Comcast recently announced plans to buy Time Warner Cable. If the merger is approved, the country’s two largest cable providers would become one powerful behemoth that would control a massive share of our TV and Internet-access markets.
John Nichols summed up the danger of the merger:
Merging the two largest cable providers is a big deal in and of itself—allowing one company to become a definitional player in major media markets across the country—but this goes far beyond cable. By expanding its dominance of video and Internet communications into what the Los Angeles Times describes as a “juggernaut” with 30 million subscribers, the company that already controls Universal Studios can drive hard bargains with content providers. It can also define the scope and character of news and public-service programming in dozens of states and hundreds of major cities—including Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, DC.
The merger would be bad for consumers, bad for our free press and bad for democracy. Tell FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that he must stop the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger.
In her column for The Washington Post, Katrina vanden Heuvel explained why the proposed merger “doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Earlier this week, Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! interviewed former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who discussed the dangers of the deal, saying that it “should be dead on arrival.”
Of the 500 Cossacks patrolling Olympic Sochi, only one could talk to me. As I waited for two hours at the temporary quarters of these throwback warriors for Valery Vasilievich, deputy head of the Kuban Cossack Host, to arrive, I started chatting with a young Cossack named Oleg, who had traded his sheepskin hat and wool uniform for a polo shirt and short shorts on his day off. As he poked at his iPad, we talked about the cost of iPhones, the upcoming Canada-America hockey match and Oleg’s émigré brother and aunt’s love for the United States. Oleg said he had left his sword and traumatic pistol at home in Krasnodar, the regional capital—no need to scare the tourists. In short, he was just a normal 20-year-old kid playing soldier here in Sochi.
When I asked him what he thought about his brother in arms who gassed and beat Pussy Riot activists with a traditional Cossack whip yesterday, he said he hadn’t given it much thought.
“I support him as a fellow Cossack,” he said finally.
Once upon a time, Cossacks were the most feared horsemen in the czar’s army, members of a military caste that lived and died in the lawless borderlands of the Russian empire. But the contingent of Kuban Cossacks serving in Sochi are just modern Russians who happened to be born white and Orthodox Christian in the Krasnodar region, the traditional Cossack heartland. Thanks to this legacy—and the political expediency of all things “traditional” in Russia now—they’ve been able to claim a privileged status in local law enforcement, allowed to detain people until police arrive and conduct anti-immigrant raids. But while they may have the power, they don’t have the liability that comes with it, as the Pussy Riot whipping showed.
The Krasnodar region, which includes Sochi, is the center of the Cossack revival: Governor Alexander Tkachyov, who is himself a Cossack colonel, became the first to institutionalize Cossacks last year when he placed some 1,200 Cossacks on the state payroll.
The Cossacks have enjoyed the patronage of the federal government thanks to their ability to promote patriotism and traditional values, a main plank of Vladimir Putin’s foreign and domestic policy. Meanwhile, regional leaders like Tkachyov can employ Cossack groups as a loyal alternative to the police, which are controlled by the Interior Ministry in Moscow, according to New York University professor Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia’s security services. And local citizens—at least the ethnic Russians—generally like Cossacks and credit them improving law and order.
But the professionalism of the Cossack hosts springing up around Russia had been called into question even before the Pussy Riot whipping. The independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that Cossacks broke one man’s nose in Krasnodar in 2013 when he noted that they had no right to check his documents, and a local Cossack leader also punched a female electoral official in the nose that year. No one was prosecuted in either instance.
Meanwhile, Cossacks have continued the xenophobic streak of their forebears who led czarist pogroms against Jews, according to many historians. The Kuban Cossacks said they took part in mass anti-immigrant raids in Sochi this fall that resulted in the deportation of hundreds of immigrant workers who built the Olympic venues. Many of these workers were then held in inhumane conditions and not paid the wages they were owed, according to Human Rights Watch and local activists.
In fact, the regional news service Caucasian Knot reported that 270 Cossacks in the Krasnodar region serve in special “mobile brigades” that conduct raids to find undocumented immigrants. According to Oleg, these nighttime adventures are sanctioned by special documents from the prosecutor general’s office and involve bands of Cossacks rounding up immigrants and carting those without documents off in a van to face deportation proceedings.
Asked if modern-day Cossacks—many of whom actually do have minimal military experience—could be somehow reformed into an effective crime-fighting force, Galeotti said the first thing to do would be “to make it clear that Cossacks should not be regarded as having special privileges or rights.”
“With the beating of Pussy Riot, if it had been security guards who had used truncheons it would be regarded as a crime,” he said.
Even conservative pundit Maxim Shevchenko, who condemned Pussy Riot’s “punk prayer” in Christ the Savior Cathedral in 2012, said their Cossack attackers had “shamed Russia and the Olympics” and called for them to face criminal charges. Instead, the one with the whip received an administrative violation and paid a fine, and he’s still on the Cossack payroll.
Valery Vasilievich, when he finally arrived, said he had commended his whip-happy subordinate on a job well done.
“We’ve driven and will continue to drive these girls out of here with a dirty broom,” he said of Pussy Riot, whom he accused of defiling Orthodoxy’s main church and being American agents.
Maybe with better training and reforms to the ill-defined legal area that leaves room for vigilante justice and anti-immigrant raids, these men in sheepskin hats could serve some minor security function. But for now, they’re just playing at soldiers, whipping girls and inflaming ethnic tensions on a whim.
Read Next: Dave Zirin on Cossack soldiers’ attacking members of Pussy Riot
Questions abound following the fatal shooting of a Texas woman by a sheriff’s deputy Sunday, centering on conflicting statements as to whether she was armed.
Deputy Daniel Willis fatally shot Yvette Smith, 47, after responding to a 911 call at a residence at 105 Zimmerman Avenue regarding an argument between two men over a gun, according to local police. Smith died later at a local hospital.
Bastrop County police initially claimed that Smith, who is black, walked to the doorstep with a gun and refused to follow officers’s commands before she was shot. A subsequent statement, released hours later, said investigators “cannot confirm” that Smith was armed or refused to follow commands. The sheriff’s department has placed Willis, who is white, on administrative leave.
One of the men involved in the reported argument, Willie Thomas, who was the homeowner and Smith’s boyfriend, told the Austin Statesman that she did not have a gun when the incident occurred. Smith’s 25-year-old son Anthony Bell said his mother was uneasy around guns.
Bell added that there was, indeed, an argument in the residence over a gun, but no gun was in the home.
The Bastrop Sheriff’s Department chose not to comment, pending further investigations.
Here’s more about Yvette Smith from the Statesman:
Smith worked at the Austin State Hospital as a caretaker until a few months ago, when she had knee surgery, and enjoyed her time off, listening to blues music on her front porch and smoking a cigar, family members said.
Smith was a single mother who was loving yet stern to Bell and his 18-year-old brother, family members said. While teaching them the value of a dollar and pushing them to do chores, she also spoiled them.
The last three days have been the bloodiest in Ukraine’s twenty-two-year post-Soviet history. In an interview with Democracy Now!, Nation contributing editor Stephen Cohen railed against the tepid response of Western leaders to this eruption of violence. Warning that the chaos in Ukraine could spark a civil war—or even “a new Cold War divide”—he chastised the United States and Germany for placing responsibility for solving this political crisis squarely in the hands of the Ukranian government. According to Cohen, President Obama and Chancellor Merkel’s implicit support for the anti-government protesters helps to “rationalize what the killers in the streets are doing. It gives them Western license.”
Editor’s note: The interview with Cohen starts at 11:40.
This week witnessed a minor contretemps in the world of crossword puzzles. The details are not especially important, nor are they easy to discuss without the risk of spoiling a prominent puzzle for those who may not have solved it yet (the original blog posts are here and here). But the underlying issue had to do with the importance of consistency in a puzzle’s theme.
If you construct a puzzle based on theme entries in which one letter changes to another, must every occurrence of that letter change? Are little words such as “of” and “the” exempt? Does it make a difference if the changing letter is a rarity like Q or Z, or a workhorse like E or T? And what about puzzle themes that involve entire words? Do the thematic words have to occur at particular locations in the theme entries—the beginning or the end, say—or can they be placed freely?
As you might expect, those taking part in the discussion (which soon spilled off of the blogs and onto Facebook) wound up arrayed along a continuum, from advocates for maximum consistency to those maintaining a more laissez-faire attitude. There was general agreement that some degree of consistency is required in order to make a puzzle theme both comprehensible and pleasurable; the question is how to make that judgment.
These questions arise for us as well when we construct puzzles with themes. In recent months, for example, we’ve run some themes with comparatively loose constraints. For Puzzle #3313, we used whatever long entries we could find that included the part words we were trying to use; Puzzle #3289, by contrast, put the names of the three most recent popes in the same spot in each of three theme entries.
And sometimes, we split the difference. We built Puzzle #3307 around the countries with four-letter names. There are 10 of them, of which we could only get seven into the grid. So to placate our consciences—and the nagging cry of consistency—we put the other three into the clues.
How important do you find consistency in a crossword theme? Please share here, along with any quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle or any previous puzzle. To comment (and see other readers’ comments), please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen.
And here are four links:
• The current puzzle
• Our e-books (solve past puzzles on your iOS device—many hints provided by the software!)
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog where every one of our clues is explained in detail.
Matt Taibbi, a favorite of Nation (and other) readers for several years thanks to his hard-hitting, but often humorous, reporting on the crooks and “squids” of Wall Street, and their DC cronies, for venerable Rolling Stone, announced today he was joining First Look. That’s the new media project from Pierre Omidiyar, which has already attracted the likes of Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras.
He will head the financial/economic team and produce the second digital magazine. Greenwald, Scahill and others launched the first, The Intercept, related to the NSA/Snowden leaks and privacy/security concerns earlier this month.
Taibbi’s farewell to Rolling Stone is here. (He learned of his big career break while walking in my native Niagara Falls.) See links to some of his “greatest hits” below. The First Look release is here and includes:
Taibbi will help assemble a top-notch team of journalists and bring his trademark combination of reporting, analysis, humor and outrage to the ongoing financial crisis—and to the political machinery that makes it possible. The magazine will launch later this year.
Taibbi comes to First Look from Rolling Stone, where he served as a contributing editor for the past 10 years. During his tenure, he built a large and devoted following that has grown to rely on his in-depth and irreverent reporting on Wall Street and Washington. Whether busting Goldman Sachs for market manipulation or revealing the hidden roots of the student loan crisis, Taibbi has exposed and explained the most complicated financial scandals of the day with a fresh and compelling approach to journalism that has enraged and inspired millions of readers.
“Matt is one of the most influential journalists of our time,” said Eric Bates, executive editor of First Look Media. “His incisive explorations of the financial crisis—and Wall Street’s undue influence over our political system—have played a key role in helping to inform the public and transform the national debate. He is a journalist who can explain what a credit default swap is and why it’s important—and, make you bust out laughing while he’s doing it. I look forward to having him on our team and helping him launch a dynamic new site unlike any other.”
Just this week I posted an item on Taibbi’s latest piece at my blog. “The Loophole That Ate the World,” as we put it, in describing his angle. Earlier, Taibbi on “advocacy journalists” (that is, all of them). How the bailouts created a “Ponzi scheme.” Of course, we enjoyed it when he went after David Brooks. Then there was his take on a Thomas Friedman sex tape.
Read Next: Nation in the News Stephen Cohen: In Kiev, We Can’t Ignore the Fascist Minority.
The grisly execution of convicted murderer Dennis McGuire earlier this year raised controversy over the lethal injection cocktail used to put him to death. That concoction—composed of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone—had never before been used for capital punishment.
Now, the maker of those drugs says it objects to their use for killing inmates.
Associated Press reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins obtained records tracing Ohio’s lethal injection drugs to Hospira Inc., an Illinois-based pharmaceutical company. A representative from Hospira told Welsh-Huggins that it makes the drugs for treating patients, not executing prisoners. But the company didn’t indicate plans for further action. Per AP:
Despite its opposition, Hospira also says there’s only so much it can do, given what it calls “the complex supply chain and the gray market” of US drug distribution. It says it can’t guarantee a US prison could not obtain restricted products outside of the normal distribution process.
This isn’t the first time Hospira has been mired in a death penalty controversy. In 2011, global protests prompted the company to stop manufacturing the drug sodium thiopental because of its use in US executions.
Ohio law mandates the use of midazolam and hydromorphone for executions. It switched over to the cocktail after European manufacturers barred sales of the drug pentobarbital to US prison systems.
During Ohio’s first trial with the Hospira-made cocktail, McGuire repeatedly gasped for air, choked and made loud snorting sounds throughout the twenty-five-minute procedure, the longest in the state since it resumed executions in 1999. McGuire’s family filed a lawsuit against the state, saying the manner in which he died amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
Outrage and national attention over McGuire’s gruesome death has spurred state officials to postpone upcoming executions using the same drugs. Earlier this month, a Louisiana judge delayed the execution of Christopher Sepulvado, convicted for murdering his 6-year-old stepson. And in Ohio, Governor John Kasich granted a reprieve for convicted killer Gregory Lott, as officials finish up an examination of McGuire’s death.
There are five more executions scheduled in Ohio this year.
Read Next: New York state bans solitary confinement for inmates under 18.
The White House budget for fiscal year 2015 will not include cuts to Social Security in the form of a Chained-CPI formula to calculate inflation, the Associated Press reported on Thursday. The proposal was included in last year’s White House budget, and Obama has repeatedly offered it in negotiations with the GOP dating back to the 2010 debt ceiling standoff.
The administration was under increasing pressure from liberals inside and outside Congress not to include Chained-CPI in the budget. On February 14, sixteen senators (fifteen Democrats and independent Bernie Sanders) sent Obama a letter asking him not to propose Social Security cuts. On Wednesday, 117 Democrats in the House—more than half the caucus—sent the White House a similar letter. Several progressive groups were also lobbying the White House and rallying members.
The progressive complaints were threefold. One was a simple policy beef. Obama’s proposal from last year would take $9,521 in cumulative benefits from an average 85-year-old on Social Security, even with protections including a small benefit bump at age 75 and protections for the very poor retirees.
After seeing food stamps slashed by $8.5 billion in the recent farm bill and the expiration of long-term unemployment benefits, progressives couldn’t accept that. “These are tough times for our country. With the middle class struggling and more people living in poverty than ever before, we urge you not to propose cuts in your budget to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits—cuts which would make life even more difficult for some of the most vulnerable people in America,” the letter from Senate Democrats said.
Secondly, many Democrats worried about the political fallout from a Democratic president proposing Chained-CPI in an election year. Even though most GOP members support the change, the head of the National Republican Campaign Committee attacked Democrats last year for wanting to cut Social Security after Obama’s budget was released. This year there was a “significant outcry” from Democrats locked in tight races over the potential proposal.
Finally, liberals also worried that repeated inclusion of Chained-CPI in Obama’s budgets would mainstream the idea and make eventual Social Security cuts inevitable.
On that count, liberals may not have as much reason to celebrate. The White House official who leaked the news to the AP also noted that Chained-CPI would remain on the table if the GOP wanted to engage in new budget talks or another “grand bargain.”
In other words, this wasn’t a substantive move away from austerity by the White House, but rather an assessment of the bargaining atmosphere on Capitol Hill.
Liberals plan to keep pushing forward on that larger battle—and want Obama to actually expand Social Security. “The Social Security COLA already doesn’t reflect the real costs seniors face, and cutting it makes no sense,” said Senator Jeff Merkley in a statement. “Middle-class Americans need retirement security they can depend on, and that starts with keeping Social Security’s promises.”
“This is a huge progressive victory—and greatly increases Democratic chances of taking back the House and keeping the Senate,” said Stephanie Taylor of the Progressive Campaign Change Committee. “Now, the White House should join Elizabeth Warren and others in pushing to expand Social Security benefits to keep up with the rising cost of living.”
Read Next: George Zornick on the battle for an increased minimum wage.
Governor Chris Christie made another one of his in-again, out-again appearances as the GOP’s fundraiser-in-chief on Tuesday in New York City, at an event with Senator Mitch McConnell for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). It was all hush-hush, with no word on who attended the meeting, but Christie was accompanied by his wife, Mary Pat, who’s long worked on Wall Street, and by Jeff Chiesa, an old colleague from Christie’s days in the US attorney’s office in Newark. Chiesa, who briefly served as a US senator himself, appointed by Christie to fill Senator Frank Lautenberg’s seat, has since settled comfortably into a well-paid job at Wolff & Samson, the blue-chip law firm that was founded by none other than—you guessed it—David Samson, the chairman of the Port Authority.
And Christie didn’t speak to reporters, either. When a reporter from the Bergen Record asked Christie what message he planned to deliver, the New Jersey governor replied, “Seriously? Are you kidding me?” with typical Jersey aplomb. And, according to the Record, “A spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee declined to comment on the event.” Yet Michael Catalini at Hot Air reports that at least one former NRSC official, Rob Jesmer, believes in Christie’s appeal. “The governor is still very, very popular amongst our donor base and the party,” said Jesmer, who’s currently a lobbyist with FP1 Strategies in Washington. “Despite what’s happened in the past couple of weeks, he is still going to be a very formidable candidate for president.”
The governor was speaking to his base, namely, the big donors who’ll have to finance the NRSC, the Republican Governors Association—which Christie heads in 2014—and other GOP coffers. If Christie has any prayer of becoming the GOP nominee in 2016, it’ll be because none of his would-be opponents, including the Tea Party–inclined far right, can compete with Christie’s connections to Wall Street and heavyweight GOP contributors. In the next few weeks, Christie—on behalf of the Republican Governors Association—plans to pay visits to Massachusetts, Utah, Georgia, Michigan and Connecticut, following recent trips to Florida, Texas and Illinois. He’ll also appear this week in Washington at the National Governor’s Association, where the RGA will also be holding side meetings.
All along Christie has been planning to use the RGA as a stepping stone to the GOP nomination in 2016, and his visits allow him to expand his Rolodex of big givers for a Christie-for-President campaign. There will be campaigns in thirty-six states for governor, including three in early presidential primary states: Iowa, South Carolina and Florida. But Christie’s ability to maneuver at the RGA has been crippled by the fact that a key aide whom Christie had sent to work as a consultant to the RGA, Bill Stepien, has already fallen victim to the Bridgegate scandal. Stepien, who’d been Christie’s campaign manager for his 2013 reelection, had occupied the office just across the hall from Christie’s own office in the New Jersey state house, alongside Bridget Anne Kelly, another Bridgegate victim. Former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, who introduced Christie to politics when Christie was a teenager, told the Newark Star-Ledger that Stepien was Christie’s “alter ego,” adding, “When the governor needed something done on political side, he went to Bill Stepien.” The loss of Stepien at RGA creates a huge hole at the heart of Christie’s national political operation, and it’s not clear how he’ll be replaced.
Though it gives Christie an advantage in preparing for 2015–16, the fact that Christie is leading RGA this year isn’t the way it was supposed to be. In fact, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana and a long-shot candidate for the GOP nod in 2016 himself, was originally slated to take over the RGA in 2014, with Christie getting the job a year earlier. Christie had been vice-chair in 2012—but he wanted to wait for the top job until the midterm election year, positioning himself better for a national profile and allowing him to engage in dozens of gubernatorial campaigns. As CNN reported:
With a flurry of phone calls and e-mails to his fellow governors, Christie charged ahead and launched a behind-the-scenes campaign to shake up the planned order of succession and take over the RGA in 2014, multiple Republican sources told CNN. Jindal started whipping up his own votes.
The campaigning grew intense enough that [Virginia Governor Bob] McDonnell fired off an a internal note to his fellow governors urging them to keep their eyes on a more pressing challenge—the presidential election, then little more than a few weeks away.
In so doing, Christie earned the enmity of Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Jindal ally and another possible 2016 candidate. Since the Bridgegate scandal has erupted, Perry has gone out of his way to disparage Christie, perhaps in part because Christie, a Romney ally in 2012, suggested in public that Perry was not quite ready for prime time.
In any case, Christie and the RGA are pulling in the checks. In 2013, the RGA raised more than $50 million, with large sums coming from the tobacco industry, drug companies, hospitals, insurers, and the oil and gas industry. And it had its biggest January ever, thanks to Christie’s efforts in Florida, Texas and elsewhere. At least some of that money has been coming from the GOP’s usual suspects, including the Koch brothers, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, businessman Leslie Wexner and hedge fund chief Paul Singer, each of whom contributed more than $1 million to the RGA. (See the investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, and check out the RGA’s IRS reports here.)
On Thursday Christie makes his first public appearance in weeks at a town hall in Port Monmouth, New Jersey, and Christie Watch will be there to report on what happens.
Read Next: Christie Watch investigates widespread cronyism at the Port Authority.
The political and pundit class loves to identify “outsider” candidates for the presidency, looking in particular to governors who have not been tarnished by the compromises and corruptions of Washington. But the trouble with being an “outsider” candidate is that, eventually, you face the same sort of scrutiny as the insiders.
Just as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie suffered a blow when the media started to examine the extent to which he mingled politics and governing, so Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is now taking a hit that will inspire serious doubts—even among his admirers—about whether he is ready for the political prime time.
The release of 27,000 pages of e-mails from the seized computers of a former Walker aide who has since been convicted of political wrongdoing, along with more than 400 documents from the first of two major probes into scandals associated with Walker’s service as Milwaukee County executive and his gubernatorial campaigns, is shining new light on the extent to which the controversial governor’s legal, ethical and political troubles will make his transition to the national stage difficult.
The e-mails offer a powerful sense of how Walker and his aides appeared to have blurred the lines between official duties and campaigning when he was seeking the governorship in 2010—taking actions that would eventually lead to the convictions of key aides. Walker, who has steered hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign account into a legal defense fund, has not been charged with wrongdoing himself. But the e-mails and legal documents paint a picture of an elected official who was so focused on political positioning that he felt it necessary to order daily conference calls to "better coordinate" between aides in his Milwaukee County Executive office and campaign staff.
Walker’s county aides used a secret e-mail routing system to coordinate campaign events and fundraising, and to trash the woman who would eventually serve as Walker’s lieutenant governor as “the bane of your existence.” They circulated crude, sometimes racist messages. And as news outlets sifted through the e-mails, they found one from a top Walker appointee, administration director Cynthia Archer, telling another aide who had accessed the secret network that she was now “in the inner circle.” “I use this private account quite a bit to communicate with SKW…” wrote Archer.
Scott Kevin Walker identified himself on e-mails as “SKW.” Indeed, among the thousands of e-mails released Wednesday was one from a top Walker aide—Tim Russell, who has since been convicted and hailed. In it, he forwards a link to video of Chris Christie yelling at a reporter with the line: "skw should talk like this."
The largest paper in Wisconsin, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which endorsed the governor in the past, featured a banner headline on its Thursday edition that read: "Records Link Walker to Secret Email System."
Walker—who the e-mails reveal thought “9 out of 10 requests [from reporters] are going to be traps” and ordered his county aides to generate “positive and bold stories”—was scrambling Wednesday to dismiss the download of e-mails and legal documents as “old news.” A particularly defensive governor griped about all the attention to the e-mails and documents, saying, “these people are naysayers who want things bad to happen in Wisconsin so they are going to be circling again today. It’s exactly what’s wrong with the political process that they’re hoping for something bad to happen in Wisconsin. It’s not.”
At the same time, the Republican Governors Association—which is chaired by Christie—made a six-figure television ad buy in Wisconsin to protect the governor’s position in a 2014 re-election race where polls show him leading but with support levels below 50 percent.
The e-mails and documents—which media outlets have sought for months—were released by a judge dealing with ongoing legal wrangling over the conviction of former Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch for misconduct in public office.
Rindfleisch did not just work for Walker before he was elected governor. She was also associated with him after he took his state post, as a key fund-raiser who traveled with the governor while he raised money nationally. And her name has been linked to a new John Doe probe that reportedly has focused on wrongdoing by individuals and groups that backed the governor’s 2012 campaign to beat a recall vote.
That’s not exactly “old news.” And it comes at a particularly unfortunate moment for Walker, who cannot have been happy with a Wednesday Washington Post headline that read: “Scott Walker, eyeing 2016, faces fallout from probes as ex-aide’s e-mails are released,” and “E-mails may spell trouble for Scott Walker.” Or a Thursday New York Times report that said the emails and documents portray Walker as "having presided over an office where aides used personal computers and email to conceal that they were mixing government and campaign business."
There’s no question that Walker wants to be considered as a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Even as he seeks re-election this year, he has been busy touring a new book that conservative commentators say “reads like one gigantic presidential trial balloon,” making the rounds of the same talk shows once frequented by Christie, and maintaining a relentless schedule of national appearances to aid Republican candidates and raise money.
With one-time GOP front-runner Christie mired in scandal, pundits who don’t know much about Walker like to imagine that he might be the next “shiny penny” for Republicans seeking a candidate from outside Washington.
But Walker’s national prospects have never looked as good as his admirers imagine. Even after Christie’s downfall, the Wisconsinite was wrestling with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal for last place in most state and national polls of likely Republican caucus and primary voters.
Now, just as Christie faces fallout from an aide’s revealing e-mails, so Walker faces fallout from an aide’s revealing e-mails. The circumstances may be different, and Walker has certainly tried to present himself as a less politically contentious figure than the governor of New Jersey. But when the headlines in Washington are talking about a governor facing “fallout from probes,” and the governor in question is not Chris Christie, there’s a good chance that even the most ardent Republicans will start noticing the tarnish on their shiny penny.
Read Next: The Nation launches "Project 45" to critique the 2016 presidential election.