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Why the GOP field is so weak

9 Dec

By James Carville, CNN contributor
updated 9:53 AM EST, Fri December 9, 2011
James Carville says he thinks he can explain why the GOP field of candidates for president is the weakest in memory.
James Carville says he thinks he can explain why the GOP field of candidates for president is the weakest in memory.

  • James Carville says the GOP field for president is very weak and he thinks he knows why
  • He says economics says that if a thing has value, people want it, but few want this job
  • He says good candidates shied away because they couldn’t take low level of discourse
  • Carville: GOP getting candidates that match intellectual composition of many in the party

Editor’s note: James Carville is a Democratic strategist who serves as a political contributor for CNN, appearing frequently on CNN’s“The Situation Room” as well as other programs on all CNN networks. Carville remains active in Democratic politics and is a party fundraiser.

(CNN) — As usual, Professor Paul Krugman’s piece in the Monday morning New York Times is causing a great deal of chatter among the political types. Krugman points out just how inept the Republican field is. In some cases he takes a scalpel (and in others a machete) to surely the weakest field of presidential aspirants any party has offered in modern American history (see my earlier CNN columncomparing this field to 1980). I believe I can explain why this field is so inept. In order to proffer this explanation I am going to utilize Professor Krugman’s field of economics.

James Carville
James Carville

Hold on: I confess I’ve never taken an economics course and if you ask me the relationship between interest rates and bond prices I would have a Herman Cain Libya moment. I could probably get the right answer but it would take me a while. There are some laws of economics that I believe all economists (be they salt, fresh, or brackish water) would agree on. One of these is: The more valuable a thing, the more people will be interested in purchasing that thing. And as Professor Krugman points out in his piece, the 2012 Republican nomination was clearly considered by most observers to be a thing of value.

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Even the most partisan Democrat — me for example — would concede that three months ago the Republicans had an excellent chance to win the presidency. So ask yourself: Why does this thing that appears to have so much value have so many low bidders? Why did people like Govs. Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Jeb Bush and Sen. John Thune, all look at this and decide not to raise their paddles?

So here we wind up with the political equivalent of the Hope Diamond going for $99.99. I think that these guys were smart enough to see a big flaw in the process and it is this: The majority of the people in the Republican Party who were going to pick their nominee had been so overwhelmed by misinformation, unworkable simplistic solutions — e.g., electrifying border fences — and anti-science, right-wing pandering, that the potential candidates decided they just could not go through with it.

We have watched GOP debates where audience members booed gay soldiers and cheered the prospect of someone dying without health insurance. We’ve seen a candidate who wasn’t penalized in the least for not knowing that China has had nuclear weapons since 1964 but had to drop out because of a consensual sexual relationship. We have seen a member of the House Intelligence Committee who apparently didn’t realize that we haven’t had an embassy in Iran for the last 30 years, candidates who don’t believe in evolution, and a candidate that didn’t even know the voting age in the United States. Maybe Bush, Daniels, Christie, Barbour and Thune figured out ahead of time what Fairleigh Dickinson University uncovered just recently: that people who watch Fox News are actually more ignorant than people who watch no news at all. Could you imagine what they would have found had they studied people listening to talk radio?

Perhaps the Republicans are getting exactly the kind of candidates that best match the intellectual composition of the majority of the people in their party — just a thought, but it’s my only explanation of our low bidders. Looks like their chance at the presidency is going, going, gone.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of James Carville.


Gingrich, Romney, And Perry Agree: Republican Presidents Don’t Actually Have To Follow The Law

9 Dec

By Ian Millhiser on Dec 5, 2011 at 3:00 pm

As Igor Volsky reported this weekend, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) falsely claimed on Saturday that he would have the power to unilaterally halt the Affordable Care Act by executive order if he is elected president — a claim so radical that even Tea Party Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA) was skeptical. Perpetual second-place GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has long claimed the illegal authorityto allow states to simply opt out of health reform. And current GOP frontrunner Newt Gingrich has gone even further — claiming he has the power to simply ignore Supreme Court decisions he disagrees with.

Simply put, this is lawlessness. The Constitution gives the president the power to veto billsimmediately after they pass Congress. It does not allow the president to retroactively veto a law years after it is signed — and it certainly does not give him the power to thumb his nose at the rule of law. Sadly, however, this lawless belief that presidents can simply ignore laws they disagree with is not simply something three presidential candidates dreamed up to pander to GOP primary voters — it has also begun to infect the federal judiciary. Consider a dissenting opinion D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh recently wrote in a case upholding the Affordable Care Act:

Under the Constitution, the President may decline to enforce a statute that regulates private individuals when the President deems the statute unconstitutional, even if a court has held or would hold the statute constitutional. Similarly, Congress may repeal or decline to pass a statute based on its own constitutional interpretation even if the courts have (or would have) upheld the statute as constitutional. This power does not work in reverse, either for the President or Congress. In other words, the President may not enforce a statute against a private individual when the statute is deemed unconstitutional by the courts. Nor may Congress pass a statute and have it enforced against private individuals simply because Congress disagrees with the Supreme Court. In those situations, the Judiciary has the final word on the meaning of the Constitution.

To Kavanaugh’s credit, he rejects Gingrich’s authoritarian position that the president can simply ignore decisions striking down unconstitutional acts — but his position is strikingly similar to the view advocated by Romney and Perry. Essentially, Kavanaugh argues, the president does have the power to retroactively veto a law simply by calling it “unconstitutional.” Nor is Kavanaugh — a former Supreme Court clerk who is widely viewed as a likely Supreme Court nominee in a GOP administration — alone in this view. He cites an opinion by Justice Scalia, claiming that “the President possesses ‘the power to veto encroaching laws or even to disregard them when they are unconstitutional.’”

The constitutional argument against the Affordable Care Act, in the words of conservative Judge Laurence Silberman, “cannot find real support…in either the text of the Constitution or Supreme Court precedent.” It is likely to be upheld by the Supreme Court next year. Nevertheless, the lawless suggestions of Romney, Perry, Scalia, and Kavanaugh present a looming threat to this and all other laws that Republicans disagree with. Health reform could win the day in Court, take full effect in President Obama’s second term — only to have a power-hungry president try to retroactively veto it many years later.