Ben Carson seems to be joining the likes of Michele Bachmann and Howard Dean on the list of presidential candidates who generated a lot of early buzz but became distant also-rans well before a nominee was chosen. According to Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins, Carson’s campaign also offers yet more proof that conservatives tend to be easy marks for scammers.

“The libertarian-conservative ethic of ‘get rich any way you can’ combined with a stubborn dismissal of objective fact makes political conservatism especially ripe for con artistry,” argued Atkins in a Saturday post. “It’s no accident that the tea party has been home to one grifter after another making a quick buck…Fox News itself is a long con perpetrated on fearful, older white Americans with the goal of making Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes rich while keeping Republican politicians in power.”



Bill Scher runs a website called Liberal Oasis, which makes it unsurprising that his Monday RealClearPolitics column celebrated President Obama’s avoidance (so far) of the “second-term curse” that supposedly afflicted George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and some of their predecessors in the White House.

Scher exults that Obama “has not been knocked off course by scandal” and lauds him for “master[ing] the art of scandal management, while his Republican opponents lost credibility by transparently politicizing every investigation…Instead of following the facts before drawing conclusions, [Republicans] proclaim the worst—and then fail to prove their allegations. That’s why the pursuits of wrongdoing in Fast and Furious, Solyndra, the IRS audits and Benghazi have all fizzled.”



Starting with the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, several mass shootings have brought about considerable debate regarding restrictions on access to firearms for the mentally ill. D.R. Tucker argued last Sunday that denying guns to “deranged individuals” should have been a special cause for conservatives long before -- specifically, since March 1981, when John Hinckley tried to assassinate President Reagan.

“You’d figure that the folks who worship Reagan like he’s a second Jesus would have been so shocked by the attempted murder of their hero that they would join progressives in calling for comprehensive gun reform, to make sure no deranged person could ever do something like this again,” wrote Tucker. “Of course, you’d figure wrong.”



Many of the lefty writers who analyzed Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate at the Venetian suggested that had the event been promoted as if it were a Vegas show, the marquee might have read “Fright Night,” or perhaps “Be Afraid…Be Very Afraid,” given how much the candidates hyped the threat of jihadist terrorism.



In 2010, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas published his book American Taliban, which detailed his belief that “fundamentalist Muslims [are] basically hard-right Christians…American [religious conservatives] may be more constrained by American society and laws than their Middle Eastern counterparts, but…their goals are the same.” This past weekend, one current and one former Daily Kos writer carried on the tradition of lumping the two groups.

Daily Kos’s Susan Grigsby opined, “It is very difficult to find much space between the coming Christian caliphate, which reveres the Second Amendment as a holy text, and the one set up by [ISIS] in Syria and Iraq.” Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins, a frequent Daily Kos contributor until about a year ago, argued that “to most rational people there is very little dividing line between the agendas of conservative Muslim extremists and conservative Christian ones. Both groups are strongly in favor of weaponizing the public, both are devoted to the imposition of theocracy, and both are opposed to expanded rights for women and those of alternate sexual orientations."



In the race for next year’s Republican presidential nomination, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have made media bias an issue, as did Newt Gingrich during the 2012 contest. Irony alert: Martin Longman believes that it was one of the media’s favorite GOPers, John McCain, who planted the seeds for such press-bashing when he chose his  running mate.

Longman contended in a Wednesday post that “something broke on the right when they were forced to spend September and October of 2008 pretending that it would be okay if Sarah Palin were elected vice-president. The only way to maintain that stance was to jettison all the normal standards we have for holding such a high office. But it also entailed simply insisting that the truth doesn’t matter…Seven years down the road, it’s gotten to the point that Republicans have realized that they can say anything they want and just blame media bias if anyone calls them on their lies.”



The left tends to believe that Republicans, for whatever reason, are a lot better than Democrats at messaging and salesmanship. In that vein, Martin Longman argues that GOPers have a flair for fabricating issues -- “non-problems,” Longman calls them -- which distract the public from real problems.

“There was the non-problem with Fast & Furious,” wrote Longman in a Friday post. “There was the non-problem of professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Shirley Sherrod and Solyndra and ACORN and in-person voter fraud and the IRS and the so-called Benghazi cover-up and the Ebola panic and now Syrian refugees…We seem to be living in a political world that is driven less by problems than non-problems that the Republicans have dreamed up or trumped up.”



Wednesday is the thirty-sixth anniversary of the seizure of the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran. Moreover, it is the thirty-fifth anniversary of what D.R. Tucker calls “one of the great tragedies in American history”: the election of Ronald Reagan as president. (The two events are, of course, related.)

Tucker asserted in a Sunday post that “Reagan’s election nearly destroyed this country” and commented, “Sometimes you have to wonder if the folks who cast their ballot for Reagan…really knew what they were doing. Did they realize what sort of ideology they would inflict upon this country and world over the course of the next thirty-five years? Did they understand that they were, in effect, voting to hold back the hopes and diminish the dreams of their children and grandchildren?”



In the week when a new James Bond film is coming out, it’s fitting that two lefty writers are both shaken and stirred by recent Republican blasts at media bias. In a Sunday article for Salon, Boston College history professor Heather Cox Richardson charged that “since the 1950s, Movement Conservatives have fought the fair examination of their ideas. They embrace a worldview in which a few wealthy men control the economy and dominate society. This idea repels most Americans…Movement Conservatives have gained power only by obfuscating reality. They make war on the media because it sheds daylight on their machinations. Transparency threatens their power.”

Also on Sunday, Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins declared that the MSM are “facing an existential threat” and urged them to not give in: "Republicans [are] increasingly unashamed to tell grandiose lies and respond to any press criticism with derogatory insults and whines about media bias as well as blackmail threats to cancel appearances if the questions are too tough…If the press chooses to assuage and give comfort to the GOP, it will lose what little credibility it has left."



Since even some conservatives thought that Hillary Clinton won Thursday’s Benghazi hearing, it stands to reason that lefty bloggers would be happy with the way things turned out.

In fact, not all of them waited until the hearing was over. Early in the afternoon, when Clinton still had several hours of testimony before her, Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall observed that “Hillary…looks poised; [Republicans are] radiating spittle.” As the hearings rounded third and headed for home, Esquire’s Charles Pierce sniped, “This was a performance piece for the people residing within the conservative media bubble…who already are too smart to be fooled by the Hildebeast and her alleged facts because Mark Levin has told them that they are too smart to be so fooled."



Is the Republican party actually two parties? In a sense, believes The Washington Monthly's Martin Longman, who contended in a Monday post that the forty or so congressmen who constitute the Freedom Caucus “are best understood in the parliamentary sense as being a party in their own right. In our system, they are still called Republicans, but in any other system they would be a minor party that has allied itself with another larger party to form a majority.”

Longman asserted that this unofficial party is so ideologically bonkers that it doesn’t deserve a role in resolving the central issue facing the House: “As long as the so-called Freedom Caucus of Republicans continues to demand a continuance of government shutdowns and debt ceiling brinksmanship, they do not belong in the majority and should not have any say in who the next Speaker will be…The Freedom Caucus has to be sidelined.”



Liberals and conservatives often differ over the concept of American exceptionalism, either on how to define it or whether there even is such a thing. Washington Monthly blogger Ed Kilgore recognizes a limited version of American exceptionalism, one which pretty much boils down to a mania for guns.

“America is mainly exceptional [italics in original] among advanced democratic nations not in our personal or economic liberty, but in our strange belief that letting everyone stockpile weapons is essential to the preservation of our freedom, and in the consequences of that strange belief,” wrote Kilgore in a Friday post that piggybacked on President Obama’s statement regarding the Oregon community-college shootings.