John McCain

Bumper Crop of Candidates for Satire

Hillary Clinton wheeling around Iowa in her Scooby van is just the tip of the satirical iceberg for the latest bumper crop of presidential wannabes.

Hillary Clinton wheeling around Iowa in her Scooby van is just the tip of the satirical iceberg for the latest bumper crop of presidential wannabes.

People choose political candidates for lots of reasons, including how well they can be parodied on shows like Saturday Night Live. This year's presidential field looks like a bummer crop of candidates who will provide the ridiculous comments and embarrassing moments that brighten up late-night TV.

Hillary Clinton's official entrance into the presidential sweepstakes over the weekend touched off a wave of negative blasts from political conservatives. But the writers at SNL were licking their chops as the former First Lady headed to Iowa to campaign in a van named "Scooby." You can see the skit take shape.

Clinton faces no serious Democratic challenger so far, so may have to run a shadow-boxing campaign against make-believe opponents. That will be funny to watch on Saturday nights.

Rand Paul entered the race last week and immediately engaged in a series of testy media interviews. This may be a ploy by Paul and his team to "expose" the liberal news media, even though some fellow Republicans thought it "exposed" Paul as an angry candidate. SNL couldn't be happier. It hasn't had a candidate this petulant to parody since Ross Perot.

Ted Cruz was the first candidate to dive officially into the presidential waters. Shunning his home state of Texas as a backdrop, Cruz made his announcement at Liberty University, where, as he often does, Cruz took liberties with facts. His candidacy will excite both SNL and its satirical sister, Fox News.

The latest to join the fray is Marco Rubio, who chose a historic setting in Miami to emphasize his roots from Cuban immigrants. Rubio was one of the key Senate brokers on an immigration reform bill that is anathema to a large chunk of the GOP voters he must now try to woo. The skit almost writes itself of Rubio speaking Spanish to a clump of Iowa farmers.

Soon Jeb Bush is expected to declare his candidacy, unless he plans to turn his sizable campaign warchest into a private hedge fund. The prospect of a Bush III versus Clinton II campaign next fall will inspire all sorts of satire from just about every segment of the political spectrum.

Lindsey Graham, the just re-elected senator from South Carolina who often appears like an aide-de-camp of former GOP presidential nominee John McCain, is exploring a presidential run. It will be too tempting, if he does run, not to spoof him as the grizzled McCain's youthful protege – think Dick Cheney and George W. Bush.

And these are just the big rollers. There are dark horses roaming around the countryside that could add even more comic fizz to the mix. Voters may rue that the presidential election has started, but people who love comedy can wait for the satire to start.

Beheadings May Unite a Divided Nation

Maybe it took the beheading of American journalists to unify a national divided on almost everything to confront the newest danger to world security.Most pundits predicted it would take a miracle to unsnarl partisan gridlock in DC. Maybe it will take something very non-miraculous, like the beheadings of two American journalists by Islamic radicals.

As Congress wanders back to the nation's capital, pressure is building on President Obama to take action against what is viewed as the fast emerging threat posed by ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The threat is fresh enough, there is even disagreement over what to call it. Obama and others refer to the group as ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Seven States Could Decide Senate Control

Control of the U.S. Senate is up for grabs in this year's mid-term general election and insiders say it could come down to races in as few as seven states. Senate races in four more states, including Oregon, also could play a role. 

The political wildcard in the election deck is what happens in Republican primaries, including in Kentucky where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing a Tea Party challenger. In 2012, GOP voters nominated very conservative and controversial candidates that cost them victory in November in at least two states.

Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley won't have a walk-over in his first re-election bid, as credible Republicans, including Rep. Jason Conger of Bend, have jumped into the race. Expect some big money to come to Oregon to bludgeon Merkley. If that works or Merkley slips, Oregon could wind up on the short map of key races to decide control of the Senate.

For now, Washington Post political analysts point to Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina as the battlegrounds to watch with Democratic incumbents trying to stave off GOP challengers. Republicans are given the edge to win seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, where Democratic incumbents are retiring or, in the case of Montana Senator Max Baucus, heading off to the China as the new U.S. ambassador.

Merkley Lauds Senate Filibuster Deal

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley lauded a deal that paved the way for Senate confirmation of executive branch appointees, which he called a step in the right direction of filibuster reform.The U.S. Senate reached a compromise that avoided a partisan clash over filibuster delays of White House nominees, which threatened to plunge the upper chamber into deeper political gridlock.

The deal was applauded by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, who has championed filibuster reform. He said allowing simple up or down votes on presidential appointees to executive branch posts is a step toward historical normalcy in how the Senate treats confirmations.

The deal, which was reached after an unusual meeting of senators in the Old Senate Chamber where Henry Clay achieved his famous compromise delaying civil war, held as 17 GOP senators voted to end a silent filibuster blocking confirmation of Richard Cordray, President Obama's choice to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray, who has been in the job on an acting basis, was formally confirmed later on a 66-34 vote.

Brokered in part by Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, the compromise opens the door to Senate approval of several stalled Obama White House nominees on the National Labor Relations Board and to lead the Labor Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Export-Import Bank.

Cherry Blossoms and Compromise Bloom

Suddenly Congress is abloom with cherry blossoms and compromises on gun control and immigration reform, a vote to break a Senate filibuster and a presidential budget proposal that angered both Republicans and Democrats.

Granted most of the activity was in the Senate, which has stirred from paralysis in response to the 2012 election and fast-moving demographic changes that could reshape the nation's electoral map. Even Congressman Paul Ryan — the chief budget warrior in the GOP-controlled House — signaled the possibility of a deal with President Barack Obama, despite Speaker John Boehner calling it a plan for deficit spending forever.

The political fault lines haven't evaporated, but leading Republicans are eager to seize the moment to repair tattered relations with minority voters, who vote heavily Democratic, and suburban voters, who are emerging as the key swing votes in many states. Both constituencies balk at some of the more extreme GOP positions.

GOP ballot box failures with African-American and Latino voters were highlighted in Obama's victory last fall. But more important are signs that more bedrock red states such as Texas and Arizona are seeing a marked shift toward the political middle or beyond. That has led to a new political pliancy by the likes of Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on immigration.

Guest Workers Barrier to Immigration Reform

Influential U.S. senators toured border security facilities in Arizona this week. However, the battle over comprehensive immigration reform may already have migrated to how to deal with guest workers.

In their tour, senators witnessed the apprehension of a woman who tried to scale an 18-foot tall fence. Chances are their private conversations during the trip centered on how to find common ground between the views of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO on guest workers. 

Organized labor wants to avoid a flood of new workers that elbow aside Americans for jobs or erode U.S. wage rates for lower-skill employment. The Chamber says an influx of immigrant workers will fill vacant jobs, especially in agriculture, and add productivity to the U.S. economy by providing a source of lower-cost labor.

The knot of senators working on immigration reform, which includes Arizona's two Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, had hoped to have a consensus measure ready for Senate consideration in April. In the world of politics, it is best to deal with controversial issues as far away as possible from the next election. As time drifts on, more Members of Congress may get cold feet.

Differences over a guest worker program scuttled immigration reform in 2007 and represent a major obstacle to a compromise this year, despite an alignment of political stars in which both Democrats and Republicans want to win points with swelling numbers of Latino voters.

According to Bloomberg News, Democrats have proposed to allocate 10,000 visas annually for low-skilled workers, in a manner similar to how visas are issued to high-skilled workers, with a maximum cap of 200,000 visas. Republicans, led by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, call that idea cumbersome and unworkable. Business interests have called for a program that issues 400,000 guest worker visas.

Paul Ryan and the Wikipedia War

Paul Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate ignited a war on Wikipedia over whether it was relevant to note his high school voted him as the biggest brown noser. Photo by Gage Skidmore.The selection over the weekend of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's Republican running mate  touched off a wave of pro and con commentary. None was more pitched than a series of edits and counter-edits to Paul Ryan's Wikipedia page.

The focus of the Wikipedia Wars quickly zeroed in on a 1988 reference in Ryan's high school yearbook that listed him as the "Biggest Brown-Noser."

Ryan sympathizers swept in to scrub the reference as irrelevant, but the vigilant opposition countered and put back the brown-nose reference, declaring it was relevant. The battle waged on with hundreds of revisions, including mention that Ryan was prom king his senior year.

Actually, a spate of Wikipedia edits in a politician's profile has now become a semi-official perch to judge whether a vice presidential candidate's stock is rising or falling. 

Writing for The Atlantic, Megan Garber said reporters staked out the various Wikipedia pages of leading vice presidential candidates to see which one had the most editorial activity, a clue to who might get the nod. She noted that short-listers Rob Portman, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio and Ryan each had about the same amount of pre-announcement editing.

This was in sharp contrast, Garber said, to 2008 when Sarah Palin's Wikipedia page was edited 68 times the day before John McCain's surprise announcement of her as his running mate.

Political mischief-maker Stephen Colbert, perhaps miffed because he wasn't on anyone's short list, openly encouraged people to "go on Wikipedia and make as many edits as possible to your favorite VP contender." Wikipedia locked down the pages of the short-listers, which sucked the air out of Colbert's party.

The Frontrunner, the Dwarfs and the Debate

If you were hankering for a great debate about health care, birth control and bombing Iran, don't expect to see Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney square off in Portland March 19. Photo by Panorama Mercantil.Oregon Public Broadcasting brushed off objections by Mayor Sam Adams, but it may be harder to sustain a GOP presidential primary debate in Portland without a frontrunner.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney dispatched a staff member to announce he wouldn't be participating in the March 19 debate in Portland hosted by OPB and broadcast by National Public Radio. Now the question is whether any of the three other remaining presidential candidates will participate. So far, only Newt Gingrich has committed to attend.

While Gingrich's outsized personality and political rhetoric can fill a stage, it is debatable whether the debate will go on if he is a solo act.

There have been 20 Republican presidential debates, the last one February 23 in Arizona. The contest since then has turned into a regional sideshow with Romney, Gingrich and Rick Santorum stumping the country in the shadow of advertising by their respective supporting SuperPACs. Ron Paul depends on his organic grassroots network of support.

A Last Laugh at 2011

Since its beginnings at a Senate office Christmas party in 1981, The Capitol Steps has produced political satire that makes even lampooned politicians laugh at themselves. The group's 2011 wrap-up is no exception, drawing on a cornucopia of gaffes and ludicrous moments in an otherwise forgettable year.

 

The musical troupe satirizes Herman Cain's womanizing to the tune of Love Potion No. 9 and spoofs Congress (the opposite of progress) in a take-off of the Mary Poppins' favorite, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. A hilarious reprise of Bob Dole's character returns as the more experienced running mate for John McCain's late-arriving 2012 presidential bid.

Hardly anyone gets a pass in this hour-long special, not even the female U.S. Supreme Court justices, who, while waiting in line at the high court's one-hole women's restroom, coo about their secret lust for fellow justice and conservative hunk Antonin Scalia.

Not surprisingly, the living laugh track known as the GOP presidential candidates gets dominant play in the show, which includes a contest for funniest hopeful of the year. Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a previous winner, introduces the contestants. Featured is a romp through revisionist history sung by Michele Bachman and Sarah Palin.

Of course, former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner makes an, ahem, appearance in what Capitol Steps' veteran Mark Eaton calls a built-in joke. President Barack Obama hangs out with the troupe because "I live with my mother-in-law."

No Capitol Steps show is complete without a version of Lirty Dies, the tongue-twisting, consonant-switching play on words that produces outlandish and belly-laughing results.

You can go to The Capitol Steps website and download the 2011 revue, which also contains a sneak-peak into the anticipated missteps of 2012. Don't try to navigate the distress that lies ahead without first cleansing your soul by listening the troupe's 2011 revue.

Even for the button-down believer, catching a Capitol Steps live show can be a Washington, D.C. highlight. For the cynics in the crowd, the show is a witty confirmation that the country is indeed seriously out of whack. 

A Last Laugh at 2011

Since its beginnings at a Senate office Christmas party in 1981, The Capitol Steps has produced political satire that even makes lampooned politicians laugh at themselves. The group's 2011 wrap-up is no exception, drawing on a cornucopia of gaffes and ludicrous moments in an otherwise forgettable year.

The musical troupe satirizes Herman Cain's womanizing to the tune of Love Potion No. 9 and spoofs Congress (the opposite of progress) in a take-off of the Mary Poppins' favorite, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. A hilarious reprise of Bob Dole's character returns as the more experienced running mate for John McCain's late-arriving 2012 presidential bid.

Hardly anyone gets a pass in this hour-long special, not even the female U.S. Supreme Court justices, who, while waiting in line at the high court's one-hole women's restroom, coo about their secret lust for fellow justice and conservative hunk Antonin Scalia.