2015 Starts with a Bang - 114th Keystone Cops or Pipeline? Deja Bush? More Terrorism?



By Mark Green

The contours of the next year or two are already taking shape: with McConnell claiming credit for soaring economy yet Graham blaming Obama for Charlie Hebdo, JAlter and RChristie discuss if this will this be Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc period? Then, like a movie season of only sequels, will '16 be dominated by Jeb & Mitt (and Her)?

On the 114th Congress. Will the new GOP Congress find common ground legislatively -- on trade, tax 'reform', infrastructure -- with Obama or will it just be more partisan gridlock? Ron is optimistic that there will be an agreement on fast-tracking trade but tax and immigration "are more dicey. And we will go back to 'regular order' in the Senate so the minority will have a bigger voice."

Jonathan thinks that "the only way anything will get done on trade and infrastructure is if the Republicans drop their idiotic idea that if Obama's for something, they have to be against it. Republicans have been for infrastructure spending [since Lincoln.] " As for Majority Leader McConnell bragging that recent 5 percent growth is "coincident" with the GOP takeover (also coincident with my granddaughter's fourth birthday, so thanks Ava for boosting the economy!), Alter is even more scathing: "That's like taking credit for the weather as if investors worldwide woke up last month and said, let's invest billions because Mitch McConnell is now in charge of the Senate. That's a bit political-centric."

(Host: To quote Tweeters everywhere, HAHAHAHA. After six years of saying Obama's job-destroying policies will ruin the economy, Republicans now imply that the economy's slow but steady rise from mid-2009 to today was because investors retroactively realized McConnell's prowess and Republican stability. Let us recall the investor confidence spawned by shutting down the government and almost shutting down the world economy by defaulting on our debts. To paraphrase Mencken, no one ever went broke, apparently in the Majority Leader's view, underestimating the intelligence of the credulous GOP base.

Officially, this is now the second time that GOP administrations have left bad economies that Democratic Administrations have rescued -- recall that Clinton's budget in 1993 passed with zero GOP votes and Gingrich predicted it would tank the economy -- instead it produced 22 million more jobs the rest the decade. Usually when a religion predicts the end of the world on a specific date and then nothing happens, they usually have the good grace to change their catechism or their faith. Not this group.)

Last: Jonathan and Ron agree that a) Keystone will be initially vetoed by the president but then there could be a deal where it gets approval if linked to some kind of Green Energy program, ideally even a gas tax to fund infrastructure or renewable energy. And Jonathan begs Ron to tell his friend, the re-elected Speaker John Boehner, to "drop the informal Hastert rule" requiring not a majority of the body but a majority of the GOP Caucus to get a floor vote. Ron agrees! "If half the members of this chamber agree to support or at least debate a bill, then it should be debated or passed."

On Jeb and Huck. Former Governor Huckabee announces he'll leave his Fox show to consider another run for president because "God hasn't put me on earth to make a good living but... make a good life." And Jeb Bush tells a small fundraising dinner that we all have fathers and brothers but they're not us. (He's right. I too have had a father and brother, though, in one small, technical difference, neither nor both were president with me trying to follow in their footsteps.)

Who should Hillary be more afraid of? Both agree it's Jeb because, says Alter, he can get votes in the center and presidential elections are decided in this median strip." They agree that Huck's dynamic and charismatic, which didn't hurt Reagan and Obama, but "voters want to know your positions and accomplishments on jobs and taxes," says Ron, "and he's something of one-trick pony" who puts his faith in faith. That's unlikely to work outside of the Iowa and South Carolina primaries.

Host: Romney's late day leak that he "wants to be president" and may run came after we conclude the show. Like a movie season of only sequels, 2016 may involve several déjà candidacies. Which will be Godfather II and which Dumb and Dumber Too?

As for the also dynamic Christie (Chris), there's agreement that his bully-boy schtick may not work outside of Alter's home state of New Jersey, "but then all you might need is one dramatic moment in a debate" says Jonathan, "and the candidate's right in it." (Think Reagan taking control of the microphone "I paid for" New Hampshire in 1980 or Newt Gingrich clobbering CNN's John King when asked about his sex life in 2012.)

On Charlie Hebdo. While Erick Erickson and Michael Moore agree every website should post some Charlie Hebdo cartoons, Bill Donahue, the head of the Catholic League, says that while murder is wrong, those cartoonists in effect had it coming.

Consensus Alert! Both panelists think that's "disgusting" since the issue is not what one originally thought of the cartoons but the fundamental value of freedom of expression. Alter adds that "Donahue's way leads to tyranny." He goes on to explain how, while the SONY hack didn't involve actual violence, it too went to the heart of speech since "it threatened Hollywood and free expression. And it was gutless when George Clooney distributed a petition to get fellow actors and producers to insist that The Interview be shown and couldn't get anyone to sign it!"

While the New York Times and NBC refuse to show the controversial cartoons, the Washington Post and Huffington Post do. What would Jonathan and Ron have done?

Again, they agree: while there's always some risk, you have to run them or else you allow haters to get away with intimidation, or what constitutional lawyers call "the heckler's veto."

What about Senator Graham's comment on Fox that "Obama's campaign promises are getting a lot of people killed" because he's weak on terrorism? This infuriates Alter, who points out that it's Republicans who engage in this kind of faux causation since, after 9/11, no leading Democrats blamed Bush even though, in fact, he and Condi Rice refused to see former Senators Hart and Rudman whose bi-partisan commission in January, 2001 warned of a terrorist attack on American soil. He adds that's S.O.P. for the GOP but not Democrats. Ron, however, vigorously disagrees with that.

On the NYPD Insurrection in NYC. Speaking of policing, what does our panel, who often work in NYC, think of the ugly war of words between Mayor de Blasio and the PBA over the death of Eric Garner and then the killing of two cops by a gunmen claiming revenge? They concur that the de facto sit-down strike by the NYPD is indefensible since it's fine to protest any public official off-duty but not while wearing a uniform and getting paid to protect the public.

Ron notes that it's understandable why de Blasio, who has a black son, would caution him how to behave with the police given a history of misconduct toward kids of color, but that it may have been indiscreet to have highlighted that after the Garner grand jury refused to indict.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

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