Joe Biden’s prospective presidential candidacy is in danger of becoming a joke. Every week, some new Democratic bigwig pledges himself to Hillary Clinton. Pro-Hillary groups have already assembled to fend off hostile campaign press. At last weekend’s White House Correspondents Dinner, President Obama added to the air of inevitability by teasing Fox News, “You’ll miss me when I’m gone. It’ll be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya.”
If there’s any suspense left about the Democratic primary in 2016, it largely revolves around whether an economic populist will challenge Clinton from the left. The prospect of Elizabeth Warren entering the race tantalizes many liberals. But since Biden’s not an anti-Wall Street crusader, his potential candidacy sparks barely any interest at all. That’s too bad. While a Warren candidacy would spark one valuable debate inside the Democratic Party—about government’s role in the economy—a Biden candidacy would spark another: about America’s role in the world.
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Consider this post another installment in the series: “Rand Paul could win the Republican nomination. Please stop laughing.”
In previous installments, we’ve argued that Paul will inherit from his father a preexisting campaign structure in Iowa and New Hampshire that few, if any, of his rivals can match. We’ve argued that Paul is showing the ability to raise real money, both from GOP insiders and via small donations over the web. And we’ve argued that, at least so far, Republican primary voters in key early states see Paul as a mainstream conservative, not a libertarian wacko bird.
Which brings us to Paul’s other great, unnoticed, strength: Hillary Clinton. While things could always change, the 2016 Democratic nomination is so far shaping up as the least competitive, non-incumbent presidential primary contest in memory. It looks increasingly likely that if Clinton faces any opposition at all, it will be from a Don Quixote like Bernie Sanders or Brian Schweitzer, not a challenger with any genuine political base or ability to raise substantial money.
For Rand Paul, that’s fabulous. It means lots of Democrats and independents will cross over to vote in Republican primaries, where the action is. And most of them will vote for him.
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The attack on Republicans worked in 2012, and Democrats will use it again in 2016. Will their frontrunner’s husband weaken its efficacy?
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There isn’t much political logic to dredging the old scandal up—except as a move to shore up his credibility with social conservatives skeptical of libertarianism.
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Time magazine’s cover this week asks, “Can Anyone Stop Hillary?” The answer to that question is yes, but you’d never know it judging by the overwhelming belief among Democratic insiders that the party’s 2016 presidential nomination is simply Hillary Clinton’s for the asking.
For all her popularity among party power brokers, the sense of invincibility that currently surrounds Clinton reflects a kind of suspension of disbelief by Democrats that a more detached reckoning should dispel.
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The tragic news that forces linked to al-Qaeda have retaken Fallujah is just the latest reminder that George W. Bush’s war of choice was a historic, catastrophic misjudgment. “Any Republican seeking nomination for the 2016 presidential election should at a minimum be willing to admit Iraq was a mistake,” Jeremy Lott writes at RealClearWorld. “It was an error that cost us upwards of $1.5 trillion, thousands of U.S. lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead, while seriously hindering our efforts to track down the real culprits of September 11, 2001.”
The issue is going to be tough for Republicans to navigate, given that public opinion has turned against the war, even as powerful GOP factions still support it. Marco Rubio and Chris Christie are probably already gaming out their strategy. What’s less remarked upon is the challenge Iraq will pose for Democrats. The war was foisted on America by a propagandizing Republican administration, and Democratic hawks have been better than Republican hawks at acknowledging error. But as Daniel Larison notes, “Virtually none of the politicians mentioned as 2016 candidates in the GOP were even in national office during the Bush year,” whereas several prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Kerry, all have pro-war votes on their resumes. (And it’s hard to believe that any of those three were hoodwinked by Dick Cheney.)
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Hint: It’s the same reason an auditorium of Goldman Sachs executives gave her a warm welcome recently.
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When John Kerry succeeded Hillary Clinton as secretary of state in February, Clinton’s emotional departure from the State Department received blanket media coverage. Kerry’s arrival received next to none.
“So here’s the big question before the country and the world and the State Department after the last eight years,” Kerry said in a speech to State Department employees on his first day on the job. “Can a man actually run the State Department? I don’t know.”
As the crowd roared with laughter, Kerry pushed the joke too far.
“As the saying goes,” he said, “I have big heels to fill.”
Nearly three weeks later, Kerry’s first foreign-policy speech as secretary, an hour-long defense of diplomacy and foreign aid, was a flop. The Washington Post gave it 500 words. The New York Times ignored it. (He was also accused of accidentally inventing a new country called “Kyrzakhstan,” an apparent conflation of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.)
The nearly universal expectation was that Kerry’s tenure would be overshadowed by his predecessor’s, for a long list of reasons. For starters, he was arriving in Foggy Bottom when the country seemed to be withdrawing from the world. Exhausted by two long wars, Americans were wary of ambitious new foreign engagements—certainly of military ones, but of entangling diplomatic ones, too. Barack Obama’s administration, accelerating a process that had begun in the early 1960s under President Kennedy, was centralizing foreign-policy decision making in the White House’s National Security Council, marginalizing the State Department. Kerry hadn’t even been Obama’s first choice for the position, getting nominated only when the candidacy of United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice was derailed by her tenuous association with the Benghazi-consulate tragedy in 2012. (Rice ended up running the National Security Council.) The appetite for risk taking in the White House is never high, but after the Benghazi imbroglio, it was particularly low. Finally, Kerry, a defeated presidential candidate, was devoid of the sexiness that automatically attaches to a figure, like Hillary Clinton, who remains a legitimate presidential prospect. The consensus in Washington was that Kerry was a boring if not irrelevant man stepping into what was becoming a boring, irrelevant job.
Yet his time at the State Department has been anything but boring—and no one can argue his lack of relevance.
Read more. [Image: Sony Tumbelaka/AFP/Getty]
Rand Paul and Chris Christie’s recent verbal tussle has led some to suggest that the men represent opposing poles of a battle for the soul of the Republican Party as they seek to position themselves in advance of the 2016 presidential election. The smart money at the Republican National Committee meeting in Boston last week was that the real 2016 contest isn’t going to be between Paul and Christie, however, but between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the New Jersey governor, potentially pitting two pugnacious and experienced state executives against each other, with Walker tacking to the right and Christie tacking to the center on social issues.
While Walker is working at staying under-the-radar at this early date (about which: smart move), Paul has made himself a voluble presence in Washington, D.C.
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The article on the Clinton Foundation the New York Times published today is a reminder of what you inevitably get with Bill and Hillary Clinton: tremendous smarts, drive, ambition … and a lot of baggage.
"For all of its successes, the Clinton Foundation had become a sprawling concern, supervised by a rotating board of old Clinton hands, vulnerable to distraction and threatened by conflicts of interest," Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick report. "It ran multimillion-dollar deficits for several years, despite vast amounts of money flowing in. And concern was rising inside and outside the organization about Douglas J. Band, a onetime personal assistant to Mr. Clinton who had started a lucrative corporate consulting firm — which Mr. Clinton joined as a paid adviser — while overseeing the Clinton Global Initiative, the foundation’s glitzy annual gathering."
Why does this matter?
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