Thursday, March 5, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Potpourri - March, 2015


The announcement that long-time liberal Maryland Senator
Barbara Mikulski would retire in 2016 is another blow to
Democratic party hopes to regain control of the U.S. senate
next year. Although Maryland has been a reliable liberal
blue state for some time, Republican Larry Hogan won an
upset victory for governor in 2014, and the conservative party
has a potentially serious candidate for the seat. On the
Democratic side, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, a rising
star in the national party, has already announced for the open
seat. At least two other liberal Maryland congressmen, Elijah
Cummings and Donna Edwards, could be formidable
candidates for the seat. Today, conservative physician Ben
Carson is running for president in 2014, and he has already
attracted unusual attention in his party’s grass roots, but
he is almost certain not to win the GOP presidential
nomination. On the other hand, Carson could be a very
formidable Republican senate nominee in 2016, especially
since Maryland has such a large black population. Not having
experience in elected office, his presidential ambitions are
now unfulfillable, but as a U.S. senator in 2020 or 2024, he
could be a much more serious candidate.


Florida GOP Senator Mario Rubio seems on the brink of
announcing for president in 2016, but state law prevents him
from also being on the ballot for his re-election to the senate
that same year. This would create an open seat, and a
potential for a Democratic pick-up. Some observers note that
Rubio might indeed choose not to run for senate in 2016, and
if he loses the presidential nomination, run for Florida
governor in 2018. Democratic (18th C.D.) Congressman Patrick
Murphy is an early favorite to get the liberal party nod for an
open senate seat, and could be formidable. On the GOP side,
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is a likely
contender. Congressman Ron DiSantis (6th C.D.) and former
Speaker of the Florida House Will Weatherford are also serious
potential candidates.


Like Senator Rubio in Florida, GOP Senator Rand Paul of
Kentucky also is up for re-election in 2016 and is also almost
certain to be a candidate for president in the same year. As
in Florida, a candidate can only run for one federal office in
the same year. Unlike Mr. Rubio, Mr. Paul would have little
follow-up prospects if he lost the presidential nomination (now
likely) and gave up his senate seat.


Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave one of the
most historic and important speeches of the decade
when he addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
Calling the current U.S. position in the negotiations with
Iran a “bad deal,” Mr. Netanyahu delineated a lucid and
devastating argument. Understandably, President Obama
and his White House staff were upset to have their position
so effectively undermined, and went to great lengths, both
before and after Mr Netanyahu’s remarks, to diminish them.
Most commentators, however, afterwards cited the White
House ineptness in calling so much attention to the speech that
otherwise might have not reached so many Americans and thus
had such impact. With only days left to the deadline for an
agreement, it would appear that any successful negotiation that
does not much more permanently block development of Iranian
nuclear weapons will fail. [Congressional Republicans, so often
outwitted in public relations contests with the White House,
might learn a few lessons from Mr. Netanyahu (who attended
high school in Philadelpha and college in Boston).]


Senate Democrats were successful once again in blocking
Republican attempts to vote on alternatives to U.S. immigration
policy through the funding bill for the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security. As I have previously suggested, this kind
of stalemate will continue until Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell and his colleagues find a way to prevent the
Democratic minority from blocking votes on key conservative
legislation. When the Democrats were in the majority, they
overcame such action by Republicans by abolishing the filibuster
device for similar legislation. With Republican and many
independent voters wanting the new senate GOP majority to
act effectively, it might be necessary for Mr. McConnell and
his caucus to adopt the very same rules the Democrats so
recently did.


The recent revelations that then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton used a private e-mail account instead of an official one
(as mandated by the law) has thrown her frontrunning presidential
campaign into some disorder. Most observers, including this one,
speculated that the controversy would soon blow over, but the
clumsiness of the handling of the matter by the Clinton
organization, and perhaps inherent weakness in her public image,
have given the affair some surprising legs. The fact that Mrs.
Clinton criticized the George W. Bush administration in 2007 (on
a video now being widely circulated) for having secret e-mail
accounts is making her actions all the more indefensible.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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