Sunday, September 09, 2012

Of sidelines, collegiality, and Barack Obama's spectacular ineffectiveness

I've never doubted the reports that the University of Chicago Law School would gladly have put Barack Obama on a "tenure track" if he'd wanted that. They would have converted him from a "lecturer" or "senior lecturer" — both polite ways of pointing out to other academics that someone is neither tenured, nor on a tenure-track — into an "assistant professor." And then, in addition to teaching, he'd have had to produce appropriate proof of sustained scholarship, which in this profession means researching and writing serious articles for publication in law reviews like the one he helped edit when he was a student at Harvard Law. If his articles met the very subjective standards of the faculty, and if his teaching and other professorial work was acceptable, he'd have been granted tenure, and the title of "associate professor"; he'd have started participating in the faculty senate, voting on tenure decisions and law school policy; and eventually he'd have become a full professor (the "Professor of Law" that he's so often and so misleadingly claimed himself to be when away from the law school), and he'd probably eventually have ended up with an endowed chair (e.g., "the Fenster Q. Bigcontributor Chair in Socio-Legal Comparative Studies," or some such). And if Chicago hadn't embraced him for such a career path, literally hundreds of other law schools would have, and gladly, simply on the basis of Obama having been the first black editor-in-chief (a/k/a "president" in their odd nomenclature) of the Harvard Law Review.

Of course, as any career academic or even any one-time graduate student is keenly aware, "faculty politics" is some of the most intense and competitive politics around. But it's not always purely cut-throat; instead it must also be collaborative to be successful. Every academic's individual prestige is linked with that of his institution, and while they are rivals in some respects, all members of a faculty have a shared interest in seeing their institution prosper and grow in repute (and funding) over the long term. That they can and do cooperate to build great institutions of higher learning, and that leaders emerge among them to show the way, is why it's not a mockery that "college" and "collegiality" share the same linguistic roots.

But Obama chose not to go that path, for whatever reasons. He probably had a key to the faculty lounge and washroom, but by his choice, he was never part of the permanent, full-time faculty of Chicago Law School, or any law school.

Similarly, although Barack Obama could have had his choice of partnership-track associate positions at the top law firms in the country, he chose to be merely a non-owner part-time employee, "of counsel" at the small and not particularly distinguished Chicago law firm he joined after Harvard Law School.

Barack Obama was never anyone's fellow tenured faculty member, nor anyone's law partner and business co-owner. He never even tried to be.

I thought of that bit of Obama's personal history when I read this appalling story from Bob Woodward in the Washington Post. It's titled "Inside story of Obama’s struggle to keep Congress from controlling outcome of debt ceiling crisis," but the URL under which it was published contains a short and succinct indictment (italics mine, of course): "A president sidelined." It begins:

President Obama summoned the top four congressional leaders to the White House on Saturday morning, July 23, 2011. The night before, House Speaker John A. Boehner had withdrawn from negotiations to raise the $14 trillion federal debt limit and save the government from a catastrophic default. “Nobody wanted to be there,” Boehner later recalled. “The president’s still pissed.”

They had about 10 days left before the government would run out of money. Given the global importance of U.S. Treasury securities, failing to extend the debt limit could trigger a worldwide economic meltdown.

Boehner said he believed that he and the others — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — had a plan. He told Obama: We think we can work this out. Give us a little more time. We’ll come back to you. We are not going to negotiate this with you.

Obama objected, saying that he couldn’t be left out of the process. “I’ve got to sign this bill,” he reminded the leaders as they sat in the Cabinet Room off the Oval Office.

“Mr. President,” Boehner challenged, “as I read the Constitution, the Congress writes the laws. You get to decide if you want to sign them.”

Reid, the most powerful Democrat on Capitol Hill, spoke up. The congressional leaders want to speak privately, he said. Give us some time.

This was it. Congress was taking over. The leaders were asking the president to leave the meeting he had called in the White House.

Sidelined! Well, yeah, everyone else on the team has effectively sidelined him because he doesn't know the plays, doesn't know how to play his position, pays no attention to the snap count, draws a penalty flag with every other step he takes, and yet trash-talks endlessly. It's not unusual for a player to be sidelined. But it's pretty unusual when the other players sideline the nominal quarterback.

President Obama in a meeting with congressional leaders on the budget deficit on July 14, 2011, in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Fair-use photo credit: AFP/Getty|Mandel Ngan via denverpost.comYet it is not really surprising, because:

Barack Obama never learned to work and play constructively with others, so he certainly never learned how to effectively lead others.

The closest he ever came was when he was elected as a compromise candidate to head the Harvard Law Review. That was a great honor, but ask yourself: Other than the fact that he was the first black editor-in-chief, have you heard a single other notable fact about his service in that one-year slot? Oh, the HLR published on schedule (more or less, as law reviews tend to do), and it sailed along with the same standards of quality and scholarship that had built its reputation over more than a century. But frankly, the Harvard Law Review — like the Texas Law Review, on whose board I served in 1979-1980, or most other top law reviews — is easily capable of surviving for a year on auto-pilot regardless of the leadership skills of any single editor-in-chief. And I'm reasonably sure that during Obama's tenure, the HLR didn't have to borrow billions from the Chinese to put out its next issue either.

By all accounts, the only legislation of consequence that Obama ever passed as a state senator was that which was drafted by others and decided by the party bosses that, for symbolic reasons, he should sponsor. He passed absolutely nothing of consequence in his brief tenure as a U.S. Senator, served in no important leadership positions, and left not a single fingerprint on the institution of the United States Senate.

And now, when the United States and the world desperately need someone who can not just make speches, but actually lead — not just in public, but in private with his sleeves rolled up to deal with competing congressmen and constituencies — Barack Obama does not know what to do. He has the power of the Presidency, but not a clue how to use it effectively, so he is not taken seriously by any of the other players whom the Constitution makes part of the process of government.

And not only can Obama not lead, he can't even cooperate effectively.

I would feel slightly sorry for him, if he were not destroying my children's future.

"Lead, follow, or get out of the way," it's said. The 2012 election now represents President Obama — refusing even to get out of the way.

Posted by Beldar at 12:39 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Assault into the Mediscare ambush

Fight fear with facts. And when appropriate, bring your mother.

Medicare and Social Security can be saved. They can even be improved upon, without diminishing their reliability. But you can't do it by pretending that they can go on forever, or even more than a small handful of years, without major structural changes.

We need to have this debate. We're glad to have this debate. And we will win it, not just because we have the better debaters — and now, we finally do — but because we have the truth.

Posted by Beldar at 05:31 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Romney picks Ryan

On my recent post entitled Paul Ryan on entrepreneurial capitalism vs. crony capitalism, reader Greg Q commented today: "So, why aren't you gloating yet about Romney picking Ryan?" And my dear friend DRJ, recalling my support for Sarah Palin in June 2008 and my support for a possible Paul Ryan presidential campaign earlier in this election cycle, inquired today in the comments on that same post: "Has any other blogger picked two VPs in a row? Well done, Beldar."

DRJ gives me too much credit: Although I'm happy to see this selection, and I certainly favored and tried to promote both Palin and Ryan as potential Veep nominees months before either was selected, I didn't go on record with a prediction as to whom Gov. Romney would pick this time. And in fact, I'm mildly surprised that he did choose Paul Ryan, although I'm obviously delighted by the choice.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan campaigning by the battleship USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, VA, on August 11, 2012On a superficial level, Ryan is more widely known throughout America now than Sarah Palin was in 2008. As Stephen Hayes wrote in the Weekly Standard on July 23, since John McCain's defeat in November 2008, Paul Ryan has become the intellectual leader of the Republican Party. Speaker John Boehner wields more raw power in the House, but he has relied heavily on Ryan. Boehner deliberately (and commendably) has placed Ryan at the forefront of the House Republicans' opposition to Obama, especially since the GOP recaptured the House after the 2010 mid-term elections. The Dems had already started their slurs campaign against Ryan just based on the threat he posed to Obama from his chairmanship of the House Budget Committee, and when I read Ryan Lizza's grudgingly admiring but fundamentally dishonest profile of Ryan in a recent issue of the New Yorker (which I'm not going to link), I knew the Dems were taking him seriously as a potential GOP Veep nominee.

Nevertheless, to all but perhaps the 10% of American voters who closely follow politics even outside election season, the depth and substance of Paul Ryan and his political philosophy are still largely unknown. Between now and the conventions, the Romney-Ryan campaign will seek to remedy that, and the Obama-Whoever campaign will do what it always does, which is to tell lies designed to frighten and confuse people.

I will go on record with a Veep prediction now, though — not about Ryan, but about his counterpart in the race: If Romney had chosen Rob Portman or Tim Palenty or Marco Rubio instead of Ryan, then Slow Joe Biden and his boss could both have breathed easier. In my view, however, Paul Ryan's selection just moved Hillary Clinton from "possible" to "probable" as Biden's replacement on the 2012 Dem ticket. Look for Slow Joe to find a sudden yearing to become an elder statesman who has more time to spend with his family. I'll bet Hill & Bill are having champagne tonight. Even most of my Democratic friends will admit, if pressed, that it would be a good thing for the country to get Joe Biden out of the line of presidential succession. 

To answer Greg Q's question, though: The enthusiasm with which I might otherwise be greeting this pick is not diminished, but is nevertheless deeply tempered, by my conviction that things in America are today much worse than they were at this same time in 2008 — or even, for that matter, than they were in September 2008 during the financial system's near meltdown. We no longer have to speculate how badly a generic Democrat would do as Dubya's successor. We know exactly how abysmally the actual Democrat who succeeded him has performed, and there is absolutely not a reason in the universe to think he will be a whit better or less disastrous if he's permitted four more years to continue dismantling the American Dream.

Romney's choice of Ryan gives me grim satisfaction, then, rather than elation or surprise. It does give me new hope insofar as it demonstrates Gov. Romney's willingness to take on the biggest issues and to move this campaign cycle beyond the ridiculous trivialities that Obama counts upon to distract Americans from his own conspicuous incompetency, his own insufficiency for the office.

But the Dems can't compete with Ryan's principles, which are, very fundamentally, America's principles too. So to keep the conversation on other topics, as they are desperate to do, the Dems will have to pull out all the stops.

Barack Obama's reelection campaign is already the most shamefully dishonest in my memory, which dates back to LBJ vs. Goldwater in 1964. It is about to get much, much worse.

Fortunately, and may God continue to bless him in this regard, one of Paul Ryan's most defining characteristics is his unflappability. Many call Ryan's style "Reaganesque," and it is indeed cheerful and passionate and hope-filled — but Reagan never had Paul Ryan's handle on details.

Those who think the Ryan selection is risky essentially base their projections upon a very poor opinion of the American public's intelligence. But I believe, as did Ronald Reagan, that almost all Americans understand that we can't live forever in a world of magic unicorns and "free" stuff from the government. The magic dust that Obama sprinkled over Americans in 2008 — the magic that he told them could make them fly if only they thought happy thoughts and held Obama's hand — has now all worn off. The entire audience can see the wires, and that most of them are broken. The gap between the Lightworker character as written in Democratic fiction and the tired political hack now playing that part has become more obvious than Mary Martin's bosom. I believe that enough Americans know that it's time to exit the theater as grownups, and to get back to work in the real world.

Batten down the hatches, then, folks. The deluge is here, and the Obama campaign is going to make sure we're all at least waist deep in fecal matter before the voters send that campaign back to the sewers where such nastiness belongs.


UPDATE (Sun Aug 12 @ wee-smalls): I asserted that Ryan's selection improves the odds that Obama will dump Biden for Hillary, but I didn't explain why. The short version is: Pawlenty, Portman, or even Rubio would have whipped Biden in the Veep debate and as a campaign surrogate, but not so badly as to make Biden look much worse than Biden does even with no active opponent. If Romney had chosen one of them, then keeping Biden would have been a closer call. But recall that Paul Ryan is the only Republican politician in the last two years to have obviously bested Obama himself in face-to-face argument in a public forum. And whether you credit Obama with modest or supernatural eloquence, he's certainly aware that Biden isn't in his own league, and he surely knows that Ryan will disarticulate Biden, both stylistically and substantively, in the Veep debate.

Biden turns 70 in late November, and his medical history includes two brain aneurysms. The rationale for him being on the ticket in 2008 (that he would offset Obama's foreign policy inexperience) no longer exists. He brings no constituency that Obama doesn't already have on his own now; among young voters, whose participation Obama wants desperately to encourage, Biden is very nearly as much a standing joke as he is among Republicans. There has always been a decent chance that Obama would dump him in 2012, but of course that would never conceivably have happened until Obama first saw who Romney picked, in order that Obama could know who Biden's successor would be up against. Now he knows.

The best chance the Dems have to respond to the Ryan selection would be asymmetric political warfare — which translates quite neatly into replacing Biden with the most ambitious and most popular Democrat in the country, Hillary Clinton. Indeed, that will mesh like clockwork with the coming Obama pivot to foreign policy as the best possible distractraction, and the only substantive distraction, from the economic ruin he's wrought. The rest of the Obama-Clinton campaign would largely consist of heaping calumny on Romney-Ryan and Mediscare — Dems cannot talk about the economy in anything but the most simplistic, jingoistic talking points, because anything else is poison to Obama's campaign — but SecState/Veep nominee Clinton, along with a newly energized Bubba, would surely be employed to highlight the relative lack of traditional foreign policy credentials on the part of both Romney and Ryan.

Posted by Beldar at 12:02 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Ted Cruz on today's Fox News Sunday

I just watched Chris Wallace's interview of Ted Cruz from this morning's Fox News Sunday. It got me revved up. It certainly made me feel proud of my endorsement of, and campaigning for, this likely next U.S. Senator from Texas:

As I sometimes heard said on the prairies of west Texas whence I sprang: "Stronger'n train smoke!"

The contrast between Ted Cruz and Wallace's preceding interviewee, Obama flack David "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" Axelrod, was stark and very bracing indeed.

Posted by Beldar at 05:19 PM in 2012 Election, Congress, Politics (2012), Politics (Texas), Texas | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Unicorns and hypothetical close relatives of Harry Reid who may have been unsure whether he is or isn't a pederast until they consulted the interwebs

On Friday, Prof. Glenn Reynolds was kind enough to link my recent post about the Harry Reid pederasty rumors, opining that "firmness is justified when responding to slurs from a man widely rumored to be guilty of pederasty." Today he directs us to a thoughtful essay by ethicist and lawyer Jack Marshall in which Mr. Marshall opines that the recent blogospheric attention to the precise nature of the Senate Majority Leader's interest in young boys is "not fair but deserved."

Mr. Marshall urges us to re-take the high road, and that "when dealing with an individual as loathsome as Harry Reid," we should content ourselves with "denigrat[ing] him with the truth":

Reid himself deserves little sympathy, for the collective smear on his name was prompted by his own scurrilous rumor-mongering on the floor of the U.S. Senate, where he asserted that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid his taxes for a decade based on no evidence whatsoever. Nonetheless, while giving someone a “taste of his own medicine” is no doubt satisfying and perhaps even instructive, wrong is wrong, and spreading intentional lies, even about a public figure as devoid of decency and scruples as the Senate Majority Leader, is unethical. No conduct, no matter how nauseating, by its target can justify this. Stooping to Reid’s level can only further degrade civility and dignity in American public discourse, which is the objective of political sewer-dwellers like Reid, not anyone with the best interests of the nation in mind.

This is well put and high-minded. Less persuasive is this bit, though:

The meme is doing its work: Sen. Reid is on the way to being “santorumed.”* Google his name, and Google’s suggested searches put “Harry Reid pederast” third. By next week, it could be first. Will some unsuspecting, innocent and trusting citizens come across this completely fanciful libel of Reid and believe it? Perhaps even a young nephew or niece of the Senate Majority Leader? Oh, we can be sure of that.

I'm not at all sure of that. In fact, I think that's extremely unlikely. Here is the comment I left (which at this moment still awaits moderation; emphasis added):

Mr. Marshall, you argue well and eloquently. But I do not think YOUR fantasy — that some innocent, virginal young relative of Harry Reid will see his name associated with pederasty on the internet AND WILL BELIEVE IT — is a realistic one. Were Harry Reid not a public figure, your fantasy might be plausible. But there are equally bad, and worse, accusations leveled at controversial public figures on the internet every minute of every hour of every day, and this is not a new phenomenon. You’re more likely to persuade me that Harry Reid has sex with real unicorns than that he has anyone close to him whose opinion will be affected by this. Indeed, because they are close to him, they can judge him for themselves. [The people, I meant — not the unicorns, who are famously nonjudgmental.] That’s how real life works.

So: Plaudits for the moral stand. Brickbats for silly and counterfactual arguments to justify it. This is parody, and it has a point other than meanness.

Of course, so do Reid’s lies: HIS point is to actually deceive people.

That, by the way, is a common feature of pederasts.

Mitt Romney has hypothetical nieces and nephews too, you know. From their penthouses in the Grand Caymans, they probably have Google alerts set up to help them keep track of what they ought to think of Uncle Mitt, and I know that they value Harry Reid's opinion above all others.

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Marshall as to whether the fanciful risk of someone becoming persuaded by this meme that Harry Reid really is a pederast — and I'm not the one saying he is, nor am I the one whose political spokesman allegedly charactered the suggestion of Reid's potential pederasty, on the record, as "cute" — is sufficiently real to make it anything other than a theoretical problem. And I disagree with Mr. Marshall's characterization of these posts as being "the intentional spreading of lies." It's actually somewhat insulting to suggest that anyone in the extended Reid family, or for that matter, anyone anywhere, is as spectacularly gullible as Mr. Marshall's characterization would require. But I'll grant Mr. Marshall that Reid's own assertions about Gov. Romney are similarly insulting to the intelligence of the American public, and yet Reid clearly expects political gain from making them anyway.

In my own view, any arguable ethical breach is implicit in, and necessary to, the parody, which I believe to be fully justified; and any ethical shortfall is also mitigated at least to the point of adequate excuse by Reid's own deliberate and malicious lies about Mitt Romney. Were I to extend Mr. Marshall's rationale to its natural conclusion, I'd have to watch what I said about such non-pederastic monsters as Adolf Hitler or Ghengis Khan. Still, come to think of it, has anyone ever seen either of them and Harry Reid in the same room at the same time? Ever? The coincidences just keep adding up. And one thing is indisputable: No one with subpoena power has yet looked into any of these allegations. Sen. Reid's stonewall, in other words, seems to be working — for now.

Nevertheless: To the hypothetical adolescent niece or nephew of Creepy Friendly Old Uncle Harry who happens upon this post and is pondering it:

First, you're probably in big trouble if your parents catch you reading a conservative website. Remember to scrub your browser history, temp files, and cache.

Second, I confess that I know of no evidence to suggest that Harry Reid has sex with real unicorns either. I draw no adverse inference from his failure to deny it, because most people who have sex with real unicorns are understandably shy and reluctant to discuss it. (The unicorns are very private too, and it's easy to understand why no unicorn has yet come forward to admit to a sexual relationship with the powerful Senate Majority Leader.) Certainly you shouldn't think about any of these troubling internet rumors the next time you sit in his lap, because that would be wrong and unfair.

Just remember that your Uncle Harry could put a stop to this in the proverbial New York minute. He could admit that he was lying about Romney and resign from the Senate. Short of that, he could deny the rumors of his pederasty and, like I said earlier, release his personal porn collection.

Posted by Beldar at 03:40 AM in 2012 Election, Congress, Humor, Politics (2012), Romney | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Paul Ryan on entrepreneurial capitalism vs. crony capitalism

Worth your four minutes and twenty-one seconds:

(Hat-tip Robert Costa at NRO's The Corner.)

You want a "jobs bill"? Reform the tax code — flatter, simpler, fairer, with lower rates but no loopholes. Return federal government spending as a percentage of GDP to its historically successful and sustainable 19% level instead of the current ruinous 24-25% that has produced Obama's multi-trillion dollar deficits. Tax compliance will improve (i.e., more people will feel the system is fair and that they have less of an excuse to cheat; simple rules mean easy and more effective enforcement against those who do cheat); productivity will soar (as resources previously used to beat the system are redeployed to create wealth and jobs); and discontent with government will justifiably drop. Tax revenues will soar — and deficits will shrink — which will permit us to reform and save our safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security by increasing individual choice and by reintroducing market economics to healthcare generally and elder-care in particular. The pie will once again start growing for everyone's benefit as free-market transactions create wealth: TANSTAAFL, but every such transaction, by definition, leaves both sides holding something they value more than what they just traded away, and that translates into jobs, savings accounts, investments, and progress.

This photo (lifted from a Richard Brookhiser post at The Corner) —


— nicely illustrates the biggest and most obvious lie told in the Twenty-first Century so far:

"We've tried our plan — and it worked!"

Remarks by the President, Oakland, CA, July 24, 2012.

Posted by Beldar at 04:34 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2012), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Harry Reid: Pederast?

We simply can't know that all the rumors about Harry Reid's pederasty are false until he releases his personal porn collection. Of course, if he denies having a porn collection, we will know he's a liar.

(There are also rumors that Reid and Mitt Romney are both Mormons. I know, that's hard to believe, but I hope someone looks into that. I'm sure someone from Team Obama will get around to it between now and November.)


An email from a law school friend prompted me to remember this post from 2004, in which I revealed the real dirt on John Kerry, too.

Posted by Beldar at 03:36 PM in 2012 Election, Congress, Humor, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cruz vs. Dewhurst: Beldar handicaps the runoff

William A. Jacobson at the Legal Insurrection blog reports: Upset brewing in Texas runoff? PPP says Cruz up big. (Hattip: Instapundit.) This post is adapted from a comment I left there earlier tonight.

I put almost no faith in political polls as a general rule. But I am cautiously optimistic about Ted Cruz' chances in his primary-election runoff against David Dewhurst. I'm going out on a limb to predict that Ted Cruz will win by five or more points.


(1) By merely forcing a runoff, Cruz instantly gained the strategic advantage. He’s been exploiting it adeptly. Dewhurst started with a VAST name recognition advantage among Texas Republicans. But he has never had a serious primary or general election challenge in his previous state-wide races, and his actual performance in office as lieutenant governor was obscure except among those who closely follow state-house politics. So Dewhurst’s support was the proverbial mile wide but only an inch deep.

Dewhurst therefore should have pulled out all the stops against Cruz for the primary. Dewhurst was counting on the third and fourth candidates in the race (former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert and former SMU running back/sportscaster Craig James) to draw most of their support away from Cruz. Instead they drew most of their support from Dewhurst — depriving Dewhurst of the primary-election simple majority that would have prevented a run-off.

(2) When Dewhurst has asserted that most or all of Cruz’ support comes from out-of-state generally — or from Washington, D.C., in particular — that accusation has rung false in the ears of every Texan who’s been paying attention. Cruz lacked Dewhurst’s broad name recognition, but long before the Tea Party movement, Cruz had deep and passionate support among Texas' politically aware movement conservatives. Based on Cruz’ superb performances before the U.S. Supreme Court as Texas’ solicitor general, we were already talking, writing, and blogging about Ted Cruz as a potential U.S. Senator back during Dubya’s first term.

Cruz has built on that support very steadily, and the Tea Party connections and the endorsements from folks like Gov. Palin and Drs. Ron & Rand Paul have indeed brought him visibility. But conservative Texans aren't xenophobic, and nobody here confuses Sarah Palin with Olympia Snowe, nor Rand Paul with Arlen Specter; we're reasonably picky about which out-of-staters we mock as RINOs.

(3) On a net basis, I think it's quite likely that Dewhurst's negative ads will end up costing him runoff votes, not winning them. Dewhurst and Cruz were both already doing some hard-hitting negative advertising even before the initial primary election. But with the additional time (and advertising) permitted by the runoff, many Texans who’d previously been generally aware and generally approving of David Dewhurst as lieutenant governor have found cause for second thoughts. They've learned, to the disappointment of many, that Dewhurst has actually made quite a few legislative compromises that undercut his claim to be a thorough-going conservative.

Worse, they've seen that Dewhurst has a real and very ugly mean streak. That mean streak is no surprise, however, to anyone who's followed Dewhurst's wielding of power as Texas' lieutenant governor: The man has always had sharp elbows and a sharp tongue when he close to employ them. Imagine a rough cross between J.R. Ewing, Bob Dole, and John McCain — each on a bad day.

Fortunately for both Cruz and Dewhurst, though, whatever damage either has done to the other's reputation during this primary election is unlikely to matter in the general election: Obama was never competitive in Texas in 2008, and he's even less competitive here today; he will have negative coattails in this state come November. Neither candidate in the Dems' primary runoff has a fraction of the appeal that Bill White had as the Dem gubernatorial candidate in 2010, and he lost decisively; the Dems haven't won a major statewide election since 1994, and this year's election will extend that losing streak. This runoff will effectively determine Texas' next junior U.S. Senator.

(4) Runoff-election voters are exactly the kind of people most likely to be turned off by negative campaigning that insults their intelligence — but that's exactly the kind of negative campaigning that Dewhurst has chosen to wage. A lot of negative campaign tactics are geared to the politically illiterate. But the Texas Republicans who are likely to turn up in a low-turnout run-off election are relatively better-educated, at least politically, than either their initial primary-election or general-election counterparts. Only the committed bother to show up for primary election runoffs; movement conservatives punch above their weight in runoffs.

Those who understand the Rule of Law and the ethical responsibilities of lawyers acting within its adversary system, for example, are inherently less likely to fall for character assassination attempts which depend upon misattributing to a lawyer who's running for public office the most unsavory characteristics and views of his (or his firm's) most unpopular clients. There will be a higher proportion of primary voters who know, for example, that the second President of the United States, John Adams, had ethically and honorably represented the British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre even while he was among the most ardent of American revolutionaries. Those voters can look at Cruz' legal career in context; they can appreciate the conservative causes he championed so ably as Texas' solicitor general; and they can draw the appropriate inferences from the genuine respect that Cruz has earned from judges and appellate lawyers of all political persuasions.

As a result of Dewhurst overplaying his hand by going so negative, a lot of Texans who would happily have voted for Dewhurst in November if he’d won the primary outright have now decided that they don’t want to vote for Dewhurst at all — ever again — for anything. If Cruz wins this runoff, expect Dewhurst to draw a serious primary challenge if he runs for lieutenant governor again in 2014. It's not hard to imagine Dewhurst running for governor instead, even against the incumbent. Speaking of whom:

(5) The diminution in Rick Perry’s luster means he’s had less that could rub off onto David Dewhurst. A considerable portion of Dewhurst’s starting advantage and name recognition was closely bound up with the governor with whom he’s run so frequently, and so successfully, in state-wide elections.

That’s somewhat ironic, because until Perry endorsed Dewhurst against Cruz, Perry and Dewhurst had not been particularly close; they could have been most charitably described as natural rivals for power in Austin who sometimes cooperated with, and just as often opposed, one another.

Perry’s disastrous presidential campaign didn’t hurt him as badly in Texas as it did outside the state, but it still remains to be seen just how badly Perry’s self-immolation will hurt his own long-term standing with the Texas conservatives who’ve kept returning him to the governor’s mansion. My own sense is that Perry is himself now vulnerable to a primary challenge in any future statewide race he runs. By endorsing Dewhurst and campaigning against Cruz, Perry has further dismayed a lot of movement conservatives and Tea Partiers who might have forgiven or forgotten Perry’s debate performances last fall. He’s certainly in no position, for example, to challenge in 2014 for the U.S. Senate seat now held by John Cornyn. 


I will support the GOP's nominee whether it's Dewhurst or Cruz. But I fear that Dewhurst would be a "Peter Principle" senator. And even if the Senate doesn't represent Dewhurst's personal level of incompetence, at best he would be a thoroughly conventional senator who's unlikely to ever break out of that crowd of fifty pairs of presidential wanna-bes.

Cruz could stand out among them, and he may well be destined for even bigger responsibilities. Conservative Texans should view their vote for Ted Cruz in this runoff as an inspired long-term strategic investment in Texas' and America's future.


UPDATE (Mon Jul 30 @ 4pm): See also National Review's editors' latest runoff election endorsement, Yes, Ted Cruz for Texas. Key paragraph:

Given the intensity with which conservatives prefer Mr. Cruz to Texas’s popular lieutenant governor, some Republicans have asked, not unfairly, “What’s so bad about David Dewhurst?” Six months ago, our answer might have been: “Nothing, really, if there weren’t a much better choice available. Ted Cruz is far and away a preferable candidate for conservatives seeking an effective and articulate champion of their ideals.” But much has happened since the early days of this race, and Mr. Dewhurst’s vulgar and dishonest campaign of scorched-earth ad hominem against Mr. Cruz raises serious questions about his judgment and his commitment to conservative values.

Yeppers, that's about right.

Posted by Beldar at 01:32 AM in 2012 Election, Congress, Obama, Palin, Politics (2012), Politics (Texas), Texas | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Edwards' defense team might want to reconsider their reliance on a Clintonesque "It's all just about sex" defense

John Edwards has always tried to emulate, and out-do, that other smooth-talking, good-looking Democratic politician from the South, Bill Clinton. Edwards has certainly fallen short of Clinton's achievements — most conspicuously in failing to win the White House. As for Edwards' foibles and failings, I suppose that the consensus of history will decide, someday, whether sexually exploiting a White House intern, and lying about that to the American people and the First Lady, is worse than having an affair and fathering a child with a campaign groupie, and lying about that to the American people and the would-be First Lady (who's also dying of cancer).

But John Edwards' urgent problem is not the eventual judgment of history, but the impending judgment of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. And his defense lawyers would do well to keep that always in mind as they ponder the appropriateness and likely effectiveness of a defense strategy consciously constructed to parallel Bill Clinton's defense in L'affaire Lewinsky.

Clinton was tried primarily in the court of public opinion. Oh, yes, he certainly was impeached in the House of Representatives, and he was nominally "tried and acquitted" in the resulting Senate proceeding over whether he ought also be removed from office. But there is not much resemblance between even the formal "rules" that governed the impeachment proceedings against Clinton and those which are governing Edwards' criminal trial. And Edwards' trial in North Carolina has taken place within a structure, a setting, that has little in common with Capitol Hill. The key participants in Edwards' trial are ordinary, "real-life" participants in our criminal justice system, with the most significant of them being chosen as a cross-section of the voting public — not big-shots from our political system.

Then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist did a fine and fair-minded job of presiding over Clinton's Senate "trial," using his exalted position atop the judicial branch to keep order inside the Senate chamber during the formal proceedings. But nothing could give even the Chief Justice remotely the same practical authority or influence over the U.S. Senators who decided Clinton's fate that U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles will necessarily have over the jurors who decide John Edwards' fate.

When Clinton's supporters argued — within the House and Senate proceedings, but mostly, incessantly, and desperately in every channel of public conversation outside the Capitol Dome — that his prosecution was "all about sex," there was no one to overrule them, to correct them, to re-focus the inquiry.

But whenever John Edwards' team finishes his defense — and it's still essentially certain that defense will not include Edwards waiving his Fifth Amendment rights and taking the stand on his own behalf — Judge Eagles will give the jury a set of written instructions and questions comprising the "charge of the court" and their required verdict form. Although she will doubtless give Edwards' lawyers great latitude to argue, if they wish, that Edwards' prosecution is "all about sex," or "all about politics," or "all about ____ (fill in the blank)," nevertheless, when all the lawyers are done, the jury will be obliged to answer the questions posed by Judge Eagles.

And at that point, Edwards' lawyers simply won't any longer be able to distract attention from those questions and that verdict form any longer. Judge Eagles' questions will be lifted in large part from the text of the relevant statutes. And those questions are therefore guaranteed to be about violations of the federal campaign finance laws — not about sex, not about politics.

Edwards' lawyers can puff and huff about sex and politics all day long, but it's the jury's eventual answers to those specific questions which will decide their client's fate.

Being tried in the court of public opinion, rather than in a U.S. District Court, was an enormous advantage to Bill Clinton because a "misdirection defense" works quite well in a court with no rules, no boundaries, and no effective judge to control the proceedings and define the issues. I doubt that a "misdirection defense" is likely to be as effective in Judge Eagles' courtroom. But I suppose it's the best semblance of a defense they can put together for this toxic scoundrel.

Posted by Beldar at 03:33 PM in 2008 Election, Congress, Current Affairs, Law (2012), Politics (2012), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Paul Ryan: "America Deserves a Better Path"

In my view, the GOP should nominate for President the single currently most consequential Republican leader, the one who's most doing the most, and proving the most effective right now, on the most urgent issues threatening our country — not someone who merely has served in a single state, or whose service was mostly or entirely back in the 1990s. With due respect to Speaker Boehner (who actually I'm pretty sure would agree with me on this), the currently most consequential Republican leader is not him. And again, with due (but sincerely calibrated) respect to them, it's certainly not any of the current candidates.

It's Paul Ryan.

As the tag-line suggests, this video is intended as a preview of what Chairman Ryan plans to do with his House committee, and with this year's revised version of the Path to Prosperity, between now and Election Day. Make no mistake, this is targeted at Barack Obama and his Democratic cohorts.

But I agree with the Weekly Standard's Mark Hemmingway when he titles this "the best political campaign ad of 2012." Hemmingway's wistful subtitle: "Unfortunately, he's not running."

The only thing entirely certain about the GOP convention is that it has to produce a nominee for President and Vice President. In some parallel universe in which candidates could put aside their personal ambition — even the kind of driving, compulsive, relentless personal ambition necessary to campaign for President of the United States — in favor of the good of the Nation (and, therefore, the good of the Grand Old Party), I would hope for a brokered convention at which, on the 10th round of deadlock, some combination of Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrinch, and Ron Paul would implore all of their original delegates to cast their next ballot for the chairman of the House Budget Committee. But in this universe, I've still not been persuaded to change my sidebar by anything any of those candidates have done since ... well, since ever.

Ryan, by the way, hasn't endorsed anyone, and has promised not to (he says it would be a conflict with his party fundraising position). Wisconsin is a purplish state that's in play. And his pre-Election Day work for the Budget Committee will necessarily be complete or nearly so by the time of the GOP National Convention in Tampa, after which he's going to be campaigning anyway, if (probably) only (sigh) for his current House seat.

Posted by Beldar at 11:06 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is it okay for Obama to tell voters that Obamacare's individual mandate is not a tax, while telling the federal courts that it is?

I have been following the ongoing litigation about the constitutionality of Obamacare, and I have very strong opinions about it. But I haven't written much about it here because there are so very many other conservative and libertarian law-bloggers who are doing such a good job — including many of them who are directly involved in the litigation — that I haven't felt I had anything novel or useful to add. However, I was much struck by the concluding paragraphs of Wisconsin conlaw professor Ann Althouse's post today entitled "The Obama Administration clearly states that the individual mandate is not a tax" (all emphasis hers):

Well, I suppose it depends on what the meaning of the word "tax" is. It's one thing for the purpose of political argument: Democrats in Congress didn't want to call it a tax when they were jamming it through, and Obama doesn't want to call it a tax now as he's promoting a budget with no new taxes for those making less than $250,000 a year. But for the purposes of legal argument, you might want to characterize it as a tax. The serious question is whether the Supreme Court will accept that characterization for the purpose of upholding the law, even though for political purposes the word was not — and is not — used.

And the answer to that question depends on whether the Justices think that analysis of the political dynamics matters in the interpretation of the scope of Congress's enumerated powers. Whatever the vigor of the Court's role here — and obviously much is left to Congress's political will — it is crucial for the people — exercising their political pressure on the Congress that works its political will — to see what is happening. Even in the thrall of judicial restraint, the Court should reject an argument based fooling the people about what Congress is doing. The people are especially vigilant about new taxes, so denying that something is a tax is an important maneuver in the political arena. If that move is made to ward off public outrage, it should not be easy to turn around win the favor of judges by calling it what you did not dare tell the people it was.

As I said in a comment to her post (reprinted here without blockquoting, slightly edited and expanded here for clarity):

Every statute passed by Congress and signed by the POTUS (or passed over his veto) must be justifiable by some provision of the United States Constitution. That is essential to the maintenance of our Republic as a government of limited, enumerated powers — a government subordinate to, not the dictator over, its people.

Flacks for the Obama Administration, including many lefty lawyers and law professors, would love to persuade you, the people, that they're entitled to rely on one part of the Constitution, the taxing and spending clause, as a justification for Obamacare while they're arguing in the federal courts over its constitutionality, and yet to deny elsewhere that Obamacare involves any "taxes."

"This is complicated lawyer-stuff that only us high priests of penumbras and the living, breathing Constitution can possibly comprehend," they suggest. "Go back to your circuses — look, look, they're handing out more free bread! FREE BREAD!"

(Or maybe just free condoms and birth control pills.)

Democrats are the masters of cognitive dissonance. That's not in dispute and won't change. What might change — as between November 2008 and November 2012 — is the number of rubes who remain enthralled by their shameless hoaxes.

Posted by Beldar at 05:41 PM in Congress, Law (2012), Obama, Politics (2012), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Did Gingrich, in 1986, attack Reagan for "weak policies" that were "clearly failing" in the Cold War?

Remind me never to get on the wrong side of Elliott Abrams, who clearly has a long memory and holds a grudge. Nevertheless, if these purported quotations of then-mere-member Newt Gingrich criticizing Ronald Reagan in the mid 1980s are accurate and in context — I'm not vouching for them and haven't checked, so that's a sincere and substantial "if" — then those quotations may affect some opinions among the conservative faithful of 2012.

I'm surprised that Mr. Gingrich can still surprise me, but this did. (Hat-tip Betsy's Page via Maetenloch at Ace's.)

Posted by Beldar at 07:00 AM in 2012 Election, Congress, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Beldar endorses Ted Cruz for the U.S. Senate from Texas

I meant to post something along these lines many weeks ago, but — better late than never — this will confirm my enthusiastic endorsement of Ted Cruz in the upcoming Texas GOP primary race for United States Senator, to fill the seat being vacated by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate from TexasTed is someone who first came to my attention during the Texas redistricting litigation in 2003-2004, and he did a genuinely remarkable job as Solicitor General for the State of Texas from 2003-2008. In that capacity, he was the chief appellate lawyer for the State of Texas before the U.S. Supreme Court and all the state and federal appellate courts. And he has been simply superb in every aspect of that job, including briefing and oral argument on several blockbuster SCOTUS cases. He's already been a genuine hero as a public servant; his conservative instincts and principles are thorough-going and deeply rooted in a compelling personal history; and I have no doubt that he can bring that same level of excellence, that same earnest public servant's heart, on behalf of the people of Texas when he's in the U.S. Senate.

I have no ax to grind with two of Ted's three primary opponents. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has been an effective leader in an important job, and former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert has earned his fans. (I have a hard time taking the fourth candidate, former SMU running back, ESPN sportscaster, and political rookie Craig James, very seriously as a candidate for this important an office.) I expect there will end up being a run-off between Cruz and Dewhurst, and that's fine.

But I commend to you Brian Bolduc's cover-story on Ted in a recent issue of National Review to help you understand why Ted Cruz is among the up-and-comers of the GOP on the national stage. This is a strategic vote, one that Texas conservatives should make not just for now but for the future.

Ted Cruz simply scares the hell out of the far-sighted strategists of the national Democratic Party, for the very best of reasons. The Angry Left website Think Progress, for example, labels Cruz a "radical" candidate with "fringe constitutional theories" — hysteria they reserve for conservatives who genuinely threaten them the most, whether in the halls of the SCOTUS or on the campaign trail.

I've contributed to Ted's campaign and encourage others to consider doing so. Indeed, I'll be running an unpaid side-bar link to his campaign website throughout the primary season and, I hope, through the general election. Good luck, Ted! I know you'll do us proud.

Posted by Beldar at 12:51 AM in 2012 Election, Congress, Politics (2012), Politics (Texas), Texas | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Obama's magic death ray

Covert operations involving drones, including targeted counter-terrorism assassinations, are something on which I'm inclined to give the POTUS, as Commander in Chief — whoever is in that office, even Obama — a lot of deference and discretion. But as suggested by this Wall Street Journal story entitled "Tensions Rising Over Drone Secrecy," this is turning into a situation from Marvel Comics: The only difference is that in the funny papers, it was always an orbiting death ray instead of an unmanned drone made out of composites, cameras, computer chips, and Hellfire missiles. As we use this power, it's increasingly going to motivate other countries and, yes, non-state actors like al-Qaeda, to want their own equivalent toys. But even before they can match our capabilities to use (and defend against?) such drones, there is going to be international attention and concern.

I hope and (must, for now) trust that the White House and the Pentagon and Langley have a cohesive, comprehensive, and wise plan for what America's going to do to moderate, channel, and otherwise affect the resulting change in international security affairs. This is already a bigger deal than most folks realize, and it's going to become a very, very big deal indeed.

But that hope and trust require me to assume, however, a degree of wisdom and simple competency that the Obama Administration has never displayed in anything else. Certainly its handling of the just-lost drone in Iran suggests that they're making up American diplomatic and military/operational policy as they go along, and that they're making it up not just on a day-by-day basis, but an hour-by-hour basis. And as the WSJ story points out:

John Bellinger, a top legal adviser for the State Department during the Bush administration, said the White House needs to start thinking about a legal framework that would define acceptable practices. He pointed to the risk that other countries will start using drones in ways that the U.S. may find objectionable.

"If Russia starts using drones to go after terrorists, will the U.S. look like we have a double standard if we criticize them?" Mr. Bellinger asked.

In short, the whole world, including his own legislators and constituents, is going to be listening more carefully to what Obama says (and doesn't say) about drones during the coming year, and comparing those words to what's actually being done (and not done) with the drones in actual practice, much of which will be covert.

The growing Congressional challenges to Obama's authority here — implemented so far only by demanding broader reporting to Congress, but likely to be subjected to more intrusive involvement, with associated security risks — suggest that I'm not the only one to have noticed this, or to have become concerned by it. Certainly the mainstream media is doing very little to put it on the voting public's respective radar screens. But even carefully targeted Hellfire missile strikes eventually demand attention; and any one of these strikes might trigger something quite unexpected, and potentially much bigger, as a counter-response by someone.

I'm perplexed at the silence of my liberal friends who, in theory, at least the last time we discussed such things in other contexts, don't share my views on the breadth of the Executive's authority to prosecute the war on terror and to defend the country from both foreign and domestic threats. How many layers of duct tape have they had to wrap around their heads to prevent them from exploding at the notion that, by executive order, the POTUS can now selectively vaporize almost any given roomful or carload of people, including U.S. citizens (at least while abroad)? The enormity of their double-standard has never been more obvious: If any Republican, and certainly if George W. Bush, had taken the same positions and engaged in the same volume of drone activities that Obama has, we'd be in the midst of full-blown impeachment proceedings by now.

Posted by Beldar at 03:18 PM in Congress, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Mainstream Media, Obama, Technology/products | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beldar on the failure of the "supercommittee"

Regarding the unsurprising failure of the congressional "supercommittee," consider this:

Democrats simultaneously insist that (a) they want to raise taxes on America's rich, while (b) rejecting GOP proposals to reform and save Social Security and Medicare by making them be "means-tested." Means-testing would only affect those who are not currently on, or about to qualify for, those programs. For those later beneficiaries, however, the wealthiest subsets would receive lesser benefits than the poorest ones, with the very poorest continuing to be subsidized at current levels (adjusted over time with inflation). 

The Dems insist that the federal government continue giving rich people money for their retirement and medical care, in other words, even if those people can quite comfortably afford to pay for those things themselves. But those same Dems also insist on taking a higher percentage of rich people's current income to pay for the costs of ever-expanding government programs, most notably those same entitlement programs which are already operating in the red, with alarming increases on the near horizon that are demographic and actuarial certainties.

Got that?

The explanation is as old as Tammany Hall: the Democratic Party depends on handing out government largess, including outright graft, to keep its disparate power bases in line. This is why General Electric pays no federal income taxes. This is why Hollywood studios show paper losses on films that generate multi-hundreds of millions at the box office. This is why unions give hundreds of millions in political donations, but more than 85% of that always goes to Democrats. This is why the federal government hands out millions based on allegedly frustrated "intent to be a farmer," or pays tax dollars to prop up commercially nonviable car companies or solar panel manufacturers, while rejecting a badly needed pipeline construction project that would create thousands of jobs at no government expense whatsoever.

If your source of political power is based on hand-outs to favorites, preferences for government-picked "winners," and government-effectuated or government-mandated income redistribution, then you protect that power quite literally at all costs — even costs that will positively bankrupt the government in fairly short order.

If any of this surprises you, then congratulations: You're the guy at the poker table wondering which one of his fellows is "the mark."

This is what the 2012 election should be fought over.

Posted by Beldar at 12:15 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Federal courts refuse to hear challenge to Obama's Libyan intervention, but Congress should push back — with the power of the purse — over Obama's new Ugandan adventure

In a post about the Obama Administration's ridiculously stupid efforts to argue that the "kinetic military action" in Libya didn't trigger the War Powers Resolution and its associated reporting requirements and deadlines, I had this to say on May 21, 2011, immediately after "the day under 50 U.S.C. § 1544(b) by which Obama had to "terminate any [such] use of United States Armed Forces" if the War Powers Resolution were constitutional and enforceable:

I don't want to get into a protracted discussion on this post (or in its comments) about the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution. However, the expiration of this deadline is essentially certain to cause someone, somewhere, to jump into federal court asking for an injunction.

I am 100% certain that when that happens, there will be very technical, very tedious, and very fundamental preliminary motions. There will be challenges to standing — the right to bring suit by a particular person or entity, and/or the capacity in which that's being done. There will be challenges as to ripeness — whether this is something that has to be decided now at all, much less on an emergency injunction basis. And most of all, there will be challenges to justiciability — whether this is even the kind of dispute that the federal courts are in business to be deciding, and in particular whether this is the sort of "political question" that the federal courts are supposed to refuse to get involved in.

So as you're imagining the whole range of potential scenarios that could unfold from this — to the continuing chagrin of Barack Obama, progressive superhero who's now committed a set of unforced, imbecilic, spectacularly ironic mistakes on Libya — consider this one, because it might well happen:

Congress: Hey SCOTUS, make him stop it! Make him follow the law we passed to tell him how to do his Commander-in-Chief gig! Order those ships to come home and those planes to stop flying right now!

POTUS: No, no, SCOTUS, that's my gig alone, and neither you nor Congress can tell me how to do it.

SCOTUS: We're just not going to talk about this subject. Go away.

[Courthouse door slams closed; POTUS and Congress trudge away, grumbling and snarling at one another. Exeunt all.]

I actually think that's the single most likely scenario, if it were pressed that far by the appropriate principals — who themselves may be precisely the ones who refuse to seek judicial involvement, because Congress has an interest in leaving this entirely unresolved, too.

Today — on the very day the non-war war finally achieved the laudable (and bizarrely denied) goal of regime change via decapitation — in proceedings styled Kucinich v. Obama, it has turned out that my predictions about how the federal courts would refuse to even hear such a challenge were proved absolutely correct. From the Blog of Legal Times (link in original; hat-tip Above the Law and WSJ Law Blog):

A federal judge in Washington has dismissed a suit challenging the Obama administration's legal justification for military action against targets in Libya.

The suit, filed by a bipartisan group of congressmen in June in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, sought a ruling that the U.S. military strikes are unconstitutional without a congressional declaration of war....

Responding to the suit, the U.S. Justice Department said the claims raise political questions that federal district judges are not authorized to entertain and that the plaintiffs do not have standing to sue in the first place.

Walton agreed, ruling that the lawmakers do not have standing. He rejected the alleged injury the lawmakers claimed—that they have been deprived the ability to vote on a war declaration.

In a footnote, Walton questioned the plaintiffs’ decision to sue given legal precedent, he said, that didn't bode well for the members of Congress.

“While there may conceivably be some political benefit in suing the President and the Secretary of Defense, in light of shrinking judicial budgets, scarce judicial resources, and a heavy caseload, the Court finds it frustrating to expend time and effort adjudicating the relitigation of settled questions of law,” Walton said.

Take a step back. Pretend we don't have "Republican" and "Democrat" labels here, or even "conservative" and "liberal" labels, and that we're just looking at this solely as a test of power between the respective branches of the federal government.

Looking at it as part of that big picture, today's ruling granting the Administration's motion to dismiss made no new law at all: It didn't weigh or decide any facts at all; it didn't endorse Obama's argument that the War Powers Resolution wasn't implicated. It just announced that this handful of Congressmen lacked standing "either in their capacity as Members of the House of Representatives or because of their status as taxpayers" to challenge Obama's actions in federal court, even if the court assumed that all the facts they alleged were absolutely true.

This exact result was a predictable outcome, one that I (and many others) had in fact predicted — so predictable that the federal district judge who first heard it became rather grumpy about having to waste his time on it. (Indeed, one of the prior precedents on which Judge Walton relied was a 2002 case in which this same lead plaintiff, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, had tried to sue President George W. Bush over the U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty without Congressional approval.) But is either today's court result or Kadafi's death likely to result in a new extra-legal precedent, an unenforceable but nevertheless notable practical precedent in the grand interplay of constitutional checks and balances in the 21st Century?

Naw, not so much. The mild and short-lived court scuffle between Obama and a handful of Congressmen here was just an isolated example of something we already knew:

If Congress, acting as Congress (as opposed to acting through its individual members who're trying to be litigants in court), declines to exercise the express powers granted Congress by the Constitution — chief among them, the power of the purse — to protect other express privileges and responsibilities also conferred upon Congress by the Constitution, including the exclusive power to "declare war," then we're not seeing an actual constitutional confrontation.

With the opposition to Obama's Libyan adventure, then, in Obama's silly efforts to claim the War Powers Resolution didn't really apply, in the resulting Congressional grumbling, and in this lawsuit, we've only seen a kabuki show intended to fool the easily fooled. Obama calculated that he could get away with something like the Libyan adventure — and this time, Congress has clearly let him. That is the only important take-away message.


UgandaBut as I've said here earlier this week, I do not think Congress should continue to let Obama get away with sending American ground forces into conflict in Uganda with neither Congressional approval nor even the merest hint of a shadow of a whisper of a threat (imminent or even just gathering) to significant American strategic interests. Such interests do not exist in Uganda. No, this particular frolicsome detour — which is indeed likely to become extremely "kinetic" at some times and places (since that's part of what Special Ops guys are known for, after all, and they're being sent specifically to catch and kill tyrants) — cannot possibly be justified under any theory other than that America is the world's policeman.

If the GOP and those Dems who opposed the Libyan adventure voted together, they could certainly override even a presidential veto of legislation defunding this sub-Saharan Africa adventure. And the GOP by itself, with its majority in the House, could certainly refuse to include funding for it in their next appropriations bill.

This is a confrontation that needs to be had. Even though the scale and risks and expenses of the sub-Saharan Africa adventure may be smaller than what we're doing in Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Libya, the Uganda operation pits the Executive's and the Legislature's respective responsibilities and powers against one another far more vividly: This isn't a Cold War-era "proxy war" like that conducted over Nicaragua in opposition to the Soviet Union's challenge to the Monroe Doctrine and American interests close to home. No one in Uganda is pursuing WMD capabilities or harboring and supporting terrorists; it has no oil wealth or other strategically important position or resources. It has nothing at all, in fact, except some very bad African men who are regularly and enthusiastically killing and terrorizing other Africans.

Ugandan flagIf Barack Obama wants to host a telethon to raise private contributions to help the victims, that would be peachy. If he wants to propose sanctions or other legislation, or encourage Congressional resolutions on relevant topics, or even to try to gather support from our allies and other countries whose interests are more directly involved, or who simply share our humanitarian concerns, I'll not say a word of criticism. And I am, in general, a strong supporter of a strong Executive Branch, with a great deal of practical and implied power to respond to emergencies, conduct American foreign policy, and direct the U.S. military as Commander-in-Chief both in and out of war.

But this is too much. This is genuinely unprecedented, and the practical precedent it threatens to set is a bad one. The GOP presidential candidates need to start talking about this, because it's a mark of how fundamentally flippant Barack Obama is when it comes to his execution of his Oath of Office and the Constitution. But Congress needs to push back, current electoral politics notwithstanding, because all of its members, Republican and Democrat, have an institutional duty to respect and preserve Congress' proper role in our system of checks and balances.

Posted by Beldar at 07:01 PM in Congress, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Obama, Politics (2011), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Friday, October 14, 2011


I am an unapologetic hawk when it comes to protecting American interests abroad. And I define those interests broadly.

After Saddam's fall, Mumar Kadafi gave up his WMD program and permitted western inspectors to confirm that; in effect, he negotiated a parole under which he could reasonably hope to avoid a fate like Saddam's so long as he behaved himself. But early this year, when he turned heavy weapons on random city blocks filled with his own countrymen — not just those who were protesting, but those who were convenient to kill — Kadafi violated his parole.

At that point, we were confronted with (a) a genocidal scofflaw no longer even pretending to adhere to basic tenets of civilization, who (b) had a demonstrated history of chasing weapons of mass destruction, who (c) also had a demonstrated history of sponsoring successful international terrorism against America and its allies, and who (d) still had untold billions of petrodollars to spend on that goal, the accomplishment of which (e) had again become his best hope for remaining in power. No, he posed no imminent threat to the United States, but Kadafi had reemerged as the most imminent threat to acquire (or in the case of chemical and biological weapons, reacquire) and then use WMDs against America (or to feed them to terrorist groups who'd do that). The danger he posed was exactly the kind of "grave and gathering danger," even short of imminent threat to the U.S., which America showed itself determined to confront and neutralize when we deposed Saddam.

I've mocked Obama for his ridiculous mangling of the War Powers Resolution's plain terms in an attempt to insist that it was inapplicable, but I think the WPR is unconstitutional anyway, so I was only mildly critical of Obama's commitment of U.S. armed forces, without Congress' consent, to try to force Kadafi out of power. Of course I agreed that our NATO allies, especially France and Italy, ought to bear a disproportionate share of the costs since it was their short- and middle-term oil and gas supplies that were threatened by Libyan instability, and I supported coordinating our armed forces and theirs under NATO's flag. But it was disingenuous and foolish to pretend we weren't doing the most difficult and dangerous missions, or to deny that our military forces were essential prerequisites for even such limited air action as Britain and France have been able to manage. It was cosmically stupid to pretend that we weren't trying to get rid of Kadafi himself, and that we were just "protecting innocent civilians." And I'm clear-eyed about the dangers of Kadafi being replaced by something as bad or worse, but that was no longer an acceptable justification for permitting him to remain in power.

So although I have not been a fan of Obama's ridiculous lies and misrepresentations about our Libyan mission, and although I think he's bungled almost every aspect of its management, I was nevertheless ultimately supportive of that mission. I think that leaves me in a fairly modest minority of Americans, even of Republicans or conservatives.

But Uganda?


From out of nowhere — Uganda on a Friday afternoon?

If George W. Bush had purported to commit many dozens of U.S. special forces personnel to Uganda, 99% of all Democrats in America, including 100% of their elected officials, would have been screaming for Dubya's impeachment continuously, very loudly, and in perfect unison. And they would not have had a trivial argument to support impeachment, conviction, and removal from office — in sharp contrast to every other suggestion of impeachable offenses by anyone in that administration throughout its eight years of service.

America has no strategic interests in Uganda. Not even with the broadest possible definition of "strategic interests" do we have them in Uganda. This is a pure humanitarian mission, one in which we've picked winners and losers and are now enforcing that choice at the point of American bayonets. If this mission is critical for the United States, then there is no bully, no despot, whose local crimes against his own people is outside our vital strategic interests. We are indeed to be the world's policeman.

Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) is the chump of the day, having been completely snookered by the Obama Administration into speaking out in favor of this mission. A well-intentioned sucker is ultimately just a sucker, and Inhofe should certainly know better than this.

Obama seems determined to outdo Bill Clinton's foolishness in Somalia — to learn none of the lessons, and to repeat all of Clinton's deadly mistakes.

The United States House of Representatives should vote to de-fund this mission immediately and send that bill to the Senate. The GOP members of the Senate should permit no other business — refuse unanimous consent to everything — until that defunding bill is put to an up-or-down vote. The mushy and muddled support that kept Congress from ever reacting to Obama's mishandling of the Libyan adventure should not, and I think will not, save Obama from a constitutional confrontation this time. We should have it, and Obama should lose it.

Posted by Beldar at 06:08 PM in Congress, Current Affairs, History, Obama | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Harry Reid destroys decades of Senate tradition to spare Obama & Dems from embarrassment [update: Over tractor dust!]

Our constitutional democracy is premised on the assumption that with each national election every other year, we re-tally the desires and opinions of voters. The results re-determine the composition of the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate with each election. And each such Congress is new and distinct, and it is given a unique number to identify it through history. Because no Congress can bind the hands of any future Congress (unless it goes through the intentionally cumbersome process of amending the Constitution, which will require supermajority votes in Congress and the active concurrence of three-fourths of the states' legislatures), each such new Congress is free to amend or re-write entirely the rules by which the respective chambers operate.

In consistent practice going back nearly to the ratification of the Constitution, however, those rules are not casually amended in the United States Senate. And if they are amended at all, they are, traditionally, amended only at the start of a new Congress — not in the midst of one.

Among the U.S. Senate's most hallowed original traditions — one of the characteristics, indeed, of the Senate that most distinguished its operations and temperature from the House of Representatives — was the tradition of unlimited debate. It stood intact from the first convocation of the Senate until 1917, when the Democratic Senate majority of the newly convened 65th Congress passed the cloture rule, Senate Rule XXII, through which filibusters could be forcibly ended by the vote of two-thirds of all senators "present and voting." Rule XXII was left essentially unchanged, and no more radical change in the nature of the Senate was accomplished until 1975, when a newly elected Democratic majority in the Senate changed the cloture requirement to three-fifths of all senators "duly chosen and sworn." This meant a filibuster could be ended with 61 votes (assuming no vacancies in the Senate, and regardless of how many were on the floor to vote) instead of potentially requiring 67 votes (assuming all 100 senators were on the floor and voting).

Frustrated by their inability to get Bush-43 judicial nominees an up-or-down vote against Democratic opposition in the Senate, Republicans proposed a mid-Congress interpretation of Rule XXII in 2004-2005 that would exempt from its scope, by ruling of the chair (confirmed by a bare majority vote of the Senate), all votes on judicial nominations. This proposal, called the "constitutional option" by its proponents (which included me) and the "nuclear option" by its opponents (which included Harry Reid), would have effectively ended filibusters altogether for judicial nominees, who would be guaranteed an up-of-down vote so that the Senate could perform its constitutional advice-and-consent function; it would not have affected filibusters on legislation or other votes. Democrats, however, went ballistic. The resulting debate ended with the infamous "Gang of 14 compromise" on a series of pending nominees. (Basically John McCain and a handful of other Republicans got snookered — again, and as usual — by trusting Democratic counterparts who insisted they were acting in good faith and could be relied upon.)


But even when cloture is invoked, and a filibuster is thereby ended, Rule XXII, as it's existed since 1917, doesn't provide for an immediate vote. Rather, Rule XXII, as accurately summarized in a helpful glossary on the Senate website, "limit[s] consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours." Indeed, Rule XXII specifies precisely what may and may not be done during those 30 additional hours. And until today, those 30 additional hours have included an opportunity for the side that's lost the cloture vote to engage in one last organized effort to make its political points — to the nation, and in theory to anyone from the opposing camp who's willing to reconsider.

Specifically, Rule XXII said that except under some very narrow conditions rarely ever satisfied (involving prior submission of amendments before the cloture vote on a strict timetable), and

[e]xcept by unanimous consent, no amendment shall be proposed after the vote to bring the debate to a close ....

In practice, that "except by unanimous consent" requirement has always been read by senators from both parties to permit a senator to at least seek unanimous consent, even if he has zero expectation of getting it. [Editing note: My original understanding of this turned out to be not quite right. McConnell was relying on language from Rule XXII regarding amendments pre-filed before the cloture vote, language that I omitted here but quoted below. See the series of updates below for full details. — Beldar]

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) While ostensibly seeking that unanimous consent, a senator can say things like Mitch McConnell has been saying for the last couple of days on the senate floor after Reid had pushed through a cloture vote ending debate on a bill to retaliate against China for its currency manipulation. Under longstanding rule and tradition, McConnell was free to say, "I ask unanimous consent that we amend the bill on which cloture has just been granted to incorporate President Obama's oh-so-urgent new jobs bill, which President Obama is traveling around the country to complain we're not voting on yet." McConnell wanted to make Democrats vote against giving "unanimous consent" — precisely because that would mean putting them on record as voting against even the consideration of Obama's version of the jobs bill (which no senate Democrat actually supports), at the very same time Obama's out lying to the public about the reasons his bill can't get passed.

Everyone understands this is political theater. In McConnell's case, it represents his determination, as Senate minority leader, that such request for unanimous consent was an effective use of the minority's portion of the 30 remaining hours of post-cloture-vote debate.


But today, though, Harry Reid threw a fit on the floor of the Senate — a massive temper tantrum from nowhere, without warning, that did vastly more to permanently degrade the traditions and collegiality of the United States Senate than anything and everything the Republicans proposed regarding judicial nominees in 2005. As a mis-headlined, long, somewhat disjointed, but substantively excellent article at reports:

In a shocking development Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered a rarely used procedural option informally called the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules.

Reid and 50 members of his caucus voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill.

Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.

This was not remotely "bipartisan," this was hyperpartisan. Reid couldn't even get all of the Senate's Democrats to go along.

Reid’s move strips the minority of the power of forcing politically-charged procedural votes after the Senate has voted to cut off a potential filibuster and move to a final vote, which the Senate did on the China measure Tuesday morning, 62-38.

Reid said motions to suspend the rules after the Senate votes to end debate — motions which do not need unanimous consent — are tantamount to a renewed filibuster after a cloture vote.

“The Republican Senators have filed nine motions to suspend the rules to consider further amendments but the same logic that allows for nine such motions could lead to the consideration of 99 such amendments,” Reid argued before springing his move.

Reid said Republicans could force an “endless vote-a-rama” after the Senate has voted to move to final passage.

That is another example of Harry Reid telling America a bald-faced lie. Once cloture has been voted, it's 30 hours of further proceedings, no matter how those 30 hours are spent. There's nothing "endless" about 30 hours.

This is about shutting down argument, pure and simple. It's not just "Shut UP!" politics, it's "Shut up NOW, damn-your-soul!" politics. And it's despicable.

It's not unconstitutional. The Senate Rules, including Rule XXII, are "extra-constitutional." But it's nevertheless a big damned deal in the history of the United States Senate, and it amounts to pissing on the minority party just because, for now, the majority can, even if they have to break decades and decades of bipartisan tradition to do so:

McConnell, visibly angry and shaken, said Reid’s action Thursday evening threatened the powers of the minority that distinguish the upper chamber from the House of Representatives.

“We are fundamentally turning the Senate into the House,” he cried on the Senate floor. “The minority’s out of business.”

And Reid already knows the cosmic truth that's right around the corner in January 2013: Payback is going to be a real bitch this time.

Reid said he resisted pressure from junior Democrats to “massively change” the Senate rules in the 112th Congress, when Democrats had a larger majority in hopes that Republicans could be persuaded to ease their use of obstructionist tactics.

But Reid admitted that he did not take the action lightly and may regret it in the future.

“Am I 100-percent sure that I’m right?" he asked. "No, but I feel pretty comfortable with what we’ve done. There has to be some end to the dilatory tactics.”

Senate Republicans said Reid is right to worry.

“Just wait until they get into the minority!” one GOP staffer growled.

Reid is a complete and utter fool. He's barely tolerable as Polonius to Obama's Hamlet, but at least Polonius didn't use his stewardship of Elsinore to batter the castle down to its foundations.


UPDATE (Fri Oct 7 @ 12:45am): Ryan Grimm and Michael McAuliff at the Puffington Host report the precise straw that broke the camel's back, i.e., that triggered Reid's tantrum. They say (boldface mine) that after losing on the cloture vote,

McConnell then apparently settled on a consolation prize of forcing the Democrats to take tough post-cloture votes, including on the president's jobs bill and on a measure to bar the EPA from regulating farm dust.

McConnell initially wanted 10 votes [on motions for unanimous consent to amend the China bill], and Democrats were willing to give him five. They ultimately settled on seven, a Democratic source said, and they told McConnell which ones they would accept.

That left the Democratic leaders in a sour mood to begin with, but then McConnell tried to insist on the farm dust measure offered by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).

"We accepted the embarrassing vote on the president's jobs bill," a Democratic leadership source said. "Then he tried to jam the farm dust bill up our ass."

The problem for Democrats with the dust measure is that many don't want to undercut the EPA, and they also don't want to be made to look ridiculous by seeming to regulate natural dust at the expense of jobs. The EPA, however, has insisted the entire issue of regulating farm dust is a "myth." The agency has proposed toughening the standards to regulate particulate matter in the air.

Tractor dust. Harry Reid destroyed decades of Senate tradition because he didn't want to be embarrassed by making his party go on record in favor of EPA regulation of tractor dust.

Clowns. Petty, ridiculous old men who are children, pretending to be leaders. Liars.

November 2012 can't come soon enough.


UPDATE (Fri Oct 7 @ 1:15am): Andrew Stiles has a very good post about today's events up at The Corner, but his interpretation of the rules issue is slightly different than mine. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting Rule XXII, or the facts I've relied upon from are slightly off, but I thought this was a literal, official amendment of Rule XXII — not merely a majority vote, with precedential effect, overruling the parliamentarian's interpretation of Rule XXII. Mr. Stiles' explanation seems to me to ignore the part of Rule XXII which already prohibits amendments, regardless of whether they're "germane," once cloture has been voted (unless there's unanimous consent). The distinction doesn't make much of a practical difference, except that if I'm right and there was a vote on amendment of Rule XXII, that would be more obviously a big deal. The problem with my interpretation of what's happened, though, is that I can't figure out how they could have changed the Senate Rules right now with only a bare majority vote: after cloture has been invoked, "a measure or motion to amend the Senate rules" requires an affirmative vote of "two-thirds of the Senators present and voting," the standard that dates back to 1917.


UPDATE (Fri Oct 7 @ 1:50am): This suggests that this wasn't a formal vote to change the Senate Rules, just a vote to overturn a decision of the chair (based on the ruling of the Parliamentarian), which would still effectively establish a new precedent for the Parliamentarian to rely upon in the future. But I'm not sure how that precedent will be expressed.

Maybe I was wrong, though, and maybe instead what McConnell was trying to do was not an amendment by unanimous consent, but rather something taking advantage of the language in the last half of this sentence from Rule XXII — language (beginning with "unless it had been submitted") which I assumed didn't apply (because it would take a lot of planning to set up):

Except by unanimous consent, no amendment shall be proposed after the vote to bring the debate to a close, unless it had been submitted in writing to the Journal Clerk by 1 o'clock p.m. on the day following the filing of the cloture motion if an amendment in the first degree, and unless it had been so submitted at least one hour prior to the beginning of the cloture vote if an amendment in the second degree. 

Are Republicans routinely pre-filing a bunch of such proposed amendments before every cloture vote now, specifically in order to take advantage of that "unless" language? Maybe so, since the Dems have become so hyper-aggressive in filing cloture motions at the merest hint of an intention to filibuster.

That link also reveals that the Dem senator who voted against Reid was Ben Nelson (D-NE), and that Sen. Boxer (D-CA) didn't vote.


UPDATE (Fri Oct 7 @ 2:35am): Last update tonight: My friend Dafydd ab Hugh emails to point out that I missed a "more apt, succinct, and literary phrase" to describe what kind of politics Reid is playing — one "from the apex of American arts and letters (or 'the arts and farces,' as Benny Hill was wont to say)":

He's right, as usual.


UPDATE (Fri Oct 7 @ 7:30am): Here (slightly edited and expanded) is what I've posted in a comment to Mr. Stiles' post at The Corner:

Having read the just-now-available Congressional Record at pages S6314-15, it does indeed appear that the GOP pre-filed nine bills as amendments to the China currency bill before the cloture motion was filed. So it was indeed the "unless it had been submitted" language from Rule XXII — quoted above — upon which McConnell intended to rely.

There had been negotiations off the record in which Reid and McConnell had agreed that the Dems would not contest votes on suspending the rules to permit seven of those nine amendments to be voted upon during the 30 hours of proceedings before the final vote (required by the cloture vote) on the China bill. However, McConnell apparently convinced the author of one of the seven upon which Reid had agreed, Sen. Paul, to withdraw his amendment so that there could instead be a vote on one of the nine pre-filed amendments that Reid really didn't want to have voted on — Sen. Johann's amendment that would prevent the EPA from regulating tractor dust.

That was the bit that sent Reid into his tantrum. He insisted that the Dems, having agreed to permit procedural votes on seven amendments from the minority out of the nine the minority had pre-filed, also get to pick which seven. McConnell wouldn't go along with that.

So at that point, Reid dropped an amendment he himself had sponsored and called up an amendment that Sen. Coburn had proposed, so that he himself — Reid, not Coburn! — could immediately object, via point of order, to Coburn's amendment.

The chair, relying on advice from the Parliamentarian (who relied upon the text of Senate Rule XXII and all past Senate precedents under it), promptly refused to sustain Reid's point of order.

It was that decision — the chair's refusal to sustain Reid's point of order that would block even an amendment that the Dems had agreed to allow a procedural vote upon — which Reid then appealed to the full Senate: "I appeal the ruling of the Chair and request the yeas and nays." That prompted McConnell's protest, quoted in some of the press, that "in a few moments the rules of the Senate will be effectively changed to lock out the minority party even more." And that's when Reid got his 51-48 vote, and Reid's point of order — that Coburn's proposed amendment was "a dilatory motion under Rule XXII" — was sustained by the full Senate (on a bare-knuckled bare-majority vote).

Mr. Stiles was much more right than I was, and for all practical purposes completely right, in his description, and I apologize for quibbling.

The precedent that this sets, then, is that notwithstanding the literal language of Rule XXII, the majority not only gets to confine proceedings to 30 hours after a cloture vote (with the minority's share of that 30 hours limited to half, at most), the majority also gets to dictate the content of those proceedings, and to exclude certain matters from mention or debate during those 30 hours on grounds that the majority just doesn't feel like listening to it. The new precedent doesn't only apply to pre-filed amendments that are not "germane" to the bill on which cloture has been granted: at least one of the amendments that Reid blocked with his point of order maneuver yesterday was concededly germane to the China trade/currency regulation bill. Others weren't, but so long as they'd been pre-filed on the deadlines specified in Rule XXII, even non-germane amendments had always been allowed before to be brought up at least as part of a motion to suspend the rules. But no longer: None of the amendments pre-filed by the GOP are going to be permitted to be raised on a motion to suspend the rules; and before yesterday's abysmal precedent, all nine of them should have been.

This is ugly, ugly business. The Dems should be deeply ashamed, but they are, literally, shameless.


UPDATE (Sun Oct 9 @ 7:30am): This report from adds a missing piece to the puzzle: Not only do the proposed amendments have to be pre-filed to be eligible for consideration (even via a motion to suspend the rules) after cloture has been invoked under Senate Rule XXII, but the Majority Leader selectively chooses among those pre-filed amendments to "fill the amendment tree":

More than majority leaders before him, Reid has used a tactic known as filling the amendment tree to block Republicans from offering politically charged amendments to legislation. He has done this to protect vulnerable members of his caucus from taking tough votes.

He did it on the China currency bill that was being debate when he triggered the nuclear option. Republicans had no recourse to force a vote on Obama’s jobs package than to offer a motion to suspend the rules after the Senate had already voted to move to final passage.

By changing the rules Thursday, Reid barred Republicans from forcing votes even on motions to suspend the rules to proceed to amendments designed to send a political message.

One GOP strategist said giving the minority an opportunity to vote on these message amendments “lets partisan steam out of the kettle.”

Now that Republicans have been deprived this outlet, they warn pressure will build up, threatening an explosion.

And once again recall: None of this has any possible impact one way or the other on when a vote will be taken on the China trade/currency bill: Rule XXII already prescribes that as being immediately after 30 hours of further proceedings, regardless of what those proceedings consist of.

So this is about shutting down political speech from the floor of the U.S. Senate — nothing else.


Posted by Beldar at 11:24 PM in Congress, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Strategic vision in short supply at the White House and

Ponder, if you will, this strategically clueless bit of punditry from Carrie Budoff Brown and Ben Smith at, as part of an essay entitled "President Obama's deficit plan puts him back in sync with progressives:"

[Obama's new] mocking tone toward Republicans, along with the sharp left turn in his policy prescriptions, aimed to send an unmistakable message to voters who have increasingly questioned the strength of Obama’s backbone: Congress won’t push him around any longer. If Republicans want a deal, then they’re going to have to compromise, too.

That last sentence might have been better written, "If Republicans want to deal, then they're going to have to compromise, too." And therein lies the mistaken premise. The only leverage that Obama and the Democrats had during July's struggle arose from GOP legislators' legitimate concerns that they'd be blamed for the interruption of government services that might have attended a failure to raise the national debt ceiling.

Now Obama and the Democrats face an even more united opposition that includes an absolute majority of the House and, on these issues, probably a working majority of the Senate. They believe that everything which Obama has just proposed — including the many recycled proposals which are so lame that Obama couldn't pass them even when the Dems controlled both chambers of Congress — would make things worse. So no, they don't want a "deal" on these measures, and neither do they want to deal on them: There's neither carrot nor stick in Obama's hand, just crap that he's throwing out there again for the sole purpose (a wholly and transparently political one) of making his base think he's talking and being tough.

That's a very tactical response to Obama's present problems. A strategic view would caution him against such short-term tactics, however: Certainly by November 2012, even Obama's base will have recognized that once again, Obama has failed to deliver on any of the wild promises that he made to make them (briefly) happy again back in September 2011.

If there's anyone at either Politico or the White House who's thinking strategically at all, they would realize that the smartest thing Obama could do now — both for the health of the national economy and for his own political prospects — would be to shut up and do nothing for a few months. That golf game will get rusty if it's not continuously polished, you know. America needs a president who can play a good round of golf more than it needs a president who can dish up the kind of nonsense we're hearing from Obama.

There's indeed a chance that if Obama will shut up, some legislation might pass both chambers of Congress which would reduce undue government burdens on the economy and, as part of an overall revenue-neutral flattening and broadening of the tax base, close tax loopholes. See my immediately preceding post regarding House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's broad reform and rescue plan, the Path to Prosperity. Parts of that plan, or analogs thereof, could probably make their way separately through both the House and Senate, via the proposals of the "supercommittee" or otherwise. By getting government out of the way, that legislation would actually stimulate the economy (or, much more accurately, permit it to begin healing itself). And if Obama would just shut up, then when and if such legislation passes, he could (and doubtless would) claim a share in its prospective success. And there might, for a change, actually be some success to take credit for!

But it doesn't take much strategic vision — or, really, anything other than my ordinary spectacle-assisted vision — to recognize that my speculation has an impossible premise, too: The earth will reverse its own rotation before Obama manages to shut himself up, ever, about anything.

Posted by Beldar at 11:37 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ryan reacts to Obama's "jobs plan"

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is making it really, really hard for me to give up on him as a potential 2012 GOP presidential nominee.

His quarter-hour interview this morning with Chris Wallace was another tour de force: transcript/video. I commend it to you in its entirety.

Chairman Ryan is always utterly consistent and thoroughly well-informed on fiscal matters, and much of what he said this morning about Obama's "new" job plan was no surprise because Obama has just recycled past policies (e.g., a temporary cut in payroll taxes) that have been repeatedly tried by both Democrats and Republicans, but that have always failed. Ryan's response is a clear, vital statement of specific principles and ideas, and those who've heard Ryan speak in the past will recognize much of what he had to say about those failed policies, and their alternatives, today.

I was struck in particular today, though, by Chairman Ryan's calm, lucid response to one of the most effective parts of Obama's and the Democrats' class-warfare demagoguery, the "Buffett's Secretary" argument:

WALLACE: Let's turn to taxes and there's a lot to talk about. I want to break it down in some bite-size pieces.

First of all, what do you think to all — over the papers today, I guess, the New York Times reported that, first, this idea of a new minimum tax rate for millionaires to insure that they pay at least the same percentage of their money that they get their income as middle income taxpayers?

RYAN: Great. So, I guess what he's saying he's going to raise on capital at ordinary income tax rate, raising capital gains and dividends. Look, if you tax something more, Chris, you get less. If you tax job creators more, you get less job creation. If you tax investment more, you get less investment.

At a time when experts are telling us, including, I said the fiscal commission, we should lower tax rates on investment and job creation by getting rid of all of the loopholes so we can create economic growth. So, we think this is going in the wrong direction. Let's not forget that under the current law that the president has already passed, the top tax rate on individual and small businesses in 2013 goes to about 44.8 percent.

So, we have employers in Wisconsin that pay that tax rate are competing against countries that are taxing their businesses from 16 percent in Canada, almost 21 percent going in England, 25 percent in China. The world taxes their businesses at about 25 percent and he's saying we're going to tax these job creators at above 45 percent with this new tax. What it does is it adds further instability to our system, more uncertainty and it punishes job creation and those people who create jobs.

Class warfare, Chris, may make for really good politics but it makes a rotten economics. We don't need a system that seeks to divide people. We don't need a system that seeks prey on people's fear, envy and anxiety. We need a system that creates job and innovation, and removes these barriers for entrepreneurs to go out and rehire people. I'm afraid these kinds of tax increases don't work.

WALLACE: But, Congressman, this is being called the Buffett rule, because it comes after Warren Buffet, the multibillionaire owner of Berkshire Hathaway said, I end up — because I get so much of my money from capital gains — I end up paying a lower tax rate than my secretary who gets her money in salary. What about the question — what about the question of fairness, sir?

RYAN: So, what he's saying, what he forgets to mention on that, that's a double tax. Capital gains and dividends are taxes on money that has already been taxed once before based on income. So, a person who's paying an income tax is paying the first level of tax on that money and then when you pay capital gains and dividends tax, you are paying that tax again on that money that earns it. What it does — and we've done this before — we have raised capital taxes gains and dividend taxes, we hurt economic growth, we stifle investment in our economy. So, if we tax investment in job creation more, you will get less of it. Like I said, this is — this looks like to me not a very good sign, because it looks like the president wants to move down the class warfare path.

Class warfare will simply divide this country more. It will attack job creators, divide people and it doesn't grow the economy.

Go to and see a video we put up that shows a common sense idea that has a lot of bipartisan support in Washington these days to lower tax rates on these things by going after the loopholes.

Here's the video he just referenced. I think it's both simple and brilliant. And if the notion of the current tax laws letting General Electric Corp. get away with paying no federal income taxes nearly makes your head explode — a feeling shared by many Democrats, Republicans, and independents — then you should definitely watch this video:

I want this man to be president. This unflappable competency doesn't just appeal to me, it sings to me in ways that, frankly, neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Perry has yet been able to do.

Posted by Beldar at 10:03 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Non-candidate Ryan continues to draw lots of attention

The NYT has some interesting factoids about and quotes from House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). The bow-hunting and budgetary-wonk comments may appeal to slightly different audiences, but I suspect there actually may be a lot of cross-over appeal.

Ryan insists he's not interested in running, and indeed, that he's unwilling to be drafted. But when Gov. Rick Perry telephoned Ryan from the campaign trail this week, the substance of the report necessarily highlighted ... Ryan:

Perry also said he spoke Friday with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and backs the House Budget Committee chairman’s fiscal proposal.

“I talked with Paul Ryan today and told him that I thank you for standing up and having the courage and I’m proud to join you in having this discussion were having with America.”

This is further confirmation, folks, of what I wrote back on May 17th: Ryan's plan is the plan for the GOP in 2012. There is no practical choice in the matter, given the House's overwhelming and repeated record votes approving it, the large numbers of GOP senators who voted in its favor without success, and the large volume of other GOP leaders who've endorsed at least its broad outlines.

However, by genuflecting in Ryan's direction (albeit over the phone) and, more importantly, by publicly embracing the Ryan budget, Perry may also be trying to soothe any remaining itch that Ryan might still feel to test the presidential waters.

Posted by Beldar at 05:57 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, August 22, 2011

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.

Posted by Beldar at 12:38 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI)

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:

Cut-away shot of Obama listening to Ryan's exposure of Obamacare's gimmicks and smoke-and-mirrors at the White House Healthcare Summit in 2010

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 summithis 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.

Posted by Beldar at 03:43 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Beldar at 08:19 AM in Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

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 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.

Posted by Beldar at 04:44 PM in Congress, Current Affairs, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Beldar and Krauthammer agree: The Constitution must dictate — and is indeed dictating — conservative strategy and timing in the budget struggles

Dr. Krauthammer's latest column makes the point I've been making again and again since April, both on my own blog (in most thorough detail, here), and in comments I leave on many other blogs (e.g., on Patterico's, here):

The current struggle over spending, the deficit, and the debt ceiling absolutely must be viewed in the context of a four-year struggle that began the day Barrack Obama was elected. It is a struggle that cannot be completed in less than four years because of structural features of our Constitution — features that conservatives should cherish, protect, and continuously keep in mind for use to best advantage. In his words:

We’re only at the midpoint. Obama won a great victory in 2008 that he took as a mandate to transform America toward European-style social democracy. The subsequent counterrevolution delivered to that project a staggering rebuke in November 2010. Under our incremental system, however, a rebuke delivered is not a mandate conferred. That awaits definitive resolution, the rubber match of November 2012.

I have every sympathy with the conservative counterrevolutionaries. Their containment of the Obama experiment has been remarkable. But reversal — rollback, in Cold War parlance — is simply not achievable until conservatives receive a mandate to govern from the White House....

... [U]nder our constitutional system, you cannot govern from one house alone. Today’s resurgent conservatism, with its fidelity to constitutionalism, should be particularly attuned to this constraint, imposed as it is by a system of deliberately separated — and mutually limiting — powers.

Given this reality, trying to force the issue — turn a blocking minority into a governing authority — is not just counter-constitutional in spirit but self-destructive in practice.

Neither Dr. Krauthammer nor I are being terribly clever in pointing this out. It's junior-high level civics. Even the math is dirt simple, since one can figure out the entire situation without having to deal with any numbers greater than 435. But this is a truth that no amount of speech-making or clever posturing or principled defiance or back-room deal-making can change. So my warning to fellow conservatives from last April is now, I submit, even more urgent and apt:

We must not be foolish by being short-sighted, not even with the best of intentions. We must maintain discipline — and as with any discipline, this will be unpleasant to tolerate in the short term.

We're fighting about FY2012 and beyond, and the White House is using Twitter to try to sway public opinion. We are very modern and instantaneous and networked. But we're using exactly the political mechanisms that were envisioned and debated, and crafted in dynamic tension, and balanced and paced, by the framers of the Constitution in Philadelphia, oh so many decades ago. And from the depths of history, our Founding Fathers aren't calling today's precise tune, but their handiwork is certainly still dictating its stately (four-year) pace.

Posted by Beldar at 01:48 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, July 29, 2011

Harry Reid's claim that a "bipartisan majority" voted against the Boehner bill is an intentional fraud

Harry Reid, United States Senator from Nevada, Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader, lied through his teeth to the American public tonight on national television. (Otherwise, why bother?)

The "revised Boehner bill" passed today by the House was immediately tabled by the Senate — without debate, without opportunity for amendment or improvement — on a vote of 59 to 41.

Reid immediately appeared before the television cameras, and the first words out of his mouth were: "Tonight a bipartisan majority in the Senate rejected Boehner's short-term plan."

So who who were the six members of the GOP in this "bipartisan majority"? Perhaps it was Scott Brown from Massachusetts, or maybe Susan Collins or Olympia Snow from Maine? Listening to the vote totals and then to Reid's smug claim of bipartisan support, I ground my teeth, as did doubtless many thousands of other conservatives, wondering who the RINOs would turn out to be this time.

But nope. Shame on me for putting my tooth enamel at risk based upon Harry Reid's basic honesty or the lack thereof. According to Josiah Ryan and Alexander Bolton of

Six Republicans [who] joined Democrats to table the Boehner resolution were Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), and David Vitter (La.).

I've added hyperlinks to five of those names that lead to the respective senators' official web pages; I'm confident that by tomorrow I'll have a similar link for Sen. Hatch, but he's a bit slower in explaining his vote in his website.

The plain truth — known to Harry Reid and every U.S. Senator and every reporter and every American who's been following the details of this struggle closely — is that every one of these six GOP senators voted against the Boehner bill because they believed it did not adequately address the nation's long-term spending problem. Not one of these GOP senators was part of a "bipartisan majority" who agreed with Harry Reid and the Dems on anything of substance. Rather, these are the six senators who were to the right of Boehner, the House majority, and every other Republican in the Senate.

But Harry Reid wants the tens of millions of Americans who don't bother to look up who voted how — much less to look up the positions of each of the six GOP senators who voted against the Boehner bill — to believe that a bipartisan majority of the Senate believes the Boehner bill went too far and was too drastic. He claimed as a matter of objective, historical fact that his side had a "bipartisan majority."

That's fraud. That's an indefensible lie, told for the patent and sorry purpose of deceiving people who don't know better, or who want to be deceived (categories that overlap substantially with each other and, alas, with Democratic voters).

And that's Democratic Party politics in the 21st Century, friends and neighbors. If you're a Democrat, that's your party's representative, and you need to own him along with Obama and Pelosi:

Harry Reid. Shameless liar. And really, really bad at it.

If he weren't so ineffectual, he'd be a national tragedy, instead of just a national farce.

(P.S.: That phone call (at 0:35 in the clip) might just have been God calling Sen. Reid. He's maybe left Sen. Reid a voicemail — something including the words "lightning bolt" and "once too often." Certainly that would explain Sen. Schumer's snatching and hurling the phone away after merely glancing at the caller ID.)


UPDATE (Fri Jul 29 @ 10:40pm): The Salt Lake Tribune confirms my interpretation of Hatch's vote. He's to the right of Boehner, not to Boehner's left and in Reid's camp.

Posted by Beldar at 09:18 PM in Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Let's cover the moon in yogurt

I want this man as my party's presdiential candidate and then, our country's president.

He is the anti-Obama.

(Hat-tip to K-Lo at The Corner.)

Posted by Beldar at 08:26 PM in Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dems' and MSM's shared concept of "compromise" means "anything and everything the House GOP does will be D.O.A. at the Senate"

George Orwell would be very, very proud of the AP reporter who wrote this sentence in a report on the House of Representatives' passage today of the "modified Boehner plan" to cut spending and raise the national debt ceiling:

At the other end of the Capitol, Senate Democrats waited to reject the bill as swiftly as possible in a prelude to another attempt at compromise.

I'm thinking I'm going to track down Inigo Montoya and give him this AP reporter's name. Because that word — "compromise" — certainly does not mean what he obviously thinks it means. And I think that reporter, David Espo, has six fingers on his right hand.

If there's a government stoppage or shutdown, I'm offering to debate who's to blame with any and every Democrat or Democrat sympathizer in the cosmos. My only stipulation is that we have to start by comparing the two different bills that have now actually beeen passed by the GOP House to cut spending and raise the debt ceiling with all of the bills written down and introduced by the Democrats for that same purpose in the last 800 days.

While I'm waiting for someone to take me up on that offer, I'm still standing by my September 2009 assessment of the Obama Democrats:

Amateurs. Incompetents. Ideologues. Full-time politicians turned half-wit government officials. Brilliant leftists who, confronted with the real world, are exposed as clueless idiots and children.

Of course, I'm willing to compromise on both that offer and that assessment — by first and instantly rejecting every competing alternative.

Posted by Beldar at 07:06 PM in Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More wish from the grump

I just watched President Obama's latest press briefing on the on-going budget struggles. I continue to be perplexed how roughly half of the United States willfully blinds itself to the glaring contradiction in every one of Obama's speeches on this topic: He simultaneously attacks conservatives and apportions all the blame upon the GOP (lately, the House members), while insisting that everyone (except himself) needs to be more bipartisan and compromising.

Once again in this press conference, the entire gist was "If only everyone was as reasonable as me, we'd have this annoyance behind us." Of course, his version of "reasonable" continues to consist of buzzwords like "balance," meaning tax increases, which no one from either party in either chamber of Congress thinks can possibly be included as part of the debt ceiling increase. Obama's version of "getting specific" consists of him mentioning by name the specific legislators (Reid and McConnell) whose plans he sorta kinda likes at least in part. That even those plans are still vaporware as of this moment — as compared to Cut, Cap & Balance, which is (a) specific, (b) has already passed the House, and (c) would definitely raise the debt ceiling, if only about a half dozen Dem senators and Mr. Grumpy-in-Chief would go along — Obama utterly ignores.

Here we are — days from a potential default — and the last specific budget submitted by the President of the United States is the budget which Obama submitted in February, which was voted down in the Senate in May by a 97/0 margin. Even Slippery Rock State doesn't often take that stiff a whipping. (Of course, they're not afflicted by a coach who insists on directing both teams, and pouts and stamps his feet when he can't.)

If you cannot see how pathetic this is as an excuse for leadership, you're an Obama zombie. A leader gets results. Obama isn't even leading his own partisans, though; he can't even speak credibly for the House or Senate Dems, he can only scold.

If this gets solved, it will be no thanks to him. It will be despite him and his petulance. I'm not a bit annoyed that we're having this great political struggle: It was exactly what was demanded by the voters who delivered the House to the GOP in November 2010. But I am annoyed at having to hear so much blather, without end, from the worst poker player to inhabit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the last 100 years.


UPDATE (Fri Jul 29 @ 11:20am): I just heard Harry Reid tell the press outside the Senate this bit of delirium (my quote from DVR'd TV broadcast; boldface mine):

What is being done in the House is not a compromise. It's [the anticipated "revised Boehner plan"] being jammed through that [sic], with all kinds of non-transparent dealings, people shuffling in and out of the Republican leadership's offices. So we're — we're recognizing the only compromise that there is, is mine. We — ours is truly a bipartisan piece of legislation. And we, we — Republicans realize that. I've had a number of Republicans come up to me. I had one Republican come and say, "Thanks for your legislation." And we had meetings with a number of Republicans last night, various of my senators, and they, they feel concerned that we're not arriving at a compromise, moreso than what we have now. And we want to do that.

I repeat, I've asked my friend Senator McConnell to meet with me to try to work this out. And I'm confident he will, I hope, come back with some suggestions that he has. The stakes couldn't be higher....

He's deranged. The compromise from the House is agreeing to raise the debt ceiling at all.

"Thank you for your legislation"? What legislation would that be? Reid and his party haven't introduced any legislation. They have talking points they use when they're talking to the public and the press, and they have (very, very different) deal points that they've been discussing behind closed doors, but they don't have any damned legislation! The one truthful statement in the whole speech is that Reid is indeed waiting and hoping to get McConnell's "suggestions"! And yet Reid — this pompous old fool, this pathetic Polonius to Obama's Hamlet — still insists that "the only compromise that there is, is mine"!

Posted by Beldar at 09:56 AM in Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ryan outlines "serious flaws" in Gang of Six proposal, promotes Cut, Cap & Balance instead

I had a violent negative reaction to the "Gang of Six" from the moment I heard of it. I expressed my political concerns about it on Monday when I called the Gang's GOP members "chumps," and I feel even more convinced of that having learned more details.

The devil, of course, is always in the details. But I trust House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's command of them, and I therefore commend to you his take on the so-called "Gang of Six" plan. (Hat-tip to the indispensable Jennifer Rubin at the WaPo.)

Ryan notes that "[t]he plan is not a budget. It is a set of talking points and graphs that outlines an ambitious proposal that has serious flaws but also the potential for worthwhile budget and tax reforms." He then gives this executive summary:

The proposal put forward by a group of seven senators today is a useful addition to the budget debate. I share the frustration that these senators appear to have with the U.S. Senate’s inability to pass a budget in over 800 days. While the proposal lacks detail in many respects, it includes some reforms that could help put our country on a sounder fiscal footing. Most importantly, it reflects a bipartisan recognition that lower tax rates are essential to help spur economic growth. Unfortunately, it increases revenues while failing to seriously address exploding federal spending on health care, which is the primary driver of our debt. There are also serious concerns that the proposal’s substance on spending falls far short of what is needed to achieve the savings it claims. Nevertheless, this effort serves as a sign that we can work together on a bipartisan basis to make a serious down payment now to avert the debt-fueled economic crisis before us.

As always, Ryan has numbers where numbers are to be had, and a sharp eye for puffery and flim-flam from the Dems; he's actually fairly diplomatic in this analysis, and he takes care to point out and give credit for the good ideas and positive developments that can be spotted amid the dross. But it's mostly dross.

The Gang of Six proposal doesn't even qualify as voodoo economics. It's just an outline, a prediction of future voodoo that can't possibly even be turned into a real plan by August 2. So yeah, we're not being offered even the beanstalk. It's all about the magic beans, a promise, and a wink from the likes of Dick Durbin (if the membranes that protect his reptilian eyes could actually retract for him to wink).

This is not something on which the GOP members of the Senate ought to continue investing time and energy. There are still moves to be made, but they're going to come from the House, not the Senate, and the GOP senators need to swallow their damned egos and get in line. They're not covering themselves with glory, they're tripping over their own feet. We expect and deserve better from them. And we specifically need them to be trying to build public awareness of, and support for, Cut, Cap & Balance:

I think Paul Ryan may be the only guy in America who I don't mind hearing use the phrase "cash-flow" as a verb. This is seven and a half minutes of distilled common sense, and I think it's worth your time to listen to it.

No, Cut, Cap & Balance won't pass the Senate. But what happens to it in the Senate is important: In the dance of negotiations and legislation that will take us to November 2012, it's not the last step, but it is indeed the very next step. Senators of both parties need to be forced to go on record on it because, yes: Names are being taken, and those GOP legislators who fall short of our justified expectations are going to have to answer for that.

Posted by Beldar at 02:02 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

GOP Sens. Crapo, Coburn & Chambliss are the GOP chumps enabling Obama's "Gang of Six" farce

I have a message for Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), the GOP members of the so-called "Gang of Six" in the Senate:


You think you're being public servants who are negotiating in the interests of your constituents. You're not.

You've become pawns for Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. You're good men operating from good intentions, but by letting yourself be used in this way, you're actively betraying your cause, your party, your constituents, and ultimately your country.

The Democrats — be they the three Dem Senators in your "Gang," or Sen. Reid or Minority Leader Pelosi, or their revered master at 1600 Pennsylvania — are perfectly capable of coming up with spending cuts if they want spending cuts. They've been capable of doing that since their party controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House, beginning in January 2009. It is not a coincidence or an accident or an oversight that we haven't had a federal budget voted out of the U.S. Senate in over 800 days, it's by their design.

Members of the 'Gang of Six,' clockwise from top left: Democrats Kent Conrad, Dick Durbin and Mark Warner; and Republicans Mike Crapo, Tom Coburn and Saxby Chambliss

If the Dems wanted to negotiate in good faith, they could have before now. They still could now. They will negotiate in good faith now if it suits them, and won't if it doesn't. And it's increasingly clear that they simply don't want to — that, instead, their Messiah's concluded his re-election hopes depend entirely on contriving a government shut-down for which he can blame the GOP.

It's time for the Dems to put definite spending cuts in writing and to commit to them. That hasn't happened yet. No deal can happen until it does. The public expects and demands that the Dems finally, at the eleventh-and-a-half hour, get specific. And yet you chumps are giving them another pass!

You're doing nothing now but helping Obama create the political lie on which he wants to run for re-election. Every bit of your energy will end up serving only one purpose: letting Barack Obama pretend that he's been trying to get a "bipartisan solution," but that he's been blocked from that by "unreasonable Republicans."

You're not only being chumps, you're being suckers. It's not excusable, and everyone in and out of Washington except you can see how you're being used.

Ask Jiang Qing (a/k/a "Mrs. Chairman Mao") and her three friends how well it worked out for them in 1976, having been part of the original Gang of [Small Positive Integer].

If you three don't think there are conservatives all over the United States who will eagerly support a primary challenger to your right over this incipient betrayal, you'd better think again.

If you think being part of this "Gang of Six" is a good thing, or by this juncture even an acceptable thing, with the people who elected you, then you're brain damaged.


UPDATE (Tue Jul 19 @ 11:55pm): This analysis by Dan Mitchell includes a list of the supposed benefits of the Gang of Six quote-unquote plan, and then its "bad" and "ugly" components too. I think he's also presuming good faith on the part of the Dems in their future performance of promises about the "yet-to-be-written" terms; differences in how the anticipated legislation would actually be written will make hundreds of billions of dollars in differences to taxes, spending, and the deficit. I don't think that presumption is justifiable given these same Democrats' demonstrated unwillingness and inability to pass responsible fiscal legislation.

Posted by Beldar at 06:36 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, History, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Obama vs. Ryan: Fake vs. real "adult discussion" of the budget. [Update: Obama announces Medicare eligibility age to drop to 60, or something]

This week, President Obama has deliberately, consciously tried to seize recognition as "the grown-up in the room" during contentious meetings over the debt ceiling and budget.

My Democratic friends are convinced that's accurate. They believe — they insist — that Obama's offered up meaningful cuts in entitlement program spending for Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. They believe that just because Obama says it. But he hasn't offered up meaningful entitlement spending cuts; Obama's just talked about doing so, without actually committing to any specifics (except for specifically and categorically ruling out any reforms to any Obamacare provisions).

I think that falls in the category of pretending to be a grown-up. It works on those who want to believe it and who aren't very diligent in looking at supporting facts (or their absence).

So once again, I offer you Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the GOP chairman of the House Budget Committee. Ryan has instant recall of all the important data, and a thorough and deep understanding of competing policy arguments and considerations. I commend to you in its entirety the transcript of Rep. Ryan's appearance on my friend Hugh Hewitt's national radio show Thursday. A sample (boldface mine):

Look at the difference between our two parties. Look at what we’re fighting for, and look at what they’re fighting for. We want to limit government, and we want to cut spending. We don’t want to raise taxes in this economy or at any time on people, because that’s not the problem. What are the folks on the other side of the aisle, our friends on the other side of the aisle, want to increase spending, want to increase taxes. I haven’t seen a time where the contrast and the difference between two philosophies has been more clear. That’s what I would look at over the next two weeks. We will hopefully, next week, show you how we would fix this problem with our cut, cap and balance plan. It’s a plan to fix this mess, this fiscal mess, to deal with this debt limit. You’re seeing what the other side wants, just let’s just borrow more money, okay, we maxed out this credit card? Let’s go get another credit card. And that’s the basic two positions. So what does that tell you? We have divided government. Are we going to get everything we want? No. We have the House. We don’t control the Senate or the White House. Will the Democrats get everything they want? No, because they don’t have the House. So you’re going to see a product of divided government come in the next two weeks. But let’s not lose the forest for the trees, and that is where do we stand on the issues, and how would we fix it if we had our druthers, and where would they go if they had their way.

"No-Drama Obama" may be the least deserved nickname ever given an American president. This week he's tried to play the role of "Father Knows Best (Now Shut Up Dammit Before I Shred Grandma's Social Security Check)." I credit a great many other GOP leaders with trying their respective bests in what's increasingly become a muddled approach. But in my opinion, Ryan is the consistently adult voice from either side on all these issues. And in any policy debate setting that prevented Obama from having the Marine Band interrupt with "Ruffles and Flourishes," Ryan would eat Obama's lunch and then drink his milkshake.


UPDATE (Sat Jul 16 @ 4pm): I asserted above that Obama has refused to commit to any specifics on cuts to entitlements, while pretending to have done so and insisting that he's done so. But look at the weasel-wiggling when ABC News' Jake Tapper put the question to Obama very directly yesterday (boldface and italics mine):

[Tapper:] You’ve said that reducing the deficit will require shared sacrifice. We know — we have an idea of the taxes that you would like to see raised on corporations and on Americans in the top two tax brackets, but we don’t yet know what you specifically are willing to do when it comes to entitlement spending. In the interest of transparency, leadership, and also showing the American people that you have been negotiating in good faith, can you tell us one structural reform that you are willing to make to one of these entitlement programs that would have a major impact on the deficit? Would you be willing to raise the retirement age? Would you be willing to means test Social Security or Medicare?

THE PRESIDENT: We’ve said that we are willing to look at all those approaches. I’ve laid out some criteria in terms of what would be acceptable. So, for example, I’ve said very clearly that we should make sure that current beneficiaries as much as possible are not affected. But we should look at what can we do in the out-years, so that over time some of these programs are more sustainable.

I’ve said that means testing on Medicare, meaning people like myself, if — I’m going to be turning 50 in a week. So I’m starting to think a little bit more about Medicare eligibility. (Laughter.) Yes, I’m going to get my AARP card soon — and the discounts.

But you can envision a situation where for somebody in my position, me having to pay a little bit more on premiums or co-pays or things like that would be appropriate. And, again, that could make a difference. So we’ve been very clear about where we’re willing to go.

What we’re not willing to do is to restructure the program in the ways that we’ve seen coming out of the House over the last several months where we would voucherize the program and you potentially have senior citizens paying $6,000 more. I view Social Security and Medicare as the most important social safety nets that we have. I think it is important for them to remain as social insurance programs that give people some certainty and reliability in their golden years.

But it turns out that making some modest modifications in those entitlements can save you trillions of dollars. And it’s not necessary to completely revamp the program. What is necessary is to say how do we make some modifications, including, by the way, on the providers’ side. I think that it’s important for us to keep in mind that drug companies, for example, are still doing very well through the Medicare program. And although we have made drugs more available at a cheaper price to seniors who are in Medicare through the Affordable Care Act, there’s more work to potentially be done there.

So if you look at a balanced package even within the entitlement programs, it turns out that you can save trillions of dollars while maintaining the core integrity of the program.

[Tapper:] And the retirement age?

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to get into specifics. As I said, Jake, everything that you mentioned are things that we have discussed. But what I’m not going to do is to ask for even — well, let me put it this way: If you’re a senior citizen, and a modification potentially costs you a hundred or two hundred bucks a year more, or even if it’s not affecting current beneficiaries, somebody who’s 40 today 20 years from now is going to end up having to pay a little bit more.

The least I can do is to say that people who are making a million dollars or more have to do something as well. And that’s the kind of tradeoff, that’s the kind of balanced approach and shared sacrifice that I think most Americans agree needs to happen.

"I'm not going to get into specifics." That could, and should, have been Obama's entire answer, because he once again refused to give any specifics at all. They maybe might "go in the direction" of raising eligibility ages, huh? As someone currently 53, that's an absolutely content-free statement of zero use to me in planning for my retirement. I am sure, however, that "We're willing to look at [fill in the blank]" amounts to a current savings of zero dollars in government expenditures. It's a promise of exactly nothing. It's an insult to your intelligence. It is something only said to stupid people to placate them.

Americans are left to parse this one peculiar bit of specificity from Mr. Obama: "[S]omebody who’s 40 today 20 years from now is going to end up having to pay a little bit more." Really? So we're going to lower the eligibility age to 60?

We have a president of the United States who thinks it's entirely cool to hold a press conference where he just makes up transparently silly numbers on the spot and spews them out into an uncritical media for eager consumption by eager-to-be-fooled groupies.

The only thing this long, rambling answer does is renew some familiar class-warfare themes and repeat always-broken promises of savings through magical (and soon-to-be-found! any day now!) efficiencies. We're once again assured that Barack Obama is all about punishing people for being prosperous. But solutions?

None. Nothing resembling substance. Just petulance, arrogance, class warfare, and smug self-righteousness.

PRESS: Be specific about structural cuts to which you're willing to commit!

OBAMA: Hey, guys, how about a joke about me joining AARP? I'm almost 50!

Posted by Beldar at 02:41 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Obama's airplanes and hedge funds fairy tale

This piece by John McCormack in the Weekly Standard, which is based in part on this piece by ABC News' Jake Tapper, is a superb short-form breakdown of the $418 billion in tax increases that Obama wants as a condition for going along with any significant spending cuts.

It's stunning — shocking, appalling — to compare the numbers to Obama's demagoguery.

Obama wants Americans to believe he and his party are only trying to close loopholes and make bad guys contribute their fair share. The numbers first expose, then destroy, that fairy tale.

If we're to demonize corporate jetsters, that will bring in all of $3B.

The price of being in the "hedge fund" industry will shoot up another $20B.

We start to get to significant numbers, finally, with "$45 billion by eliminating oil and gas company subsidies." Okay, so now our national demons are supposed to be those who work and invest in the American energy industry? That would be the same industry we'd like to see make America more energy self-sufficient, as a national security matter, wouldn't it? We want to punish our domestic energy industry so that, what, foreign energy companies can do better in comparison? The same industry Obama has already punished brutally through restrictions on off-shore drilling, and offshore and onshore drilling in Alaska? The same industry whose shareholders include vast numbers of private pension funds, mutual funds, 401k plans and IRAs, and retirees? And the same industry that happens to be most concentrated in the states (like Texas) least likely to vote for Obama in 2012? So are we to hope that our energy industry (and the jobs it represents) are to be crippled? Or are we instead to hope that these $45 billion in tax increases are simply passed along to American consumers in higher energy costs?

I'm thinking that $45B in tax revenues is a drop in the national bucket of our overal fiscal situation, but when targeted as punishment to be inflicted upon a single critical industry, it's significant enough to do some serious and long-term damage to the national economy, quite probably in a substantial multiple of that $45B.

Even in the face of a fragile and stagnant national economy with massive unemployment, Obama wants to add almost a third of a trillion dollars in new taxes. Obama wants to impose those hundreds of billions in new taxes not just on billionaires, or on millionaires, or on oil companies or hedge funds or jet owners — but on ordinary American individuals who earn $200,000 and couples who earn $250,000. We're going to punish them by restricting their deductions for some seriously antisocial fat-cat behavior: owning their own homes and making charitable contributions. The nerve of those filthy rich quarter-millionaires!

That's an income level which would fairly be considered "handsome" in a place like Houston. But it would be middle middle-class in many American cities with much higher costs of living. And all over America, that's gonna hit lots of middle-aged, utterly middle-class couples with college-aged kids. That's gonna hit a huge percentage of small business owners. That's going to hit two-income couples comprising teachers and nurses and firemen, bank assistant managers and car salesmen, farmers and bookkeepers and lab techs and QC analysts and ... well, pretty much the most individually productive people in the country.

The effects of these tax increases won't be measured in missed meals, no. But those effects will be measured in postponed or abandoned dreams-come-true that ought to have come true, and could have and should have: Dreams of hard-working not-rich people. Dreams whose realization oftentimes would've supported or even created jobs for quite a few very-not-rich people.

And what comes next? Do the math on the future interest costs of the borrowing to support these deficits. Taxing those who make merely $200k quickly stops making even a dent. And so next it will be individuals making $100k, and couples making $150k, whose taxes must be increased. And so on. It is mathematically impossible to tax our way out of this problem. That's a spiral down into national bankruptcy.

So Obama needs a class war to divert attention from all that. The pool of enemies who must be punished, those who must see more of their wealth confiscated to feed the government's maw, is expanding. If your family isn't in it yet, you may be on the edge, or you've been aspiring to be in that territory, or you at least know many families who are — families whom you've never before thought of as "rich," much less "evil" and needful of national punishment.

One would have to be not only mathematically challenged, but utterly innumerate, to believe Obama is being candid in the way he's trying to sell these tax increases. It's not just a regular smoke-and-mirrors trick. No, Obama's trying to knock us unconscious by beating us over the head with the mirrors, and to force us to inhale so much smoke that we pass out or hallucinate.

If you can't see through this blatant class warfare to recognize the economic reality beneath it, you really ought not be trusted with a credit card or a checking account.

Paul Ryan is right: Obama and the Dems are entirely committed to the notion of a declining America, ever more thoroughly taxed and regulated, compelling shared scarcity as we become just another country — another Belgium, maybe another Greece.

We've got to insist on better. We need a GOP presidential candidate who can stand toe to toe with Obama while calmly, methodically, and accurately exposing his lies and his exaggerations, whether it's on taxes, spending, health care, government regulations, or foreign policy.

Posted by Beldar at 11:14 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

"Shut UP, you Texans!" explained Sen. Boxer in a demonstration of the "new civility"

As a general rule, California Democratic politicians aren't fond of Texas or Texans. But this bit of hyper-partisan hyper-rude behavior from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) — denying Texas senator John Cornyn an opportunity to participate in a Senate committee hearing on proposed EPA power-plant regulations that directly (and massively) affect Texas — may set a new low in Congressional pettiness, at least since the caning of Sen. Charles Sumner in 1856. (Hat-tip Instapundit).

I'm well acquainted with many people in California who are wracked with frustration over their state's fundamentally unserious and self-destructive politicians, so I'm certainly not imputing Sen. Boxer's pettiness to everyone who lives there. But stunts like this only make the political leaders of once-proud California seem even more pathetic and out-of-touch. In the same way that the Ottoman Empire was once considered the "sick man of Europe," or that sunny Greece has become the modern poster-child for European fiscal fecklessness, California is going to embarrass us all over the next decade — and their situation is sure to get a whole lot worse before it even starts to get better, because they're still ignoring the First Rule of Holes.

Posted by Beldar at 11:41 AM in Congress, Energy, Politics (Texas) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Friday, June 17, 2011

Beldar agrees with Yoo on War Powers Resolution

I don't subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and thus can't get past its pay-wall to read Prof. John Yoo's op-ed today about the Libyan conflict and the War Powers Resolution. But I certainly agree with the summary he's posted at The Corner:

The treatment isn’t to force everyone to obey an unconstitutional law, the War Powers Resolution, that is both untrue to the Framers’ original understanding and unsuited to the exigencies of modern war. The New York Times’s [editorialists'] solution is the equivalent of using leeches on a patient with the common cold. The right constitutional answer (as I explain in this morning’s Wall Street Journal) is to toss the empty symbolism of the Resolution and meaningless lawsuits aside and let them fight it out using their own powers — commander-in-chief versus the purse — in the political process.

That's exactly right. The War Powers Resolution is the equivalent of Congress stamping its feet and shouting, "I'm Congress, dammit!" It's drama without substance.

The Constitution expressly gave Congress ample push-back power against the Executive through the power of the purse. If Congress wants to induce different (and better) behavior from the Executive, it can de-fund what he's doing. But if that imposes costs on Congress, in the form of political capital spent and political risks undertaken if Congress has misread the public, then Congress must bear those costs.

The Constitution is much more clever and much more subtle than the War Powers Resolution. And it's the Constitution, and the structure it creates with the intentional and continuous dynamic interplay inherent in that structure, that ultimately matters.

Posted by Beldar at 01:36 PM in Congress, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Law (2011), Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Tony's mitigation

AnthonyweinerAs I wrote last week, I respectfully disagree with Ann Althouse that Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) ever had any substantial legal exposure to Twitter or Facebook or yfrog on some sort of defamation claim based on his oft-repeated lies claiming his accounts with those services had been "hacked."

So the only thing I have to say this week is this: With his tearful press conference this week, he's now effectively mitigated whatever potential defamation damages exposure he might arguably have had if Prof. Althouse was right: Nobody in the known world now believes that someone hacked his accounts, and there's no possibility of continued damage to Twitter's or Facebook's or yfrog's reputations as a result of this whole debacle.

Smart move, Tony!

(In fact, maybe mitigating his defamation damages exposure was his real motivation to "pretend" to have lied, instead of him being motivated to "pretend" to have lied because he's now the victim of that blackguard Breitbart's blackmail schemes! Yeah, that's the ticket! Alert the media! Someone email Joy Behar!)

Posted by Beldar at 02:51 AM in Congress, Ethics, Humor, Law (2011), Politics (2011), Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Ryan, preeminent champion of fiscal sanity (and the GOP), again goes unblinkingly toe-to-toe with Obama

I don't know, but I'm guessing that since she's technically writing a "blog" for the Washington Post, the WaPo editors permit Jennifer Rubin to write the headlines for her "Right Turn" feature. I'm a fan of hers, and we're both fans of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), as per this post of hers titled Paul Ryan stands up to Obama on Medicare reform:

At the meeting between House Republicans and President Obama, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) again demonstrated that he is the head of his party, and the most effective combatant to go up against Obama in 2012. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, got a standing ovation from his colleagues during the meeting....


Obama-paul-ryan_300x300 ... Obama, when presented with the facts, is hard pressed to repeat his demagogic talking points because he knows Ryan is fully capable of calling him on it. The president refuses to give up the fiction that Ryan’s plan is a voucher system when in fact the money doesn’t go to Medicare recipients. One supposes that ignoring reality will be a mainstay of the Obama reelection campaign.

The GOP presidential contenders should be on notice. Unless they have a precise grasp of the president’s plan (handing Medicare over to an unelected 15-member board to curb care) and an alternative plan they can spell out in detail, they’re in for a rough time. Come to think of it, does anyone but Ryan currently meet that description?

Ryan has faced down Obama before in pretty much this same manner — maybe before you were paying attention? — in 2010, during Obama's stage-managed "White House Health Care Summit." There are several other capable debaters in the GOP race, or speculated as being interested in entering it, and I'm not implying anything negative about any of them, but:

Doncha know, friends and neighbors, that Obama would have flop sweats imagining himself debating Ryan for all the marbles in November 2012?

Events are choosing the candidate, if we will only heed them. To a considerable degree, 2012 will be a referendum on Obama; but to win that referendum, the GOP must also present a serious, detailed, and grown-up alternative. We have such an alternative, and its author can not only use it effectively to educate the public, but he can also explain in precise detail why the Obama/Dem alternative (including but not limited to Obamacare) is indeed the direct path to the cliff's edge and then over it.

Posted by Beldar at 08:50 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Despite history, a Ryan presidential candidacy from the House makes sense for 2012

I commend to you this thoughtful and articulate post (including its comments) by my blogospheric friend Dafydd ab Hugh of Big Lizards. Dafydd considers my arguments in favor of drafting House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee, but finds himself unpersuaded.

One of Dafydd's minor points is a better-argued variation on a theme that's been sounded fairly frequently about presidential candidates who are sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including such recent historical footnotes as John Anderson and Dennis Kucinich (Dafydd's boldface & italics omitted here):

Look, I like Paul Ryan, and I love his plan to rescue the budget and economy. But I'm nervous about him being the GOP standard bearer next year — given that the last time anyone went directly from the House to the White House was James Garfield in 1880.

A representative running for president was of course far more common in the nineteenth century, and the House was held in much higher regard than now. Too, Garfield was a nine-term congressman first elected during the Civil War; and he served for five years as Appropriations Committee chairman. But in 2012, Ryan will be a seven-term congressman who will have served as Budget Committee chairman less than two years....

(Dafydd's post continues with a series of other well-made arguments that I think are more specific to Chairman Ryan. I've addressed some of them briefly in comments on his blog, and I may eventually expand on those arguments, or address other points, in future posts here. I intend to confine this post, however, specifically to the argument that Ryan's poorly situated to run from the House.)

For several reasons, I'm less impressed by this "nobody's won from the House in decades" argument in this particular year. For one thing, we don't have a GOP candidate with high federal executive experience this cycle — none of the three theoretically eligible GOP ex-Veeps (Quayle, Cheney, and yes, think about it, Bush-41) are plausible candidates. The two most recent GOP presidential nominees drawn from the Senate, Dole and McCain, ran awful campaigns that made everyone wonder why we couldn't find a better nominee. Rick Santorum is running on the strength of his two terms in the Senate, but he was defeated in 2006. And since John Thune's decision not to run, no sitting GOP senators have been overtly preparing for the race or even generating any buzz — and no one seems to regret that at all this year.

State governors at least have executive experience, but not at the federal level. There are vast differences between governing even a very large state and serving as POTUS, and state governors almost inevitably lack even the foreign policy experience of the lowliest Congressman, who's at least had occasion to consider and vote on foreign policy legislation. But I agree with Dafydd that there are several plausible candidates, existing or rumored, who have as strong credentials as any state governor is likely to ever have, and they're serious candidates. (They'd also nicely balance Ryan's federal legislative experience if one of them were his Veep nominee; or, I concede, vice versa.)

Nevertheless, and more importantly, I believe we are on the cusp of an electoral revolution comparable to that which the Reagan-Bush ticket accomplished in their 1980 defeat of the Carter-Mondale ticket. Certainly several sitting state governors are playing high-profile roles in dealing with their respective states' analogs, at the state level, to the federal problems being hashed out in Washington. But as a direct consequence of the 2010 off-year elections — in which the White House was not in dispute, and the GOP failed to recapture the Senate, but quite dramatically regained control of the House — the House has been where the action's been since January 2011. The Senate, by contrast, continues in near paralysis.

Up through and including the November 2012 election, the House GOP members will continue to apply essentially all of the pressure which will drive (or undo) potential compromises elsewhere. Indeed, conservatives have to depend on the House GOP members to keep the pressure up on not only Senate Dems and Obama, but on Senate Republicans.

For the 2012 election, then, more than most others, I think it makes particularly good sense to consider, and properly appreciate, the leadership Ryan has shown, and continues to show daily, from the House. You find your most effective leaders by going where the conflict is most stark and checking to see who's following whom. For this cycle, the most critical action is in the U.S. House, and in overwhelming numbers the House GOP members are following Paul Ryan's lead.

Posted by Beldar at 12:23 PM in 2012 Election, Congress, Foreign Policy, History, McCain, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Monday, May 30, 2011

Has Rep. Weiner defamed Twitter & Facebook?

Prof. Althouse has an interesting post about the alleged (*cough-cough*) simultaneous hacking of the Twitter and Facebook accounts of U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner. I, for one, believe that Rep. Weiner is lying through his teeth about the "hacking." But I either fail to follow Prof. Althouse's thinking, however, or else I respectfully disagree with her about an observation she's made in updates to her post (link & ellipsis hers):

AND: If Weiner is lying about his accounts getting hacked, he could be sued by Twitter (and the other companies) for defamation.

ALSO: NBC News reports "Lewd Photo Sent Over Rep. Weiner's Hacked Twitter Account... his Twitter account was hacked." Not that Weiner makes that claim, but an outright assertion that his account was hacked. Twitter is getting slimed here. Does it deserve it?

My disagreement with her is almost certainly not over the relevant law. The specific definitions vary somewhat from state to state, and the common law of libel and slander have been tweaked some by state legislatures and even federal constitutional interpretations. Nevertheless, as a general rule, in order to be defamatory, a statement must not only be false, but must also be harmful in a particular way to particular interests. For example, section 73.001 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code defines a libel as —

a defamation expressed in written or other graphic form that tends to blacken the memory of the dead or that tends to injure a living person's reputation and thereby expose the person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or financial injury or to impeach any person's honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation or to publish the natural defects of anyone and thereby expose the person to public hatred, ridicule, or financial injury.

Similarly, section 559 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts provides:

A communication is defamatory if it tends to so harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him.

I simply don't see how what Rep. Weiner's reported to have said — even if false — would harm Twitter's or Facebook's reputation.

Twitter and Facebook should bear no responsibility — legal or even causal — if Rep. Weiner simply chose a low-security password that someone guessed. Nor should they be responsible if, for example, Rep. Weiner used the same high-security password for several accounts and his password was stolen through some wrongdoer's hacking of one of those other services (either with or without the contributing negligence of that other service).

Simply put, unless one takes the view that every unauthorized use of an account must always and necessarily be the fault of the service which hosts that account, a statement that someone's account was hacked does not necessarily imply something harmful to the service's reputation. And I respectfully submit that such would be a patently unrealistic view — even though some people might jump to that conclusion if they have not thought through the alternatives.

The law treats this as a threshold issue to be decided by the judge "as a matter of law," even though it's necessarily based on an appreciation of what does or doesn't affect one's reputation in the community. So I'm curious:

Assume that you are the judge faced with Rep. Weiner's pretrial motion to dismiss Facebook and Twitter's (hypothetical) lawsuit on grounds that, as a matter of law, his statements did not expose Facebook or Twitter to the required sort of reputational harm. What's your ruling?

Posted by Beldar at 07:59 PM in Congress, Current Affairs, Ethics, Law (2011), Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The inevitability of a Ryan draft

I've heard others make the argument before, but none better than Dr. Krauthammer in these lines:

[J]ust because the Republican Party lost the [congressional] special election [in New York], it doesn’t mean it is completely a lost cause for the party going into 2012. Krauthammer said the GOP can make it a winning issue. But to do that, he said, it requires Ryan running as a presidential candidate to expertly explain his policy proposal.

“People are now writing, ‘Well Ryan — the boomlet for Ryan to a candidate is over,’” he continued. “I would say exactly the opposite. You now own this. Get the one man who can explain it, argue it and actually change minds on this. You need leadership on this or otherwise the Republicans are going to sink on this.”

I'd add this: The GOP needs Ryan promoting the Path to Prosperity from the GOP presidential nominee's position because otherwise, entitlements will not be reformed. The stakes aren't merely the GOP's success in retaking the White House, nor even the GOP's broader failure or success nationally in both federal and state elections, but rather our nation's basic solvency.

The rationale for Ryan's candidacy springs directly from the election result of 2010 that returned control of the House to the GOP. And lo and behold, we have a GOP Budget Committee Chair who's a grown-up, who's doing his job — who's leading. He is the most articulate and effective policy debater of either party since Bill Clinton when he was at his very best. And in fact, we've seen Ryan stand up for himself and his ideas quite powerfully in a head-to-head, no-teleprompter debate against Obama during the infamous White House Health Care Summit in February 2010. Friends and neighbors, that's what we call dramatic foreshadowing.

Since then, Paul Ryan has become the most consequential GOP politician in the country. We recognize our leaders by the fact that they're leading and, yes, being followed. As of Wednesday's Senate vote, more than 96% of the GOP members of Congress are on record voting for the Ryan budget, the Path to Prosperity. As was frequently exclaimed among the tractor-back philosophers on the prairies of west Texas whence I sprang, "Quod erat demonstrandum!"

It's just a question of whether and when people's perspective on the presidential election catches up with that reality.

I wasn't alive in January 1952, mere weeks before the New Hampshire primaries, when Eisenhower finally revealed that he was a Republican and permitted himself to be drafted for a run at the GOP nomination. There were other formidable candidates, including Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio, Gov. Earl Warren of California, and ex-Gov. Harrold Stassen of Minnesota. But Ryan's position now seems to me like I think Ike's candidacy must have seemed then: The situation has chosen the man.

Posted by Beldar at 12:58 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Watch the media spin hard to stick to their "GOP senators bail out on Ryan" narrative

Democrats and the main pundits of the mainstream media — but I repeat myself — have been saying for weeks that there would be huge GOP defections when, as a symbolic gesture, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) put the House's budget (principally authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan) up for a vote in the Senate.

Idiots and the main pundits of the mainstream media — but I repeat myself — might think this vote is somehow meaningful, and they indeed will insist that it is meaningful, whether it is or not, because that is their agreed-upon narrative. To them, facts and events don't matter; only their interpretation.

But here's the undeniable fact about today's events: That the GOP would lose this vote was conclusively determined in November 2010 when the GOP failed to retake the Senate.

When the outcome of a vote is 100% preordained, as the outcome of this one has always been, party leaders will often decide not to "whip the vote," meaning they decide not to twist any arms of their party's legislators, and not to waste political capital. If voting with the party would put a particular legislator at risk of losing reelection, then keeping the seat becomes more important than a symbolic show of unity.

Democrats and the main pundits of the mainstream media all understood this as recently as the House vote on Obamacare, in which then-Speaker Pelosi discreetly "released" several House Democrats to vote against it: No one has ever doubted San Fran Nan's ability to count noses and votes, and she and her crew knew exactly how many of their majority they could cut slack for without it becoming a close result. No one in the press or the punditocracy declared that the Dems had suffered some enormous schism. But now when Senate Minority Leader McConnell does the exact same thing, they manage to forget that rationale entirely. Thus, for example, a WaPo political blog post that treats a one-vote difference between the number of House and Senate GOP defectors as a sudden and ominous development for the GOP:

The budget plan, which was drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and which passed the House in April with the support of all but four Republicans, was rejected by the Senate Wednesday on a 40-to-57 vote.

As was the case in the House vote, all Democrats present in the Senate voted against the measure; they were joined by five Republicans, a sign of the wariness with which some Republicans have come to view the budget plan, particularly members who may face tough reelection bids in 2012.

The Republicans voting against the plan Wednesday were moderate Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), as well as conservative freshman Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), who argued that the plan did not go far enough in cutting spending.

Back in November 2010, even when they were flush with the glow from the GOP's landmark victory in re-taking the House, if you had asked most Republican strategists the likelihood that by late May 2011, all but nine of the 288-or-so Republicans in Congress (i.e., more than 96%) would go on record voting for a serious, grown-up, transformative, but therefore politically risky budget — one that actually addresses the explosive growth in entitlements — they'd have laughed at you. "Maybe the young guns and the freshmen Tea Party products might go out on that limb," they'd have said, "but not practically the whole House and Senate GOP." But if you had somehow persuaded them to take you seriously, then they probably also would have been able to predict at least four of the GOP senators who wouldn't go along.

Sens. Snowe and and Collins from Maine and Sen. Brown from Massachusetts have purple constituencies. Their voting with the Senate Dems today surprised absolutely no one in the Senate, and shouldn't surprise you either. Sen. Murkowski, of course, famously couldn't win her home-state GOP primary; her defection is no surprise either.

And the Paul family, father and son, together represent a quarter of the GOP's House defections and a fifth of the Senate's — both of them because they think the Ryan budget doesn't go far enough. They obviously share a bull-headedness gene, and I wish they would figure out that voting with the Democrats is almost never, ever a useful way to demonstrate one's adherence to conservative principles. Obviously, however, if you want an accurate head-count of who wants real budget cuts and spending reforms, you subtract both Paul votes from the anti-Ryan headcount and add each to the enormous majority of GOP senators and representatives (with those two, over 97%) who've gone on record voting for Chairman Ryan's Path to Prosperity. 

I'm altogether pleased with this vote. And of course, there was this other event in the Senate today that you will tend not to see emphasized in headlines, that you will instead tend to see downplayed or left entirely unexplained, and that you will probably tend to see mentioned "below the fold" — if at all — by the mainstream media (boldface mine):

Immediately after the vote on the Ryan budget, the Senate unanimously rejected President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal. The Obama budget did not secure the support of a single lawmaker, with all 97 senators present voting “no.”

I humbly submit that any news report which contains that fact ought to be headlined something like, "Lightworker drops to zero-wattage output."

Again, as a matter of substance, this is no surprise: The Obama budget was dead on arrival. But you're lookin' for symbolism? The Senate, under exclusively Democratic leadership and almost exclusively with a Democratic POTUS, has now gone 755 days without approving a budget for a full fiscal year — and before we're done, it will probably have gone longer without approving a budget than the entire Kennedy administration lasted. And now not a single U.S. Senator of either party will cast even a symbolic vote in favor of Obama's budget, and yet there is no Democratic alternative at all.

So indeed, one party, in frantic fear of further electoral backlash in November 2012, is backpedaling furiously from its conduct between 2009-2010 and now. (I expect that any day now, it will be revealed that it was false intelligence from the CIA that lured all those Democrats into voting for the 2009 "stimulus" — undoubtedly false intelligence whose seeds were planted by Dick Cheney, perhaps in collaboration with Osama bin Laden, who's conveniently unable to deny anything anymore.)

The other party is actually hanging pretty tough for the most part, and pretty much on track. Oh, there's a whole lot more to be done: The Dems' fiscal recklessness, and what it's doing to our economy and our future, will be the key issue on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. We need to wrap that issue around Obama's and the Dems' necks on every one of the 531 days until then.

Posted by Beldar at 07:52 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, History, Mainstream Media, Obama, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Beldar still opposes filibusters of judicial nominees by either party

Were I a U.S. senator, I would have voted against, and spoken out in bitter and profound opposition to, the confirmation of Berkeley Law Prof. Goodwin Liu to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

I nevertheless join my good friend Hugh Hewitt, for essentially the same reasons he states, and that I've blogged about before: We both regret the "new norm" under which GOP senators — in explicit payback for past and vastly more egregious abuses by Dems — have filibustered a judicial nominee to prevent the Senate from giving an up or down vote as part of its constitutional "advice and consent" responsibilities.

I'm not angry at my home-state senator, John Cornyn, for going along with Minority Leader McConnell on this. (Sen. Hutchison is shown as "not voting," but I haven't looked into why.) I certainly would have encouraged, and participated actively in, using the Senate debate to express opposition to this nomination, because it's one that only a fraction of the American people will ever focus upon either way, and that's a damned shame: A shockingly bad nominee like Prof. Liu ought be hung around Obama's neck for November 2012 to illustrate the likely consequences to the federal bench of returning Obama to office.

Goodwin Liu prepares to testify in the U.S. Senate (AP photo)

Yes, giving someone like Prof. Liu life tenure on a federal appellate bench is a very stiff price to pay to vindicate this principle. But it's the price built into the constitutional system: Elections have consequences. So after very thorough debate, I would ultimately have voted for cloture were I in Sen. Hutchison's or Sen. Cornyn's shoes. The Senate's obligation is to serve the Constitution and, through it, the senators' constituents (collectively, "We the People") — and that remains true even when the urge, and the practical political need, is to dish out some pay-back.

I therefore also agree with Hugh that "the senior members of [both parties in] the Senate ought to meet to consider a formal rule change that will return the body to its long-established practice of giving all judicial nominees who emerge with a recommendation of confirmation from the Judiciary Committee an up-or-down vote." Do your damn jobs, folks.

Posted by Beldar at 04:52 PM in 2012 Election, Congress, Law (2011), Obama, Politics (2011), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Friday, May 20, 2011

To Nato we sail, across a wide sea, to thank Nato's leaders (but kill not Kadafi!)

After reading Jake Tapper's report (h/t Instapundit) of the Obama Adminstration's position on its compliance (or non-) with the War Powers Resolution with respect to the kinetic non-war in Libya — as announced today in a late-Friday-afternoon news-dump — I should very much like to know:

Exactly where is this nation called "Nato"? Because I would like to visit its leaders to thank them for taking over the responsibility for leading this coalition. Do the Natonians permit Americans to visit?

I don't think the War Powers Resolution is constitutional. But as a legal argument, if Tapper's summary is correct and the quotes he includes are accurate and in context, then this attempted side-step by Obama is beyond pathetic, to the point of being insulting.

I'm looking for a link to the letter itself, and might have more to say after reading it in full.


UPDATE (Fri May 20 @ 10:55pm): What Tapper describes sounds like a variation on an ancient legal doctrine: "De minimis non curat lex," meaning "the law does not concern itself with trifles." I don't know exactly what U.S. forces are still involved, but they are concededly significant enough to include ships and helos for "search and rescue operations," "aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses," and "unmanned aerial vehicles."

In other words, those assets all by themselves exceed the projectable military capabilities of almost every other nation on earth. De minimis, uh-huh. So I want to see the letter in full-text, to see if anyone from the Administration had the temerity to use that little bit of Latin to describe our non-war war.


UPDATE (Sat May 21 @ 12:55am): Mm-kay, here's the letter. It mentions the War Powers Resolution not at all by name, and references it only indirectly (and that with plausible deniability) in the language about "our on-going consultations." That doesn't matter; the timing makes self-evident that this is intended to address those issues. Friday was the 60th day after Obama triggered the Resolution by "introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances." Since Congress hasn't given its blessing, Friday therefore was the day under 50 U.S.C. § 1544(b) by which Obama had to "terminate any [such] use of United States Armed Forces."

But to call this a "legal argument" would be far too generous. To call it a "credible excuse" would be a fantasy. This letter is worse than "the dog ate my homework." My paraphrase:

We've sorta kinda un-introduced those armed forces, mostly, because, see, they aren't really as involved, y'know? I mean they're still armed and everything. But you know, they're not, umm, leading or anything like they were at first. Follow? And okay, so "armed" yes, but "forces"? They aren't trying to be very forceful. We've talked about that. We've cut way back on that. Way back. Really. Back. Not very forceful, even though armed, yes. I mean, they could be forceful if I told them to — you saw what I did with those SEALs, yeah? you see that? — but seriously, I've told them: Not very forceful. Mostly not.

Yeah, I thought you'd agree, and, umm, so never mind that the Resolution says by Friday the president "shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces," because you see, these really aren't any-any forces to speak of, you know — kinda like Roman Polanski didn't really commit rape-rape? It's just some planes and some ships and some junk, really, and — What? Well, yeah, there are some helicopters too, but most of the time they just stay on the boat and the pilots are down having chow and standing by. They have good chow on those Navy boats, I see to that, but that does not mean we're at war in Libya. That's a false choice, between good chow and war. Let me be clear about that.

And you know, that word "shall," that word sometimes really means "maybe." Like if I say to you, I go, "Shall we go to the park?" And then, like, you go, "Naw, I dun wanna." Then that's totally okay and we don't have to go! So it's really like, okay, well, "maybe" we should have terminated by now. Maybe. May. Be. And you know they really are "terminated," kinda — well not "them" but the missions, I mean. Mostly anyway. Unless like a plane crashes or we need to blow up some SAM sites and stuff. I can't control that. You know I can't control that, 'cause I did not put those SAM sites there.

Mostly we just talk on the phone and the radio a lot, really, and we wave at the British and the French and we go, like, "Hey dudes from Natonia, thumb's up dudes!" Seriously! I swear! Then they go blow stuff up and we go, like, "Yay! WTG dogs!" And they go, like, "Yeah! We're from Natonia, and we baaaad."

Oh, but hey, while we're talking about this, um, would you, like, sign this permission slip anyway for me? 'Cause I mean, it's no biggy, but like, I would really just want it for, like, y'know ... back-up? If there were ever some kind of impeachment thingy? Mm'kay, thx, bye!

Yes, Obama is now urging Congress to go ahead and give him permission for this not-war that the War Powers Resolution — if there is one, which we're not quite admitting there might be, but just, if there were, y'know, and if it were constitutional, which we're not denying or admitting today since we're not admitting that one exists — otherwise made illegal effective at the end of Friday.

President Gutsy!


UPDATE (Sat May 21 @ 1:55pm): I'm reprinting here (without block-quoting it) a comment I left on Patterico's blog on a post by his contributor Aaron Worthing, who's been following the whole War Powers issue diligently and thoughtfully (although I respectfully disagree with Aaron's ultimate conclusions in some important respects that aren't pertinent today):

The War Powers Resolution can be complied with even without ever saying its name. Obama’s letter from yesterday afternoon, for example, nowhere references 50 U.S.C. §§ 1541-1548, but it’s no coincidence that the letter was sent on the same day that section 1544(b)’s 60-day period expired. I believe that in this respect, that letter is fairly typical of what previous administrations have done while attempting to comply without admitting or implying any need to comply.

Obama’s March 21 letter to Congress did include a specific reference to the Resolution at its very end, but linked to an assertion of presidential authority:

For these purposes, I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.

I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.

“Consistent with” is a carefully chosen qualifier, intended to acknowledge the Resolution without implying or conceding its binding authority. I have no particular fault to find with that, and prefer its honesty to the kabuki show of pretending the Resolution isn’t on the books.

Yesterday’s letter, though, isn’t actually even in compliance with anything in the Resolution. Rather, it’s a pathetic argument that might excuse non-compliance, and it includes (finally) a plea for Congress to give retroactive blessing.

In general, I’m content for the constitutionality of the Resolution to remain a matter of dispute, of continuing to-and-fro, push and push-back, between congressional and administrative branches without involving the judiciary. There are very good reasons why this hasn’t been litigated, and indeed, the whole system of checks and balances depends (counter-intuitively but undeniably) on some of its vague presumptions that never get tested. (To paraphrase Stalin’s comment about the Pope, “How many divisions does the Supreme Court command?”)

Obama could have mounted a serious, sustained, but quiet effort through bipartisan proxies in Congress to get a resolution passed that would bless what’s been done so far well before the 60-day deadline expired. He’s only doing that just now. Friends and neighbors, that delay is legal malpractice on behalf of those advising and representing the Executive. It may not turn out to be consequential malpractice — Obama may still get his retroactive blessing, which would moot the controversy as a practical matter — but it’s stumbling into a constitutional showdown, one that presents a relatively bad set of facts (from the Executive’s point of view) from which to establish a binding, precedential resolution of the Resolution’s constitutionality. And it’s inexcusable because the Administration damn well knew in March that this wasn’t going to be done by May 20.


UPDATE (Sat May 21 @ 7:15pm): I don't want to get into a protracted discussion on this post (or in its comments) about the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution. However, the expiration of this deadline is essentially certain to cause someone, somewhere, to jump into federal court asking for an injunction.

I am 100% certain that when that happens, there will be very technical, very tedious, and very fundamental preliminary motions. There will be challenges to standing — the right to bring suit by a particular person or entity, and/or the capacity in which that's being done. There will be challenges as to ripeness — whether this is something that has to be decided now at all, much less on an emergency injunction basis. And most of all, there will be challenges to justiciability — whether this is even the kind of dispute that the federal courts are in business to be deciding, and in particular whether this is the sort of "political question" that the federal courts are supposed to refuse to get involved in.

So as you're imagining the whole range of potential scenarios that could unfold from this — to the continuing chagrin of Barack Obama, progressive superhero who's now committed a set of unforced, imbecilic, spectacularly ironic mistakes on Libya — consider this one, because it might well happen:

Congress: Hey SCOTUS, make him stop it! Make him follow the law we passed to tell him how to do his Commander-in-Chief gig! Order those ships to come home and those planes to stop flying right now!

POTUS: No, no, SCOTUS, that's my gig alone, and neither you nor Congress can tell me how to do it.

SCOTUS: We're just not going to talk about this subject. Go away.

[Courthouse door slams closed; POTUS and Congress trudge away, grumbling and snarling at one another. Exeunt all.]

I actually think that's the single most likely scenario, if it were pressed that far by the appropriate principals — who themselves may be precisely the ones who refuse to seek judicial involvement, because Congress has an interest in leaving this entirely unresolved, too.


UPDATE (Sun May 22 @ 8:15pm): I'm flattered that this post has been linked by both Instapundit and Ace, among others (and I'm no less grateful for links from blogs that lack the traffic of those two). Ace is wrong in guessing that my concerns about the constitutionality of the Resolution are limited to "overbreadth" arguments, but again, I really don't want to hash out that question in this post. It's a subject that's been debated, without closure, for literally my entire adult life — and I'm 53. (In assuming that the Resolution gives the POTUS 60 days plus an additional 30 days, I believe, for reasons I've explained in comments on Patterico's blog here and here, that Ace has simply misread the Resolution.)

However, it's worth mentioning that the Obama Administration's emphasis on the involvement of NATO allies in some sort of leadership role, and on the U.N. Security Council's blessing, may be explained by, or at least related to, 50 U.S.C. § 1547(b), which reads:

Nothing in [the War Powers Resolution] shall be construed to require any further specific statutory authorization to permit members of United States Armed Forces to participate jointly with members of the armed forces of one or more foreign countries in the headquarters operations of high-level military commands which were established prior to November 7, 1973, and pursuant to the United Nations Charter or any treaty ratified by the United States prior to such date.

If Obama plans to mount a defense for his non-compliance with the Resolution based on section 1547(b), though, that's a very stupid plan.

NATO certainly qualifies as a "high-level military command," and it was established prior to November 7, 1973, by a treaty ratified by the U.S. before then. But Section 1547(b) only means the POTUS doesn't need Congressional approval under the Resolution merely for "participat[ing] jointly" with NATO members in NATO's "headquarters operations." So boots on the ground in Brussels are okay, even if those Natonians get to arguing and tussling there at NATO headquarters; the War Powers Resolution didn't require the U.S. to pull out of NATO, in other words. There's no way, however, that dispatching a U.S. Navy F/A-18 to blow up a SAM site in Libya during a civil war there amounts to participation in NATO "headquarters operations."

Nor does section 1547(b) mean all U.N.-blessed action is okay. Rather, the reference to the U.N. is simply to make clear that the "participa[tion]" in "headquarters operations of high-level military commands" may include such high-level military commands as were established pursuant to the U.N. Charter prior to November 7, 1973, instead of pursuant to a prior treaty ratified by the U.S. (I'm thinking that was intended as a carve-out for some of the existing peace-keeping operations when the Resolution was passed, but I haven't checked the historical context.) It certainly can't include anything the U.N., much less just the U.N. Security Council, has done since 1973, however.

One would have to be a shockingly incompetent lawyer to claim that this section exempts what Obama's doing from War Powers Resolution coverage. I'm very much afraid, however, that this administration includes some shockingly incompetent lawyers.

Posted by Beldar at 09:33 PM in Congress, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Obama | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ryan's silver lining in l'affaire de l'explosion Gingrich

John Hinderaker at Power Line has posted an interesting analysis by an unidentified reader on the subject of Ryan versus Gingrich. I'm not assuming that Mr. Hinderaker thereby necessarily agrees with everything (or even anything) his reader has written, but among his reader's most provocative assertions was this initial one:

The Ryan budget represents, in part, a political power play by its author. Ryan understands that his plan has no chance of becoming law this year or next. His goal is to shape the budget debate and, if possible, dictate the Republican position in that debate. I have it on very good authority that Ryan specifically intended through his budget proposal to constrain the eventual Republican presidential nominee on the core issues that his plan raises.

If I understand this correctly, it amounts to a grave charge that Paul Ryan is mounting a well-conceived, practical, and sustained effort to be, as the chair of the House Budget Committee, a national leader in passing the House budget into law as soon as that can be accomplished. If true, this seems to me a very desirable feature, not a bug. I'm unconcerned and, instead, favorably impressed by these accusations of competency and effectiveness. Is there something not to like about those qualities, or Chairman Ryan's demonstration of them?

Mr. Hinderaker's reader goes on:

[F]rom the perspective of a legitimate contender for the Republican presidential nomination[,] ... Ryan's power play seems unwelcome. A rational candidate would always want the maximum freedom to stake out policy positions. And he certainly would not want to come under pressure a year and a half before the election to take a potentially unpopular position on Medicare reform.

Rational (in the short run) and gutless, perhaps.


Friends and neighbors, we can't kick the can down the road to some time past the 2012 presidential election before we come to grips with the entitlement programs that most imminently threaten our national solvency. We can't put the showdown off until some future election.

To win the 2012 election, to re-take the White House and re-take the Senate with a decent majority, we must —
  • hold Obama and his party accountable for their dismal economic record since January 2009;

  • prove that the GOP has a rational, detailed, and credible plan to fix things (a "path to prosperity"), even though it (like any such plan) must contain hard and unpopular choices that the Dems will relentlessly (and transparently) demagogue regardless of their substance; and

  • vividly confirm that Obama and his party blocked the GOP plan even though they have nothing to offer but more of what we've seen since January 2009: the same old tax-spend-and-regulate, albeit on a scale that would have staggered even Lyndon Johnson or Franklin Roosevelt.

For all that to happen, it is absolutely essential that long before November 2012, and certainly by the end of the GOP primaries, the GOP's congressmen, senators, and presidential candidate all speak with one voice on the federal budget. Whether Ryan's that presidential candidate (as I'd like to see) or not, because of the House vote, it's already essentially certain that — perhaps with GOP senators' tweaks and improvements — the Path to Prosperity will be the substance of what that one voice needs to be saying.

In law, there's a concept called "ready, willing, and able." Sometimes one side to a proposal or a contract will demand that the other demonstrate that it can actually perform in accordance with its representations. To satisfy that demand, the other side demonstrates that it stands ready, willing, and able.

So simply put, unless and until someone on the GOP side comes up with improvements to the House plan or something to replace it outright, the GOP needs to make the strongest possible showing that before the November 2012 election, the GOP, as a party, stood ready, willing, and able to pass the House budget and send it to Obama. To the credit of Chairman Ryan, Speaker Boehner, and nearly the entire House GOP, the House has already done that with a message-sending record vote in which all but four GOP representatives voted for the Ryan plan.

It was already improbable, but the recent collapse of the Gang of Six makes it nearly certain that Senate isn't up to independently replicating or superseding Chairman Ryan's and the House GOP's work. I hope that some GOP senators may suggest useful improvements or modifications to the Path, and I'm certainly not ruling out that possibility. (Nor are Chairman Ryan, Speaker Boehner, and the House GOP.) But the election results from 2010, plus the four-year presidential election cycle, effectively dictated the relative potential contributions of the House and Senate GOP contingents for the leadup to the 2012 election.

The 2010 election also put the resulting GOP Chairman of the House Budget Committee into position as the House's key member on the 2012 election's key issues — and Chairman Ryan is performing appropriately, I'd even say superlatively, from that position.

Now we must put every Democrat in the Senate on record on cloture votes — repeatedly — on not only the House budget and any proposed improvements to it, but also as many other spending votes as possible. And it's entirely likely that we'll have several more opportunities for that: In addition to whole debt ceiling issue, we're likely to have several more continuing resolution struggles while the Senate remains deadlocked, all the way through Tuesday, November 6, 2012, on any comprehensive budget for FY2012 (much less FY2013, which begins on October 1, 2012). 

So I respectfully but emphatically disagree with Mr. Hinderaker's reader: It's entirely rational to expect serious GOP presidential contenders to start taking definitive positions on entitlement reforms now, early enough in the primary process for it to matter. If any rational candidate has an equally detailed budget he or she wants to offer up in lieu of the Path to Prosperity that the House is now committed to, then great — just lay it out there, take the same risks that Chairman Ryan, Speaker Boehner, and the House Republicans have, and act like a grown-up who's deserving of the public's respect.


But Mr. Gingrich laid out neither improvements nor credible alternatives. He didn't contribute to solving any problems, he just tried to sprint in the opposite direction from Chairman Ryan because he (Mr. Gingrich) was afraid that taking a stand would make him politically radioactive. To clean up a bawdy Texas idiom, Mr. Gingrich stomped on his own genitals in the process, and then sent his flak out to proclaim, "Oh, but look — through the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia! — at how surpassingly fine and big those genitals are!" Brave Sir Newt, ex-history professor and author who now demands script approval and re-write privileges from history. Real life doesn't offer the same opportunities to "revise and extend remarks" that the House or Senate traditionally, and by unanimous consent, permit their members to use to massage the Congressional Record.  

I'm not saying Mr. Gingrich is into, or even close to, John Edwards territory yet in terms of self petard-hoisting, but I can't see how he salvages his campaign. Who's going to write this guy a campaign check now? Only those who also bet on 90-to-1 longshots at the horse tracks, methinks.


Apart from any remaining insinuation that there's something wrong with Chairman Ryan doing his job in pushing for the House budget, I do agree with Mr. Hinderaker's reader's observations in his or her penultimate paragraph, and in part with the observations in his or her concluding paragraph (link and ellipsis in original):

Where do things stand now, In light of the well-deserved backlash? Just about where Ryan wants them to stand, I believe. As the estimable policy star Yuval Levin, one of Ryan's biggest cheerleaders, put it yesterday, "Whatever else may be said about this week's Gingrich contortions, one thing is clear: Paul Ryan and the House Republican budget have the strong support of an exceptionally broad array of conservatives — from the DC establishment to the talk radio world to the grass roots and the Tea Party.... All contenders for the Republican nomination should take note."

They should, indeed. But those contenders with a serious chance of facing the full electorate, not just a broad array of conservatives, should proceed with caution. It was Gingrich's rush of blood to the head, not his instinctive understanding of the risks associated with unequivocal support for the Ryan budget, that landed him in so much trouble.

This pre-primary season is turning out to be — appropriately! — the Season of Political Land Mines. I am grudgingly grateful to Donald Trump for throwing himself on the Birther landmine and thereby simultaneously removing both the single most ridiculous issue and candidate from the GOP fold.

Mr. Gingrich's explosive misstep, by contrast, didn't spare the rest of his party from collateral damage, but rather inflicted it in non-trivial amounts, and on an issue of surpassing importance. And Mr. Gingrich has no legitimate excuse for such clumsy fratricide; if he wanted to remain gutless on entitlements reform for some further weeks or even months, he ought to have had the political skills and sense to simply remain vague. I agree that Mr. Gingrich was rash, but I disagree that other candidates ought to consider emulating Mr. Gingrich's substantive gutlessness, whether rashly or not.

Ultimately, however, I agree that the silver lining in l'affaire de l'explosion Gingrich is indeed that it's helping focus the party on, and unite the party behind, the Path to Prosperity. That makes all the more compelling the potential — albeit still entirely hypothetical — presidential candidacy of the Grand Old Party's best spokesman on the Path. With no implied disrespect to Speaker Boehner, I agree with Yuval Levin that Chairman Ryan is increasingly revealing himself to be the GOP's most consequential and even indispensable national leader. 

Posted by Beldar at 06:13 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beldar reads tea leaves on Ryan and finds subtle comfort

I've been posting a lot today about Paul Ryan. I'm increasingly convinced that I want him to be the next POTUS, and that he could beat Obama in a watershed election as big or bigger than 1980's was. Ryan says publicly, and many people take him at face value when he says, that he's not interested in running for president. But consider these lines from his superb speech today at the Economic Club of Chicago (emphasis Ryan's):

Now in criticizing the President’s policies, I should make clear that I am not disputing for a moment that he inherited a difficult fiscal situation when he took office. He did.

Millions of American families had just seen their dreams destroyed by misguided policies and irresponsible leadership that caused a financial disaster. The crisis squandered the nation’s savings and crippled its economy.

The emergency actions taken by the government in the fall of 2008 did help to arrest the ensuing panic. But subsequent interventions – such as the President’s stimulus law and the Fed’s unprecedented monetary easing – have done much more harm than good, in my judgment.

Ryan's in a safe district. His vote for TARP in 2008 is no threat to his reelection to Congress, and probably wouldn't be a threat to him were he to run for the Senate seat from Wisconsin coming open in 2012 upon Herb Kohl's retirement.

Ryan is a wonk, and maybe that's the sort of distinction he'd make out of a passion for accuracy rather than political motivation.

But it's sure also the sort of thing someone eying the GOP nomination for president would say if he wanted to self-inoculate against criticism of his TARP vote from the farthest right in a GOP presidential primary, isn't it?

Posted by Beldar at 02:07 AM in 2012 Election, Congress, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Monday, May 16, 2011

Health-care reform in two sentences


Our plan is to give seniors the power to deny business to inefficient providers. Their plan is to give government the power to deny care to seniors.


The reason health-care costs are out of control is because no centralized command and control system — including the existing Medicare and Medicaid schemes — can be effective at allocating resources effectively. Only a competitive marketplace can do that. But as long as individuals can insist, "I want everything, without regard to cost or benefit," they will so insist. And the Dems will let them do that forever, until the money runs out (at which point the system will collapse) or until the government-imposed rationing leads to a miserable lowest-common denominator sort of healthcare for everyone.

Inform people. Empower people to make choices. Hold people responsible for their choices. Rinse and repeat. Healthcare will get better and cheaper as a result. The example of how that works is the computer (or smartphone or iPad or whatever) set-up you're reading from right now — a combination of high-tech goods and services which provides power and convenience that was inconceivable at any price thirty years ago, but that's now priced so low that almost everyone in our society can find some access to it, with prices continuing to drop as quality and variety continue to increase.

Individuals, even brilliant individuals, cannot possibly be smart enough to make the right choices as regulators for everyone. Aggregated populations of health-care consumers, in a marketplace that's competitive and with a free flow of knowledge and free choices, will allocate resources more efficiently and — because competition includes (but isn't limited to) price — will end up making better care available to everyone over time.

Some people will make stupid choices that will result in bad consequences. Thus it has always been, and will always be, and no legislator or bureaucrat can change that. But even those bad consequences will be less harsh than what everyone will suffer if we continue on the path of pretending that government can provide everything and make everyone's choices.

Posted by Beldar at 08:02 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Friday, April 08, 2011

Scary thought experiment

Where would government spending be if the GOP had not won the House in 2010?

Did you work for that victory? Maybe, like I did, you sent more in contributions to good conservative candidates in tight races outside your home state. Maybe you spent an hour or three making phone calls in coordination with one of the GOP's on-line get-out-the-vote organizations.

Maybe you just showed up at the election polls and cast your vote, when maybe in some other off-year elections you hadn't bothered.

Compared to the norm, compared to most reasonable expectations, compared to anything but completely unrealistic fantasies: What a return on your investment you've seen tonight!

Bonus thought problem: Of all the political memes of the last few years, has any been more dramatically proven wrong than the one which went like this:

"Ahh, this Scott Brown election is Massachusetts is being over-read by the GOP. This is just a fluke, a combination of a hunky Republican running against a weak and self-contradictory Democrat in a special election for an open seat. It's certainly not the beginning of some political tsunami."

(Cue the intro theme music from "Hawaii Five-O," cut to dramatic shots of crashing waves!)

Posted by Beldar at 11:59 PM in 2010 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Obama takes ownership of every penny of federal overspending

From Obama's televised speech tonight on the short-term budget agreement (my transcription from DVR, italics mine):

Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them. And I certainly did that. Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful. Programs people rely on will be cut back. Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances.

Obama's handlers obviously didn't have time to polish the narcissism from this short speech, but now we know exactly what Barack Obama thinks of Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats: They're an extension of his will, puppets dancing at the end of the strings he alone holds.

I think Obama's assessment is actually pretty accurate — he's the proverbial 800-pound gorilla among a troop of preening baboons, and whenever he stirs himself to smack them around or goads them into a shrieking frenzy of poop-slinging, they do what he bids.

But the side effect of this is that Barack Obama can no longer hide behind the fig leaf of separation of powers. Obama can no longer plausibly claim to be representing the interests of the entire American people — just the interests of his party and its motley collection of special interest groups. When, for example, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D-FL) asserts of the GOP House's "Path to Prosperity" that "This plan would literally be a death trap for seniors," that is — not literally (which doesn't mean what she thinks it means) but politically — Barack Obama himself engaging in the most egregious and obvious fear-mongering and demagoguery. And if you're not among those he's already invited to the graft-and-handout trough, then you're on the other side.

Politically, if there was any doubt remaining among the naïve, that doubt has been conclusively erased:

Barack Obama is personally responsible for every penny of federal overspending. Period.

Posted by Beldar at 11:30 PM in Budget/economics, Congress, Current Affairs, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Beldar on the budget deal to keep the government open

In response to the just-announced compromise reached by Congress to keep the federal government open, I have three immediate observations:

  1. This is only a start. But there must be a start, and as starts go, given that the GOP only controls the House of Representatives, this is a good one.

  2. As I write this, I'm watching Barack Obama on TV with the Washington Monument in the background. Obama's practically claiming that he's going to be meeting tourists there tomorrow morning to punch their entry tickets. It is absolutely delicious to watch this politician brazenly pretend that he — Barack Obama — just done a great and brave thing by agreeing to these tens of billions in budget cuts, when every person in the entire world who's watching this knows he and his party are responsible for the spending orgy this deal begins to reverse. Sometimes, as a lawyer, I'm perfectly happy for a hostile witness to tell a huge, huge whopper while he's in the spotlight — a lie so obvious and dramatic that it settles over the courtroom like the smell from a crate of rotten eggs that's just been hurled to the floor. "Stinky" Obama just did that. You watch, he'll end up eventually trying to take credit for Rep. Paul Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" — Obama intends to run for reelection as a fiscal moderate (again)! But no lie could be more obvious.

  3. Politics is sometimes very subtle, but this hasn't been. The causal connection between last November's election and today's budget cuts is as clear as anything in American history — on the same order of obviousness as Lincoln's election and the bombardment of Fort Sumter to start the Civil War.

Good job, Speaker Boehner & Co. I am proud of my party's Congressional leadership, and it's been a while since I've felt that way.

Posted by Beldar at 10:34 PM in Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack