Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Fall of Sancte Sarah of Wasilla

Over at the conservative group blog Red State, Erick Erickson had a hilarious "vigil" for the passing of Sarah Palin's original "drop-dead" date for declaring for President.  In her previous statements, she swore she would have a decision made by the end of September.  That of course came and went without a declaration for President, confirming in the minds of many what those like myself have known for the past two years:  she wasn't going to run for President. 

Some of Palin's supporters will viciously dispute that.  They are telling us that the latest evidence against her run is actually evidence for it.  You see, she said she would make a decision by the end of September.  She never said she would make an announcement.  That is a deadline imposed by the goshdarn lamestream media.  Shoot, this is an unconventional campaign, you hear?

I really don't want this post to be poking fun at the Palinistas.  Not the fans of Governor Palin.  I'm talking the dedicated cultists of the religion of Sarah Palin, who parse her every word for deeper meaning, dedicate shrines online to her, and the like.  They will actually need our help and tolerance when they are welcomed back into the fold.  They will need to be "deprogrammed" just like somebody who leaves (or is forcibly removed from) a cult.  I wish to talk instead about her rise and fall, and what I think she will do next.

While it's tough to remember, Sarah Palin came to fame primarily as a moderate governor with a hint of populism.  She wasn't that invested in the culture wars, or even full blown Reagan style conservatism.  She was primarily a good governance conservative.  She battled the rampant corruption in Alaska's oil industry, and in Alaska's politics.  In a state that gets more federal dollars than anyone, combined with massive oil investment, both parties are thoroughly corrupt.  Palin attacked both indiscriminately.  She did so in a way that proved the young former beauty queen possessed incredible natural political skills.

Through this prism, she was a natural for "Straight Talker" John McCain, who was always obsessed with rooting out corruption or even the potential for it.  (Think McCain Feingold, in which McCain favored suppressing the first amendment because somewhere, somehow, someone might get corrupted by a quarter during elections.)  While not big into the culture war, she had natural pro-life bona fides with her children.  As Republicans were pushing forward energy policy and reform, it made natural sense to tap the governor of one of the richest energy regions in the world.

Seeing all these reasons, the media could not stand to see her succeed.  They launched a smear campaign the likes of which we haven't seen since Jefferson/Adams in 1800, by far the dirtiest campaign in American history.  Showing off her natural political genius, she took it in stride.  She delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention portraying herself as an everyday American, who remained optimistic about this country in spite of all the forces aligned against herself, which symbolized the forces arrayed against this country.

Yet fame went to her head.  Now being the new "it" girl in the media, she had to look the part.  She was buying wardrobes in one day that were more expensive than all the clothes combined she had worn up until that point.  She appeared on all the conservative media such as Rush where she was outright worshipped.  The small town girl from Wasilla was truly sitting on top of the world.

Now we reach the point where the wheels begin to fall off.  Eventually, she had to face something other than Sean Hannity, who every now and then would grumble a question in between kissing her feet.  So she went to someone viewed as a lightweight in Katie Couric.  For the most part, Couric was, is, and always will be a lightweight, suited more to human interest stories on the Today show.  Yet even her ardent fans recognized this interview was a massive disaster for Palin.  So used to the worshipful treatment, Governor Palin got it in her head that her failure was the result of the "lamestream media", rather than the fact she flat out had an awful performance. 

After this debacle, she launched a full throttled attack on the bias of the media.  Every conservative says it, but few say it like she said it.  In the mind of her fans, this only confirmed she was the one.  Many others saw someone who clearly wasn't ready for the big stage of presidential politics.  As the McCain campaign continued imploding, Palin went right along with it.  At one speech right before the election, her transformation into populist culture warrior was complete.  She spoke of her joy to be speaking with people from the "real America", that being, those who approved of her.  Those who supported Barack Obama?  They weren't "real Americans."  This was red meat pandering at its worst.

After the elections, she went back to being Governor of Alaska, and continued implementing reforms.  She also decided to begin utilizing social media to give herself an added voice.  Love it or hate it, she was leader of the Republican Party at this point.  As the conservatives began to wake from their slumber and combat President Obama, she was viewed as their champion, and no doubt their presidential nominee in 2012.  By that time, she would have been a highly successful governor in the middle of her second term.

Then, out of nowhere and taking everyone completely by surprise, she resigned as governor.  Her official reason was that the constant lawsuits the left were filing against her (all of them frivolous indeed, as they have all been dismissed) were driving her bankrupt, and made it impossible for her to conduct business as Alaska's governor.  I didn't buy it, but I sympathized with her.  Yet I also said this ended her chance at becoming President.  You can't walk away from being President because you find it unpleasant.  Now in her new life, she announced she would be taking her case for "common sense conservative" solutions to the masses out of a desire to raise up conservatives.

Some of us, being cynical, figured she really just wanted to make mad cash.  The Palinistas were furious at those who said that.  Then Palin signed a massive book deal and an even larger contract with Fox News.  If she was worried about going broke, she would never have to worry again.

During this time, speculation about her presidential ambitions continued to soar.  While she lost some of her fans, most Republicans were still firmly in her corner.  The new Tea Party seemed a natural vehicle to further her ambitions, and so she began reaching out.  Long shots like Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul suddenly became the Republican nominees for their respective offices, and they owed a lot of that to Palin. 

For all these picks, she then reminded people why many questioned her previous judgement.  In backing Christine O'Donnell for the Senate in Delaware over Mike Castle (a moderate Republican who was a certain win), many scratched their heads.  Everybody outside of O'Donnell herself realized she had a chance below zero of winning the general election.  While she is loathe to admit it now, Palin stumped hard for O'Donnell.  Come election time, she was crushed.  The polls closed at 8, the race was called for the Democrat at 8:01.  Along with some questionable choices elsewhere, they cost Republicans a chance to take the Senate.  Even worse, her hand picked candidate for the Senate seat in Alaska lost..... to a write in candidate.  That write-in candidate was also a Murkowski, her sworn enemies in Alaska.  Forget being able to carry swing states, she couldn't even carry influence in her own state.

Yet after this, people were still convinced she would run, and Palin started boosting her image nationwide.  She released her second book which was an instant bestseller.  She then decided that the way to increase her profile..... was to start her own reality television show.  While the show generated a ton of buzz the first week, it then proceeded to be an absolute ratings bomb afterwards, and was cancelled after one season.  She didn't even try to hide that the show was a piece of political propaganda, and a very bad one at that.  The sensible thing at this point would've been to announce you were not running for President, and spend the next few years doing serious buildup of your credentials.

Yet Palin could not do this.  Other political stars started rising.  Michele Bachmann supplanted her as the queen of rage.  Chris Christie moved ahead of her in manipulating social media to increase his stardom.  Mitt Romney (who never stopped running for President) became the front runner.  Yet if she announced her intention not to run, her influence would crash.  She was on Fox News because people believed she would run for President one day.  She continued to stoke the flames of that fire.

Then events moved beyond her control.  In a surprise move, her longtime ally Rick Perry announced his candidacy for President, without so much as even a phone call beforehand.  Here was somebody who had Palin's audience firmly in his corner, and was the highly successful four term governor of the largest state of the "mainland" to boot.  No doubt Palin felt a personal betrayal.  Since Obama won the presidency, the Republican nomination was viewed as hers by right, yet for the reasons listed above, she could still not enter.

At this point, Palin decided to begin sniping at Perry and the other candidates, while continuing to be coy about running for President.  Some viewed it as paving the way for a Presidential run.  Others viewed it the desperation of a very petty woman, enraged that she was no longer the most popular person in school.  Through Fox News, she then announced to the world that the Presidency really was too small for her.  The title of President wasn't really worth it after all, since she could do so much more without it.  Yet this doesn't mean she won't run of course!  She is still "deciding" that, as long as the cameras keep showing up.

This brings us to now.  She has been saying for over a year that September 2011 was the time everyone, herself included, needed to get in the game.  As that deadline came, she then stated that she wasn't going to give an answer.  If you've lost Red State, you've lost the Tea Party type Republicans.  What will she do now?  A few options present itself:

1.)  Run for President and get absolutely crushed in the primaries.  There is almost no time to set up a national organization to compete. Even with such an organization, she has the backing comparable to Ron Paul.  Sure, she has fans, but never enough to win the nomination, with 70% of Republicans praying she doesn't run.

2.)  Announce she won't run for President.  After spending 3 years proclaiming she has the "fire in the belly" and could easily beat Obama, she will become the laughingstock of American politics.  Even amongst her worshippers, her status as a tough "mama grizzly" will be forever tarnished.

3.)  Show up to the PPV Romney/Perry no disqualification steel cage match.  Walk down to ringside with a steel chair.  Stand next to Perry, and then turn and smash him with the chair.  Drop the chair, walk up to Romney, and embrace him.  Even critics of Palin do not believe she could possibly endorse Romney.  Do not be so certain.  All politicians have egos.  Palin's knows no bounds.  She feels personally betrayed by Perry.  As a result, she will do anything, anything, to prevent a Perry win.  By this point her endorsement will be toxic to anyone else.  Bachmann is irrelevant.  Perry doesn't need her endorsement, nor does Cain.  They will have the Tea Party behind them.  Yet Romney needs someone who is perceived to be a bona fides conservative.  She will need a new audience by now, and a promise of a cabinet position, or at least a refusal to snipe at her from the establishment candidate will no doubt help.  Besides, having the backing of a prominent member of the establishment will help, once she resumes the perpetual presidential aspirations in 2016 and beyond.  Many of her worshippers will remain, and no doubt find some way to justify it.

Either way, the story of Sancte Sarah of Wasilla is ultimately a tragic tale.  It is the tale of a rising star unjustly persecuted, who ended becoming more unhinged than her fiercest persecutors imagined.  Her tale is ultimately a cautionary one:  places not your faith in politicians, for they are certain to disappoint you.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What the Chris Christie Buzz Tells Us

Unless you've been living under a rock lately in Republican politics, several of the establishment and conservative intelligentsia are excited about a possible candidacy of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  Ann Coulter has offered to have his babies.  Bill Kristol wrote something that has to be a spoof, otherwise he deserves to be rightly accused of idolatry.  The New York Post today reports that apparently Henry Kissinger and the entire Bush dynasty have urged him to run.

Let me throw some cold water on them and anyone else considering it:  Chris Christie will not run for president.  Oh sure, he might "think" about the decision, if only to get some great free media attention.  Yet his earlier decision will stand.  He's an inexperienced half-term governor.  He has done some great things in New Jersey as a Republican, when you grade on a curve.  A "New Jersey Republican" is not a Republican in any particular sense of the term as most conservatives understand it.

Faced with regional problems, Chris Christie responded to the financial crisis in his state as a result of massive unfunded pension/heatlh care liabilities of public sector employees.  On the federal level this isn't really a problem for a variety of reasons.  (Number one being their inability to collectively bargain on many things.)  You get away from those things, and you have a typical Northeastern Republican who lives in a state where the governor's office has something just short of divine power.  This typical Northeastern Republican makes George W. Bush look like Tom Tancredo on immigration.  He backs affirmative action and gun control. Global warming?  Think Chris Christie would stop cap and trade?  There is reason to doubt it.

I say this as a fan of Chris Christie.  He's accomplished things in deep blue New Jersey none of us ever thought possible.  Which is all the more reason for him to stay there and continue accomplishing it.  If he got in the race, he would come under immediate fire for these positions from Santorum and Bachmann, the demagogue twins who have absolutely nothing to lose and are still in the race simply to feed their own egos.  (Hush my socially conservative Catholic brethren, anyone who has actually looked at the facts on the issues in regards to Santorum can come to no other conclusion.)

Far more interesting is what the buzz about Christie says about other people.  Mainly Mitt Romney.  He is learning that establishment love is a fickle thing.  They care about one thing and one thing only, and that is winning.  If there is a doubt that you can win, they will turn on you.  Yet why would I claim that this shows Romney's weakness, given his weakening of Rick Perry in the polls?

The simple reason is that Perry is on the ropes, but he wasn't knocked out.  In order to place Perry on the ropes, Romney had to demagogue hard on Social Security and immigration.  Everyone knows he isn't Tom Tancredo.  As far as Social Security, it is one thing to not like the fiery rhetoric Rick Perry utilized, or to demand he stop being coy and actually put forth a realistic plan for how to deal with the mess.  It is quite another to run to Obama's left on the issue.  Romney's explicit strategy was to scare the hell out of seniors.  People will start to remember that, and will turn on Romney.  Even if he wins the nomination (a 50/50 chance), he will in a best case scenario have the same kind of relationship John McCain had with the Republican base.  While that might be enough, don't count on it.

Seeing this, the powers that be are looking to get rid of their Romney problem.  Right or wrong, they feel that Rick Perry cannot win.  Yet they also realize that long-term, Mitt Romney is terribly flawed.  While he could still beat Obama without the base, they do not want to take their chances.  Better to go to Chris Christie.  He is someone who is for the most part a moderate Republican, but he doesn't have the image of one willing to change any position if it means an extra half percent in the polls.  He also has the added bonus of not having the undying hatred of the base.  The base might not be excited by a Christie presidency, yet they aren't cold to it.

The establishment GOP is forgetting something:  Mitt Romney has no desire to walk away from this quietly.  Mitt Romney's father was destined to be president until he had something akin to a mental breakdown.  The younger Romney feels as if the presidency should belong to his family.  Rather than face defeat in re-election for governor in 2008, he began running for President in 2006.  When he managed to lose to Mike Huckabee (let that sink in), he "suspended" his campaign until January 20, 2009.  For over 5 years, Romney has ran for President, changing his message like a girl changes shoes.  He will fight Chris Christie with every ounce of strength he has.  Who benefits from this?  Rick Perry, and Rick Perry alone.  With a divided front against him, he is able to pick up the pieces.  That is why Chris Christie will not run.

If Romney is paying attention, there is much to learn about this recent turn of events.  He is far from finished.  Yet he will not be able to count on reliable establishment support.  If he wants to win, he needs to form an alliance with someone conservative yet who isn't backing Perry.  Sarah Palin or Jim Demint, you have Mitt Romney on line one.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I'm Sorry, I Thought the "R" Stood for Relevant

Before starting, let’s get the obvious out of the way.  Rick Perry was terrible in the recent debate.  On the question of offering in state tuition rates to the children of illegal aliens who live in the State of Texas and attend high school in Texas for at least 3 years, his answer was about as bad as you can get.  The essence of it was if you opposed his plan, you have no heart.  This is regrettable, especially when you consider the idea is a lot more sensible than you might originally think.

There is another obvious point that must be established before we continue.  In Plyler vs. Doe, the Supreme Court mandated that states must provide education for the children of illegal immigrants for K-12.  Essentially, those children were not independent moral agents in the decision to enter this country illegally.  To deny them education in the public schooling system would be to punish them for something they have no control over.  That is neither fair nor just, so the Courts reached this decision.

The state of Texas decided that when it comes to determining college tuition rates, residents of Texas would be counted as residents of Texas, as National Review’s Kevin Williamson remarked.  The caveats being that:

-The student must have lived in Texas for at least 3 years prior to graduation

-The student must have a high school diploma

-The student must sign an affidavit that they are either seeking permanent resident status or will do so as soon as they are able to.

  According to a 2010 report in the Dallas/Forth Worth Morning News, this effects a whopping one percent of Texas college students.  For a simple comparison, the top 5 Texas Universities have about 190,000 students.  This would mean 1900 benefit.  Since the law passed in 2001, 22,697 students benefitted from the bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate and with only 4 objections in the Texas house.  There are millions of people living illegally in Texas.  We are dealing with an incredibly small data set here.  I point this out only to tell my conservative friends who disagree with the issue:  from a pure political and optical standpoint, this is not the hill to die on. 

From a policy standpoint, the influence this has on immigration overall is pretty insignificant.  Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum stated that this acted as a magnet towards increasing illegal immigration.  Yet one percent of college students are involved in this discussion.  What they are saying is that a starving immigrant family from Mexico who can’t survive subsistence wise in Mexico is going to come to America because 10-15 years down the line (at the very least 3 years, but considering the logistics of moving an entire family with teenagers, this is tougher), so their child can save 25% and still have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for college.  I submit that if most of these families were able to focus a lot of time on long-term problems, they wouldn’t be trying to flee their country.

Furthermore, one can hold the position I do and not sit on the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board favoring open borders.  One can favor enhanced crackdowns on those illegal aliens currently in America by going after those who exploit them in their jobs.  You can implement things like E-Verify.  You can even increase border security.  These things actually have an impact on immigration levels.  The tuition rates of one percent of Texas college students do not.

The political aspects aside, there is a humanitarian issue.  All of these children participating in the program were minors when they were taken to this country illegally by their parents.  As they were minors (most of these very young), they weren’t free to make their own decision.  When one cannot make an independent decision of their own, they cannot be held liable for a crime.  If they cannot be held liable, they cannot be punished.  They are indeed being punished. 

Two children go to school together from the first grade, grow up together and become best friends.  They play on the same sports team together.  They have the same teachers.  They compete for the heart of the same girl.  They both get accepted into the same college.  Yet one has to pay more.  The reason?  When he was three years old, his parents decided to cross the border illegally.  As such he faces a punishment for something committed before he even reached the age of reason.  Such a scenario is neither just nor fair.

To make this into an issue upon which we decide our nominee for President is absurd.  While some may believe this to be mere “pandering to Hispanics”, let us give this further thought.  Republicans would be going out of their way to sink someone’s candidacy over something that affects one percent of one state’s students, and those students aren’t even responsible for that action.  You want to try and defend that come November 2012?

Conservatives need to get serious.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bachmann's Amateur Hour

Whenever I wish to talk about politics, there is one person I turn to frequently.  In conversations with my good friend Shawn McElhinney, the subject of Michele Bachmann frequently comes up.  Both of us have always been in agreement that she would never be the nominee.  I believe she may have won the straw poll, but her political corpse will lay there.  Yet out of the interest of encouraging a wider debate, I advocated keeping her in the field, as I believed (at the time) she served a useful purpose and spoke to a constituency that, while I do not identify with them, they have a place in the Republican Party.

It has become harder and harder to maintain this position, especially in light of the past week's events.  First, let us do a recap.

In 2007, Texas Governor Rick Perry decided to issue an executive order, mandating the use of Gardasil amongst girls as young as 12 years old.  Gardasil is a vaccination against HPV.  An HPV infection can lead to cervical cancer, something which is very serious for women.  At the time, not much was known about Gardasil, and the idea of using an executive order to mandate an injection against a sexually transmitted disease was controversial.  Realizing a losing battle when he sees one, Perry withdrew the order, and went back to making Texas an absolute monster when it comes to job creation.  When his GOP primary challenger in 2009 tried to make this an issue, Perry apologized for the EO, and then went on to absolutely crush the Bush machine's hired gun to take him down.  (Precisely because the likes of Karl Rove saw in their intra-party rival a future presidential candidate.)

During the GOP primary debates for the Presidency, now presidential candidate Rick Perry has had the same line of attack come up again.  For the most part, this is a fair line of attack.  Even if I dismiss the idea that Perry was bribed by big Pharma to do this, when companies like Merck (the maker of the drug) donate to you (even if it is just 5,000 out of tens of millions of dollars raised), you have to answer those questions.  Mrs. Bachmann took this entirely legitimate line of attack and did what too many Tea Partiers (and social conservatives) do with a legitimate issue: demagogue it so hard you end up saying something colossally stupid.

Bachmann turned the issue into a full fledged crusade against vaccines in general.  She then made a whopper of a claim that the HPV vaccine Governor Perry wished to mandate caused mental retardation in innocent 12 year old girl taken to the CIA black site and injected with the latest biological weapon called Gardasil, or something.  Failing that, she then turned to stating the drug was unsafe, making it sound like after the CIA injected you with the latest doomsday device, people were dropping dead left and right.

There is absolutely no evidence for this.  Bachmann didn't care.  She saw a chance to smear an opponent, and took it.  In FDA studies, they have records of Gardasil being administered 35,000,000 times.  Out of those incidents, there were 1500 incidents that were deemed worthy of further investigation.  No conclusive evidence after rigorous testing was found that Gardasil caused these incidents.  Out of those 35 million injections, 68 deaths resulted.  That's essentially statistical noise, and the FDA confirmed that.  Not one of those deaths was related to Gardasil.  They concluded that the relevance of them being injected with Gardasil is as relevant as sweaters causing deaths because people die when wearing sweaters.  (Source)

Needless to say, the evidence is beyond non-existent for mental retardation as a result of the drug.  Mrs. Bachmann claims she heard it from someone during a campaign stop.  I'm going to go out on a limb:  there was no person she heard this from.  She relied on junk science and flat out made it up.  (The junk science being a thoroughly discredited study which claimed certain injections led to an increase in autism amongst children.)

The other concerns about the HPV vaccine (outside of the mandate) do have some weight, but I think ultimately fall up short.  One of the most popular concerns is that providing the vaccination encourages risky sexual behavior and experimentation amongst minors.

This sounds plausible.... in theory.  Cervical cancer tends to develop amongst those who are past their teenage years.  If we want to believe that teenagers are considering cancer decades later as a reason to keep their clothes on before engaging in carnal acts, sorry, that's an adult talking.  The flipside of this argument is that we need to keep the threat of cancer around to punish those who engage in risky behavior.  I know that's not what people mean, but care to offer an alternative that precludes it? 

This is different than funding contraception, abortion, and the like.  These activities do encourage risky behavior.  Why?  Contracting something like HIV or causing a pregnancy is a rather visible side-effect of the sexual act in the immediate sense.  At most, you've got 3 months before your deed becomes known, and consequences start.  The incentive against sex isn't an intellectual one here, it's entirely emotional, because it is so darn visible and apparent.  Subsidizing the elimination of these barriers will lead to more people engaging in the act.  In short, Gardasil could encourage risky behavior, but the evidence is extremely thin when one remembers the circumstances surrounding adolescence and the pressures of sex they face.

Megan McArdle brings up several salient points.  First and foremost, half of sexually active individuals, at one point in their life, are infected with HPV.  The majority of the time the infection is harmless and does nothing.  Yet all to often, something else occurs.  With such a high occurrence, this can't be dismissed lightly.  Can you guarantee, as a celibate to the night of your wedding, that your spouse has done the same?  What if they had a moment of weakness?  What if they amended their life and started living chastely?

Knowing these things, the issue of Gardasil isn't as cut and dry as those in Bachmann's camp wish to make it.  This long ago stopped being whether or not one should use EO's to carry out these things (a perfectly legitimate point, and something I agree with Perry's critics on), it has become a crusade against the facts.  Bachmann deserves the strongest of condemnation, and if she is written out of the Presidential race tomorrow, it will be too long.  We need to get back to real issues.  Make Governor Perry reconcile the mandate for Gardasil with his profession of belief in limited government, and if he would want such a mandate nationally.

The only thing left to wonder is if Minnesota has finished their redistricting, and if not, how can we redistrict Bachmann out of existence, so she no longer plagues the nation with her stupidity?    If a President Perry were a vengeful fellow, I would not doubt if he behind the scenes engineered a primary challenge, or tried to get her out of Congress.  I really don't think anybody could fault him for such an act.  Perhaps a President Romney should do so as well, if only to save himself from when she eventually implodes and damages his credibility.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Why not Ryan?

Let me start out by saying, I'm a big fan of Paul Ryan.  I think Representative Ryan has the chance to play a major role in the future of the GOP and this country.  I wouldn't be surprised if within the next 20 years, he is referred to as President Ryan.

All that being said, I think it would be a really bad idea if Paul Ryan were to run for President.  While the intellectual class of conservatives love him, there's no chance he can win.  Let us count the reasons why.

1.)  No House member has been elected President since 1830.  Let me repeat that so the record is perfectly clear:  No Sitting House Member has Been Elected President Since 1830!  There are those who try to insist that things are different nowadays.  No, they really aren't.  House members are viewed as intensely ideological, which they are.  Americans do not like intensely ideological presidents.  Barrack Obama had to hide his ideological streak.  Now that it has come out, how do the American people like it?

By the way, anyone check out the approval rating for House Republicans?  They are doing what they have to do.  Yet the idea that they are going to swing independents is the height of absurdity.

2.)  He has no executive experience.  In 2008, we elected a legislator with zero executive experience.  We are still trying to get ourselves out of that mess and atone for that mistake.  To those who say "The problem with Obama isn't that he is inexperienced, but that he is liberal!", I say the problem with Obama is he is inexperienced and liberal.  We've survived liberal Presidents before.  Some of them may have even performed relatively admirably.  Obama presents a unique threat to this country.  His incompetence makes many problems even worse.  Since he never had to learn to actually compromise to get things done, he really expected the world to just bow to his will.

There is more to politics than right ideology.  Ryan shows incredible promise.  Yet as of right now, he is not there yet.  Give him time.

3.)  Get ready for some serious optics.  I'm not talking about the "Mediscare" campaign, though Democrats will launch that with unbelievable intensity.  Coming very soon, Republicans have to produce a budget.  Who runs the budget process?  Oh yeah, Paul Ryan.  Are we ready to defend from possible conflict of interest allegations that Ryan is using the budgetary process to further his presidential ambitions, should he run?  Do not think for a moment if the charges are true or not.  That's irrelevant.  The question is, are you going to be able to competently prove otherwise?

4.)  Many people champion Ryan's potential candidacy due to his strength on entitlement reform, and how no Republican understands the issue better.  I say that is all the more reason he needs to stay in the House and work on the rules under a Republican administration.  Up until the past few months, this would be a credible reason to get involved.

The problem with politics is that things change.  The issue that matters right now is jobs.  We cannot address our long-term problems without seriously addressing our short-term problems.  A Republican President needs to make the economy his primary issue.  This includes tax and regulatory reform.  If you haven't been paying attention, these are, as Joe Biden would say, a big 'effin deal.  Oh yeah, you also have to worry about repealing something called Obamacare.  Switch up the order any way you want, but those are the top 3 things which are immediate priorities for a Republican administration.  Want to show me where you can get all these things accomplished, then enact sweeing entitlement reform within the first three years? 
Entitlement reform is something everyone knows we have to deal with, but in the mind of the voters, it is secondary.  There's no trying to get around this.  We also have to consider the issue of trust.  When you do something as big as entitlement reform, you really need to establish trust with the American people, and you need a mandate to specifically do entitlement reform.  Get the economy on track, and entitlement reform becomes easier fiscally and politically.  Bush found this out in 2004.  He was re-elected, and decided out of nowhere to push for private investment accounts for Social Security.  A bold plan, much to like.  It failed miserably, and it proved a preview of his second term.

Notice how Romney's numbers are doing pretty strong where he is the front runner?  Even his known stance on Romneycare, anathema to conservatives, and he is acting as the front runner.  Why?  Because of the economy.  It is so poor right now, people want to do whatever they need to do so they can get it fixed again.  As a result, many are overlooking Romney's transgressions and heresies on conservative issues.

What does Ryan bring to the table on this front that more experienced candidates do not?

5.)  Finally, we like to idolize our heroes.  Rush Limbaugh wonders if it is a sin to love a man, because he loves Chris Christie.  We all know that's nonsense.  Chris Christie advocates global warming, cap and trade, comprehensive immigration reform, amongst other things anathema to his biggest fans.  Yet we overlook those things.  Why?  Because on the things that matter, and his station in life, Christie gets the job done for Republicans.

The same with Ryan.  He is not the ideologically pure conservative some make him to be.  He backed TARP.  He backed the bank and auto bailouts.  He's taken previous votes on S-CHIP and the like.  John McCormack of the Weekly Standard quotes Ryan thus:

Really clear. The president’s chief of staff made it extremely clear to me before the vote, which is either the auto companies get the money that was put in the Energy Department for them already — a bill that I voted against because I didn’t want to give them that money, which was only within the $25 billion, money that was already expended but not obligated — or the president was going to give them TARP, with no limit. That’s what they told me. That’s what the president’s chief of staff explained to me. I said, ‘Well, I don’t want them to get TARP. We want to keep TARP on a [inaudible]. We don’t want to expand it. So give them that Energy Department money that at least puts them out of TARP, and is limited.’ Well, where are we now? What I feared would happen did happen. The bill failed, and now they’ve got $87 billion from TARP, money we’re not going to get back. And now TARP, as a precedent established by the Bush administration, whereby the Obama administration now has turned this thing into its latest slush fund. And so I voted for that to prevent precisely what has happened, which I feared would happen.
Anyone really see this answer surviving under intense questioning?  The answer satisfies the intellectuals, but it is something only a wonk could make and love.  Ryan favored the auto bailouts because if they didn't pass the auto bailout, the money would come from TARP.  So Ryan voted for the auto bailout, and we still got the money from TARP, in addition to bailing out a failed company, whom we have lost a lot of money over, and still will. 

If Ryan knew the bill was going to pass anyways, why go along with it?  If you view the auto bailout so toxic, vote against it!  What we have here is a failure of nuance.  People understand there's a difference between states passing an individual mandate and the federal government passing one.  They just think the individual mandate was a horrible idea, and that is why Romney found himself in hot water (and still could.)  What Ryan describes sounds like a typical Washington political game, where in the end, the American taxpayer got screwed.  On the issue of the auto bailouts, the position Romney took as a more conservative position than the one Ryan took.

If Ryan simply stated "look, I had to vote with my district.  You can't vote against the auto bailout in the Midwest in a purple district and expect to live", I'd respect that honesty.  Thad McCotter operates basically off of that understanding, and it is has never stopped me from voting for him, as he is my congressman.  His answer sounds like "i voted against it before I voted for it." 

So in summation, Ryan:

1.)  Doesn't have experience
2.)  Doesn't have a record of job creation
3.)  Would be staking his campaign on the wrong central issue (putting the cart before the horse)
4.)  Has an answer which, if he gave it to the media or in a debate, he would get flogged mercilessly.

I think Ryan has an impressive future ahead of him.  Let him continue in that future, rather than getting involved in something he cannot win.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Perry Enters, Game On!

On Saturday morning, many eyes were focused on Iowa, in anticipation of the Ames Straw Poll.  That quickly changed paced at 1 PM EST.  The eyes of conservatives everywhere shifted to South Carolina, where Texas Governor Rick Perry (with swagger bigger than the State of Texas) declared his candidacy for President.

What will Perry's impact be?  Will he be the "game-changer?"  The answer is maybe.  For reasons I hope to explain, on paper, Rick Perry brings more to the table than any nominee for President in the GOP since Ronald Reagan.

Some have offered complaints about the lack of real depth in the Republican field.  Frontrunner Mitt Romney was indeed a governor, but a governor of only one term that by the election will have ended 8 years ago.  He didn't seek re-election.  Pawlently likewise won in a challenging environment, but has also been out of office for some time now.  Michelle Bachmann's "experience" involves giving a few speeches on CSPAN.  I believe the GOP faithful have been seeking not so much someone of ideological red meat, but of someone not just with proven leadership credentials, but active leadership.  That is why the darlings of conservatives are those like Chris Christie and Scott Walker.  It is why people are enthralled with Paul Ryan.  In high school, most of us would've picked on Paul Ryan.  Yet he is a leader. 

Rick Perry has this quality.  He is America's current longest serving governor.  He has won re-election for governor three times.  With every election, he continues to advance his agenda forward.  There are some who think that Texas is a weak governorship.  Perhaps.  Yet we conservatives I think need to remember something:  the power of shaping culture.  Those currently in power in the Texas GOP more or less have had their experiences shaped by Rick Perry's rule.  Over the past decade  of Texas politics, one way or another, has been shaped by Rick Perry.  That is leadership.

Of course, if you want conservative credentials, Perry has them.  He is the "unite the clans" candidate.  He not only advocates positions pleasing to fiscal hawks, social conservatives and foreign policy conservatives, but he holds them genuinely, and has since becoming a Republican over twenty years ago.  Bachmann may have the ability to give a great speech, but her lack of experience has been criticzed.  She will need every boost the straw poll provides once she collides with Perry.

Finally, you can tell a lot about the man's talents when you look at the list of his enemies.  Once it became clear he would enter the race, President Obama's machine began going after him.  First, in one of the greatest howlers I've heard in awhile, the Obama machine attempted to take credit for the job creation success story that is Texas.  When that obviously didn't work (is anyone really going to believe that Obama has been a big job creator in one state yet epically failed in the other 49?), the left switched gears.  Now it is that while yes, jobs have been created, these are mostly minimum wage jobs.  Some of Perry's conservative opponents (mainly Bachmann fans) have picked up this line of argument.

They will use it to their own destruction.  In today's tough labor market, many people employed are under-compensated.  Yet they still take the job, because a low paying job beats no job at all.  There was a time when a job was viewed as something to be valued because of the intrinsic value of work.  That still resonates.  Quite simply, you have to start (or begin anew) somewhere.  For a Democrat, this line would be even more suicidal.  If you want to have yourself classified as completely out of touch with the middle class, start publicly attacking these kind of jobs.  If you want to annoy the young, keep at it.  These young work minimum wage jobs throughout college, saving up a little money to pay off those loans and work their way up in the world.

So Perry has leadership, he has conservative credentials, and he has the right kind of enemies.  Is that enough?  Again, maybe.  This is the first time Perry has entered a national contest.  He can, should, and will be tested.  If he can survive that contest stronger, he certainly looks poised to be one of the biggest game-changers Washington has had in some time.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Debate Wrapup

               I will confess before starting, I did not watch the Republican Debate as it happened on Thursday.  I was too busy with must see JV.  The only thing I love more than politics is Justin Verlander pitching.  Yet I’ve studied the debate and read commentary from all sides.  Here are my thoughts. 

                There were two winners in this debate.  First was Fox News.  Normally, people paint them as a talking points machine for the right.  Yet during this debate, the moderators forced the candidates into some very uncomfortable positions, and asked tough questions of actual relevance.  When Chris Matthews and the like moderate, they care little about the issues.  They care about making the GOP look bad.  In this debate, issues of relevance were front and center, both about the platforms of the candidates, and the candidates themselves.
                The second winner of the debate was Texas Governor Rick Perry.  Everybody knows he is getting into the race this weekend.  Since he isn’t formally in, he avoided all the carnage and bloodletting Thursday night.  He also was able to build up some nice dossiers on where the weaknesses of each candidate are.  Out of those who actually attended, the winner was Mitt Romney, for reasons I hope to explain later.
                Before that, I would like to tackle a few broad observations:

1.)     For the health of the Republican Party in the future, Ron Paul and his descendants to the fourth generation should be barred from all future Republican Presidential debates.  This is not simply because the Congressman advocates positions I disagree with.  It’s not even because I think at times he experiences paranoia in his worldview.  Whatever he wants to think, legalizing (not just decriminalization, a controversial but debatable stance) smack and prostitution not only has no place in the position of the Republican Party, but of sane American politics. Last night he went even further.  When asked about Iran and nuclear weapons, the Congressman expressed little problem with Iran having nuclear weapons.  That is an opinion beyond the pale of sanity. 

There are those who oppose military intervention in Iran.  (I’m one of them.)  Yet to say that the idea of Iran having a nuclear weapon being no big deal is absurd.  He complains that they were no different than the Soviet Union.  Everybody knows there is a difference.  The Soviet Union was still concerned with rational things and rational power.  The very purpose of the Iranian regime (especially in those who currently have power) is not based on foreign policy realism, but rather revolution and chaos.  The Soviet Union wasn’t promising to wipe a country off the face of the earth, Iran is.  While we didn’t like India getting the bomb, we also resigned ourselves to that reality.  Why?  India isn’t a nation ran by theocrats promising genocide who directly support terrorists.  The idea Israel has nothing to worry about if Iran has a bomb certainly isn’t something the Israelis are buying.  Again, these positions are so far removed from basic sanity, they don’t deserve airtime on a Presidential debate.  He can go give a few speeches and win a few irrelevant straw polls, but the Presidency is for serious grownups.

2.)    There was a point in the debate where Republicans were asked to give a show of hands if they would reject a deficit reduction deal that involved a ratio of ten dollars of spending cut for every one dollar in tax increases.  Predictably, the candidates all battled to see who could raise their hand the highest.  I groaned for a few reasons.
The first reason is that they are lying through their teeth.  If they could balance 2012’s budget with that ratio, they would do it in a heartbeat.  I understand the need to pander to the base and give a few red meat speeches.  I even indulge in them myself at times.  Yet let’s not show we are blatantly blowing smoke.
You should respond to this issue as such:
Well I would say that is certainly a good starting point in negotiations.  In the past, future cuts have been promised in exchange for immediate tax increases.  Those future cuts never materialize.  I would ask Congress to rectify this situation based on recent precedent.
Speaker Boehner enunciated during the debt ceiling debate that any increase in the debt ceiling must be paired with spending cuts.  I would go one step further.  Any tax revenue for the year coming from tax increases must be paired with real immediate deficit reduction of a ratio of at least 3 to 1.  If you want to raise 20 billion in additional tax revenue next year, I want at least 60 billion in spending cuts.  Since I doubt Democrats will do that, then we offer them tax reform.
 This is not as hard as it sounds.  Eliminating just 75% of farm subsidies (which go to the richest 10% of farmers)would provide not only around 17 billion in revenue next year, it would also count as eliminating one of the worst forms of corporate welfare around.  Or we could eliminate the mortgage interest deduction for around 25% of taxpayers and save even more.  Be willing to give them this.  We have no business defending it anyway as conservatives who favor the free market.  Then say, okay, we’ve offered over 100 billion annually in new revenue, now give us a down payment on entitlement reform where we begin to means test Medicare and Social Security so millionaires are no longer treated like those who make 40,000 a year.
The art of negotiation is getting as much as you want for giving up as little as possible.  If Obama made such an offer, you call his bluff.  If he has nothing (and no Democrat would ever offer such credible spending cuts in today’s party!), then force them to prove why ending corporate welfare is a bad thing.  Use that to win re-election, then take credit for achieving real tax reform that ends corporate welfare, and lowers rates for individuals, while still being at worst neutral and at best a revenue raiser.  This is also how any Republican President would deal with Democrats, no matter what they said in that debate.
Now I would like to close with my individual assessments of the candidates performances, in order from best to worst.

1.)     Romney:  As long as he did nothing stupid, he was going to win this debate again.  He did nothing stupid.  Even gave a few good answers.  He looked like the one adult in the room.
2.)    Santorum:  He performed magically in this debate.  He demonstrated the absurdity of both Bachmann and Paul’s assertions on the 10th Amendment by appealing to the views of the Founding Fathers as individuals who advocated morality just as much as anything else in their viewpoints.  Madison said the Constitution could only work with a moral populace, and Santorum explained why.  He reminded the Party of Lincoln that they should operate according to the spirit of Lincoln’s worldview.  His hammering Paul on Iran was great theatre.  Just a shame he is irrelevant in the larger scheme of things.
3.)    Gingrich:  Like always, Mr. Gingrich knows how to handle himself in a debate and a speech.  He is the smartest guy in every room, and he knows it.  He proved that with some of the policy positions in the debate tonight.  Yet try as he might to deny it, his campaign being a wreck is a valid question.  Gingrich can sink ships, but he has no clue how to sail them.  That is as true today as it was in 1994.  As a result of that, he is also irrelevant.
4.)    Pawlenty:  Is he finished?  Who knows?  I happen to think he won’t advance much farther, but he put in a relatively solid performance.  Some of his jokes were way too canned, but he showed he is willing to fight.  I wish he would’ve dropped the idea that it is Bachmann’s fault we had Obamacare, and instead asked the proper question:  Congresswoman, you claim you have led the fight against numerous Obama programs.  Can you find anyone in Congress outside of Michelle Bachmann who views you as taking leadership positions on these fights?  If he asks that question, sure, he gets viewed a jerk.  Yet people will forget his question, and focus on her answer, or lack thereof.
5.)    Bachmann:  She handled herself better than I expected under fire.  Yet I didn’t expect much.  She had to know eventually someone would question her on her paper-thin resume.  Her answers were to try and deflect the blame on others for their supposed sins.  That might work on Pawlenty.  That won’t work against the well-oiled very disciplined Romney team.  She also won’t be able to use it with credibility against Rick Perry, who has the charisma and bona fides of Bachmann amongst the Tea Party, but has actually accomplished something in his life in government.  She barely bested Pawlenty, walking away wounded.  If she loses the straw poll this weekend, expect the rest of the field to collectively finish her off.
6.)    Cain:  His line about people needing to learn to take a joke was a great line.  He is clearly having the time of his life running for President.  Good for him.  Yet that time is going to end soon.  He hasn’t shown any real maturation on ideas, and his statement about Romney’s Mormonism in the eyes of Georgia voters was colossally stupid.
7.)    Huntsman:  Dude, why the heck are you here?  I’ve yet to see one Republican supporter of Huntsman.  Actually, I’ve yet to see an American citizen who supports Huntsman who isn’t on Huntsman’s staff or family.  It isn’t that he is too liberal or too conservative.  Rather, everyone reacts to our candidacy the same way Sonny from A Bronx Tale related to life:  Nobody cares.
8.)    Paul:  Dude, just leave here, and never come back.
9.)    Charlie Sheen:  Ron Paul is stealing your gig, you better sue him.
10.) Barrack Obama:  The chances of Bachmann being nominated are now smaller, and they were already pretty small.  Good luck running on how good the economy is!