The old practice in presidential politics was journalists and opposition researchers digging into candidates’ past controversial statements to produce stories and score political points. But the new practice is now going after staff. We’ve seen two new examples of this in recent days: One, Scott Walker’s digital strategist Liz Mair, who quit the campaign after tweets surfaced of her criticizing Iowa. And two, Ben Carson aide Jim Dornan’s offensive tweets about President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And before those two examples, there was Ethan Czhaor, whose past tweets got him axed in Jeb Bush’s fledgling operation. We’re not defending any of these tweets. We’re also all for cleaning up Twitter, which these days has become the OK Corral of political dialogue. But we also see the fine line between cleaning up Twitter and thought police -- where any past tweet can get a staffer fired and possibly ruin a career. (And who among us hasn’t regretted a past tweet?) When anything becomes fair game in American politics, there’s not much of a game anymore, is there? And as Michael Brendan Dougherty writes in The Week: “Walker's unwillingness to defend his own hire will give other consultants and policy experts jitters before joining the team. It totally undercuts his reputation as a tough-minded fighter who stands on principle. And it may contribute to an alternate interpretation of Walker as a 'fraidy cat.’”
Cold as ice: The state of relations between Obama and Netanyahu
It’s one thing for President Obama not to call Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu after his election on Tuesday (the Obama White House says that the president has always called AFTER the coalition government has been formed). But it’s quite another for the White House to directly attack Netanyahu’s anti-Arab rhetoric on Election Day. “The United States and this administration is deeply concerned by divisive rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters yesterday. “It undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together.” Earnest also said that Netanyahu’s statement that he opposes a two-state solution is forcing the United States to reevaluate its entire Middle East policy. “It means that for today that based on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments, the United States will reevaluate our position and the path forward in the situation.” Ouch.
A dilemma for American Jews
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Maybe the biggest consequence at home of Netanyahu’s decision to shelve the idea of a two-state solution is that it’s created a moral dilemma for many American Jews, who believe in Israel -- but who also believe that Palestinians should have a homeland, too. Here’s Thomas Friedman: “When the official government of Israel is a far-right party that rejects a two-state solution and employs anti-Arab dog whistles to get elected, it will split the basic unity of the American Jewish community on Israel. How many American Jews want to defend a one-state solution in Washington or on their college campuses?” Here’s Jeffrey Goldberg: Netanyahu’s “about-face” [on a Palestinian state] “will cause long-lasting, and negative, political and diplomatic repercussions. But his decision to talk about Arab citizens of Israel in the manner in which he did could divide Israeli society in calamitous ways.” In American politics, the last time we saw a candidate win an election -- but with disastrous consequences after -- was Pete Wilson in 1994 with the anti-immigrant Prop. 187. And that changed politics forever in California.
Poll suggests Hillary emerges unscathed -- so far -- after email story
Yes, it’s just one poll. And, yes, you should take all early 2016 polls with a grain of salt. But the big takeaway from the national CNN poll (conducted March 13-15) is that the two-week email story really didn’t change Hillary Clinton’s numbers at all – at least compared with her competitors. In it, she leads the Democratic field by nearly 50 points: Clinton 62%, Biden 15%, Warren 10%. Nearly 70% of Democrats think she’s the party’s strongest general-election candidate. And Clinton leads every GOP challenger by double digits in hypothetical general-election matchups, including 15 points against Jeb Bush, 55%-40%. Now a Bloomberg focus group of New Hampshire Democrats has them asking some tough questions about the email story -- “She could have gone through and deleted anything she wanted”; “You have to be aware of how things appear to the public” -- but it doesn’t seem to have hurt her actual standing. As we said a while back, the biggest consequence of the email story was the excuse for House Republicans to keep probing Clinton’s past as secretary of state.
King vs. Burwell polling
Seven in ten Americans say that states should create their own insurance markets if the Supreme Court rules to bar the federal government from giving health care subsidies to people who do not live in a state with a health care exchange, a new Kaiser tracking poll finds. Sixty-five percent of the public also says that Congress should pass a law to ensure that people in all states are eligible for financial help from the government to buy insurance, but a majority (80 percent) says that they are not confident that lawmakers on the Hill can work together to make it happen. The poll also finds a two-point gap between the share of the public that has a favorable (41 percent) and an unfavorable (43 percent) view of the health care law – the narrowest gap in more than two years.
House and Senate Republicans agreeing on a final budget won’t be easy
Finally, this is an obvious point but one worth emphasizing: House and Senate Republicans aren’t going to have an easy time reconciling their competing budgets. Remember, what’s good for House Republicans might not necessarily be good for the likes of Sens. Mark Kirk, Pat Toomey and Kelly Ayotte, who are all up for re-election in 2016. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can’t afford to lose more than three votes. The New York Times: “With the release of the Senate budget, Republicans in both chambers now face the task of agreeing on a plan that will set overall spending levels next year and signal the legislative direction Congress will take on issues from Medicare, the military and tax reform. It will not be easy. In addition to differences over military spending, the Senate budget stepped away from the sharp policy changes explicitly embraced by House colleagues, like converting Medicare into a semiprivatized system with vouchers to buy insurance.”
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