Jeb Doubles Down on Immigration

How about that? Jeb Bush not only doesn’t back away from his call for immigration reform but goes on to provoke the anti-reform crowd by showing just what he means in saying immigrants deserve compassion.

Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family.” – Jeb Bush

That’s a long way from Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” plan for those here illegally, whatever that meant. And for his trouble Romney won just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, the lowest portion for a Republican in 16 years.

GOP right-wingers are having none of this love and compassion silliness.

“Pandering,” said Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas chided Bush for opposing enforcement of the “rule of law.” Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin went for the heavy artillery, creating a new Twitter hashtag: #CancelJebBush. Just the mention of his name provoked boos from the crowd at a gathering of New Hampshire conservatives.

Bush responded by sticking to his guns: “The simple fact is, there is no conflict between enforcing our laws, believing in the rule of law and having some sensitivity to the immigrant experience, which is part of who we are as a country.”

It is tough to imagine how such reasonable words can get Bush past the alien haters in the early Republican primaries. Give him some credit for trying.

Perry Framed

McConnellrifleWhile the CPAC photo-op of the week must so far go to Mitch McConnell’s rifle shot (take that Tea Party challenger), a close second would be Rick Perry’s new Swifty Lazar glasses.

swiftylazarLazar, the iconic Hollywood agent, made his thick black eyeglass frames a lasting signature. (By the way it was Humphrey Bogart who came up with the “Swifty” nickname for getting him three movie deals in a single day).

Perry is not known for being swift at anything other than his brief 2012 presidential campaign, which lasted about as long as it takes to chew a stick of gum. It turned out the much-heralded lion from Texas couldn’t help gnawing off his own limbs with dumb remarks, or in the case of a memorably embarrassing debate performance, forgetting top lines from his own stump speech, followed by his famous “Oops.”

perryglassesIt is a scientific fact that stupid people think glasses make you look smart. And if nothing else Perry does know his constituency.

Perry aides insist they are prescription glasses, not a fashion statement. We’ll have to wait for the medical records to be sure.

Here Come the Conservatives

This is a town full of rituals, such as introducing presidents at State of the Union addresses so many times that Harry Truman once started speaking before being told his presence had to be announced again. And you’ve got the media dinner rituals, the most famous being the White House Correspondents fest where big name journalists drool all over the pricey shoes of Hollywood celebrities.

There’s the egg roll on the South Lawn, the Supreme Court’s first Monday in October and whatever those Masons are always doing in secret (their main temple actually holds the personal effects of J. Edgar Hoover, so who knows what’s going on with that).

cpacIn recent years a new ritual has taken hold – the annual gathering of hundreds of conservative fire breathers at what we insiders simply call CPAC, or the Conservative Political Action Conference sponsored the American Conservative Union. You get it, liberals not allowed. This bunch is so anti-liberal they’re still seething that Ted Kennedy got away with Chappaquiddick. And some believe (not making this up, have their email blasts to prove it) that Chelsea Clinton got a facelift to conceal that Web Hubbell is her real father.

Spread across this weekend the conference concludes with a much-covered straw vote where they boost the prospects of a potential presidential candidate and dash the hopes for others pining to become the favorite conservative martyr. Of course this all comes after the obligatory vote to re-elect Ronald Reagan to a seventh term.

In recent years either Ron Paul or son Rand have won the day, except on those occasions when Mitt Romney swooped in with barrels full of cash to persuade these predominantly Christian conservatives that Mormons are OK so long as your kid doesn’t marry one. But of course they’re taking no chances with Atheists, who were officially banned this year (for real) after somehow sneaking a booth into their exhibition hall last year.

This year brings subplots below the radar of presidential campaigning. One the media will be closely watching (while quietly snickering at these proceedings): Who’s more unpopular, John Boehner or Mitch McConnell? The tea partiers and other faithful here are really mad at both congressional leaders because they got in the way of shutting down the government, allowing their archenemy Barack Obama to continue running the country he took away from them.

Anti-tax high priest Grover Norquist will likely rise to condemn any Republican who dares not take his pledge to abolish poor people and anyone elderly who isn’t rich enough to fund a SuperPac.

With Russia’s hijacking of Crimea in the news, this year’s CPAC will be fertile ground for hawks to sprout wing. Surely one among the cavalcade of speakers from the ranks of right-wing radio hosts will propose grinding Moscow to glass with a nuclear cocktail. And of course, NRA bossman Wayne LaPierre will surmise that if more underage Americans had assault rifles Putin wouldn’t even think of invading a neighboring country.

On the presidential front, our ever-so-inventive political media will be looking for bits of string to keep on weaving their thread of choice these days: Is Chris Christie DOOMED! Will he ever rise above bridge gate to breathe oxygen and engage in normal human activity? Or will these conservatives embrace him because one thing they hate more than a moderate Republican like him is MSNBC, which is leading the press posse to pound him down in case he might emerge as a threat to Hillary. Still, this group, which didn’t invite Christie last year, remains angry at him for traitorously working with Obama to rebuild New Jersey after superstorm Sandy.

A lesser event will be monitoring the so-called comeback of Rick Perry (he’s even tried wearing glasses in photo ops to look smarter). Another will be whether Marco Rubio can get out of the immigration dog house after galling this bunch by proposing eternal life for illegals.

Ted Cruz can do no wrong with this crowd. Even a rendition of “Green Eggs and Ham” will get a standing ovation. Don’t count out Rick Santorum, who always delivers a head-wrenching sound bite for the media in front of believers, usually something involving his strange obsession with gay sex acts.

In a disturbing sign that this group might not be the powerhouse it thinks it is, the one potential contender who could probably be the instant frontrunner if he goes for it, Jeb Bush, is ducking CPAC, citing through aides unspecified “previous commitments.” In other words, he has to wash his hair and do his laundry that day.

As rituals go this one is actually one of my favs, sort of like watching an auto race where everyone crashes. And the best part is C-SPAN carries it all, so I can safely hide in my bunker and avoid direct exposure to Rush Limbaugh.

Not This Again

Signs abound that what Hillary Clinton once called the “vast right wing conspiracy” is sharpening its knives for another serving of 1990′s leftovers, this time focusing on her First Ladyship. Her time in the White House is a record that is worthy of examination in a run for the presidency. But old patterns of relying on hearsay, unsubstantiated stories, or just made-up stuff to smear the Clintons are back.

The latest are a bunch of personal notes made by a since deceased woman, whose diaries of her friendship with Hillary were donated to the University of Arkansas and made public four years ago. As so often happens with these Clinton “revelations,” there’s a tendency to draw sinister conclusions from the thinnest of sources.

Read the report on what the Washington Free Beacon calls “The Hillary Papers” and decide what matters. For starters, calling the private notes of one person about another that other person’s “papers” is a bit off.

This report is already getting a big ride on the media circuits, and it’s probably just the beginning if HRC makes a move toward the White House. In 2008 her epic battle for the nomination allowed these forces to mostly keep their powder dry, but now that it seems she could easily get to a general election they seem intent on tripping her up now.

Running Joe

The Vice President told CNN today “there’s no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run,” setting a timetable for Summer 2015 to announce a final decision.

More often than not a politician is running when they announce a time for announcing. And Joe Biden has sought the presidency off and on for a quarter century. In announcing his decision timing today he was already sounding out a campaign theme.

For me, the decision to run or not run is going to be determined by me as to whether I am the best qualified person to focus on the two things I’ve spent my whole life on – giving ordinary people a fighting chance to make it and a sound foreign policy that’s based on rational interests of the United States.” — Joe Biden, CNN 2/7

Twenty seven years ago I spent a lot of time with Joe Biden as he pursued the presidency. He’s a force of nature still going strong. Here’s what I found those many years ago, not much different than what you see and what you get today.

By Craig Crawford
The Orlando Sentinel
Sept. 6, 1987

Talking to Joe Biden is a physical contest. First, he stands practically on your toes, stares right between your eyeballs and says loudly, “So what’s up?”

While you’re fumbling for an answer, the 44-year-old Democratic senator from Delaware turns on The Smile, a disarming ear-to-ear grin with the power of a floodlight.

About the time you take a breath, the verbal assault begins. The non-stop barrage of politician-chatter leaves aides, reporters and others within range drooping, their eyes glazed over.

Biden relies on sheer pushiness, oratorical flourish and a fiercely loyal family to succeed. Indeed, if this trim, balding racquetball enthusiast becomes president, then Mikhail Gorbachev had better start practicing his eye contact and verbal skills.

Critics say Biden is all talk and no substance, that he is inclined to make the ill-considered statement that later haunts him. They say his legislative achievements pale in comparison to his rhetoric. Those complaints have provoked even longer, more detailed Biden speeches, replete with lots of facts and figures about his 15 years in the Senate.

The son of an Irish Catholic car salesman who liked to discuss history and politics at the family dinner table, Biden pokes fun at his own reputation for long-windedness.

When an aide passed him a note during an Aug. 15 talk to some uncommitted Florida Democrats in Orlando, Biden said, “He’s telling me to shut up.” The group laughed, but then the candidate talked for another eight minutes.

bidenborkThis month Biden will be squarely in the limelight when the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, takes up the controversial nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.

True to form, Biden has already seized the gauntlet and loudly begun fighting the Reagan administration on Bork — after first having to explain away his rash statement that he would vote to approve the nomination.

Biden, who got his first date with his wife, Jill, by getting her to break another date, attributes his aggressiveness to a zeal for sports while growing up in a middle-class neighborhood in Wilmington, Del.

He played basketball, football and baseball in high school, though his father made him quit sports at the University of Delaware to improve his perennial C average.

“I was always the little guy on the team,” said the 6-foot-tall Biden. “I guess that made me more competitive.”

The eldest of four children, Biden was the neighborhood leader — class president, the all-purpose athlete, the guy who got the girls, the fellow so popular he never really had a best friend.

Politics was a natural progression for the local golden boy and his outgoing family. Friends remember the Biden clan referred to his political forays as “our career” or “when we win.” His sister, Valerie Biden Owens, has managed all his campaigns, including the presidential bid, and his brothers are key fund-raisers.

After a short time practicing law, the 27-year-old Biden was ready for politics. Family members set their sights low for the first outing: He was elected to the New Castle County Council in 1970.

Sen. Biden (1974)

Sen. Biden (1974)

Having gotten a taste of victory, they immediately tackled what to many others seemed a ridiculous goal: the U.S. Senate. Just two years later, the 29-year-old Biden ousted a two-term incumbent Republican. He was sworn in a few weeks after turning 30, the constitutionally required age.

The charmed life took a tragic turn when his first wife, Neilia, and their 13-month-old daughter died in a car wreck shortly after Biden’s Senate election. After some years of despondency — he often sat in his den and stared at the wall until dawn — Biden regained his single-minded will to succeed.

Senate colleagues admire his alertness, but they also get weary of his talkativeness.

“He’s very bright, very articulate,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said. “His major defect is that he goes on and on.”

Biden’s harshest critics say he is a phony, an ambitious charmer calculating his rise to national prominence.

“I have nothing but contempt for him,” said Walter Berns of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. “That grin makes my teeth grate. I can see the nefarious plotting behind it.”

Biden knows his style doesn’t sit well with many people.

“I cut against the grain,” Biden said in response to Berns’ comments. “I find myself at odds with liberals and conservatives. But I believe that people most want to see strength and conviction in a president.”

Those hard-charging qualities are definitely what Biden likes people to see.

At the head table of a luncheon two weeks ago in San Francisco, Biden whipped out a pad and feverishly worked on a Judiciary Committee memorandum. Preoccupied with the task, he nearly missed his own introduction.

Yet when he took the microphone, he had refocused. He treated the audience of lawyers to an all-out attack on the Bork nomination, complaining that the federal judge has left conflicting signals about his views on critical issues, and shouting, “Let’s stop pussyfooting around and find out what Judge Bork really thinks.”

biden1988presidentialcampaignposterBrashness has long been a Biden trait.

“Joe was a hothead on the ballfield,” said Marty Londergan, a Wilmington dentist who played football with Biden. “Sometimes he taunted our opponents so much that we’d be lucky to get out of there with our shirts on.”

Despite his legendary motor-mouth, Biden once stuttered so badly that in grade school he was exempted from talking in front of his class. To get rid of the handicap, he practiced reading aloud and talking to neighbors while collecting their soft drink bottles to make money.

Valerie Owens believes that the experience fueled much of her brother’s determination to excel. “I remember him coming home after some of the kids had made fun of the stuttering,” said Owens. “But instead of going to a corner and crying, he went into his room, shouting: ‘Damn it. I’m going to speak and I’m going to speak directly because that little creep will not make fun of me again.’

“That’s the great fire in him we see today,” she said.

Owens disagrees with political observers who say that Biden’s tendency to shoot from the hip will get him in trouble.

“Some people say hothead, but I say passion,” Owens said of her brother. “Joe feels. He has definite opinions and commitment. You know where you stand with him.”

Biden doesn’t shrink from public displays of his passion. Last spring during a televised Senate hearing he lambasted Secretary of State George Shultz for “lacking moral backbone” in handling South African policy. “That was Joe,” said Owens. “He didn’t lose his temper, but he was adamant, committed and mad. Some people may be looking for politicians who are sterile and bland, but that’s not real.”

Growing up, the Biden children were a noisy clan encouraged to express themselves. They would come home from school, get a plate of cookies or a piece of cake and tell their mother, Jean, and father, Joe Sr., whatever was going on in their lives.

“We were raised not to feel silly kissing, hugging and talking,” said Owens.

The Biden children also were known for their extraordinary confidence.

bidenmug“My mother and father always reinforced the notion that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do,” Biden said during an unusual calm in July between appointments in his Senate office.

“Success was especially important if other people had a stake in it,” he said. “For example, it would bother them a great deal if you didn’t do your best in a baseball or football game and the team lost because of it. But it wasn’t so important in a track meet, or an activity where I was the only one who suffered.”

Talking about history and current events was standard fare in the Biden household.

“Dad was not a college-educated man, but he was very well read,” said Biden. “He always had newspapers around. He read everything from the soup can label to historical biographies.”

Joe Sr. made sure that all his children went to college.

“He loved to discuss our history classes,” said Biden. “You could get a perspective from Dad that wasn’t in the textbooks. He always had an insight.” The Biden house was a neighborhood gathering place, which furthered the younger Joe’s reputation as the guy to hang out with.

“The door was never locked,” said Biden. “You could walk into my house and never know who would be there. Maybe 20 other kids grew up in our house and a hundred others passed through.”

Jean was a favorite counselor for neighborhood children. They would spend hours at her kitchen table, spilling their troubles. “We would say, ‘Mom is hearing confession again,’ ” said Biden.

BidenObama_WalkingDespite their outgoing style, the Biden family is a tight unit, keeping control of the elder brother’s political career to themselves.

When Biden considered marrying Jill Jacobs in 1977 after a two- year courtship, his brothers Frank and Jim took her out for dinner and discussed the future. They explained the family’s plans for a presidential campaign one day.

Jill, 36, said she could handle such soaring goals but thought “it was so far in the future, who knew what could happen?” They were married later that year.

Now a teacher for emotionally disturbed children, Jill is raising the two teen-age boys from Biden’s first marriage and a 6-year-old daughter. She is also attending graduate school in English literature.

Biden is just as determined to maintain a family life as he is about everything else. Until recently he rode the train every workday between Washington and Wilmington, just to be near Jill and the children. Now that a national campaign schedule has nixed that routine, they travel with him whenever possible.

Despite his many roles — devoted family man, candidate, embattled Senate leader — Biden believes he can do it all, just like his parents told him he could.

“I’m very comfortable,” he said, flashing that smile. “It just seems natural.”

Jeb Bush in 2016?

Now that Chris Christie is going down like the Hindenburg Zeppelin (“Oh, the humanity!”) Jeb Bush is now the (establishment) GOP’s anointed savior.

Nash 2.5

Nash 2.5

Don’t fall for the clever public relations stunt where his mother said she didn’t want him to run, giving him the chance to get on TV saying he hadn’t made up his mind.

Yeah, sure.

Remember, Jeb, the smart one, was SUPPOSED to be president, not George W., who was always the dumb ass – screw-up – black sheep of the family.

jeb-bush-2016So, I ask you….

*Can Jeb appease the Tea Party wing and get nominated, without alienating swing voters?

* If it’s Jeb vs Hillary…who wins?

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor

Who’s On Your Enemies List?

What’s all this fuss about Hillary Clinton aides keeping a list of who was naughty and nice to her in the 2008 campaign?

Who doesn’t keep such a list? Those who’ve done us wrong are never far from mind.

I’ve got my own enemies list. Like the two people on a slightly drizzly day last week who knocked me in the head with their damned huge umbrellas. Such instruments of destruction on narrow sidewalks should be outlawed. For that matter, umbrellas themselves are an abomination. Wear a hat. Or stay inside. Get a little wet. So what. If we raised an umbrella in the shower there’d be no point to the matter.

Also on my list: The dang fools in the grocery counter line who wait until all of their items have been registered to swipe their credit cards in the machine and slog through the screen prompts, adding at least a dozen minutes to a process that could have been completed before their groceries were bagged.

Don’t get me started on the jerks behind me in traffic who dart around and block my escape when the driver just ahead stops to make a turn.

Or how about those automated phone voices who never give you an option to talk to a real person?

If the IRS worked for me, I’d audit them all. Revenge is best served cold? Hell no, I’d put it in the microwave and walk away.

You go Hillary. Take names and kick ass.

The Hunt for Hillary

Will she or won’t she is gradually becoming more a question of when. Waiting to run for president might be Hillary Clinton’s luxury, but postponement in the 2008 race allowed time for Barack Obama to get the jump on her. Waiting, and then not running, will leave Democratic candidates at a disadvantage, having been denied access to donors on the sidelines pending her decision. The longer she waits the more she’ll have to run, or risk a lot of bad feelings in the party.

hrcglassesPerhaps the most tangible sign that she’s running is a move Time magazine reported over the weekend. Clinton’s 2008 campaign has rented its email list to a super PAC — Ready for Hillary — that she had previously kept at a distance.

In a signal that Obama forces are gathering for HRC, the president’s main super PAC for his reelection — Priorities USA — is in discussions about reinventing itself as a Clinton tool, Politico reports. Jim Messina and John Podesta, top former aides to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, are in talks to co-chair the PAC, according to Buzzfeed. They’re keeping quiet for now out of fear that Vice President Joe Biden will be embarrassed and irritated as he makes his own decision whether to run.

If the Messina/Podesta teaming happens, and Biden gets out of the way, Democrats have a shot at uniting early under Hillary, which would allow her to spend the primary season talking to general election voters while Republicans gnaw on their limbs trying to win right wing voters. Still, Democrats usually don’t do coronations without a fight.