Tweets of 26 April Primary Night

Bernie Sanders bores me to tears

Bernie Sanders has achieved something I never thought possible: he causes me to experience mild enthusiasm for the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

Oh, how I tire of the sanctimonious lecturing from the lofty heights of permanent opposition; the wilful neglect of the reliaties and restraints of constitional government; the lack of scrutiny applied to a batshit-crazy platform that would expand the federal government by 50 percent, and has as much chance of passing as a basketball through a hose.

Of course the economy is rigged to benefit the top one percent, Bernie. Of course the campaign finance system is a rort.  Bellowing these truisms from a rooftop of self-styled moral superiority has a political degree of difficulty of less than zero.

The question for somebody in the business of enacting change, as opposed to merely calling for it in front of adoring crowds, is how to confront and overcome such challenges in a political system designed to make doing so as difficult as possible.

Bernie has no interest in this, of course. Apart from his tenure of Mayor of Burlington, Bernie has luxuriated throughout his entire career in the warm bosom of the backbenches.  Actually, scratch that: not the backbenches as much as the cross-benches, because, until Bernie decided he wanted to be the party's presidential standard-bearer, Sanders wasn't even a Democrat.  Being member of a political party was beneath him; would implicate him in too many messy compromises and imperfect policy outcomes.  Much safer to holler from the outer, like a soccer hooligan who lashes both teams with equal ferocity to demonstrate fealty to the purist conceivable manifestation of the sport.

Bernie cannot win more than a handful of minority voters.  He has no plausible excuse for this.  If any other candidate scored so poorly among blacks and Hispanics, the Bernie crowd would –– for good reason –– argue that such a person has no right to occupy the top of the Democratic ticket.  White college towns and ethnically homogenous caucus states shouldn't be enough –– in 2016 for fuck's sake –– to propel any Democratic candidate in the vaguest direction of the White House.

As for head-to-head polls that show him stronger than Clinton in a general election match-up, here's two points:

1.  Try as I might, I can't think of a single thing less meaningful than a general election poll in March;

2.  Bernie has been subjected to next to no scrutiny (in contrast to Hillary, who's been scrutinised without pause for 25 years).  As soon as swing voters get wind of his radically expansionist agenda, they would run a mile.  Not that it will ever come to that.

So, Bernie, get back to the Senate where you belong (well, stay in the primary race if you like; it's only making Hillary stronger).  Rage against the machine.  Fight the good fight.  But stop this charade that you have anything near what it takes to occupy the White House in anything other than an Aaron Sorkin-penned fantasy. 

Twitter Highs and Lows of the Detroit GOP Debate

A Minor Tweetstorm on the Australian Republic and the New Zealand Flag

In two superb columns, mortified conservative intellectuals Brooks and Kagan elucidate Trump's rise

David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnists, is infuriating because he has a tendency to write almost-brilliant opinion pieces that disintegrate on scrutiny.  He is also prone to infatuation with whomever he happens to be reading at the time.  That said, like a broken clock, he gets it right from time to time.  Never more so than his column today in which he traces the rise of 'anti-politics':

 Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right — want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.

Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interests and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.

The anti-politics tendency, Brooks correctly says, is self-serving because it's effect is to degrade the political process, a self-fulfilling prophecy: 

 The antipolitics people refuse compromise and so block the legislative process. The absence of accomplishment destroys public trust. The decline in trust makes deal-making harder.

We’re now at a point where the Senate says it won’t even hold hearings on a presidential Supreme Court nominee, in clear defiance of custom and the Constitution. We’re now at a point in which politicians live in fear if they try to compromise and legislate. We’re now at a point in which normal political conversation has broken down. People feel unheard, which makes them shout even louder, which further destroys conversation.

Inevitably, he turns to Donald Trump, who he describes as: 

...the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means.

....

Trump’s supporters aren’t looking for a political process to address their needs. They are looking for a superhero. 

This is insightful stuff, and it helps explain the rise of anti-politics way beyond America's borders. 

Meanwhile, Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution, a neo-conservative known mainly for his foreign policy views, has taken to the Washington Post's opinion pages to weigh in on Trump's rise, placing the blame squarely at the feet of the GOP establishment:

 Let’s be clear: Trump is no fluke. Nor is he hijacking the Republican Party or the conservative movement, if there is such a thing. He is, rather, the party’s creation, its Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now made strong enough to destroy its maker. Was it not the party’s wild obstructionism — the repeated threats to shut down the government over policy and legislative disagreements, the persistent calls for nullification of Supreme Court decisions, the insistence that compromise was betrayal, the internal coups against party leaders who refused to join the general demolition — that taught Republican voters that government, institutions, political traditions, party leadership and even parties themselves were things to be overthrown, evaded, ignored, insulted, laughed at? Was it not Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), among others, who set this tone and thereby cleared the way for someone even more irreverent, so that now, in a most unenjoyable irony, Cruz, along with the rest of the party, must fall to the purer version of himself, a less ideologically encumbered anarcho-revolutionary? This would not be the first revolution that devoured itself.

 

Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institutions and The New York Times' David Brooks  

Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institutions and The New York Times' David Brooks  

Twitter Highs and Lows From The Texas GOP Debate

Twitter Highs and Lows From The Milwaukee Democratic Debate

Labour joins swoon for random American "expert" on TPPA

As I explained in an earlier post, Jane Kelsey's anti-TPPA roadshow features a minor anti-trade activist called Lori Wallach, described most flatteringly by the NZ Herald as a "leading expert". It's abundantly obvious that Wallach's credentials have been greatly inflated by Kelsey and others; and that, predictably enough, the NZ media have fallen under The Spell of the International Expert, a peculiar form of colonial cringe that involves imbuing anyone with a foreign accent instant gravitas whether they deserve it or not. Wallach is a casebook study. 

I'm late to this, but conservative commentator Matthew Hooton was leaked an email that shows Labour has fallen for the trick too.   

Matt McCarten, Andrew Little's chief of staff, wrote* to all Labour employees: 

Hi All

The leading critic of TPPA, Jane Kelsey has offered to brief Labour Party staff at 4pm today with Lori Wallach (the American trade analyst/commentator) before their Wellington public meeting.  

Grant Robertson who spoke for us at the Auckland public meeting found Lori quite useful and interesting, especially her analysis of the US Congress and political situation.   

I think this is a great opportunity for staff to hear from both experts and encourage you to attend....

* the punctuation's all Matt's.

 ________

This is fairly alarming. 

Wallach is a fringe activist from the Nader-left in the US. There are plenty of serious trade critics in Washington, largely from within organised labour and the Democratic Party establishment, but Wallach is not one of them. As I wrote earlier, she may be an unheralded genius -- but, make no mistake, Wallach is decidedly, utterly, unheralded. The idea that Labour would take a steer from Lori Wallach on the TPPA should be troubling to anyone who cares about the state of that party. Wallach is simply not a credible voice outside of alternative media circles and the far-left flank of the US political spectrum.  

A related issue: Kelsey and Wallach oppose every trade deal out of principle. There is no conceivable version of the TPPA that either could support. To that extent, how useful is their counsel to a party that claims to support free trade in principle? The answer, quite clearly, is not at all. When you call in Kelsey and Wallach for advice, you must know what form it will take. Just more evidence, if it were needed, that the protectionist elements of the former Alliance have staged what amounts to a silent coup within Labour on trade policy.  

US Campaign Update, 29/01/16: Top 10 Stories

1. In Bloomberg, Mark Niquette reports that Sanders singles out Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in his latest campaign ad.

 

While the ad doesn't mention Clinton by name, the Vermont senator has criticized her for the $675,000 she was paid for three speeches she gave to the firm in 2013. It's the latest effort by Sanders to tap voter anger about what he calls a “rigged economy,” with polls showing Sanders and Clinton in a close race in Monday's Iowa caucuses.
As the words “Goldman Sachs” appear on the screen, with the firm's Jersey City office depicted, the ad mentions the firm's agreement announced on Jan. 14 to settle a U.S. investigation into its handling of mortgage-backed securities. It helped trigger “the financial meltdown” and put millions of people out of their jobs and homes, the ad says.
“How does Wall Street get away with it? Millions in campaign contributions and speaking fees,” the ad says. “Our economy works for Wall Street because it's rigged by Wall Street, and that's the problem. As long as Washington is bought and paid for, we can't build an economy that works for people.”

 

 

2. In Reuters, Chris Kahn reports that Michael Bloomberg could boost Trump’s bid for White House, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

In a matchup between Trump and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, adding Bloomberg's name to the ballot would trim Clinton's lead over Trump to six percentage points from 10, according to the poll conducted from Jan. 23 to Jan. 27.
In a Trump versus Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders matchup, adding Bloomberg would erode Sanders' lead over Trump to seven points from 12, the poll results showed.
In all matchups, Bloomberg himself would land just 10 percent or less of the vote in November.

 

 3. In CNN, Kevin Bohn writes about a new super PAC that aims to question Donald Trump’s conservative credentials.

 

In its latest spot, slated to start running Friday in Iowa and New Hampshire, Our Principles PAC asks: "Can conservatives trust Donald Trump?" as it hits Trump on changing his position on whether undocumented immigrants should be allowed to eventually apply for citizenship.
 Trump has repeatedly said during the campaign that all of those in the country illegally should be deported. The ad says: "Trump can't handle tough questions like why he'd let millions of illegal immigrants stay in America and even supports a pathway to citizenship."
The ad then uses comments he made in June at an event in Chicago: "You have to give them a path and you have to make it possible to succeed. You have to do that."

 

 5. In CNN, Elizabeth Landers writes about Sanders position on climate change.

 

"I haven't seen any actual scientific evidence that global warming is actually happening," she said. "It's only very recent. So I'd like to know why you think it's happening."
Sanders respond with a polite but firm: "You're wrong." "It is already causing devastating problems in our country and the world. That is what the scientists are saying," he told her.
Sanders often speaks of the need to address greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, and has used his early advocacy on the issue -- including his long-time opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline -- to appeal to liberals in his bid against Hillary Clinton.

 

6. In Reuters, Ginger Gibson reports that Trump draws full house at Drake University.

Donald Trump shunned Thursday night's debate of the Republican presidential candidates hosted by Fox News and instead filled an auditorium a few miles down the road, trying to prove his widespread support only days before Iowa kicks off the U.S. nominating voting process.
Trump, with just one day's notice on a weeknight, was able to fill to capacity a hall at Drake University that holds 700.
"I didn’t want to be here, to be honest, I wanted to be about five minutes away" at the debate, Trump told the crowd. "When you’re treated badly, you have to stick up for your rights - whether we like it or not."

 

 7. In Huffington Post, Ariel Edwards-Levy explains Clinton’s electability argument.

 
To try to gauge how much Clinton's electability argument is resonating, HuffPost teamed with YouGov to probe the views of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters. What we found is that only 8 percent say they're backing somebody who isn't their top choice, but whom they see as more electable. Sixty-two percent say they're supporting their favorite candidate regardless of that consideration, while the rest are undecided or don't plan to vote.
"I am absolutely determined that we're going to make sure we have a Democrat to succeed President Obama so we don't let the Republicans rip away the progress we have made together," Clinton told Iowa voters earlier this month. In New Hampshire, she similarly made what Time magazine described as "a pitch for pragmatism, not passion."
The target audience for Clinton's electability argument also seems to be shrinking.

 

 8. In Bloomberg, Michael C. Bender talks about Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.

 

The one-time front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, Jeb Bush has spent months trying to climb back to the top of crowded race with little success. In an exclusive interview with Bloomberg Politics, the former Florida governor says his campaign will last for the weeks and months to come.
He's hoping to "exceed expectations" in Iowa, have a strong showing in New Hampshire, and have his brother, former President George W. Bush—"the most popular Republican alive"—join him on the campaign trail, probably by South Carolina.
Bush called on everyone of the Republican field to follow his lead—and Mitt Romney's advice—and release their tax returns. He also questioned U.S. Senator Ted Cruz's foreign policy credentials; said his fellow Floridian, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, was "hypocritical" for complaining about political attacks; and said Donald Trump's campaign was about personal ambition.

 

 9. In Huffington Post, Sam Levine argues why Clinton could not be a crusader for women’s rights, according to Rand Paul.

 

Rand Paul said it is hypocritical for Hillary Clinton to push for women's rights because of her husband Bill Clinton's past sexual transgressions.
The Kentucky senator said during Thursday's GOP debate that if a CEO had been found guilty of similar inappropriate behavior, he would be fired, shunned and never hired again. While he said he didn't hold the Democratic candidate responsible, Paul said the former president's actions weakened Hillary Clinton's credibility.
"The thing is, she can't be a champion of women's rights at the same time she's got this that is always lurking out there, this type of behavior. So it is difficult," Paul said.

 

10. In Huffington Post, Jonathan Cohn explains why Cruz dodges the question when pressed on Obamacare replacement.

And it turned out he had no intention of doing so. Cruz proceeded to explain that, with the health care law gone, he’d do three things: allow people to purchase insurance across state lines, decouple employment and insurance, and allow more people to use health savings accounts.
By themselves, these would do very little to help the uninsured get coverage. (Worse still, allowing cross-state purchasing would undermine state regulations on benefits, making it harder for people with serious medical problems to find comprehensive coverage.)
Truth is, Republicans don’t have a better alternative to the health care law. All of their plans result in far fewer people having insurance, or the people with insurance having much weaker coverage -- because making coverage available to all, at affordable prices, requires a combination of spending, taxes and regulation that Republicans can’t abide.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Reuters, James Oliphant explains why Trump’s debate flap throws Republican party into deeper chaos.

 

For months, Trump has chosen to operate in his own political universe, violating the conventional wisdom that governs presidential campaigns, thumbing his nose at conservative institutions ranging from the Fox News Channel to the National Review and advocating policies at odds with party orthodoxy.

And whether he wins the Iowa caucuses on Monday, Trump’s candidacy promises to continue to upend the established political order as the presidential race intensifies ahead of the Nov. 8 election. Most national opinion polls have him with more than 30 percent of the Republican primary electorate — and those voters are showing little sign of switching to anyone else.

“I think he will have made a permanent impact on the process,” Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a 2012 presidential candidate, told Reuters. Trump’s campaign, he said, “is one of those great disruptions that reshapes everything.”

US Campaign Update, 28/01/16: Top 10 Stories

1. In CNN, Tom LoBianco writes about Trump’s event that will benefit veterans.

 

Wednesday morning, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski predicted on "Good Morning America" that "the American people will tune in" for Trump's alternative event "because they want to support that."
But the leader of one veterans group says he doesn't want any donations from Trump's fundraiser.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America founder Paul Rieckhoff tweeted Wednesday that he would decline any contributions that came from the event.
"If offered, @IAVA will decline donations from Trump's event. We need strong policies from candidates, not to be used for political stunts," he said.

 

2. In Bloomberg, Madeline McMahon explains why Carson considers a top-three finish in next week’s Iowa caucuses a success.

Carson suggested he would reassess his campaign if he falls out of the top three in Iowa, as polls in New Hampshire, another early-voting state, also show him trailing.
"I obviously would like to finish in the top three," Carson said said at a Bloomberg Politics breakfast in Des Moines, Iowa. "There’s always a path, but you know, you always have to look at the trends, you have to look at what is happening, what are people saying."
Candidates from both parties are crisscrossing Iowa, an agricultural state of about 3 million people in the U.S. heartland that will hold the first votes of the 2016 election. The Feb. 1 balloting is expected to winnow the Republican field, especially candidates who’ve targeted -- as Carson has -- the religious conservative voters who make up much of the party’s base here.

 

 3. In Des Moines Register, Linh Ta reports that Sanders has criticized Clinton anew during a rally in Mason City.

At the Music Man Square, Sanders fired against Clinton, saying that her campaign is "in trouble" as his poll numbers rise before the Iowa caucus Monday. The latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll shows Clinton and Sanders virtually tied, with Clinton slightly leading. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows Sanders 4 points ahead.
“Needless to say, our opponents are not all that enthusiastic about that reality,” Sanders said, about potentially winning the Iowa caucus. “One of the things they say, 'Bernie Sanders, nice guy, interesting ideas, but he just could not win a general election.'”
He then cited polls from Iowa and New Hampshire that shows him ahead of Clinton in a battle against Donald Trump, saying he would be electable in a general election despite criticisms.

 

4. In The Boston Globe, Annie Linskey writes about Sanders idealism and his skills as political tactician.

 

Sanders may be decrying politics as usual, but he’s also picked up tricks of the trade during his 25 years in Washington. (That’s two years longer than Clinton.) The white-haired 74-year-old comes across more like a philosophy professor than a modern politician. But the last nine months have shown he has the chops to take on the Democrats’ star player, analysts say.
“Bernie Sanders’ political skills were deeply underrated in the beginning of this process,” said Tad Devine, his longtime campaign adviser. “I think people thought of him as somebody who didn’t have the skills to deliver a message on a big stage. ... I think people are just now catching up to the fact that he’s very good at this.”
That includes the Clinton campaign, which has always said the race in early primary states would be close, but didn’t finger Sanders as the likely stalking horse.

 

 5. In Politico, Katie Glueck reports that Cruz will donate $1.5 million to veterans group if Trump debates.

 

A cluster of super PACs backing Ted Cruz pledged on Wednesday to donate $1.5 million to veterans groups if Donald Trump agrees to a one-on-one debate with Cruz.
“In response to Senator Ted Cruz’s challenge of a one-on-one debate, the principal donors of the Keep the Promise I and II super PACs are offering presidential candidate Donald Trump a truly fantastic deal, pledging to donate $1.5 million to charities committed to helping veterans if Mr. Trump agrees to debate Senator Cruz in Iowa,” reads a release from Keep the Promise, the group of super PACs backing the Texan. “This money is in addition to the millions of proceeds available to the veterans as a share of the revenues that this debate could secure from a host network.”
Trump will not participate in Fox News’s Thursday night debate, instead hosting an event at Drake University that his campaign says will benefit veterans.

 

 6. In The New York Times, Alan Rappeport writes about Carson’s presidential campaign in Iowa.

 

For Mr. Carson, the retired neurosurgeon seeking the Republican nomination, it is a daily struggle to stay upbeat and remain true to himself.
“It is much better to do what’s right and lose an election than to do what’s politically expedient and lose your soul,” Mr. Carson said with a sense of resignation during a Tuesday night event that mixed a campaign pitch with a Christian prayer service.
Focusing his efforts on Iowa before Monday’s caucuses, Mr. Carson has been homing in on the evangelical Christians and social conservatives who propelled Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum to caucus victories in the state in the two previous presidential election cycles. Like many flagging candidates, Mr. Carson has started to discredit the polls as flawed surveys that fail to capture the excitement he sees on the campaign trail. Talk of a “surprise” has picked up considerably.

 

 7. In The Associated Press,  Julie Pace explains why Trump will grab more attention as GOP rivals debate.

 

Given Trump's unpredictable nature, some campaigns were preparing for the possibility he could reverse course and take the stage in Des Moines after all. Still, Trump moved forward with plans to host a rally just a few miles away that his campaign said would raise money for wounded warriors.
With Fox carrying the debate, other cable channels were likely to show Trump's event, stealing away at least some viewers who would have otherwise watched the contest.
"I think it's typical Trump," said Don Kass, chairman of Iowa's Plymouth County GOP. "He's betting on him making a bigger splash."
While earlier debates have been instrumental in the rise and fall of several GOP candidates, they have had minimal apparent impact on Trump's standing. He's preferred to make his case to potential voters in national television interviews and on Twitter, and has often faded into the background in the debates

 

8. In Bloomberg, Mark Niquette reports that Sanders is eyeing the notoriously fickle college-age demographic in the Hawkeye State.

With polls showing Sanders locked in a tight race with Hillary Clinton, the Vermont senator expects he'll win the first-in-the-nation caucuses on Monday if there's a high turnout. If not, "we're going to be struggling,'' he said after a campaign stop Tuesday in Des Moines.
That's why Sanders's campaign has focused so intently on mobilizing students and other young people who overwhelmingly support him in polls over Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democratic front-runner. The Sanders campaign is even arranging to drive students to their home precincts, where their backing of Sanders can be more valuable than at their campuses.
"The youth vote is critical,'' said Tad Devine, a senior advisor for Sanders, the Vermont senator. "Without overwhelming support and strong turnout from young voters, we really don’t have a clear path to victory.''

 

9. In CNN, Tom LoBianco reports that Sanders  believes generally in God, but not necessarily organized religion.

The man who has the potential to become the nation's first Jewish president has generally shied away from talk of his upbringing and his faith, but in an interview with The Washington Post published Wednesday, Sanders said he was not "actively involved with organized religion."
"I think everyone believes in God in their own ways," he told Post. "To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together."
Sanders has often limited talk of his upbringing to a single line in his stump speech about his father emigrating from Poland and raising his family in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn.

10. In Reuters, Michelle Conlin writes about Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.

 

In the world of Jeb Bush, the campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination has at times been a whirl of private planes and high-end affairs, according to the federal filings of Bush’s campaign and his Super PAC, Right to Rise, which can raise unlimited funds for Bush as long as it does not coordinate directly with him.
It is not unusual for U.S. presidential candidates to fly private or even sometimes stay in luxury hotels. But some disgruntled donors say they are unhappy with Bush's large outlays, which also include big spending on staff and tens of millions of dollars in ad buys.
Eleven of 16 major donors contacted by Reuters questioned whether it was money well spent, especially given how the one-time frontrunner has stumbled badly in the polls and is now facing questions about whether he should withdraw from the race.

US Campaign Update, 27/01/16: Top 10 Stories

1. In CNN, Eugene Scott and Tom LoBianco report that Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. endorses Trump.

 

Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. is endorsing Donald Trump for president, a blow to the GOP front-runner's chief challenger, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
"(Trump) is a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again," Falwell said in a statement released by Trump's campaign.

 

2. In Huffington Post, Jonathan Cohn reports that Trump plans to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to obtain lower prices of prescription drugs.

 

Trump could be calling for the government to bargain with drugmakers over the price of pharmaceuticals that seniors obtain through Medicare Part D. It’s also possible, although less likely, that he could have something far more ambitious in mind, like having the government negotiate the price for all drugs sold in the U.S.
And of course, it’s possible Trump was speaking off-script, without much attention to detail. It wouldn't be the first time.
But if the reports are right and Trump sticks with his position, he'd be squarely on the Democratic side of a debate that has divided the two parties for at least 20 years. Americans today pay far more for drugs than people living overseas because the governments of other countries deal directly with drug companies and set prices as part of their national health systems.

 

3. In Des Moines Register, Jeff Charis-Carlson reports that Trump won’t participate in the next Republican debate.

 

"Unlike the very stupid, highly incompetent people running our country into the ground, Mr. Trump knows when to walk away," read the statement posted on Trump's Twitter Tuesday night following a campaign appearance in Iowa City.
The businessman had previously said to reporters in Marshalltown earlier that he “probably won’t bother” to participate.
The statement added that Trump would instead hold a fundraising event for wounded veterans rather than taking the stage at the scheduled Fox News/Google debate on Thursday.

 

 4. In Politico, Steven Shepard and Daniel Strauss report that Rand Paul will join the Fox debate.

 

The main stage at Fox News Channel’s Republican presidential primary debate on Thursday night will feature as many as eight candidates — including the return of Rand Paul, who had been booted because of low poll numbers two weeks ago.
The field of candidates invited to Thursday’s debate in Des Moines, Iowa, is comprised of the same seven candidates who participated in the previous debate – Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich – plus Paul, who qualified because of his standing in the most recent polls in Iowa.

 

5. In CNN, Dan Merica reports that Clinton lauds the idea of nominating Obama to the Supreme Court.

 

"Wow. What a great idea. Nobody has ever suggested that to me. Wow," Clinton said to laughter and applause from the audience. "He may have a few other things to do," Clinton added.
After noting how the next president will nominate "at least three" Supreme Court justices and that she isn't happy with the current Supreme Court, Clinton went back to the voter's question.
"I would certainly take that under advisement," Clinton said. "I mean, he is brilliant and he can set forth an argument and he was a law professor. He has got all the credentials."

 

6. In The Boston Globe, Tracy Jan explains why Ted Cruz’s father could give him an edge among conservative Christians.

“If the righteous are not running for office and not even voting, what is left?” he asked during Sunday morning service at Grace Baptist Church in Iowa. “The wicked electing the wicked. And we get what we deserve.”
Meet Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz’s 76-year-old father, a crucial — if sometimes divisive — element of the Texas senator’s campaign to win over conservative Christian voters. The senior Cruz’s crusades at churches across Iowa have paid big dividends; with strong support among evangelicals, Cruz has pulled within striking distance of front-runner Donald Trump in next week’s first-in-the-nation caucus.

 

7. In Politico, Anna Palmer writes about Rubio’s final strategy in Iowa.

 

"Will faith influence me as president? Absolutely," Rubio told potential caucus-goers at Marshalltown Community College. "Our nation should hope that our next president is someone who every day and every night and at every moment drops to their knees and asks the Lord for guidance and asks the holy spirit for inspiration and asks him for wisdom. The wisdom of Solomon to make difficult decisions on behalf of the greatest and most important country."
Rubio's move to highlight his faith and how he would govern as a Christian comes as he has reintroduced the more optimistic part of his personal biography on the campaign trail. It also comes as his operation sees an opening to try and lock down more of the key Iowa evangelical-voter bloc as Sen. Ted Cruz's support has shown signs of splintering.

 

 

8. In Reuters, Eric Walsh reports that Joe Arpaio, the provocative Arizona sheriff known for his tough stance on illegal immigration, endorses Trump.

 

“Donald Trump is a leader. He produces results and is ready to get tough in order to protect American jobs and families," Arpaio was quoted as saying.
"I have fought on the front lines to prevent illegal immigration. I know Donald Trump will stand with me and countless Americans to secure our border. I am proud to support him as the best candidate for president of the United States of America,” Arpaio added.
Arpaio, 83, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, since 1993, has been found guilty of racial profiling in a federal court, and been accused of abuse of power, misuse of funds and unlawful enforcement of immigration laws. He bills himself as "America's toughest sheriff."

 

 

9. In Huffington Post, Megan Cassella explains why former Republican presidential candidate George Pataki has endorsed Marco Rubio for the party's presidential nomination.

 

Pataki, a former New York governor who suspended his own presidential bid in late December, said in an interview on Fox News that Rubio's experience in Congress will help him lead the military and stand up to threats from abroad.
"I have no doubt that Marco Rubio is ready today to lead this country, to serve and lead as our president, and to bring us together," he said.

 

 10. In The Associated Press, Ken Thomas reports that Sanders can still win if he loses in Iowa.

 

If I lose Iowa by two votes and end up with virtually the same number of delegates, is that a must-lose situation? Is that a tragedy? No," Sanders said aboard a charter flight en route to Duluth, Minnesota, where he spoke at a rally with 6,000 supporters. "We are running a campaign that will take us to the convention and I'm very proud of the kinds of enormous gains we have made."
Sanders has said previously that he could win Iowa but his comments suggested an attempt to lower expectations in the final week before the caucuses. Asked if the Iowa contest is a must-win, he responded: "That's mythology."
Sanders told reporters earlier in the day in Des Moines that if he could generate large turnout among non-traditional voters, young people and workers, he could claim victory.

Colonial Cringe Elevates Random American in TPPA Debate

I was struck by this story in the NZ Herald: 

 A leading American critic of the Trans Pacific Partnership, Lori Wallach, said New Zealand should not rush into the TPP because there were not the numbers to pass it in the United States Congress*.

"A leading American critic, eh? ", I thought.  I've spent a fair bit of time in the so-called Acela corridor between New York and Washington DC over the past seven years, and have a decent enough memory for names, especially in my favoured arena of politics.  I have never heard of Lori Wallach or the Public Citizen Global Trade Watch organisation from whence she came.  

Now, that alone doesn't add up to much – I don't claim to know everyone. But, when you factor in the tendency of the NZ press to exaggerate the importance and stature of overseas experts, I was skeptical.  I did some digging.  

I'm in New York at the moment, surrounded as it happens by exactly the sort of people who would know "a leading American critic of the Trans Pacific Partnership". My queries about Wallach drew blank stares.  Next stop, Google.  Wallach's online footprint is a feather-light one, and it places her clearly on the fringe of the U.S. political spectrum. She has appeared on DemocracyNow, an online "alternative news" platform pretending be a television channel, popular among Ralph Nader voters and 9/11 truthers, as well as a couple of mentions in The Nation, a decent enough lefty mag but hardly The New York Times or The Atlantic. Oh, and the obligatory hits from the ubiquitous Huffington Post, an outlet known for publishing anyone on anything as long as they don't expect to get paid for it (to be fair, they're hardly Robinson Crusoe on the latter point). 

All in all, not much on the Interwebs on "leading expert" Wallach. 

How about Twitter, inarguably the most influential social media platform when it comes to public policy advocacy in the United States? 

Lori Wallach (@WallachLori) has, as of writing, 1,447 followers.  In New Zealand, perhaps that seems like a decent number – but in the U.S. context, it is hard to overstate how miniscule it is.   

By way of comparison, the National Waste and Recyclying Association, not a renowned D.C. powerhouse, has 4,194 followers. The Cigar rights lobby has more than 14,000. Lori Wallach has one hundred fewer followers than the spokeswoman for the National Onion Association. To her credit, though, Ms. Wallach manages to exceed by ninety the follower number of the California Cling Peaches lobby. 

Does that mean Ms. Wallach has nothing useful to contribute to the debate over the TPPA? Of course not. She may, for all I know, be an underappreciated genius. And I have more respect for TPPA opponents like Wallach and her NZ sponsor, Jane Kelsey, who appear sincere and principled, than those who from both sides of their mouth on the issue. 

But, come on, Lori Wallach is not a "leading critic". She is an extremely minor player, if she qualifies as a player at all.  In truth, her appearance in the NZ Herald article is almost certainly the pinnacle of her lobbying career. 

By all means, let's have a robust debate. But, for god's sake, just because a person takes the effort to fly from the Northern Hemisphere to New Zealand doesn't endow them with instant gravitas.  Nor do we need foreign accents to grant us validation.  It's colonial cringeworthy. 

(For what it's worth – AND, FULL DISCLOSURE, I AM ANYTHING BUT A LEADING EXPERT – here's my view on the subject: the ups and downsides of these mulilateral deals are invariably exaggerated on all sides – and the TPPA, undoubtedly flawed in many respects, is no exception. But the sovereignty argument is massively overcooked, and the notion that New Zealand can afford to opt out of – or selectively ignore – the TPPA is demonstrably ludicrous). 

*Wallach is right to the extent that the US Congress might reject the TPPA, but it has little to do with the merits of the deal.  It will be because the GOP majority in both houses place their unwillingness to hand Obama any kind of victory ahead their philosophical support for free trade.  Wallach may have been clear on that point for all I know. But it didn't take flying her to New Zealand to find that out. A simple Google News search meshed with a bit of common sense would suffice. 

 

US Campaign Update, 26/01/16: Top 10 Stories

1. In Reuters, Ginger Gibson and Steve Holland write about Clinton’s foreign policy, strategy in defeating ISIS and Islamophobia.

 

Clinton, who lost the Democratic primary to Barack Obama in 2008, was for months the clear front-runner to be the party's nominee this time around, but opinion polls have showed a surge of support for Sanders in recent weeks.
She argues that while Sanders' goals on issues such as social inequality are laudable, some are unobtainable and he lacks the experience to tackle a wide range of issues.
"When you're in the White House you cannot pick the issues you want to work on, you've got to be ready to take on every issue that comes your way, including those you cannot predict," Clinton told the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines on Monday.
The Clinton campaign presaged an attack line for Clinton by issuing a news release accusing Sanders of flip-flopping on a variety of issues, such as on gun control and whether he would support normalizing U.S. relations with Iran.

 

 2. In The Boston Globe, Jim O’Sullivan explains why Trump targets Cruz in New Hampshire.

 

Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, kept up his attacks Monday on his closest rival, Senator Ted Cruz, during one of his final appearances in the state before the GOP nomination battle officially kicks off.
 
Coasting for months on a wide lead in polling both nationally and in New Hampshire, Trump made his visit Monday night to a packed high school gymnasium as Cruz continues to gain ground in polls of Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses. Standing at a podium on a stage beneath a “Make America Great Again!” banner, Trump repeated his doubts about presidential eligibility for Cruz, who was born in Canada to a US-born mother and Cuban-born father.

 

 

3. In The Washington Post, Abby Phillip talks about Clinton’s performance in the recent town hall forum hosted by CNN .

 

Clinton's long career in public life has been both a blessing and a curse. They underscore her argument to voters that she has the most experience of any candidate in the Democratic race. But the long history of acrimony between Clinton and her political opponents underlie the uncertainty many voters have about her candidacy.
In her answer, Clinton sought to use the contentiousness of her political life as part as proof that she has been waging a long, hard fight for her causes.
"I’ve been around along time. People have thrown a lot of things at me. I can't keep up with it, I have to keep going forward," Clinton said. "They come up with these outlandish things; they make these charges and I just keep going forward because there’s nothing to it."

 

4. In Bloomberg, Toluse Olorunnipa explains why Clinton’s strengths are also her weaknesses, according to Obama.

 

President Barack Obama said that while Hillary Clinton has the most experience among candidates vying to succeed him, her strengths can sometimes be her weaknesses, allowing Bernie Sanders to make an appeal to the main concerns of the Democratic Party’s core voters.
“Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete long shot, and just let loose. I think Hillary came in with the both privilege and burden of being perceived as the front-runner,” Obama said in an interview with Politico released Monday morning. “If you are a front-runner, then you’re under more scrutiny and everybody’s going to pick you apart.”
The president said Sanders would likely be subjected to more rigorous vetting if he wins early nominating contests. Polls show Sanders competitive with Clinton in the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, the opening contest in the nomination race, and leading in New Hampshire, which holds a primary the following week.

 

5. In ABC News, Benjamin Siegel and Devin Dwyer report why Rubio has downplayed the endorsement of the Des Moines Register.

 

The Florida Republican, who also said he was "grateful" for the Register's endorsement, has struggled to gain traction in Iowa ahead of the caucuses early next month, placing third in a Fox News poll of the state released Sunday behind Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Donald Trump.
In recent days, several top Republicans appear to be coming to terms with a potential Trump victory in Iowa over Cruz. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said he wants Cruz defeated in his state. Former Kansas senator and 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole told the New York Times the Republican Party would suffer with Cruz as the nominee, compared to Trump.
Asked if Trump's standing hurts his chances, Rubio, who has received endorsements from more than a dozen members of Congress, said voters should resist supporting the "next person in line or who the people in Washington tell us we're supposed to be voting for."

 

 6. In The Atlantic, Molly Ball writes about Ted Cruz's revolution.

 

“Ted Cruz is the only committed conservative I’ll have a chance to vote for in my lifetime,” said Rick Zaino, a 50-year-old electrical-service worker. He’s never been involved in a campaign before, but now he spends two hours every night making phone calls and knocking on doors for Cruz. “Republicans and Democrats are both for the government, not the people,” he added. “All our freedoms are being usurped every day.”
Cruz was accompanied in New Hampshire by members of the local GOP insurgency: Bob Smith, an odd duck who managed to get himself elected to two terms in the U.S. Senate before being drummed out by his fellow Republicans in 2002; Jack Kimball, a Tea Partier who became chairman of the state Republican Party, drove it into penury, and was ousted by an establishment cabal in 2011; and William O’Brien, a former speaker of the state House who lost his post a year ago after Democrats joined with moderate Republicans to elect a more congenial GOPer instead. This is the fate that normally awaits renegades. Cruz is betting that times have changed.

 

 7. In Slate, Jim Newell writes about the GOP’s warm treatment to Donald Trump.

 

In reality, the Republican establishment wants to win this election. I don’t want to give GOP elites too much credit now, given how incompetently they’ve managed the cycle so far, but it looks like they’re making an honest-to-goodness “play” here. Some might even call it a “strategy.” The most appropriate term, though, would be “moonshot.”
Their first objective is to take out Cruz. That means stopping him in Iowa. If he loses Iowa, a narrative sets in about how he blew it, and he might then finish out of the top three in New Hampshire. From there, he would likely not be able to make the dominant sweep through the South over the next month that his delegate strategy requires. If we look at Cruz’s Iowa trend line over the past week as he’s been taking incoming fire from all sides, it seems that this part of the plan is working.

 

 8. In Politico, Hadas Gold reports that Trump is afraid of Megyn Kelly.

 

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that Kelly has a "conflict of interest" and shouldn't moderate the debate, leading Fox to issue a statement saying Kelly has no conflict and thanking Trump for "trying to build up the audience for Thursday’s debate, for which we thank him."
On Monday, the network's statement grew serious.
"Sooner or later Donald Trump, even if he’s president, is going to have to learn that he doesn’t get to pick the journalists — we’re very surprised he’s willing to show that much fear about being questioned by Megyn Kelly" a network spokesperson said.

 

 

9. In MSNBC, Alex Seitz-Wald reports that Sanders is planning to raise taxes.

 

“We will raise taxes, yes we will,” Sanders said to moderator Chris Cuomo of CNN at a Democratic forum on the campus of Drake University.
It’s the kind of blunt, un-politician-like talk that has endeared Sanders to his fans, but it’s also a comment ready-made for a political attack ad.
Sanders went on to say that a focus on taxes entirely misses the point, because his plan would reduce health insurance premiums by even more than it would raise taxes. The campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has attacked her opponent’s health plan for tax hikes, a charge Sanders Monday night called “unfair criticism” because his plan would ultimately save people money.

 

 

10. In CNN, Jennifer Agiesta reports that Trump has hit a new high in the race for the Republican nomination, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll.

 

Trump has topped the 40% mark for the first time in CNN/ORC polling, standing at 41%. That more than doubles the support of his nearest competitor, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who notches 19% support in the poll. No other candidate hit double-digits. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio landed at 8%, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 6%, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 5%, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 4%, and the rest at 3% or less.
Despite the new high-mark for Trump, the GOP race remains fairly stable compared with where it was in the most recent CNN/ORC poll in late December.
In that poll, Trump stood at 39%, Cruz at 18% and Rubio at 10%. Carson's 4-point dip, from 10% to 6%, between the two surveys is the largest change in the field, and it is not large enough to be a statistically significant change given the new poll's 5-point margin of sampling error.

US Campaign Update, 25/01/16: Top 10 Stories

1. In Washington Post, Jenna Johnson talks about Trump’s campaign in Iowa.

 

With the Feb. 1 caucuses quickly approaching, Trump made seven major appearances in seven days in the state last week, spending two nights and trying out retail politics.
The overnights gave the billionaire real estate developer a closer look at life in Iowa, beyond what he sees out the windows of his private plane and motorcade. He marveled at how Iowa has good steak and how the television airwaves are packed with so many attack ads.
“I like it. I like it,” Trump said Sunday morning. “I like staying, it’s really nice. The hotels were beautiful; they were clean, nice. I’ll be here next week. I’ll be here a lot.”

 

2. In The Boston Globe, John Wagner reports that Sanders is ready to face a new presidential rival.

 

“My reaction is, if Donald Trump wins and Mr. Bloomberg gets in, you’re going to have two multibillionaires running for president of the United States against me,” Sanders told host Chuck Todd. “And I think the American people do not want to see our nation move toward an oligarchy, where billionaires control the political process. I think we’ll win that election.”
Sanders would first have to get past Hillary Clinton in the contest for the Democratic nomination before such a race could take shape.

 

 3. In MSNBC, Alex Seitz-Wald explains why geography favors Clinton in Iowa.

 

Clinton’s team, which includes many of the people who engineered Obama’s 2008 win, has been on the ground in more places longer than Sanders’. And organizers say there’s no way to make up the lost time when it comes to volunteer training and relationship building.
Sterzenbach expects Sanders’ enthusiasm-driven machine to dominate in the 15-20 counties with larger cities or universities — but for Clinton’s blood, sweat, and time machine to pay dividends in the 50-60 more rural counties.
For instance, Clinton won almost every county along the Missouri River in the western part of the state, which Democrats tend to ignore in general elections because the area is so heavily Republican. While each county on it’s own is not worth many delegates, they add up.

 

 

4. In CNN, Eric Bradner talks about Trump’s “conservatism.”

 

Asked about his strategy when he's accused of not being a "consistent conservative," Trump said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday: "Well, usually, I just evoke the name Ronald Reagan."
"I mean, Ronald Reagan was a fairly liberal Democrat and he evolved over years and he became more and more conservative. And he was not a very conservative person, but he was pretty conservative and he ended up being a great president," Trump said.
He acknowledged that he has evolved on some issues, but also said he's held firm on others.

 

 

5. In Huffington Post, Jennifer Bendery reports that Sanders doesn’t supports reparations.

 

"Well, for the same reason that Barack Obama has and the same reason I believe that Hillary Clinton has," Sanders said. "And that is, it is absolutely wrong and unacceptable that we have so much poverty in this country and it is even worse in the African American community."
As Sanders listed off statistics about African American youth struggling with unemployment and poverty, Todd noted that he didn't answer the question.
"Well, again, it's the same reason that the president is not. And I think that Secretary Clinton is not," Sanders said. "We have got to invest in the future. What we have got to do is address poverty in America, something that very few people talk about, and especially poverty in the African American community and the Latino community."

 

 

6. In CNN,  Brian Stelter reports that Trump will likely be the GOP nominee, according to David Brock.

 

"I may have spoken too soon in predicting in December that the Democrats would face Cruz in November," Brock said in an email to CNN. "I now believe the GOP nominee is likely to be Donald Trump."
Brock is the founder and chairman of American Bridge, a well-funded Democratic super PAC that supports Clinton and opposes prospective opponents. He said American Bridge is "adjusting its program accordingly," meaning it is targeting Trump more forcefully.
"I don't agree with some Dem thinking that Trump would be easy to beat," Brock added. "He's rewritten all the rules and I would expect a tough race with Hillary."

 

 

7. In CNN, Dan Merica reports that The Boston Globe endorses Clinton.

 

The paper, which backed then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, wrote that Clinton is "more seasoned, more grounded, and more forward-looking than in 2008, and has added four years as secretary of state to her already formidable resume. Democrats in the Granite State should not hesitate to choose her."
And in endorsing Clinton, the Globe Editorial Board slammed Sanders on both his credibility and his stance on guns.
"Clinton's assertive record on guns stands in contrast to that of her main Democratic opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who voted against the Brady background-check bill and, his claims notwithstanding, is not a convincing champion of gun control," they wrote. "Sanders presents himself as an avowed foe of big business, but his vote to protect firearms corporations from legal liability tells a different story. Clinton is simply more credible on what for too many Americans is a life-and-death issue."

 

 

8. In CBS News, Anthony Salvanto and Sarah Duttonreport that Trump has regained his lead over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the state of Iowa.

 

Just over a week before the first votes are cast in the Iowa caucuses, Donald Trump has regained his lead over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the state of Iowa. Trump now holds a 5-point lead over the Texas Republican, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio lagging far behind in third place.
In New Hampshire, the race remains unchanged at the top, with Trump holding a commanding double-digit lead over his two closest-but-still-distant rivals Cruz and Rubio, who are locked in a tight battle for second place. Further down, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has edged past New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie into fourth place.
Looking ahead to South Carolina, Trump continues to hold a double-digit lead over Cruz, his closest competitor in that state.

 

 9. In Politico, Katie Glueck reports that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry endorses Ted Cruz.

 

“Of those individuals who have a chance to win the Republican primary, at this juncture, from my perspective, Ted Cruz is by far the most consistent conservative in that crowd,” Perry said. “And that appears to be down to two people."
Perry, who is famously skilled at retail politics, will campaign with Cruz Tuesday across Iowa, and will join Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King to stump for Cruz again Wednesday. Perry and King will both join Cruz at a Des Moines rally Wednesday night.
The endorsement gives Cruz the blessing of the longest-serving governor in Texas history, just as the senator faces intensifying heat from other veteran politicians, including from his colleagues in Washington, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.

10. In The New York Times, Patrick Healy writes about the campaign of Clinton and Sanders in Iowa.

 

The race between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, which voters will begin deciding a week from Monday, is not just about the White House anymore. It has intensified into an epochal battle over their vastly different visions for the Democratic Party.
Mr. Sanders, a New Deal-style liberal from Vermont, last week became the party’s first top-tier candidate since the 1980s to propose broad-based tax increases. He argues that only muscular government action — Wall Street regulations, public works jobs, Medicare for all — will topple America’s “rigged” economy.
“Something is grotesquely wrong in America,” he said Thursday in New Hampshire, urging voters to deliver a landslide in November that would cow Congress into enacting his agenda.

Labour's Language Problem

Columbia University linguist John McWhorter wrote of language in The Atlantic this month, "the serendipities of history chose one "dialect" as a standard and enshrined in on the page." When it comes specifically to the language of public policy, history has not been kind to us, imposing a style that is jargonistic, obtuse, and shot through with grandiose emptiness.

This need not necessarily apply to political language, which, at its best, can be far more direct and human-sounding.  But the lines are often and increasingly blurred: technocratic politicians can write (and talk for that matter) just like bureaucrats or diplomats.

This brings me in a roundabout way to NZ Labour's most recent Future of Work policy paper, Economic Development and Sustainability. While it is an improvement on earlier efforts, and doesn’t appear to be the product of rampant plagiarism, the document is a good (by which I mean bad) example of the ways bureaucratese has infected political language.

Consider this fact alone: in a short document comprising a touch over eight pages, the word "sustainable" is used a staggering fifteen times. Not only is this self-evidently bad prose (Christopher Hitchens once said the key to good writingis to avoid placing the same word too close together), the word "sustainable" is classic jargon, overused to the point of meaninglessness. If I were editing such a paper, I would try to eliminate any single use of the term, let alone more than a dozen.

Overall, Economic Development and Sustainability exemplifies the worst kind of public policy writing: chock full of qualifying phrases; inoffensive, uncontroversial statements of the bleeding obvious; all wrapped up in stale language aimed at sounding serious and important but leaving the reader with little to grasp on to. It may contain great ideas but you couldn't possibly discern them through the blizzard of jargon.  First example:

Addressing these economic development policy challenges is a crucial part of preparing for the future of work. A resilient, flexible economy must have a resilient, flexible workforce; and vice versa. Workers will benefit under improved economic settings through the creation of new and better employment opportunities, the potential for fairer, more sustainable wages, and the development of higher value skills that are in demand internationally. A key benefit of a step change in economic development will be the social and economic gains that come from ongoing, meaningfulemployment.

This is so far removed from how people actually communicate – so impossibly abstract – that it hasn’t a hope in hell of resonating with people who are not themselves engaged in public policy (and, even then, it would be a hard slog).

Or try this:

Different businesses and even different sectors respond to economic challenges and opportunities in different ways. As a small economy in a globalised world, it can be difficult for New Zealand to set the agenda. New Zealand businesses need to be well positioned to take advantage of future opportunities...

This, like the previous example, reads like the winning entry of a competition to see how many 21st century buzzwords you can squeeze into a single paragraph, but I include it to make another point: namely, it is a patchwork of truisms with which nobody of sound mind could possibly disagree.

Is there anyone across the world or political spectrum who could dispute the premise that "different businesses and even different sectors respond to economic challenges and opportunities in different ways"? Not only is that true of New Zealand, but of every country at every point in human history.  It simply does not need to be said. The kind of sophistry that turns people off politics.  If you're making a point that cannot be challenged, that signals its weakness as an argument, not its strength.

In government, there is a natural and often constructive tension between public servants and political staff.  An effective Ministerial staffer pushes back against the tendency of bureaucrats to use dense, inaccessible language. Speeches are the clearest example of this.  A public servant will draft a speech which will be dour, factual, jargon-filled and, above all else, safe.  Depending on the stakes involved, political staff will often tear it to shreds, turning it from bureaucratese into language capable of connecting more forcefully to the public.  (This is not to criticise public servants – it's not for them to draft the kind of blunt, adversarial language that animates political language).

When it hasn't been copied and pasted from The Economist, Labour's Future of Work papers read for all money like the work of public servants– odd, since Labour is in opposition and only has political staff.  One possible explanation is that the Future of Work's lead MP is Grant Robertson, who was a diplomat in his previous career.  And I have written before that risk-aversion is Robertson's Achilles' Heel – and perhaps this is why the taskforce produces material like this.  But I suspect the problem runs deeper.

More and more, Labour thinks, acts and communicates less like a political party than some hybrid government department/NGO, having lost along the way the knack of talking to voters in language likely to resonate, let alone persuade. 

US Campaign Update, 22/01/16: Top 10 Stories

1. In Reuters, Steve Holland reports that National Review magazine tells conservatives to shun Trump.

 

National Review, a New York-based magazine founded in 1955 by famed conservative thinker William F. Buckley Jr., drew heavy scorn from Trump, on Twitter and at a Las Vegas news conference, for its issue entitled: "Against Trump."
"Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP (Republican Party) in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones," National Review said.

 

 

2. In CNN, David Wright reports that Trump’s political adviser describes him as a “person of deep faith.”

 

An adviser for Donald Trump's campaign defended the businessman's spirituality after he misspoke when quoting a Bible verse at Liberty University, insisting that "he's a person of deep faith, he's just not a person that puts it on his sleeve."
Sam Clovis, Trump's campaign co-chair, appeared on CNN's "New Day" Thursday morning and rejected the suggestion that Trump was pandering to evangelicals in light of Trump's admission that he misspoke saying "2 Corinthians" rather than "second Corinthians" at Liberty because he was referring to notes from Tony Perkins.

 

 

3. In Bloomberg, James Nash talks about the Las Vegas political rally with Trump, Clinton, Bush and Cruz.  

 

Donald Trump threw punches at Republican rivals Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush in a Las Vegas rally, while former President Bill Clinton, speaking nearby, slammed Republicans for preying on middle-class voters’ fears, as the leading presidential campaigns descended on Nevada a month before it becomes the first Western state to cast votes in this year’s races.
Held at opposite ends of the famed Las Vegas Strip, the dueling rallies highlighted the importance of Nevada in both the Republican and Democratic nominating cycles, even as most of the political class remains fixated on Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus Feb. 1 and the New Hampshire primary eight days later.

 

 

4. In CNN, Eugene Scott talks about Sanders’ position on slavery reparations.

 

"Senator Sanders is the most progressive member of the United States Congress and has unabashedly advocated and promoted policies that overwhelmingly benefit the Black community," Sanders' National Press Secretary Symone D. Sanders told CNN.
"During this election, no other candidate has so boldly spoken out on the issues of race, police brutality, income inequality or criminal justice reform. Sen. Sanders understands that African-Americans in this country have been victims of systematic and institutional racism," she added. "He gets that and has proposed both legislation and policies in attempts to address it."

 

 

5. In Bloomberg, Sahil Kapur talks about Rubio’s strategy for Iowa and New Hampshire.

 

It's a return to the message Rubio delivered in his first answer at the first televised debate last August, and comes as his path to the nomination has narrowed. While Rubio's campaign refuses to discuss strategy in public, people close to the senator say he stands a strong chance of victory if the contest winnows to a three-way race with Trump and Cruz.
The electability argument is based on a political reality. Many Democratic operatives say Rubio would pose the toughest challenge for Clinton in a general election. In Rubio's orbit, it's an article of faith. The view is based on three factors: Rubio's rhetorical talent; his Hispanic background, which could appeal to voters in the growing demographic; and a feeling that he comes off as less offensive to moderate voters than Trump or Cruz.

 

6. In Politico, Michael Crowley talks about Cruz’s position on torture.

 

“He says he opposes torture, but he does not say what constitutes torture,” said Jack Goldsmith, an opponent of waterboarding and other severe interrogation tactics who headed the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the George W. Bush administration.
“None of the candidates come out in favor of ‘torture,’” Goldsmith said. But, he added, after reviewing several campaign statements provided by POLITICO, most “signal that they would ramp up interrogation, possibly to waterboarding.”

 

 

7. In The New York Times, Maggie Haberman writes about Trump’s reaction to the series of essay published by the National Review.

 

Donald J. Trump called an impromptu news conference on Thursday night in Nevada to criticize National Review, the conservative magazine that published a series of essays denouncing his candidacy.
“That’s a dying paper, really. I mean pretty much. I got to tell you, that’s a dying paper,” Mr. Trump said of the publication. He took to Twitter to ensure his comments were seen more broadly, echoing his past disapproval about the magazine’s editor, Rich Lowry.

 

 

8. In The Des Moines Register, Brianne Pfannenstiel writes about Trump’s campaign style in Iowa.

 

Trump's campaign style draws a stark contrast with other Republican candidates, past and present, who have become entangled in the controversial things they say. Many cite 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney's comments about the "47 percent" of Americans dependent on government benefits as a game-changer. Trump, who has made similarly inflammatory remarks, has come out unscathed.
Tom McIntee, a 62-year-old attorney from Iowa City, said the controversial things Trump says "are the things people say outside of polite society when they're talking to their friends. And what it's doing is it's liberating people to be able to discuss these issues."

 

 

9. In Associated Press, Ken Thomas explains why Clinton questions Sanders electability.

 

A focus group conducted by an unaffiliated Democratic strategist during the last debate found Clinton's message fell flat. Her attacks, according to a memo describing the event, backfired when Sanders reinforced his message in his responses.
"It is not about Senator Sanders. It is about his message," said Chris Kofinis, who conducted the group. "When you attack him, you're not actually addressing the problem."
Sanders released a gauzy, uplifting ad Thursday with images of his overflowing rallies over a soundtrack of Simon and Garfunkel's "America." The wordless spot contrasts with a recent Clinton ad in New Hampshire about her experience and plans.

 

 

10. In Associated Press,  Erica Werner explains why Republican senators consider Cruz as their least favorite.

 

Some GOP lawmakers and pollsters view Cruz as more problematic than businessman Trump, since Trump might have more cross-over appeal to independents. Polling shown to House Republicans recently identified Cruz as the most difficult presidential nominee for any of them to share a ballot with.
"''He would definitely be a negative," said GOP Rep. Pete King of New York, who represents an evenly divided Long Island district. King dismissed Cruz as a "fraud" and said, "I don't know of anyone else in Washington, certainly, who gets this opposition from his own people. ... I'm talking about people as conservative as he is who just can't stand him."

US Campaign Update, 21/01/16: Top 10 Stories

1. In Bloomberg, Matthew Campbell explains why Trump is losing the Davos primary among his fellow billionaires.

 

The collapsing center of U.S. politics poses a growing threat to global business, according to Davos delegates who say they’re watching anxiously as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders ride a populist wave in the presidential election.
 
“Trump is right now busy chasing the Mexicans,” T.K. Kurien, the chief executive officer of Indian information-technology services firm Wipro Ltd., said in an interview at the Swiss mountain resort, where the World Economic Forum meets this week. “But after he finishes with the Mexican story, I am pretty sure he’ll train his guns on us.”

 

 2. In CNN, Dan Merica writes about the messages Clinton can't deliver.

 

The Clinton campaign has dispatched 34 different surrogates to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada as of this month, with many making multiple trips. These surrogates, according to a list provided by the Clinton campaign, include six U.S. senators, 14 members of Congress and three governors.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus blanketed the Charleston area earlier this month around the fourth Democratic debate, stumping for Clinton in barber shops, beauty salons and church services. On Sunday, the day of the debate, 14 African-American politicians visited churches on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

 

3. In Huffington Post, Natalie Jackson explains why Trump’s lead is not as solid as it looks.

 

Late last week, NBC News released a poll declaring, “Trump More Than Doubles National Lead.” Similar headlines across the national press made it seem inevitable that businessman and entertainer Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination for president. Despite warnings that these national primary polls are meaningless, Trump’s dominance should be worth something, right?
 
Maybe not. Numbers deeper in the same poll paint a much shakier picture of the race. NBC and The Wall Street Journal, in addition to asking respondents to pick their favorite candidate, have been asking a much more interesting question since last March -- whether respondents could see themselves supporting each individual candidate.

 

 

4. In CNN, Eli Watkins talks about Carson’s lack of political experience according to his former political campaign.

 

"He's also a 64-year-old African-American male, who culturally is what he is right? He's not comfortable with homosexuality, right?" said Barry Bennett, Carson's former campaign manager, at an event at Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service.
"And there was nothing we could do to make him talk about it in a lexicon that is much more modern," he said.
When asked about the comments from the former staffers, Carson's communications director Larry Ross said the campaign is "moving forward in a positive direction."

 

 

 5. In The Washington Post, John Wagner talks about Sanders political strategy against Clinton.

 

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is preparing for a protracted battle with Hillary Clinton by hiring staffs and laying groundwork in more than a dozen contests that follow Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two nominating states.
 
Sanders has deployed about 50 paid campaign aides apiece to Nevada and South Carolina, the next two states on the calendar, according to advisers. Paid staffs are on the ground in all of the 11 “Super Tuesday” states that have contests on March 1, a presence that appears to at least match that of the Clinton camp.

 

 6. In CNN, Tal Kopan talks about the latest Monmouth University poll.

 

A Monmouth University poll released Wednesday finds the real-estate mogul leading the Republican primary with 36% support among Republican voters, a 19-point edge over the Texas senator, who is second at 17%. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has 11%, and all other candidates are in single digits.
 
The poll also asked voters if they believe Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother, is a natural-born citizen and thus eligible for the presidency. While two-thirds said he was, 12% said he was not and 24% weren't sure.

 

7. In Associated Press, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar writes about Sanders health plan.

 

But with full coverage for long-term care, most dental care included, no deductibles and zero copays, the Sanders plan is considerably more generous. Think of it as Medicare on growth hormones.
Setting aside ideological issues, the scope of Sanders' plan and its lack of detail have raised questions about its seriousness. Some health care experts see it mainly as a political document to distinguish Sanders' revolutionary ideas from Hillary Clinton's incremental approach.
Last Sunday, the Vermont senator released an 8-page outline of his "Medicare For All" plan, an idea he's long advocated. The campaign estimates it would cost $1.38 trillion a year, paid for with new taxes that would take the place of private health insurance premiums.

 

 

8. In USA Today, Josh Hafner explains why Dole characterized Cruz as “extremist.”

 

Dole characterized Cruz as an "extremist" unwilling to work with his own party. The Times' Maggie Haberman notes that Dole's comments reflect a larger tension that establishment Republicans feel with Cruz, who portrays himself on the campaign trail as their antithesis.
Last month, Dole told MSNBC that he might oversleep and not vote next November were Cruz the Republican nominee.
Dole also lamented Wednesday that Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor he supports for president, still "needs to break out," and that moderate Republicans seem to have had a tougher time reaching voters this cycle.

 

 

9. In MSNBC, Jane C. Timm reports that Biden would run if Clinton will be indicted.

 

Trump is relying on quite a bit of speculation here – that Clinton could be criminally prosecuted for her use of a private server while secretary of state and that Biden might run instead – and portraying Democrats as a wrecked party.
 
Biden has made it clear he has no plans to run: after much speculation, he said last year he felt there wasn’t enough time for both his family to mourn the loss of Biden’s son, heal, and for him to mount a successful bid.

 

10. In CNN, Eric Bradner reports about the latest CNN/WMUR poll.

 

The Vermont senator leads Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie by 23 percentage points. He also tops Ohio Gov. John Kasich by 21 points and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio by 18 points.
Clinton, meanwhile, faces tighter races in hypothetical match-ups against the same Republican candidates. She trails Rubio at 45% to 44%, and ties Kasich at 43%. She leads Christie 45% to 42%, beats Cruz 47% to 41% and tops Trump 48% to 39%.

US Campaign Update, 20/01/16: Top 10 Stories

1. In Huffington Post, Willa Frej reports that Human Rights Campaign endorses Clinton.

 

HRC chose Clinton because "leading Republican candidates for president have threatened to halt progress as well as revoke, repeal, and overturn the gains made during President Obama’s two terms."
The group added that Clinton has presented the "most robust and ambitious LGBT plan any candidate for president has ever laid out," including her desire to drop the ban on transgender military service and fighting for equal rights through legislation like the Equality Act.

 

 

2. In Huffington Post, Paige Lavender explains why Sarah Palin endorses Trump.

 

Palin is a longtime supporter of Trump, and even backed his controversial call for a "complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States. Back in August, Palin raved about the businessman, praising him for "crushing it in the polls."
In July, Trump said he'd "love" having Palin work in his administration if he were elected president.
"Like me, she's got people that don't exactly love us and we understand who they are and sort of forget about that," Trump told host Kevin Scholl on "The Palin Update," an online interview show. "But she has a tremendously loyal group of people out there for her."

 

 

3. In CNN, MJ Lee reports that Iowa governor wants Ted Cruz defeated.

 

Branstad's attack on Cruz is an extraordinary intervention in the caucus campaign. The state's caucuses take place on February 1.
"I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that Ted Cruz is going to win this state," Branstad told CNN afterwards. "Because as Iowans learn about his anti-renewable fuel stand, and that it will cost us jobs, and will further reduce farm income, I think people will realize that it's not in our interest."
He added: "I don't think that Ted Cruz is the right one for Iowans to support in the caucus."

 

4. In CNN, Manu Raju reports thatRubio is becoming the choice of Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

 

As Rubio is quickly becoming the choice of Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, he also is methodically trying to position himself as an anti-establishment hero with deep social conservative values -- not unlike Cruz.
 
In his stump speech, the Florida senator says his campaign is a repudiation of a GOP establishment that told him to "wait in line" in 2016 -- just like in his 2010 Senate race when he took down the party leadership's favorite candidate, Charlie Crist. He leans heavily into his religious views and anti-abortion stances in TV ads, a direct pitch to the evangelical voters who dominate the caucuses here and are a source of support for Cruz.

 

5. In Boston Globe, Matt Viser talks about Trump’s unconventional campaign at New Hampshire.

 

It all has longtime watchers of New Hampshire worried a Trump victory would undercut the argument that New Hampshire’s primary should remain first because the state’s small size lets voters really get to know the candidates, so they can cast more informed votes.
 
“The argument has always been that we do the hard work and look the candidates in the eye so the country knows who the best person is,” said Ryan Williams, a Republican operative who has worked on several New Hampshire campaigns. “But Trump has been able to build support in the state without having to do any of the town hall meetings, the activist meetings, the stops at local coffee shops that most primary candidates have to do.”

 

6. In The New York Times, Jonathan Martin reports that Clinton’s supporters are now focusing on Sanders’ socialist perspective.

 

Democrats backing Hillary Clinton, nervously eyeing Senator Bernie Sanders’s growing strength in the early nominating states, are turning to a new strategy to raise doubts about his candidacy, highlighting his socialist beliefs to warn that he would be an electoral disaster who would frighten swing voters and send Democrats in tight congressional and governor’s races to defeat.

 

 7. In Bloomberg, Arit John talks about Sander’s campaign in South Carolina.

 

While wins in the first two states in the Democratic nomination race would give Sanders momentum, losses in more diverse states would call into question his ability to recreate the coalition of white liberals, young voters, and people of color that elected Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
 
Sanders is still an unknown quantity for many African-Americans in South Carolina, which will hold the south's first Democratic primary on Feb. 27. Palmetto State voters who have heard of the Vermont senator may like him, but, so far, they know and like Clinton better.

 

 

8. In Huffington Post, Amanda Terkel reports Flint Mayor’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

 

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver (D) endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, repeatedly thanking her for the work she and her campaign have done on the water crisis facing the Michigan city.
"We want a friend like Hillary in the White House," Weaver told reporters in a conference call organized by the Clinton campaign Tuesday morning. "That's exactly what we need to have happen."
Weaver didn't necessarily intend to make endorsement news Tuesday. After she praised Clinton, a reporter told the mayor that her comments sounded like she was backing the former secretary of state.

 

 9. In The Daily Beast, Rick Wilson argues why Cruz’s political strategy sucks.

 

It’s not a secret that Ted Cruz isn’t my first choice for the Republican nomination for president. His smug Poindexter affect, his smarm, sanctimony, and general derpiness all grate on me. There’s no doubt he’s smart, but while smart is necessary, it’s not necessarily sufficient.
 
That said, I’d rather Ted Cruz serve as leader of the free world for eight years than have Donald Trump in that role for eight minutes. Yet the inevitable, bloody conflict between Cruz and Trump that broke to the surface after the last Republican debate raises real questions about Cruz’s political judgment that Republican voters need to examine.

 

 

10. In The Des Moines Register, Charly Haley reports about Carson’s campaign volunteer died in car crash.

 

Braden Joplin, 25, of Lubbock, Texas, died Tuesday afternoon following an icy highway collision that also sent a Carson campaign staffer and two other volunteers to Cass County Memorial Hospital.
 
“I had the opportunity to get to know (Braden) and the thing that impressed me the most is how compassionate he was and how caring he was about the feelings of other people,” Carson said at a brief press conference after meeting Joplin’s family at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

US Campaign Update, 19/01/16: Top 10 Stories

 1. In Huffington Post, Jason Cherkis talks about Clinton’s public health approach to opioid epidemic.

 

What would that approach look like under a Clinton administration? Clinton was emphatic that would be a public health approach -- and singled out law enforcement as critical. She called on police officers to carry naloxone (commonly sold as Narcan). Some departments have refused to use it.
 
“The policing needs to change,” Clinton said. “Police officers must be equipped with the antidote to a heroin overdose or an opioid overdose known as Narcan. They should be able to administer [it], so should firefighters and others.”

 

2. In CNN, Tal Kopan explains why Cuban migrant crisis means trouble for Rubio

 

The political climate is ripe for the mass migration to crash the 2016 conversation. Immigration has been a central topic in the Republican primary, with front-runners like billionaire businessman Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz picking up large amounts of support for backing heavy border security and tough measures against illegal immigration.
Rubio has been a frequent target of their attacks. He's caught in a bind between criticism from the GOP base on past efforts to reach a bipartisan deal on immigration reform -- derided as "amnesty" by his opponents -- and his desire to rally Hispanic support in a general election contest.

 

 3. In Huffington Post, Jason Linkins writes about Clinton’s take on Flint’s water problem.

 

Hillary Clinton became the first presidential candidate of either party to mention during a debate that the people of Flint, Michigan, have been the victims of a cascade of government screw-ups that led to them being furnished with poisoned drinking water.
Like Sanders, Clinton has condemned Snyder, but she's also gone the extra mile, working on both bringing attention to and seeking solutions for this crisis. On the former front, Clinton has used local and national media to keep important details in the public eye, such as the fact that a General Motors factory opted to eschew Flint's water supply because they noticed it was degrading engine parts, even as state officials were insisting the supply was safe.

 

 

4. In CNN, Jonathan Mann reports that Trump is using Bill Clinton's past to haunt Hillary.

 

"She's got one of the great women abusers of all time sitting in her house, waiting for her to come home for dinner," is how Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump describes it.
The tawdry side of Bill Clinton's past ranges from his acknowledged sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky to alleged affairs, groping and rape. The former president has addressed some of the stories, denied some and ignored others. He paid one accuser $850,000 in an out-of-court settlement that didn't admit to any wrongdoing.

 

 

 5. In The New York Times, Thomas Kaplan reports why evangelical voters support Trump.

 

A New York Times/CBS News poll last week showed Mr. Trump, a Presbyterian, dominating the field with 42 percent of evangelical voters; Mr. Cruz was second with 25 percent.
In dozens of interviews with evangelical voters in 16 states, from every region of the country outside the Northeast, those supporting Mr. Trump sounded a familiar refrain: that his heart was in the right place, that his intentions for the country were pure, that he alone was capable of delivering to a troubled country salvation in the here and now.

 

 

6. In Boston Globe, Michael Levenson explains why Sanders becomes unlikely leader of a youth movement.

 

But as he has steadily climbed into contention with Hillary Clinton in Iowa and into a narrow lead over her in New Hampshire, polls show Sanders’ strongest support comes from younger voters, who favor him by a 2-to-1 ratio. The challenge for his campaign is to ensure those voters, who are less likely than older ones to cast ballots, show up on Election Day.
At Dartmouth on Thursday, where Sanders packed a 900-seat concert hall, he sparked loud whoops and applause during a fiery, hour-long speech that barreled through issue after issue, from climate change and institutional racism to campaign finance reform and abortion rights.

 

7. In Reuters, Matthew Lewis writes about Rubio’s plan of federal policy.

 

The U.S. senator from Florida commented on Fed policy during a small news conference in between a series of five appearances in eastern Iowa. A few hundred people attended each event.
"There's too much talk about the Fed, too much attention to the Fed," he said. "Economic growth is the result of free enterprise."
Rubio, who has been criticized for missing Senate votes, recently made an appearance to support an "Audit the Fed" bill, which is also supported by Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. senator from Vermont. It did not pass.

 

 

8. In Reuters, Steve Holland talks about Bush’s education reform plans.

 

Bush, who focused on education during his two terms as Florida governor and later as head of an education foundation, presented what was the latest in a series of detailed policy plans on major issues.
"As the nation honors Dr. Martin Luther King and his legacy today, I firmly believe that ensuring every individual has access to a quality education is the great civil rights challenge of our time," he said in a post on the website Medium. The United States on Monday marked a holiday for the slain U.S. civil rights leader.
Bush said his plan would not cost American taxpayers any more money. He would send much of the $22 billion spent on federal education programs to state and local governments and create $2,500 annual grants for low-income children to let parents decide how best to educate them.

 

9. In Reuters,  Kylie MacLellan reports that British lawmakers debate banning Trump after Muslim comments.

 

Members of parliament said Trump should be allowed into Britain where his views could be challenged, that a ban would give him more publicity or that it was not for Britain to get involved in U.S. affairs.
Trump caused outrage last month with his comments that Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. He spoke after 14 people died in a shooting spree in California by two Muslims whom the FBI said had been radicalized.
His comments prompted more than half a million Britons to sign a petition calling for him to be barred from entering the country, where he has business interests.

 

10. In The Des Moines Register, Kim Norvell talks about Paul’s criminal justice reforms.

 

The Kentucky senator sat in a local barber’s chair as he spoke of the failings of the war on drugs and listened to patrons who have had difficulties re-integrating into society because of their criminal records. More than 50 people packed into the Platinum Kutz barbershop in the Drake neighborhood in Des Moines to ask Paul questions before the senator held a rally for fiscal sanity in Johnston later Monday.
“I’ve been working with the other side for several years now on all of these issues above and beyond the presidential campaign,” Paul said. “I think you’ll find me a different sort of Republican.”
Paul said he has proposed at least 10 criminal justice reform bills, and has worked with the Congressional Black Caucus to form policy. He said he wants to see more records expunged for non-violent criminals who have “done their time” and who “ought to get a second chance.”

US Campaign Update, 17/01/16: Top 10 Stories

1. In CNN, Stephen Collinson discusses Clinton and Sanders debate on health care, guns.

 

With Sanders threatening to upset Clinton in the first two nominating contests next month, the former secretary of state sought to stall his momentum, puncture his progressive credentials and raise questions about whether the self-declared socialist has the skills and experience to be president.
She used the final debate before voting starts in Iowa and New Hampshire to make a case to faithful supporters of Obama, who some Clinton allies worry might be shifting to Sanders. She'll need them to build a winning coalition capable of winning the Democratic nomination and mounting a successful race in the general election.

 

2. In MSNBC, Alex Seitz-Wald reports that Sanders dominates Democratic debate.

 

Bernie Sanders dominated Sunday night’s Democratic debate here, overpowering Hillary Clinton in a format she typically controls. With polls showing Clinton on the ropes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders’ strong performance may have further imperiled Clinton’s once-inevitable path to her party’s presidential nomination.  
 
Touting his surging poll numbers in the two key early states, Sanders was prepared and in command throughout the two-hour debate sponsored by NBC News and YouTube. In previous appearances, Clinton has easily dominated the stage. But turning in his strongest debate performance yet, Sanders drove the conversation – brushing aside her attacks as he doggedly returned to his core message of political revolution.

 

3. In Des Moines Register, Jennifer Jacobs explains why Iowans split on the recent Democratic debate winner.

 

Other surveys in Iowa have shown different results, but The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll Jan. 7-10 found Clinton still in front, but with her lead reduced to just 2 points ahead of Sanders. He’s the front-runner in New Hampshire, according to the RealClearPolitics.com’s rolling average.
Iowa politics watcher Christopher Budzisz, a politics professor at Loras College, said: “Sanders has made momentum arguments, and he never shies away from invoking the ‘revolution’ label. Part of this is to stress that he is electable.”

 

4. In The Daily Beast, Tim Mak argues why Sanders’ ISIS strategy is a disaster.

 

Sanders has repeatedly said the United States should not take the lead in the fight against ISIS. But the unserious part of his proposal is the suggestion that he suggests Saudi Arabia and Iran should work together to fight Islamic extremism—seemingly oblivious to the schisms in the region.
 
“We have to understand that the Muslim nations in the region—Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan—all of these nations, they’re going to have to get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground. They are going to have to take on ISIS. This is a war for the soul of Islam,” said Sanders at the Democratic presidential primary debate in November.

 

5. In Reuters, Jeff Mason and Steve Holland argue why Clinton’s strategy could pose problems.

 

Hillary Clinton has distanced herself from President Barack Obama on a number of high-profile issues since starting her bid for the White House. Now, under pressure from left-leaning challenger Bernie Sanders, she is embracing him and his legacy with fervor.
That strategy could pose problems for Clinton in the long run as Republicans look for fodder to portray her as representing Obama's third term should she win the Democratic nomination.
As she faces an unexpected challenge from Sanders in the early voting states, Clinton's move to portray herself as an heir to Obama's policies is aimed at courting young voters and progressives who are part of the president's political base.
 

6. In Bloomberg, Mark Halperin gives Clinton a “B” grade for her Democratic debate performance.

 

Calm and mechanical rather than energized or conversational, offering up talking points in the manner of a candidate with a sizable lead rather than one with a major fight on her hands. Kept up her assault on Sanders for his various gun votes, the most comfortable terrain from which to snipe at her rival. Had less opportunity to talk about national security than she probably would have liked, and failed to score points off Sanders on the topic, as she has in past debates. Trained her attention far more on Sanders this time than on Trump and the Republicans. As usual, was steeped in policy and gravitas, with occasional flashes of humor. Did nothing to arrest the momentum Sanders had coming into the debate, but made no obvious blunders.

 

7. In Huffington Post,  Zach Carter reports why Rubio wants people to buy guns.

 

Many critics of U.S. gun laws have argued that the ease with which people can purchase firearms domestically enables those with terrorist motives to access weapons they need to commit violent acts.
Rubio's praise for citizens arming themselves against ISIS echoes a common argument from gun enthusiasts. Easy access to guns, they argue, makes it easier for citizens to shoot mass shooters and other violent people when they begin killing people. Armed civilians almost never break up mass shootings.

 

8.