Posted Friday, May 3, 2013, at 11:42 AM
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images
TUCSON, Ariz.—On Wednesday, while driving to a house on the U.S.-Mexico border, I caught Sen. John McCain giving an interview to one of the state's increasingly receptive conservative talk radio hosts. A key point, one that McCain returned to several times, was that technology "developed by Gen. Petraeus in Iraq" could be used to patrol the border.
Yesterday, before a fairly hostile crowd (on this issue, especially), McCain explained what he meant. His job, he said, was convincing skeptics that "there won't be a third wave [of illegal immigrants] into this country" if his bill gets passed. It would spend "$1.5 billion on technology," which could do the trick.
"The real key to getting our border secure is technology," said McCain. "In Iraq, we developed incredible technology, Gen. Petraeus did, because of the IED problem. They developed a radar which not only surveils the types of people doing things, but believe it or not, this radar tracks them back to where they came from. We need to have this radar all across our border, and the sensors and the drones, so we can assure the people of this country, the people of Arizona, that we have effective control of our border."
The recent history of shiny tech-y solutions to border crossings isn't incredibly promising. In 2006, Boeing won a $1 billion contract for the Secure Border Initiative, a system of sensors and cameras. It didn't really work; in 2011, DHS scrapped it.
So McCain's trying to change the way people think about tech on the border. When a liberal town hall questioner asked McCain to stop focusing on security and focus on family reunification, he repeated that "we have technology now that can secure the border, because I've seen it in action and Iraq and Afghanistan."
It was a consistent applause line, as was McCain's call for a "conversation" about drug use.
"Should we glamorize the use of cocaine to our kids?" he asked. "Should we find it acceptable at some levels of society that people have social events where drugs can be used? It sometimes makes me a little angry when the same people that are using the drugs are telling me, 'Why don't you get tough on the border?' I'll be glad to get tough on the border if you stop creating an environment where our young people think it's a great idea to use these things that'll kill 'em!"
Posted Friday, May 3, 2013, at 9:47 AM
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
McKay Coppins noticed that the new cover of National Review, fronting a "Marco Rubio is selling us out" story, removed the recognizable face of Grover Norquist. NR Editor-in-Chief Rich Lowry quickly responded that "our extensive market research shows that partially obscured bearded anti-tax activists do very poorly on our covers," and that there was a disclaimer in the magazine anyway. On one level, I think the Photoshop artist blew it, because the cropped but unretouched photo features the indelible image of Rubio laughing while some dude points at him.
What Lowry could have said is that leaving Norquist in the photo would have made the image confusing. Real, but confusing. Norquist looks unhappy, but he's clearly overjoyed—as my friend Sean Higgins pointed out last week, Norquist has been an avowed supporter of "amnesty" and immigration reform for a generation. Reformers keep cashing that check, bringing out Norquist to argue that the dam has broken, and that even conservatives mocked on The Daily Show now back legalization. They'd really do better recruiting some of the state-based Republicans who've melted on immigration; hey, I have a story about that today.
Posted Friday, May 3, 2013, at 8:35 AM
Photo by DOJ via Getty Images
The new jobs report is not terrible, leaving the Mark Zandis of the world to explain that sequestration will really "bite down" next quarter.
Heben Nigatu manages to pack some hilarious social commentary about race in America into a meme listicle. Well done.
D.C.'s government remains pathetic. I think I've voted for the loser every time in an election here, but that doesn't make me feel better about it.
The Drudge Report joins the ranks of Media Orgs That Fell for A Daily Currant Story, this time because it made Michael Bloomberg sound stupid.
Gavin Aronsen talks to a girl who hooked up with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
"He wanted to go further than I did, and that made me uncomfortable, and I realized that that's not the kind of person that I wanted to be around," she says. "I don't think that's necessarily being a terrorist. I think that's just called being a hands-y teenaged boy."
ABC News points out that Kelly Ayotte's answer to a skeptical background checks questioner repeated the Ted Cruz line—it might have been a slippery slope to background checks! (Side note: Why were NBC News and ABC News, national, at Ayotte's town hall? Safe theory: She's the only "no" vote fairly close to New York City. To find another "no" from someone seen as a moderate, if you're in D.C. or New York, you have to fly to Ohio for Rob Portman or South Carolina for Lindsey Graham.)
Related: The new president of the NRA is a trip.
And Ben Shapiro earns the ire of Captain America.
Correction, May 3, 2013: This post originally misspelled Gavin Aronsen's last name.
Posted Thursday, May 2, 2013, at 7:10 PM
Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
ORO VALLEY, Ariz.—Democrats predicted that the senators who opposed Manchin-Toomey would suffer during the recess. To a lot of people's surprise, this has borne out—from Arizona to New Hampshire, senators who opposed the bill have experienced poll number drops or brushback at town halls.
I saw the flip side of this today at a town hall meeting in this suburb of Tucson. Sen. John McCain kicked off the event at a high school by talking about "stovepiping" in intelligence that might have allowed the Boston bombers to evade detection, talking about Syria, and talking a lot more about the "Gang of Eight" immigration bill. After two odd questions (one from a man who claimed to be Australian, talked with a strange, cotton-tongued speech impediment, and split after his questions were kind-of-answered), McCain called on a woman named Pam Simon.
"I would like to thank you so much for your vote on background checks," Simon said.
There was loud, sustained applause. Simon, a former Giffords staffer, was shot through her arm by Jared Loughner; the bullet went into her chest, but she survived.
"It seems like background checks are absolutely common sense," she said. "Can you shed some light on why who voted against background checks did so?
McCain wouldn't, but he suggested that there was a "50/50" chance of a tweaked bill coming up for a vote later in this Congress. Another background checks supporter asked McCain to work on Sen. Jeff Flake and get his vote; McCain thanked him, not sarcastically, for the suggestion.
After the event ended, before reporters grabbed the senator, Simon and other survivors of the 2011 shooting walked up to the senator to hand him 19 roses. "Thirteen for the people who were injured, six for the people who died," said Mary Reed, another survivor, who was shot three times and still had a bullet in her back pressed against her sciatic nerve.
"McCain was for background checks a decade ago, before it was popular," Reed said. "We're just so proud of him for crossing the aisle."
Posted Thursday, May 2, 2013, at 4:43 PM
Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImages
The Daily Beast, which hired Howard Kurtz for a rumored $400,000 (or more!) in its early, hype-building days, has let him go. Tina Brown's statement is cold as ice:
Under the direction of our newly named political director John Avlon we have added new momentum and authority to our Washington bureau with columnists such as Jon Favreau, Joshua Dubois and Stuart Stevens joining our outstanding DC team of Eleanor Clift, Daniel Klaidman, Michael Tomasky, Eli Lake, David Frum and Michelle Cottle — giving us one of the best politics teams in the business which was instrumental in this week’s Webby win for Best News site.
They were instrumental, not the guy we head-hunted from WaPo! (As opposed to Robin Givhan, the Pulitzer winner also head-hunted from WaPo.) Kurt Eichenwald has the most interesting take on a pretty inside-baseball story, but I don't think his assertion—that Kurtz was left go "less than a day after setting off an Internet conflagration" with a misconceived column about Jason Collins—holds up. On May 1, Michael Calderone reported that Kurtz's deal working with the Beast at the same time he promoted his side project, The Daily Download, was pissing off the home office. Erik Wemple confirms that with an anonymous source: "We were at the point where it was interfering with the quality of The Daily Beast."
Well, yeah—wasn't it? Now, I'm not joining the jihad against Kurtz. He was/is a fast and diligent media reporter; the one time I was the subject of his story, he was one of a very small number of reporters who actually tried to interview me. He got a quote from me on the first day, then brought me onto his show, then sat down with me afterward to get quotes for a column. This might sound like the basics of journalism, but it isn't—Kurtz at his best out-hustles most people. On the whole, which Daily Beast reporter got more quick scoops?
That leads us to the problem, though. Why did Kurtz devote so much time to media punditry? The Daily Download is built on an outdated vision of what works on the Internet. It doesn't break news. With the exception of reporting by Ben Jacobs (a close friend, I should say), it doesn't have much reporting at all. It's surfeited with analysis, mostly by Lauren Ashburn, who—not to be a jerk—doesn't have terribly compelling things to say about the news. Not many people do. The age of bloggy analysis is over, replaced by insta-punditry on Twitter.
It's unseemly to mock Kurtz. In a just world, he'd devote his full time to The Daily Download and rub the smug off the faces of its critics by breaking all kinds of news there.
Posted Thursday, May 2, 2013, at 10:24 AM
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
PHOENIX — In between interviews with immigration restrictionists and before heading to the U.S.-Mexico border, I stopped by the local office of newly elected Sen. Jeff Flake—a proud Gang of Eight member. A Public Policy Polling survey released this week put Flake's approval rating at 37 percent, making him the "least popular senator in America." Driving around town, I heard local news mention this again and again.
"Notwithstanding the polling firm's leftist bent," Flake wrote on Facebook after the numbers came out, "I would assume that my poll numbers have indeed taken a southerly turn since my vote against the Manchin-Toomey background check proposal. It was a popular amendment, and I voted against it."
I mostly talked to Flake about immigration (story coming later today), but I asked him about the poll, too. Did his immigration stance have anything to do with the slide?
"I don't think so," said Flake. "If you look at that poll, the relevant question implied that I'm against background checks. A reasonable person could infer, from that question, that I voted to repeal current background checks. And breaking news: Democratic-leaning firm says Republican is unpopular!"*
But do Democrats still consider him reachable? Had Joe Manchin reached out to him about another gun vote?
"Joe has—not in specifics, but I've said all along we need to strengthen the background check system, particularly when it comes to the mentally ill," said Flake. "The problem with Manchin-Toomey, in my view, was it took the definition of commercial transaction as basically anything touching the Internet. That's how people communicate! You send a text, you send an email to five buddies asking whether they want to buy your gun. That's a commercial sale? That's far too broad. They reached out. I have no idea whether the Democrats will bring it back, but I've said all along there are things we need to fix, particularly with the mentally ill, and the Graham-Begich-Pryor bill with definition of mental health, making it easier for states to move on that, making it easier for the federal government to restrict things to those adjudicated mentally ill. I think we need to revist that."
* Side note: PPP correctly predicted the late momentum that won the 2012 election for Flake.
Posted Thursday, May 2, 2013, at 8:24 AM
Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
Jonathan Rauch tries to nudge the Overton window on immigration reform and gay couples.
Even from a conservative point of view—in fact,especially from a conservative point of view—it makes no sense to distort and disrupt gay families by depriving binational couples of the tools they need to care for each other. It makes even less sense to do that while providing aspiring newcomers with the tools they need to work, providing businesses with the tools they need to hire, and providing children who grew up in America with the opportunity to live as Americans. Unless your policy goal is to distort and disrupt gay families.
A cable channel picks up Glenn Beck's post-Fox network. Same thing's happening to HuffPost Live. Internet streaming is the way to the future via the past!
Emily Bazelon has no time for Sandra Day O'Connor's pity party.
The inevitable push poll makes it to South Carolina*; naturally, Republicans ask whether it's a false flag.
And the Obama administration will defend age limits on Plan B sales, a move that will irritate absolutely everyone—what Republican believes it's earnest?
* This post originally said Louisiana.
Posted Wednesday, May 1, 2013, at 1:55 PM
Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images
Bolstering my theory that this would be a slow news week and I could spend it reporting two long stories in Arizona, Robert Costa writes about Ted Cruz's 2016 presidential prospects. No knock on Costa, of course—he's worked over sources to get details of something people had been scoffing at. Cruz, he reports, "has called his peers in the legal community and raised the prospect" of a candidacy, and is "a close friend" of Peter Thiel, who was willing to pour six or seven figures into (respectively) Cruz for Attorney General coffers and Ron Paul for President PACs. Costa mind-melds with people who don't seem to realize how flawed the concept is:
His supporters argue that he’d be a Barry Goldwater type — a nominee who would rattle the Republican establishment and reconnect the party with its base — but with better electoral results ... Cruz gave the keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he was greeted with a raucous reception and praised by Sarah Palin.
So we've got one figure whose historic presidential loss enabled the Democratic wins of 1964, and thus enabled Medicare; and we've got one whose role in the 2008 loss at least partially enabled the passage of Obamacare. I see potential problems with the theory.
If the Internet's really going to talk about this today, someone's going to point out that Barack Obama, like Cruz, was a silver-tongued, nonwhite senator who ran for president before completing one term. This doesn't do justice to Obama's 2005-2007 ramp-up or take into account Obama's problems as president. In 2005 and 2006, Obama looked for easy wins on legislation that would make him look bipartisan. You can probably rattle them off: He Worked With Tom Coburn on Earmark Transparency, He Worked With Richard Lugar to Track Down Loose Nukes. Obama entered the national consciousness as a "post-partisan" (and post-racial) character with lots of Republican friends.
Cruz has done the exact opposite. He's irritated every Democrat—some, like Dianne Feinstein, he's irritated at a deep, personal, public level—and he's swiftly made enemies of Republicans like Lindsey Graham, who hint that the guy has no strategy or tact (at least when it comes to what Graham wants). Republicans tell themselves that their next president need only get 51 senators ready to repeal Obamacare, then sign the repeal bill. Assuming Cruz could win, how well could he navigate the legislature?
Conservatives have a hard theory about 2008 and 2012: They nominated moderates and lost to a radical. But George W. Bush ran as a center-right candidate, twice, and passed his major bills with Democratic buy-in. The people who'd back Cruz believe he could totally alter this paradigm. Good luck, I guess?
Posted Wednesday, May 1, 2013, at 11:35 AM
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Gabriel Gomez is, as the AP reported in its news blast last night, the "businessman and former Navy SEAL" who won the GOP's nomination for Massachusetts' special Senate election. Gomez is young, too, and unencumbered by experience, excepting only his work for a lackluster 2012 PAC that went after Barack Obama for exploiting the killing of OBL, and his odd request that Gov. Deval Patrick appoint him to the seat when it first came open.
More importantly—Gomez is the next Scott Brown! So speaketh Bill Kristol; so speaketh National Journal; so speaketh everyone who notes that Gomez has bascially retained the key team that elected Brown then worked for Mitt Romney. The current polling gives the Democratic nominee an 18-point lead over Gomez, but something something Scott Brown! He overcame a 30-point Democratic lead, didn't he?
He did, and then every candidate started fancying themselves the Second Coming of Brown. A quick sampling, mostly from 2010:
1. 2010 Republican candidate for Congress Jeff Perry:
MARTHA MACCALLUM: You know, you've been called the next Scott Brown. Do you like that title?
JEFF PERRY: Well, it surely fits for me.
- Fox News interview, Sept. 16, 2010
2-3. 2010 Republican Senate candidates Chuck DeVore and Carly Fiorina:
Republicans in the state are both anxious about the economy and emboldened by [California Sen. Barbara] Boxer's new vulnerability. A Tea Party could get under way, and either [Chuck DeVore] or a freshly combative [Carly] Fiorina could come across as the next Scott Brown.
- The Weekly Standard, March 22, 2010
4. 2010 gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio:
To fellow jaded New Yorkers who think they've heard it all, I humbly offer this: Rick Lazio is the new Scott Brown.
- Newsmax, March 4, 2010
5. 2010 congressional candidate Andrew Harris:
"We're going to see a close election where the candidate who is running to bring real change to Washington is going to come out on top in a very close race, as it was in Massachusetts."
In this comparison, Harris casts himself as Scott Brown, "the person who has been toiling in the state senate for years, deep in the minority, trying to advance the fiscal conservative principles.
And finally ... 6. Steve Lynch:
With the race tightening and a clear, if under-the-radar, path to victory, regular-guy Stephen Lynch may be poised for a Scott Brown moment of his own.
Lynch, of course, was the Democratic primary candidate whom Markey turfed by 14 points. They were the same 14 points predicted by Public Policy Polling. Of the candidates mentioned above, only Harris won—in a general election, in a GOP year, in a district drawn to elect a Republican.
Look, no one should underrate Gomez, but no one is underrating him at this point. He's hyped like the Strokes circa 2001. The "next Scott Brown" mythos is so potent that it leads people to forget the special circumstances of Brown's win. He could say (somewhat accurately!) that his election, and only his election, would create the "41st vote" to block the Affordable Care Act. He campaigned hard during late December when his opponent, Martha Coakley, didn't. His wave started two weeks before the Jan. 20 election, with a Rasmussen Reports poll showing the race within single digits. Gomez has to keep the hype humming for five weeks, against a candidate with far more hustle than Coakley, and with no overarching issue. (He's running on the outsider-vs.-old insider thing, and is depending on voter disquiet about "Congress" to dog a Democrat as much as it would dog any Republican incumbent.)
Can he win? Hey, anybody can win anything. Democrats absolutely preferred facing one of the bland candidates to facing Gomez. But enough with the "next Scott Brown" and "next Martha Coakley" stuff. It led good men to mistakenly foresee an Elizabeth Warren loss in 2012. Scott Brown himself was only Scott Brown for one shining moment.
Posted Wednesday, May 1, 2013, at 8:57 AM
Photo by Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images
There's an extra level of dissonance between the left and right media this week. If you read the conservative press, you know that the Saudis warned America about Tamerlan Tsarnaev and that Benghazi whistleblowers are being silenced. If you don't, you wonder why we're expected to trust a Tsarnaev story from David Martosko, sourced to a document that an anonymous source had seen; we're talking about the ex-Daily Caller editor most famous for publishing Trayvon Martin's tweets and for running multiple Bob Menendez stories that fell apart. And you're not thrown by the Benghazi stuff.
The attack began about 9:30 p.m. on September 11th, 2012 at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi and culminated roughly seven hours later at a second location, a CIA annex about one mile away.
While the official responses from Washington have been that the assets could not have made it to Benghazi in time to stop the second attack that killed Woods and Dohety, our source says otherwise and insists there were at least two elite military units that could have made it in time, including the one training in Croatia.
What happened that night was that a team based in Tripoli was sent to Benghazi, but too late to provide backup for Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty as they battled terrorists. We already knew that the U.S. could have immediately scrambled assets and didn't, arguing in the official State report that there wasn't enough intelligence or certainty to make it worth the risk. This is the disagreement: Whether you consider that decision tantamount to "leaving men to die."
Kelly Ayotte's first town hall since the gun bill is crashed by a Newtown family member.
“Certainly let me just say that I obviously am so sorry – as everyone here is, no matter what our views are,” Ayotte said to Lafferty, the daughter of Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung. “I think that ultimately when we look at what happened in Sandy Hook … all of us want to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” Ayotte added, speaking slowly with her voice hoarse from a cold she’s been suffering.
She went on to criticize the bill, arguing that the plan “wouldn’t have solved” the problems that led to last December’s killings in Newtown, Conn.
The only problem with this story is the hook that Obama's "campaign finance reform plans" have faded. What reform plans? He was always laissez faire and hypocritical.
Chris Moody gets the sentence of the day:
He told me in no uncertain terms that he was born more than 1,800 years ago beneath the surface of the Earth in a subterranean city where several million people live near Mount Shasta in California.