Scott Walker

Republican “Survivor”: A Proposal for Culling the G.O.P. Field

Voters (and viewers) can’t be expected to take fifteen or twenty Republican primary candidates seriously.

Voters (and viewers) can’t be expected to take fifteen or twenty Republican primary candidates seriously. CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY

THE NEW YORKER

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving along the Belt Parkway, listening to Sean Hannity’s radio show, when the right-wing commentator said something that surprised me about the ever-expanding field of Republican primary candidates. This is getting ridiculous, Hannity complained—how are they all supposed to fit on the same stage for a debate?

Hannity’s fears have proved to be well grounded. On Wednesday, the former senator Rick Santorum, who had been the runner-up to Mitt Romney in the 2012 G.O.P. primary, announced his candidacy. On Thursday, it will be the turn of George Pataki, the former governor of New York. Who knows whom Friday will bring? Lindsey Graham? Rick Perry? Donald Trump? Herman (999) Cain? Ted Nugent?

Here, in alphabetical order, are the eight Republican candidates who, by Thursday, will be officially running: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Santorum. Then there are Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, two front-runners who have all but announced that they are in. Currently in the “exploratory” stage, we have Graham, Trump, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, and the benighted Chris Christie. That makes fifteen, with other outlying possibilities, too.

The number turns out to be too high for Roger Ailes, Hannity’s boss at Fox News. The network (along with Facebook) is set to host the first televised G.O.P. debate, in Cleveland, on August 6th, and it has said that it intends to limit participation to the top ten candidates in the polls, plus those who are tied. “It was a difficult call based on political necessity,” Howard Kurtz, the veteran media reporter, who now works for Fox, explained in a post on Tuesday. “With 17 or 18 Republicans gearing up to run, you simply can’t have a viable debate with all of them. Each candidate would receive a miniscule amount of time. No sustained questioning would be possible. And it would be bad television.”

Not everyone associated with the Republican Party is happy about Fox’s decision. Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday, Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, accused Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, of colluding with Fox to cull the field prematurely. “There are fourteen candidates who are serious people,” Kristol said (doubtless prompting a protest call from Trump). “I think they all deserve to be on the stage.” He proposed that they have two debates, with the candidates split up randomly. “Republicans would be interested. They wouldn’t turn off the TV halfway through.”

Kristol raises a good point. If Fox applied its proposed criteria on the basis of current polling data collated by Real Clear Politics, Santorum, who won eleven state primaries in 2012, would barely make the cut. Fiorina, the only female candidate, who has reportedly impressed Republican audiences in Iowa and New Hampshire, would miss out. So would Graham, Jindal, and Kasich, all experienced elected officials. That doesn’t seem fair, or even particularly democratic. So what to do?

The G.O.P. needs a procedure that affords all of the candidates an opportunity to impress while also acknowledging that voters (and viewers) can’t be expected to take all fifteen or twenty candidates seriously. One solution might be to turn the early stages of the G.O.P. primary into a version of “Survivor,” the long-running reality-television series.

Here’s how it could work. Following Kristol’s suggestion, Fox and Facebook would hold two debates on August 6th, with the candidates drawing lots to decide whether they appeared on the first or the second one. Each would receive the same amount of airtime, and the questions in the two debates would be broadly similar.

For the second debate, which CNN is scheduled to host from the Reagan Library, in Simi Valley, on September 16th, things would be different. A limit of twelve candidates would be imposed. Rather than follow the “Survivor” template literally, and have the candidates themselves decide who gets to appear at the debate and who doesn’t, it would be best to rely on surveys of likely Republican voters. The top dozen candidates in the poll of polls on September 9th, a week before the debate, would make the cut; everybody else would miss out. I’d leave it to the network executives and the R.N.C. to decide whether this debate would need to be split in two, like the first one. (CNN has suggested an alternative format for its event, using the full slate of candidates, in which the top ten candidates appear in one debate and the rest in another.)

The winnowing process wouldn’t end there. For the third debate, which will take place in October, there would be another cut, to ten candidates, with the poll of polls again deciding who is invited. And for the fourth debate, in November, there would be a final cut, to eight candidates.

By that stage, the G.O.P.’s Iowa caucus would be on the horizon—it’s now slated for February 2nd, but may well move up a bit—and the field might be starting to narrow of its own accord, regardless. But for now, and for the next few months, there are too many candidates, and some way of treating them equitably needs to be found.

My solution perhaps isn’t the best. Quite probably, it would favor candidates who have raised enough money to launch advertising campaigns and boost their poll numbers—but the current system does that anyway. Another possible objection is that focussing attention on the minor players would blur the message of the front-runners. I doubt that would happen. Bush, Rubio, and Walker would still get the bulk of the media’s attention.

On the upside, shifting to the “Survivor” model would afford everyone an opportunity, and it would inject a bit of excitement into the race early on. Over to you, Reince!

John Cassidy

Scott Walker: Mandatory Ultrasounds Are ‘Just A Cool Thing’ For Women

Xp3zvmsvdyhkou2nhg4n

AP Photo / Gerald Herbert

Such an uninformed clown…

TPM LIVEWIRE

During the interview with conservative radio host Dana Loesch, Walker defended a bill he’d signed in 2013 that required women get the ultrasounds.

“The thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea,” Walker said. “Most people I talk to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time who’ll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons who are 19 and 20, and we still have their first ultrasounds. It’s just a cool thing out there.”

He also lauded the bill’s effects.

“We just knew if we signed that law, if we provided the information, that more people if they saw that unborn child would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child,” Walker said.

Listen to the audio below, from Right Wing Watch:

AHIZA GARCIA

Scott Walker Epically Fails At Math And History In One Single Tweet (IMAGE)

ADDICTING INFO

This week, potential 2016 presidential contender and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker demonstrated how little knowledge he had of history and basic mathematical skills – all at once. Observing the arrival of the first settlers to Jamestown in 1607, this gem of a tweet was released from Walker’s account:

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 4.13.59 PM

There’s just one little (or glaring) problem: the settlers really arrived 408 years ago – not 505, as the tweet states. Walker’s “team” eventually realized they were 97 years ahead of themselves, and sent out a correction 50 minutes later. Walker basically threw his so-called team under the bus for the error.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 4.14.08 PM

The president of Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, James Horn, responded to the tweet with humor:

“It’s always gratifying to hear our politicians referencing the early history of our country and, in this case, the founding of Jamestown. I am sure that on reflection Governor Walker will recall that Jamestown was founded in 1607 which is 408 years ago.”

Eric Walker, the western regional press secretary for the Democratic Party, also thought the erroneous tweet was comical and posted this, eluding to the fact that Walker had never earned a college degree.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 5.32.28 PM

The mathematical flub is hilarious, but the tweet attracted criticism for another, more serious reason. Walker was called out for being a hypocrite, since the tweet was commemorating the nation’s first immigrants. Recently, the Wisconsin governor has been developing a track record for opposing undocumented immigrants gaining citizenship in the United States. Just two months ago, Walker stated that he didn’t “believe in amnesty.” In April, it appeared that he wanted to limit legal immigration when he said:

“In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying, we will make adjustments. The next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages, because the more I’ve talked to folks — I’ve talked to Senator Sessions and others out there, but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today —is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.”

It seems that Walker’s Twitter feed has nothing to do with facts, or anything he actually believes in.

~

Scott Walker’s plan for Wisconsin education: Slash it to the bone

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker talks with other governors before the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama to address the National Governors Association at the White House in Washington February 23, 2015. .REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) | (Reuters)

Daily Kos

As Gov. Scott Walker ramps up his 2016 presidential campaign, he’s using Wisconsin to show what he’d like to do to the entire United States of America. Right now, his budget—the one that would cut $300 million from universities while including $220 million in bonds for a professional basketball arena—is being debated, and Alice Ollstein takes a look at its effects on education:

Funding at UW-Rock County would be stripped back to levels not seen since 1998, and the school’s dean has said faculty layoffs are almost certain. The situation appears even more dire at UW-Eau Claire, where administrators have offered buyouts to a record 325 faculty and staff members — about a quarter of the campus’ employees. These so-called “go away packages” have been offered to nearly half of the school’s political science department. UW-Stevens Point reports they willeliminate several entire majors, even for studentscurrently enrolled in them.And it’s not just higher education feeling the pain.

Public primary schools across Wisconsin will lose about $127 million in education aid next year, largely by scrapping a special $150 per-student fund that Wisconsin school districts received over the past two years.

The struggling Milwaukee public schools are set to lose more than $12 million.

Prediction: After cutting $12 million from the Milwaukee public schools, Walker will grandstand about how the schools are failing the children, using that to push privatization.

This is looming widespread disaster. In higher education, we’re talking about a significant number of jobs, including both faculty and staff. Students will be affected, too, and not just by bigger classes and less advising and support: If you eliminate entire majors, the students currently in those majors are going to have to scramble to graduate. It may take some longer to put together the courses needed for a new major, meaning they’ll accumulate more student loans. If the students had career plans based on a specific major, they’ll be graduating and looking for jobs at a disadvantage. In K-12 schools, already hit hard by Walker’s 2011 budget, another round of cuts could mean fewer guidance counselors, less art and music education, bigger classes, scantier classroom supplies—generally a barebones, second-class education.

Which Scott Walker would like to export to the rest of us starting in 2017. At least where Republican governors and state legislatures haven’t already beat him to it.

10 things you need to know today: March 10, 2015

The Week

1.Obama criticizes GOP senators over letter to Iran
President Obama on Monday accused Republican senators of “interfering” in nuclear negotiations by writing a letter to Iran warning that any deal could be modified or revoked by Congress after Obama leaves office in 2017. The letter came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the invitation of GOP leaders, told a joint session of Congress that a deal would “pave Iran’s path to the bomb.” Obama said the 47 senators who signed the letter were forming an “unusual coalition” with hardline Iranian leaders.

Source: BBC News

2.Missouri puts state judge in charge of Ferguson municipal court
The Missouri Supreme Court assigned a state appeals court judge to oversee municipal cases in Ferguson, saying “extraordinary action” was needed to restore trust in the court system there. The move came days after a scathing Justice Department report accusing the police and municipal court of unfairly targeting African Americans, and using court cases to raise money. The current municipal judge, Ronald J. Brockmeyer, announced his resignation after being cited repeatedly in the report.

Source: The New York Times

3.HBO unveils new stand-alone streaming service
HBO announced at Apple’s big Monday product announcement that it was launching HBO Now, a stand-alone subscription streaming video service that would be available exclusively on Apple products starting in early April. The $14.99 per month service will include full access to HBO TV shows as well as films available for viewing on its premium cable service. Subscribers will be able to view the programming on iPads, iPhones, and Apple TVs. HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler called the move a “transformative moment for HBO.”

Source: PC World

4.CBO lowers estimate of ObamaCare’s cost
The Congressional Budget Office released a forecast on Monday estimating that the Affordable Care Act would cost 11 percent less than previously expected. President Obama’s signature health-care law is now projected to cost $142 billion less that predicted in January, mainly due to a 20 percent decline in the expected cost of premium subsidies. The subsidy spending revisions were the result of “projections of slower growth in premiums and, to a lesser extent, slightly lower exchange enrollment,” according to the CBO.
5.Gov. Scott Walker signs Wisconsin “right to work” legislation
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Monday signed a law banning labor contracts requiring employees of private businesses to pay union dues. The so-called right to work law was backed by manufacturers, while organized labor fought it. Wisconsin is the 25th state to approve such a law. Walker, who is considered a potential GOP president candidate in 2016, said the legislation would be “one more big tool” to attract businesses to the state.

Source: Journal Sentinel

6.Obama sanctions Venezuela over human rights abuses
President Obama on Monday signed an executive order increasing sanctions on Venezuela over alleged human rights abuses. “We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents,” the White House said in a statement, calling for the country to respect rights such as freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.” The move, which builds on the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, includes sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials.

Source: USA Today

7.Oklahoma loses a top recruit over racist video
A top University of Oklahoma football recruit, offensive tackle Jean Delance, reversed a decision to play for the Sooners on Monday. He cited “personal reasons,” but later acknowledged that the driving factor was a racist video in which members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chanted about lynching and said no black person would ever join the frat. Also on Monday, the school severed ties with the fraternity and shut it down, a day after the national fraternity closed the campus chapter.

Source: Yahoo Sports, Chicago Tribune

8.59 injured in North Carolina Amtrak wreck
At least 59 people were injured Monday when an Amtrak train slammed into a tractor-trailer that was stuck on the tracks in North Carolina. The truck driver, who had been trying to make a difficult left, jumped out before impact. The New York-bound train’s locomotive and baggage car derailed when the engine hit the truck’s oversized flatbed trailer, which was carrying a modular home. It was the third major train crash in less than two months, following deadly wrecks in New York and California.

Source: NBC News

9. Three top French athletes among 10 killed in helicopter crash
Three French sports stars, including Olympic gold-medal-winning swimmer Camille Muffat, were among 10 people killed in a helicopter crash in Argentinaon Monday. Two other top French athletes — yachtswoman Florence Arthaud and Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine — were also among the dead. They were traveling with a TV production crew to shoot part the reality TV showDropped for French TV station TF1 when two helicopters collided. Both pilots and several members of the production company also died.

Source: Reuters

10.Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon dies at 59
Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons, died Monday after battling colon cancer for more than two years. He was 59. Simon, who left The Simpsons in 1993 but remained an executive producer, was diagnosed in late 2012. Doctors told him then that he had three to six months to live. Simon decided to give away the bulk of his fortune, and, mostly through his Sam Simon Foundation, focused on feeding hungry families with vegan fare, and rescuing stray and abused dogs.

Source: Los Angeles Times

10 things you need to know today: February 22, 2015

Kutluhan Cucel / Getty Images

The Week

1.Sec. Kerry threatens Russia with more sanctions
Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday said the U.S. could impose more sanctions on Russia should Moscow violate the latest truce in Ukraine and continue with its “land-grabbing” in the region. Though a delicate cease-fire aimed at ending the year-old conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists went into effect last weekend, both sides accused the other of continued aggressions. “If this failure continues, make no mistake there will be further consequences including consequences that will place added strains on Russia’s already troubled economy,” Kerry said.

Source: The Guardian

2.Turkey evacuates soldiers, remains from Syrian tomb
The Turkish Army on Saturday rescued about 40 military guards from a shrine in northern Syria that had been encircled by ISIS. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said more than 500 troops, aided by tanks and armored vehicles, retrieved the soldiers from the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, which lies within Syria but is considered part of Turkey. Turkey also temporarily relocated the tomb’s remains to prevent ISIS from obtaining or desecrating them. “The ongoing conflict and state of chaos in Syria posed serious risks to safety and security of the tomb,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Source: CNN

3.Defense Secretary says U.S. may slow Afghan withdrawal
Making an unannounced visit to Kabul on Saturday, new Defense Secretary Ash Carter suggested that the United States’ troop withdrawal from Afghanistan may be slowed to ensure that “progress sticks” in the war-torn nation. “President Obama is considering a number of options to reinforce our support for President [Ashraf] Ghani’s security strategy, including possible changes to the timeline for our drawdown of U.S. troops,” Carter said. The current schedule would wind the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan down to about 5,000 by the end of 2015, with a target of lowering that to a “normal” troop presence at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

Source: Reuters

4.Scott Walker: ‘I don’t know’ if Obama loves America, is a Christian
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R ) on Saturday declined to answer basic questions about President Obama’s faith and commitment to the nation. “I don’t know,” Walker said when The Washington Post asked him if the president is Christian. “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that.” In a separate interview with The Associated Press, the prospective 2016 candidate also shrugged off a question about Rudy Giuliani’s claim Obama does not love America, saying, “I’ve never asked him so I don’t know.” A Walker spokesperson later clarified the governor thinks Obama is indeed Christian, and that he was simply trying to avoid answering “gotcha questions.”

Source: The Washington Post

5.Bangladesh ferry capsizes, kills at least 30
More than two dozen people died Sunday after a ferry carrying more than 100 passengers collided with a cargo ship on the Padma River. Early estimates put the death toll between 30 and 40, though that could change as rescue divers search for people trapped inside the submerged vessel.

Source: The Los Angeles Times

6.Chris Bosh out for season with blood clots in lung
Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh will miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season after developing blood clots in one of his lungs, the team announced Saturday. Bosh had been dealing with pain in his side for days before doctors discovered the clots, which can be fatal; former NBA player Jerome Kersey died Wednesday of a blood clot in his lung. “His health will be restored,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday. “That’s the most important thing. That’s bigger than basketball.”

Source: ESPN

7.Study: India’s polluted air cutting short 660 million lives
More than half of India’s population may be facing a shortened life expectancy due to filthy air, according to a study published Saturday in the journal Economic & Political Weekly. Using previous research on China’s air pollution, the study found that 660 million people were breathing in unsafe levels of fine particulate matter and losing at least 3.2 years of their lives as a result. “The extent of the problem is actually much larger than what we normally understand,” Anant Sudarshan, one of the study’s co-author’s and the India director of the Energy Policy Institute of Chicago, said.

Source: The New York Times

8.Sprawling storm brings fatal snow, ice to South and East
Yet another weekend storm dumped snow, sleet and, and ice across the South and East from Saturday into Sunday. At least 21 people died in Tennessee from storm-related fatalities, including hypothermia, as Gov. Bill Haslam (R) upgraded the state of emergency there to Level 2. Further north, Washington, D.C., and New York City each saw about five inches of snow, while snowed-in Boston received about another inch of powder.

Source: USA Today, CBS

9. NASCAR driver Kurt Busch loses final appeal
NASCAR driver Kurt Busch on Saturday lost the final appeal of his indefinite suspension from racing. NASCAR suspended Busch on Fridayafter a Delaware judge ruled he choked and beat his ex-girlfriend. The ruling means Busch will miss Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500.

Source: The Chicago Tribune

10.Academy Awards to crown best in film Sundaynight
The 87th Academy Awards will be held tonight as Hollywood’s award season culminates with its most prestigious event. Birdman and Boyhoodare expected to take home the night’s top honors. Neil Patrick Harris will host the show for the first time.

Source: ABC

Scott Walker Declines To Say Whether He Thinks Obama ‘Loves America’ (VIDEO)

R7q0qaxrtbaa2dtwgbpx

CNBC Screenshot

TPM LiveWire

CNBC’s Becky Quick asked Walker on Thursday morning to respond to a report that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) dissed the President at a private dinner, which the governor also attended.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said, as quoted by Politico. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

“The mayor can speak for himself,” Walker said on “Squawk Box.” “I’m not going to comment on what the President thinks or not. He can speak for himself as well.”

“I’ll tell you, I love America,” he continued. “There are plenty of people, Democrat, Republican, independent, and in between who love this country. I think we should talk about ways we love this country and that we feel passionately about America.”

Co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin wasn’t going to let Walker evade the question.

“But did you agree with those comments? Were you offended? What was your reaction when you heard them?” he pressed.

“I’m in New York. I’m used to people saying things that are aggressive out there,” the governor responded.

Co-host Joe Kernen then turned back to Sorkin, sparing Walker the pressure of the hot seat. Kernen asked Sorkin whether he thought America was exceptional, then chided him for answering that he’d “like to think America is exceptional” instead of simply stating “yes I think America is exceptional.”

“That might be one of the reasons certain people might think — you know, that may play into that perception,” Kernen said before throwing his hands up. “I’m not going to touch this hot potato either.”

Watch below:

THE WEEK: Most Popular Stories This Week: 2-1-2015 to 2-8-2015

Best of The Week

POLITICS

The appalling, incoherent selfishness of Chris Christie’s vaccine ‘choice’

BY RYAN COOPER

Sacrificing herd immunity infringes others’ rights

ARTS

The 14 stages of responding to the To Kill a Mockingbird sequel

BY SCOTT MESLOW

From shock to awe

HEALTH

Your close-minded disdain for anti-vaxxers isn’t helping anyone

BY PASCAL-EMMANUEL GOBRY

Try to understand where they’re coming from

U.S.

The Supreme Court challenge against ObamaCare is rapidly falling apart

BY SCOTT LEMIEUX

Do the Affordable Care Act truthers stand a chance?

POLITICS

Scott Walker and the art of winning

BY MATT K. LEWIS

Lots of conservative lawmakers abide by their core principles. But most of them lose.

POLITICS

What the 529 savings fiasco reveals about the Obama coalition

BY MARC AMBINDER

This does not bode well for tax reform

BUSINESS

The end of Europe? Why Greece’s exit from the euro would have repercussions far beyond economics.

BY NOAH MILLMAN

A Grexit would call Europe’s great civilizational project into question

SPEED READS

Sen. Thom Tillis: Employees shouldn’t have to wash hands after using the bathroom

BY JON TERBUSH

The North Carolina senator identified one place where he believes government regulation has overstepped

SEE ALL CARTOONS

The GOP: Still the Party of Stupid

Reuters (3)

The Daily Beast ~ Michael Tomasky

That Scott Walker speech was great? It was shallow, tedious, and wrong. In other words, it struck the perfect chord for today’s GOP voters.

That Scott Walker speech was great? It was shallow, tedious, and wrong. In other words, it struck the perfect chord for today’s GOP voters.
Mitt Romney definitely had his down sides as a candidate: the retread factor, and,as I noted two weeks ago, the fact that he made all those dramatic and (apparently) wrong predictions about the future of the economy. But I will say this for him. He did pass the this-guy-looks-and-sounds-like-a-plausible-president test. I always thought that was his greatest strength. He’s central casting.None of these remaining people looks much like a president, with the exception of Jeb Bush; and more to the point, they don’t sound like presidents either. They sound like they’re running for RNC chairman at best, or more likely leader of the Tea Party caucus. So despite all this spin from conservatives about what a strong field this is, as usual the opposite is the truth. It’s an astonishingly weak field, unified not only in their opposition to Barack Obama and the federal government but also in their hostility to actual ideas that might stand a chance of addressing the country’s actual problems.

I’ve just been reading through their “books.” Yes, I know. You’re welcome. They’re ridiculous. I can’t say this with 100 percent certainty, but I may not have seen the word “wages” once. I certainly didn’t see a discussion of wage stagnation anywhere. That’s just one of a hundred examples I could cite.

It’s not so much that they come up short in terms of personal resumes. God knows, the current incumbent had a short one. Being a sitting or former governor, or a sitting senator—those are qualification enough. And I don’t doubt that they’re intelligent people.

But the problem in the first instance isn’t them. Let me put it this way. The greatest cardiologist in the world could move to town. But if everybody wants to eat chili-cheese fries all day and nobody wants to have bypass surgery, there’s still going to be a lot of heart disease.

You follow me? There could be a man in this presidential field who is the political equivalent of that cardiologist—Lincoln and TR and Reagan all rolled into one, with a little bit of Thatcher on the side and what the hell, a tiny dash of Clinton, just for crossover appeal. And it wouldn’t matter. He wouldn’t be able to demonstrate the breadth of his vision, because that isn’t what the GOP base of today wants.

I finally sat myself down and watched that Scott Walker speech from last week that everyone is raving about. If this was the standout speech, I sure made the right decision in not subjecting myself to the rest of them. It was little more than a series of red-meat appetizers and entrees: Wisconsin defunded Planned Parenthood, said no to Obamacare, passed some kind of law against “frivolous” lawsuits, and moved to crack down on voter “fraud””—all of that besides, of course, his big move, busting the public-employee unions. There wasn’t a single concrete idea about addressing any of the major problems the country faces.

Walker’s blandishments toward the base were bland enough to get under the skin even of James Pethokoukis, the conservative economics writer who laid into the Wisconsin Governor for one particular bit of surreality:

Opportunity is equal? The data, unfortunately, do not seem to support Walker’s optimistic claim. First, there are other countries, such as Sweden and Canada, where the chances of escaping the bottom are just as good as in the United States. Second, American mobility rates have been stagnant over the past 40 years. Third, mobility rates vary greatly by race with 74 percent of white sons making it out of the bottom fifth versus 49 percent of African-American sons. Fourth, even the smartest kids have only a 1-in-4 chance of making it from the bottom fifth to the top fifth.

That’s a conservative writer, remember. And he’s right, obviously. But try to imagine Walker or any GOP candidate acknowledging these complications. That opportunity is not equal in America! That Sweden and Canada are our equals! That it’s harder on black people! That candidate would be hooted out of Republican Party faster than you can say Charles Murray.

Walker, I see, has surged in a new Iowa poll, while the only one who at least looks like president, John Ellis Bush, has taken a tumble and is viewed more negatively by potential caucus-goers than he once was (46 favorable, 43 unfavorable). We can’t say for sure why Bush has fallen, but it seems clear that Walker has gained on the strength, so to speak, of his empty-calorie bromides.

He’s gained because those items— kicking Planned Parenthood, denying your own citizens subsidized health-care coverage, pretending that voter fraud is a thing—are what pass for ideas in today’s GOP. Walker is even more vacuous on foreign policy, as Martha Raddatz revealed yesterday, twisting him around like a pretzel with a couple of mildly tough questions on Syria. The Democratic Party has its problems, but at least Democrats are talking about middle-class wage stagnation, which is the country’s core economic quandary. Rick Santorum is, in fairness, but a) his solutions are the same ones conservatives have been advertising for years (lower taxes, less regulation, more two-parent families) and b) he’s not going anywhere in the polls so far, undoubtedly precisely because he’s trying to drop the homosexuality-is-bestiality shtick and talk about actual economic problems.

But you can’t really discuss economic problems as a Republican presidential candidate, because in the pond of voters where you’ll be fishing, “America” has no such problems. Some people—roughly 47 percent of them—have economic problems, but that’s all their fault, you see. So these candidates are about to spend a year pandering to that. That will make them weak in more ways than one.

The Kochs Plan to Buy the 2016 Election for $889 Million

Charles Koch | Attribution: None

PoliticusUSA

The New York Times calls it $900 million. The Washington Post“nearly $1 billion.” CNN simply calls it “staggering.” Ben Ray, spokesperson for Democratic-aligned American Bridge put it best, telling USAToday: “What an obscene amount of money.”

The actual amount announced Monday at the Rancho Mirage Ritz Carlton is $889 million, and that is what the Koch brothers’ political network (17 Koch-funded organizations) plans to spend buying the 2016 elections for corporate America and the 1 percent.

It is, as CNN informs us, “[M]ore money than any private network has ever spent on an election cycle.” It is also as much as either the Republicans or Democrats spend: Compare this to the $675 million spent by the Republican Party in 2012. And the Kochs can spend the money however they want, unlike the RNC.

How much money is that? With a budget of $20 per person you could feed nearly 50 million people better meals than most of them have ever had for one day.

If you go by the approximately $3 the USDA reimburses schoolsfor free student lunches, that $889 million would feed 296 million children. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service said 21 million kids received free or reduced-price lunches in 2013. You do the math.

Oxfam has already announced to the world that the “Richest 1 percent will own more than the rest by 2016.” Apparently, that isn’t enough for the Kochs. They’ve got to have their own country, too.

As The Washington Post reported,

The massive financial goal was revealed to donors during an annual winter meeting here hosted by Freedom Partners, the tax-exempt business lobby that serves as the hub of the Koch-backed political operation, according to an attendee. The amount is more than double the $407 million that 17 allied groups in the network raised during the 2012 campaign.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) were all on hand at the Koch’s retreat for seminars and strategy sessions, greedily rubbing their fingers in anticipation. Not coincidentally, Newsmax tells us that,

Most of the 450 who attended the weekend event weren’t interested in another Mitt Romney run. They leaned more toward Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

What we can take from Charles Koch’s welcome speechSaturday, is that the Big Lie is alive and well in the Koch family: “Americans have taken an important step in slowing down the march toward collectivism,” he said. Of course, collectivism is not a threat and the Kochs are huge corporate welfare queens, more than happy to take our tax dollars from the federal government they excoriate.

Like his bought men, Walker, Rubio, Paul, and Cruz, Charles Koch is simply inventing threats out of whole cloth, and reassured guests and employees both,

But as many of you know, we don’t rest on our laurels. We are already back at work and hard at it! In fact, the work never really ends. Because the struggle for freedom never ends.

He claimed that,

Much of our efforts to date have been largely defensive to slow down a government that continues to swell and become more intrusive – causing our culture to deteriorate. Making this vision a reality will require more than a financial commitment. It requires making it a central part of their lives.

So the Kochs are presenting themselves as defenders of American culture now. This, from a man so far removed from American culture he cannot begin to imagine an average American’s life. Yet he claims to be defending our culture. This is the point of Koch’s speech at which the Greek gods would begin casting lightning bolts, for hubris was always mankind’s greatest sin.

Just keep in mind, that freedom he is talking about is serfdom for you and me.

The impact of this amount of money cannot be ignored. As Ben Ray of American Bridge put it, “If they are spending more than the RNC, I know exactly who the (Republican) presidential candidates will listen to.”

And even Grover Norquist told The Washington Post that, “It’s not like a Chicago political boss where Charles would say, ‘We’re all for this guy.’ But if he said, ‘I really like this guy’ and did an op-ed, it would matter.”

Which means Mother Jones is not engaging in mere hyperbole when they say, “It’s official: The Kochs and their rich friends are the new third party.”

Democrats, who have neither a plethora of corporations nor a bevy of 1 percenters to fund their campaigns, will have to work a lot harder to find that kind of cash. Of course, Democrat money will reflect the views of actual Americans rather than the insatiable appetites of the 1 percent.

According to the Post, “The $889 million goal reflects the budget goals of all the allied groups that the network funds. Those resources will go into field operations, new technology and policy work, among other projects.”

The one thing a billion dollars can’t buy are a viable platform or likeable candidates. It remains to be seen whether it is enough to convince blacks, Latinos, women and others that the Republican Party actually cares about them.

But make no mistake: this represents a full-scale assault on American democracy. Ted Cruz was quoted as saying Sunday night that, “There are a bunch of Democrats who have taken as their talking points that the Koch brothers are the nexus of all evil in the world.” He said that thinking is “grotesque and offensive.”

While you have to respect Cruz’s loyalty to his owners, he is wrong. What is grotesque and offensive is what he and his fellow employees of Koch Industries have been up to at the Rancho Mirage Ritz Carlton: plotting the murder of American democracy.