The Battlefield, October 21, 2016 – The Disappointing Weakness Of Marco Rubio

At one point Marco Rubio, who is likely to win re-election to his Senate seat in Florida in two and a half weeks, was seen as one of a select few Republican presidential hopefuls who could thread the needle and unite the GOP electorate’s two major factions. Rubio, after all, was elected in 2010 as a Tea Party candidate over the smarmy former governor Charlie Crist, then the choice of the “moderate” establishment, and Crist would soon alight for the Democrat Party after running for that Senate seat as an independent in the general election. Rubio’s victory marked him as a rising star, and several anti-establishment, constitutional conservative positions he took after his election aligned him with some of the party’s other young conservative stars like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Lee.

But Rubio also played the game in ways that Cruz, Lee and Paul did not. Rubio allowed himself to be brought into the Gang of Eight, which slapped together a poorly-thought-out immigration reform deal which the American people wanted no part of. That may have damaged him in the eyes of conservative voters, but it at least marked him among the party’s establishment as someone with whom he could do business.

And in advance of the 2016 election cycle it was Rubio and Scott Walker who looked like the most likely GOP nominees, as both had records which should have given them some credibility on both sides of the party’s internal divide.

Walker left the race early, seeing that with Donald Trump in it there would be major trouble along the way if the party couldn’t unify around one better alternative. The fact that he’d hired campaign staff poorly and wasted a sizable bankroll in the early going made that decision easy. But Rubio hung around for a while, and at one point his partisans had a credible argument that of Trump, Cruz, himself and John Kasich Rubio was the candidate who would actually win the election. His partisans still make that argument, and on the surface it still resonates.

To an extent.

In a statement to ABC News earlier this week Rubio was asked about the Wikileaks disclosures that have plagued Hillary Clinton and the Democrats since the summer, and his response was cringe-inducing – rather than a potential bridge candidate for a future presidential cycle between the grassroots base and the donor class, he came off as a wimp neither side can really count on.

Sen. Marco Rubio tells ABC News that Republicans are making a mistake by jumping on allegedly hacked emails released by WikiLeaks to criticize Hillary Clinton. In fact, he says he won’t talk about the hacked emails at all.

“As our intelligence agencies have said, these leaks are an effort by a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process, and I will not indulge it,” Rubio tells ABC News. “Further, I want to warn my fellow Republicans who may want to capitalize politically on these leaks: Today it is the Democrats. Tomorrow it could be us.”

What nonsense.

First of all, it isn’t definitively true that the Wikileaks documents are the product of Russian hackers, though it’s likely that’s true. At the presidential debate Wednesday night Hillary Clinton made the claim that all 17 of the intelligence agencies of the U.S. government have declared the Russians responsible, but that was a gross exaggeration with the stink of a lie – in fact, only two agencies have made any such claim. Writing at National Review, Fred Fleitz of the Center For Security Policy debunked that statement…

What Clinton said was false and misleading. First of all, only two intelligence entities – the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – have weighed in on this issue, not 17 intelligence agencies. And what they said was ambiguous about Russian involvement. An unclassified October 7, 2016 joint DNI-DHS statement on this issue said the hacks

. . . are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow — the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europa and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.

Saying we think the hacks “are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts” is far short of saying we have evidence that Russia has been responsible for the hacks. Maybe high-level officials would have authorized them if Russian hackers were responsible, but the DNI and DHS statement did NOT say there was evidence Russia was responsible.

Fleitz goes on to say that he’s not convinced the Russians are indeed responsible, and at this point the only real conclusion anyone can make about the DNC and John Podesta e-mail hacks is that the Democrats are pitifully unconcerned about cybersecurity.

Which is a policy wonk’s conclusion. Rubio isn’t a policy wonk; he’s a politician. And that means his statements in the middle of an election cycle should be calibrated to politics, if that diverges from policy.

Which in this case it does. Because Hillary’s declaration that It Was The Russians! is based in politics – even if it does ultimately prove true. If Hillary didn’t think there was political profit in trying to build a narrative that Trump is Vladimir Putin’s potential puppet president, and thus make the accusation that Putin has his spies hacking the Democrats and dumping out their dirty laundry on Wikileaks to help Trump, then she wouldn’t go there.

As Alt-Trump said in the debate and real Trump damn well should have, Hillary Clinton has no business calling anyone Putin’s puppet. Donald Trump didn’t give away a large chunk of America’s uranium reserves to a company owned by the Russian government, and it wasn’t Donald Trump who cooked up the stupid “reset” button with the Russians. That was Hillary. And by the way, let’s not forget what the “reset” button was all about – it was the cessation of harsh sanctions against Putin as punishment for his having invaded his southern neighbor Georgia, in the Caucasus. Putin did that in the summer of 2008, and George W. Bush imposed those sanctions in response while docking U.S. Navy ships at a Georgian port to deliver humanitarian relief – which was, in retrospect, a fairly spirited and plucky response short of saber-rattling and risking war.

Hillary and Obama decided it would be better to ignore and forgive the Georgian incursion, and for their trouble they got the Russian annexation of the Crimea and an ongoing low-level war in eastern Ukraine. Trump had nothing to do with that policy failure, and no matter how weak he might be as president where Putin is concerned Hillary has zero record from which she can claim she’s tough or effective in dealing with the Russians.

Including where it comes to cybersecurity; after all, Hillary was the one with the private, unsecured server in somebody’s bathroom on which state secrets and other classified information rested. Fleitz’ observation that Hillary and her party are pathetically weak when it comes to securing their own party IT infrastructure is the top takeaway from the Wikileaks product of the last several months.

And Rubio brought none of this to the table, which infuriates his own voters regardless how much goodwill he may have ginned up among Democrats who will never vote for him anyway.

Rather than the moralizing statements on Wikileaks, Rubio’s release to ABC News should have read more like this…

I’m not comfortable with the source of those Wikileaks e-mails, as I suspect it might have originated with the Russians. And as such, it’s entirely possible that Republicans are next.

But I will say that what’s in John Podesta’s e-mails, just like what was in the DNC’s e-mails, is evidence these people don’t need to be anywhere near the White House going forward. They’re corrupt, they’re cynical, they deal in lies and propaganda and they have a very deep and disturbing disdain for the American people they purport to govern. That’s clear to anyone willing to look at it objectively. If they’re going to have this kind of corruption in writing on their e-mail servers maybe they need a better firewall – against the Russians, or whoever.

And I will also say, as somebody who has been in on a number of the high-level Republican e-mail threads that would be, I suppose, analogous to what Wikileaks has released, that the effect on our party from a similar release would not be the same. People might say there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats, but my experience is that isn’t true. You won’t find the kind of dirty dealing and cynicism on our side that you regularly see in these disclosures; we’re just not that sophisticated, I guess. And furthermore, we’re not that arrogant. Our experience is that the media simply won’t allow us to get away with the kind of shenanigans Wikileaks shows the Democrats engage in, and therefore we’re conditioned to play things a lot straighter. For example, you saw what the DNC did to make sure Bernie Sanders wasn’t the nominee – well, look who’s the GOP nominee.

And that might make it harder for us to win elections, but I don’t think I’d change it about us.

Now – that statement to ABC News probably doesn’t make the air. But it’s also one that paints Marco Rubio as a standard-bearer among the GOP’s potential 2020 hopefuls. And it’s a defensible statement, because while a hack of the GOP’s e-mail servers would no doubt produce something the media could get outraged about, the basic point is true – if the Republican Party was as Machiavellian as some think it is, Trump would never have been allowed to win the nomination.

Hell, it would probably have been Rubio.

The fact that it wasn’t might well be a product of the clay-footed GOP establishment, but it’s also clearly a reflection on Rubio as well. Perhaps he’s too young and inexperienced, perhaps he’s naive and earnest to a fault. But what he clearly lacks at this point is a political killer instinct, at a time when the Democrats are as ruthless as they’ve ever been. It’s easy to project Rubio as the candidate who would have cleaned Hillary’s clock in November, but the more his instincts are examined the more he starts to look like the guy who can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

 

Simplistic-Weapon-12-Battle-Axes-in-Saltire – Seen what’s going on with the Obamacare premiums? Just with this, you can declare Obama’s presidency a failure. Assuming, of course, that you believe the point of Obamacare was to actually improve access to healthcare – which would probably make you a rube.

Single-payer, here we come

The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein penned a prescient column in February, arguing that Obamacare was “off to a rocky” start in 2016. In the piece, he noted that potential political pain for Democrats would start to make headlines and land in consumers’ mailboxes around…well, right about now: “For months leading up to the election, voters are going to be hearing more and more about staggering rate increases coming in 2017. And this year, open enrollment – when individuals shopping for insurance can start to go online and see the premiums on new plans — begins on Nov. 1, or just one week before the election. This means that for the months, weeks, and days leading up to the election, the Democratic presidential nominee and all of the party’s Congressional candidates are going to have to contend with news of sky-rocking rates coming from Obamacare as insurers struggle to make the business profitable,” he wrote.  And that is exactly how things are playing out.  USA Today is out with new reporting confirming that Obamacare rate spikes are being approved by regulators across the country — some even green-lighting increases above and beyond what insurers requested:

State insurance regulators across the country have approved health care premium increases higher than those requested by insurers, despite a national effort to keep rates for policies sold on Affordable Care Act exchanges from skyrocketing, a USA TODAY analysis shows. In eight states, regulators approved premiums that were a percentage point or more higher than carriers wanted, said Charles Gaba, a health data expert at ACASignups.net who analyzed the rates for USA TODAY. As of Tuesday, those states are Arizona, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota and Utah…“To consumers, this seems terrible like, ‘Oh, they’re price gouging us,’ ” Gaba said. “But part of regulators’ jobs is to keep insurance companies solvent so they can continue to give people insurance.” In fact, this year many insurance carriers have requested premium rate increases that are closer to what regulators think are appropriate, says Gaba. “Ideally you want what’s requested to be what’s necessary,” he added. “And that was part of what happened.” Insurer withdrawals from some markets and rate hikes of more than 50% in some areas prompted fears that some insurance marketplaces were at risk of collapsing.

And here’s a fun map…

Virtually all of the economics surrounding Obamacare and the demands made on insurers by the law are flawed, and the market is now bent to the breaking point. By early next year Obamacare will collapse under its own weight, and it will blow a massive hole through the health-care industry.

And the Democrats will insist on another Medicaid expansion to cover the middle class people who no longer have health insurance, which is nothing but single-payer health insurance under another name.

It’s coming. Some Republicans up on Capitol Hill had better have a plan to deal with that demand, and it had better be good.

Oh, just in case you might want to give Obama the middle finger for the mess he’s made of the health-care system, so you’ll know – he refuses all blame for anything.

 

Simplistic-Weapon-12-Battle-Axes-in-Saltire – And now, for Today’s Last Thing.

We’ve got something a bit more serious than usual in this installment, but we think it’s important to include. It’s a message from Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, about the fact that his financial partner and chief investor Peter Thiel is a Trump supporter. There have been people demanding Thiel be thrown off Facebook’s board over his choice, which is appalling.

But Zuckerberg actually understands the First Amendment, thank God, and he’ll have none of that.

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