Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Ryan elaborates on decision not to run for POTUS
I credit House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) with complete sincerity in this video clip (hat-tip The Right Scoop):
But it's a long time before the first primary vote will be cast, and I'm a stubborn cuss, so I'm not quite ready yet to change out my sidebar endorsement.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Yes, Perry flew "jets" in the U.S. Air Force
In my pedantic and thoroughly annoying way, I've left comments on a couple of other blogs correcting people who have referred to Texas Gov. Rick Perry as having "flown jets" during his service in the United States Air Force. For example, on a post by my friend Allahpundit at Hot Air, I left a trio of comments which read:
This issue should be addressed exactly as it should have been addressed with Bush: THE MILITARY DOES NOT LET STUPID PEOPLE FLY JETS. PERRY FLEW JETS. THEREFORE, PERRY IS NOT A STUPID PERSON.
wordwarp on August 29, 2011 at 7:57 PM
I’m quibbling, but the C-130s that Perry flew — while noble and essential aircraft! — aren't jets. They have propellers, and they go comparatively low, slow, and everywhere very reliably.
The military doesn't let unqualified people fly propeller aircraft either, so your point isn't affected....
There’s probably an essay to be written, or that’s already been written, or that should be written — maybe by Bill [Whittle]? — about the differences between different sorts of pilots who become politicians.
Dubya flew interceptors; his dad flew carrier-based dive [torpedo] bombers; and McCain also flew carrier-based strike aircraft. None of them did any dog-fighting (although Dubya’s mission would have been to use missiles to shoot down invading Soviet bombers). Nevertheless, my guess — as a fan but a non-pilot who hasn’t ever been in the military — is that they’d all still qualify for the rough, tough, and bluff fraternity of combat pilots.
The guys like Perry who flew (and still fly) the C-130s were, comparatively and metaphorically, flying truck drivers. No less essential, and indeed, a marvel and a necessary component of the long logistical train that our military forces require to accomplish their missions. But a lot less glamorous and sexy....
I have it on good authority[, however,] that this particular C-130 Hercules was not piloted by Rick Perry.
I was reminded of this point today by this post by ArthurK at Ace's, which compares and contrasts Perry's USAF work environment with President Obama's.
But looking at the photos in that post made me wonder if I'd erred in thinking only about Perry's duty as a C-130 pilot. And so I asked a very close friend who's a former USAF instructor pilot with lots of time in lots of different kinds of aircraft; and although my friend and I are a few years younger than Perry, my friend's brother is within a year of Perry's age and was also a USAF pilot, so I think their observations are likely to be well-informed.
My friend assures me that based on the pilot training Perry necessarily would have had in route to his ultimate assignment flying C-130 Hercules cargo planes, Perry "would absolutely have trained in the T-37 and T-38 before being assigned to the C-130 (which, for some real trivia, is a turboprop-powered aircraft, which some consider to qualify as flying a jet; certainly, even though there are propellers on the '130, they're turned by jet engines!)."
The T-37 is a relatively slow and uniquely maneuverable training jet in which, among other things, Perry would have been trained in spin entry and recovery techniques that were too dangerous to try to learn in faster, hotter jets. But the T-38 is the real deal — for all practical purposes, it's a supersonic jet fighter used for advanced pilot training before pilots get their post flight-school assignments. Indeed, rebranded and slightly modified as the F-5, these aircraft are still in use as a fighter in the air forces of many American allies, and T-38s are still flying for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and NASA. Perry's training in the T-38 would have included solo cross-country flights.
And such is the magic of the internet that a search engine query for "Rick Perry T-38" returns this image:
So: I'll no longer be correcting anyone who asserts that Perry "flew jets" in the USAF. He almost certainly did, and did so proficiently, as part of his training before he was assigned to C-130s. And setting aside the "jets versus non-jets" question: Flying big multi-engine aircraft presents a different but no less intimidating set of challenges than flying, say, a T-38 or an F-16. Perry can be justifiably proud of his service flying C-130s, and it is indeed fair to highlight that service as a credential now — not because he would need to pilot aircraft as POTUS, but because he'd need to command their pilots.
UPDATE (Wed Aug 31 @ 8:25 a.m.): Thanks for the link, Prof. Reynolds. There have been many good comments already, one of which has prompted me to make a correction above regarding the sort of plane Bush-41 flew in WW2. Others point out that C-130s are used as amazingly potent gun platforms in the AC-130 "Spooky" variant, and that C-130s also fly direct combat support roles. That's not to say that Gov. Perry in particular did either of those things, but other Air Force C-130 pilots have and continue to do so today.
UPDATE (Wed Aug 31 @ 4:45 p.m.): This post has continued to draw some well-informed and interesting comments. I commend them to your attention.
My pilot friend has now read this post and some of its comments, and he shared these further thoughts with me by email, beginning with this:
One [commenter] stated that the 707 is "not completely stable" because Tex Johnson was able to roll it. [But t]he 707 is quite stable, I can assure you from extensive personal experience (hey, it survived ME!). [After his duty as a T-37 instructor pilot, my friend spent a whole lot of time flying KC-135s, the tanker version of the Boeing 707.] The ability to do a barrel roll or other aerobatic maneuvers does not in any way imply instability in an aircraft, and any "stable" airliner can be rolled (and recovered safely? — that's a different matter). The plane in question was perfectly stable throughout the maneuver. And that IS a very impressive video — I have it on my iPod to show the occasional non-believer when the subject comes up.
On the nature of C-130s, the characteristics of those who end up flying them for the USAF, and what we might infer from the fact that Perry flew them rather than some other aircraft (italics & ellipsis my friend's, PG13-preserving asterisks mine):
I have heard pilots of C-17s, C-141s, C-5s, and even the Shuttle* referred to as "trash haulers," an appellation they embrace with pride, but never have I heard C-130 pilots called that. The Herc did a lot more than just carrying stuff from A to B, it was tasked with a lot of wild and dangerous maneuvering to carry out its mission. It was a true warfighter, at least in the sense that it tended to go where the bullets were flying, unlike most of the other trash haulers and even my beloved Stratotanker! (Sorry, I was channeling Gunny Ermey for a moment.) Anyway, we had the sense to stay outta them dangerous parts of the sky. Plus we were carrying frelling gasoline....
Also, assignments out of UPT weren't automatically based on your class ranking. The ranking got you preference, the top stick getting first choice of available assignments and so on down the list. So the highest-ranked grads tended to get the highly desirable fighter slots, but some preferred other aircraft. I was acquainted with a fellow whose father had flown B-52s, and that's what he wanted to do. High-ranked, fighter-qual, but he wanted a BUF and got it.
(And it's BUF, not BUFF. The cleaned-up version of "Big Ugly Fat Fellow" doesn't fit, as the B-52 is quite slender (try walking through one sometime and see if the word "fat" comes to mind). "Big Ugly F**ker" it is and always was, and its crews are rightly quite proud of that designation.)
There were some variations on the assignment selections, and the process may have been quite different during Vietnam, I don't know. Likewise during the recent and ongoing mid-east dustups.
During my brother's time [as a USAF pilot], he described the process as though the assignments were laid out on a table, and #1 was called and he went up and took his choice. Then #2 went up and chose from what was left, and so on until there was only one pilot and one assignment remaining. Dunno how accurate that is. [But my friend's older brother is almost exactly Perry's same age, whereas my friend and I were a few years younger.]
During my time, we all turned in a form (there's always a form) listing our first five choices of assignment. The oracles at Randolph AFB (ATC HQ) consulted their Ouija boards, Tarot cards, crystal balls and goat entrails, and handed down the assignments from on high, presumably weighted by class ranking and other factors (like notes from flight commanders — in my case, it was specified by that fellow that I was to be assigned to the T-37, which I was). Number One in my class wanted and expected an F-15 assignment, something he made clear from Day One. He got an F-16 (and did not take the news well, comporting himself quite unprofessionally in front of the class, wing brass, and wives and families present at Assignment Night), so that first-position-first-choice thing isn't universal.
Oh, and as I recall, the term First-Assignment Instructor Pilot, referred to by one or two of your commenters, wasn't usually pronounced "FAIP," but by the more common variation, "Goddamned FAIP." Similarly, even though I have lived in Albuquerque for 23 years now, I'm still a Damn Texan.
His footnote about the late, great Shuttle:
(*It was a friend of mine at the lovely and delightful Altus AFB, a C-141 instructor, who said to me (with pride in his voice), "Stands to reason the first reusable spacecraft would be a trash hauler!")
And a final post-script:
PS — I liked that photo of Perry on the T-38. Very unique. Doesn't look a thing like this one of me. For one thing, I knew better than to wear a flight cap on the flight line! Maybe he IS stupid after all.
Accompanying that post-script was this photo of my friend, circa 1981ish I think:
Note that my friend's helmet bears a noble insignia that pilot Perry's helmet emphatically did not. It was my memory of this photo of my friend, and of a very, very similar one of my friend's older brother, that prompted me to expect to find, somewhere on the internet, exactly the photo of Perry with his T-38 that I reprinted earlier in this post.
UPDATE (Wed Aug 31 @ 5:45 p.m.): Further, and much more detailed, analysis of the photo of pilot Perry and his T-38 appears here.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Wait, but ... Really? You're sure there's an Article VI in the Constitution?
If, like me, you're a fan of Iowahawk's satires, then I also commend to you this fine one from my friend Dafydd ab Hugh at Big Lizards:
Monday, August 22, 2011
UPDATE (Mon Aug 22 @ 8:00pm): From Ryan's statement today on his congressional campaign website:
I sincerely appreciate the support from those eager to chart a brighter future for the next generation. While humbled by the encouragement, I have not changed my mind, and therefore I am not seeking our party's nomination for President. I remain hopeful that our party will nominate a candidate committed to a pro-growth agenda of reform that restores the promise and prosperity of our exceptional nation. I remain grateful to those I serve in Southern Wisconsin for the unique opportunity to advance this effort in Congress.
Not quite Shermanesque, but close enough that in context, I'm persuaded that he means it.
Being stubborn, though, and as my own personal motion for reconsideration, I just sent $20.12 to Ryan's reelection warchest.
UPDATE (Mon Aug 22 @ 8:35pm): I'm reprinting here, without blockquoting them, some comments I've left on a post by Aaron Worthing at Patterico's:
I respect Chairman Ryan’s decision, although I’m very disappointed by it....
I’m really sad today, for my party and my country. I know Chairman Ryan has already devoted his life to public service, and that his family has already paid a price for that. And anyone with the burning passion in his or her belly to be POTUS has to be at least slightly insane; Ryan is the most sane politician I’ve ever seen, but I had hopes he might still respond to a draft, and I thought was sensed that coalescing this week.
I know Rick Perry’s record and I believe I know what he’s made of, and I believe he would be a fine president, but I’m not yet convinced he can overcome the anti-Texas/anti-Dubya bigotry in a national election in 2012. I’ll probably get aboard his campaign bandwagon anyway. But frankly, the kind of bigotry that the Dems will exploit and encourage if Perry gets the nomination is a lot harder to fight with facts and education than the “Mediscare” tactics they’d have used against Ryan. So I’m going to take the week to mumble and mutter and confuse my dog (who thinks I’m mad at her, which then makes me feel guilty, and appropriately so). She cuts me more slack than I’m due, so I beg that of the rest of you too today....
[Actually, who I owe the biggest apology to is my daughter Molly, for upon seeing the first report of Ryan's announcement this afternoon, I got distracted looking for confirmation, and I was therefore late picking her up. Molly cuts me more slack than I'm due, too. And yes, I see the irony in my being late to pick up my daughter while being disappointed that Paul Ryan won't subject his much younger children to the stresses of a POTUS campaign.]
I’m very sure that [Ryan's] decision wasn’t based on a failure to consider and weigh all the relevant factors. He’s been quite literally toe-to-toe with Obama, and I’m sure he can easily imagine himself in Obama’s shoes, doing a vastly better job for the country. And I know he’s confident in his own abilities and in his core philosophy. His ego is in tight control, but he does have one, and he’s not unaware of his relative strengths and weaknesses as a potential presidential candidate.
I’m reasonably sure that among the people who’ve been encouraging him to run, he received credible assurances of support, including serious promises of the sort of fund-raising that would have immediately made him competitive with Romney or Perry on that score.
I think large numbers of Republicans would have become enthusiastic supporters when they heard him speak in primary debates. By no means was this too late a date for him to join the race.
I’m sure he will do his very best as a non-candidate, but still as a leader of his party at the center of its most consequential current power (i.e., as head of the House Budget Committee) to affect the election. But that’s a distant runner-up to the influence he could have had as a candidate, even if he didn’t get the nomination, and not even in the same league as the influence he could have had as the GOP nominee.
And I’m still hopeful that whoever does get the nomination will look to him as a potential Veep choice.
Ryan's candidacy would force the 2012 election campaign beyond platitudes about the debt crisis
This report on a conversation between Paul Ryan and Chris Christie strikes me as important — indeed, electrifying (emphasis mine, elisions in original):
[S]ome of the most interesting developments last week took place away from the cameras in the solitude of the Rocky Mountains, where Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan consulted with friends and family about whether he should join the race. Ryan has been quietly looking at a bid for nearly three months, since Indiana governor Mitch Daniels called him to say he wasn’t running. But that consideration took a serious turn over the past two weeks, following a phone call with New Jersey governor Chris Christie in early August.
Ryan and Christie spoke for nearly an hour about the presidential race, according to four sources briefed on the conversation. The two men shared a central concern: The Republican field is not addressing the debt crisis with anything beyond platitudes.
Ryan, on the other hand, is the author of the detailed “Path to Prosperity” budget that passed the House last spring. His plan proposes structural reform to ensure the long-term viability of Medicare and other entitlements.
Christie has echoed Ryan’s concerns. In February, he gave a tough speech at the American Enterprise Institute, chastising Republicans for their timidity on entitlement reform and spending. “Let me suggest to you that my children’s future and your children’s future is more important than some political strategy. . . . We need to say these things and we need to say them out loud. When we say we’re cutting spending, when we say everything is on the table, when we say we mean entitlement programs, we should be specific,” Christie lectured. “Here is the truth that no one is talking about: You’re going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security.... We have to reform Medicare because it costs too much and it is going to bankrupt us... And we have to fix Medicaid because it’s not only bankrupting the federal government, it’s bankrupting every state government. There you go. If we’re not honest about these things, on the state level about pensions and benefits and on the federal level about Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, we are on the path to ruin.”
Gov. Christie was characteristically blunt in that speech. And his very point is that bluntness is not only worth the risks, it's not only the right thing to do, it is absolutely essential.
Anyway, as they say, read the whole thing, and decide for yourself. But it sounds to me like both Gov. Christie and Chairman Ryan are coming to a shared conclusion that events — and even destiny — are impelling a Ryan candidacy. And they are right.
Let me say something else just as important, and just as blunt:
Barack Obama is going to base his 2012 campaign on demagoguery against the Ryan budget whether Paul Ryan is the GOP nominee or not.
Pretending it didn't pass the House, pretending it wasn't voted for by most GOP Senators — these are not options on the table. And you are simply delusional if you think Obama is going to fail to get the best possible use he can out of the Ryan budget as a political weapon, or that there's any way the GOP nominee can keep Obama from his best efforts.
So our choice is who we want to have as our side's spokesperson in defending and, indeed, advocating the Ryan budget.
The truth, if communicated clearly and forcefully, is a platform we can indeed win on. The Ryan budget would have kept our national debt rating from being downgraded. The Ryan budget would actually save Social Security and Medicare from the collapse that is a mathematical certainty under existing law. The Ryan budget will dispel the cloud of dread over the economy, and free the private sector to restore job growth and prosperity, thereby resulting in more government revenue collections without any increase in tax rates or brake on productivity. It's not perfect, and in some respects it may not go far enough, and it contemplates a slower rate of change in the national direction than many conservatives want. Nevertheless, it is real, and it is specific, and it is on the table. The medicine it contains will be bitter but we can honestly expect it to be effective, and there are no other alternatives.
Our side owns it. If you can't see that, you've had your eyes closed and your head in the sand since at least February. And given that we own it, we must not fail to make the best use of it that we can — boldly and without any trace of shame, for what is shameful are those who deny the problems and seek to maintain the status quo!
In poker, you want to be pushing all your chips in when you have a "monster hand." You may still lose. But that is the way you win big. Election Day in November 2012 will be the showdown, folks. So yeah, I'm not just willing to take the risk of doubling down on the Ryan budget by nominating Paul Ryan for POTUS — I'm eager to do that. I'm eager because it's the rational, logical, calm choice for this situation.
Or if you want, in honor of the changing season, a football metaphor instead: Sometimes you decide not to play it cautious, and you don't keep that blocking back in to guard against the maximum blitz that you know is coming. Sometimes you smile when your QB spots that blitz, and because he is the team captain and a star in whom you have more confidence than anyone on your team, you want the ball in his hands to exploit the vulnerabilities created by that blitz. Paul Ryan is our Roger Staubach or Joe Montana. (Or being from Wisconsin, maybe he'd pick Bart Starr or that Brett whatever-fellow. You know what I mean.)
Conservatives must take their counsel on this matter from George S. Patton (himself quoting Danton or perhaps Napoleon or Frederick the Great): "L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!" If we are not bold enough to tell the truth, we will not win, or deserve to, and we cannot put things right.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Ryan's cheerful spirit
An astute reader and sometimes-correspondent emailed me to say this of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), in response to my latest post urging Ryan to run for president:
He is equipped to persuade and inform. He is able to maintain a cheerful spirit as he argues his position.
That last is a point I've not made here adequately, to my embarrassment. I replied:
That cheerful spirit is an underappreciated key. I think it will become more obvious if he gets into the race, because I think he will start getting the kind of reaction from thirsty conservatives that will start a feedback loop.
Righteous competence and authenticity are a great foundation, and when you put the cheerful spirit above it — I just think it could be as genuinely transformative as Reagan in 1980.
Ryan comes across immediately, almost overwhelmingly, as superbly informed and relentlessly common-sensical. But there is a vein of quiet passion that peeks out, a static electric charge of patriotism and Reaganesque faith in America that sometimes attends his best public speaking. And it's not something he's reading from a teleprompter, or that any speechwriter has polished for him to recite. It's something that's thoroughly imbued in his character.
It's not flashy. It's certainly not contrived. But after four years of very contrived flash from 1600 Pennsylvania, I think America is likely to be receptive to Paul Ryan's cheerful spirit.
UPDATE (Mon Aug 22 @ 1:25pm): Mona Charen at NRO argues persuasively that being a "nice guy" is, indeed, Paul Ryan's "secret weapon."
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Beldar on Ryan's vulnerabilities
John McCormack has an eloquent analysis on the Weekly Standard's website entitled "Paul Ryan's Vulnerabilities: Are they any worse than Romney's or Perry's?" I commend it to you in its entirety, in part because I think the conservative pundits McCormack is quoting and responding to have themselves made thoughtful and articulate points, but more because I think McCormack's responses about Ryan are persuasive. (I don't agree quite as much with McCormack's comments about Romney's and Perry's vulnerabilities, but I agree with his premise that all candidates have vulnerabilities.)
My own highly selective take on two of these arguments:
On my friend Ed Morrissey's "executive experience" issue, take a step back and ask yourself this: Why exactly do we value this?
The simplest and obvious answer is: "Because the American Presidency is an executive office." It's a true answer. It's only a partial answer, though, because no other executive office of any sort or position can ever be more than fractionally as challenging and important as the POTUS.
For all the other types of executive experience in positions other than POTUS, we're just using executive experience as a predictor of, and to some extent a proxy for, the ability to exercise POTUS-caliber executive responsibility.
Nevertheless, I humbly submit that we value executive experience in general because it often correlates with effectiveness in identifying problems, finding solutions, and then effectively implementing them. People who effectively enlist others to join together to accomplish those things thereby prove themselves as leaders. This is true when running a business, or when running an armored division, or when running a state government's executive branch.
A typical legislator from either chamber of the U.S. Congress is, by definition, one of a very large crowd. But occasionally — rarely in the last few decades, but more often earlier in American history — a legislator stands out from that crowd through conspicuous leadership and accomplishment. And I don't mean leadership to the press microphones, either, or empty speech-making. I mean identifying problems, finding solutions, and then effectively enlisting others to join together to implement them.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends and neighbors, I do not disparage anyone else on the national stage, including any of the other existing or rumored candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, when I say this:
Paul Ryan's crafting and shepherding of the Path to Prosperity (a/k/a "the Ryan Budget") through the U.S. House of Representatives this year, followed by his vital participation in the subsequent passage of "Cut, Cap & Balance" in the House, have been the most important and most impressive acts of conservative leadership and accomplishment on a national stage of the past several years.
Now, technically speaking, that was not "executive leadership," I guess, because it's been happening under the Capitol Dome instead of in some other Washington building. But the vast bulk of our team's practical political effectiveness during the last two years — relying on political power gathered through the coalescence of the Tea Party movement and then the 2010 elections — has been focused through the House of Representatives and, specifically, the House Budget Committee. Paul Ryan's committee. That's exactly where the walk's been getting walked, as best we can walk it with the Senate and the White House still in the hands of the Democratic Party.
It's no knock on Rick Perry or Mitt Romney to point out that neither of them has yet done anything as consequential on a national stage as Paul Ryan has done just in this calendar year. So sure, their careers give us important indicators from which we can draw inferences about their potential executive abilities as POTUS. But in sharp contrast to the situation with all those legislators who've merely been great talkers in Congress instead of great doers — and I'm thinking in particular of a certain short-time U.S. Senator from Illinois who accomplished nothing and led no one as a legislator — we do in fact have ample indicators of leadership from Paul Ryan's career and accomplishments.
That's precisely why other GOP congressional leaders like John Boehner have been urging Ryan to get in the race: They've had the best opportunity to view and appreciate Ryan's leadership abilities in the most important and urgent recent events on the national political stage.
So if there's anyone whose demonstrated accomplishments ought to qualify for some "advanced placement credit" to make up for another sort of past accomplishment as an "executive," it's Paul Ryan. Simply put, we already know that Paul Ryan can lead, because he's been conspicuously busy all this year — leading.
As for my friend Allahpundit's "crippling the cause" argument: I'm sorry, but that's just backwards. To complete the four-year project that began the day Obama was elected and that can't be finished until the day he's defeated, and to change the direction of this country, we can't run a cautious campaign. We must win a mandate. We must have an ideas and values election, a watershed election with the same degree of political repudiation that voters delivered to Jimmy Carter in 1980 and reaffirmed when Carter's Veep, Walter Mondale, tried again in 1984.
We don't win by running away from entitlement reforms. We win by being the grown-ups, which means by exposing and confronting the problems, and by demonstrating that we have detailed and common-sensical solutions to them. We win by being honest, by promising to make choices that are hard but necessary, and by freeing the economy so that Americans — not their government, but Americans — can again create the growth and jobs essential to our hopes and futures. Ryan articulates that vision in measured, realistic terms, without sugar-coating but also without despair. He is convincing in explaining why the Democratic alternative is a vision of a declining America, of shared scarcity, of government-dictated rationing and control and leveling by driving everyone downward.
We must educate and persuade. We must prepare for, and withstand, the most incredible blistering demagoguery that the Democratic Party's spin-doctors can concoct and spew forth — and it will make Niagra look puny, friends and neighbors, and it will be 24/7/365 from all the usual suspects every day until Election Day 2012.
If fiscal sanity can triumph, it will be through the patient persistence of Paul Ryan as its champion. The idea that he will be of more value to our team by staying in the House grossly understates the importance of the presidency in our fundamental constitutional structure, and the idea that we ought to groom him for another four years is just cowardly unless you're already fully resigned to more Obama hopey-changitude through late January 2017. Conservatives need our most effective national leader in the most consequential national office. And ultimately, that is the most powerful argument for a Ryan candidacy.
UPDATE (Sat Aug 20 @ 6:45pm): Further thoughts, prompted by a comment below:
As I've said here before, I've voted for Gov. Perry many times, going back to his first state-wide Texas race for Agriculture Commissioner; I've also voted for Sen. Hutchison many times, but I voted for Gov. Perry over her in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary; and I can easily imagine circumstances in which I'd vote for Gov. Perry again. I'm keenly aware of Gov. Perry's flaws — not because they are terrible, but simply because I've been watching him closely for so many years, and he's human — and I disagree with a few of his substantive positions. But at some point, if Chairman Ryan persuades me that he really won't accept a draft from his party and his country to run for POTUS in 2012, then I'll have to choose among the other GOP candidates then in the race, and that may indeed turn out to be a choice for Gov. Perry — in which case I would enthusiastically support him and campaign for him in both primary and general elections. I don't think it's terribly likely, but Ryan and Perry would actually make a strong and balanced ticket.
But with Ryan, we don't have to just imagine how he would stand toe to toe — and win convincingly — in a debate with Barack Obama on a topic like Obamacare. Anyone who cares to watch can see that, because Ryan's already done it — on camera before a national audience while literally on Obama's home turf at the White House. Watch for the look on Obama's face starting just after 1:40 in that clip, right after Ryan declares of Obamacare that "what has been placed in front of them [i.e., the Congressional Budget Office] is a bill that is full of gimmicks and smoke and mirrors." You can read Obama's thoughts: "He's got me. I'm busted."
A mere two minutes later (at 3:38 in the video clip), after Ryan has masterfully exposed Obamacare's most shameful gimmicks with precision and utter clarity, Obama looks exactly like a man who's been exposed for having crapped his pants in church and who therefore can't wait for his first chance to rush out of the room:
Folks, in my 30 years of practicing law, I've seen this sort of look over and over again from the witness stand — always from someone who's been caught in a series of lies, and who's about to double-down with more lies when he stops hiding his mouth behind his hand and again begins to speak. Behind those narrowed eyes is fear, and the reason he needs his hand covering his mouth is to help himself master a wave of panic.
And the 2010 performance wasn't a fluke or a one-off: Ryan did it again when he faced off against Obama in June of this year — so effectively, so audaciously, that Ryan received a standing ovation from all of his GOP colleagues who were with him there in the room. As Jennifer Rubin notes today:
[T]hose who don’t understand what all the buzz is about should take time to go back and watch or read the transcripts of [Ryan's] debate with Obama at the health-care summit, his SOTU response, his debate with David Brooks at the American Enterprise Institute, his response to Obama’s GMU tirade on the budget and his speech at the Alexander Hamilton Society. Then, they might understand why enthusiasm runs high for him among the best and the brightest in the GOP. Is there a single candidate who could have done all that, plus constructed a budget, devised a tax reform scheme and presented a Medicare reform plan? Republicans better hope there is, be it Ryan or someone equally impressive. Otherwise, as scary as the economy is and as devoid of ideas as the president is, he may get himself reelected simply by pointing at the other guy and saying, “Do you really think this is presidential material?”
Could Barack Obama, hailed by his fans as the greatest debater and orator in the history of the Republic, actually refuse to debate Paul Ryan in the general election if Ryan becomes the GOP nominee? Why, that's unthinkable! Exactly as unthinkable, indeed, as was the possibility in 2008 that while excoriating Republicans for trying to buy their way into power, the Democratic nominee might forego federal campaign financing that he'd solemnly promised to accept, and to instead use shady credit card contributions, including from illegal foreign donors, to outspend said Republicans by a three-to-one ratio.
On the national political stage, Ryan has already emerged as his generation's most effective leader, and not just in word but in deed. I can applaud and approve of the leadership and state-level accomplishments of Gov. Perry, or of other governors like Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Nikki Haley, or Scott Walker. I can appreciate the skill with which Mitt Romney rescued the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, succeeded in business, and swam upstream as a GOP governor in the bluest of blue states. They all have executive experience that, objectively, Ryan lacks. But they all lack the national-level experience that Ryan has. And no one, at any level in or out of government, has the incredible mastery of national domestic policy and the ability to effectively change it for the better that Ryan has already shown.
We don't have to speculate on whether Ryan could perform as POTUS. The actual legislation he's already written and passed through the House would already have turned this country around. All that stopped him was a handful of Democratic senators who lacked the courage to break party discipline and a president who can't be voted out until November 2012. Already, with only one-half of one of the three branches of the federal government behind him, Paul Ryan has performed courageously and brilliantly; his near-miracles in the House are achingly close to being absolute miracles for the country as a whole. And no state governor, no matter how experienced or effective as an executive, can make that claim.
The GOP has developed a "deep bench" during the eight years that George W. Bush was in the White House and the three years since then — and I'm very proud and excited about that. But Paul Ryan is the MVP.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Should the bottom 10% of 1Ls quit?
UCLA law prof Eugene Volohk has this provocative post whose title is a hypothetical student's question: "“I Got Awful Grades My First Year in Law School. Should I Quit?”
Prof. V's own observations are intriguing, as are many of his commenters', and I left a trio of comments myself (starting here).
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Woulda, coulda, shoulda
Instapundit Glenn Reynolds points out that while he "understand[s] Democrats [now] wishing" that they’d nominated Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama in 2008, "her performance as Secretary of State has been something less than stellar."
I agree, but would add:
If the GOP had only nominated my guy in 2008 instead of McCain, he'd not only have beaten Obama and then restored financial sanity to the United States government, but when our intelligence agencies finally tracked down bin Laden, he'd have personally commanded the aircraft carrier from which bin Laden's corpse was fed to the fishes.
I wrote in 2007 that "I'm convinced that whether it's Hillary, Obama, or Edwards, the Dems are going to feel serious buyers' remorse on the day after their nominee is finally decided." I didn't predict, however, that they'd be still be feeling such serious remorse, or rather, even more serious remorse, in 2011.
As things are, this business has gotten out of control, and we'll be lucky to live through it.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
"And you tell Boehner that when I was representing Delaware in the Senate, we had — Squirrel!"
I haven't yet finished reading today's WaPo article entitled "Nervous Democrats say President Obama must be bolder on economy" because I was too cracked up by this accompanying official White House photo taken during the debt ceiling negotiations:
Why they chose that photo to release, I cannot imagine.
Slow Joe Biden's talents are wasted on politics. He should have been in vaudeville.
(Readers are welcome to leave their own alternative — especially better, funnier — captions in the comments to this post.)
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Obama's claim that America has "always been and always will be a AAA country" is half-true at best, but wholly misleading and quite dangerous
From Jake Tapper:
In his first public reaction to Standard & Poor’s decision Friday to downgrade the nation’s credit rating, President Obama reassured markets today that “no matter what some agency may say, we've always been and always will be a AAA country.”
The half-truth is that since the current rating agencies have been in existence and since they've been giving this sort of letter grade, American government debt instruments have indeed qualified for a AAA rating. The major ratings agencies, including S&P's predecessors, got their starts rating railroad companies in the last half of the 19th Century. But America has been selling debt instruments for many, many more decades than there have been credit rating agencies and letter grades for their ratings.
In fact, we've been selling debt instruments since before there was a United States of America in its present form: the individual colonies had issued "bills of credit" as far back as the early eighteenth century. Our earliest diplomats (including Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson) spent much time trying to finance our revolution through borrowing abroad.
But for the first several decades of our national history, our national credit was not good — and even the substantial risk premiums extracted by our lenders would likely not have been enough to induce them to make the loans were they not also motivated by political concerns. (The French, especially, had their own reasons to want to see the American revolution persist as a thorn in the British lion's paw.)
So no, if Obama meant to convey an impression of a longer "always" than just the last few decades, or if he meant to convey a general impression rather than make a technical statement specifically about ratings by rating agencies, then America has not always been a AAA country. That's basically a phenomenon of late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, because even as late as our Civil War we often had hard times finding foreign financiers for our government debt.
Nor, of course, is it at all certain that America will "always be" a AAA country. The ratings downgrade last week was from only one agency, and it was the smallest downgrade available. Consider the difference in our deficit and our spending between, say, 2007 and now: If a rating system isn't sensitive enough to pick up on the fact that we're spending multiple trillions every year now, and running deficits every year between 1.2 and 1.5 trillion dollars, it's a pretty damned insensitive rating scale, isn't it? What's amazing, frankly, is that the other agencies didn't also downgrade our government debt instrument ratings.
But only a complete moron — someone like David Axelrod, who's not very smart and really doesn't care at all about being truthful — could deny that America's finances are at risk. If they're mismanaged as badly as they have been since the Democrats took control of both chambers of Congress, we will drive our government debt instrument ratings into junk bond territory well before the next American census.
And that's precisely why Obama's statement is wholly misleading and dangerous: We have a problem. Denying it or soft-pedaling it is neither honest nor helpful. Even if you think it's a problem that should be solved primarily by tax increases (see my comment about morons and one in particular, above), you still have to acknowledge that we cannot survive as a country — debt ratings be damned — if we don't stop adding $1.5T or so to the deficit every year while the demographic freight trains of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security continue barreling toward us with the inexorability of Baby Boomers getting older.
This is the opposite of leadership. Even if you're a Democrat and you're spitting mad at the GOP and the Tea Party and the rating agencies, you have to admit that Obama is not leading the way toward any kind of solution to this problem. When he's not showing his ignorance of history, he's simply alternating between impotent inaction, pedantic lecturing, and finger-pointing.
We don't yet have double-digit inflation and interest rates, nor gas lines for miles, so I suppose stalwart Obama defenders can argue amongst themselves as to whether he's already become a bigger domestic-policy failure than Jimmy Carter was. But he's certainly giving Carter strong competition in the race to the bottom.
Thursday, August 04, 2011
San Fran Nan has a secret plan to get revenge against the GOP
I give House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) credit for still being able to deliver almost all of her party's Representatives on demand. But she and they have mostly been on the sidelines during the grand interplay we've been watching for the last six weeks as the debt ceiling approached. The 2010 election dictated those dynamics, which in turn largely dictated the results. The reason the GOP was able to block (or at least defer) tax increases was, very simply, because the House wouldn't agree to them even when confronted with the prospect of some sort of default by the federal government. And there was not a damned thing Nancy Pelosi could do to affect that, or to much affect the resulting legislative compromise.
Now, however, we learn from Talking Points Memo, a liberal website, that She Has A Plan: Pelosi Says There’ll Be No More Hostage Crises (hat-tip Andrew Stiles at The Corner) (ellipsis & bracketed capital letter by TPM):
"Suffice to say that you won't see a repetition of what happened last week, taking us to the last minute when they didn't even have the votes — they didn't even have the votes — and then saying to us 'You will be responsible for a default," Pelosi said in response to a question from TPM.
Pelosi was reluctant to spell out just how she would stave off this situation, however. "I would say that if I were to tell you...it would be defanged," she said, after being pressed for details. "In terms of what we — how we would approach where they go from here. And that may be a House Democratic position.... Our members were very unhappy about that vote the other day. Very unhappy."
Just how Democrats plan to proceed may ultimately depend on their willingness to stomach the unpleasant consequences of letting Republicans shoot the hostages. But in a revealing moment, Pelosi hinted Democrats may have reached their breaking point.
"[W]e wouldn't let our country default," Pelosi said. "But I'll say it this way to you. A default is a much more serious consequence than a shutdown of government for a few days."
At least as she comes off in these quotes, Ms. Pelosi is making Joe Biden, on the subject of their distinguished opposition from the right, sound positively articulate and temperate. To be fair, the metaphor about "shoot[ing] the hostages" isn't part of the quotes from Pelosi, so it may just be a bit of violent, spiteful imagery from TMP blogger Brian Beutler. (I'm sure Ms. Pelosi and indeed, President Obama, are emailing a rebuke to Beutler even as you read this, since it's so clearly a violation of Obama's "new civility.")
But is there any way to read this other than as a threat by Pelosi, on behalf of House Democrats (and perhaps Democrats generally), to contrive a government shutdown as an act of political retaliation?
If there were any specifics, or if Pelosi had that kind of power, or if she were a serious person instead of a half-dimensional party hack, this would be kinda scary.
Such power as Minority Leader Pelosi may have in the coming negotiations — and therefore such leverage and influence — will be a function almost entirely of whether she's given opportunities to exploit potential rifts between the most adamant and idealistic of those on the right (DeMint, Bachmann, etc.) and the GOP leadership of the House and/or Senate. So if this threat should be taken seriously by anyone, it ought to be the Republican members of both the House and the Senate:
Simply by getting on the same page and then staying there, folks, you'll ensure Nancy Pelosi's continuing irrelevance. There can't be very many more important services you can render to the Republic between now and November 2012.