Times thinks its a good idea to delve into Bernie Sanders' religious identity & practices. CW: If Sanders were making religion central to his campaign, such a report would be justified. However, the point of these articles is that Sanders doesn't go around wearing his religion on his sleeve. These stories make me suspect the Times, & some other outlets, are trying to "otherize" Sanders. ...

... Spike Lee endorses Bernie Sanders in a 60-second radio ad directed at South Carolina voters. Cool.

Beyond the Beltway

Rebecca Cook of Reuters: "Residents of Flint, Michigan, one of the poorest cities in the United States, will get $30 million to help pay their water bills after a lead contamination crisis, under a bill unanimously approved by the Michigan Senate on Tuesday. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, plans to sign the bill, which had been passed unanimously by the state's House last week." ...

... Paul Egan, et al., of the Detroit Free Press: "The drinking water catastrophe in Flint is the result of a failed model of trying to run state government like a business, says a former adviser to Gov. Rick Snyder, who also predicted the governor won't survive a recall vote if the question makes the ballot. Dennis Schornack, who retired after serving more than three years as a senior adviser on transportation issues to Snyder during his first term, is the first current or former Snyder official to directly criticize the governor and his management style for contributing to the public health crisis." ...

... Charles Pierce: "If I were Schorneck, I'd watch my back. He has meddled with the primal forces of Republican nature. If government cannot be run like a business, then privatization is the scam everyone is beginning to see that it is. If what Schorneck says is true, then the idea of devolving federal power to 'the states,' where politicians are more cheaply bought and paid for, and where crazy ideas with constituencies are more free to gambol on the heads of the citizenry, is as wholly unmoored from human experience as everyone who's ever covered a state legislature knows that it is."


The Commentariat -- Feb. 23, 2016

Thanks to everyone for carrying on in my absence. I'm still absent, but here's a page to keep you going. -- Constant Weader

Chris Mooney of the Washington Post: "A group of scientists says it has now reconstructed the history of the planet’s sea levels arcing back over some 3,000 years — leading it to conclude that the rate of increase experienced in the 20th century was 'extremely likely' to have been faster than during nearly the entire period.... Unsurprisingly, the study blames the anomalous 20th-century rise on global warming — and not just that. It also calculates that, had humans not been warming the planet, there’s very little chance that seas would have risen so much during the century...." CW: This is the sort of crackpot liberal reporting, BTW, that caused Justice Scalia to drop his subscription to the Washington Post. ...

Remembering Nino. CW: I had been awaiting Jeff Toobin's take on Antonin Scalia. Toobin may have taken a while to write it; maybe the New Yorker editors were saving it for this week's magazine; or perhaps, like me, Toobin prefers not to speak ill of the dead before there's a pile of dirt holding down the remains. Anyhow, Scalia's gone & Toobin isn't: "Antonin Scalia ... devoted his professional life to making the United States a less fair, less tolerant, and less admirable democracy. Fortunately, he mostly failed. Belligerent with his colleagues, dismissive of his critics, nostalgic for a world where outsiders knew their place and stayed there, Scalia represents a perfect model for everything that President Obama should avoid in a successor." ...

... Pretending Women Matter. Sandhya Somashekhar of the Washington Post: "When the Supreme Court meets next week to hear its first abortion-related case in nearly a decade, the justices will consider the most significant challenge to an argument that has become central to the antiabortion cause: that abortion hurts not just a fetus but also its mother.

Presidential Race

Matt Flegenheimer & Nick Corasaniti: "Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign erupted in turmoil on Monday as Mr. Cruz fired his chief spokesman for spreading a misleading video of Senator Marco Rubio.... He has cast himself as the candidate of honesty and integrity, with a faith-based pitch and a backdrop that reads 'TrusTed' during speeches.... At issue was a video of a hotel lobby encounter between Mr. Rubio and a Cruz staff member who had a Bible with him. The video’s subtitles suggested Mr. Rubio had said there were “not many answers” in the Bible. Mr. Cruz’s communications director, Rick Tyler, posted the video on Facebook and Twitter on Sunday, needling Mr. Rubio for an 'awkward remark.' In fact, Mr. Rubio had said the Bible had 'all the answers.'”

Paul Krugman: "... when Mr. Rubio genuflects at the altars of supply-side economics and hard money, he isn’t telling ordinary Republicans what they want to hear — by and large the party’s base couldn’t care less. He is, instead, pandering to the party’s elite, consisting mainly of big donors and the network of apparatchiks at think tanks, media organizations, and so on. In the G.O.P., crank doctrines in economics and elsewhere aren’t bubbling up from below, they’re being imposed from the top down.... So don’t let anyone tell you that the Republican primary is a fight between a crazy guy and someone reasonable. It’s idiosyncratic, self-invented crankery versus establishment-approved crankery, and it’s not at all clear which is worse." This was yesterday's column ...

... AND today's top news? Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Mainstream Republican donors and elected officials flocked to Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) on Monday amid a growing sense that he is the last best chance to prevent Donald Trump from running away with the ­Republican presidential nomination."

Beyond the Beltway

Today in Responsible Gun Ownership. If you have small children, don't own guns. That's a simple, easy-to-follow rule. "Keep guns out of reach of children" is a simple rule, too, but many people are too busy or distracted to follow it. Seriously, if you own a gun & are responsible for the care of a child, lose one of them.

News Lede

New York Times: "Health authorities in the United States said they were investigating 14 new reports of the Zika virus possibly being transmitted by sex, including to pregnant women. If confirmed, the unexpectedly high number would have major implications for controlling the virus, which is usually spread by mosquito bites. Scientists had believed sexual transmission of Zika to be extremely rare."


The Commentariat -- Feb. 21, 2016

I'll be travelling for a few days. I'll try to get up skeleton pages, so you all can comment. -- Not-So-Constant Weader

Presidential Race

Clinton's victory speech:

... Vindictive in Victory. Daniel Politi & Jeremy Stahl of Slate: "Hillary Clinton delivered a victory speech after her Nevada caucus win over Bernie Sanders that emphasized her campaign theme that she was fighting for ordinary voters, while also taking knocks on her rival and, it seemed, his supporters."

Sanders' concession speech:

Amy Chozick & Patrick Healy of the New York Times: "Buoyed by the support of enthusiastic workers in the city's big casinos, Hillary Clinton defeated Senator Bernie Sanders in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, thwarting his momentum and proving to an anxious Democratic Party that she maintains strong support among minority voters that she can carry to a general election.... The Culinary Workers Union, which represents 57,000 members, many of whom are Latino, declined to endorse a candidate. But on Thursday, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, who also remained neutral, said in an interview he had spoken to D. Taylor, the head of the union's parent group, to make sure its members could have paid time off to participate in the caucuses, a move that operatives in the state believed helped tip the race in Mrs. Clinton's favor. She overwhelmingly defeated Mr. Sanders in the caucuses that were held at six major Las Vegas casinos...."

John Wagner, et al., of the Washington Post: "Hillary Clinton held off a powerful late challenge from rival Sen. Bernie Sanders in Nevada's Democratic caucus vote Saturday, securing what is projected to be a narrow victory that could help her renew a claim to the mantle of presumptive Democratic nominee. With more two-thirds of precincts reporting, Clinton held a four-point lead over Sanders -- a margin more decisive than her razor-thin Iowa win but much closer than the Clinton campaign had anticipated as recently as a month ago, when they touted polling showing the former Secretary of State with a 25-point lead."

The AP called the Nevada race for Clinton at 5:18 pm ET, Saturday, according to the breaking news banner on the New York Times site. Fox "News" & MSNBC have also projected Clinton would win.

The Las Vegas Sun News is liveblogging the Nevada caucuses. At 5:20 pm ET, Saturday, the headline has Clinton & Sanders "in a virtual dead heat," with Clinton currently at 52 percent, Sanders at 48, with 62 percent of precincts reporting. ...

... "Surveys of caucusgoers taken as they entered caucus sites showed that older women turned out in force to support Clinton, pushing her to victory despite her continued struggles to attract young women."

Maureen Dowd is here to put a damper on Clinton's victory: "Hillary believed that there was an implicit understanding with the sisters of the world that now was the time to come back home and vote for a woman. (The Clintons seem to have conveniently forgotten how outraged they were by identity politics when black leaders deserted them in 2008 to support Obama.)" Much of the column recycles old material from the Lewinsky scandal. (Dowd won a Pultizer for her column on Clinton-Lewinsky, so, hey, who can blame her?)

Yamiche Alcindor of the New York Times: "In recent days, Hillary Clinton's campaign has questioned Senator Bernie Sanders's commitment to civil rights, trying to cement her support among black voters who could be crucial in upcoming primaries such as South Carolina's." But film footage unearned by a film company, Kartemquin Films, shows Sanders being arrested in an August 1963 while protesting segregation in Englewood, Illinois. ...

... Chas Danner of New York: "It was Sanders himself who confirmed it was him in the video, according to his campaign. In addition, the Chicago Tribune subsequently found a photograph in their archives showing Sanders's arrest as well, which they then released early Saturday morning. (Senator Sanders also confirmed the authenticity of the photo.)"

The polls for the Republican primary in South Carolina close at 7:00 pm ET.

The New York Times is liveblogging both states' results. @6:02 pm ET, see Sanders' statement.

AP: @12:28 am ET: "Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has finished second in South Carolina's Republican primary, according to complete but unofficial results. Rubio edged out Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by less than two-tenths of 1 percentage point. The results are unofficial, pending the state's formal confirmation of the outcome. That will take place by next Saturday."

Eliza Collins of Politico: "Ted Cruz may not know if he's in second or third place yet, but he's chalking up South Carolina as a win. 'We don't know the exact results right now ... but each time [we're] defying expectations,' Cruz said. 'Indeed the screaming you hear now from across the Potomac is the Washington cartel in pure terror that the grassroots are rising up,' he said repeating a line that he's used before." ...

Alex Shephard of the New Republic: "Hey, looks like Ted Cruz also won South Carolina! Marco Rubio won Iowa by coming in third. John Kasich won New Hampshire by coming in second. Tonight, Marco Rubio won by coming in second and Ted Cruz won by coming in third. (Donald Trump actually won by winning.)"...

... CW: Surely somebody lost. Oh. Yeah. ...

According to a breaking news banner on the New York Times site, Jeb! is dropping out of the presidential race. ...

... Ashley Parker & Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "Jeb Bush suspended his presidential campaign on Saturday, ending a quest for the White House that started with a war chest of $100 million, a famous name and a promise of political civility, but ended with a humbling recognition: in 2016, none of it mattered." CW: I still think the media should give him First Prize for Contributions to Advertising Revenues. ...

... Dara Lind of Vox: "The slow, torturous twilight of Jeb's campaign offers a couple of lessons. For one thing, it throws the political skills of his brother George W. Bush into sharp relief: W. might have gotten flak for being 'dumb,' but seeing what happens to someone with all the same advantages makes it clear how much of W.'s success was his own. For another thing, it's a reminder that (for all the problems associated with money in politics) it's extremely hard to buy a presidential campaign." Lind recalls some of the "tortured moments of Jeb!'s campaign. Funny, unless you're Jeb! ...

... Gwenyth Kelly of the New Republic on why Ben Carson & John Kasich are still in the race & Jeb! isn't: "Probably a potent combination of denial and lower stakes. Neither Carson or Kasich represent the dying light of a political dynasty, and Carson's campaign has more closely resembled a money-making scheme than a real campaign since the beginning. Both campaigns are clinging to the glimmers of hope given by their very brief surges earlier in the campaign. Kasich's team went so far as to spin his loss as a win in the completely invented 'Governors Bracket.'"

Jonathan Martin & Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump won a clear victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, cementing his position as the Republican presidential front-runner as he enters a tougher test in a series of potentially decisive March contests. Mr. Trump ran ahead of Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, who were locked in a battle for second place."

Marco & Tailgunner Ted are neck-in-neck, trading places a few times for second place at around 21 percent. (Trump's at 34 percent with 26 percent reporting.) Jeb! & Kasich, next in line are both in the 8s.

     ... The AP is projecting Donald Trump as the winner of the South Carolina primary @ 7:33 pm ET, with less than one percent reporting. Cruz currently tops Rubio.

The Washington Post's liveblog is here. ...

Early results on the South Carolina primary show the race as going to Trump, Rubio & Cruz, in that order.

The Mexican Government Is Totally Awesome. Daniel Denvir of Salon: "Trump honestly seems to believe that Mexican migration to the United States is controlled by the Mexican government, rather than, say, complex economic changes and cross-border social ties. Now, it turns out, he thinks that the Mexican government controls the Pope as well, and tricked the head of the Catholic Church into disliking Trump.... Trump thinks that world events can be reduced to the raw genius or stupidity of a given country's leaders.... Just as Trump represents a poor man's idea of what a rich man must be like, his theory of governance is statecraft as a marketing executive might see it.... It's becoming increasingly clear that Trump isn't just inexperienced -- he's actually living in a fantasy world."

Caitlin Cruz of TPM: "Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) latest move in South Carolina is a mailer that merges President Barack Obama's face with that of Cruz's rival Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). South Carolina state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D) told The Wall Street Journal that she thought the mailer "moved beyond the dog whistle." South Carolina presidential politics are notoriously dirty. 'My first reaction was, "Oh my God, we've moved beyond the dog whistle, we’re just full blown with the race card,'" Cobb Hunter told the Journal."

Other News & Commentary

Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Sunday that a 'provisional agreement in principle' has been reached with Russia for a temporary truce in the Syrian civil war, and it could start within days."

Alec MacGillis, in a New York Times op-ed: Mitch "McConnell's blunt declaration [that President Obama should not bother to nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia] was taken as the starkest exhibition yet of the obstructionism that has characterized the Kentucky senator's stance toward President Obama and congressional Democrats. The resistance from Mr. McConnell has had an enormous influence on the shape of Obama's presidency. It has limited the president's accomplishments and denied him the mantle of the postpartisan unifier he sought back in 2008. But it has also brought the Senate, the institution to which Mr. McConnell has devoted his life, close to rupture." MacGillis postulates the reasons McConnell is going for broke here.

** Bill McKibben reviews Jane Mayer's Dark Money for the NYRB: The Koch brothers "distorted American politics in devastating ways, impairing the chances that we'll effectively respond to climate change, reducing voting rights in many states, paralyzing Congress, and radically ratcheting up inequality.... They merged three forms of political spending -- campaign dollars, lobbying expenditures, and philanthropy at think tanks, universities, and media properties -- into a juggernaut. Mayer highlights the strategic insight of the effort in several ways. She describes, for instance, how various think tanks had worked for years to lay the groundwork for the Citizens United and SpeechNow decisions, which made it far easier for big donors to influence elections.... Mayer devotes considerable space to demonstrating that the Tea Party emerged in large part from the Koch network...." ...

... CW: I recently linked to a post by some librul-thinking pundit (can't recall who) who placed the blame for the 2010 election debacle on President Obama. Yeah, I know everything is Obama's fault, but the fact is that the Kochs & their minions have spent decades & billions of dollars creating long odds for not just liberals but also for ordinary Americans. One president can hardly mitigate that damage.

Beyond the Beltway

AP: "A gunman drove in and around a western Michigan city randomly shooting people in the parking lots of a restaurant, car dealership and apartment complex, killing at least seven, including a 14-year-old girl, authorities said. A 45-year-old man was arrested early Sunday in downtown Kalamazoo following a massive manhunt after the shootings began about 6 p.m. Saturday, authorities said." ...

... William Cummings of USA Today: "Forty-five-year-old Jason Dalton was arrested early Sunday after a massive manhunt in response to the shootings that began about 6 p.m. Saturday, Michigan State Police Lt. Dale Hinz said. Dalton surrendered without incident but had weapons in his vehicle." CW: Of course he did. Look at his mugshot. He's white.

Jennifer Dixon of the Detroit Free Press: "Flint’s water crisis has unleashed a tsunami of lawsuits that could cost Michigan taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. 'The only deep pocket in the vicinity of Flint is the State of Michigan,' said Wayne State University law professor Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor. 'This could be a tax liability on the citizens of Michigan. This is the worst nightmare when a bureaucracy goes completely off the rails and makes decisions that cause widespread harm.'" CW: Because this is what happens when you have a "fiscally-responsible" governor who doesn't care about black people.

Leah Sottile of the Washington Post: "Peter T. Santilli, host of a right-wing YouTube show ... [who was] indicted earlier this month on felony charges due to the armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge [is arguing] ... he was there as a new media journalist and a 'shock jock.'... Santilli’s case has attracted the support of groups as disparate as the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon and the Oath Keepers, a citizen militia."

Way Beyond

Stephen Castle of the New York Times: "Britons will vote on June 23 on whether to stay in the European Union or to quit, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Saturday, announcing the date of a referendum that could have momentous consequences for a divided Britain, and for the rest of Europe."

News Ledes

AP: "Two Serbian embassy staffers who had been held hostage since November died in Friday's U.S. airstrikes on an Islamic State camp in western Libya that killed dozens, Serbian officials said on Saturday."

AP: "Speaking via Skype from Russia, Edward Snowden told an audience of supporters in New Hampshire on Saturday that he is willing to be extradited to the United States if the federal government would guarantee he would get a fair trial."


The Commentariat -- Feb. 20, 2016

Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "The Justice Department, impatient over its inability to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino killers, demanded Friday that a judge immediately order Apple to give it the technical tools to get inside the phone. It said that Apple's refusal to help unlock the phone for the F.B.I. 'appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy,' rather than a legal rationale. In court documents, prosecutors asked a federal judge to enforce an earlier order requiring Apple to provide the government with a tool to extract the data from a locked iPhone 5c. They are trying to get into the phone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the attackers in the San Bernardino rampage, which left 14 dead." ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "For years, President Obama has struggled to reconcile a civil libertarian's belief in personal privacy with a commander in chief's imperatives for the nation's security. This week, security won. The decision by Mr. Obama's Justice Department to force Apple to help it breach an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists has ended, at least for now, the president's attempts to straddle the feud over encryption between Silicon Valley and law enforcement. Asked about the president's backing of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's inquiry into San Bernardino, one of the worst terror attacks in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Obama's press secretary declared on Wednesday that 'the F.B.I. can count on the full support of the White House.'"

What a Mess. Richard Fausset of the New York Times: "The United States Supreme Court declined late Friday to stay a lower court ruling that has forced North Carolina's Republican-dominated legislature to redraw its congressional electoral maps on the grounds that the original maps amounted to racial gerrymandering. As a result, the state must now follow a contingency plan, also devised by Republican lawmakers, that tries to comply with the lower court's ruling by making significant changes to the boundaries of the some of the state's 13 congressional districts.... The contingency plan was approved by the state legislature on Friday, hours before the Supreme Court announced that it had rejected North Carolina Republicans' application for a stay. But the approval of the contingency plan came over the strenuous objection of Democrats, who claimed that the new congressional maps were hyperpartisan -- giving Republicans 10 safe districts to the Democrats' three -- and still failed to protect black voters' interests." ...

... Richard Hasen: What I said. Plus: "Justice Scalia's absence might have been decisive here.... It is quite possible that there could be a Voting Rights Act violation now. The problem with the last plan was that North Carolina took racetoo much into account. But now perhaps NC did not take race enough into account to assure that the districts comply with Section 2 of the Act, which requires the creation of minority opportunity districts under certain circumstances.... None of this would have happened if the Supreme Court had not ruled in Shelby County to strike down the trigger for the preclearance provisions of the VRA.... There's a lot of confusion on the ground, and I expect that the three-judge court will quickly hold a hearing and figure out what the heck comes next. Wow!"

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "For President Obama, the process of scrutinizing candidates for the Supreme Court in earnest begins the weekend, when he will start reviewing dossiers on potential nominees. The materials include information about the candidates' records, professional experience and other matters, according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest." ...

... Somebody Got to Murkowski. Tierney Sneed of TPM: "Moderate GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK), one of the few Republicans initially willing to break ranks on whether President Obama's nominee to succeed Antonin Scalia should be considered, reversed course Thursday evening. In a series of Tweets she said 'the American people will be weighing in on the direction of SCOTUS' in the upcoming election and that Obama should 'allow his successor to select the next Supreme Court justice.'" ...

... Martin Longman. What I said. With context: "... if there is anyone in the Republican Senate Caucus who might be inclined to buck the lunatics and insist that the president has the right to nominate someone and the nominee is owed the courtesy of a vote, it's Lisa Murkowski. She's already demonstrated that she can survive in Alaska even if beaten by a primary challenger. The Republican Party wasn't loyal to her. The GOP actively tried to defeat her." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "RIP, GOP. You're all the party of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump now."

Lawrence Hurley of Reuters: "President Barack Obama, the U.S. Supreme Court's eight remaining members, former law clerks and thousands of ordinary Americans paid respects to the late Justice Antonin Scalia on Friday as his body lay in repose in the stately, white-marble courthouse. The president and first lady Michelle Obama were greeted by Chief Justice John Roberts, spoke with some Scalia family members and briefly stood in silence, heads bowed, in front of Scalia's casket during an afternoon visit." ...

... Charles Pierce comments (below his tribute to Harper Lee). The citation of Frederick Douglass -- part of the Lee tribute -- is helpful.

Lisa Miller of New York on a topic we discussed in yesterday's Comments: "... the pope was splitting hairs [on contraception], walking a fine line between the established doctrine of his Church and the wishful thinking of his fans -- a line he has walked masterfully since he ascended to the throne of Peter, sending rhetorical signals about a modernizing, liberalizing church while not moving much on actual policy. (Just how much you think this counts as progress, and how much political savvy you think it entails to allow a basically backwards church to have it both ways, probably depends a lot on how moved you've been by Francis's progressive PR campaign.)"

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Great Expectations. Paul Waldman: "On Saturday, Republicans vote in South Carolina and Democrats vote in Nevada. While we don't know how those contests will turn out, we know that the results will be judged not so much on their own terms but on whether they conformed to 'expectations.'... When a candidate either exceeds or fails to meet expectations, all it means is that the ones doing the expecting -- i.e. the press -- were wrong.' In explaining the expectations game, Waldman illuminates the daily challenges of the political reporter: "Imagine that it was your job to follow Ted Cruz from one campaign event to another, where he said pretty much the same thing again and again, and yet you had to come up with a new story about it every day. It's not easy, and you have to find as many different angles as you can to discuss what is essentially a repetitive series of fake events."

Presidential Race

The New York Times Editors think the Democratic superdelegates will come around & support whichever candidate wins the most delegates in popular primaries & caucuses. CW: I'm less sanguine. The whole purpose of having superdelegates was to allow the party's leaders to choose a candidate to their liking should someone like Bernie Sanders win the popular delegate vote. However, this most likely is a moot point; Clinton will probably win the popular vote, too.

Dana Milbank: "Hillary Clinton has raised $26 million for the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic parties so far this campaign. And Sanders? $1,000.... This is the source of the panic that Sanders causes the much-maligned Democratic elites. It's not about ideology; it comes from a fear that having Sanders as a nominee will decimate progressive candidates down the ballot.... The Obama presidency has been a disaster for the Democratic Party nationwide. Clinton has pledged to rebuild the party and has begun to make good on that promise. Sanders, by contrast, has shown little concern for the very real crisis the party faces.... The consequences of the Democrats' atrophy at the state level are potentially catastrophic for progressives.... If Sanders leaves the Democratic Party for dead, as he is now doing, the odds against his success are even greater." ...

... Well, not exactly, Dana. Here's how it works. ...

... Matea Gold & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "A record 32 state parties signed on to [a joint fundraising committee with Hillary Clinton], allowing the committee to solicit donations 130 times greater than what a supporter can give to Clinton's campaign for the primary.... The states have yet to see a financial windfall. Meanwhile, Clinton's own campaign has been a major beneficiary, getting an infusion of low-dollar contributions.... The joint committee that was formed, called the Hillary Victory Fund, ended up raising nearly $27 million by the end of 2015, thanks to six-figure donations from longtime Clinton allies and a New York fundraiser headlined by the singer Sting.... The victory fund now functions as an operation embedded within the Clinton campaign, run by campaign staffers. Last year, the fund reimbursed the campaign nearly $1.5 million for salary and overheard." CW: This whole thing sounds suspiciously like a clever Clinton scam, aided & abetted by our winger friends (including the dearly departed) on the Supreme Court. ...

... CW: If you wonder why DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has bent over backwards to give Clinton the debate schedule she wanted, wonder no more: "Campaign finance records show that nearly $2 million in donations to the fund initially routed last year to individual state party accounts was immediately transferred to the DNC, which is laboring to pay off millions in debt." ...

... Josh Gerstein & Rachel Bade of Politico: "The State Department released more than 1,100 additional pages of Hillary Clinton's emails Friday night, shedding light on her handling of diplomatic crises and detailing her team's efforts to make sure President Barack Obama didn't get all the credit for U.S. foreign policy.... The latest batch comes at a particularly crucial and inconvenient time for the former secretary of state, as she searches for her first decisive win in the Democratic presidential primary contest.... Each release serves as a reminder of Clinton's decision to use the private server and of the FBI's investigation into the potential intelligence breach -- a probe the law enforcement agency said was ongoing as of earlier this month." ...

... BUT. When Morgan Freeman, backed by violins, tells me to do something, it's hard to say no. ...

... CW: I missed this Feb. 9 report by J. K. Trotter of Gawker, but it's stunning in a Dick Cheney-Judith Miller way: Clinton's State Department spokesman Philippe Reines cut a deal, via e-mail, with Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic in which "you can see Reines 'blackmailing' Ambinder into describing a Clinton speech as 'muscular' in exchange for early access to the transcript" of an upcoming Clinton speech. I don't know that Scooter Libby dictated the actual language of the misleading NYT reports Miller wrote. ...

     (... In e-mails to the WashPo's Erik Wemple, Reines & Ambinder defend themselves. Ambinder claims the word "muscular" was his idea, one he shared with Reines in a phone call. Reines defends transactional "journalism.") If, like Will Rogers, all you know is what you read in the papers, you don't know much. ...)

Caitlin Cruz of TPM: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Thursday accused rival Hillary Clinton of embracing President Obama to curry favor with black voters. 'You know Hillary Clinton now is trying to embrace the President as closely -- as she possibly can. Everything the President does is wonderful. She loves the President, he loves her and all that stuff,' Sanders said in an excerpt of a half-hour BET special featuring himself and Clinton published by Indie Wire. 'And we know what that's about,' he continued. 'That's trying to win support from the African American community where the President is enormously popular.'"

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "The Clark County Black Caucus, an organization based in Nevada's most populous jurisdiction, announced its support Thursday for Sanders in his contest against Hillary Clinton. Yvette Williams, chairwoman of the caucus, said that Sanders's agenda most closely aligned with that of her nonpartisan group, saying the endorsement of Sanders 'wasn't a very difficult decision.'" ...

... A Presidential Candidate Should Be an Only Child. Nico Hines of the Daily Beast: "The problem with the Clintons, according to Bernie Sanders's big brother, is that people don't realize what an awful president Bill was. For the most part, Larry Sanders says, that's because people are too busy debating 'Is Bill really such a terrible rapist -- or is he a nice rapist?' These are shockingly blunt words from a soft-spoken man, who has been calmly explaining his little brother's sudden political success from his sun-drenched kitchen table in Oxford.... Larry is at pains to point out that they have real respect for Hillary. (The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment.)"

Sean Sullivan & Katie Zezima
of the Washington Post: "The [South Carolina GOP presidential] race has resembled a three-man contest more than ever during the final push before [Republican] voters head to the polls here Saturday. [Donald] Trump is heavily favored to win, and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida are furiously vying for second place.... Trump, Cruz and Rubio have directed most of their fire at each other this week, trading the kind of petty insults and underhanded tactics that have come to define South Carolina's primary. With each day, the sniping has escalated." ...

... Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "From Lee Atwater's whispers that a congressional candidate was psychotic to rumors that John McCain had fathered a black child out of wedlock to fake Mormon holiday cards supposedly sent by Mitt Romney, South Carolina is infamous for its dirty politics. While this year has not lived up to past levels of salaciousness -- so far -- presidential candidates are not shying away from employing underhanded tricks ahead of the Republican South Carolina primary on Saturday. And they have been more than happy to cry foul. Here are some of the more creative efforts." In all but one of these "creative efforts," other candidates have charged that Ted Cruz was the culprit. CW: I'm surprised. He seems nice. ...

... McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed: "A new robocall going out to South Carolina voters on the eve of the state's Republican primary blasts Donald Trump as a culture war appeaser in the battle between gay rights and religious freedom -- and urges listeners to support Ted Cruz.... The recording was paid for by the Courageous Conservative Political Action Committee, the same pro-Cruz group that launched another eleventh-hour robocall this week attacking Trump for praising the removal of the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina statehouse.... A spokeswoman for Cruz told the Post and Courier newspaper Friday that the campaign did not condone the Confederate flag call. But she did not respond to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News Friday night about the new robocall, except to say that the campaign wasn't associated with it." ...

... Katie Glueck of Politico: "South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford endorsed Ted Cruz at a Charleston rally Friday afternoon, boosting the Texas senator in the final hours before the first-in-the-South primary.... Sanford's decision appears to have come late in the game: He was spotted at a Rubio rally earlier this week." CW: Yeah, an endorsement from former Gov. Appalachian T. Rail should help Sen. Family V. Alues." ...

... At a South Carolina campaign event feature "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson, Cruz jokingly suggests Robertson for the U.S.'s ambassador to the U.N. Politico's headline writer bills this as "Southern charm." One might want to call it pandering. I'd say it's just more evidence that Cruz thinks us regular folks belong to a despicable inferior life form. ...

... "It Takes Two Wings to Fly." Ed Kilgore looks at the Sanford & Robertson endorsements as evidence of Cruz's "dual strategy."


Artwork by the Daily Beast.Yeah, they’re in that closet. -- One of Ben Carson's Secret Service detail, when asked the whereabouts of Dr. Carson & Ted Cruz

Gideon Resnick of the Daily Beast: Ted Cruz called a meeting with Ben Carson in a storage close Thursday night, "in an attempt to mend fences ... ahead of the South Carolina primary.... The two huddled in the unusual venue for nearly 20 to 25 minutes, as Carson's Secret Service detail stood outside.... It is unclear if there were lights inside of it." A Carson campaign operative said the meeting "did not go well": "Carson's campaign confirmed the meeting -- which was was supposed to be short and off-the-record -- and blamed the Cruz campaign for leaking the fact that it occurred in an attempt to rectify his public image." CW: I can't stop laughing. Yes, yes, I know the fate of the nation is at stake.

Pamela Engel of Business Insider: "... Donald Trump just called for a boycott of Apple in light of the company's reluctance to help authorities hack into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters." ...

... Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News: "Donald Trump, embroiled in a long-running legal battle with former students of his defunct Trump University, has been accused in recently filed court papers of threatening to financially ruin the woman who is a lead plaintiff in the suit. Trump's comments, according to the filings, came in a secret deposition he gave just two months ago, on Dec. 10 -- the same day he was making international headlines over his pledge to ban Muslim immigrants from the country.... Exactly what Trump said in his December deposition is unclear." ...

... CW: Upon reading Isikoff's piece, it occurs to me that Trump may be running for president in part as a means to delay & disrupt the lawsuits against him. That didn't work for Bill Clinton, but that was a one-off; it could work for a president facing multiple suits. ...

Which one of these critters has the longer attention span? Or the better memory? Or the more courage? ...... The Art of the Flipflop. Gail Collins: "Perhaps you didn't see Trump's town hall on CNN.... The great theme of the night was things that Donald Trump said that he now doesn't remember, or didn't necessarily mean. This happens all the time. Either our great business genius is incapable of mental fact-checking, or he has about as much political courage as a rabbit." ...

... As if determined to make Collins' point, There's This. Alan Rappeport: "In a town-hall meeting hosted by CNN on Thursday night..., Mr. Trump said, 'I like the [ObamaCare] mandate.' So here's where I'm a little bit different.... I don't want people dying on the streets.' Less than 24 hours later, Mr. Trump backed away from his remarks, proclaiming himself to be the fiercest opponent of the health law.... In the face of ... backlash [from winger opponents & supporters alike], Mr. Trump fired back on Twitter that he had been misunderstood. He said he only liked the provision in the law that requires insurers to provide coverage for people who are already ill. He then promised that he intended to repeal the entire piece of legislation, including the mandate.... It was the latest example of a candidate who has been impervious to inconsistencies again emerging unscathed from a misstep that would probably be damaging to anyone else." ...

... Oh, There's More. Cooper Allen of USA Today: "A day after the uproar over Pope Francis' comments that Donald Trump 'is not Christian' because of his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, a Vatican spokesman offered a clarification of sorts. Father Federico Lombardi of the Vatican Press Office told reporters (translated from Italian) that 'the Pope emphasized that those who only think of building walls, not bridges, is not Christian.' He added that the pontiff has emphasized the need for bridges over walls in the past, including with the European migration crisis. 'This is one of his general attitudes, very consistent with what is a courageous following of the Gospel,' Lombardi said." ...

... Andrew Kaczynski, with Christopher Massie, has returned to the Trump Time Machine: "Donald Trump, faced with his own words from 2002 that directly contradict his claim he opposed an Iraq invasion early on, told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday night he opposed the war by the time it started. But in an interview with Fox News' Neil Cavuto one day into the Iraq invasion, Trump did not express his opposition to war, and said it appeared to be 'a tremendous success from a military standpoint.' Trump predicted the war would continue to be great for Wall Street. (See related link in yesterday's Commentariat.)

Way Beyond the Beltway

Nicholas Watt, et al., of the Guardian: Prime Minister "David Cameron has succeeded in renegotiating the terms of Britain's European Union membership, paving the way for a cabinet meeting on Saturday that will allow him to announce a referendum on 23 June. A marathon round of talks over two days, during which the prime minister managed just three hours sleep in the early hours of Friday morning, led to an agreement for the UK shortly after 9pm UK time."

News Ledes

The Washington Post report on Justice Antonin Scalia's funeral mass is here.

Los Angeles Times: "Umberto Eco, an Italian novelist and intellectual of worldwide renown who imbued his work with humor and scholarship and whose novel 'The Name of the Rose' became a global phenomenon, has died, his American publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt confirmed late Friday afternoon. He was 84." ...

     ... Update: Eco's New York Times obituary is here.