Clarity is good.
Joe Biden is gone. Bernie Sanders is apparently satisfied with his 15 minutes of fame, choosing not to attack Hillary's e-mail vulnerability. The Obama Justice Department won't indict Hillary after Trey Gowdy got nothing. Republicans can focus their 2016 plans on the certainty that Hillary will be the opponent. Some conjecture:
Hillary's EFF campaign is based on Experience (First Lady of Arkansas; First Lady of the United States; Senator from New York; Secretary of State); Female (wouldn't it be great if ...); and Free Stuff (healthcare; college; pre-school; family leave.) Most likely, the Vice President candidate will be Julian Castro, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former mayor of San Antonio. Barack Obama launched his national political identity with the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention; Castro was given the slot in 2012 for the same purpose.
The Republican CIT response is simple: Corruption (Whitewater; Bimbo Eruptions; Marc Rich; the Clinton Foundation; e-mails); Incompetence (Russian Re-set; Benghazi; Keystone; South China Sea); and Turn the Page (replace Obamacare; fix the tax code; fix immigration; restore America's leading role in the world; and, maybe, a generational change.)
The Republicans have a couple of big advantages in this contest:
1. Super PACs can lead the charge on the Corruption and Incompetence themes. They don't have to be aligned with any candidate, and they can begin now. There is plenty of money; there are plenty of willing spokesmen; there is plenty of content. Some of the old staples - Karl Rove's American Crossroads; Matt Rhoades' America Rising; and the Koch Brothers' network which will spend almost $900 million on a broad range of 2016 campaigns - are being joined by Future45, bankrolled by hedge fund billionaires Ken Griffin and Paul singer, as well as TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts. By the first Tuesday in November 2016, every sentient being in America will understand that Hillary was fired from her first job on the Watergate prosecution team for her dishonesty, that her time in Arkansas was filled with financial corruption, and that her time with the Clinton Foundation mixed substantial personal financial gain with favors at the State Department. Recent polling has her underwater 34% to 61% on "honest and trustworthy"; her e-mail mess is only the latest manifestation of a lifetime of corruption, and the public knows it.
2. With Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House, the Republicans have a credible, knowledgeable, and articulate proponent for tax reform, healthcare reform, and all things related to the economy. Republicans will control the House at least through 2020; Ryan is 45 years old. The eventual Republican presidential candidate will have a partner to work with - in developing detailed proposals, and in getting it done if elected. When the stage has 11 candidates touting their tax plans and budgetary priorities, the audience's eyes glaze over. Once there is a single Republican candidate needing a real plan, Ryan will be able to help shape it, give it credibility, and get it through the Congress.
The budget deal between John Boehner and Barack Obama - setting budgets for FY2016 and 2017, and pushing the debt limit out to 2017 - also lets the Republican candidates look to the future without getting bogged down in battles with the Freedom Caucus. There will be a week or two of sniping about John Boehner and the abandonment of the hard-won restraint of the 2011 sequester, but Republican anger can now be directed against Obama and Hillary rather than against other Republicans. How much better the debates can be if the contestants focus on the common enemy rather than moderator-induced attacks on each other.
Knowing who the opposition will be allows the Republican electorate to focus on the two simple questions - who will be the best president and who is best positioned to beat Hillary. The good news is that a Republican president should be able to do what they promise, so long as it is not too outlandish (like low flat taxes), and they have the proven ability to manage and lead.
This week's video, a parody of an advertisement by one of those evil pharmaceutical companies, comes courtesy of a vigilant reader in Connecticut.
bill bowen - 10/30/2015